The UK government’s new equality minister, Liz Truss, has set out her priorities for the coming months. It isn’t good news for trans people.
This isn’t a surprise. In 2019 Andrew Gilligan, the journalist who spearheaded The Sunday Times’ scaremongering about trans people, was appointed as a key advisor for No. 10. The conservatives have long discussed demonising trans people as a culture war strategy. It’s entirely on brand for the party of Section 28 to want to roll back trans people’s rights.
Truss says the UK government will respond to the Gender Recognition Act “by the summer, and there are three very important principles that I will be putting in place.”
First of all, the protection of single-sex spaces, which is extremely important.
Secondly making sure that transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution, whilst maintaining the proper checks and balances in the system.
Finally, which is not a direct issue concerning the Gender Recognition Act, but is relevant, making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future.
The announcement is already being misreported by the right-wing press, so for example the Telegraph claims that “trans children [are] to be banned from surgery”. Surgery isn’t given to under-18s. The announcement clearly means puberty blockers, which it seems the government wants to withhold from teenagers until after puberty.
“Single-sex spaces” is a dogwhistle. They are not affected by the Gender Recognition Act. The equalities minister of all people should know that.
The second point suggests that letting trans people live free from persecution is conditional rather than universal.
That third point is a direct threat to Gillick competence, which says that you do not have to be an adult to get essential healthcare without parental consent: it’s what enables teenage girls to get contraception. By saying that under-18s lack “decision-making capabilities” even though they are old enough to legally become parents, get married or join the army, it paves the ground for an assault on young women’s reproductive rights.
I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve said previously that I think the government will do something with gender recognition that they can pitch as progressive but that actually removes trans people’s rights: I think it’s highly likely that they will make the existing gender recognition system very slightly more accessible but change the role of the Gender Recognition Certificate so that if you don’t have one, you are not protected from discrimination.
In her speech she says there must be “checks and balances” before trans people can live freely; an ominous admission that we will not be allowed to live without special restrictions, because of the “danger” of us being trans. This is not equality.