Labour MP: Women’s spaces need protecting from transgender women who ‘look and sound like a man’
Labour MP Caroline Flint has suggested that women-only refuges should take a stricter stance on transgender women.
In an interview published on the Transgender Day of Remembrance yesterday, the Member of Parliament for Don Valley suggested that women’s voices of “concern” about transgender issues haven’t been heard enough.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, she said: “We need to think through how to support those from the trans community but not in such a way that compromises women’s and girls’ rights.”
The Labour politician went on to question whether transgender women who “look and sound like a man” should be allowed to access domestic violence facilities.
Ms Flint, a prominent critic of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, added: “It’s important that women feel safe there. It’s difficult to judge if someone says they define themselves as a trans woman but for all intents and purposes they look and sound like a man.”
She continued: “We need to make sure we don’t end up undoing the work to give women the space they need to be safe. There is some concern that a wider group of voices wasn’t heard on the women and equalities committee.”
The Women and Equalities Committee inquiry she referred to published a report last year that called for improvements to the Gender Recognition Act, reducing the number of medical and bureaucratic hurdles that transgender people need to jump through in order to change legal gender.
A similar law is already in effect in Ireland, and there have been zero reported issues of abuse.
The MP insisted that she “absolutely supports trans rights”, though she added: “There’s also a worry when people start to impose the idea that children are acting a certain way because they don’t want to be a boy or a girl.
“There’s nothing wrong with a boy wanting to be a pirate one week and a princess the next.”
It’s not the first time Flint has spoken out on the issue.
Last year the MP intervened in a debate about transgender issues in Parliament, suggesting that gender-neutral toilets leave women at risk of sexual assault.
She cited the specific case of a university where a male student was convicted of voyeurism for installing cameras to in toilet facilities.
Though she suggested the case was connected to gender-neutral toilets, the court heard that cameras were placed at a number of locations including female-only facilities.
Ms Flint declined to retract her comment after she was made aware of the factual inaccuracy in her speech.
She told PinkNews at the time: “I fully support the LGBT community and welcome this important debate on transgender equality.
“The issue of concern I raised during today’s debate was about women’s safety at the hands of men. I fully appreciate the risks faced by the transgender community, who live with violence, intimidation and hate crimes.
“I do not want women preyed upon by, or vulnerable to, male violence in shared spaces, if it could be avoided.
“A woman friend reported leaving the cubicle of a gender neutral pub toilet to be confronted by five drunk men, one of whom urinated in a sink while she was washing her hands. The chances of that happening in a women’s toilet would be minimal.
“There has to be room for a progressive discussion which addresses transgender discrimination and rights, alongside that of women’s safety.”
Young Labour Women later called on Ms Flint to rethink her stance.
The group said: “We call on Caroline Flint to withdraw and apologise for remarks she made, in a debate about trans equality, that gender neutral toilets increase the risk to women of male violence.
“Gender neutral toilet facilities do not make women less safe- there have been no reported cases of transgender people attacking someone else in a public bathroom, though there have been scores of cases of transgender people who have been victims of violence or harassment in public bathrooms.
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“It has also led to cases of cisgender women being misread as men, and subjected to violence or harassment for having been deemed to be using the ‘wrong’ toilet- something which has a disproportionate impact on lesbian women.
“The voyeurism case Flint referred to, as the [PinkNews article] details, occurred in specific toilets for women too- the issue is therefore not one of gender neutral toilets, but the law.
“Gender neutral toilets are not a new or particularly innovative idea – most disabled toilets and toilets on public transport are gender neutral already!
“We hope Caroline will reflect on her remarks, and how scaremongering around women’s safety in the debate around gender-neutral toilets is being used as a trojan horse to undermine the rights of trans people.”