Sue Pascoe stood for election for Yorkshire and the Humber in the 2019 European Election, chairs the Conservative Women’s Organisation for North and East Yorkshire, and she is also on the Executive for the Conservative Disability Group. (Image: @NevilleSouthall)
Many people believe that our Prime Minister has gone ‘Full Tonto’ against transgender people because he has rejected a ban at this time on ‘conversion therapy’ of trans adults and children. He has also outlined his fears about women’s sports and spaces plus parental consent to trans children’s medicine.
Some go further and say the whole so called ‘trans debate’ has been conducted to split the left and unite the right in a culture war to win votes.
Neither are true. The Conservative Party I am part of is a broad church of opinions, some backed with evidence and lived experience, some not.
The Prime Minister has written to me expressing his wish for me, as a trans woman, to be a successful candidate for the Party. I was also stood beside him at our LGBT Conservatives event where he went out of his way to show his support for all of us there. My ears are still ringing as he shouted, ‘Don’t forget to tell them about my Pink Stetson’(the hat he waved repeatedly as Mayor at London Pride) to Carrie Johnson as she gave the keynote speech.
As a trans woman, I must tell him though it certainly feels like he is going “full tonto” and has swallowed the gender critical Koolaid undiluted. I cannot get into Boris’ mind, nor do I sit with any privileged insider position to know the definitive answer except to take him at his word when he says, “frankly for people like me it is not something I thought I would have to deal with in great detail.”
I think many people in society and in my Party feel the same. It is not helpful when the Equalities and Human Rights Commission issues new guidelines, which have no legal standing, on how to treat transgender people in single sex spaces,. Described by one of the leading discrimination lawyers in the country as “legally non-compliant rubbish” and which “encourages organisations to act unlawfully”.
To pose the question, are trans women biological men? Simple answer is no. Biology is a material reality for all of us. For the majority, their sex characteristics and their innate feelings of self align from birth. For a small proportion of the population that is not the case. Many trans women have undergone, are waiting to or wish for some medical intervention to physically change their gender.
All trans women whether they have medically transitioned or not, are likely to have the physical condition of sexual health the World Health Organisation describes as ‘gender incongruence’. Every individual is different and so are the differences in visible or invisible sex characteristics or the degree of gender incongruence. Most importantly, all are women.
58% of Conservatives support a conversion therapy ban:
A YouGov poll for The Times published 11th April, shows 58% of Conservatives are in favour of a conversion therapy ban for gender identity, 20%+ of respondents have no view and 19% against. 3,000 trans people and allies descended on No 10 this weekend to express their views strongly, loudly and peacefully. Iain Anderson, the Government’s own LGBT+ business ambassador merely a few days earlier was a keynote speaker.
As the PM has said, conversion therapy to cure, change or suppress a person’s sexuality or gender identity is abhorrent. In fact, under the UN classification it is torture. Banning torture for gay people but not for trans people, when they are proportionately far more vulnerable is illogical. Faith leaders, including the Former Archbishop of Canterbury, say trans people should not be excluded. Major psychotherapeutic, counselling and mental health bodies echo this idea. They go further by supporting any adult or child through open dialogue about their sexuality or gender identity. Ultimately, the problem is nothing more than a legislative drafting problem, not a principal problem.
In lived society and in law, the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act states trans women are women and trans men are men so they should be treated as such throughout society. The Equality Act has been in force for over a decade and carefully balanced women’s protections, fairness and safety after extensive consultation and Parliamentary debate.
There is no evidence to argue for changes to either the Act itself or the accompanying Statutory Code of Practice. Liz Truss, our Secretary of State for Women and Equalities has made it clear on numerous occasions that government policy is not to change either.
Tackling prejudice wherever we can:
I think there is also a wider problem than just how to treat trans people – which needs to be thought through and resolved. An enormous rift has opened alongside a total lack of trust and growing animosity between the wider LGBT+ community, the Government and our Party – something which will not be easily healed. It’s getting as bad as the relationship was back in the 1980’s but there is a fundamental difference which needs considering. Today, everyone knows someone who is LGBT+. They are sons, daughters and grandchildren of traditional Conservative voters.
I have not seen this broad church of people from across society come together in unity like they are doing today saying what’s happening is wrong. Put this together with over three quarters of the population in the British Attitudes Survey saying they think prejudice towards trans people is wrong, another powerful set of feelings have been unleashed against the government and the Party.
I think the majority of people in the centre ground of British society wish for a government which brings people together and governs for the whole nation as we resurface from Covid, face a cost-of-living crisis and stand up to the threats to our Western democracies. I think a government seen to be dividing our society or using distraction tactics will get punished at the ballot box. I hope our Prime Minister and his advisers will set time aside to properly digest and think through the implications of what has happened over recent days.
The voices of experts and those focused on constructive solutions should be heard, rather than a noisy minority boosted by clickbait controversy. I trust he will be guided by his own words to not “diminish our determination to tackle prejudice wherever we can.”