In early February of this year, Labour Women Leading put out this invitation through their networks: “We are inviting any sister who would like to be considered as a candidate for the [Labour Party National Women’s Committee CLP] slate to let us know…LWL is working with sisters from other Labour left organisations (the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance) to produce a united left slate.”
But it stipulated in its criteria for selection that, amongst other (reasonable) features, applicants should be guided by “shared socialist values”, including: “LGBTQ+ rights – we support the right of trans people to self identify”
How did the right of trans people to self-identify become the one thing that epitomises ‘LGBTQ+ rights’? What happened to lesbians, gay men and bisexuals? How did self-identification become a ‘shared socialist value’, of relevance to the selection process? How did such a concept, entirely divorced from the materialist basis of socialism, enter into a selection process for women to become part of the National Women’s Committee? To regard support for self-identification of ‘gender’ as a requirement for selection appears to demand that any candidate must accept the anti-materialist notion that some inner, non-observable, sense of ‘gender’ is of more relevance to being female than actually being female.
How did this notion become a ‘shared socialist value’? It immediately excludes many actual socialist feminists from putting themselves forward for consideration to stand on the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance slate. Additionally, it is entirely unexplained what LGBTQ+ rights actually means, apart from, apparently, the ‘right’ of anyone to ‘self-identify’ into a group in which material existence does not include them.
It later came to our attention, through discussions about this matter within our feminist networks, that other Alliance members had not sought to gate-keep their eligibility criteria in this way, but for some reason Labour Women Leading did.
The assumption that all members of Labour Women Leading’s own network accept that there is no conflict of rights to be discussed from a socialist perspective when it comes to Self ID is censorious and prohibitive. We do not agree that this issue has been decided on amongst socialists. Indeed we would argue – as socialists – that the current gender identity ideology is individualistic, unscientific and regressive and needs better scrutiny by those who position themselves on the left.
This apparent ‘orthodoxy’ seems to be policed by high profile individuals within established women’s organisations and networks in the Labour Party. How did they come to believe that they had the right to stipulate a belief in gender identity ideology as a criterion for selection to the left alliance slate?
Over recent weeks we have witnessed the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme crumbling. Finally, even mainstream media are saying what some of us have been saying for years, and now, all can see that Stonewall’s foundations have been replaced with “Queer theory”. We see high profile comrades doubling down instead of facing the reality. When will we hear high profile left voices speaking up against this so that we can have the conversations we so desperately need?
If you don’t speak out now then you will find you have submitted to neo-liberal forces without saying so much as a word to defend yesterday’s dreams of something better.
Dear people whose job it is to collect & analyse personal data from the membership of the Labour Party,
Labour Women’s Declaration hopes you followed the court hearing on 9 March – Fair Play for Women versus Office for National Statistics – challenging the ONS guidance on how to fill in the sex question in the 2021 Census. A full judicial review was due to take place this Thursday, 18 March, so that the case could be heard as a matter of priority before census day, but the judge made an interim order instructing the ONS to immediately remove the incorrect guidance on the sex question, saying he was satisfied the campaign group Fair Play for Women was “more likely than not to succeed” on its case regarding the legal definition of “sex”.
Today we can confirm that Fair Play for Women have indeed succeeded and that the ONS has conceded that the proper meaning of sex in the census means sex as recognised by law. The High Court has now ordered that “What is your sex?” means sex “as recorded on a birth certificate or Gender Recognition Certificate”. The substantive hearing listed for 18 March is vacated and ONS will pay costs of both sides. This is a victory for the women’s movement, and all the women and organisations that got behind the Sex in the Census campaign to ensure women’s sex-based rights are upheld through accurate data collection, including Labour Women’s Declaration.
We were watching to see if there would be any reaction to all this from the Labour Party, since many of us have complained after discovering what you had done with our online membership details. The outcome in the census case demonstrates that collecting clear data on sex and gender identity should be the gold standard, as it gives organisations accurate information about respondents that is important to policy development.
Until a few days ago, members’ online membership cards used the phrase ‘gender identity’ which has now been altered again to ‘gender’. Many women members have been angry about this and have contacted us to say they have complained but received no response. We also note that this issue is being discussed in public forums such as MumsNet and Twitter. We question the right of the party to retrospectively change data given by members without any consultation or permission.
We would argue that unless a specific question on sex is asked, it is not possible to know how many women members we have. This is also important in that by the provisions in the Equality Act, there is an equality duty which covers the protected characteristics. Sex is one of them, neither gender nor gender identity are such characteristics. It may also be useful to know how many members wish to identify as having a gender identity, but the way this form is currently phrased, it doesn’t give us that data either. The merging of sex and gender undermines the ability of our data collection systems to elicit the information we need to pursue the equalities agenda.
Request for Clarification
One member within our networks began emailing the Labour Party’s Equalities office on precisely this subject on 01.07.2019. Although she did manage to get some response within the thread of emails, her last email has as yet, eighteen months later, still not been answered. Redacted copy of her full correspondence can be found here. We are including the following excerpts because we believe the responses she received fully illustrate the confusion and lack of clarity coming from the Labour Party administrative staff on this very important aspect of data collection. To put it bluntly, no one seems able to explain what exactly is meant by the terms in use and how they are being used, let alone understand the impact on the data.
Taken from her communication with Labour Equalities, are the following excerpts beginning with a response she received 2 months after her original email enquiry.
Received from Labour Party: 02 September 2019 Subject: RE: Monitoring & Data collection on Gender & Sex
Thank you for your email dated 1 July and apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
I asked my colleague >>>>>> to provide the best response to the questions you raised in your email. Her response is below:
The “Gender” questions you refer to clearly refer to gender and gender identity so the Party continues to log data on gender/sex. Since around 2006 we have logged data on our membership systems for male, female and other (as well as unknown which is usually used where we have no data as an individual has not completed that part of the application form). All data previously captured has been retained and all new data is still inputted using those categories. During the Democracy LGBT activists said they did not want LGBT data captured on our systems.
I hope this answers your questions.
If you have any more questions further to this email, >>>>>> (CC) will respond when she returns from annual leave.
Head of Equalities, Stakeholders and Community Engagement
The Labour Party
Southside, 105 Victoria Street
London SW1E 6QT
Response to Labour Party: 09 September 2019 Subject: RE: Monitoring & Data collection on Gender & Sex
Thank you for your reply.
The answers to some of my questions have become conflated, and some of my questions have been missed altogether.
So can I, perhaps, refer you back to my originating email to ****** of 1 July 2019? Could you please have a look at the preamble to my questions to better understand the context for them?
In the interests of clarity, and to avoid any possibility of misunderstanding or misrepresenting the Labour Party’s position on these important issues for women, I have attempted to translate your paragraph of answers into specifics under the six questions in my original email (in bold).
I have also attached a copy of the Gender question to which this Correspondence refers.
What is meant here by ‘Gender’? Specifically, does it mean ‘Gender Identity’?
You reply that you understand gender to mean ‘gender and gender identity’. You then say that ‘the party continues to log data on gender/sex.’ You therefore imply that if somebody of the male sex self-identifies as a woman and ticks that box, that for statistical purposes, the Labour Party will count their sex as female.
2. If it does mean Gender Identity, why doesn’t it say so? Clear definitions are important, especially when we know that in some situations ‘Gender’ is used as a synonym for Sex.
You do not seem to have explained why it says Gender rather than Gender Identity. In many situations Gender is used as a synonym for Sex so this is, at best, misleading.
3. Previously, the Labour Party asked its members whether they were male or female. Is this new Gender question an additional question, or a replacement for the one aimed at determining sex?
You are saying that this is a replacement question for the one that was previously, and clearly, aimed at determining sex.
4. If members have previously declared their sex, has that data been retained?
You have confirmed that the previous data with regard to the sex of members has been retained.
5. If members select just one of the boxes, in three out of the five possibilities to tick, there is no way of knowing whether individuals are female or male. Could you explain how that relates to identifying possible discrimination against or disadvantage to women on the basis on Sex, which like Race and Disability, is a protected characteristic in the 2010 Equality Act?
You have agreed that you have no way of knowing whether individuals are female or male, since a member can complete this form on the basis of either Gender (in the old-fashioned sense as a synonym for sex) or Gender Identity, self-selected. My question pointed to the fact that three boxes, Trans, Non-binary, Other, could be filled in by both sexes. Your answer indicates that in fact the other two boxes, Man and Woman, could also be filled in by either sex. You have not answered my question about the relationship between this data gathering and the identification of discrimination on the basis of sex as per the 2010 Equality Act. However, the implication is that this data could no longer be applied to those purposes.
Has the Labour Party stopped collecting data on Sex?
The Labour Party has stopped collecting data on sex, and has replaced that with data about Gender Identity.
Finally, I was interested to hear that LGBT activists do not want their data captured on Labour Party systems. In that context, why would the membership form ask for Gender details that include Trans and Non-Binary?
I would be grateful if you could confirm that my summary of your reply is as you intended. Or perhaps you could provide some further clarification?
I look forward to hearing from you or >>>>>> at your convenience.
With best regards,
Replace Gender with Sex
We know that many women have complained about the way that a gender identity has been allocated to them by whoever is administering data collection in the Labour Party, and we find it insulting that there has been a complete lack of engagement with these members to correct the errors and issues that have been clearly pointed out. That the word ‘identity’ has been deleted from the online membership card within days of the ONS judgement is remarkable, given the lack of response to women members. Does it really take expensive court cases for the concerns of our members to be taken seriously? Messing about with membership details and using the language used to erase sex as a category should not be being undertaken lightly and without consultation. A full understanding is needed of the consequences of such meddling for data collection, security and the impact on our equalities duties and work.
Since the last email from this member in September 2019, the Labour Party Manifesto pledged to deepen the understanding of and enforce the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, but we can see no evidence that this is being done, rather, the reverse.
We draw your attention to the following extract from the Welsh Government’s commitment to data collection in it’s recent Manifesto.
“Welsh Labour will ensure that data collection by Welsh Government and other public bodies use the characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010: sex, race, age, disability, marriage and civil partnership, religion or belief, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity, and gender reassignment. This will ensure that it is possible to measure how successful Welsh Government is in supporting public bodies to meet their duty to ensure equality of outcomes for all.”
We would also like to address the issue of the collection of data from other protected groups. We understand that the policy not to collect data on the basis of sexuality was made after consultation with only one group – LGBTQI+ Labour who cited security concerns. This approach was questioned by many lesbians and gay men at the time, as many organisations have collected such information over many years without any issues. As a result, LGBTQI+ Labour remain the only group available to be consulted around LGBT+ issues and the information and data from our members is missing. This group is an affiliated lobby group, not a members’ group and cannot be said to speak for lesbian and gay members nor to be allowed to replace direct communication with our members. Lesbian and gay members are also protected under the Equality Act, as are those who are ‘gender reassigned’. If the party is to exercise its duties and aspirations in regard to equality it is vital that the appropriate data is collected and that members are directly consulted.
We hope, therefore, that you will consider all the points we have raised and ensure the development of comprehensive data collection which does not omit groups who experience very real and specific discrimination. A policy is urgently needed which is based on the well-defined, legally-established characteristics in the 2010 Equality Act, which will update the Party’s systems and governance in the light of that Act and that would also be consonant with the aspirations and principles which we believe lie at the heart of Labour Party.
#SixWords – For the word ‘person’ substitute ‘woman’. “Giving birth is not like chairing a meeting. It cannot be done by a person of either sex.”
It is beyond belief that it has taken governments 103 years to notice women in government may have babies. We are very pleased to see long overdue recognition of this fact in the Maternity Bill to be debated in the Commons this Thursday, 11th February 2020.
But it is unacceptable that the bill talks of ‘pregnant people’ and makes no mention of women at all. This is not a situation that will ever apply to male ministers, so why the obfuscation of language? Nor is it inclusive of those who might be adopting children – adopters are not included in the phrase ‘pregnant people’.
Please, as a matter of urgency, email your MP ( even telephone your if you are able to) if you believe they are sympathetic. Ask them to propose and support amendment of the Bill’s wording to replace the word ‘person’ with ‘woman’. There is less than 48 hours before this bill is presented. See our example template letter below. Amend as you see fit.
Language matters. Sex matters. Women must not be erased. Share this post across your networks; it affects all women in all political parties.
I have serious concerns around the language used in the Ministerial Maternity Bill being rushed through this week.
I am pleased to see the House is giving female ministers some of the rights that other pregnant women have – but it is unacceptable that this draft bill undermines our language and removes sex-specific language for mothers, by referring to the mother as a “person [who] is pregnant” and a “person [who] has given birth to a child”. The bill should be drafted in line with the Equality Act 2010, which talks about pregnancy and maternity using the ordinary language of “woman”, “she” and “her”.
The Drafting Guidance policy to use gender-neutral language should not mean erasing all language about the sexes where only one sex is involved, as in the case of maternity arrangements. Sex-specific language should and must be used in the bill.
The explanatory notes also need to be corrected, as they refer to female ministers throughout using the awkward plural indeterminate “they”. For example: “The Minister on Leave would be able to access papers they were able to access in their previous rôle”.
It is concerning that such action to change language, a strategy used by Stonewall, and other promoters of gender identity ideology, seems in line with the plan for covert changes outlined in a policy paper written by IGLYO (see links below my signature).
It is the responsibility of The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and the Government Legal Office to draft clear, coherent, accessible law and to help the government to govern well, within the rule of law. Please discuss rectifying this with the ministers presenting the Bill, so that the Drafting Guidance properly allows for sex-specific language where the person concerned can be defined by their sex – as is the case for a woman who is pregnant or a mother.
Nick Rogers, suspended Chair of Tottenham CLP, has withdrawn from the rally and has made this statement in support of Esther.
Labour In Exile, Labour Left Alliance and Labour Against the Witchhunt have also issued a joint statement in support of Esther.
A group of Tottenham CLP members have written this letter to the organisers of the rally.
“We are not going to attend the Stand Up For Labour Party Democracy #StopTheLabourLockout rally because of the purging of Esther Giles from the speakers list under pressure from sectarians, who are determined to silence and drive out people on the left who support women’s rights. Anybody who does attend should challenge the hypocrisy.
The awful irony of no platforming someone persecuted by the Labour Party leadership at a rally meant to oppose that seems to be lost on the organisers.
To persecute those who hold that gender and sex are not the same and that people born biologically female who have lived all their lives as women in a patriarchal society have a distinct experience is unacceptable. Whether born female or male, it is not transphobic to hold that view. To regard it as anathema is wrongheaded and will do huge damage to the left.”
It is true that Labour had (past tense) a proud record of championing for women. This derived from a materialist understanding of women’s disadvantages within this culture, of the way discrimination works and how socialisation results in women’s and girls’ much lower expectations and ambitions.
The inclusion of self-identified transwomen makes a mockery of all the reasons behind these policies. It destroys affirmative action for women if any male person identifying as female is included in a group whose experience of discrimination is specific and different from that of trans-identifying people. This version of the policy has never been discussed or agreed democratically in the Party. To say that the Party will ‘deal with’ anyone subverting the intention of All Women Shortlists, women’s officers or minimum quotas for women is absurd when it is the Party itself which is subverting that intention.
We do not accept the claim that such policies are consistent with the letter and spirit of the Equality Act 2010, which quite explicitly speaks of the exceptions permitting single-sex provision as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Given the aim of building the Party’s empowerment of women in Party rôles and as MPs, it is not hard to see why the exceptions should be used.
We entirely agree that discussions should never take the form of abuse or intimidation. Sadly, the Labour Party has been entirely unwilling to act on any of the hundreds of abusive and intimidatory responses, in meetings and in online Labour forums, towards those who assert the need for women’s rights to be upheld.
The final part of the statement referring to reform not only of the Gender Recognition Act but of the Equality Act 2010 is misleading. It is not Labour Party policy. The 2019 manifesto stated the intention to “Ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.” It was that commitment that helped us to ensure that women did not leave Labour, seeing this as a clear commitment to our rights.
How is it possible to prevent the subversion of All Women Shortlists and have a policy that anyone can self-identify as a woman? When did it become Labour Party policy to reform the Equality Act 2010, which already protects trans people on the basis of sex as well as for gender reassignment and protects women on the basis of sex? The 2019 manifesto commitment was for the single-sex exceptions in the EA2010 to be “understood and fully enforced in service provision”. We don’t need reform, we need clarity and proper implementation of current law.
What is the NEC playing at? Surely this is out of date information (published in May 2018) and since superceded by the 2019 Manifesto. It should have been amended and not feature on the Labour Party website as a statement of current policy. It most certainly should not be foregrounded with the current Leader’s photo as some sort of ironic ‘Welcome’ statement, aimed at undermining women’s rights. In a week where Scottish Labour is producing zipped lists that are important for female representation in politics, it is important that old policy does not remain on the official Labour Party website. We demand that the website is updated to reflect 2019 Manifesto.
Members of Parliament on the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Select Committee are currently holding an inquiry into reform of the Gender Recognition Act. According to the committee, the inquiry is designed to examine the government’s proposals for change to the gender recognition process, ‘gathering evidence on whether the proposed changes to GRA2004 are the right ones and whether they go far enough’. As part of its inquiry, the committee is holding a number of in-person evidence sessions and has also sought written views.
The Labour Women’s Declaration working group is among a range of organisations which have submitted written evidence. This has now been published by the committee and you can read the full document here. The key points in our submission are:
Considerable problems arise through confusion of the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ in the GRA
Equality monitoring and discharge of the Public Sector Equality Duty are compromised by the confusion of these terms
Accurate guidance concerning the provision of single-sex services is urgently needed
As a result of these confusions and inaccurate guidance, self-declaration of identity as a woman or man has become the de facto norm, acceptance of which is assumed by many to be a legal requirement; women’s sex-based rights are damaged by this acceptance
Vulnerability, potential dangers, religious belief and discrimination are among the reasons why single-sex provision is required
Undefined terms such as non-binary and gender-fluid cannot be the basis for law, and any problems arising from non-conformity to stereotypes is better addressed via existing law
The Scottish Government’s proposed Gender Recognition Reform Bill does not offer a suitable alternative to reforming the GRA