Below is the text of the speech I gave on the main floor of the Lib Dem conference this morning, my first ever speech to any party political conference. Who knows, it may be my last as well.
As a new member at my first ever party conference, can I not only thank people for being so friendly, but also note that the room looks a lot bigger from up here than it does from down there.
Trans peoples’ identities in Britain have always been policed by others. Whether aligned with homosexuality and treated as illegal by the Victorians in the 1850s, or as possibly insane by psychiatrists from the 1950s onwards, we’ve allowed other people to define who is and who isn’t trans.
Even now, as we’ve just heard, trans people have to submit medical reports to an anonymous panel for them to determine whether we are who we say we are and permit our official gender to be changed.
Underpinning this, and feeding media stories for years, is an unsaid insistence that trans peoples’ identities are not real.
Trans medicine, by which I mean those treatments focused on an individual changing gender role – trans medicine has been underfunded for years. Two weeks ago, even West London Mental Health Trust’s CEO admitted that it was a lottery and is not treating trans people equally.
Long waiting lists that breach targets have become the norm, so trans people become unwilling to jeopardise precious treatment if they have cause to complain, and many do have cause to complain.
Survey after survey shows that 40% of trans people have attempted suicide. This treatment saves lives, and the NHS needs to fund and resource services properly, and look for better delivery methods rather than pay a higher cost for mental health teams and A&E services to pick up the pieces.
While the whole motion is important, I’d like to speak specifically to lines 84 and 85.
Two years ago, following the news of a GMC investigation into a popular private doctor who worked in this area, over one thousand tweets alleging abuse were posted in 24 hours using the hashtag TransDocFail.
Alongside Sarah Brown and Zoe O’Connell, I helped gather evidence for over 100 specific complaints, which we presented to the GMC. These included allegations of sexual abuse, physical abuse, refusal to treat, threats to withdraw treatment and inducements to criminal behaviour. 40% of those complaints were about GPs. About a third were unrelated to trans medicine.
To date, it is not clear that any doctor has been held to account for any one of those complaints.
The law, the NHS and the regulators are failing trans people. Chronic underinvestment, refusal to innovate and accept trans people as genuine are all having a detrimental impact on a vulnerable and marginalised group, ignored for decades. This has to change.
Conference, I urge you to support the motion.
Video from about 12:50 for 3 minutes.