The 8 contenders of the Tory leadership race; who is best for transgender people?

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Arthur Webber is back for Trans Writes doing a deep-dive into the contenders in the Tory leadership race. Here’s a transgender perspective on the state of the UK politics right now;

Now that the reign of Boris Johnson appears to be drawing to a close, I know many in the transgender community are curious about the candidates to be his replacement. The tory leadership race is hotting up, but would any bring an end to our usage as a political football? Which candidate would be a good choice for transgender people in the UK?

The short answer: none of them. Whether they are explicitly anti-trans or not, Conservative MPs have repeatedly backed measures which actively harm members of our community. Whether that is cuts to welfare which cause untold suffering to our disabled siblings or the Rwanda policy (which would also see trans refugees deported to an unsafe environment), the Conservative Party are not our friends.

However, for those of you with a morbid curiosity about the especially awful things each candidate has done, I’ve outlined them below. I’ve left the Equalities Ministers until last, because they’ll be the best on this issue, right?

Press photo of Rishi Sunak, a candidate for the tory leadership race
Press photo of Rishi Sunak, a candidate for the tory leadership race

Rishi Sunak was the Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2020 until his resignation last week. Branded “Dishy Rishi” by media commentators, he was incredibly popular among journalists during the pandemic and is one of the favourites to win the contest.

Upon launching his bid, his first policy pledge was to crack down on the usage of gender neutral language. Not that absolute poverty is due to rise by 1.3 million next year (according to The Resolution Foundation), that society is being made a little too inclusive of the darn transgenders. Given the recently unearthed clip where he bragged about not having any working class friends as a young man, you can maybe understand why he has no idea what the average person’s priorities are. Hint: it’s not other people’s genitals.

Jeremy Hunt was the longest serving Health Secretary in British political history and remains Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee. Therefore, if you’re looking for one person to blame for the dire state of transgender healthcare in this country, you’re probably going to knock at his door. He markets himself as socially liberal and has voted in favour of LGBT+ rights legislation, including same-sex marriage.

However, he has already announced that his pick for deputy leader if elected is Esther McVey, who said that “parents know best” when it comes to LGBT+ education and that they should be allowed to remove their children from inclusive RSE lessons if they wish. Anyone with a crumb of respect for our community would not promote somebody who believes you can opt out of equality.

Official media portrait of Nadhim Zahawi a candidate in the tory leadership race
Official media portrait of Nadhim Zahawi

Nadhim Zahawi has held more cabinet positions in the last couple of weeks than I could ever hope to have NHS Gender Clinic appointments. He has stated his “concern” that children are being taught about the existence of transgender people and that pupils should be outed to their parents by teachers. He’s the reason “Section 28” was trending on Twitter over the weekend, as many believe his comments on the matter suggest that he would welcome a return to it for trans people.

As a result of his stance on trans rights, Zahawi was recently protested at his appearance at University of Warwick by groups such as Trans Action Warwick who we spoke to here. Of course, the media decided to focus on the fact that one of the protesters is the son of a Labour MP and completely ignore his message.

Tom Tugendhat has never held a cabinet position and is therefore the most inexperienced of all the candidates. He has also said the least on the matter. He tweeted in 2019 that “we must be able to debate ideas”, linking an article where a woman had been asked by the police to remove posts deemed offensive about transgender people.

However, he also praised fellow MP Jamie Wallis for coming out as transgender and described it as “brave”, leading to some mocking by the right wing press. Didn’t he know that only the military can be described as brave? This is army-erasure!.

Suella Braverman is currently the Attorney General of England and Wales. After launching her leadership bid, journalist Sebastian Payne posted a strange statement where Braverman claimed that she was angry that a bill introduced to allow cabinet ministers to take maternity leave because the document referred to “pregnant people” rather than “pregnant women”.

Prior to this, she praised JK Rowling as a “heroine” of hers and stated that schools do not have to “pander” to trans pupils. She even accused some teachers of “encouraging” gender dysphoria. I don’t know about you, but none of my teachers told me to wear a ski jacket in the summer to hide my body and potentially risk heatstroke – I made that decision all by myself.

Liz Truss has been Minister for Women and Equalities since 2019. Often dubbed “Minister for Inequality”, she oversaw the incredibly radical reforms to the Gender Recognition Act of paying a bit less to apply and moving applications online. At the 2021 Conservative Party conference, she agreed with Labour’s Rosie Duffield that “only women have cervixes”.

However, she did once weigh in when the Equality and Human Rights Commission were writing their guidance on the usage of single-sex spaces, stating that the government has “no interest” in banning trans people from toilets. Small victories, I guess.

Under her leadership, we’d still have to jump over more hurdles than Olympic athletes to have our genders legally recognised and AFAB trans people will still struggle to access gynaecological care, but at least we’re permitted to use toilets outside our houses.

Press photo of Kemi Badenoch, a candidate in the tory leadership race
Press photo of Kemi Badenoch, a candidate in the tory leadership race

Kemi Badenoch is a Minister for Equalities. A VICE investigation found audio where she referred to trans women as men and asked “what are transsexuals looking for?” Equality, for one. Maybe a house. A Freedom of Information request also found that Badenoch asked for the government to consider LGB Alliance as a regular stakeholder. She had met with them the year before.

Badenoch also came out swinging for Kathleen Stock during her 15 minutes of fame, claiming that Stock’s anti-trans views were “in step with the majority of the population”.

At the venue where she launched her campaign, for some reason she decided to assign genders to single-stall toilets. That’ll own the libs!

Finally, Penny Mordaunt was most people’s least worst option. A former minister in the Equalities Office, she was working on reforming the Gender Recognition Act. She was awarded PinkNews’s Politician of the Year in 2019 and spoke at the 2019 Stonewall Workplace conference about LGBT+ inclusion. However, at midnight last Sunday, she decided to tweet a thread outlining that she too believes in some anti-trans conspiracy theories, in a bizarre attempt to ward off the attacks from her colleagues that she was too “woke” on this.

It occurs time and time again in politics: careerism will always trump doing what is right.

If you are transgender and despaired at reading all this, I can only apologise. However, as a community, we will get through it. We are being made the focus of the tory leadership race to distract from the real societal problems such as the cost of living crisis because they have no solutions. The Conservatives have been in power for over a decade, these issues are of their own making. Transgender people existed long before they were elected, and we’ll be around after they leave government. We will win.

Arthur Webber
Arthur Webber is a transgender social media influencer and freelance journalist. A former council candidate and current amateur footballer, he enjoys covering sport and politics through a trans lens. When he’s not doing serious journalism, he’s telling jokes about cutting off his boobs on Twitter.

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