Britain’s first “special envoy” on LGBT+ rights has said Boris Johnson doesn’t want a “culture war” over trans rights or Stonewall.
Nick Herbert, a member of the House of Lords appointed to the envoy post in May, said the prime minister does not “want” either people or the government to “take a side”, he said in an interview with The Times newspaper.
In recent months, equalities minister Liz Truss has urged ministerial departments to distance themselves from a key Stonewall workplace diversity drive that has become entangled in a wider discussion over trans rights.
All the while the right-wing press has launched a relentless “coordinated attack” against Stonewall for emphatically supporting one of the nation’s most marginalised and vulnerable groups.
“I don’t like the idea of any kind of culture war on these issues on either side,” Herbert said, “and I am concerned about that.
“I think that ends up hurting LGBT+ people. It distracts from the practical things we need to do to support people.
“I wouldn’t like to see the government in any way take a side in what some are seeing clearly as a culture war on these issues.
“I don’t think that’s what the government should be doing. I don’t think that’s what the prime minister wants us to do.
“I believe that that’s the view the prime minister takes and that’s why he said to the cabinet this week that he wants to see kindness, tolerance, openness.”
Herbert said that this can be seen in Boris Johnson hosting a Pride reception on the final days of Pride Month earlier this week.
It sent a “clear message”, the envoy said, that the premier supports LGBT+ rights – he added that Johnson had invited Stonewall to the function.
The Johnson ministry has been marked by scandal after scandal when it comes to LGBT+ rights, whether it be the long-delayed conversion therapy ban, the scrapped Gender Recognition Act reforms, Johnson’s own LGBT Advisory Panel resigning en masse over the government’s “hostility” or its Home Office refusing LGBT-related asylum claims at a higher rate than the national average.
A “clear message” indeed.
Britain needs trans lawmakers, says LGBT+ special envoy
“One or two departments have, and they may have particular reasons for doing so,” he said of the government offices that have departed Stonewall’s Diversity Champion Scheme.
“But there has been no edict that they should. I think Stonewall has done brilliant work over the years to promote equality.
“Not every position Stonewall has is agreed with by the government. There are certain things that they might be pressing for that we’re not willing to do.
“Self-certification in relation to gender identity and trans issues was one of the disagreements. It shouldn’t stop us in all the areas where we do agree.
“They do important work, and we should continue to have a dialogue with them.”
Herbert, who was the first openly gay man elected to the Conservative Party, added that there needs to be more trans members of Parliament – there are currently no openly trans or non-binary lawmakers in either houses.
“There are many openly gay members of parliament on all political parties now, and I think parliament is quite representative now,” he said.
“Where I think it would be great if we could make progress would be if we had a transgender member of Parliament, which they do in other parliaments around the world.
“It would really help to change the debate in this country if we could have more trans people in leading positions in our national life here.”