Prime Minister says transgender reforms must ‘take into account’ impact on women
Prime Minister Theresa May fielded criticism from a Conservative MP on proposals for transgender reforms.
Tory MP David TC Davies, an opponent of LGBT+ rights who has led resistance to the plans within Parliament, challenged Theresa May on the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions on October 24.
Davies claimed: “Women who have got concerns about proposals to change the Gender Recognition Act, which would allow self-definition of gender, have had their meeting venues cancelled, been subject to intimidation and even been dragged into court as a result as private prosecutions.”
The Prime Minister defended the government plan, but added that it was a “sensitive issue.”
“He has raised a very important subject,” she said, continuing: “It is right that we are making these proposals in relation to gender reform, but it is a very sensitive issue, and we do have to make sure that as any changes are made, we are taking into account the potential impact it could have in relation to women.”
Davies also urged the Prime Minister to personally “agree to a short meeting with a victim of sexual violence who believes that these plans will needlessly put more women in danger.”
The government has consulted on proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act to allow transgender people to gain legal recognition more easily, but the proposals have been met with opposition from pressure groups who claim to have concerns about the impact on women.
Ahead of the consultation closure on October 22, the Government Equalities Office issued a public statement addressing “inaccurate speculation in the media” about what the reform will look like.
“We have always made clear that any reform of the Gender Recognition Act will not change the exceptions under the Equality Act that allow provision for single and separate sex spaces.”
The Prime Minister did not commit to the meeting with the campaigner, who Davies did not name, but said she would ask government officials to meet with them on her behalf.
She said: “I’m very sorry to hear of the experience of the individual that he mentioned in his question. In the run-up to and during the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, officials did meet with over 90 different groups, including LGBT groups, women’s groups, refuges and domestic abuse charities, but this is an important and sensitive issue and we want voters to be heard.
“I will ask a minister from the Government Equalities Office to meet with him and the individual concerned to hear directly about their experience.”
The comments mark a significant shift in tone from the Prime Minister, who first backed reforms at the PinkNews Awards in 2017.
She had said: “We have set out plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act and streamline and de-medicalise the process for changing gender, because being trans is not an illness and it shouldn’t be treated as such.”
In March, PinkNews reported that transgender people were described as “parasites” and “sexual fetishists” at a meeting of anti-trans activists hosted in Parliament by Davies. The MP subsequently requested that PinkNews cease all communication with him.
Davies told PinkNews at the time: “The paper [sic] makes no attempt to report news in an impartial fashion or to deal fairly with anyone who takes a different point of view from its editor. I am therefore not interested in giving you quotes or engaging in any way with you.”
The MP previously described same-sex marriage as “barking mad” and in 2012 suggested most parents would prefer their children “not to be gay.”
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Justifying his opposition to equal marriage, Davies had said: “I think most parents would prefer their children not to be gay, knowing most parents want grandchildren if nothing else.”
Also in 2012, he claimed that LGBT-inclusive sex education might encourage children to have gay sex. The same year, Davies dismissed accusations that he is a homophobe by citing his participation in an amateur boxing match against a gay fighter.
In 2017, Davies recently criticised male police officers for getting their nails painted as part of a campaign to find unpaid slaves believed to be working in nail salons.