Labour Peers speak up for women

Today’s urgent questions in the House of Lords saw three Labour Peers, speak up for women. Lord Triesman, Lord Young of Norwood Green and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath all expressed their satisfaction that the government has responded sensibly to the GRA consultation. Lord Triesman spoke out against the vilification of women such as JK Rowling who express the view that women’s rights can be exercised on the basis of biological sex, while Lord Young and Lord Hunt  pressed the government on the question of what guidance it will issue to ensure organisations  understand and implement existing law in relation to the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act. Many organisations and institutions have already changed their policies and practices in anticipation of  legal changes and on advice that misinterprets the law, so it is crucial that the government acts to clarify how the exemptions can be applied and properly enforced.

We applaud our Labour Peers Lord Hunt, Lord Young (both signatories of Labour Women’s Declaration) and Lord Triesman for speaking up. Women especially lesbians have pushed hard for their voices to be heard. The Lords have clearly listened. That the Lords are speaking creates a space for others – especially Labour MPs who have been notably silent on women’s rights and the right for women to speak about issues around sex-based rights. They also create a space for the Labour Party to move forward and open up the respectful dialogue between gender identity campaigners and advocates for women’s sex-based rights that is much needed.

Click on the links below to hear their full commentary and questions

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Lord Young of Norwood Green

Lord Triesman

Thank you Marsha De Cordova

“What will the Minister do to ensure that all public bodies including the Government Equality Office and the Equality & Human Rights Commission produce statutory guidance which is in keeping with the legislation?”

Sincere thanks to Marsha De Cordova,  Labour Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, for asking this crucial question in support of Labour’s 2019 manifesto pledge “Ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision”

To watch Marsha De Cordova’s full commentary and questions, follow this link.

 

Response to Government GRA Statement

No substantial reform of the GRA process 

Labour Women’s Declaration welcomes the decision not to proceed with changing the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to permit self-identification as the only prerequisite for the granting of a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). The safeguarding of transitioning individuals demands proper checks and professional expertise, as is intended by the current provisions of the Act. Of course, only a small proportion of those who declare themselves transgender currently apply for a GRC, but the expectation of a legal self-identification route has led to policies across many institutions and businesses being devised on that basis.

We are hopeful that the new clinics in the process of development, and the proposed training of GPs, will include a much greater emphasis on counselling and psychotherapy to enable individuals proposing to transition to fully consider all aspects of the changes before embarking on the hormonal, and possibly surgical, aspects of transition. We agree with Labour’s Shadow Minister in her emphasis on the need for investment in healthcare provision and for pressing the government for clarity on the actual substance of these proposals.

We would like to see greater consultation with, and support for, the civil partners and spouses of those undertaking a change of legal status. Currently, their only involvement in the process is providing a statutory declaration stating whether they are or are not willing to continue the marriage/civil partnership after granting of a GRC – and if not, a provisional certificate is given until a divorce is granted (or death of the partner/spouse). The impact on such individuals is immense, and for many the decision of their partner to transition has profound implications for their lives and those of any children. This is, of course, true for the partners of those transitioners who do not apply for a GRC or have not entered into a legal contract of marriage/civil partnership, also. However, where change of legal status is to be granted, the legal status of the marriage/civil partnership contract is also changed, affecting both partners.

It was deeply disappointing to hear Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, during Women and Equalities questions in the House of Commons on 23 September, describe the decision to retain the current process for the acquisition of a Gender Recognition Certificate as ‘disgraceful’ and regarding it as letting the transgender community down. Retaining the GRA as it is does not take any rights away from transgender people. Self-identification would be problematic for many contexts, including spouses/civil partners, data collection and single-sex provisions, as well as potentially for the individual themselves who might have no route to find the support needed for making a major life change.

Equality Act 2010

We are very pleased that Ms Truss has agreed with the policy of the Labour Party, as outlined in the 2019 Manifesto, regarding the single-sex provisions of the Equality Act 2010. The wish to “ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision” is now the policy of both Labour and Conservative parties, with the Conservative government looking to strengthen this aspect of the Act. We hope this will result in greater clarity, and an end to the inaccurate interpretations perpetuated by Stonewall and others – even the EHRC. We are alarmed that the EHRC has tweeted its disagreement with the government’s statement. Given its duty to provide accurate guidance for public bodies, and having been required to withdraw its previous inaccurate advice on the single sex exceptions, it is of considerable concern that it is failing in its duty to foster good relations between groups with different protected characteristics.

One of the extremely serious and all-pervasive effects of this inaccuracy has been that local authorities, businesses, schools, funders, the NHS and others have created a situation where previously understood single-sex spaces – hospital wards, women’s refuges and hostels, public toilets, et al – are now effectively mixed-sex through being understood as ‘single gender’, with gender relying on self-identification. We trust that these existing situations will be addressed alongside bringing clarity to future applications of the single-sex exemptions of the Equality Act.

Conversion therapy

It is a mark of the seriousness with which Ms Truss has approached the issue of conversion therapy for lesbians and gay men that research is already being undertaken into the current situation before proceeding to any legal means to prevent this heinous practice. It has reduced enormously over recent decades, but it is clearly important to ensure that no-one is subjected to such attempts to change their sexual orientation. We look forward to hearing the proposals next month.

Review of gender identity services for children and young people

We were pleased to hear the confirmation that the former President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr Hilary Cass OBE, will lead the wide-ranging review into gender identity services for children and young people. It is crucial that clinical protocols and referral routes serve children and young people well, and that the current presumption of ‘affirmation’ is challenged. We welcome the investigation into the enormous rise in the number of children referred to such services. We look forward to her report next year.

Whatever the outcome of that report, it is quite obviously essential that the government invests in the training of practitioners and provision of vastly more mental health services for all young people in the UK.

Looking to the future

As stated above, we are very concerned that so many government organisations, official bodies and businesses have run ahead of the law. Self-identification has been embedded in the policies and practices of the NHS, schools, police, councils, government departments, and many more organisations,  as a result of adopting Stonewall Diversity Champion’s kitemark, or incorrect advice from government funded lobby groups, without proper evaluation or  impact assessment of the effect on women. It is of the utmost importance that the government and all other bodies with influence now work to correct these policies, which are damaging to the interests of women, lesbians, and gay men. The conflation of sex and gender must be addressed, and a full understanding of the importance of sex as a protected characteristic fully taken into account.

Free speech for women members of the Labour Party

We, along with many other women, have been silenced and threatened, including with complaints to Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit, and with CLPs refusing to permit us to speak. This is not the way to enable a sensible understanding of these important issues. We call on the Labour Party as well as the government to stand up for the right of women to speak about matters which directly affect us, without intimidation or abuse.

For more details our briefing for MPs and Peers on all these issues can be found on here.

Follow this link to the responses from sister organisations to the government’s GRA announcement here.

LWD briefing on sex-based rights and GRA reform

Briefing update for MPs, Peers and Party members on sex-based rights and GRA reform. We prepared this briefing in anticipation of the Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss announcing the outcome of the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA), possible changes to guidance on application of the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act 2010 (EA), and a possible ban on conversion therapy for LGBT people. We hope it is helpful for all those engaged in discussions within the Party and beyond. 

Executive Summary

1.     There is a conflict of rights between women and trans people  in terms of the legal definition of sex, which impacts on the Equality Act. Denying this is damaging to both women and trans people – there must be respectful, evidence-based discussion to resolve this conflict of rights, and Labour should lead on this.

2.     Single sex spaces and services are required in several contexts for the safety, privacy and dignity of women and girls, and to facilitate their participation in public life.  If males are permitted to self-identify as women and access female-only spaces and services, they are no longer single sex.  This undermines women’s privacy, and undermines safeguarding and risk management in prisons, refuges and healthcare settings.

3.     As transwomen who hold a GRC are legally female, their comparator class in a discrimination claim is women. This has the potential to undermine anti-discrimination law.

4.     In relation to the possible ban on conversion therapy for LGBT people, the clear distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity, and what conversion therapy means in these two different contexts, must be understood. We urge caution in the detail of such a ban, as this could adversely affect the care that psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists are able to provide for gender-questioning, gender non-conforming or gender dysphoric people without fear of breaking the law.

5.     Women within the Labour Party have been bullied and harassed for stating their opinions about sex and gender.  This is unacceptable, and all MPs should stand up for women’s freedom of speech.

Download the full updated briefing via the link below:

LWD Letter to Labour Women MPs

Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group have written to all female Labour MPs asking them to show support to Rosie Duffield and Jenny Marra. We are offering them the opportunity to meet with us, to discuss any questions they may have about the evidence and arguments we are putting forward about the threat to women’s rights from the proposals for sex ‘self-ID’ in law, policy and practice.

We are aware that lobbying organisations such as Stonewall (who have campaigned for the removal of the single-sex exemptions) and LGBT+ Labour have had extensive contact with Labour MPs. We are asking for women Labour MPs to also listen to the voices of ordinary women in the Labour Party who do not have the privileged access of lobby groups to the workings of the party.

We are asking them to stand up for women, especially those working at the grassroots of the Labour Party.

Read our letter and brief in the PDFs below.

Labour Women’s Declaration Letter to Women MPs

Labour Women’s Declaration GRA reform Briefing 30th Aug 2020

Labour Women Speak #2

Labour Women Speak is a series of articles giving Labour women members and supporters the opportunity to share their views on why they speak up about sex and gender issues.

Delyth Rennie is a former social worker and children’s guardian. Delyth is a member of the Labour Party. Here she describes how and why she felt compelled to speak up about sex and gender.

I’m an unashamedly Second Wave feminist, whilst acknowledging there were/are undoubtedly a lot of issues to address within that feminism.

I worked in social care for 30 years; 23 of those years as a qualified social worker including 10 years as a children’s guardian. I now work in hospitality. Whilst working as a social worker/guardian, I had NO IDEA about gender ideology or the attack on women’s rights.

On leaving social work, I joined Twitter, but wasn’t particularly active. Anyway, I had a question about female specific mountain bikes. Somehow I responded to a cycling journalist and as a result a female American mountain biker replied to me. She said female specific bikes were ‘horseshit’ and I’d retorted that what was horseshit was not being able to get a bike to fit (I’m a small WOMAN!). There was some to-ing and fro-ing and she offered advice about bikes. On reflection, I perhaps should have questioned more robustly her antipathy to FEMALE specific bikes, but the notion of bikes to fit ‘people’ rather than ‘pinking and shrinking’ seemed to make some sense. (Still no good for me at 5′ 0″ tall. I had to get a woman specific bike!)

Consequently, I followed her on Twitter and liked her sweary tweets, BUT then! She tweeted something like “Rachel you’re a woman and these bastards can f*ck off”. Attached was picture of Rachel McKinnon (who I understand has since changed name). I wondered what on earth was going on. Having hitherto been oblivious, it’s fair to say the penny didn’t just drop – a ton of loose change banged me on the head repeatedly! DUH! My awakening was the realisation that a man could identify as a woman and apparently participate in women’s sport. British cycling seemed just fine with this!!! (McKinnon is Canadian, but has participated in Masters cycling events in the UK).

Although I really didn’t know much about the debate, I quickly learnt if you question gender ideology, if you think there is ANY discussion to be had, you’re called bigot, fascist, racist!!? (I was upset when first added to ‘Nazis on Twitter’ lists, but soon got over it when I saw the illustrious company I was in). It didn’t matter that you were a left wing feminist – to some you were the definition of a ‘transphobic bigot’.

I’d naively thought gender ID was about respecting pronouns really (and like so many women, wanted to be ‘nice’ and ‘kind’). As I engaged with it more, I realised it required total and utter capitulation; that the mantra ‘transwomen are women’ was meant literally, hence a penis on a transwoman is considered a biologically female penis. And lesbians who wouldn’t have sex with a biological male who identifies as trans are therefore ‘transphobic’. The homophobia (or rather lesbophobia) as well as the misogyny at the heart of gender ideology truly dawned on me.

The journey continued and I had my ’15 minutes of fame’ when I asked Alice Roberts (TV presenter and Professor) a question on Twitter (the Humanist Society, of which she is president had ignored my letter). She responded and it went crazy!

Imagine my astonishment when I felt compelled to reply to a professor for public engagement in science: “Goodness. Each person can write their own biology? Post modern biology. Wow. Sex – female, large gametes; male – small gametes.”

My ‘pinned tweet’ is part of that discussion. I think my frustration and disbelief at the lack of scientific rigour on display became even more evident as Professor Roberts starting invoking ‘compassion’, imploring feminists not to be ‘mean’. It reads: “Mean & nasty is prioritising gender identity over my sex-based protections which are disappearing. Mean is transactivists calling us ‘terfs’ [and] Nazis. Wishing us dead in ‘grease fires’ or ‘throat punched’. Biology is not bigotry. It’s not difficult.”

Oh – and she blocked me and a lot of others who took part in the conversation. (At no point was I, or anyone else I noticed participating, rude or abusive). The age of disenlightenment indeed. (This exchange can be found on twitter via my pinned tweet should you wish to look).

I am now extremely concerned about the implications for ‘gender non-conforming’ and other vulnerable children. The sexism and homophobia inherent in the ‘transing’ of children is horrifying and I remain bewildered that so many grown-ups in the room cheer this on, complicit in the most extreme form of conversion therapy. It is also concerning that those directly involved in child safeguarding (especially social work and teaching) either remain silent for fear of losing their jobs/being disciplined/branded as transphobic, or are actually actively involved in promoting this reactionary ideology.