Article on the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia and Interphobia by Llŷr Williams chair of Plaid Pride - Mudiad Balchder Plaid Cymru and Plaid Ifanc NEC member.
Anyone who tuned in to UK Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss’ statement to the Women & Equalities select committee on the 22nd of April will have noticed the rank hypocrisy in her claims of the UK’s “strong record in terms of LGBT rights” before announcing a further curbing of LGBT rights.
(Liz Truss' official parliamentary portrait )
Many of us knew this attack was coming.
The Times reported in September 2019 that the Conservatives were polling so called “culture war issues” such as transgender rights to weaponise them against the opposition in working class constituencies - hoping to use the transgender community as some pawns in what was described by the paper as a “twisted political game”.
More recently, Conservative commentators have launched attacks on the Trans community leading to the Conservative Party’s own LGBT+ section to post a statement on Twitter which said that “this nastiness has to end” and how “the science of gender is still poorly understood”.
The replies to this statement were full of Conservative members and supporters attacking their own LGBT+ section.
Whilst the LGBT+ Conservative section should be commended for a bold and unequivocal statement in support of Trans rights, it should worry us all to see Conservative members turn against their own LGBT+ section so openly on social media.
Liz Truss’ statement set out plans regarding the future of the Gender Recognition Act. In these plans she stated the need to make sure that “under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future”.
The statement echoes existing anti-LGBT stigma that existed during the dark days of section 28, which pushes this insidious idea that young people should be “protected” and that young LGBT people don’t know what they are and must be “protected”.
Launching what is a direct threat to healthcare for trans young people during a global pandemic is a despicable action that must be condemned.
What’s worse is that Conservatives are already weaponising this issue to accuse opponents to this proposed legislation as those who want young people to “damage themselves” or peddling the same old rehearsed anti-LGBT+ line that the community is a threat to young people.
Beyond the rehearsed statements flooding Conservative social media and the huge misconceptions that exist surrounding Trans rights, the truth is that Liz Truss’ plan, as reported by trans & gender questioning youth charity Mermaids, is “moving to introduce a new form of inequality into British medical practice”.
Healthcare for young trans people includes psychological care, counselling for families and puberty-blocking medication.
These aren’t random experiment practises to address a “woke generation”, but essential services backed up by medicine.
Stonewall’s School Report Cymru (2017) documenting the experiences of LGBT people in schools in Wales highlighted the following worrying data:
- “Trans pupils are at particular risk: 73% experience bullying at school”
- “More than half of trans young people say they are not able to use the toilets they feel comfortable in at school”
- “Two in five are not able to be known by their preferred name at school”
- “Three in four trans young people have harmed themselves at some point”
- “Three in five report that bullying has had a negative effect on their plans for future education”
The most striking finding in the report is this:
“Two in five trans young people have at some point attempted to take their own life”.
If the aim of Liz Truss’ plans is to “protect” young trans people, removing their access to necessary healthcare will do the exact opposite. Indeed, let us not forget the measures to “protect” young people in section 28 which made schooling hell for young LGBT+ people during the 1980s.
If Liz Truss truly wants to protect young people, she should ensure full access to healthcare that can help them. Otherwise, this talk of “protection” is nothing but a political tool to gather support for what is a huge step backwards.
Time to stand up
It is time for us all to stand up for the Trans community, stand up for an equal right to healthcare for everyone and reject this notion that governments can pick and choose who should be allowed to access essential healthcare at what age, to avoid measures which would create severe inequality and could further damage the well-being of young trans people.
To those of you who say we should focus on beating the pandemic – that is neither here not there. Because when an attack of this level is made against the LGBT+ community, it is our responsibility to stand up, challenge and do all we can to defeat any plan that would curb anyone’s right to healthcare – arguably, now more than ever.
Liz Truss’ statement refers to both devolved and non-devolved issues, whilst the devolution question in this field is more clear in Scotland, in Wales clarity needs to be sought by the Welsh Government now, so they can legislate to protect young Trans people, protect their access to healthcare and to stop the Tories’ anti-LGBT plans.
For the LGBT+ community, is it time to ask ourselves the question of how much longer we should tolerate an equalities committee chaired by a Tory MP who voted against Same-Sex marriage and an Equalities minister who dismisses the issues facing members of our community as “identity politics”?
How long should we have to accept scores of virtue signalling rainbow flag waving politicians who shout about how much they support our community whilst at the same time, seeking to remove the right to healthcare for some of the most vulnerable members of our community, using language that takes us back to the dark days of section 28?
You can read Liz Truss’ Statement in full here:
You can read Stonewall’s School Report Cymru 2017 here:
You can read Mermaids’ statement on Liz Truss’ plans in full here: