Westminster has its first openly transgender Member of Parliament. In the early hours of this morning*, Jamie Wallis, Conservative MP for Bridgend, announced: ‘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,’ Wallis added. ‘I had no intention of ever sharing this with you. I always imagined I would leave politics well before I ever said this out loud.’
Wallis’s statement this morning was remarkable. In an earlier era, it might have filled the News of the World for weeks. Wallis reported having been blackmailed for £50,000: the perpetrator pled guilty and was sentenced to more than two years. The Tory MP also claims to have been raped in a separate incident. And Wallis admitted to having ‘fled the scene’ after a car crash in November. He was later fined £270 and issued with three penalty points.
Of course, it is not right that Wallis fled after crashing a car. But the trans revelation is a first for an MP. My surprise, however, is that it has taken so long. Before transgenderism became such a hot topic, the public might have been forgiven for supposing that trans people were vanishingly rare. The truth, however, is rather different.
In 2009, GIRES – a transgender advocacy charity that advised the Home Office – suggested that ‘the adults who present emerge from a large reservoir of transgender people, who experience some degree of gender variance.’ An earlier (2005) study by Långström and Zucker reported that ‘almost three per cent of men reported at least one episode of transvestic fetishism.’
Politicians are human like the rest of us, so it seems likely that there will be more MPs like Wallis. Perhaps Wallis will only end up being notable for being the first to come out as trans.
But now for Wallis? The statement certainly leaves more questions than answers. For a start, why bring up the car crash? The simple answer is that we don’t know what else was happening in Wallis’s life at the time. But Wallis’s constituents are likely to have some questions. Less than two years out from the next general election campaign, I sense that this incident – rather than Wallis coming out as trans – might become rather pressing to voters in Bridgend. It also seems likely that voters will judge Wallis, not on his gender, but on whether he has delivered for his constituents in a wafer-thin marginal seat.
Whatever becomes of Wallis though a box has been ticked: Britain has its first trans MP. Or at least an MP who wants to be trans. And that might be the most interesting part of this whole saga. The LGBTQ+ community makes a lot of noise about inclusion and diversity; the reality is somewhat different. Trans people like me – who recognise the importance and primacy of biological sex – often find ourselves pushed out. Will the rainbow carpet denied to us now be rolled out for a Tory MP like Wallis? It would be exclusionary not to.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 30 March 2022: Jamie Wallis’s trans statement leaves more questions than answers.