SU LGBTQ+ campaign respond to Conservative Party Conference

TW: Transphobia 

The Oxford Student Union LGBTQ+ campaign has released a statement on transphobia following comments made by several ministers at the recent Conservative Party Conference.

The remarks, which included Rishi Sunak stating that “a man is a man and a woman is a woman, that’s just common sense”, have gained widespread attention and condemnation from the queer community. 

On Saturday 14th October, the LGBTQ+ campaign released a statement on Twitter and Instagram in response to the Conservative Party Conference as they felt it was “important to call out and hold our current government responsible for the Transphobic rhetoric and unfounded initiatives our parliamentary majority wish to take”.

The statement went on to express they were “not surprised at the ignorance and small-mindedness this government never ceases to show”, yet they still wanted “to express [their] stance against the unfounded decisions and remarks made”. 

The first aspect they criticised was “the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, repeating his claim that misgendering trans people is ‘common sense’”. At the conference, Sunak expressed his idea that people “shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be”.

This follows the Prime Minister’s intervention last term in support of Kathleen Stock’s appearance at the Union, condemning a “small but vocal” group shutting down the gender critical speaker.

The SU LGBTQ+ campaign highlighted the “leaked footage of [Sunak] mocking Trans women in 2023”, where he made fun of Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey saying it was possible for a woman to have a penis.

Their statement also criticised Health Secretary Steve Barclay’s plan “to ban Trans women from the women’s ward in all NHS facilities”. Evidence contrary to this proposal from TransLucent showed that “no complaints were made about Trans women” on NHS wards they investigated, sending 102 Freedom of Information requests. 

Finally, the campaign called the statements “yet another example of the constant erasure and removal of Trans rights to utilise an already marginalised community as a scapegoat for the real issues facing this country”.

Such a “backslide into anti-trans and fascist policy and rhetoric” was stated as something the SU LGBTQ+ campaign “vehemently opposes and will continue to stand against whether it be by taking action or supporting the Community many of this Campaign is a part of”. They offered welfare resources during this “difficult and scary time for the Trans community”.

In the days after Rishi Sunak’s speech, he stood by his position after being questioned on whether or not he regretted his comments about “biology”. Speaking to a reporter after the Meeting of the European Political Community on Thursday 5th October, Sunak said that “this is always going to be a passionate, tolerant country… but we can’t ignore fundamental facts of biology and [say] those things shouldn’t be controversial”.

Speeches by ministers at the conference sparked immediate response nationally, with hundreds protesting outside Downing Street on Wednesday 10th October.

A number of organisations and individuals, including Galop and Black Lives Matter UK, condemned the rhetoric, with many sharing the opinion that transphobia is being invoked to distract from the failings of the government. 

For those affected by issues in this story:

SU LGBTQ+ campaign resources
Galop helpline for LBGT victims of abuse: 0800 999 5428

Image Credit: Cornelia Chen

Image Description: A picture of the Sheldonian Theatre