Tory campaign launches to counter rise in ‘orthodox’ voices denying existence of trans people
A Tory Trans Campaign has launched this week, to challenge the “emboldened rise” in anti-trans views within the ruling Conservative Party.
Hot on the heels of the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, the Tory Trans Campaign is not affiliated with the Conservative Party but has been founded by a party member who describes himself as a cis male trans ally.
He tells PinkNews that although the campaign launched just two days ago, there has already been a “fantastic” response.
“Over recent months, there has been a noticeable rise within the Tory party of socially conservative or ‘orthodox’ voices, who have been especially negative about trans rights, gender identity, and even the existence of trans people,” he says (the Tory Trans Campaign founder requested his name stay out of this article so that the focus stays on the campaign).
“These aren’t ideas I want to see in the Tory party and so the emboldened rise in these views led me to set up the Tory Trans Campaign to bring likeminded liberal and pro-trans Tories together to challenge these ideas and fight for progressive trans rights within the party.
“Although it’s also fair to say that I was inspired by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights to do something in my own party too!”
The campaign sets out five founding principles, including that gender isn’t binary or determined by genitals, that trans men, women and non-binary people are who they say they are, and that “self-ID” – a nod to Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform – is vital and necessary.
— ToryTransCampaign (@ToryTrans) February 25, 2020
Former prime minister Theresa May announced plans to reform the GRA in 2017, but, in the three years since, a succession of Tory politicians have stalled the plans.
A huge public consultation on potential reforms was held in 2018, in which more than 100,000 people give their views on the proposed changes to the law.
Six women and equalities ministers have held the brief covering GRA reform at the Government Equalities Office, and neither the results of the public consultation nor a draft bill of potential reforms have been published – despite repeated promises that these were imminent.
“It is really disappointing that the government have not moved quicker both with the results of the public consultation and the legislation itself,” says the party member behind the Tory Trans Campaign, which has a picture of Boris Johnson wearing a pink cowboy hat as its Twitter header picture.
“Pushing for GRA reform is the first big thing on our agenda.”
Describing his reasons for setting up the campaign, he says: “Like many Tories, I have always been socially liberal and fundamentally believe that someone’s life should not be determined by their gender, race, religion, class etc.
“So where there is injustice, based on someone’s identify, we should all have a responsible to fight against that and do what we can to support people in a more progressive society.
“The reason I have become particularly interested in trans rights is because, although there’s always work to be done, I see progress in other equality areas but on trans rights we seem to be going backwards with a recent ‘backlash’ against the progress we’ve made so far.”
A significant part of that backlash has come from or been stoked by the Conservative Party itself, backed by Britain’s right-wing press.
This includes statements made by Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, who recently said that Westminster doesn’t need any more “drivel” about gender identity.
Online, the new campaign has been met with curiosity, enthusiasm, and also criticism – mostly down to three years of Conservative stalling on GRA reform, alleged Tory attempts to “weaponise” trans issues into a toxic culture war, and, perhaps most pertinently, because it is a campaign led by a cis man.
“This is a really important point, and something I’m very aware of because it’s really important to be led by trans voices,” the TTC founder says.
“I’m keen to get as many people involved as possible, to generate ideas for how we can drive engagement and encourage progressive pro-trans ideas within the Tory party.
“I’d therefore encourage anyone, especially trans Tories, to DM us or email us to get involved! I feel it’s also important to say that allies can and do play a really valuable role in the fight for trans rights and liberal progressive rights more widely.”
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Confirming that the TTC will be encouraging Tory MP’s to publicly back their five pledges, he says that he’s “sure that there will be Tory MPs and other senior figures willing to show their support for our trans community”.
In the weeks following its launch, the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights has seen all the women running to be leader of the Labour party sign up to its pledges, as well as swathes of party members and senior Labour politicians.
It’s also faced backlash from anti-trans groups, which it labelled “trans-exclusionary hate groups”, who deny that their views – which include opposing GRA reform and insisting transgender women are men and non-binary people don’t exist – are transphobic. Members of these groups have said they will leave the Labour party over the support for pledges backing trans rights.
While it hasn’t yet gained the online traction of the Labour campaign, the Tory Trans Campaign is powering on.
“The Tory party, like every party, can absolutely do better on trans equality and part of the reason for our campaign is to hold our own side to account and drive positive change from the inside.”