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John McDonnell tells Mumsnet he wants a ‘proper and considered discussion’ about transgender people

Nick Duffy December 6, 2019
John McDonnell took part in a Q&A with Mumsnet users

John McDonnell took part in a Q&A with Mumsnet users

Labour’s John McDonnell has told Mumsnet users that he wants a “proper and considered discussion” of transgender issues.

On Friday, the shadow chancellor became the latest politician to take part in a Q&A with users of the online forum, which is popular with parents and anti-transgender activists.

Mumsnet warns users not to ‘overwhelm’ John McDonnell with questions on trans issues.

The discussion attracted more questions about transgender people than about every other issue combined – with Mumsnet staff eventually directing users to stop asking questions “about gender/self-ID/trans/GRA/single-sex spaces etc” to avoid “overwhelming” McDonnell.

The shadow chancellor largely ignored the torrent of questions on trans issues, but did reply to one message questioning the party’s manifesto pledge on protecting “single-sex spaces”.

Labour Party Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell attends the launch of Labour’s new charter for the arts at the theatre Royal Stratford East on November 24, 2019 in London, England.
Labour Party Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

McDonnell said: “This is a complex issue. The principle on which we stand is that we do not wish to see discrimination within our society and that includes discrimination against transgender people and women (and anybody!).

“In our manifesto this is what it says: ‘Ensure single sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.’

“Hence we aim to reform the law to include self-identification but this does open up a whole debate around the single sex-based exemptions that will be maintained under the Equalities Act. This has to be dealt with sensitively and people’s views need to be respected.

“I have been worried about the levels of what some have described as abuse within this discussion and I think it’s now time for us all to come together to have a proper and considered discussion.”

It is unclear why McDonnell suggested Gender Recognition Act reforms “open up a whole debate” about single-sex spaces, given transgender people’s right to access single-sex spaces is not contingent upon them getting a gender recognition certificate.

Mumsnet grillings reveal political divides on trans rights.

Several other politicians have faced Mumsnet grillings during the election period, with Liberal Democrat Phillip Lee claiming that transgender prisoners should be kept in segregated facilities.

The SNP’s Kirsty Blackman was more forthright in calling out “name calling, slurs [and] abuse in the debate on trans issues”.

She made clear: “As a feminist and a strong supporter of LGBT+ equality I see no conflict between my rights as a woman and those of LGBT+ people.”

Blackman wrote: “Personally, I have met many trans people who have spoken to me about how difficult and intrusive and obstructive the process is. I believe we need to update the Gender Recognition Act in order to make this easier and less obstructive.”

Her own party has faced growing splits on the issue.

More: gender recognition act, General Election 2019, john mcdonnell, Labour, Mumsnet

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