What the News!? 13/02/2024

by Caelyn O’Reilly and Autumn McNeil

We’re back for another week with not just one but two writers! We’ve done this to give different perspectives on the news this week and also always good to hear different voices (or in this case words). Now on with the calamity!

Monday: Alison Teal ‘poised’ to take legal action against Green Party over suspension for transgender views

Green Party candidate for Sheffield central Alison Teal may be taking legal action against the Green Party after she was suspended in October 2022 over her gender critical views. Teal has started considering legal action after Green Party Deputy Leader Dr Shahar Ali claimed that he was wrongly discriminated against for his Gender Critical Beliefs.

This won’t be the last legal case against the Green Party if it goes ahead. I’m worried this would once again set the precedent that Gender Critical views are protected by law as so many of them seem to be trying to push for. It’s ridiculous.

Tuesday: The groundbreaking panel was hosted by Kate Osborne MP and Caroline Nokes MP and discussed the experience of trans+ children in UK schools

Labour MP Kate Osborne and Conservative MP Caroline Nokes host the first all-trans panel in UK Parliament to discuss how trans youth can be kept safe and thrive in education in the wake of proposed guidance that would place trans children under increased scrutiny.

It is certainly uplifting to hear the news of this panel, particularly being hosted by members of the UK’s two largest parties, both of which have seen intense anti-trans hostility from their leadership. Responses from those in attendance, including members of the House of Lords, are encouragingly empathetic. But it is also a reminder of how far the trans community has to go in gaining basic human recognition by our country’s government. A handful of people in a small room hosted by less than half a percent of Members of Parliament. But hey, when the “gender critical” crowd started their movement in 2016, this is where they started. Small talks facilitated by a small number of those in power who agreed with them, and look where they got. We can do the same.

Wednesday: Rishi Sunak’s transgender jibe dominates PMQs

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, during PMQs, made a series of jabs at Labour leader Keir Starmer on his alleged “broken promises”, culminating in a crack about “defining a woman”, with Sunak joking “…in fairness that was only 99% of a U-turn”. The comment was in reference to an April 2023 interview in which Starmer stated about gender “For 99.9 per cent of women, it is completely biological … and of course, they haven’t got a penis”. This comment drew widespread criticism from anti-trans hardliners for not going far enough in its denial of trans women’s existence.

This comment by Sunak has drawn heavy criticism from a wide variety of sources, in no small part due to the presence of Esther Ghey (mother of murdered trans teen Brianna Ghey) in the room as the Prime Minister made this joke at the expense of trans people.

If you’ve been paying any attention to trans news in the UK over the past several years, this joke will be nothing new to you. Even ignoring the litany of anti-trans policy or transphobic statements from other politicians, Sunak himself has previously made crass jokes about trans women’s bodies and answered the question “Is a trans woman a woman?” in a hustings for TalkTV during his leadership campaign with simply “No.”. The clear connection between the increased criticism this statement received with the framing of a cisgender woman as its primary victim can be a tad dejecting, as if the broader public can only see transphobia as bad when it impacts someone like them. But any acceptance of transphobia from the UK government being bad is quite a welcome sight after years of passive ignorance on the issue from many cisgender people. Perhaps this could become a springboard for increased social awareness of transphobia from institutions of power in this country.

Thursday: Sunak refuses to apologise to Brianna Ghey’s father over PMQs trans jibe

Following Wednesday’s comments, Rishi Sunak publicly denied demands for an apology from Brianna Ghey’s father Peter Spooner. The PM claimed his comments were purely about Starmer’s “U-turns” after stating he had “nothing but the most heartfelt sympathy” for Brianna’s family. He also alleged those criticising him (which would naturally include Peter Spooner) were “us[ing] the tragedy to detract” from his point.

Members of his cabinet have defended Sunak. Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, referred to criticism of the joke as “political point-scoring” on Twitter. In a Sky News interview, Michael Gove (Secretary of State for Levelling-Up) stated that Sunak was “absolutely right” in his language, making sure to add “He’s a great Prime Minister”. Statements by Penny Mordaunt, Leader of the House of Commons, have been framed as defiant and critical by outlets such as The Independent, but in her criticism of Sunak’s words she makes sure to say the Prime Minister is a “good and caring man” and that she is sure that “he is also reflecting about people who are trans or who have trans loved ones”.

The stunning lack of empathy or remorse from Sunak and many in his orbit may be a firm wake up call to the general public on how deeply entrenched anti-trans sentiment is in the UK government. The Prime Minister stood in the same room as the mother of a murdered young trans woman and made yet another in a series of cruel jokes about trans women’s bodies. He claimed to have nothing but empathy for the family of a girl whose rights he wants to restrict and whose bodies he sees as a punchline, all with a smirk on his face. It’s time to turn this around.

Friday: UK Government Secretly Shuts Down NHS Pride Programme

A report by Vice has revealed the NHS’ LGBTQ Diversity Programme has been quietly shut down. The scheme – which involved supplying rainbow pride pins to NHS staff and assessing hospitals’ treatment of LGBTQ+ patients on a scale from gold to bronze – has seen its funding cut with little communication. A response from a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care stated “taxpayers rightly expect value for money” and that the NHS is expected to “continuously review whether their diversity and inclusion roles are good value”, heavily implying the programme was seen as simply not worth spending money on. 

This programme (particularly its rainbow pin badges) may have been at least somewhat a symbolic gesture of inclusivity, often not reflected in the reality of treatment for LGBTQ+ patients. But, its removal is a further instance of the anti-LGBTQ agenda of the UK government being spread to more and more institutions and areas of life.

Saturday: Mermaids appoints Lauren Stoner as permanent CEO

Transgender support charity Mermaids have appointed Lauren Stoner as the new CEO on a permanent 2 year basis. Lauren Stoner who joined the charity in 2022 as an interim CEO, has a background in previous charity work as well as social care, In an interview she described her new position as “the best job in the world” while also stating “I’ve never worked in an organisation experiencing this level of hostility”

I am quite optimistic about this appointment, from what she has said in interviews after her appointment, Stoner comes off quite well. She’s also been saying that she’s proud that the organisation has introduced a four day work week and has been improving working conditions for the staff. I have a good feeling but we’ll wait and see.

Sunday: Brianna Ghey’s mother tells vigil daughter was ‘amazing, unique and joyful’

At a vigil marking a year since the murder of Brianna Ghey, Brianna’s Mother Esther Ghey spoke to many who attended about her daughter. She spoke to the crowd about Brianna’s “ famous eye roll” and her “lethal way with a make-up sponge”. There were many vigil’s all over the country to mark the anniversary of her murder.

I don’t think I will ever forget the heartbreak but also the fear I experienced when I heard of Brianna Ghey’s murder and a year on it’s like the community is still mourning. The tragic death of Brianna Ghey to me felt like the inevitable consequence of the transphobic rhetoric adopted by the media and politicians. It feels like the community is not only mourning the death of a child, but also the realisation for many that it doesn’t feel safe for us anymore, it feels like this is the climate that has been manufactured. It still shocks me that this ever happened and it breaks my heart everytime I think that this may happen again.


Heavy week this week. But I’m glad there are two of us now to lighten the load. But now that the nights are getting brighter hopefully the news will too! Probably wishful thinking but that’s the cost of optimism. Anyway, that’s all from us this week, wishing you a good week ahead.