"Be it red or blue, Labour or Tory alike, their stance on trans children is undoubtedly painted with the same brush."

Fey Kapur

In the aftermath of Bell v Tavistock, trans life has never been the same. In 2020, Kiera Bell took the Tavistock Gender Identity Clinic to the High Court, which declared that trans youth are incapable to consent to taking puberty blockers. While the court of appeal might have overturned this ruling, the damage had already been done: trans identity had become a site of unwanted media scrutiny. Trans identity has become a conduit for a culture war between the left and right, and trans children have been thrust violently onto the frontlines of this political battlefield. Trans children have been thrust into the public eye, a site for moral panics to run amok.  From Bell v Tavistock, to the recent Cass Review (2024), the UK government is failing to take seriously the delimitations and restrictions placed upon puberty blockers which are actively killing trans youth.

Policy is power: it is clear that the Conservative government does not care for the lives of trans children. Keyed into the new guidance in schools – one that bears uncanny similarities to the Thatcherite section 28, is an implicit continuation of censorship laws, with the targets placed on the backs of trans children themselves. 

Unfortunately, the attempts to censor trans children out of existence have not been condemned far enough by the opposition. While it’s positive that the Liberal Democrats and Greens endorse self-identification and non-binary identity, they are focusing too closely on respectability politics, challenging the attacks on wokeness levelled at us from the far right, rather than honing in on policies that would materially save us such as funding gender identity clinics. The Liberal Democrats are committed to repealing the ‘draconian’ anti-protest bill, which in this current climate is vital for mobilising change – however, in an ideal scenario we wouldn’t need to protest in the first place.

Labour, on the other hand, have also fallen short in many ways. They, too, have failed to condemn the implementation of the new-section 28.  In Rachel Reeve’s agreement to meet with notorious TERF figurehead JK Rowling to provide reassurance, it is clear that their political energies remain divided and somewhat misguided. Even the mere act of entering into a dialogue like this delivers a crystal clear vision of Keir Starmer’s Labour government: one that would house trans women in men’s prisons, one that would keep trans refugees housed with their abusers in home office accommodation, one that says what it needs to say to gain votes but fails at almost every level beneath the surface.

Where Labour does appear to have our back, however, is in a few other areas. Firstly, they are committed to throwing conversion therapy into sharp relief. In their 2024 manifesto, they state ‘so-called conversion therapy is abuse – there is no other word for it – so Labour will finally deliver a full trans-inclusive ban on conversion practices’. This policy is in direct opposition to the Conservative government’s legislative failure to protect trans people against the trauma of so-called conversion practices.

Second, they are seeking to backtrack on the increasing bureaucratisation of gender administration: their claims to ‘modernise, simplify and reform the intrusive and outdated gender recognition law’ thereby bypassing the need for a Gender Recognition Certificate to gain state-legible name and gender identification indicate that they are committed to removing barriers preventing trans people having valid documentation in their updated name and gender.

In terms of everyday transphobic violence, they also seek to crackdown on anti-LGBT hate crime: vowing to make all existing strands of hate crime an ‘aggravated offence.’ While an adversarial system of justice is not the utopian goal, the upsurge in transphobic hate crimes that we have seen in recent years warrant the need for increased protections for trans people.

With all this in mind, I don’t think Keir Starmer is the vanguard of trans rights we are looking for; Labour is by no means infallible when it comes to social justice at large. It is critical to note what they’ve outlined in their manifesto this is only one tip of a multifaceted iceberg. Labour’s manifesto remains steeped in centre-right vision, and it is blinkered by its own neoliberal aims. Indeed, the social cracks in the Starmer cabinet are most palpable (and its policies most vapid) when it comes to matters of immigration, healthcare and incarceration – issues that have and continue to disproportionally affect trans people. 

Whilst Labour appear to support trans rights on the surface, to focus only on their manifesto is to ignore the fact that trans safety does not exist in a vacuum, and needs to be accounted for holistically. We need to dig beneath the substrate to unveil what Labour is really hiding behind: failing to support trans people of colour, disabled trans people, homeless trans people, trans children and Palestinian trans people who are not accounted for. While Labour are promising a better future, this is not a sea change in policy and merely an addendum to a Conservative agenda.  Surface when it comes to policy, is not substance. And all that glitters is not gold.

What use is banning conversion therapy if puberty blockers are banned, if NHS gender identity clinics waiting lists remain underfunded and understaffed, if hormones remain gatekept, controlled and demonised. To admit that trans children have agency or Gillick competence is to admit that trans youth have bodily autonomy. And this pill, however contentious, has not yet and is unlikely to be swallowed across all the major political parties. 

The fundamental freedoms for trans youth that would make the rest of their lives not only feasible but indeed liveable have and are continuously curtailed by the ongoing ban against puberty blockers. When it comes to basic care, compassion or consideration for trans children, neither policy is one I can endorse. Be it red or blue, Labour or Tory alike, their stance on trans children is undoubtedly painted with the same brush.

So what needs to change? We need to pushback against the increasing bureaucratisation of trans identity. There is a desperate need for trans children to access puberty blockers, to take Hormone Replacement Therapy free of shame, of violence or illegality. The violence of allowing a trans child to undergo a puberty that will only induce dysphoria and could require gender affirming procedures in adulthood far outweighs the potential, much less likely harm of someone wanting to detransition later down the line. It is not an overstatement to suggest that trans people are some of the most politically disenfranchised subset of the UK, often having to jump through hoops to acquire legitimate forms of voter ID that is not only harder to secure but risks insecure validation status.

We need not let history repeat itself. We need not let generational violence perpetuate itself insidiously through the neo-section 28 laws. We need sex and gender education that is not only trans inclusive but trans affirmative. We need safe spaces for preteen trans youth to be themselves (there are currently none). We need a government who will not concede to transphobic myth and instead embrace transgender reality. We need to defund the carceral systems that place trans women like Sarah Jane Baker in men’s prisons and reinvest this money into funding trans youth programmes, that pay trans educators to teach trans youth that transness is not only a viable option but a life-affirming one. We need an NHS that operates on an informed consent model of care in which GPs are as educated on trans healthcare as trans people themselves, rather than a classist system that forces us down a privatised route, one where Hormone Replacement Therapy can be prescribed without humiliation, without endless wait, without permission just to live and be seen.

 I cannot overstate that we are edging towards an increasingly fascistic government that is attempting to deinstitutionalise and indeed morally mandate trans identity out of existence. We are living in a trans landscape of death – an infanticidal moment governed by those who would sooner rollback trans rights than admit that because of medical violence and governmental indifference sixteen transgender youth have died. This therefore isn’t just a political debate anymore; the stakes are too high. Ultimately, casting a vote under the current system feels futile at best, and a betrayal at worst. It is no wonder that tactical voting is a sentiment from the past in favour of abstaining, spoiling the ballot or voting independent. After all, this feels like a much safer gambit when it comes to acting out of self-preservation, and protecting the future of ourselves and our community at large.


You can donate to Trans Actual and the Good Law project here: Help challenge the ban on puberty blockers (goodlawproject.org)

For help and support you can call LGBT switchboard on 0800 0119 100 Homepage | Switchboard

You can call the national conversion therapy helpline on 0800 130 3335

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Last Update: July 02, 2024