‘The ethnicity of grooming gang perpetrators is the sort of fact that has become unfashionable in some quarters,’ Suella Braverman decried.
‘Much like the fact that 100% of women do not have a penis.’
As soon as I heard the Home Secretary give this speech at the National Conservatism Conference earlier this week, I thought to myself: ‘Way to use casual racism to segue into explicit transphobia.’
It’s the sort of thing you would expect from fauxminists who screech at a Posie Parker rally rather than a conference.
As a transgender person, I can attest that I am no stranger to my existence being used to score petty political points, while I witness my community suffer from legitimately life-threatening NHS waiting lists and daily discriminatory hyperbole online.
But this familiarity does not ease the constant oppressive cloud that hangs over me, knowing that the most powerful people in my country are more interested in my genitals matching my outfit than whether or not I am receiving adequate healthcare.
The National Conservatism Conference bills itself as ‘[bringing] together public figures, journalists, scholars, and students who understand that the past and future of conservatism are inextricably tied to the idea of the nation’.
The fundamental issue here is that politicians are being empowered to use their platform to spout hateful bigotry
So you would expect a certain level of professionalism and maturity when it comes to representing, not only yourself, but also the ruling political party that you belong to. Unfortunately, it would appear that Braverman missed this memo.
Besides the aforementioned ‘women do not have a penis’ remark, the Home Secretary made other delightful comments on the topic of us transgender folks – a marginalised group which experienced a 56% rise in hate crimes in 2022 – including ‘radical gender ideology is leading to the mutilation and abuse of our children’ and, ‘Given [Keir Starmer’s] definition of a woman, we can’t rule him out from running as Labour first woman prime minister.’
Comments such as these manage to shock me – even among what feels like a deluge of transphobic rhetoric online.
And – despite the Conservative’s continued failure to treat trans citizens as anything other than a hypothetical bogeyman – I still expect someone with the position of Home Secretary to possess more than just a primary school level of biology that doesn’t stray beyond ‘man = penis, woman = vagina’.
We should not be seeing major political figures openly stating that healthcare for transgender youths is ‘mutilation’ and ‘abuse’. This kind of conspiratorial fear-mongering is nothing less than exceedingly dangerous.
In fact, the UN’s Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, recently visited the UK and his follow-up report was a damning reflection of the utter mess that has been created due to the UK’s treatment of marginalised people, with a focus on transgender citizens.
He believes there’s a ‘toxic nature of the public debate surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity’ and urged: ‘Politicians must carry out evidence-based evaluations, free from stigma and preconception.’
This is not the first time we have witnessed politicians fail to do exactly that, by using a mixture of personal bias and pitchfork-wielding mob mentality to demonise trans people in the hope of political gain against a fictional monster that they themselves have created.
While social media has proven to be a fantastic way for people to connect, it has also provided politicians with a platform to discard any sense of basic decency or empathy towards others – an issue that spans the entire spectrum of political parties.
Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry appeared to be unable to tolerate an LGBTQ+ charity campaigning for LGBTQ+ people when she tweeted it was ‘irresponsible scaremongering’ for Stonewall to share their ‘grave concerns’ over recent EHRC recommendations.
Labour’s Rosie Duffield – whose level of maturity involves casually referring to LGBTQ+ news outlet PinkNews as ‘Prick News’ – previously railed against ‘self-ID as a passport for male-bodied biological men to enter protected spaces for biological women’.
As shown by Braverman’s ‘100% of women do not have a penis’ comment – an opinion our very own prime minister, Rishi Sunak, shares – there is an overall lack of proper education among politicians when it comes to discussing topics such as sex and gender, which is a recurring issue with amateurs who claim to be experts.
Much like gender, sex simply is not binary.
As explained by anthropologist Agustín Fuentes last year: ‘The commitment to a simple binary view creates a fictitious template for a “battle of the sexes” that manifests in miseducation about basic biology, the denigration of women’s rights, the justifications of incel and “men’s rights” violence, and the creation of anti-transgender laws.’
But these statements go far beyond the matter of science. The fundamental issue here is that politicians are being empowered to use their platform to spout hateful bigotry that would get anyone else disciplined and likely sacked in any other line of work.
It is clumsy and it is cruel. Politicians must be held accountable for their behaviour, rather than being immune to the consequences of their actions.
If you cannot be handed a microphone without spewing reprehensible and unfactual hate speech into it, you should not be in a position of power.
Hearing statements like what Braverman included in her speech serves as a reminder that neither myself nor my wider community are currently safe in our own country. That the people around me are being fed an endless stream of lies which encourages hatred and violence.
We need key leaders in our government to be speaking from a place of, not only legitimate knowledge, but also a basic sense of empathy and care for the people that they serve.
In order for marginalised groups like the trans community to exist without fear, people like Suella Braverman need to be kept well away from any position of power.
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