The UK has gained the epithet ‘TERF Island’ for good reason: the Conservative government and its supposed opposition have launched a sustained attack on trans people’s right to self-determination since Boris Johnson took control of Downing St, and Rishi Sunak is probably even worse than his predecessors, including Liz Truss, whose premiership had the lifespan of a mayfly. I focus on the Tories here for expedience, but Labour are no improvement: the pusillanimous Blairite Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has simply parroted the Tories’ views with slightly less vitriol.

As nauseating and pervasive as it is, however, transphobia is only one of the prejudices the Tories have expressed and encouraged over the thirteen miserable years they have been in power, either on their own or in coalition. Disabled people, working-class people and job-seekers, and migrants have also been persecuted, vilified and dehumanised by the Tory regime.

The attacks on trans people bear the greatest resemblance towards those against migrants, including economic immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees from war-torn countries like Syria and Ukraine. Immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are and have been the UK’s primary target, above and beyond all the other groups they have targeted. The disastrous Brexit vote was in part driven by xenophobia and racism against Eastern European migrants from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as asylum-seekers and refugees from non-European countries. When Romanians and Bulgarians gained freedom of movement in the mid-2010s, tabloids like the Daily Express and Daily Mail, geared towards the Little Englander petite bourgeoisie, banged on about these migrant populations nonstop. The UK Independence Party, or UKIP, stoked many of these fears with ‘mini-Trump’ Nigel Farage as its figurehead.

The rise in British transphobia seems to coincide with the constant hatred spewed at migrants—and I think are both related phenomena arising from the insular ‘Little England’ mentality that has been cultivated under the Conservative Party, as well as the right-wing extra-parliamentary movements like UKIP, Britain First and the English Defence League. Even under Theresa May, I can’t imagine the Home Office using Rwanda as an offshore processing centre, but Suella Braverman is doing just that. And now that they’ve Got Brexit Done, British politicians have lost their old punchbag, the Romanians and Bulgarians. They still enact cruelties on migrants, of course, but they have a new target: trans people. The Daily Express, which once launched one of its infamous ‘crusades’ to evict Romanians from the UK through Brexit, has now added trans people to its list of unwanted ‘migrants’.

The legal recognition of trans people can be analogised to immigration and naturalisation. I first noticed the connection between xenophobia and transphobia when arguing with a British trans-exclusionary radical feminist. He analogised his refusal to accept trans people’s gender identity to ‘not being able to become a Frenchman’. But it is possible to become French, just as it is possible to become British, Japanese, American or Mexican. There’s even a legal process for it: naturalisation. You move to France, live there, work there, learn French, go through the legal process, and then you’re legally as French as someone who was born in Marseille or Paris. By claiming that becoming French is impossible, that it requires having French blood or growing up in France, this TERF gave away the xenophobic nature of transphobia.

The only people who would say it is impossible to become a member of another culture are xenophobes.

Transphobia, especially in its extremest forms, bears more resemblance to blood-and-soil, fascist ideologies than it does any kind of feminism. Both are focused on material membership—DNA, genitals, ancestry—rather than substantive membership. They reduce human beings to the inert substances that make us and are temporarily animated for the better part of a century. Xenophobia and transphobia are the products of benighted, insular, incurious societies that focus on domination and project their own oppressive tendencies on newcomers—and Brexit Britain more than meets these criteria.

Are all transphobes fascists? No. Some have a hard time imagining gender dysphoria and see hormones and surgery as ‘mutilation’ because for them, being forced to transition would cause them to be dysphoric. But those who drive the charge against trans rights bear uncomfortable resemblances to gibbering xenophobes like Donald Trump and Nigel Farage—both of whom have also expressed viciously anti-trans attitudes.

Without the EU’s freedom-of-movement laws, the UK can no longer be flooded with job-stealing Poles. Romanians can no longer settle without visas, which are difficult to get. Bulgarians can no longer take advantage of the UK’s scanty public services—services that are described as generous only when they are used by Bulgarians. The Slavic hordes have been pacified with Brexit. Trans people, and trans women in particular, are now classified with migrants, even if the British authorities may not say this explicitly.

Xenophobes do not see permanent residents or naturalised citizens, no matter how patriotic they are, no matter how well they speak the language, no matter how long they’ve lived in the country, no matter how much they love their adopted homeland, as real members of the body politic.

Once a foreigner, always a foreigner.

Immigrants are potential rapists, criminals, benefit scroungers, job thieves, perverts, child-corrupting groomers. ‘When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,’ Donald Trump said in 2015.

Once a foreigner, always a foreigner.

And trans women will always be ‘men’, no matter how feminine they act, no matter how long ago they transitioned, no matter how much they have assimilated. Real women—not cis, thank you—will obsess over their genitals in the same way others obsess over skin colour. They will focus on the depth of their voice instead of their accent. Trans women are never an asset, only a liability.

Once a man, always a man.

Once a foreigner, always a foreigner.

Transphobia needs to be highlighted for the xenophobic, blood-and-soil ideology it is. Transphobes are a kind of ‘sexual nationalist’. Simply declaring Trans Women Are Women will not change anyone’s mind, no matter how true it is. You must see the fear—and it really is a fear—of the ‘foreigner’. Only then can we fight back.

And then we can say, Once a foreigner, now a citizen.