It is a common misconception that the proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act threatened “single-sex spaces”, toilets, changing rooms, and meant that men just pretending to be women could access them.
These fears are unfounded. The GRA has nothing to say about the use of toilets. The Equality Act 2010 already gives trans people the right to access services appropriate to their lived gender at any stage of their transition. Single sex services are only allowed to exclude trans people under exceptional circumstances, where there is a justifiable reason for doing so. Trans women have always been able to use women’s toilets. That is nothing new.
For some the “fear” goes beyond ignorance and is based on an underlying prejudice that trans women are actually just men “pretending” to be women, on fear of and hostility towards trans people. It has recently spilled out into the open among Labour MPs.
A recent blog post criticised Law Society guidance that transitioning employees should use the toilet they felt comfortable with.
In response to a tweeted comment by Shadow Women and Equalities Minister Marsha de Cordova, Maya Forstater (who is consistently transphobic on twitter) tweeted that the guidance was for “cross-dressers”. Labour MP Rosie Duffield “liked” Forstater’s tweet, and thus publicly supported the idea that trans women are just men “dressing up” or “pretending” to be women.
The Labour Campaign for Trans Rights called on LGBT+, the Labour Party’s LGBT organisation, to act.
The chair of LGBT+, Heather Peto, criticised Rosie Duffield for liking Maya Forstater’s tweet — saying either she was not being careful or she was actively supporting transphobia. Rosie Duffield mocked Heather, saying she hadn’t “learnt to be careful” but was going to Stepford to be “reprogrammed”.
Rosie Duffield has previously had to apologise publicly for saying that only women have a cervix. She took a long time to apologise, and maintained her stance even after it was pointed out that such statements could discourage trans men and non-binary people from having cervical smears.
Despite repeated calls, neither Rosie Duffield nor Marsha de Cordova has apologised, and Keir Starmer has issued no statement on the subject.
The government’s abandonment of proposed reforms to the GRA has led to a significant backlash against trans people, who were already facing persecution.
There is a risk that the government may reduce the rights trans people have under the Equality Act 2010.
The Labour Party has existing policy to amend the GRA to allow self-ID. It should be vocally defending trans rights now more than ever. Instead we are seeing worrying signs that transphobia is becoming accepted in the Labour Party.
The Labour Party must treat transphobia just as seriously as any other bigotry.