Skip to main content

UK Politicians Flipping Against Trans People Overnight Should Raise Red Flags

Trans Rights Protest in London

In a perfect world, the move toward equality for all would be a linear curve upward. In reality, it’s rarely like that.

The British government recently made a constitutional first in blocking the Scottish GRA Reform, a bill that would remove some basic but time-consuming obstacles to getting a gender recognition certificate (GRC). For those who are a gender that’s different from what they were assigned at birth, a GRC is necessary for getting a passport and other vital forms of paperwork to match your gender.

This move against the reform didn’t come out of nowhere. Over the last few years, political and social attitudes towards trans people in the UK have become more and more unfriendly, not helped by prominent and popular figures like JK Rowling being openly ‘gender-critical’.

You only need to look at the political attitudes of the major political parties a few years ago to see how quickly the tides have turned. When Theresa May was leading the Conservatives (the UK’s right-wing party), she was in favor of self-ID, in line with what the GRA reform proposes. Even in December 2022, she was speaking out in favor of reform, but she is no longer the leader of the party.

Instead, all three of the recent leaders, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and Rishi Sunak, have been against self-ID and all three have used language in the past that suggests trans women are not women. The problem carries across the British political system to the Labour party, with Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer being outwardly pro trans rights but seeking to win the support of gender-critical people as well by saying he is an advocate for safe women’s spaces (as if self-ID would contradict that). As with many of Sir Keir’s policies, he has failed to come down firmly on either side, instead apparently preferring to sit on the fence.

It’s this supposed protection of women’s spaces that is used as a dog whistle for trans rights in the UK, with ‘gender criticals’ asserting that self-ID would enable men posing as women to enter spaces reserved for women, such as bathrooms, prisons, or crisis centers. Not only is this an offensive stereotype of trans people (that they are actually cis and pretending to be a gender they are not), but it also just doesn’t make sense. When was the last time you were asked for a document ID to enter a bathroom?

As anti-trans rhetoric amps up in the UK, politicians are either toeing the line like Starmer or aligning themselves with gender criticals like the Tory party. Just as in the US, these ideologies are increasingly aligning with alt-right or conservative values, allowing them to hold sway over major political parties.

The media is complicit in this gradual radicalization as well, often reporting inaccurately or intentionally misleading headlines about trans people. Trans activist Katy Montgomerie recently highlighted an example of the Scottish Daily Express reporting that a trans rapist was sent to a women’s prison, before changing the story on their website but not social media.

The perpetuation of these harmful stereotypes only adds fuel to the dumpster fire that is the discourse in the UK. Until the media stops presenting hateful and intolerant views as ‘the other side of the argument’ and until politicians come down on the side of trans rights, the fight will go on.

(featured image: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue: