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Can Labour really be trusted on the trans issue?

The same MPs who told us ‘transwomen are women’ now claim to be champions of single-sex spaces.

Jo Bartosch

Jo Bartosch

Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

Over the past week or so, UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has tried to haul his party towards a saner and more credible position on the trans issue. In an interview with BBC presenter Nicky Campbell last week, Starmer ruled out introducing gender self-identification if Labour gets into power. More surprising still, he finally managed to give a straight answer to the question of ‘What is a woman?’. ‘A woman is an adult female’, he said.

This was a major u-turn for Starmer. The Labour leader had previously promised to introduce self-ID, which would allow people to change their legal sex without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. And he has previously claimed that women can have penises. His about-turn came shortly after shadow minister for women Anneliese Dodds tentatively suggested that Labour would protect single-sex spaces. And just like that, those in the Labour Party who have spent years insisting that ‘transwomen are women’ are now suddenly backing down.

Over the past week, it’s felt as if a spell has been lifted. Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, has also started to walk back her enthusiasm for trans ideology. Only last year, Creasy said that ‘some women were born with penises’. She also told the Telegraph, in no uncertain terms, that ‘I am somebody who would say that a transwoman is an adult human female’.

But now that the Labour leadership has changed its tune on self-ID, Creasy seems to have followed suit. Over the weekend, she took to Twitter to claim, unconvincingly, that what she had really meant in that Telegraph interview was that transwomen are ‘legally’ considered to be women, according to the UK’s Gender Recognition Act, rather than literally women. She then complained about receiving ‘abuse and grief’ for making a simple ‘statement of fact’ about the law.

Creasy has been joined by Lisa Nandy, the shadow secretary for levelling up, who was once an outspoken trans ally. The Times reported last week that Nandy now blames her young staffers for unduly influencing her stance on gender self-identification.

It was just three years ago when Nandy, then a contender for the Labour leadership, told a crowded hustings that she believed male sex offenders should be placed in women’s prisons if they claim to be trans. She was replying to a question from Dr Julia Long, a gender-critical campaigner, about where trans-identified child rapist Christopher Worton should be housed. In response, Nandy held forth on the injustices of the current process for applying for a gender-recognition certificate. When Nandy confirmed that she believed ‘transwomen are women’ and that Worton should be sent to whichever prison matched his gender identity, members of the audience applauded her.

Perhaps the most surprising sign of Labour’s gender-identity glasnost is that even Lloyd Russell-Moyle is now making gender-critical noises. In recent years, the Labour MP for Brighton and Kemptown has earned himself a reputation as an aggressive and zealous trans activist. Earlier this year, he directed his spittle-flecked fury towards two gender-critical MPs in the House of Commons, Conservative MP Miriam Cates and Labour MP Rosie Duffield, heckling them as they spoke about the need for women’s single-sex spaces.

In what must be the surest sign yet of a change in Labour, Russell-Moyle told the Telegraph last week that he is ‘pleased that we will keep the current system of sex and gender-reassignment-protected characteristics in the Equality Act, giving flexibility for people to make exclusions based on biological sex, legal sex and gender reassignment’. In other words, he now says he is backing the legal right to single-sex spaces – a demand he only recently described as ‘transphobic’.

For some Labour MPs, it will be harder to row back. Take Dawn Butler, who has infamously claimed that children are ‘born without sex’, and that ‘90 per cent of giraffes are gay’. Last week, Butler confirmed that her position on ‘the trans issue’ remains the same as in 2020, when she called for gender self-ID. She vowed on Twitter to ‘seek clarification on any change’ in policy from the Labour leadership.

Other trans zealots who have previously expressed full-throated support for gender self-identification, including Zarah Sultana, Nadia Whittome, Alex Sobel, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Kate Osborne and Luke Pollard, have kept curiously quiet.

The slipperiness of these politicians is a sight to behold. Now that the mood has changed, they are desperately trying to wriggle out of the positions they were once apparently proud to hold. Worse still, they all stood by as those who questioned the ‘transwomen are women’ mantra were demonised and excluded.

Labour may have found its way to a more sensible position, but it will be a very long time before it can regain most of our trust.

Jo Bartosch is a journalist campaigning for the rights of women and girls.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics UK

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