LGBT Conservatives plead with government to ‘stop pandering to a culture war’ and actually empathise with trans people

Emma Powys Maurice June 25, 2020
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Ministers 'unlikely' to reform Gender Recognition Act

UK equalities minister Liz Truss is reportedly preparing a new drive to ban conversion therapy (WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The deputy chair of the LGBT Conservatives has urged the government to show more empathy towards trans people “instead of pandering to a culture war”.

Writing in the i, John Cope called on the government to stop punishing trans people for male violence and reclaim the “historic liberalism” he says his party stands for.

Referring to the Conservatives’ latest move against trans rights, he said: “To leak a series of unofficial proposals that directly affect vulnerable people’s lives is not just shabby – it’s bordering on cruel.

“Including a line about ‘placating’ LGBT+ people by banning gay ‘cure’ therapies, was unacceptable. But worst of all, there wasn’t a single word of empathy for trans people.”

He declared that the whole issue has been “handled poorly”, beginning with the still-pending reforms to the gender recognition act first promised in 2017.

In the three years since, he says, “a vacuum has been allowed to fester, with misinformation and ambiguity growing like weeds.

“What once was an opportunity for sensible, moderate reforms based on calm evidence, has now grown into a toxic atmosphere – with many trans people now fearing for their future.”

Tories risk an ‘echo of Section 28 era’ in their approach to trans rights, LGBT Conservatives say.

While Cope is far from the first to make these points, the fact that such strident criticism is coming from the heart of LGBT Conservatives will be seen as particularly damning for the government.

The group bills itself as a central LGBT+ voice within the Conservatives, and a Conservative voice in the LGBT+ community. But Cope says the party is now dismissing the lived experience of trans people, risking an “echo of the Section 28 era” in which homosexuals were portrayed as a danger to children.

“We’ve spent years repairing the damage that did, so reading a recent report in the Sunday Times which was headlined ‘Boris Johnson scraps plan to make gender change easier’ made my heart sink,” Cope said.

He recalled the “unfounded fears” that same-sex marriage would undermine heterosexual marriage, drawing comparisons with the common refrain that granting trans rights will somehow diminish the rights of others.

“Acknowledging a trans woman as a woman, or a trans man as a man, doesn’t erase or diminish the idea of ‘women’ and ‘men’,” he said.

“The notion it does will come as a surprise to all those who have been quite happily living as trans for decades apparently erasing gender all that time.”

He called on Boris Johnson’s government to show “empathetic leadership and an effort to tackle misinformation” so that trans voices can actually be heard.

“After all, I shouldn’t be the one writing this article,” he said. “One glance at the vilification of trans people on social media will explain why it’s me, not a trans Conservative, writing.

“Cooler heads and evidence needs to prevail.”

More: Boris Johnson, conservatives, gender recognition act, John Cope, lgbt conservatives, liz truss, Section 28, trans rights, transphobia

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