THE week following the sentencing of Brianna Ghey’s killers was an eye-opener for many – though not for those who have been the target of the political class’s culture wars these past seven years.

Suddenly presented with a tangible, physical connection to the consequences of transphobia, many appeared to have finally paused and considered that at the end of each barb about “defining a woman” is a human being.

Though I won’t lie that there is not a bitter feeling to this revelation. On the one hand, the fallout over Rishi Sunak’s tasteless jibe in the Commons could be seen as a turning point in how transgender people are discussed by politicians and newspaper columnists.

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On the other, many who have condemned Sunak’s comments as crass have themselves poured poison on to the discourse around trans rights.

There feels to have been little reflection on how, over the course of several Conservative Prime Ministers, transphobic rhetoric has so permeated the halls of Westminster, normalising it to the degree that Sunak felt the need to get the boot in even as the UK was reeling from the horrific details of Brianna’s murder. Lest we forget, this is not Sunak’s (below) first foray into cheap transphobia in the chamber. Yet previously Keir Starmer remained silent, happy to let it pass while dismissing accusations of transphobia made against his own party.

The National:

It should not take being presented face-to-face with the consequences of transphobia for a parliament to consider the language it uses to describe minority groups.

Sunak and Starmer both demonstrate the object permanence of a child, one who can’t comprehend that what lies outwith their vision has not ceased to exist, that the targets of their churlish insults can still hear the Prime Minister’s ignorant comments and see Starmer’s passive acceptance of them.

Yet much of the response has been framed as a watershed moment, with The News Agents podcast naively opining on the “level of transphobia that’s started to infect British political debate”. What does it mean by “started to”?

FROM 2017 onwards, there has been a steady hate campaign aimed at transgender people that has sought to demonise, dehumanise and misrepresent my community. Research indicates that between 2015-22, the mainstream British press was publishing on average 154 articles about trans people every month, with the Daily Mail contributing five fresh articles each day during May 2022 alone. You won’t be surprised to know that the overwhelming majority of these articles were negative in nature.

There is a danger in this moment that many will view Sunak’s anti-trans snipe on the day Brianna’s mother, Esther Ghey, was in the Houses of Parliament, as an isolated incident. In reality, it is a mark of institutionalised bigotry in the halls of Westminster and the British press.

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It was under that toxic environment that Brianna Ghey was murdered, her killers motivated in part by the same transphobia that is so commonplace in print and Parliament. The Proud Trust, which supports LGBTQ+ young people in Greater Manchester, reported at the weekend that the people they work with were “feeling frightened, feeling misunderstood”.

It has reported a spike in the number of young trans people reaching out for help in the wake of recent events. The LGBTQ+ Switchboard helpline reported similar jumps in support needs following the murder of Brianna.

A similar surge followed the Prime Minister’s speech at the Conservative Party conference last October, when Sunak stated: “We shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be. They can’t, a man is a man and a woman is a woman.”

It’s a comment that reeks of the same themes as Thatcher’s infamous “children are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay” conference speech in the 1980s.

The toxic environment trans people are living under in the UK is real. That means checking over your shoulder at night, or planning days out around not having to use any public restrooms for fear of violence.

Transphobia hasn’t “started to” infect Westminster. It’s roots already grow deep and I doubt the British press has the tools to truly reflect on the role they have played in mainstreaming a hate movement, instead choosing to remain bullishly unflinching in the way that only an industry of the privately educated middle class can be.

The consequences of years and years of normalised bigotry has fostered an environment where Jeremy Hunt can defend his leader’s comments on BBC News without ever getting Brianna’s name right; where the Prime Minister is so numbed to the idea of transgender people as fellow human beings that he forgets to turn off his practised, s***-eating grin while talking about a murdered teenager on television and refusing to apologise to Brianna’s father for his language.

Not that an apology from Sunak would mean anything. Not when the policies and programmes of his amoral government stay the course on segregating trans people further and further from public life.

With an election approaching, I have seen nothing that would suggest either Labour or the Tories have any real interest in tackling the institutional issues that have flourished under their leadership.

Nor a moment of remorse for what they have created.