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Gays against Starmer

Labour’s embrace of gender ideology poses an existential threat to gay rights.

Dennis Kavanagh

Topics Identity Politics Politics USA

With his normal anaesthetising delivery, Labour leader Keir Starmer confirmed last week that he would defend female single-sex spaces in line with the Equality Act. What’s more, he insisted that this has always been his position.

This will come as a surprise to many. In 2022, Starmer was only too happy to triangulate on gender and tell us all, in his lawyer’s way, that a small percentage of women do in fact have penises. He also said at the time that the irritating question of whether women do or don’t have cervixes shouldn’t be asked. This does not sound like a man committed to defending sex-based rights.

The underwhelming Labour shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, Anneliese Dodds, has only added to the confusion. She has promised to legislate for a ban on trans-inclusive conversion therapy and modernise gender-recognition laws. All in all, she sounds like someone fully prepared to sacrifice sex-based rights at the altar of gender ideology.

With Labour set to default into power, gay-rights campaigners, in particular, are looking on with some apprehension as to what Labour’s murky position on gender might add up to in government. This is because sex in law is the foundational legal concept for the protected characteristic of ‘same-sex orientation’ in the Equality Act. Starmer may talk of upholding the sex-based provisions within the Equality Act, yet his and others’ support for the idea of gender identity suggests otherwise.

Indeed, ‘reform’ of the Equality Act is a long-held ambition of trans charity Stonewall. If it were up to Stonewall, gender identity would become a protected characteristic and there would be no single-sex-space provision at all in the Equality Act. After all, if someone with a penis can legally demand to be recognised as a woman, then sex-based provisions in the act are meaningless.

We already have a warning from Australia of what such a reform of the Equality Act would look like in practice. In 2013, the Australian government changed the Sex Discrimination Act by including gender identity as a protected characteristic. The biology-based definitions of a man and a woman were repealed from the legislation and references to the ‘opposite sex’ were replaced with ‘different sex’.

Last year, the New South Wales Lesbian Action Group found out what this meant for same-sex attracted people. It was told by the Australian Human Rights Commission that a biologically defined female-only meeting of lesbians amounted to gender-identity discrimination and was thus unlawful. Under an equality law rewritten according to gender identity, there are clearly two kinds of lesbians, the ones with penises and the ones without.

That’s why gay-rights campaigners are so worried by the prospect of a Labour government. There’s no sense it really believes in sex-based rights. When Starmer tells us that ‘99.9 per cent women don’t have penises’, that implies that he thinks 0.01 per cent do. Such a view has serious implications for single-sex spaces and associations organised on the basis of same-sex orientation.

Labour’s closeness to Stonewall does little to assuage the fears of gay-rights campaigners over the party’s direction of travel. Labour remains a paid-up member of Stonewall’s workplace-diversity scheme and seems oblivious to just how deeply lost that organisation is. After all, this is the very same Stonewall that has pronounced that two-year-olds can be trans.

Indeed, the idea that children can be transgender has long been troubling for gay-rights campaigners. Organisations such as the Gay Men’s Network, of which I am a director, and LGB Alliance have been trying to tell Labour for some time that young people who might be confused about their sexuality are increasingly being told they’re transgender. Tellingly, 80 to 90 per cent of the patient cohort at the Tavistock gender-identity clinic for children were recorded as same-sex attracted. Autism was vastly overrepresented among patients at 35 per cent.

That’s why a Starmer government’s commitment to introducing a trans-inclusive conversion-therapy ban is particularly worrying. That Orwellian phrase amounts to a ban on attempts to help troubled people come to terms with their sexed bodies and even their sexuality. It could lead to the state-mandated surgical ‘correction’ of the mostly gay, mostly autistic young people who have learned online, in schools or via the media that they were born in the ‘wrong body’.

A ban on trans-inclusive conversion therapy would chill clinical practice, trample on parental rights and potentially turn a generation of same-sex-attracted youth into medical patients for life. As two clinicians at the Tavistock clinic told The Times in 2019, there was a dark joke among staff that, thanks to ‘gender conversion’, ‘there would be no gay people left’.

It is easy to be pessimistic about a Labour government’s gender policy. Too many politicians see championing gender identity as a low cost, virtue-signalling substitute for governing. But there are grounds for optimism. Dr Hilary Cass, charged with reviewing the NHS’s approach to children with gender dysphoria, will deliver her final report soon on reforms to gender medicine. If her interim report from 2022 is anything to go by, it seems likely she will favour normal exploratory therapy over conversion-therapy bans and the demands of trans extremists that a child’s self-diagnosis is merely ‘affirmed’.

And yet there remains the great imponderable of what exactly Keir Starmer believes. He may have insisted he will protect female-only single-sex spaces, but does he know what a woman is? This matters deeply in gay politics because if he doesn’t know what a woman is, then he doesn’t know what a homosexual is. And that which you cannot define in law, you have no hope of ever protecting from harm.

Dennis Kavanagh is a director of Gay Men’s Network.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics Politics USA

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