Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman should not be attorney general. Her speech to the Policy Exchange, where she spoke about anti-trans discrimination, demonstrates that.

The attorney general is the chief legal adviser to the government, advising on questions of international law, human rights, and devolution. The government has great power to amend the law, with a working majority of 71. The Attorney General should say what the law is, not what the government would like it to be: if they do not like it, they can change it.

Even under the Conservatives, previous AGs have usually had far more experience than Braverman. She was called to the Bar in 2005, and elected to Parliament in 2015. From 2010 she was on the Attorney General’s C panel of counsel, the entry level, undertaking basic government cases. Her predecessor Geoffrey Cox was called to the Bar in 1982, appointed QC in 2003, and elected to parliament in 2005. Dominic Grieve practised as a barrister for seventeen years before becoming an MP. Jeremy Wright only practised for nine years before being elected to Parliament, and made the appalling decision to prosecute anti-deportation protesters under terrorism legislation. The Court of Appeal said there was no case to answer.

Policy Exchange is a “highly opaque” think tank which refuses to reveal the identities of its donors. It recommended legislation to prevent their victims from suing the armed forces, and to establish schools funded by government but “free” of some regulation and inspection. In her speech on 10 August, Braverman spoke against Equality legislation, and said that legislation for trans rights should be interpreted in such a way as to make it easy to exclude trans people.

Braverman congratulated Policy Exchange on its arguments for reducing judicial power, and thereby correction of any acts of government against the law or human rights. She says there are trade-offs in allocating rights, which is true.

She asks, “Do our feelings about who we are, change the rights to which we are entitled?” Clearly. A right to marry a woman is no use to a gay man. His right to private life, and so to equal marriage, depends upon his feelings of attraction. My feeling that I am trans is remarkably consistent, despite my attempts to overcome it, including aversion therapy. She means, it’s only a feeling, so unimportant. Against feelings, she balances “the facts of biology”- as if my lack of a uterus is important at all, except if I were trying to bear a child.

But feelings are at the heart of being human. My feelings make me me. She wants to impose some other understanding, which she might call objective reality, to subjugate my feelings, and perhaps her own too- but Reality includes trans people’s feelings. She is the reality denier.

If feelings did not matter, the objection to trans women in women’s spaces would not matter. Braverman privileges the feelings of prejudiced people over the feelings of trans people.

Then she says something truly damaging. She says businesses are going beyond their legal obligations, misinterpreting the law. It is clear she means including trans women in women’s spaces when they do not need to: later she makes this explicit.

She gives a definite, but misleading, interpretation of the Equality Act as it relates to trans women in women’s spaces. She claims trans women, being “biological males”, can be excluded from any women’s space which would be entitled to exclude men. She says this applies even if we have a GRC, though s9 of the Gender Recognition Act provides that my “sex” is female. She says the permission to exclude trans people from women’s services is in fact permission to exclude trans men.

This is completely wrong. It is contrary to the EHRC’s code of practice, and all previous understandings of the legislation. Robin Moira White, barrister and expert on trans law, commented she would have a lot of work if businesses interpreted the law the Braverman way.

Braverman is also wrong on trans schoolchildren.

Does it matter that Braverman is wrong? It matters if businesses or their public-facing workers believe her, or if cis women anti-trans campaigners take this as a licence to complain about trans women in women’s services. A tiny proportion of these matters reaches the courts.

It means that ordinary trans women may face abuse, confrontation and exclusion going about our daily lives. I hope businesses will be aware of a better interpretation of the law, but I am more and more concerned that I may have to endure confrontation, and even threaten legal action.

2 thoughts on “Suella Braverman

  1. Oh dear, a vury, vury bad sign when an appointee to the highest legal office decides to dabble in politics. Does she know nothing of the virtues of separation of powers? Tut, tut!

    More seriously, she risks damaging all the progress made with her very selfish promotion of her pov in places where we ordinary mortals can only ever dream of being.

    Were you to be given the chance to speak as she has done, you would put up a spirited, articulate and logical defence. But you do not get that opportunity. More’s the pity.

    XOXOX

    Liked by 1 person

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