UK: Tory leadership race turns into transphobic spectacle
Leading the pack of hopefuls is Rishi Sunak, Britain’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer whose government resignation last week contributed to the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. After the second round of voting among Conservative Party lawmakers earlier this month, Sunak topped the list of five candidates who remain in the running.
Over the past week, Tory candidates are more likely to have been quizzed on ‘what is a woman’ by British journalists than to have been taken in by more traditional questions, such as the cost of a pint of milk. On Wednesday, Sunak’s biggest rival in the race, once relatively little-known Deputy Minister Penny Mordaunt, was asked if she would continue with culture war issues like trans rights.
Descriptors like “biological female” are considered slurs by transgender advocates when deployed by critical gender activists, who believe that the sex one is assigned at birth is immutable, and that all rights or privileges associated therewith may not be extended to those who choose to identify as such.
“Not in my adult life do I recall a situation where, in an election or leadership selection process, such attention was paid to LGBTQ+ rights measures,” Nancy Kelley, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group Stonewall, told CNN.
The British public is more tolerant than some politicians or the press would like to admit, she said. “I think it’s part of a wider phenomenon that we’re experiencing in the UK where we have really progressive and positive public attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, but we have a lot of media and conversation pretty obsessive policies about trans people, and largely in a negative way,” Kelley said.
“Disproportionate and frightening”
Almost all focus group participants “asked why there weren’t now more unisex restroom options available, which to many seemed like a practical solution to the problem of single-sex spaces,” he wrote.
“We’ve got a major cost of living crisis, we’re facing a global climate emergency, there’s war in Ukraine… (and we’re) facing the aftermath of Brexit – the fact that the media are so obsessed with asking (trans) questions, and candidates are all expected to express their views on the place of trans people in society, it’s so disproportionate and scary,” for a group that only represents about 0.6% of the population, Kelley said.
Transphobia may not be an electorally viable strategy, but that hasn’t stopped this year’s leadership candidates.
Badenoch’s spokesperson did not deny the allegation, telling CNN in a statement that “In response to a consultation from the FCA, and in his capacity as Minister for Equality, Kemi has written to the FCA on how she could comply with the Equality Act and improve women‘s representation. on municipal councils.