Nadia Whittome was among a number of cross-party MPs calling for LGBTQ+ equality in the UK during a debate in the House of Commons on 2 February.
Each of them took the opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future of queer rights given that February marks LGBTQ+ History Month.
Dame Angela Eagle, the Labour representative for Wallasey who was the second-ever MP to come out as lesbian, discussed how trans rights are increasingly under attack and often pitted against the rights of cis women.
“If we start losing LGBT rights, women’s rights will not be far behind,” she explained.
Eagle also referenced the number of hate crimes reaching record highs in England and Wales last year, with a total of 155,841 recorded by police in the year ending March 2022 – an increase of 26% from the previous 12 months.
Offences targeting transgender people rose by 56% from 2020/21, showing the largest proportional increase for any group with a total of 4,355 anti-trans incidents on record.
“Some of it, I’m sad to say, has been provoked deliberately by the disgraceful targeting and problematising of transgender people from some members of the government and their enablers in the press.” the politician continued.
“We are currently in the middle of a full-blown hysteria which targets transgender people using many of the same tropes and smears which those of us who lived through the ‘80s remember only too well being used against gay men and lesbians.”
The public is “overwhelmingly compassionate” towards trans people
Elliot Colburn, the Conservative MP for Carshalton and Wallington, echoed this sentiment as he referred to the fact that opinion polls show the British public is “overwhelmingly compassionate” towards trans people.
“There does seem to be a hysteria around trans issues at the moment and often discussions around trans issues have become so blown out of all proportion and so lacking in, actually, any fact that I think we’ve actually lost sight here of what people are attempting to do,” he told the Commons.
After urging his fellow MPs to “be mindful” when discussing the trans+ community, Colburn reflected on the significance of LGBTQ+ History Month.
He continued: “LGBT History Month is important for us not just to reflect on the past, but also to send a message to the LGBT community more widely that they are heard and they are valid and their existence is valid.”
Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for Rhondda, took his opportunity to speak as a chance to quote the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul.
“RuPaul says, ‘If you can’t love yourself, how are you going to love another?’ and it’s true,” he said to support from his peers.
Reflecting on the increasingly frequent debates surrounding gender recognition in the UK following the government’s blocking of Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill, he added: “If there’s one thing I more strongly than any other about the trans debate we’re having at the moment, is that I don’t think we should be treating it as a medical condition and I don’t think that the allocation of your certificate should be done by a medical practitioner because it makes people leap through a medical loop and implies that what is intrinsic to them is somehow a physical disorder.”
“Our community will never be divided”
Among the last to speak in the debate was Nadia Whittome, the Labour MP for Nottingham East, who gave a passionate speech about LGBTQ+ rights.
“As I stand in Parliament as an openly queer woman, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants,” she began, adding: “Our rights were not just given to us, they were won. Won by people who were rejected by society, ridiculed and demonised by the media and criminalised by governments. Our movement has faced resistance at every step of the way and as the current backlash threatens to rollback the progress we made, we must not give an inch but keep fighting for more.”
Just 20 years ago, after tireless struggle, Section 28 was defeated.
But now we have another generation of LGBT+ youth growing up in a climate of dangerous hostility.
— Nadia Whittome MP (@NadiaWhittomeMP) February 2, 2023
She proceeded to give an emotional message of support and solidarity to trans+ people across the country witnessing so-called “debates” about their existence.
“Let me say it clearly, our community will never be divided,” she told her fellow MPs. “There is no LGB without the T. Throughout history, we suffered together, we struggled together, and as we win together, we’ll win for all of us.
“If you’re a trans person growing up in the UK today, it might feel like the whole world is against you. I assure you, there are MPs in here who are on your side.
“We see your struggle for rights and dignity, we’re proud to march with you in the streets and to stand up for you in Parliament. We won’t give up on this fight and believe me when I say, we will win.
“Just like those who came before us defeated Section 28, together we will beat this wave of transphobia and consign oppressive laws to the past.”
A number of other politicians were present for the debate in the House of Commons, including Anneliese Dodds, Olivia Blake, Stephen Doughty and Stuart Andrew.