Some on the Right appear to claim that the right to choose your own gender sits firmly in line with basic conservative principles that affirm individual liberty, and I think, on reflection, there is something to be said for this argument. I don't have a particularly burdensome problem with the ability of others to change their legally recognised sex, having expressed no anger or frustration at current UK law (rooted in the 2004 Gender Recognition Act), but it does strike me that progressive policies should not necessarily be clamoured for by conservatives. Especially under the notoriously suspicious banner of 'individual liberty' (which, we should remember, is impossible on its own terms).
I tweeted last night, only slightly in jest, that Ms Greening should probably resign and join the Liberal Democrats. Her plans to me scream of something that would appear in the civil liberties section of a Lib Dem manifesto, and I don't say this to insult or patronise. I shan't attack a liberal party for being liberal. Instead I prefer to moan at how unconservative our allegedly conservative government (and party) is. There are a couple of things that interest me about plans to allow individuals to change their legal gender.
I think, firstly, that Ms Greening's new proposals do not necessarily appear to be solely about civil rights. The Foster-May agreement, signed just weeks ago, represented the most notable interference of social conservatism at Westminster in quite a long period of time. I have a feeling that these LGBT reforms could well have been the brainchild of public disinterest in the DUP's brand of conservatism, which I should add that I don't subscribe to. The DUP alliance, I have written, will damage Tory support in the country's more metropolitan areas, and so more liberalising reforms could be seen as a barrier to flailing support.
The trouble that could potentially arise is that we may find scenarios in which certain individuals, most especially males, adopt the opposite gender in order to gain access to private spaces for women. I think Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute explained quite thoughtfully where this policy may lead:
"Allowing men to self-identify as female without any medical diagnosis allows them to invade the privacy of women and girls. Where this policy has been tried in the US, women and young girls have experienced the fear and humiliation of finding themselves sharing toilet and changing facilities with men."
It may be worth giving his comments some consideration before assuming that these changes liberating to all. I would also add that I don't think our understanding of transgenderism has matured to the extent that we can rush on ahead with potentially damaging and permanent reforms.
Furthermore, I dislike the way we constantly integrate discussion about orientation with discussion about gender. As the 'B' in LGBT, I am confused as to why I must be bracketed with 'T' folk, when transgenderism is not about sexual orientation. By lumping gays and lesbians in with transgender LGBT reforms, an implication is made that those belonging to sexual minorities are perhaps just the wrong sex. Not all LGB people will feel this way, but some may find it a little disturbing.
I hesitantly support the Equalities Minister's plan to shorten the waiting time for gay men and sex workers to donate blood, from twelve to three months. I plan on giving blood soon for the first time, following on in a family tradition, and have always worried that any sexual activity I engage in with a man will hamper this. I think this policy is very thoughtful and I admit to having a personal bias in favour of it. The worry, though, will be whether or not new technologies can adequately detect any lingering HIV or Hepititis B and C in the blood samples donated by homosexuals or sex workers. If the presence of such viruses are not identified in the new blood, then these plans (if implemented) may have to be scrapped.
As for the LGBT governmental survey, which I took and completed late last night, my initial gut reaction is that the findings will provide a pretext for introducing yet more sex education in schools, presumably at a younger age and with a more intensive focus on minority sexual orientation and behaviour. At my old blog, I spoke out against sex education on the grounds that it attacks the sanctity of sex, assumes that sexually destructive behaviour is inevitable and that a wealth of evidence has demonstrated that teenage pregnancies tend to fall where governmental sex ed projects subside. LGBT specific sex education will likely be introduced in schools, possibly with pupils as young as 5, at some point in the near future. I will wait to see what effect it has before commenting on its merits. The survey itself focused on attitudes of others towards my sexuality at home, school and in the workplace. It was nothing especially invasive or exciting, and I was happy that its creators provided ample range in given answers to every question.
I would advise any fellow LGBT readers to take the survey, when you have a spare 20 minutes, here.