What does a Liz Truss premiership mean for the LGBT+ Community?

Bringing to a close what she described as “the longest job interview in history”, Liz Truss was yesterday announced as winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest, and will today take office as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Truss currently serves as the Secretary of State for Brexit, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Women and Equalities. But what exactly can LGBT+ people expect under a Truss premiership? While she has been nicknamed the “Minister for Inequalities” by some, the answer is slightly more complicated than it may seem.

Liz Truss and Conversion Therapy

Perhaps the only relatively predictable component of her election is that a conversion therapy ban that is inclusive of the transgender community is, very likely to be pushed through.

Despite much criticism from the LGBT+ community, Liz Truss has always remained committed to an inclusive ban on conversion therapy. When it was announced that Boris Johnson would be u-turning on the Government’s commitment to ban conversion therapy, before subsequently u-turning to say that it would ban conversion therapy for LGB people, Liz Truss was reported to be furious with no.10. In fact, she and the then-Minister for Equalities Mike Freer, were said to be lobbying Boris Johnson in the following days to include transgender people in the ban, but to no avail.

As her government looks to rebuild the relationship between government and the LGBT+ community in the UK, this is a low hanging fruit, an easy win that she will surely snap up.

A Marred Track Record

However, Liz Truss did not gain the nickname ‘Minister for Inequalities’ for nothing and, in the minds of many, her stance on conversion therapy is far outweighed by her litany of instances in which she has massively let down the LGBT+ community.

Most notably, this has included backtracking on reform of the Gender Recognition Act, which would have made it easier for transgender people to legally change their sex. While Theresa May pledged to bring reform, Truss has continually supported what she has called “checks and balances” in the process. The process of obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate in the UK is widely held to be slow, overly-medicalised and unnecessarily bureaucratic.

However, perhaps the most significant was the Government’s dropping of the LGBT Action Plan which was announced in 2018, on the back of a survey of 108,000 members of the LGBT+ community in the UK. This was a robust, cross-departmental strategy with policies targeted at improving the quality of life for the LGBT+ community in areas ranging from healthcare to schools to housing. However, in 2021 it was announced that the Government Equalities Office was not working to implement the plan, and the only policy left in place of the Action Plan was the pledge to ban conversion therapy, which has still not yet materialised.

The dropping of the action plan did not receive the attention that it should have, as it was dropped with no fanfare at all, with the closest thing to an announcement being found in the minutes of a hearing of the Women and Equalities Select Committee.

The Leadership Race

Most members of the LGBT+ Community will have been disheartened by the rhetoric in the leadership race between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. It was reported in Pink News that former Tory Ministers accused the pair of “pandering to bigots”, dredging up “shameful” anti-Trans talking points, and tarnishing the progress made on LGBT+ issues under David Cameron and Theresa May.

When Liz Truss said that trans women weren’t women at the Wembley hustings, she was however, playing to a very small audience. An audience that is dominated by old, white, male, Brexiteers in the form of Tory Party members. As such, in spite of the unpleasantness of the comments, one wonders the extent to which she was just playing to the audience in front of her. Indeed, when Rishi shredded thousands of pages of EU legislation in a campaign video, it was hard to think that he was taking himself seriously at the time. This kind of pantomime politics is grimly predictable when the voter base for the leadership election was dominated by a particular wing of the Conservative Party.

Final Thought

Ultimately, if you are a member of the LGBT+ community reading this, do not expect a sea change when Liz Truss enters the door of No.10 later today. The likely passing of the conversion therapy ban will be passed off as a momentous achievement, when in fact it was promised four years and two Prime Ministers ago.

I would also be keeping an eye on the roll-out of the regionalised model of trans healthcare that was recently announced. There are set to be eight clinics across England, with two opening in 2023 and a further six to follow. Delivery on these will be an important barometer of how serious she is about improving the lives of trans people across the UK.

I would expect her anti-trans rhetoric to decrease as she is forced to play to a larger crowd than the shy of 200,000 members of the Conservative Party. Ultimately, as recent polling has shown, most of the electorate are generally supportive of trans rights, while many others simply find it a distraction from the ongoing cost of living crisis.

However, in terms of substantive (new) policy announcements that will make a difference to the LGBT+ community, there is little to indicate significant progress.

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