Trus(s)t Issues Ahead?
The appointment of a new Conservative Prime Minister in the UK comes at a time when LGBT+ rights and protections are being challenged. Below, LGBT Great reflects on what the appointment of Liz Truss might mean for the LGBT+ community and offers some thoughts on what organisations can do to shore up their protections and policies for LGBT+ employees.
Boris Johnson’s controversial run in Downing Street has officially ended, and his replacement has finally arrived following weeks of hustings. Liz Truss has emerged victorious over Rishi Sunak and has now become the leader of the Conservative Party in the UK at a time when the country is on the brink of recession, and the political climate is one of uncertainty and potential instability. But who is Liz Truss, and what does her appointment mean for the UK and the LGBT+ community?
New Beginnings: Who is Liz Truss?
Born in 1975 in Oxford, Liz Truss entered politics at an early age and marched in protests against Thatcher’s government during the 1980s. At university, she became president of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats. However, by the time she left Oxford in 1996, her political allegiance had shifted, and she joined the Conservative Party shortly after graduating. Following a career in energy and telecoms, Truss formally entered politics in 2010 when she was elected MP for Southwest Norfolk.
Since then, Truss has served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, International Trade Secretary, and Foreign Secretary. Following stints in Education and Childcare and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Truss was appointed Secretary of State for Justice under Theresa May’s first administration. She has since been appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury, International Trade Secretary, and Foreign Secretary. Her political career is characterised by right-wing politics and a worrying track record as far as her support for the LGBT+ community goes.
6 Reasons for Concern for the LGBT+ Community
With the announcement of Truss’ Premiership, LGBT+ advocacy groups are on edge, which is not necessarily surprising. Throughout the leadership race, LGBT+ people, issues and identities came under fire from Sunak and Truss, both of whom expressed anti-LGBT+ sentiments. In one explicit example, Truss stated that “trans women aren’t women,” voiced concerns about providing gender-affirming healthcare for minors and suggested single-sex spaces were “under threat” by trans folks. In addition, Truss’ political career, voting history and actions have all highlighted a worrying track record:
1. Gender Recognition Act (GRA)
During Truss’ tenure as the Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, she scrapped planned reforms to the GRA. Many in the LGBT+ community had vocally and clearly outlined that the original provisions in the GRA were insufficient, and revisions were needed. In particular, the GRA required a formal gender dysmorphia diagnosis to be received before transitioning was possible resulting in LGBT+ folks not receiving gender-affirming healthcare that they should have had access to.
2. Conversion Therapy
In 2019, the conservative government promised to ban conversion therapy. Even as the Minister for Women and Equalities office, Truss did not bring in any new legislation for the ban.
3. Identity Politics
Truss has criticised “dehumanizing identity politics” and has often referred to her “war on woke”. At times, her anti-LGBT+ rhetoric was subtle and questionable, as in the example of the bizarre connection made by her between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the process of discarding “ludicrous debates about language, statues and pronouns”. This lack of sensitivity towards gender identity, expression, and gender-affirming language remains concerning and does not bode well for the way her policies will be expressed whilst in office.
4. Government’s LGBT+ Advisory Board Resignations
In March 2021, three Members of the Government’s LGBT+ advisory board resigned under Truss. They accused the Government of creating a “hostile environment for LGBT+ people” and dubbed Truss the “Minister for Inequality”. Although the committee was dissolved following this wave of resignations, Truss had promised the implementation of a new panel “soon”. We have yet to see this reinstated.
5. Appointment to the Equalities Watchdog
The Chair of EHRC, Baroness Kishwer Falkner (was appointed by Truss) said it was “entirely reasonable” to question trans folks’ gender identity. Another board member Truss appointed, Akua Reindorf, has also come under criticism for a review of the “de-platforming” of two anti-trans speakers.
6. Inconsistency in Supporting LGBT+ Organisations
In early 2021, Liz Truss pushed government agencies to withdraw funding from Stonewall, the largest LGBT+ group in the UK. But reports released in 2022 showed that Truss’ foreign office had increased funding for Stonewall between 2020 and 2021 by a whopping 67%, an indicator of Truss’ capacity for variance on key issues regarding the LGBT+ community.
The LGBT Great View
The UK will be led by a person whose position on supporting LGBT+ people appears regressive and unsympathetic, at least as far as her statements in the leadership race suggest. There is no official ban on conversion therapy, open disrespect for pronouns and self/gender-identity. Our community is therefore very concerned about what this means for trans and non-binary people.
A glass-half-full perspective here might be to wonder whether Truss has maintained a very rightwing approach and position throughout the leadership race to maneuver herself into the top seat, only then to hold that seat with a far more lenient and pro-LGBT+ position. However, this remains to be seen. Historically, Truss has been vocally in favour of same-sex marriage so there may be a disconnect here between her political and personal opinions. One thing that is clear, though, is that her recent appointments speak to the most anti-LGBT+ Cabinet in recent memory and actions do speak louder than words.
What does this mean for organisations? Financial services organisations must work to increase their visibility of LGBT+ issues and demonstrate authentic leadership and support now more than ever. Investing in programmes that are designed to empower and support the community is one way to send a very clear signal of this conviction. LGBT+ talent, client and customers also appreciate transparency when it comes to LGBT+ inclusivity, the positive steps, as well as the areas for improvement.
What Does the LGBT+ Community Need to See?
Both organisations and individuals can undertake many small and large actions to demonstrate authentic and impactful allyship to the LGBT+ community. As we reflect as a community on Truss’ appointment, here are three aspects to think about:
1. Organisations actively working to create safer spaces for education and conversation
with the wave of anti-LGBT+ rhetoric across general media, work should feel like a safe and inclusive environment. However, it requires constant work to ensure this is (1) the reality and (2) clearly and proactively expressed. Allies have the power to call out any instances of anti-LGBT+ rhetoric or discrimination (intended or unintentional) and to positive impact trans and non-binary folks around them by:
Pronouns in an email signature
Spotlighting the work, media, and perspectives of trans and non-binary folks
Engaging LGBT Great and turning to LGBT Great’s platform and community to support (Reserved for Members)
2. Orgnaisations taking active steps to review and update policies to ensure they are LGBT+ inclusive
Does your organisation have policies and safeguards that are trans and non-binary inclusive? Does your HR system enable a non-binary gender marker? Have you ever heard a senior leader introduce themselves and add their preferred pronouns?
3. Visible role models and allies at all levels across an organization
The psychology of role modelling is fascinating and tells us that having positive role models at work can help us to (a) set clear boundaries (b) understand preferred modes of behaviour and linguistic codes in certain environments and (c) enables us to visualize our own success. The community should look up to such role models in these trying times and keep on being inspired by them.
LGBT Great has a range of Role Modelling and visibility programs that Members can leverage to spotlight trans and non-binary folks and to learn about the amazing work being carried out by trans and non-binary folks in our community.
Shreyas Dutta is a Research Analyst - Intern at LGBT Great