Who did Truss meet — and when did she meet them?
In the last few days the LGBT Press has highlighted a failure by the Equalities Minister to give a straight answer to the question of who she has spoken with about reform of the Gender Recognition Act. In the absence of such an answer suspicion is growing that she has not been straight with the trans community.
This is not the easiest of pieces to write because while the issue is important, it is also one that I seem to have been dragged into, secondhand, through a little bit of over-enthusiastic reporting in Pink News.
Let’s start with the allegation. According to Pink News, Equalities Minister, Liz Truss was urged to ‘come clean’ after “LGBT+ groups deny meeting the minister to discuss gender law reform”.
Quite right, too! And here comes that awkward cross-over.
Because I now have the honour of chairing Trans Media Watch (TMW), one of the groups specifically referenced in the article as not met with, despite Ministerial claims to the contrary. A number of individuals from TMW have contributed to the consultation at various stages. There is no indication that they were invited along as members of TMW, or because they are just generally acknowledged to hold some position of respect within the trans community.
We can find no evidence that Trans Media Watch itself was invited to consult on this matter. To be honest, as an organisation whose primary focus is on media reporting of trans issues, we are not altogether sure such an invite would have been well-founded. That is water under the bridge. Though we do note that of the “many” organisations supposedly consulted by the Government Equalities Office (GEO), there is a certain amount of padding, with some groups and parts of groups counted twice over
Besides, that was long before Truss took up her office. So while it is true to say that the GEO has consulted widely, and some previous Ministers have met widely within the trans community, that is neither more nor less relevant to the question of whether the present incumbent has done so.
while it is true to say that the GEO has consulted widely, and some previous Ministers have met widely within the trans community, that is neither more nor less relevant to the question of whether the present incumbent has done so
Why is that important? Well, it was clear, some while back, that the supposed “big issue” at the heart of attempts to reform the gender recognition act (GRA) — “self id” — was a non-starter. At least, very much a non-starter under Truss, who over the past few months has made clear her own opposition to that idea.
And — you may think it odd for me to say this — fair enough! Self-id is not, never was the big thing that those obsessed by it, claimed it to be. For some it provided useful rhetoric. For others, a handy derailing tactic. At the end of the day, though, there are more problems with the GRA than the principles around which it is constructed.
Those problems are explained in rather more detail here and here. They include problems of logic (why would you need a diagnosis of dysphoria for an individual who is post op?) and problems of process (why must “experts” write free-form LETTERS to the panel, when it is obvious that the panel has a checklist of specific words it wants to see?).
These are things that could be fixed. However, one over-arching problem with the consultation is that because it got derailed, very little thought was given to these. It all became very Hamlet: “to self-id or not to self-id . That is the question”. Next to nothing else was explored.
So, logically, rationally, once the Minister knew the route they were not taking, a bit more consulting would have been in order. Planning to improve the process? Why not back to the trans community for ideas?
…logically, rationally, once the Minister knew the route they were not taking, a bit more consulting would have been in order. Planning to improve the process? Why not back to the trans community for ideas?
Only Truss appears not to have done this. Quite the contrary, if sources are anything to go by, as there are strong and continuing suspicions that she has been keeping company — meeting — with organisations such as Fair Play for Women and A Woman’s Place. Sure, she appears to have met Stonewall’s new chair, Nancy Kelley. But to the best of our knowledge, Nancy is not trans.
[ETA: since publishing this, it has been brought to my attention that Truss HAS met with right-wing lobbying organisation the Heritage Foundation. More details here.]
Of course the Minister may meet with who she wishes. But once the decision to drop self-id was taken, it is not clear what more the anti-trans could add. They were certainly unlikely to have had any useful insights on issues trans people had with the overall process.
Not very popular
This, in turn, may have contributed to calls from parliamentarians for Truss’ resignation earlier this week. Because if she only met with anti-trans organisations in this period, and failed to meet with trans organisations — failed, even to consult afresh on the basis of “if we’re not doing self-id, what WOULD be helpful?” — then she wasn’t doing her job.
Since June, however, Truss has been asked three times through a variety of parliamentary means to make public her diary. At least, to make public that bit of her diary that relates to who she has met in respect of GRA reform. This is not over-reach: nor some impertinent curiosity as to how the Minister whiles away her lunch hour. This is a lawful requirement intended to guard against Ministers being unduly influenced or worse, trading favours. We, the public are meant to be privy to who they have met.
…the Minister has […] evaded. Time and time again she has been asked directly who she has met. Time and time again her office has responded with obfuscation.
Despite this, the Minister has refused. Rather, she has evaded. Time and time again she has been asked directly who she has met. Time and time again her office has responded with obfuscation. She — or the GEO — have consulted widely. “They” have met with loads and loads of people. Oh so many people!
But who has SHE met? Ah. Odd one that. Because the bottom line is that she just can’t bring herself to say. Speculation is rife. Has she lost her diary? It happens! Or, more probable, have her personal consultations been a little more skewed than she wishes to admit?
Lying with circumstance
Yesterday, unaware of the clever jig that Truss has been dancing, I was quick to confirm that TMW had not met with her. In a personal capacity, I suggested the Minister was fibbing. Was that fair?
In the end, yes.
It may not have been, as Shakespeare’s Touchstone might have qualified it, a “lie direct”. It is certainly a “lie circumstantial”. And with every repeated failure to “come clean”, her unresponse is beginning to smell increasingly fishy.