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Explaining backlash to trans and non-binary genders in the context of UK Gender Recognition Act reform

Luke Armitage

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This paper analyses responses to the 2018 Gender Recognition Act reform consultation in the UK, exploring reasons behind the widespread anti-trans sentiment in this context. It compares the conservative Christian roots of traditional opposition to LGBT+ rights, which is still the major source of anti-trans politics in the US, with the rise in prominence of a specific feminist opposition to trans rights in the last few years in the UK. It then explores why the beliefs of relatively small groups have had such a compelling influence on a wider audience in the general population. It argues that the gendered socialisation we all experience through education, media, and political institutions creates a baseline belief in gender determinism and oppositional sexism, and as many people’s main source of information about trans people is the recent surge in related media, a trans moral panic propagated through mainstream and social media easily creates misinformed beliefs about trans issues. A major conclusion of this paper is that trans people have been constructed in the public imagination predominantly in terms of threat- threat to investment in gendered norms, threat to one’s own gender identity, and for marginalised groups including women and also other LGBT+ people, threat to their own in-group resources and desires for assimilation into mainstream culture. Anti-trans sentiment is therefore not only about ideology, but also has important emotional components that should not be overlooked when considering ways to tackle transphobia.

Key words: trans, non-binary, Gender Recognition Act, moral panic, backlash, transnormativity


Bibliography: Armitage, Luke: Explaining backlash to trans and non-binary genders in the context of UK Gender Recognition Act reform, INSEP – Journal of the International Network for Sexual Ethics & Politics, Vol. 8, Special Issue 2020, pp. 11-35.