UK Member of Parliament Comes Out As Trans
MP Jamie Wallis releases courageous announcement.
This morning, the world awoke to a stunning coming out statement from MP Jamie Wallis, a Tory politician who has represented the Welsh constituency of Brigend in the United Kingdom’s House of Commons since 2019.
Wallis, 37, posted a statement to their Twitter account last night that, among other things, said this: “I’m trans. Or to be more accurate, I want to be. I’ve been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and I’ve felt this way since I was a very young child. I had no intention of ever sharing this with you. I always imagined I would leave politics well before I said this out loud.”
They also revealed they had been the victim of a blackmailing attempt over their then-secret gender identity in 2020 and, horrifically, raped by a man this past September.
Just a quick note here: Wallis has not yet indicated their authentic pronouns or authentic name, which is why I’m using “they/them” and their current name until confirmed otherwise. Once that is announced, this post will be appropriately updated.
I should also note that I am far from being a reliable source on accurate analysis of UK politics, particularly the ideologies and voting records of individual members of parliament.
I say that because Wallis is a conservative in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party, and although I have no further information on Wallis’ political history, I imagine it does not align with the vast majority of the trans and non-binary community, to say the least.
It is more than likely that Wallis has political positions and actions very much at odds with my own views, so I’m choosing to focus on the courage demonstrated in this single action.
It comes at a time in the UK when debate has raged over trans rights, and transphobic propaganda has littered the opinion pages of many respected British news outlets, including The Guardian and BBC.
Just last week, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson stated that “when it comes to distinguishing between a man and a woman, the basic facts of biology remain overwhelmingly important", aligning him closer with the UK’s “gender critical” movement, an anti-trans ideology that argues, rather ridiculously, that trans and non-binary people are attempting to erase the reality of biological sex and moreover, the struggles and trauma of cisgender women.
Without explicitly parroting their worst rhetoric, Johnson seemed to imply that he agrees with their bad faith premise: that gender, as a social construction, should always yield to sex in discussions on civil rights. That premise has been used to argue that there are only women and men, and that people should solely be treated by their sex assigned at birth.
The problem with this nonsense is that it gets the science completely wrong. For starters, there are certainly more than two sexes in human biology, as Claire Ainsworth at Scientific American helpfully explains.
Moreover, medical authorities around the world, from Britain’s own National Health Service to the World Health Organization to the National Institutes of Health in the United States, have all made it abundantly clear that the respectful and affirming treatment of trans and non-binary people aligns with our scientific knowledge.
Bottom line: there is no credible scientific argument against the existence and affirmation of trans and non-binary people.
To be fair, Boris Johnson, in those same remarks, also noted that trans and non-binary people should “be treated with maximum possible generosity and respect”. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m skeptical of this statement.
Interestingly, hours before Wallis’ announcement, Johnson gave a speech at a dinner for Tory MPs, which Wallis attended, in which he opened with a transphobic joke aimed at Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party: “Good evening ladies and gentleman, or as Keir Starmer would put it, people who are assigned female or male at birth.”
Much like the bad faith “What is a woman?” question asked of Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson by a GOP senator last week during her confirmation hearing, Johnson seems to be testing the waters for the effectiveness of heightened anti-trans rhetoric for his own party.
While it’s still unclear the exact relationship between Johnson’s transphobic joke and Wallis’ coming out statement shortly thereafter, Johnson followed this up with a statement of support for Wallis, which has been greeted with significant skepticism.
As of this writing, Johnson has not apologized for the transphobic joke, which, again, I feel it’s important to remind, was made right in front of Wallis just hours before they came out.
Because this is a conservative politician coming out as transgender, there will be quite a bit of apprehension from trans and non-binary people in the coming days. We are sadly accustomed to watching the very, very few trans people with anti-trans views be amplified over the 99.999% of us who believe in full trans equality.
For example, after Caitlyn Jenner, a privileged white woman, was able to come out and live her life authentically because of the decades of advocacy by trans women of color, she then pivoted to weaponizing transphobia to gain standing among conservatives, including rather shameless statements against trans athletes in sports, despite her own position less than 18 months ago that trans athletes should be permitted to compete openly in sports.
So, you see, as happy as I am for MP Wallis and glad they are now living authentically and getting the support they need, I’m also concerned about what happens next. Perhaps Wallis’ courage in this moment will be followed by resolute support for trans rights, and that would be wonderful.
And, perhaps, they will fail to support trans rights, leaning on their own privilege as a white trans person in elected office to pander to anti-trans bigotry in a bid to expand their power.
I realize that’s cynical, and I certainly hope we will see more of the former than the latter, but remember this:
Just because someone is a member of a marginalized community does not mean they have the best interests of that community in mind. It is critically important that MP Wallis be held to the same standard as any other public figure, regardless of background, especially in a moment when transphobic propaganda is so readily planted or exploited through the extremely rare conservative trans person.
Wallis being transgender doesn’t obligate them to a specific political ideology, nor does their political ideology negate the imperative to affirm their gender identity and protect them from discrimination.
But being transgender does not exempt someone from accountability, and it is essential that the media lean on established advocates and experts in the trans community for information.
I wish MP Wallis the absolute very best in this new chapter, I thank them for their courage, and I implore them to center the advocacy of those trans and non-binary people in the UK who have been fighting the good fight long before Wallis came out.
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