Labour has confirmed that self-identifying transgender women are welcome to apply for all-women shortlists.
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.
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 no openly trans MPs, but more than 1,000 donors have raised more than £19,000 to pursue legal action against the party, claiming that “transgender-identified males” were pushing “biological” women out.
But despite pressure from TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) within Labour, the party has clarified its position at a meeting of the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).
Speaking to PinkNews, a Labour Party spokesperson said: “At the NEC yesterday it was confirmed that all women shortlists are and always have been open to all women, which of course includes trans women.
“The Party will consult with key stakeholders about the wording of this policy and will issue guidance to CLPs.”
In a further statement, a party spokesperson told PinkNews: “The Labour Party recognises the vital importance of self-definition for the Trans community, which is why we are calling on the Government to reform the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act 2010 to change the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ to ‘gender identity’ to support self-identification.
“If the Conservatives fail to do so, Labour will make it law once we’re in government.”
It is understood that the party’s approach includes not turning away self-identifying trans women from all-women shortlists, though the party has refused repeated requests to explicitly say so.
This is because party officials are working on clearing up the wording of Labour’s policy on the issue, which will be revealed at the next NEC meeting in March.
The move should calm some of the fears prompted by Labour’s confusing approach to the issue.
Last week, the party led people to believe trans women may need a legal document known as a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) to stand on one of the shortlists.
Rhea Wolfson, a left-wing campaigner who sits on the NEC, posted an account of a meeting which suggested as much.
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.
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Anti-trans campaigners quickly seized on the news.
The ‘Keep All-Women Shortlists Female!’ campaign group wrote: “[The] Labour party has come out and said self-ID transwomen are NOT entitled to apply to on AWS.
“[The] Labour party is to send out directives to all CLPs to this effect.”
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.