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Labour leader hopefuls Nandy, Thornberry and Long-Bailey pledge unwavering support for trans people

Vic Parsons January 27, 2020
Every single one of the Labour leadership contenders support trans rights

Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Emily Thornberry all strongly backed trans rights at a leadership hustings in Nottingham on January 26. (Getty)

Labour has a “moral duty” to uphold trans rights and reform “stigmatising” and “humiliating” gender recognition laws, the three women vying to be the next leader of the party have said.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Emily Thornberry and Lisa Nandy all spoke strongly in support of trans rights at an Open Labour leadership hustings in Nottingham on January 26.

Long-Bailey said she was “dismayed” at the tone of the “debate” within Labour on trans rights, with Nandy adding that waiting lists for gender identity clinics in the UK are “far, far too long”, and Thornberry saying the culture within Labour had to “fundamentally change” so the party is “warm and welcoming” to all.

Labour’s manifesto included a commitment to reform the Gender Recognition Act and remove the need for trans people to provide medical evidence when updating the gender on their birth certificates.

But the party has been plagued by infighting over the inclusion of trans women on all-women shortlists, with anti-trans group A Women’s Place ā€“ set up to oppose reforms to the GRA ā€“ holding a “transphobic” meeting outside the Labour Party conference in September 2019.

Both Nandy and Thornberry emphasised that trans women are women, while Long-Bailey said the party needs to “up its game” when it comes to trans representation in politics.

The UK has never had an openly trans MP. A record number of trans people ran for parliament in the December 2019 snap election, but none were elected.

Sir Keir Starmer was not present at the hustings, having cancelled all campaigning over the weekend after his mother-in-law had a serious accident. She remains critically ill in hospital.

Starmer previously backed trans rights and pledged his support for reforming the Gender Recognition Act.

At the hustings in Nottingham, Long-Bailey, Nandy and Thornberry were asked: “With so much misinformation and abuse against transgender and other LGBT+ identities, what would you do to root out biphobia, transphobia and homophobia in the Labour party, and ensure parliaments have transgender representatives?”

Rebecca Long-Bailey: ‘As leader, I would review the lack of trans representation in parliament.’

“I’ll be honest, I’ve been quite dismayed sometimes at the tone of the debate within the party on this issue,” Long-Bailey began her answer.

“And I think that goes right to the heart of developing that culture of respect and being allowed to discuss things, being able to talk about things, frankly, but at the end of the day all uniting behind the party’s position when that’s agreed.

I think we’ve got a moral duty to be the party that upholds rights for trans people.

“So, I was proud of what we said in the manifesto. I think we’ve got a moral duty to be the party that upholds rights for trans people, and I said quite publicly this week that I want self-ID to be brought into law in the UK, and I think that’s a very important step for the Labour Party to champion that.

“But if anyone experiences any abuse within our party in relation to trans rights then I think it needs to be called out, both by our leadership and by our membership as well. Because we have to build a society based on respect and trust, and embrace all of the qualities that we have within our party and society.”

On the second part of the question, about the (lack of) trans representation at Wesminster, the Salford and Eccles MP said: “We’ve made great strides in our party at making sure we’ve upped the number of female MPs. I came in on an all-women shortlist, and I think we also need to up our game when it comes to representing other aspects of our movement.

“We’re not moving fast enough, we’re not representative in the way that we should be, and that’s certainly something that I would be looking at reviewing within the party as leader.”

Lisa Nandy says all women must stand together to support trans women.

The Wigan MP started her answer by speaking about a young trans constituent on a waiting list for a gender identity clinic.

“I represent some people going through this process in Wigan at the moment, including a young person who’s been waiting for over six months to get any support through the transition process,” she said.

“The Gender Recognition Act, I think in the experience that she’s had and that I’ve had, is stigmatising, is far, far too long and it leaves people without support at the moment they most need it.

Trans women are women, and they deserve nothing less than our full support.

“And we’ve seen a rise in transphobic hate crimes in this country in recent years, and I think it’s really important therefore that rather than allowing women to be pitted against each other we stand up together to say very very clearly that trans women are women, and they deserve nothing less than our full support and protection.”

Applause broke out at the hustings, and then Nandy continued: “I believe there is a real problem though, at every level in this party not just in parliament, with representation. And that goes beyond the issue about trans women, it goes further than that.

“My dad came to this country from India at a time of ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ signs up everywhere. He had no choice, he couldn’t drink in local pubs. When he got married to my mum, they got letters saying ‘you might be making this decision, but how will your children turn out?’

“Now, you can judge for yourself how you think his children turned out. He went on, because he had no choice, to set up the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination at the Runnymede Trust and then work with Roy Jenkins to give one of the biggest gifts to this country that we’ve ever had: The Race Relations Act.

“And that is how I know, because I’m so proud of him and I’m so proud of my family, that role models matter.

“I will do everything I can within this party and as leader of this party to get better representation, not just into parliament. At local council level and CLP’s as well, where it really, really matters, where young people can look to their local politicians and see people out there blazing that trail.”

‘I will always be an ally’ ā€“ Emily Thornberry.

“We can bring in whatever rules we want, in a way, in the Labour Party, but actually we have to change our culture and we have to change our culture fundamentally,” the MP for Islington South and Finsbury said.

“We have to be a warm and welcoming party for everyone. And we have to begin by understanding that trans women are women and trans men are men.”

She went on to tell the moving story of a woman she’d met whose husband is trans.

“I met somebody last night actually, in Wakefield, and she had recently got married.

I think we need to remember the people behind all this, and remember the sort of party that we really are.

“And she showed me a picture of her beautiful husband, and of the two of them together, and she said, ‘When we got married, I had to say, I take him as my lawful wedded wife.’ And how unfair that was, and how hurt she was, and how humiliated she was. I think we need to remember the people behind all this, and remember the sort of party that we really are.

“I have always been a proud campaigner for gay rights, ever since my brother came out in the 1980s during the time of AIDS. I am an ally, I will always be an ally and I am on everyone’s side.”

More: emily thornberry, gender recognition act, labour leadership contest, lisa nandy, Rebecca long Bailey, Sir Keir Starmer, trans rights

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