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The Government is losing the so-called "culture war" - but how will it end?
'Trans rights now' placard at conversion therapy protest, London Apr 2022 | Credit: Fox Fisher

The Government is losing the so-called "culture war" - but how will it end?

Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham
Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay,queer,disabled I started QueerAF to fund queer media careers. Will you join our movement?
TL;DR: The Government's been trying to stoke a so called "culture war" about transgender people for sometime, but polling suggests it's been unsuccessful - so far. To keep publicopinion on trans people's sides we need to focus on the story that does need to be told, and not get drawn into classic divide and distract techniques.

Boris Johnson's government is in troubled waters.

Many of us still find it remarkable that he was able to come back from the brink of the first set of 'party gate' scandals. And now he's the first serving Prime Minister to be punished for breaking the law.

With more revelations to come, the pundits are asking: will he survive?

It’s not surprising that a conveniently-timed slew of populist measures was announced this week. It’s a tactic this government has used many times now.

But a tidy sum of articles, too many to link here, is building into a growing consensus: There is a clear connection between the rise in this government’s transphobic, populist rhetoric and its growing collection of misdemeanours.

With all that in mind, it’s worth reminding ourselves of some good news we learned this week.

Finally, some good news

The majority of people in the UK support and have great tolerance for trans people. Indeed, a poll for YouGov, commissioned by The Times, found that despite the Government thinking trans rights are a ‘wedge issue’, even 58% of Conservative voters support a ban on conversion therapy for trans people.

It seems the so-called "culture war" is not working - for now.

But our brains are hard-wired to remember things if we're told them enough times. Funnily enough, it's a phrase I repeat often in my writings for QueerAF. And it's true.

So there is a real danger that with enough persistence from powerful voices, the rhetoric could set in. The media has already recognised that it delivers the clicks it needs for a struggling ad-revenue model, something US media is starting to double down on too.

Indeed, you need only look to the US to see how their transphobic ‘culture war’ has slid into all-out discrimination against all LGBTQIA+ people.

The media war on trans people continues

But let's take a UK example, of what this means for us next.

Shock jock radio station Talk Radio has already become more and more brazen in the last few months.

This week it asked if it's ok for Doctor Who to show 'lesbianism' to kids. Their guest said no, and no balance was provided. The divisive station does this with verve now. After all, it's been getting away with the same approach to ‘discussing’ the lives of trans people for so long.

It's this kind of media behaviour, which many of us hoped was becoming a thing of the past. But it's on the rise again.

Last week Ugla Stefania wrote in our Queer Gaze segment about the need for us to all come together. And thousands of us gathered for one of the UK’s largest marches for trans equality in recent years.

But as a survey found a ‘hidden epidemic’ of people humiliated, outed or shunned by their family over their sexuality or gender identity, how did the government respond?

With plans to send migrants to Rwanda where LGBTQIA+ people have no rights, or protections in law. By telling the Police to record trans people's crimes under the sex they were assigned at birth, will make it harder to track the sixfold increase in transphobic attacks.

It was already hard to come out as trans or queer. This growing rhetoric, which is being built up layer upon layer every day, is a heavy weight.

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Let's focus on what unites us

And as Adam Bienkov argues for Byline Times, like real wars, this so-called "culture war" against trans people now led by the Government and galvanising some of the press has very real casualties. At a policy level, it's an exclusion of trans people from Conversion Therapy protections.

But at a human level, it's a devastating impact on the well-being of an already marginalized community.

Still, for now, public opinion at large mostly supports trans people.

And we can look to the success of #LoveWins in Ireland and the US for one of the many ways we can discuss the so many things that unite us, to keep this the case.

We can all agree that everyone in the UK deserves decent healthcare and protection from discrimination and harassment in the street.

So instead of getting drawn into tried and tested divide and rule tactics - designed to distract us, let's remember:  

It's hard to argue with love, and trans people deserve compassion and care, as we all do.

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Jamie Wareham, he/him, gay queer disabled - A note from me:

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