Featured Artwork: Annie Bissett
LGBTQ+ rights within the UK have been historically been exploited as some form of political sport, throwing shallow jabs and punches at the community to appeal to the bigoted vote. Hostility towards the LGBT community harks back to the Thatcher era, where the leader passed Section 28 (a bill banning the discussion of homosexuality in schools and other public services). In the Iron Lady’s words, the bill would ensure British children ‘who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have the inalienable right to be gay.’ Section 28 ensured that children could not be perverted from their heterosexual moral pathway.
However, gay rights in the UK have developed – gay people are now in legal equilibrium with their heterosexual counterparts. Some 85% of Britons say they would be supportive of a loved one coming out as gay or bisexual, whereas 50% of Britons do not think that the process to allow one’s transition should be made easier.
There is a stark gap in attitudes towards queer and trans people; the community must unite together to ensure trans siblings aren’t left behind.
The disgustingly labeled ‘trans debate’ is one that makes politicians stick awkwardly in their chair, sweat hanging off their brow as they internally beg to return to a mundane conversation about taxes, or the pandemic. As recently as March, Labour Leader Keir Starmer refused to clarify his stance on whether ‘women can have a penis’ – this is the leader of the supposed left, what tone does this set for Labour representing marginalized communities ahead of the next general election?
Clearly, politics is a hostile environment for the trans community – perhaps the media can act as a refuge. Nope. British media makes no effort to accommodate to the vulnerabilities of transgender guests, often forcing them to appear on panel shows accompanied by a so-called ‘gender critical’ thinker who spends the majority of the debate attempting to unpick the transgender person’s identity.
In 2018, then Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to legally ban the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy – one that had been likened to torture. Along with a lengthy document outlining how to improve the quality of life for queer people in the UK. As most British citizens know, there was then a rocky and retentive political road in terms of May’s resignation and Boris Johnson’s election. So, conversion therapy got put on the legislative back-burner.
The Conservative Party have let the LGBT community down for 4 long years, the conversion therapy bill seemed to be lost within the Commons as it was not brought up as a political issue until late 2021.
A bill was announced at the beginning of April, a bill that should have been a momentous moment for the LGBT community. This bill would outlaw conversion therapy, but it would not protect trans individuals from the disgusting practice. This political era will be looked down upon by generations of the future, we will be seen as bigoted and regressive. We must act to ensure the Tories do not get away with this oppressive piece of legislation.
So, what is the reality of conversion therapy and oppression for trans individuals in the UK?
‘For lack of a better phrase, it’s a f****** dumpster fire […] Children are dying because they can’t access gender affirming surgery because of empty-headed bigots.’ – these are the real anguishes of trans youth in the United Kingdom. And its true, children are dying: 22% to 43 of transgender people have attempted suicide in their lifetime. A government study (2021) found there is ‘no robust evidence that conversion therapy can change gender identity’ –the government is refusing to ban a torturous practice that they know is both useless and harmful, they just do not have the political will to do so.
Power clearly corrupts, transphobia melts into all power structures. Oppression is prevalent in a myriad of institutions, even schools (a place where many children may seek refuge). ‘Once I corrected a teacher on my pronouns and because she didn’t understand she tried to manipulate my thoughts into thinking it was wrong to be who I am.’ To someone on the outside of the trans rights movement, this may seem minor. In reality, instances like this are representative of a much wider problem. Firstly, an authoritative figure such as a teacher should simply not be concerned with a child’s identity. Symbollicay, this shows cishet peoples’ socialized entitlement – some believe they understand other’s identity better than those who have lived experienced within that identity.
When pressured about the exclusion of trans people from the conversion therapy bill, a government statement essentially said that conversion therapy is simply too legally complex. This is not true, there is nothing complex about a transgender persons right to be safe, happy, content and supported throughout their life.
62% of Britons think conversion therapy surrounding gender identity should be banned, this is a democratic majority. Diplomacy will not catalyse queer liberation; queer people will catalyse queer liberation. Organize: write, shout, talk to your friends, talk to your family, talk to your representative, attend protests. One thing is for certain, ensure you do not look back on this period with embarrassment or regret.