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Labour manifesto vows to put LGBT rights ‘at the heart of government’ – but there’s a catch

Emma Powys Maurice November 21, 2019
Labour manifesto

Labour's 2019 election manifesto includes several commitments to LGBT+ inclusion (Twitter/@JeremyCorbyn)

Labour has launched its new manifesto with a pledge to put LGBT+ equality “at the heart of government”, starting with a dedicated LGBT+ ambassador in the Foreign Office.

This new government role would allow the UK to “respond fast and firmly wherever LGBT+ people face violence or persecution internationally“.

It is among the party’s numerous commitments to LGBT+ rights, including a reform of the Gender Recognition Act to introduce self-declaration for transgender and non-binary people.

The manifesto berates the Conservatives for being “slow to understand the scale of abuse and discrimination LGBT+ people continue to face”, and states that Labour is not “complacent” about the culture shift required to make LGBT+ inclusion a reality.

If elected the party promises deliver on the national LGBT Action Plan introduced last year and eliminate remaining areas of discrimination in law, ensuring that LGBT+ people can live in safety and dignity.

Labour will provide funding for schools to deliver mandatory LGBT+ inclusive relationships and sex education. It will also invest in sexual health services, allowing them to provide PrEP medication, which is not easily accessible through the NHS.

The party says it will tackle the homelessness crisis which disproportionately affects LGBT+ people, and tailor all strategies and services to the unique needs of the LGBT+ homeless.

The manifesto acknowledges Labour’s “proud history of standing shoulder to shoulder with LGBT+ people” and nods to the party’s previous LGBT+ reforms, including abolishing Section 28, equalising the age of consent and creating civil partnerships.

Jeremy Corbyn described the document as “radical”, representing “real change” for voters. The Conservatives have not yet released their manifesto and are not expected to do so until two weeks before the election.

However, some are accusing Labour of including a “TERF dogwhistle” in the manifesto’s section on women, which promises to “ensure that single-sex based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision”.

The Labour manifesto does not elaborate on this point further but is understood by some to mean that trans and gender non-conforming women could be excluded from ‘women’s only’ services, such as shelters and crisis houses.

In the same section, manifesto also promises to “end mixed-sex wards”.

“This is a serious letdown for trans and gender diverse people,” Kobe Bibbon, the Liberal Democrats’ equalities and diversity lead, told PinkNews. “Trans people should be able to use the services that they feel most comfortable using, not ones they are told they have to use.

“[This] will cause significant concern amongst transgender people, frightened that a Labour government would throw them to the wolves. It is irresponsible for Labour to pander to this sort of extremism and hate.

“As a non-binary person, I am honestly heartbroken that Labour has given in to the gender-critical transphobes within their party. Trans people deserve so much better than being thrown under the bus just so the party can please transphobia.

“This manifesto doesn’t make me feel valid as a trans person at all, but it has put a huge grin on the transphobic groups in the Labour party.”

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto mentions plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act, as Labour’s does, but unlike Labour it proposes an ‘X’ gender option on passports.

They will also ensure population data accurately represents sexual orientation and gender identity by including a question on LGBT+ status in the 2021 Census.

Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson launches the Liberal Democrat election manifesto
Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson launches the Liberal Democrat election manifesto (Dan Kitwood/Getty)

Labour responds to concerns

PinkNews contacted Labour asking them to clarify this part of their manifesto. A Labour spokesperson replied: “Our commitment to reforming the Gender Recognition Act to introduce self-declaration for transgender people is undimmed.

“Labour will amend the Equality Act 2010 to ensure it protects trans people by changing the protected characteristic of ‘gender assignment’ to ‘gender identity’ and removing other outdated language such as ‘transsexual’.

“The Equality Act will continue to allow for separate-and single-sex services, providing that such treatment by a provider is justified, but no spaces will be permitted to discriminate against trans people.

“In government we will provide comprehensive guidance and ensure providers have robust safeguarding policies in place to ensure the safety of all women, and that of course includes trans women.

“Labour has a proud record on protecting and progressing women’s rights. It is crucial for all women to feel safe, and we are not complacent about the cultural shift required to make LGBT+ inclusivity a reality.”

More: gender recognition act, general election, GRA Reform, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, Labour manifesto, lgbt homelessness, Lib Dems manifesto, Liberal Democrats, PrEP

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