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Why I left the Conservative Party

Tommy Gilchrist
June 28, 2024

“We know what a woman is. Keir Starmer doesn’t.”

These words, posted just three days into Pride Month by a Conservative Party determined to dog-whistle during an election campaign, finally pushed me to leave the political home I had belonged to for fourteen years. My departure had been a long time coming.

The Conservative Party’s gradual shift away from the Cameroonian centre-right – which supported LGBTQ+ rights, addressed climate change, and reversed the Thatcherite belief that there is no such thing as society – back towards the 1980s pearl-clutching social conservatism of Section 28 and the "otherisation" of minority groups has been profoundly disheartening.

Liz Truss, a former employer of mine when she was Environment Secretary, sounded the bugle call for the attack on transgender members of our community while paradoxically holding the post of Minister for Women and Equalities – a trend the incumbent Kemi Badenoch has continued, and that Liz herself made worse in her disastrous yet brief stint as Prime Minister.

As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community and as a gay man, I have found it increasingly difficult to reconcile my values and identity with the direction the Party has taken, particularly under the current PM and other key government ministers.

Their continued use of divisive rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community has been abhorrent. The lack of acknowledgment and support from the Tories, especially during an election campaign taking place during Pride Month, has stood in stark contrast to other mainstream political parties.

The Conservative Party's stance regarding the trans community is particularly troubling, with some determined to use them as a political football. The announcement during the campaign of proposed new laws to rewrite the Equality Act, thereby restricting protections based on biological sex, and social media posts from Conservative Central Office and senior party members implying that trans women aren’t women, are deeply offensive and discriminatory.

My firm belief is that there is no LGB without the T. Trans people are an integral part of the LGBTQ+ community, and intersectionality is crucial. While there are important issues for legislators to resolve – including equitable access in sport and support for trans youth – it is unacceptable to make trans people political scapegoats and phantom threats during an election campaign.

My firm belief is that there is no LGB without the T. Quote

Statistics debunk the myth that “trans people in bathrooms” pose a threat to children. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of sexual offences are committed by straight men and not in bathrooms.

For instance, a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA found no increase in public safety incidents in areas with inclusive bathroom policies. This was also supported by research from the University of Cambridge, which found that gender-inclusive facilities do not compromise safety or privacy, instead contributing to a more inclusive environment and reducing discrimination against transgender and non-binary individuals. 

The evidence simply does not support the fear-mongering narrative perpetuated by some.

Worst of all, the anti-trans stance promoted by the Conservative Party has been proven to have severe and detrimental effects on trans youth. Such views not only stigmatise and marginalise these young individuals but also contribute to an environment of hostility and discrimination. This has been shown to lead to increased mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation among trans youth. By invalidating their identities and denying them the protections they need, the Conservative Party’s position exacerbates the challenges these young people face in society, ultimately hindering their ability to live safe, authentic, and fulfilling lives.

Such actions are not just politically motivated but are also morally reprehensible.

The Tories have utterly moved from a party of inclusion under Cameron – the party that legalized gay marriage – to one of reactionary exclusion and divisiveness. They do not reflect the values of equality, respect, and dignity that I hold dear. By continuing to otherise and scapegoat marginalized communities, the Conservative Party moves further away from the inclusive society we all should be striving to build.

It was with a heavy heart but a clear conscience that I resigned.

In truth, I didn’t leave the Conservative Party; the Conservative Party left me. I sincerely hope that, in the future, the Tories will reconsider their stance and actions towards the LGBTQ+ community, moving away from dangerous rhetoric and towards genuine inclusivity and respect for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Only then can we hope to stop the harmful otherisation and foster a truly united and supportive society.

Tommy Gilchrist

Tommy Gilchrist served under three Secretaries of State while working in the Conservative Party and is now a Director at David Roach Consulting.

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