We need politics that listens and delivers for queer people!
by Matt Rogan
Trust is such an important thing in politics. Election after election we’ve delivered promise after promise on how parties would run councils, act as mayor, even run the country! However, it’s clear that there is an unfortunate lack of trust from LGBTQ+ people in our politicians to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights in the UK. As queer people, we’re still facing discrimination in 2023 and we need our elected representatives to have our backs.
In May, the country will be going to the polls once again to elect local representatives. We’ve seen a myriad of news headlines hit about our community since the last set of local elections. There are two main stories that come to mind when I cast my mind back to the previous year: firstly, the Conservative Party leadership contest. Pink News described this contest as being “defined by anti-trans attacks”, and having watched some of the debates and interviews it was stomach turning to see trans people used as a political discussion point, rather than people who deserve basic rights, decency, and respect. The other came at Christmas, when it was announced that the SNP and Scottish Greens had passed their Gender Recognition Reform bill. Whilst I remember celebrating this news, it’s unfortunate that the main reason I remember it is the fact that our government in Westminster had decided to block the bill using a Section 35 order.
In the space of one year, these two events stand out because of one thing in common: LGBTQ+ rights being used in some political football match, whether it’s one candidate trying to outdo the other on their views of trans people, or political parties turning a bill that would have made things better for trans people into some case study about devolution and the union. So now, many months later, we’re left with a burning question: at a time when our rights are seemingly up for debate, who can we trust?
So, to try and weigh up the two leading parties, I decided to open up my news tab and search for “trans rights”.
On the one hand you have the Conservative Party, who dominate the news with headlines about their proposed revision of the Equality Act to change the definition of sex to “biological sex” in order to “protect single-sex spaces”. This is based on advice provided by the EHRC which would, according to UK trans charity Mermaids, essentially “strip trans people’s rights from the Equality Act 2010” which would “remov(e) the rights and protections trans people have had for over a decade”.
However, when searching for how the Labour Party - currently leading in the polls - have responded, it’s difficult to identify any difference between their stance and the Conservatives’. In response to the revision, Labour leader Keir Starmer has said he backs the review  and has even pushed the suggestion that trans rights could potentially “override” women’s rights . Furthermore, perhaps the most insulting part of this so-called “debate” on trans rights is the fact these comments came just days after both political parties posted on Trans Day of Visibility about their ‘support’ of trans people; it’s difficult to believe in this “support” when both parties back changes that would punch down on trans people.
This brings me back to that question from the beginning: who can we trust?
When queer people go to the ballot box in 3 weeks’ time, what sort of politics will they be able to rely on to stand up for them? The answer: a sort of politics that doesn’t see human rights as some debate topic. A sort of politics that unapologetically, unequivocally believes in the messages it puts out, not just to mark a day of significance like every other party does. Finally, a sort of politics that understands that justice for marginalised people goes hand in hand with economic and climate justice.
This is the sort of politics we need in 2023, and it’s why I became a Green Party member. I’ll be the first to say that we’re not perfect, no party is, but I’m proud to be a Green because the party has shown it is not just a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, but it also has the courage and conviction to call out queerphobia and do what it can to stand up to it.
One day, I hope this sort of politics is prevalent in our society and that queer people can once again trust in their representatives, regardless of party affiliation, to stand up for them.
1. “How shameless attacks on trans people defined a car-crash Tory leadership race”, Pink News - thepinknews.com/2022/08/25/tory-leadership-race-trans
2. Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill - https://www.parliament.scot/bills-and-laws/bills/gender-recognition-reform-scotland-bill
3. Alister Jack invokes Section 35 of Scotland Act to block GRR bill but what happens now?, Scottish Daily Express - https://www.scottishdailyexpress.co.uk/news/politics/alister-jack-invokes-section-35-28970563
4. Keir Starmer backs Equality Act review despite trans activists’ warnings, Pink News - https://www.thepinknews.com/2023/04/05/labour-equality-act-ehrc-sex-trans/
5. Keir Starmer: Trans rights can’t override women’s rights, The Times - https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/keir-starmer-trans-rights-cant-override-womens-rights-m70dw55dp