Sunak's 'common sense' and other Tory rhetoric about LGBT+ people will make their lives worse – Vic Valentine

The Prime Minister’s claim that men are men and women are women is true for 99 per cent of the population, but for trans people things are a little more complicated

Last week was the Conservative party conference. I followed it with interest, as there is still, in theory, plenty of time before the UK general election for them to improve people’s lives. But they did not sound like a government planning to spend their time left in power trying to make a positive difference.

Before the conference had even begun, the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, claimed that refugees arriving in the UK were somehow gaming the system. She particularly focused on women and gay people. It was very hard to understand why. Less than two per cent of asylum claims are made on the basis of sexual orientation. It is often difficult for people making claims to “prove” their sexual orientation, which they must to be able to stay. Leaving somewhere where you could face significant violence, imprisonment or even death because of who you are means you are unlikely to have been able to live freely and openly.

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This can be particularly true for lesbian refugees. When they arrive in the UK, their marriages or children are often used to discredit them – even if getting married was forced or essential for survival, or children are the product of rape. I think we would all agree that we should welcome people who have faced significant struggle and trauma, who are seeking safety, to our communities. Instead, the Home Secretary chose to make the problem worse and the UK asylum system essentially punishes them all over again for the persecution they are fleeing.

Her comments concerned me most, but they were not the only ones. If we find ourselves in hospital, then all we can hope for is high-quality, compassionate care. What no one wants to be worrying about is whether they can recover on the right ward, with as much privacy and dignity as can be afforded in our overstretched hospitals.

Yet when the UK Government’s Health Secretary claimed he would ban transgender people in England from both male and female hospital wards, he introduced exactly those fears. Our government should be focusing on making sure we all get the care we need to live happy and healthy lives, not targeting people for different and unfair treatment.

And this was still not the end. The Prime Minister took the time to include in his speech a line to the effect that men are men and women are women and that’s simply common sense. Of course it is – for 99 per cent of people. But for a small number of people like me, trans people, this does get a little more complicated. Just because there aren’t many of us doesn’t mean that those with such a big platform should talk about us as though our experiences don’t matter.

Nearly everyone will find themselves outside of what’s “normal” at some point. It’s deeply unhelpful and worrying that the UK Government chooses to blame those of us outside the norm for problems that they have the power to fix. Instead, we should work together to make sure that we have an asylum system, hospitals, and a public culture that makes people’s lives better – not worse.

Vic Valentine is manager of Scottish Trans. Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline, 24 hours: 08000 271234. Rape Crisis Scotland, 5pm-Midnight: 08088 010302



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