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Labour facing pressure to block ‘self-identified’ trans women from standing on women’s shortlists

Nick Duffy January 19, 2018
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The Labour Party is facing pressure to adopt a new policy that will block some transgender women from standing on all-women shortlists for Parliament.

For more than a decade the UK’s Labour Party has employed all-women shortlists in some constituencies in a bid to boost the number of female MPs in Parliament – by forcing local Labour Parties to pick a candidate from a list of women.

A row blew up this month as anti-transgender feminists launched a bid to block trans women from standing on women’s shortlists.

There are zero openly transgender MPs in Parliament, but the campaigners raised more than £15,000 to pursue legal action against the party, claiming that “transgender-identified males” were pushing “biological” women out of their roles.

Labour is reportedly planning to clarify its position on the issue this month, after it was discussed last night by a behind-closed-doors subcommittee of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Rhea Wolfson, a left-wing campaigner who sits on the NEC, posted to Facebook an account of the meeting that suggested transgender women may be required to have obtained a legal document known as a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) to stand on the shortlist.

Many trans people have never obtained GRCs – as they are costly, require people to pass a number of bureaucratic hurdles, and are not generally required to change gender on official documents.

Wolfson wrote: “In Equalities Committee the issue of the inclusion of trans women in All Women Shortlists was discussed.

“Members of the committee were unanimous in their support for trans women in our party, sending solidarity to our comrades who have faced abuse and been targeted recently.

“The position was clarified that trans women with a Gender Recognition Certificate are welcome and encouraged to stand in AWS, as per the legislation.

“Guidance will be sent out to [Constituency Labour Party] Chairs and Secretaries soon.”

Wolfson later added that she was “awaiting formal clarification from the party”.

Jeremy Corbyn (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Anti-trans campaigners quickly seized on the news.

The ‘Keep All-Women Shortlists Female!’ campaign group wrote: “Labour party has come out and said self-ID transwomen are NOT entitled to apply to on AWS. Labour party is to send out directives to all CLPs to this effect.

“Now we need the party to give us further clarification of the position regarding elected women’s officers and women’s delegate places.”

The group warned: “Do not let the [media] use the ‘Keep All Women Shortlist Campaign’ to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. This is a socialist feminist campaign, we use class analysis and, like Jeremy, we understand and support not just women but all oppressed and marginalised groups.”

A spokesperson for the Labour Party has declined to answer a string of questions from PinkNews or provide an official statement clarifying the party’s stance on self-declaration ahead of a full NEC meeting next week.

A Labour Party spokesperson told PinkNews: “All women shortlists in the Labour Party have always been open to all women, which of course includes trans women.”

It is understood that the NEC will clarify on Tuesday Labour’s policies with regards to self-identification.

Transgender campaigners have warned that restricting shortlists to women with female birth certificates or GRCs will force trans people to shell out hundreds of pounds in order to stand.

Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson also criticised the reports.

She said: “I’m not sure how to make the Labour party see sense in so many ways (nor can a good chunk of their MPs). It’s very simple really: All WOMEN shortlists. Trans women are women, so obviously should be eligible.”

Trans women are already competing for seats under long-standing Labour policy.

PinkNews previously spoke to a transgender Labour activist, Dr Heather Peto, who has made it onto an All Women Shortlist for selection in the Labour target seat of Rushcliffe at the next General Election.

Dr Peto said her nomination had been supported by local people, but some Momentum and trade union activists had attempted to campaign to block her from standing.

She told PinkNews that her main critic, who tweets online under the nom de plume ‘Dr Radfem’ was a “a rent-a-quote for being nasty to transgender people, and being hostile to us”.

Dr Heather Peto with Dawn Butler

Dr Peto added of reaction within the party: “Most Labour people, I’d say 90 percent of Labour people, are very supportive.

“It is just the vocal transphobes that are not supportive. I got messages sent to me saying they hoped the hormones I take cause me breast cancer and I die a horrible death.

“I get those types of comments sent to me, but those are just a vocal minority. I spoke at Labour conference this year and I was warmly accepted, and everyone was supportive. There’s just a few vocal people who I just ignore, really.”

She added: “Locally, members have been very supportive, because they’ve always known me as a woman. I’ve been out for 20 years, and I’ve always championed women’s rights as well as transgender rights.

“I’m sure there’s probably a few people who are not supportive, but they’re keeping their heads down.”

Dr Heather Peto

Labour MP Stella Creasy was barraged with abuse earlier this month when she spoke out in favour of transgender equality.

Labour’s Sophie Cook came within just a few thousand votes of becoming the country’s first transgender MP during the 2017 election.

Cook was the Labour candidate for the Shoreham and Worthing seat, a Conservative stronghold for over 20 years.

She has spoken about the abuse she expected to get as a trans person campaigning for the seat, and the positive reaction she was actually met with.

Cook said the campaign marked a turning point in people’s acceptance of her and her gender identity.

“Something unexpected happened. Instead of the abuse, I was greeted with love and support, sure there were still a few transphobic remarks online but nothing like I’d experienced previously,” she said.

She had heard how some transgender people in the constituency had moved away because of the abuse, but she was met with open arms in the community.

Cook came away from the election with almost 21,000 votes, increasing the Labour vote by 114 percent and making it one of the biggest swing seats in the country.

She added: “They weren’t voting for a trans woman, they were voting for Sophie Cook, they were voting for the Labour Party. They saw beyond the headlines and the things that made us different and in their way struck a massive blow for trans equality.”

“We need transgender politicians, after all, everyone in society needs to feel represented. But the main reason why I believe that the time is right for a trans MP has nothing to do with equality or diversity, it’s down to the constituents who put their faith in me to represent them, regardless of my gender identity.”

More: Labour, Labour party, LGBT, Trans, Transgender, Women, women's shortlist

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