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Labour’s new trans policy is welcome, but not enough

Keir Starmer's record on women's rights is, at best, chequered. Credit: Getty

July 24, 2023 - 5:45pm

Today, the Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Anneliese Dodds provided the first real insight into what Labour’s policy would be on the thorny debate over trans and gender-based rights. Writing in the Guardian that “nothing in our modernised gender recognition process would override the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act […] there will always be places where it is reasonable for biological women only to have access”, the Labour politician has, for the first time, made an unequivocal and welcome commitment to the need for same-sex spaces.

But the question remains as to how the party can legally achieve this goal — particularly given the commitments to make the process of changing gender easier. One way would be to amend the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to make clear that a person transitioning changes their gender, not their sex — and that the single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act are therefore unaffected whether or not someone has received a gender recognition certificate (GRC). Currently, there is confusion among single-sex providers over whether they should allow a person of the opposite biological sex with a GRC to access their services. This has grave consequences for some of society’s most vulnerable women.

Dodds’s commitment to single-sex spaces increases the pressure on the Government to act on its own commitments to sex-based rights and ensure its public sector does the same. The NHS remains captured, with current guidance endorsing a patient’s right to self ID into a hospital ward according to their gender identity. Among secondary schools, 28% are not maintaining same-sex toilets. The Crown Prosecution Service has recently released guidance stating that refusing to fund your partner’s transition could be deemed domestic abuse.

Labour’s plans to reform the GRA by “simplifying the process” of changing gender will understandably raise concerns among those who already believe that the legislation undermines sex-based rights. In particular, Dodds’s suggestion that one doctor’s signature is enough to validate a GRC is concerning. As the damning investigation into the Tavistock clinic showed, some doctors have been far too ready to rush people, including vulnerable and neurodivergent children, down the route of transitioning.

However, that Dodds has felt compelled to make such a statement — and in a way which departs significantly from Labour’s policy at the 2019 election — reflects how much public opinion has shifted on this issue. Only a few years ago, both Labour and the Conservatives entertained the introduction of gender-self-ID policies, with Keir Starmer claiming in 2020 that “trans rights are human rights.” Trans rights are indeed human rights, but so are women’s rights: the potential for self-ID to be exploited, not by trans people but by violent and abusive men, remains a serious problem.

Despite Dodds’s welcome intervention, significant questions remain. Given the repeated controversies in prisons, changing rooms, NHS wards and domestic abuse shelters, there is still a lack of clarity as to where Labour believes it is “reasonable for biological women only to have access”. Dodds is also silent on the question of sport, and whether or not Labour agrees that the female category must be preserved for biological women in the name of basic fairness.   

Most fundamentally, there is no mention of children. The long-term consequences for children with gender dysphoria, including those who are permitted to socially transition or offered puberty blockers, remains unknown. The heated debate over the much-delayed trans guidance in schools demonstrates that this is a subject that no government will be able to duck for long. 

Dodds’s statement reveals the first glimmer of what could prove to be a new era in the trans debate. But good intentions are not enough: if both women’s rights and trans rights are to be protected, significantly more will be needed.

Lottie Moore is head of Biology Matters at the Policy Exchange think tank.


Lottie Moore is the head of Biology Matters at the Policy Exchange think tank

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Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
11 months ago

“there will always be places where it is reasonable for biological women only to have access”
Yeah, right. And if you believe this, there’s a bridge in London for sale.
Actions speak louder than words. The fact is that that neither Labour nor Tories have actually done anything to defend real women in the last decade on this issue.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
11 months ago

“there will always be places where it is reasonable for biological women only to have access”
Yeah, right. And if you believe this, there’s a bridge in London for sale.
Actions speak louder than words. The fact is that that neither Labour nor Tories have actually done anything to defend real women in the last decade on this issue.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
11 months ago

Will be entertaining watching the Labour Party contorting itself over this issue; up until the moment we vote. There is only one question to ask of your prospective candidate; ‘is a transwoman a woman?’ Anything other than a simple one word – yes or no, can be taken as a yes.

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
11 months ago

Will be entertaining watching the Labour Party contorting itself over this issue; up until the moment we vote. There is only one question to ask of your prospective candidate; ‘is a transwoman a woman?’ Anything other than a simple one word – yes or no, can be taken as a yes.

Tom North
Tom North
11 months ago

These ridiculous positions must be consistently aired during the next general election.

We, as taxpayers are keeping highly paid, supposedly intelligent people to spout this arrent nonsense.

In the meantime, the actual needs of their constituents are being blithely ignored.

Tom North
Tom North
11 months ago

These ridiculous positions must be consistently aired during the next general election.

We, as taxpayers are keeping highly paid, supposedly intelligent people to spout this arrent nonsense.

In the meantime, the actual needs of their constituents are being blithely ignored.

David McKee
David McKee
11 months ago

According to Dodds, writing in the Guardian, “Changing gender is not a decision anyone makes lightly. The process is intrusive, outdated and humiliating. So we will modernise, simplify and reform the gender recognition law to a new process. We will remove invasive bureaucracy and simplify the process.”
We can agree with her first sentence, after that, it gets terribly vague. We do get a little more insight into her thinking: “A diagnosis provided by one doctor, with a registrar instead of a panel, should be enough.” Really? Maybe we should wait for the final Cass report on the Tavistock before rushing into legislation.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
11 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

You agree with “according to Dodds, writing in the Guardian”?
If so, I agree too.

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
11 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

You agree with “according to Dodds, writing in the Guardian”?
If so, I agree too.

David McKee
David McKee
11 months ago

According to Dodds, writing in the Guardian, “Changing gender is not a decision anyone makes lightly. The process is intrusive, outdated and humiliating. So we will modernise, simplify and reform the gender recognition law to a new process. We will remove invasive bureaucracy and simplify the process.”
We can agree with her first sentence, after that, it gets terribly vague. We do get a little more insight into her thinking: “A diagnosis provided by one doctor, with a registrar instead of a panel, should be enough.” Really? Maybe we should wait for the final Cass report on the Tavistock before rushing into legislation.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
11 months ago

Secretary of State for Women and Equalities
What a terrifyingly revealing job title.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
11 months ago

Secretary of State for Women and Equalities
What a terrifyingly revealing job title.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
11 months ago

Does it matter what the politicians think or say? All this change is being driven from deep within the state class itself. So long as neither the voters nor their MPs have any real control over the bureaucracy and the vested interests it will continue and the state will become more and more beholden to the parasite class and it’s smokescreen ideology.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
11 months ago

Does it matter what the politicians think or say? All this change is being driven from deep within the state class itself. So long as neither the voters nor their MPs have any real control over the bureaucracy and the vested interests it will continue and the state will become more and more beholden to the parasite class and it’s smokescreen ideology.

S Wilkinson
S Wilkinson
11 months ago

Why is anyone taken in by what Dodds has said?
It is no different to what Labour have been saying all along except for one minor bit of admin – a requirement to self id to a doctor before self iding to a registrar.
She was clear that Labour believe trans is not a mental health issue so the doctor is not conducting a psychiatric assessment.
Gender dysphoria is only diagnosed on the patient’s declaration anyway.
She didn’t even say these doctors would be specialists but, even if that were to be a requirement, GenderGP and their pals would simply provide the certification for £50 and a 10 minute zoom consultation. (This kind of certification arrangement has been implemented in the US for college students to gain access to cross sex hormones: they give out pre signed certificates at some freshers’ fairs!)
Dodds also said that gender and sex are already well defined in the Equality Act but that’s not true; if they were we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.
Additionally, Labour isn’t taking into account Lady Haldane’s ruling about the impact of ‘legal sex’ ‘for all purposes’ as defined in the GRA.
Disingenuous bs – they haven’t changed anything. Don’t be fooled.

m_dunec
m_dunec
11 months ago
Reply to  S Wilkinson

Hear! Hear!

m_dunec
m_dunec
11 months ago
Reply to  S Wilkinson

Hear! Hear!

S Wilkinson
S Wilkinson
11 months ago

Why is anyone taken in by what Dodds has said?
It is no different to what Labour have been saying all along except for one minor bit of admin – a requirement to self id to a doctor before self iding to a registrar.
She was clear that Labour believe trans is not a mental health issue so the doctor is not conducting a psychiatric assessment.
Gender dysphoria is only diagnosed on the patient’s declaration anyway.
She didn’t even say these doctors would be specialists but, even if that were to be a requirement, GenderGP and their pals would simply provide the certification for £50 and a 10 minute zoom consultation. (This kind of certification arrangement has been implemented in the US for college students to gain access to cross sex hormones: they give out pre signed certificates at some freshers’ fairs!)
Dodds also said that gender and sex are already well defined in the Equality Act but that’s not true; if they were we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.
Additionally, Labour isn’t taking into account Lady Haldane’s ruling about the impact of ‘legal sex’ ‘for all purposes’ as defined in the GRA.
Disingenuous bs – they haven’t changed anything. Don’t be fooled.

David Morley
David Morley
11 months ago

But this is just to prefer old woke to new woke and reflects the continuing influence of old style feminism on the Labour Party. It still looks like student politics masquerading as the grown up version.

Labour needs to go further by lining its thinking up better with that of the general population – which is both more tolerant, and more socially conservative than the woke brigade of any stripe.

David Morley
David Morley
11 months ago

But this is just to prefer old woke to new woke and reflects the continuing influence of old style feminism on the Labour Party. It still looks like student politics masquerading as the grown up version.

Labour needs to go further by lining its thinking up better with that of the general population – which is both more tolerant, and more socially conservative than the woke brigade of any stripe.