On 4 October 2023, Rishi Sunak stood up in front of the Conservative party in an ugly suit and an even uglier tie and declared that “a man is a man and a woman is a woman.” In true Tory fashion, Sunak’s vile remarks were met by a raucous wave of applause. And while this isn’t even close to being the first time that a prominent British politician has been overtly transphobic in public, it did in many ways represent a turning point in British culture. The UK is on its way to becoming an incredibly unsafe place for members of the entire LGBTQIA+ community, and we need to keep talking about it.
This, of course, is not to say that the UK has ever been entirely safe for queer individuals. However, it’s evident that the dial is turning in a dangerous direction.
This week in Explained By a Blonde, we’re taking things in a slightly different direction, girlies. It’s crucial this blonde attempts to explain the political situation in the UK right now—Klarna and loser landlords have never felt so unimportant. I am not trans and therefore have no right to speak on behalf of the trans community. I am queer though. And it’s terrifying trying to figure out your sexuality amid such a toxic and homophobic environment.
In order to try and break down the most worrisome updates, let’s sashay our way through Sunak’s dumbest announcements and all of the ways in which the rights of queer people in the UK are about to be slowly but surely stripped away.
First things first, we should chat about the fact that during the Conservatives’ reign, reports of homophobic abuse have skyrocketed. According to PinkNews, by 2020, overall hate crime levels had topped 100,000 for the first time ever, the highest number since records began in 2011 and 2012. The biggest proportionate rise was seen in transphobic hate crimes, which soared by 16 per cent to 2,540.
Then, there’s the long ass list of policies that have been introduced over the past few years, all directly catered towards invalidating the rights and existence of queer people—particularly trans and non-binary individuals.
During the Tory conference that took place in Manchester, Health Secretary Steve Barclay also announced that he had ordered a reversal of “unacceptable changes” to the NHS website that used gender-inclusive language for conditions such as cervical cancer. Furthermore, Barclay took action against the NHS for ordering staff to declare their pronouns to new patients.
Special mention, of course, has to go to Cruella Braverman for insinuating that asylum seekers ‘pretend to be gay’ in order to gain access to the UK… Just shhh and get back to your Dalmatians babes.
Sunak has also been incredibly expressive in his plans to rid the UK of gender-neutral toilets. In August, the UK government announced that all new buildings would be required to have separate single-sex bathrooms—a move that will 100 per cent put trans individuals at risk, as well as any queer individuals who have fluid gender identities.
There’s also the matter of conversion therapy. LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups have been pushing for the UK government to ban conversion therapy for years now. However, in a move reminiscent of when a fuckboy promises he’ll call you, the Conservatives have done quite literally piss all.
Delay after delay, and it feels as though we are nowhere closer to actually introducing a blanket ban to the archaic and traumatic practice. To make matters worse, since the government first promised a ban in 2018, eight countries including France, Germany, Canada and Spain have all banned the abusive practices.
On top of that, recent reports have shown that same-sex couples seeking IVF in the UK have to spend thousands of pounds proving their infertility before the NHS will consider funding. In fact, some couples must pay privately for between three and 12 rounds of artificial insemination. Some couples have shared with the BBC that they have spent more than £20,000 on the treatment. While still time-consuming, the process is much less expensive for heterosexual couples. A number of activists have now come to refer to this as a “gay tax.”
During this reflection on the horrors of the Conservatives’ anti-LGBTQIA+ practices, I wanted to make sure I included the perspectives of someone within the trans community. So, I reached out to journalist and co-founder of Trans Writes, Gemma Stone. This is what she had to say: “The comments made by Rishi Sunak and his fellow party members at the recent Conservative Party conference are horrific, but nothing that we haven’t heard already. For those unaware, Sunak is the third Prime Minister in a row to have made explicitly anti-trans comments and/or commitments to policy and legislation. He is also the third Prime Minister in a row to have stacked his cabinet with other known anti-trans agitators.”
“Trans people who have been engaging in my line of work are exhausted, a little bit bitter, and desperately trying to keep our shit together and do the same for our communities. But above all else, we are relentless in our opposition to anti-trans narratives like the kind regurgitated by Sunak. He will not win. There will always be trans people and we will always be giving him and those like him the finger until they disappear forever.”
We need to continue speaking about this. So often, stories about the LGBTQIA+ community get waylaid in the news cycle, it’s a problem that’s noticeable in almost all current affairs publications. But we also can’t just read about these things—we need to actively participate and fight against them. Listed below are some charities and petitions you should check out: