And answers there came none…publication of our private letters to Mayor which remain unanswered…

Sadiq – “Do you support the single-sex exceptions in the 2010 Equality Act or do you wish to repeal them?” This is the question which Joan Smith asked you in private letters last year, but you failed to respond, in spite of her position as the independent Chair of your VAWG Board, in which role she was charged with leading independent scrutiny of your performance towards ending VAWG.

We are now publishing our own letters to you so that it cannot be said that you were not aware of our safeguarding concerns. As Labour Peer Philip Hunt warned in July 2020 “When the eventual public enquiry happens, as inevitably it will, there will be many organisations and leaders who will have to face up to the consequences  of their inaction.”

Thousands of Labour party members who have signed our Declaration are also waiting for your answers to our letters to you and your Deputy Mayors, dating back over 2 years. We believe you are publicly promoting views which will have a chilling effect on women, and on lesbians in particular. We have repeatedly asked to meet you and your colleagues so that you can at least understand our concerns. We are not asking you to agree with us, but to hear us.

Thread of emails send by Labour Women’s Declaration supporters to Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London between 24 July 2019 and 20 August 2021.

Subject: Fwd: Let’s talk about women’s rights – response needed in the light of today’s Times report about the replacement of Joan Smith as independent chair by a GLA official. 

Date: 19 August 2021 at 12:20:31 BST

To: Sadiq.khan@london.gov.uk, Joanne McCartney <joanne.mccartney@london.gov.uk>, sophie.linden@london.gov.uk

Cc: buckk@parliament.uk, len.duvall@london.gov.uk, London Labour Women’s Declaration <londonlabourwomensdeclaration@gmail.com>

Dear Sadiq Khan

Please see below for the email sent to you by London Labour Women’s Declaration on 11th January this year, 2021, signed by over 60 Labour party members including councillors and elected officers. It received neither reply nor acknowledgement. It refers to an earlier letter sent in July 2019 which received a patronising single sentence reply from one of your aides in November 2019 and which did not address a single one of our questions.

We read today in the Times that you have still not even responded to a similar private letter from Joan Smith sent last year, despite her years of voluntary service as your VAWG Board Chair.

All we are asking for is for women to be heard, and for you to reassure us and the women’s sector that you fully support the single-sex exceptions in Labour EA2010, and reinforced in Labour’s 2019 Manifesto. We also need you to understand that most lesbians and many gay men do not feel represented by Stonewall, by the LGBTQ+ acronym, or Pride initiatives. You don’t have to agree with our positions, but by refusing to listen, at first hand to those of us who represent the thousands of signatories to the Labour Women’s Declaration,  you risk falling behind the curve in terms of safeguarding, women’s and gay and lesbian rights, and you do no service either to the needs of people identifying as transgender. You also risk further electoral damage to the Labour Party.

And as for restructuring your Boards to replace independent Chairs with County Hall officials, well that speaks for itself.

Please could you reply to our letter of 11.01.21 below?

Thank you

Ceri Williams

for London Labour Women’s Declaration, and Labour Women’s Declaration Working Group.

From: “London Labour Women’s Declaration” <londonlabourwomensdeclaration@gmail.com>

Subject: Let’s talk about women’s rights

Date: 11 January 2021 at 10:18:41 GMT

To: sadiq.khan@london.gov.uk

Cc: joanne.mccartney@london.gov.uk, Sophie.linden@london.gov.uk, Len.duvall@london.gov.uk, buckk@parliament.uk

Dear Sadiq Khan,

We’re London Labour Party activists and supporters of the Labour Women’s Declaration who are very concerned about your current stance on women’s sex-based rights.

Given recent developments, including the High Court judgement against the Tavistock GIDS clinic, recent Twitter attacks on Labour councillors in Camden and Merton, and the upcoming mayoral election, we would like to meet with you and/or one of the Deputy Mayors to discuss women’s rights and freedoms.  (We emailed you in July 2019 asking for a meeting and your Senior Policy Officer replied in November 2019.  However he didn’t address any of the questions we raised, so we still really need a meeting).

One reason for our concern is your frequent statements that “transwomen are women”. There is a conflict of rights between women and transwomen which is denied by this simplistic slogan and, given the GLA’s funding role, your words have a chilling effect on women’s organisations in London. We are asking for two assurances – that organisations supporting women in London will not be penalised for expressing a different view, and that you continue to support the single-sex exceptions in the 2010 Equality Act.

The 2019 Labour manifesto stated that the single-sex exceptions must be “understood and enforced in service provision”, not least because they also intersect with other protected categories such as that of religion, sexual orientation and belief.

The current government has adopted a correctly cautious approach to reform of the GRA and more discerning guidelines on PSHE in schools, saying schools must avoid organisations and materials “that suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing” (DFE guidance Sept 2020).

Despite the government doing the right thing on this issue, we know that women are better off under Labour, and we want to be able to campaign effectively for the Labour Party – and for you as Mayor.

Your current stance is losing the support of Labour Party members in London, not to mention voters on the (virtual) doorstep who are increasingly speaking out against the sexism, homophobia and abandonment of safeguarding inherent in gender ideology.

We look forward to meeting with you or one of your deputies to discuss our concerns and find workable solutions.

Yours sincerely,

Ceri Williams

Tottenham CLP
, London Labour Women’s Declaration representative on behalf of:

(66 names of Labour Party members in London were given here, including Councillors, women’s officers, CLP and branch chairs )

(Many more of us are unable to sign this letter due to the fact that those who raise concerns about sex-based rights have suffered abuse including threatening letters to their employers from gender identity activists. You can find our names and comments among others on the Labour Women’s Declaration petition.)

This January 2021 letter above received neither acknowledgement nor reply, despite follow up reminders.

Copy of letter sent 24.07.19 – which received this derisory reply from an aide on 11.09.19
“Dear (name redacted)
Thank you for your email to the Mayor of London regarding his position on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

The Mayor has made his position on reform clear. The Mayor supports reform of the Gender Recognition Act as it is now outdated and reform is a key step in addressing the marginalisation of trans and non-binary communities, by allowing them to more easily gain legal recognition of their gender identity.

The United Kingdom is currently lagging behind the progress made by countries around the world in terms of legal equality for trans and non-binary people. Changing the law would bring us in line with the standard already set by Ireland, Denmark and Norway, whilst transforming the lives of trans and non-binary people.

Yours sincerely

Rob Downey
Senior Policy Officer
Equality and Fairness Team”

 

“24.07.19

Dear Sadiq Khan (cc Joanne McCartney)

We are writing this private letter to you, as London Labour Party members, to express our surprise and concern that you are a signatory to a letter from four male mayors to Penny Mordaunt[1] which urges the Government to speed up proposed changes to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. As active Labour Party members from constituencies across London we would like to request a meeting with you to explain our profound concerns about Sex Self-ID . Many feminists socialists, lesbians and gay men like us feel they are no longer represented by organisations such as the LGBT Foundation, Stonewall, or LGBT Labour. We are growing in number as more and more people wake up to the dangers of Self-ID.  In some CLPs we are the majority. It may be that you continue to disagree with our point of view but we hope that you will reserve judgement until you have listened to our evidence and arguments.

We have watched the Twitter storm following the publication of an open response to Andy Burnham from Cathy Devine which expresses the deep disquiet that your joint letter has triggered among, mostly, but not solely, women in London and across the country. Rather than reiterate the content of her open letter, we will assume that you have noted the issues she raised and are keen to hear what is causing all this concern amongst the very comrades who were active against Section 28 and for the protection of women from male violence.

Among the many points of disagreement we have with the letter you signed is that it claims that the provisions outlined in the Equality Act will not change. This cannot be right as the very definition of sex will be eroded if the plans go ahead. If a fully male-bodied person can say they are a woman (i.e. member of the female sex class) then the protected characteristic of ‘sex’ has no meaning. If biological sex is irrelevant and a female bodied transman or a male-bodied transwoman can call themselves gay or lesbian respectively, then the protected category of sexual orientation becomes meaningless. What’s more, given the very widely drawn concept of ‘trans’ as set out by Stonewall[2] it would be very difficult to know what criteria would be used under the proposed policy.

The 2017 Labour Party Manifesto gives a clear commitment to ‘gender audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation’ and yet this commitment appears to have been brushed aside or forgotten. This is why we would welcome the opportunity for some of the many Labour Party members, academics, scientists, equalities specialists and lawyers amongst us, to meet with you to discuss our valid concerns about the poorly articulated explanations of what constitutes a gender identity as opposed to sex. We are troubled about the way in which discussing girls and women’s sex-based rights is being viewed as transphobic; about the fact that 75% of the huge increase in children referred to the Tavistock clinic for gender dysphoria are girls who would more than likely grow up to be lesbians. We are alarmed by the growing disquiet among clinical experts that children may be being misdiagnosed as transgender[3] and that the hormones and puberty blockers being prescribed cause lifelong harms[4]. We are worried that the collection of data on aspects of social and economic life such as health, pay equity between the sexes or crime rates will become skewed with serious impacts on provision. We are uneasy about safeguarding for often vulnerable women and girls.

From your response to this highly contested issue, we surmise that you haven’t directly heard from feminists, lesbians, gay men and transsexuals in the Labour party who are opposed to Sex Self-ID. It’s been hard to speak up due to the abuse and accusations of transphobia that tend to follow any questioning of the proposals. But we are many, from all ages and backgrounds and feel that you need to hear our voices.

We are keen to convene a meeting with you as soon as possible to offer a different perspective to that which has been provided by organisations such as Stonewall, Mermaids, Gendered Intelligence, London Pride etc whose extensive access to government and the GLA have enabled them to be highly influential in policy-making in this area. We do not ask you to accept everything we say, but we do hope that you will listen to alternative voices from within the Labour Party in London with regard to this highly contentious issue. You may feel that this issue is not within your remit, but having signed the Mayors’ letter, you have put yourself in a public position which we believe is not backed up by a growing body of evidence. As Labour members about to hit the doorsteps possibly for a General Election, and definitely for the mayoral election, we would like to feel that you have given our views at least a hearing.

We look forward to hearing from your office with possible dates for a meeting.

Yours sincerely

50 signatories are given below, out of whom a small number will form a working group to meet with you”

(Names removed to protect signatories from bullying. As with all our letters to the Mayor, they included Councillors, and CLP officers from constituencies across London)

 

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/18/labour-mayors-urge-government-to-speed-up-gender-law-changes-england-wales

[2] ‘Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman, trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois’

[3] https://medium.com/@kirstyentwistle/an-open-letter-to-dr-polly-carmichael-from-a-former-gids-clinician-53c541276b8d

[4] https://blogs.bmj.com/bmjebmspotlight/2019/02/25/gender-affirming-hormone-in-children-and-adolescents-evidence-review/?fbclid=IwAR38DNSELZ9nbdh8-sHstf9a-aSEsKL7VPl_iCCMNmbYGAnENvhgR2pdqB4

LWD Response to Labour Representation Committee statement of 13.08.21

The Labour Representation Committee (LRC) claims to be “preparing the labour movement for power”.  We are only too desperate to have a potential government that could make a real difference to the lives of all those so badly hurt by the policies of the Conservatives.  It was therefore surprising to find that LRC’s latest target is the Labour Women’s Declaration (LWD), a set of seven points that build on the past commitment of the Labour Party to opposing discrimination of all sorts, including against women, and promoting women’s rights in work and public life. We echo the commitment in Labour’s own manifesto that “the single-sex exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.”

It is worth noting that the LRC’s article begins by claiming that the LWD developed in the run-up to the recent Labour Women’s Conference.  The writer has clearly failed to check for any facts, since LWD was launched in November 2019 with 300 founder signatories (including many elected party officers and politicians), rapidly gained thousands more and is now approaching 7,000 signatures – people who have been committed to helping Labour into government, but are now disillusioned and distressed about how regressive attitudes to women, spreading throughout society, are embedding within the Labour Party we have supported and want to support.

The statement that LWD “counterpose[s] what they call ‘sex based rights’ to rights for all women including trans women” makes immediately clear that this is written by people who subscribe to the belief that sex no longer matters (often expressed as the mantra “trans women are women”), and who are unaware that the Equality Act 2010 refers to sex and the rights of those who come under that protected characteristic which, it makes clear, is biological.  Both gender reassignment and sex are protected in law.  LWD was established to defend and promote women’s sex-based rights; other groups exist to champion the rights of trans people.

They claim that the oppression of women derives not from biology but “from (anti-)social factors”.  How the writer(s) imagine women experience ourselves within these anti-social factors remains a mystery, but clearly they are unaware of the research on how babies are treated differently according to whether they are male or female, and the experience of girls and women from those early days through to old age seems to be irrelevant to them.  Is it not biology that leads to the harassment of girls as they enter puberty?  Do LRC really believe that sex-selective abortion and FGM are nothing to do with biology?  The later reference to ‘gender-based’ violence once again makes the key factor of biological sex invisible.

Like all decent socialists, we support the rights of people with DSDs (‘intersex’ conditions) and people who describe themselves as trans or non-binary, to live free from discrimination and harassment. But our declaration addresses women’s sex-based rights.   One might have hoped that LRC would recognise the “appalling violence at home and on the streets and discrimination at work” suffered by women, rather than suggesting that it is trans-identified people who are the sole targets.

There was a crashing sound of jaws hitting the ground when people read that the Labour movement has a ‘proud history’ of ‘enabling members to self-identify whether that is being black, disabled, LGBT+ or women’.  Of course, if LRC really is happy for everyone to be able to demand that they be treated according to whatever ‘identity’ they decide to present, there would be little point in any of the anti-discrimination legislation that Labour has previously worked so hard to establish.

As for the statement of support for challenging “repressive gender stereotypes”, we can only wish the LRC had some awareness of the fact that actual feminists have, since the 1970s, put the work of dismantling gender stereotypes at the centre of our politics. The notion that this depends on a “social, rather than a medical, model of gender recognition” is ludicrous.

The Equality Act 2010 recognises that there can be conflicts of rights , even though LRC apparently believes there are none. It is not a case of not wanting “to encounter trans people in my designated space” but of recognising the needs of women that are clearly outlined in the EA.  The failure, at the very least, to recognise the need for trauma-informed services – such as domestic abuse refuges being women-only – indicates an ill-informed approach.  We see no evidence that the LRC have engaged with actual examples and evidence relating to conflicts of rights in the places where sex, and single-sex provision, matters: in prisons, in refuges, in sports, in intimate healthcare, in sleeping and changing accommodation, and in the collection of unambiguous data, for instance. Simply asserting that “there is no contradiction” is polarising this discussion: to move on, we need a sensible, evidence-based and respectful examination of the evidence and arguments, so that we can address them and reach resolutions which protect everyone.

To claim that the LWD is ‘out of step’ and that our seven principles fail to “combat all forms of oppression and fight for a society for the Many not the Few” means that the writers of the LRC statement really know remarkably little about women’s oppression in society, the issues that the Declaration attempts to address – or that women are, in fact, the Many.

However, we must thank LRC for one thing – they have made more people aware of LWD and signature numbers are growing.

TLDR?  See our tweet response to the LRC statement, and note the ratios.

Ratioed

 

 

Defining ‘Shared Socialist Values’

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.

 

 

#SixWords-For the word ‘person’ substitute ‘woman’

 

pregnancy & maternity rights
#SixWords – For the word ‘person’ substitute ‘woman’

Call to Action

#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.

Template Letter

Dear MP

I have serious concerns around the language used in the Ministerial Maternity Bill being rushed through this week.

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0255/200255.pdf

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.

For a full background, please read this article: 

https://mforstater.medium.com/pregnant-people-in-parliament-62adaa521c2d

Yours sincerely,

[Name and address – you must add your address so your MP knows you live in her/his constituency]

1) IGLYO, Dentons and Thomson Reuters paper:   

https://www.iglyo.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/IGLYO_v3-1.pdf

2) https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-document-that-reveals-the-remarkable-tactics-of-trans-lobbyists