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Trans woman who grew up under Margaret Thatcher’s hateful Section 28 warns Liz Truss is ‘repeating history’

Lily Wakefield May 11, 2020
Section 28 Liz Truss attack on trans youth is 'a successor to Thatcher's Section 28

Former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and current Conservative minister for women and equalities Liz Truss. (In Pictures Ltd./Corbis and Peter Summers va Getty)

A trans woman who grew up under Section 28 has warned that the comments by Liz Truss on Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform could foreshadow a “round two” of Margaret Thatcher’s damaging and bigoted law.

On April 22, Conservative equalities minister Truss set out her plans for the UK’s GRA at a virtual meeting of the women and equalities select committee.

She said that the government response to 2018’s comprehensive public consultation on reforming the GRA would follow three “very important principles”, one of which is “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,” Truss added.

Truss’ statement sparked immediate alarm among parents of transgender youth and concern from LGBT+ organisations, and has been interpreted as a direct threat to the currently available healthcare for trans youth in the UK. Every major political party has now condemned her comments. 

In an opinion piece for i News Michelle O’Toole, a trans woman who grew up under Section 28, has said she is concerned that the law banning the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools could make a comeback thanks to Liz Truss.

Section 28, which banned any positive or informative mention of LGBT+ issues in schools across England and Wales and promised to “protect children” from a homosexual lifestyle, was imposed by Thatcher in 1988, and repealed by Labour in 2003.

O’Toole discussed her experience at school “under the shadow of Section 28”.

“Back in the 90s, ‘transsexualism’ was widely believed to be the inevitable endpoint of untamed homosexuality,” she said. “As a result, the reasons my body left me distraught every morning or why I wanted desperately to be a girl were inaccessible to me.”

“In the gap that was left, all I had was speculation: Was I gay? Was I a perverted freak? Nobody else appeared to feel like I did, and I realised through tolerated playground hate speech (‘queer’, ‘bum-boy’, ‘tranny’) that if anyone discovered how I felt, my life would be over.”

She explained that without the resources to understand her gender identity, she came out as bisexual.

“A priest told my religious education class that anal sex destroys anus muscles and causes ‘involuntary defecation’,” remembered O’Toole.

“This was an utter lie that our teacher was (legally) unable to correct. Later, I was attacked by boys who had discovered my ‘sexuality’. They yelled ‘Don’t s**t yourself!’ as their fists landed.”

She said that Truss’s promise to “protect children from irreversible decisions” is ” just as illogical and dangerous as Section 28″.

O’Toole continued: “If Liz Truss wants to protect children, she should be behind trans healthcare for under-18’s because it actually protects them from suicide.

“Giving them access to information and supportive therapies have been shown time and time again to be the most beneficial ways to support young trans people.

“But worryingly, her statement mirrors the talking points of groups like Transgender Trend and the LGB Alliance who have spoken out against affirming young trans people’s gender identities and advocate the removal of trans topics from classrooms.

“Their reason? They believe that learning about trans topics may confuse young people and result in young people coming out as transgender. Does that sound familiar to anyone else?”

She added: “We cannot let Truss repeat history.”

The chair of the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, Torr Robinson, has also said that Truss’ plans are a “disaster for the trans community” and would be “a successor” to the homophobic Section 28.

Writing for The Metro, Torr said: “It would be a successor to the old Conservative policy of Section 28 – a law banning schools and teachers from discussing homosexuality, which supposedly aimed to protect youth from bad ‘choices’.

“The effects of this law were devastating to a generation of LGBT+ young people, and this new edition would be just as damaging for young trans people today.

“After all, none of us ‘choose’ to be LGBT+.”

More: Conservative, equalities minister, liz truss, Margaret Thatcher, Michelle O'Toole, Section 28, trans kids

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