Is the UK really one of the worst places to be trans?



A new index portrays Britain as a hotbed of transphobia

by Joan Smith

Attendees at a Pride march in London this year. Credit: Getty

The UK has been ranked one of the worst places in Europe to be trans, according to a new survey. That may come as a surprise, given that transgender people have the same legal rights as everyone else in this country. But an organisation called Transgender Europe claims the UK has gone backwards, from being a “progressive leader” 10 years ago to a place “where anti-trans hatred is widespread in the media and government agendas”.

Really? That’s quite a big claim, so let’s have a look at the countries which score highly on the 2023 trans rights map. Singled out for praise is Malta, a country criticised by the UN for “patriarchal attitudes” that hold women back. It’s the only country in Europe where abortion is illegal in all circumstances, including rape and incest, but the government has promised free “gender-affirming” surgery to men who want to be women, so it gets the thumbs-up.

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The UK has been marked down because it doesn’t have a law permitting self-ID, which would remove all safeguards from the process allowing individuals to change their legal sex. The existing law is already disastrous for women, something confirmed yesterday when the Scottish Court of Session ruled that men with a Gender Recognition Certificate are entitled to be treated as women, effectively removing the right of lesbians in Scotland to bar “male lesbians” from their meetings. 

But the most egregious claim made by Transgender Europe is about the UK being a hotbed of trans “hate”. It quotes official figures showing an increase in “transphobic hate crimes” without acknowledging the Home Office’s warning that “police-recorded crime figures do not currently provide reliable trends in hate crime” and “should also not be seen as a measure of prevalence of hate crime”. They could simply show a greater willingness to report incidents, a caveat that’s blithely ignored by organisations and MPs who want to paint as bleak a picture as possible.

And what do these “hate crimes” consist of? They’re entirely subjective, and include behaviour that isn’t remotely hateful, such as “misgendering”. The UK’s biggest police force, the Metropolitan Police, has made the astonishing admission that “evidence of the hate element is not a requirement” when someone reports a hate incident. The Crown Prosecution Service says it flags a hate crime when an offence is motivated by “hostility”, but admits there is no legal definition of the word. It can mean “ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike”. I doubt whether being “unfriendly” to someone is widely accepted as amounting to hate.

This is why many people, myself included, believe that the entire concept of “hate crimes” is nonsense — and an invitation to make accusations in bad faith. The idea has been used by trans activists to bolster specious claims about transgender people being more oppressed than anyone else, even though organisations like Stonewall have had an inordinate influence on public policy. 

Happily, the UK is pushing back, recognising that most people don’t want gender-neutral toilets, men in women’s hospital wards and trans-identified males taking women’s places on sports podiums. If the UK has slipped down some extremely partisan index of trans rights in Europe, it means there’s growing resistance to the demands of transactivists. In this country at least, people have begun to realise that biological sex matters.

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