Kemi Badenoch speaks during Britain’s Next Prime Minister: The ITV Debate on 17 July. (ITV via Getty/ Jonathan Hordle)
Liz Truss “empowered” Kemi Badenoch to push back against trans rights during her time in government, the former equalities minister has claimed.
Writing in The Sunday Times on Sunday (31 July), Badenoch detailed how she sought to hear from “both sides of the debate” during her time in the Government Equalities Office (GEO) – but she couldn’t have done it without Truss.
“I could not have done anything without being empowered by my senior minister, Liz Truss, to challenge advice, meet whoever was relevant and do my job as I saw fit. Not everyone is that lucky,” she wrote.
Truss, the current women and equalities minister has, among other things, abandoned the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) reform and failed to include trans people in a conversion therapy ban.
NHS England announced Thursday that its sole gender identity clinic for trans youth operated by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust will be replaced with a regional model.
The move to shut down the clinic was made after a high-profile review of the service found overwhelmed staff were struggling to provide care for all trans youth in Britain, leading to years-long waiting times and some treatments rarely even being offered at times.
But Badenoch said the closure of the clinic should have happened a lot sooner.
Kemi Badenoch met with the LGB Alliance and Keira Bell
Since Badenoch became equalities minister in 2020, she said government officials praised Tavistock as a “positive medical provision to support children” that was “getting unfair press at the time”.
She wrote: “Children and their welfare should be a priority of any government. After receiving correspondence on the matter I decided to listen to every perspective on the issue of those experiencing gender distress to prepare future policy. I noticed officials seemed to be consulting the same people and previous ministers had created an LGBT advisory panel that was clearly suffering from groupthink.”
Truss confirmed in 2021 that the government disbanded the LGBT advisory panel after members came out swinging in support of trans people self-identifying amid debates over the GRA.
Badenoch said she wanted to do things a little differently from her predecessors. “I insisted on meeting campaigners on both sides of the debate: not just Stonewall but, to the horror of some officials, the LGB Alliance,” she wrote.
She met with the anti-trans lobbying group in June 2020, OpenDemocracy reported. LGB Alliance reached out to her to argue against banning conversion therapy, a practice considered “torture” by the United Nations.
Badenoch said that a robust, fully-inclusive conversion therapy ban would have “inadvertently criminalised the very clinicians who blew the whistle at the Tavistock”.
“Earlier this year, the decision to pause these legislative proposals was portrayed as being anti-transgender people at a time when government was doing everything it could to ensure they received the most appropriate care,” she added.
The government said legislating a trans-inclusive ban would have been “too complex” even though the government’s own research found trans people are more at risk of undergoing the dangerous, pseudoscientific treatment.
Badenoch said she also sought out the “young people who had used the Tavistock’s services”, among them being Keira Bell, who brought legal action against Tavistock after she detransitioned. Her case to the Supreme Court led to a since-scrapped ban on trans youth having access to puberty blockers.
Civil servants reportedly said it was “inappropriate” of Badenoch, whose job is to promote “transgender equality“, to speak with someone who wants to limit the rights of trans young people. So Badenoch “overruled” them and spoke with Bell nevertheless.
One survey found that of nearly 3,400 trans people polled, only 16 (or 0.47 per cent) came to “regret” their transition. Even fewer went on to detransition.
Tavistock will close its doors by Spring 2023, NHS England has said, with the aim to open two new clinics run by children’s hospitals in London and northwest England to ensure trans youth receive the care they need.
But Tavistock would have shuttered years ago if “activists [had not] succeeded in creating an environment in which critics and journalists felt unable to interrogate the dogma that youngsters should be able to medically transition in the way overseen by Tavistock”.
Tavistock does not offer treatments for minors to “medically transition”, while research from trans youth charity Mermaids and press regulator IPSO has found that never before have trans youth been so aggressively reported on in such negative ways.
She instead praised “heroes” such as Maya Forstater and Allison Bailey for being “vindicated through our legal system”. “Their struggle for justice came with unimaginable hardship simply for asserting that biological sex was real,” she said.
Forstater won a high-profile case in 2021 that ruled that so-called “gender critical” views are protected under equalities law. Bailey, who co-founded the LGB Alliance, lost her legal fight against Stonewall on Wednesday.
Badenoch said she is only now being candid about her time in office as she has resigned. Before then she feared someone more trans-inclusive may have taken her place, saying: “To be as frank as I can be now, I would have had to resign my position and risk a more compliant person taking on the role.”
Britain has become so transphobic that, over the years, it has plummeted down international LGBTQ+ rankings and been singled out by the Council of Europe for its “vitriolic attacks” against trans people.
PinkNews contacted the Government Equalities Office for comment.