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Do the Tories know what a woman is?

Updated: May 23

Caitlin Hoyland

Fearing falling at the next election, the frenzied and dishevelled Conservative Party have identified another target within Britain to project their anger and trepidation.

 At the annual Conservative Party Conference, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak verbally attacked trans people for their mere existence. With conviction, Sunak told the crowd that "we shouldn't get bullied into believing that anyone can be any sex they want to be. A man is a man. A woman is a woman. That's just common sense." Later, Health Secretary Steve Barclay announced government plans to ban trans people from male-only and female-only hospital spaces.   

Such a queer-bashing agenda is hauntingly redolent of erstwhile Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's vilification of gay and lesbian people. 

Thatcher infamously imposed Section 28, which prohibited the teaching or even mentioning of homosexuality within schools, essentially institutionalising homophobia and encouraging homophobic hate crimes and discrimination. This act was in place until 2003 when two generations of people would have been socialised in the school setting to believe homosexuality was something to be hidden and discouraged.

Now, this government wants to make transgender people the pariahs. 

Health Secretary Steve Barclay reassures that the "Tories know what a woman is". I find this comment somewhat nauseating as it sounds like a cheap chat-up line, à la Boris Johnson. 

However, if Britain's health secretary is so sure in his definition of "woman", then he ought to have no qualms with the fact that trans women are women – because trans women are women. If you don't think that, you don't know what a woman is. 

Speaking as a cis-woman, I have since birth been allotted second-class status within a patriarchal system that wants me to: forever sip at the fountain of youth; have a natural urge to undertake any due domestic labour; not outshine my male counterparts; accept a wage that is lower than my male co-workers; and pay a monthly subscription fee for my menstrual cycle. 

Whilst I am frustrated by the discrimination I experience daily as a woman, I have never once felt I have been misgendered by society. 

So I can't imagine what it feels like to be a woman who since birth has been misgendered as a man and accordingly been granted the male-exclusive premium society membership and to then come out as a (trans)woman and face the cacophony of misogyny and transphobia that inevitably ensues. 

I don't face transphobia because I have never been misgendered. Sunak does not face transphobia because he has not been misgendered. To correct Sunak, no person should be bullied into believing that they cannot exist as their true selves; a person knows who they are – that's just common sense. 

Never one to miss an opportunity to spread extreme hate, Home Secretary Suella Braverman joined her Tory compatriots and voiced her transphobic opinions. She stated that to have transwomen in women-only wards compromises the safety of cis women. Suddenly, the safety of women is a top priority for Braverman. It is as though her anti-immigration policies have not seriously compromised the health and lives of women seeking asylum in the UK. 

Women's safety is less compromised by the people receiving medical treatment next to them and more by the nationwide apathy and lethargy in confronting and dismantling patriarchy. 

If the Tory Party genuinely wish to eradicate gender inequalities, it must be accepted that gender equality cannot be achieved unless transphobia is eradicated. The world's top chess federation recently banned transgender women from competing in women-only matches. Put another way, the world's top chess federation believes that gender has a bearing on an individual's ability to play chess. 

It is absolutely absurd that in the UK, the Armed Forces operate in a "gender blind" way, but it is deemed unfair for cis-women to compete with trans-women in a game of chess. 

I am insulted by the suggestion that as a cis-woman, I do not have the capacity to compete fairly against trans-women in a contest – be it chess, or cycling, or running. 

Transgender people have always existed and, in many cases, have not been defined as distinguished from cis-gendered people. Queerness, in all its beautiful and unique expressions, has historically been celebrated in many cultures worldwide. Compulsory heterosexuality was enforced via colonial oppression upon populations as a weapon of control to ensure the order and reproduction of colonial/racial capitalism. 

Controlling a person's identity is the pinnacle of power. The UK government's attempt to make trans-people pariahs is a testament to their waning power. 

Frankly, I am saddened that I live in a country represented by such a hostile and repressive government. There are no human rights without trans rights. 

Image: Prime Minister's Office

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