• Alice Thomas

Could the UK Government ever be trusted on Trans Rights?

The protests roared around the world against the prejudices in society, and they were not limited to the US. They demonstrated a stronger demand for equal rights for all communities, and a long fight against white supremacy across different countries.


The battle even stretched to the UK where thousands joined in on every region. They all fought for the lives of black people and also challenged the politicians' beliefs. But now there is a bigger battle to secure LGBT rights, starting with trans people.


2020 was a dark time for the LGBT people. The whole world saw a flood of threats against their rights, especially during the pandemic. The pride flag is being used to support the NHS, which diverted corporate support from LGBT charities and attempted to ignore their history. Even transgender people face the exaggerating forces of transphobia, which feared it might have seeped into British politics.


A recent article by the Sunday Times revealed the leaked manifesto, hinting at a rollback of trans rights in the UK. The headline screamed out that Boris Johnson, the PM, is planning to scrap the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform. Inside it shows the plans to crack down on doctors, provide national guidelines on lavatories and, worst of all, a 'bathroom bill'.


"It would place exceptions in the Equality Act, which could open the door to more discrimination towards not just trans people, but also cis women."


It plans to restrict the single-sex spaces by biological gender, in a bid to prevent trans women from using women's spaces, including public toilets. It would place exceptions in the Equality Act, which could open the door to more discrimination towards not just trans people, but also cis women. North Carolina made a similar bill in 2016 to restrict transgender people from using bathrooms based on their gender identity. It received an intense backlash, including costly pullouts from major businesses. That led to a statement that prohibited the government from restricting trans people to such places in 2019.


Those plans were stemmed from Liz Truss' announcement in April that the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) would be reformed over the summer. It came with a trio of proposals that relate to restrictions on trans people in single-sex spaces and medical support for trans children. It became a talking point which not only caused a lot of stress on trans people nationwide but also encouraged more transphobia, especially from TERF groups.


The GRA reform was part of the 2018 LGBT Action Plan, which had been delayed for a few years. A survey came out in 2018, and it asked for people's opinions about the process of getting a gender recognition certificate (GRC). It would signal the possibility of having an easier procedure to get the certificate, which a lot of trans people demanded for a very long time. However, the survey also asked questions about the Equality Act 2010, mainly to address the implications that the reform may affect the law. Gender critical attackers may have targeted those questions to change the Act, as well as certain polls, which somehow influenced the proposals laid out by Liz Truss.


According to the leaked manifesto, the consultation drew 100,000 responses, and 70% were in favour of self-ID practices. The government ignored the result, believing trans rights groups may have skewered it.


Truss' comments and the forementioned Sunday Times article terrified thousands of trans people, as they signalled a possibility of having their rights rolled back. They would even disregard the UN statement, which begs the governments not to hinder LGBT rights during the pandemic. It also led transphobes, especially Baroness Nicholson, to throw more attacks on the community akin to the attacks on gay and lesbian people in the 1980s.


What is more worrying is the current parliament has a more significant conservative majority due to the last year's elections. The party in question was responsible for the harmful Section 28 in 1989, which was brought down in 2003.


Granted, they gave more support for LGBT rights in recent years, which led to the LGBT action plan in 2018. It had promises including the GRA reform and a ban on conversion therapy, but some of them were either delayed or abandoned. Even Truss promised to ban gay conversion therapy in response to a letter, but it would mean others on gender identity could still be in effect.


The current government would also be likely to be dead set on getting rid of all attachments to the European Union (EU), even as far as abolishing human rights provided by them. That action would, in turn, increase the legal hostility towards LGBT people.


"Bigotted people seem to be more confident now, and the government seems keen to pander to that."


"We have already seen greater intolerance of minority groups since the vote in 2016," reported Kate, a Penzance Ambassador for Cornwall Pride. "It's difficult to say whether Brexit has caused intolerance, or greater intolerance caused people to vote for Brexit or whether political parties such as the Conservatives, UKIP and The Brexit Party. Though bigotted people seem to be more confident now, and the government seems keen to pander to that."


Kate was not safe with the knowledge that the government was not handling the LGBT Action Plan. Their lack of transparency and commitment led to an open season on trans people.


The fears are not limited to the government. The NHS is chronically underfunded, which made the wait for treatments and appointments painfully long. The recommended wait time by the NHS is 18 weeks, to which the waiting times for the first appointment at the Gender Identity Clinics (GIC) which currently stand three years.


"I have been waiting nearly three years," Kate commented. "It seems my wait for a first appointment will be at least five years with as long again to wait for a second appointment and a possible treatment. Other areas of the public sector are also underfunded."


She went on to suggest the government keep the protections from the European Convention on Human Rights and urge them to make the lives easier for trans people rather than to make them harder.


"On social media, it seems that misinformation and a corrupt government essentially forced Brexit to happen"


The news regarding the UK government did reach other countries. Some of them are worse in terms of LGBT rights, which peaked during the pandemic crisis. There's also a worrying trend of TERF movements, which has started to spread over Europe.


The reputation of the UK government is not positive, neither in regards to Brexit, nor how they handled the Coronavirus emergency. Other countries are deeply concerned about their actions and policies, even without a thorough knowledge of the inner workings of the UK government.


A trans woman from Canada, who wished to be anonymous, determined that the current government was incompetent and bigoted. She was shocked when she learnt about the recent proposals from Liz Truss. They were less publicised in international media than the government's struggles with their citizens and the Coronavirus panic.


"[Liz Truss'] proposals essentially mirror what a lot of TERFs want," she commented on Truss' recent comments in April. "She wants to legislate trans people out of existence during a time when we have been shown that trans people are an extremely small percentage of the population, globally, and aren't a threat to cis women. The fact that she's prioritising reforming the GRA at a time during the COVID-19 pandemic is putting all women in danger by having them stuck in a space with potentially abusive partners says a lot about what she thinks about women's safety."


The current UK government, in her opinion, is a lot more conservative than the current Canadian one. She notes the news in Canada regarding Brexit is not as sensational as the stories and headlines that appear in the US media. Although, she hinted that reports that contributed to xenophobia seemed to have a definite impact on their European neighbours; noting the rise of fascist governments and policies globally.


"On social media, it seems that misinformation and a corrupt government essentially forced Brexit to happen," she continued. "It's my understanding that many citizens were unable or unwilling to cast a vote and that the majority of the UK citizens as a whole did not want to separate from the EU. As a result, I would imagine that its citizens have become increasingly frustrated and distrustful of their government and its leaders."


"I am far more hopeful about general society, a majority of whom I believe support greater rights for trans people."


It would mark the conservatives an extemely poor LGBT ally, but they have made efforts to improve the LGBT rights in society. David Cameron helped to legalise same-sex marriage in 2013, and Theresa May stood for even trans rights with the LGBT action plan.


The current parliament featured the most LGBT MPs in political history, which added to the strong LGBT support in the government. Although, there is a concern over the diverse views in the current cabinet, which may not be enough to put anyone's minds at rest over that matter.


"I don't think a Labour government would actively remove trans rights, nor do I think it would prioritise improving trans rights," said Kate, who is now less hopeful about the Labour party. "I am far more hopeful about general society, a majority of whom I believe support greater rights for trans people."


With more transphobia on the rise, which even poured into the news, hopefully, more people would stand for our rights and challenge against transphobes. The original trio of actors on the Harry Potter films supported trans rights and even went against J.K. Rowling's views.


However, given the tone-deaf and truth twisting of even the PM, it would require more to persuade them against their anti-LGBT intentions. The Stonewall Riot in the 60s was led by Marsha P Johnson, a black trans woman, who helped secure the rights of LGBT and led to pride celebrations across the world. If similar protests were to happen against the rollback of LGBT rights, even outside of the UK, they could work. Although, there is little time before the trans rights are rolled back by the government. By the end of 2020, trans people would be stuck on the British isles, possibly with reduced rights in society.

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