UK lawmakers strike down anti-trans bill by... talking about ferrets?

Left: MP Maria Eagle; Center: A white ferret; Right: MP Mark Spencer

While anti-trans bills aiming to ban gender-affirming care for minors — and even eliminate trans people from public spaces — are sweeping state legislatures across the United States, anti-trans rhetoric has also infiltrated other countries, like the United Kingdom.

In fact, England’s National Health Service recently decided to stop prescribing puberty blockers for transgender youth, giving anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers the confidence to introduce similar ideas in Parliament. 

For instance, former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss introduced the Health and Equality Acts (Amendment) Bill

If passed, this would define sex in law as biological, outlaw gender-affirming care for trans youth in private clinics, and impact all manner of social justice issues, like trans participation in sports, access to gender-affirming restrooms, and more. 

This bill would be especially dangerous to trans youth

While LGBTQ+ advocates were outraged by the NHS’s decision to stop prescribing puberty blockers, the extreme waitlist for gender-affirming care already had many families and young people turning to private practice to treat gender dysphoria, which is still allowed under the recent decision from the NHS.

Truss’s bill would make obtaining private gender-affirming care for minors illegal.

Fortunately, members of the country’s Labour Party kept Truss’s bill from advancing last week by using what is now being called the “Ferret Filibuster.”

Members of Parliament, instead of debating the bill, spent nearly five hours discussing another matter: What to name a pet ferret.

“I’d like to put on record that my brother had a ferret called Oscar,” MP Sarah Champion said.

MP Maria Eagle replied: “Well, she has that now on the record. I don’t know, really, what else to say about that except that I am sure that Oscar brought her brother great joy, and that’s what pets do. I’m sure there are many other ferret owners who might attest to the same thing.”

Other MPs — even those of Conservative backgrounds — joined in to discuss other pets.

“Pets often help keep people sane when they are under pressure in their everyday pursuits, so it would be remiss of me not to put on the record the names of my three dogs, Tessa, Barney, and Maisie, and the name of my cat, Parsnip,” MP Mark Spencer contributed.

He then mentioned the names of 40 other pets. 

While Truss’s bill was not formally defeated by this entertaining filibuster, it has been moved to a debate on March 22 — at the bottom of the priority pile. According to reporter Erin Reed, this means it is not likely to be heard.

The event also caused quite a stir on social media, positioning the ferret as an “overnight symbol of trans resistance,” according to X (née Twitter) user @SpillerOfTea.

“i haven’t felt positive about labour for a while, but filibustering liz truss’ anti-trans bill by talking about ferrets is sublime,” another X user chimed in, sharing screenshots of a transcript from the filibuster.

“There is an undercurrent of ridiculousness that courses through Britain,” @DeeTweets00 said. “As terrible as things can be in this country, which other nation on earth will filibuster a bill by discussing ferrets?”

Filibusters — especially those delaying harmful bills against trans youth — are not a new phenomenon. 

Members of the Nebraska legislature used the tactic last year, and recent efforts made headlines in West Virginia, in which Democrats aimed to defeat a bill (similar to the one introduced by Truss across the pond) by proposing dozens of amendments for debate. 

Although many LGBTQ+ advocates continue to seek safe, accessible care for all trans folks — and especially trans youth — this silly, yet strategic move repositions hope on the horizon.

“Apparently, dogs, cats, and ferrets have saved the UK from the latest bout of ever-escalating transphobia,” @tspacker posted on X. “Thank you for your service.”

Left and right header images courtesy of parliamentlive.tv, center image courtesy of Nickolett Emmert/Pexels

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