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  • Erin Lewis

The Trans Moral Panic and How It Hurts Labour

By Erin Lewis


During the hamster wheel of Conservative Prime Ministers in 2022, the topic of trans rights came up on a fairly regular basis. Not because it was a source of conflict between the candidates running in the way that their views on the economy or Brexit were, but merely so they could all reaffirm the same point. Trans women are not women, and trans men are not men. To all candidates this has been an undisputed fact and something that both take-it-in-turn Tories, Sunak and Truss, have used their time to enforce. Of course, Liz Truss was not around long enough to do too much damage to this sector, however, Rishi Sunak has already taken action by revoking Scotland’s right to change the Gender Recognition Bill to increase inclusivity.

But surely Labour have been actively opposing this? Whilst there are MPs and party members who are vigorously defending trans rights, this is not a sentiment that extends throughout party lines. Following the announcement of Scotland’s Gender Recognition Bill, Kier Starmer stated his ‘concerns about the provision in Scotland, in particular the age reduction to 16 and the rejection of our amendment in relation to the Equalities Act” in an interview with Laura Kuenssberg. In 2022, Starmer further suggested there was nothing wrong with ‘concerns’ about self-identification and that parents should be able to veto their children's ability to receive gender affirming healthcare if they are under the age of 18.

This is a concerning development in the principles of a politician who leads a supposedly progressive party and ultimately sparks controversy for the future of Trans issues across Labour party lines.

Openly identifying as a trans person in Britain continues to be an immense personal struggle. Outside of the continued legal battles in maintaining and guaranteeing human equality, there is an exceeding likelihood of hate crime experiences as a trans person in the UK, with almost 3,000 being reported to the police. The ways in which the trans experience is failed by British Health services, with year long waits for basic treatment partnered with invasive questions, reiterates the unacknowledged difficulties of identifying as Trans under our current government. This is only ballooned by the vitriol in the media from discourse on women’s only spaces to notions that individuals are transitioning to fulfil some sort of sick fantasy- the attacks are endless.

There is a transparent cycle in the British media that wherever trans issues are discussed the pinpoint is never the injustices suffered and how to rectify such that are considered. It is always brought up as a cover, a way to get out of answering the difficult questions. To Conservative politicians, it is easier to discuss the ‘implications’ of a minor sports team featuring a trans person than it is to explain the negative impact of austerity or any of their other damaging and controversial policies. The ‘contentious’ issue is always easier than one that forces politicians to directly address the underlying flaws within their judgements.

A trans moral panic has generated to cover how the Tories continually fail so many people in British society.

So, what does this mean for Labour? The current strategy of the Labour Shadow Cabinet to accept the trans moral panic as a legitimate force comes as a result of a desperate appeal to voters following disastrous 2019 election results. Kier Starmer and the Labour shadow cabinet have therefore aligned with a traditionalist ideology in order to appear palatably to centre voters and the media corporations who are perpetuating such panics. Predictably, for very similar reasons to that of the current Conservative government. It does not matter that at least 40% of the general British public stated in a recent YouGov poll that they deeply supported trans people or that they had no interest in it. Rather, Labour have accepted the media made-up panic in British politics and will be forced to acknowledge the disservice they have done to themselves as a party.

Trans rights are an issue that exists within the intersections of discrimination in society. A society that fails trans people does not bode well for the representation and acceptance of simultaneous minorities. The worrying behaviours that are sparking from the labour party, whilst not indicative of every MP and party member, is a harmful change for the ‘party of the people.’

The desperation for genuine attempts to dissolve internalized transphobia in the Labour Party are clear, but recent rhetoric in the press suggests that this may be an unachievable goal under Starmer.

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Please note that unless stated otherwise, all articles are the opinions of the writers themselves and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Warwick Labour as a society.

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