On Wednesday, Liz Truss the Minister for Women and Equalities told the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons her priorities for the Government Equalities Office. Her priorities are (1) reshaping the GEO to bring it closer to the work of the Cabinet Office, (2) international work promoting LGBT rights and (3) work on the Gender Recognition Act, as well as restricting gender reassignment for under-18s. Understandably it is the third of these priorities that has garnered the most press attention so far.
According to Truss, the government plans to publish its response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation this summer and to launch its proposals for reform then. Whether or not this gets postponed due to more urgent business relating to the current coronavirus is another matter.
Protecting children from their own unwise decisions
Regarding under-18s, Truss had this to say:
“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. I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions.”
Commenting on this announcement in the Spectator, James Kirkup says this of Liz Truss:
“The cabinet minister responsible for trans policy has decided to enter the debate about trans children, and to take a side, by questioning the prevailing orthodoxy that has been constructed by campaign groups and some clinicians.”
LGBT activists complain
LGBT campaigners complained loudly about Truss’ words. The Independent reported that Stonewall “demanded talks with the minister to establish what decisions she had in mind and to ensure that young people continue to be offered appropriate support.”
A spokesperson for Mermaids the transgender charity told iNews:
“It would be an extraordinary move for the Minister for Women and Equalities to support the introduction of a new form of inequality into British medical practice.”
This is a curious thing to say given that what holding out the path of gender reassignment does to children is to create inequalities between members of the same sex. Some do not get the psychological treatment to which they are equally entitled as other members of the same sex who had better adult supervision.
Prioritising single-sex spaces
Liz Truss told the Women and Equalities Committee that with regards to the Gender Recognition Act, her first priority was to protect single-sex spaces. This is quite a significant change from the tone of previous Ministers for Equality, who have very much toed the transgender line. This was to be expected as the press has long reported Truss’ serious concerns about free speech on transgender issues, children ‘transitioning’ and single-sex spaces.
Will the government bring in a ‘gender identity law’?
Truss set out her second priority with regard to the Act as follows:
“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.”
The Act already provides medical checks for changing gender. Remove these and we get ‘gender change’ merely on paper and in people’s heads. This needs to be said because Truss surely knows that many people who identify as transgender want to ‘identify’ without medical checks. What other ‘proper checks and balances’ is the government proposing? This question needs to be pressed because less than two weeks ago, former Prisons Minister Rory Stewart admitted to the press that there were two male-to-female transgender prisoners placed in women’s prisons who then raped prison staff.
In the current situation the massive pressure on the NHS surely means there won’t be much patience within the government for funding more gender reassignment treatment. This means that it is possible that the government will opt to allow people to change gender without medical checks; exactly what transgender activists have always wanted. Along with many others we have repeatedly warned about the dangers of such a system.
The addition of ‘without fear of persecution’ is noteworthy as regards public debate on law and policy. There is a great deal of concern about as well as disapproval of transgender politics in the United Kingdom across society. Disagreement, criticism, holding that it is best that law and policy should require people to live as members of their sex – none of these amount to persecution. Whose words are being echoed here?
A question of freedom
In an interview with Julia Hartley-Brewer on Talk Radio last October, Liz Truss stated that she wanted to move her work as Minister for Equalities away from ‘the identity politics of the left’ and wanted to emphasise ‘the value of individual talent and character’. When prompted by Hartley-Brewer about the appropriateness of her job title, she said that it should really be renamed as ‘the Ministry of Freedom’. This did not go down well with LGBT campaigners, who see it as a step back from the kind of policymaking they prefer.
The real question here is, what is freedom and how should the government handle it? If Liz Truss is serious about freedom, she needs to ensure that people are free to leave a transgender identification behind and get adequate help from the government in that respect. She needs to ensure that doctors and healthcare professionals are free to help people live as members of their sex, and in no way constrained or intimidated into not doing that. Finally, she needs to ensure that there is an end to the current situation where people who tell the truth about who is male or female are hounded out of their jobs and even denied justice in the courts. Only then will we know that this government will have stepped back from harmful transgender politics.