Jamie Wallis is 37 and, since 2019, has been a Conservative MP for the Welsh constituency of Bridgend. He is one of a batch of young politicians who rode the wave of Boris Johnson’s electoral success that year and declares himself “a proud Unionist” – a supporter of a strong United Kingdom – on his Twitter account. On the morning of March 30, he also announced that he was transgender. Or, at least, he declared his desire to become so. “It’s time,” he wrote at 3am UK time via a tweet, which included a long personal letter laying out the reasons that led to the decision to go public.
“I’m trans,” he wrote. “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 ever said this out loud.”
Gender dysphoria, which the World Health Organization removed from its list of psychiatric disorders in 2018, is the extreme discomfort a person feels with his or her biological sex. Wallis also discussed several situations he has gone through in the last two years in a bid to explain his need to go public.
First, he spoke of how he was about to take the leap in April 2020 when he was blackmailed with the threat of being exposed. The blackmailer demanded £50,000 to keep quiet, and went so far as to tell the MP’s father, who put the matter in the hands of the police. The blackmailer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.
Wallis said that he thought he would be able to move on from there. But then something even worse happened, concerning a physical encounter with someone he met online. “When I chose to say no [to sex] on the basis he wouldn’t wear a condom, he chose to rape me. I have not been myself since this incident and I don’t think I will ever recover. It’s not something you ever forget, and it is not something you ever move on from. Since then, things have really taken a tumble. I am not okay,” Wallis confessed.
On November 28, 2021, he became acutely aware he was not well when he crashed his vehicle into a lamppost in the Welsh town of Llanblethian. He received a fine of £270 ($355) after the police caught up with him. “I fled the scene. I did so because I was terrified. I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and I honestly have no idea what I was doing except that I was overcome by an overwhelming sense of fear,” he says, explaining his inability to react as expected.
The Welsh MP decided to go public just hours after a meeting with Conservative MPs, which was also attended by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had used the event, ironically, to mock the ongoing debate on trans issues in Britain, with his opening words: “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, or as Keir Starmer [the leader of the Labor opposition] would put it, people who were assigned female or male at birth.”
Nonetheless, Johnson was among the first to express his support for Wallis: “Sharing this very intimate story would have taken an immense amount of courage. Thank you, @JamieWallisMP, for your bravery, which will undoubtedly support others,” Johnson tweeted. “The Conservative Party I lead will always give you, and everyone else, the love and support you need to be yourself.”
Social networks have since been flooded with messages of solidarity from leading figures in politics. Conservative foreign secretary Liz Truss, one of the favorites to replace Johnson in the future, sent words of encouragement: “Well done, @JamieWallisMP, for speaking out and your brave statement. We stand with you,” Truss tweeted. Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis, Conservative party chairman Oliver Dowden and Labour health spokesman Wes Streeting also showed their support: “Sending you love and solidarity from the other side of the Commons. This is hugely courageous of you to share,” tweeted Streeting.
Transgender issues have been stirring up debate among the political, academic and social media sectors in the UK for years. Theresa May’s Conservative Party government was on the verge of bringing forward reforms that would do away with the requirement for a double psychological diagnosis of gender dysphoria to allow someone to officially change their sexual identity. The bill aimed to allow free gender self-determination without the stigma of a medical condition that it has carried until now.
Boris Johnson’s government, however, deemed there was little electoral advantage to be gained by passing the reform – the apparent marginality of the debate which, according to Downing Street, affected only a minority was weighed against the risk of revolt in the ranks of a Conservative party immersed in a culture war against the left. The reform was shelved. In exchange, Johnson pledged to close conversion clinics that promise to “cure” homosexuality. These centers are banned in countries such as Malta and Ecuador while, in Spain and the US, they have been banned in certain autonomous regions and states; in the case of Spain: Aragón, Valencia, Andalusia and Madrid. In the US, they are currently banned in 18 states, though legislation to prohibit the practice is underway in several others.