“I am a proud lesbian, a proud feminist and a trans ally, and I see absolutely no contradiction between any of these values.” I find Angela Eagle’s words moving, and wish they did not need to be said. The House of Commons debated Pride, and stood up for trans rights, and other MPs had similar thoughts: Alyn Smith, SNP, said “Women have nothing to fear from trans equality.” Kirsten Oswald, SNP, said “Trans people should feel safe, secure and welcome”. They need to say it because we don’t feel that.
Mhairi Black, SNP, gave a powerful speech which is worth watching. She starts with the British Empire exporting homophobia round the world. We LGBT people are more likely to self-harm or be suicidal, or the victim of a crime, but less likely to report it to the police. It is worse for trans people. She spoke of the “organised and concerted international campaign against the trans community”. An International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation report found “Transphobia has long been one of the most major and ubiquitous narratives around which the far right mobilises… Transphobia should be recognised as a security concern.” She connects the US right-wing to campaigns in Britain “purporting to speak for LGB people”, though in reality LGB people support us.
The Values Voters Summit speaker claimed “women, sexual assault survivors…ethnic minorities who…value modesty, economically challenged children…and…children with anxiety disorders” might be drawn in as allies against trans, by preying on their fears. In reality,
We are battling the same problems and the same patriarchal beast.
The anti-trans campaigners target trans inclusive rape crisis centres. The media platform these hateful views uncritically. Trans people contact her, because they are too frightened to contact their own MP. We are living in a moral panic fanned by organised misinformation and radicalisation.
You can also watch Stewart McDonald, SNP. “God is shining on us”, he said. I am glad when Christians speak of their Christianity, in speaking up for LGBT rights. He said, “We do not have a community if we expel one part of it”. He talked of transphobia in the Times and the Herald. If an Imam wrote such things people would “go off their nuts”- good to hear the vernacular in Parliament. He and I find hope in Stonewall and the Equality Network. Martin Docherty-Hughes, SNP, also talked of “non-state actors targeting the most vulnerable, specifically our trans brothers and sisters”. “Diversity is our greatest strength,” he said.
Alistair Carmichael, LD, made the same point: “using defining characteristics for a political purpose is as low as it is possible to go.” As Ian Byrne, Labour, said, “Division of communities leads to a breakdown of cohesion and the opportunity for hate and fear to flourish.”
Sarah Owen, Labour, attacked “so called charities” and MPs pandering to those who call trans dangerous. She said trans people are fearful when the media refers to the “Trans Taliban” to describe “trans people who just want to get on with their lives”. “Those who genuinely believe in human rights do not choose which human’s rights they support and which they do not.” Precisely. If the Government can remove protection from Shamima Begum, it can remove protection from me. She said, “we need to start seriously asking ourselves who these people are coming for next”.
Kim Johnson, Labour, spoke of how the government had disbanded their own LGBT+ advisory panel.
Angela Eagle connected that radicalisation to the Conservative Party, talking of “the Government’s increasing appetite for fomenting divisive culture wars that seek to pit one group in society against another. That emboldens bullies and problematises vulnerable minorities. It generates fear and resentments, which can only do harm.” Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes soar, but prosecutions plummet.
Many MPs spoke of trans health care. Charlotte Nichols, Labour, gave a waiting time of 18 months, which seems low to me. She said, “supporting LGBT rights is political. We are not a colourful add-on to brands that do not challenge ongoing homophobia or transphobia. A rainbow does not mean that every storm has ended.” There is some confusion here. She says, “more than 13,500 transgender and non-binary adults are on the NHS GIDS waiting list in England”, but GIDS is the Gender Identity Development Service, for children and young people. Still, it is a huge statistic. Elliot Colburn, Conservative, said we face “years and years” of waiting lists. Kim Johnson said that even after the Government’s planned new gender clinics, there would still be nearly 10,000 on waiting lists.
I worry that the emphasis on health care pressures trans people into medicalisation we might not choose for ourselves.
Angela Eagle said the Government have reneged on their commitment to reform the GRA. “The current bureaucratic, demeaning and intrusive process, which involves them having to get doctors to agree that they are suffering from a mental illness and to certify that they have lived in their preferred gender for two years, is no longer fit for purpose.” Crispin Blunt, Conservative, mostly praised the government, but alluded delicately to the government’s “misfired response” to the GRA consultation. The speaker rebuked him for taking too long.
The Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts used GRA reform to call for greater devolution to Wales.
The debate is personal. Peter Gibson, Conservative, who is gay, spoke of his nephew Luke who is trans: “I am reminded of the same journey of fear, acceptance, love and celebration that gay men and women go through”.
Angela Crawley, SNP, spoke of being raised Catholic, a faith she still respects and “to some extent I admire”. It made her feel deep shame and believe she could never have a family. Now “I am incredibly proud of who I am”. She moved me to tears, especially when she congratulated Angela Eagle, “whose very presence, bravery and courage in this Chamber have paved the way for so many of us”.
So did Dan Carden, Labour, also on video, who said how frightening coming out can be- but “hiding who you are into adulthood will cause you far more suffering anyway”. He was traumatised. He suppressed his emotions and became alcoholic. “Drinking was destroying my body.” “For me, it was about losing who I was over a long period of time. It was desperate isolation.” In his third year of recovery he has a loving partner and appreciates everything he has.
I used to live in Newport, and am glad one of its MPs, Jessica Morden, Labour, singled it out: the council flew the Progress flag, to recognise “the breadth of sexual and gender identities that we welcome” in Newport.
Alistair Carmichael, LD, did not speak of trans but spoke of the most northern Pride in the UK, in Kirkwall, and the delight of gay friends who have given blood for the first time. It is a symbol of inclusion.
Wera Hobhouse, LD, spoke of all the Tory promises since 2015 to ban conversion therapy, and their current undated consultation which is only further delay. She said Alan Turing is now on the £50 note. He suffered chemical castration ordered by the State, and the current delay on conversion therapy means his use as a figurehead is hypocrisy.
Bizarrely, the minister Mike Freer claimed the government “are committed to levelling up outcomes for LGBT people”, showing how meaningless that slogan is. He said, “the Government believe that the current provisions of the GRA allow for those who wish to legally change their gender to do so”.
Joanna Cherry, self-proclaimed lesbian campaigner, was too wily or too ashamed to attend with her usual dog-whistles.
MPs also mentioned inclusive education, also a target of the far right; HIV; and international aid, which the government is cutting.