While trans people remain the punching bag of choice for U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May has largely taken a different tack, publicly advocating for improved trans rights in Britain and abroad. (Still, British LGBTQ activists have criticized her for not taking concrete actions to actually improve trans rights.) Let’s make a side-by-side Donald Trump Theresa May comparison to see how each world leader actually measures up on trans rights.
Trump gets an “F” for making life much worse for LGBTQ Americans
Trump has been downright toxic to LGBTQ Americans, and trans people especially. His litany of offenses includes trying to reinstate a ban on transgender military members, appointing numerous anti-LGBTQ judges and an anti-LGBTQ Supreme Court Justice, rescinding Obama-era memos protecting trans students, sending an anti-trans activist to a U.N. meeting on women’s rights, supporting a narrowly defeated bill that would’ve defunded medical coverage for transgender soldiers and most recently killing a rule placing transgender people in prisons matching their gender identity.
He’s fared no better on LGBTQ rights in general by starting a so-called civil rights division to ensure that medical professionals won’t have to serve LGBTQ people, failing to recognize LGBTQ Pride month, dismantling the U.S. government’s HIV advisory board, removing any LGBTQ information from the White House website, dropping questions about LGBTQ health from the nation’s largest health survey, deleting public information about an American law forbidding anti-LGBTQ healthcare discrimination, proposing a health care plan that would’ve been disastrous for LGBTQ people, signing a law that endangers LGBTQ sex workers and writing in favor of anti-gay discrimination at public businesses.
May gets a “B-” for her spotty groundwork on improving LGBTQ rights
When doing a Donald Trump Theresa May side-by-side comparison, May might seem like the anti-Trump of LGBTQ rights. She has said she doesn’t consider trans identity “an illness” and supports the Gender Recognition Act, which would “streamline and de-medicalize” the process of changing a person’s gender on government ID. She has even said that she’s dedicated to “making sure that LGBT issues are taught” in England’s schools.
“We’re determined to eradicate homophobic and transphobic bullying,” she says, adding, “Trans people still face indignities and prejudice when they deserve understanding and respect.”
This last year, May oversaw the implementation of a nationwide survey of 100,000 LGBTQ Britons and has pledged to use its findings to craft an LGBT Action Plan by this summer that will “set out concrete steps the government will take to improve lives for LGBT people in this country and address some of the injustices the community has faced,” May says.
She has also apologized for Britain turning a fourth of the world’s countries anti-gay during the country’s colonial period.
But national LGBTQ activists have criticized May for moving slowly and not taking concrete action to actually improve queer lives in Britain. “Theresa May announced a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act last August, but nearly a year later it hasn’t even started,” says Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler.
May has a less than stellar record of voting against LGBTQ rights early into her career.
In the late ‘90s, May voted to keep the legal age of consent different for straight people and queer people: In the early 2000s, Theresa May voted against the repeal of a “no promo homo” law that forbade public officials from speaking positively about queer sexuality and also voted against same-sex adoption.
In 2004 she voted in favor of civil partnerships for same-sex couples, but that same year she also voted against the Gender Recognition Act, which she now supports. In 2007 she skipped a vote on LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections in the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, and the following year voted against in vitro fertilization rights for lesbian same-sex couples.
In 2010 May said she’d changed her mind on same-sex couples adopting and, in 2013, she voted in favor of same-sex marriage.
Most recently, Britain’s Home Office was discovered advising LGBTQ Afghan refugees being deported back to their home country to “pretend to be straight.”
In short, May could significantly improve LGBTQ rights in Britain, but high levels of government departures, legislative stagnation and criticism by the press all threaten to frustrate real progress in the United Kingdom.