Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party are set to strengthen transgender women’s rights, including access to all-women shortlists for Parliamentary selections, HuffPost has learned.
The ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) is expected on Tuesday to make its first ever public policy statement on the issue, allowing trans people to self-identify without the need for medical or other certification.
The move, which will also allow trans women to take part in schemes like the Jo Cox Women In Leadership programme, is aimed at putting Labour ‘ahead’ of the current law in a bid to enshrine new rights to combat potential discrimination, party sources said.
However, some female party activists have in recent months expressed concern over the growing movement for trans rights.
Radical feminist and veteran leftwinger Linda Bellos was barred from a Cambridge debate after declaring she wanted to question “the power of those who were previously designated male to tell lesbians, and especially lesbian feminists, what to say and think”.
Others have claimed that allowing trans women onto all-women shortlists is a well-intentioned mistake.
A crowdfunded group of Labour activists, titled ‘Keep All-Women Shortlists Female’, has been threatening legal action.
“Self-identification does not define men as women, in law or in fact. Labour conference has neither agreed nor even debated self-id or rule changes to the Labour party’s AWS selection process,” the group states.
Labour has for some time operated an informal policy of allowing transgender people to appear on women-only shortlists for Parliamentary seats.
However, the policy has never been formally recognised and the NEC is set to issue a statement clarifying the exact position in a bid to ensure no legal challenge will succeed.
The new statement is expected to pre-empt changes in the law in the Gender Recognition Bill, currently going through Parliament, which will remove the need for a medical diagnosis before someone can change gender.
It is unclear how many if any NEC members will oppose the planned statement.
Last week’s NEC Equalities Committee endorsed a recent statement from LGBT Labour that it was “concerned” that the debate on an inclusive definition of trans women had been “reopened” of late.
“A baseline for transgender inclusion is that trans people are accepted within their gender. Denying this to transgender women within the Labour party would be a massive step backwards.”
Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Dawn Butler recently told The House magazine that the party would be taking advice from people who are LGBT+, adding that they did not all agree.
But Butler stressed: “I think if a trans woman wanted to be included in an all-women shortlist then that should be considered.
“I just don’t think people really need to make a big fuss about it. I mean if one of my team members came into the office and decided that James wanted to be called Jane and was now a woman I would not say ‘prove it, what do you mean?’ I would just accept where he is and his journey or where she is and her journey and that she is being her true authentic self.”
A transgender woman was this month been selected on an all-woman shortlist to be the Labour candidate in Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire.
Dr Heather Peto (pictured above), the national trans officer for LGBT Labour, has now made the final shortlist.
When asked about the ‘Keep All-Women Shortlists Female’ group, Peto told the Nottingham Post: “I think it’s a fight that we had to have, and I want to be the person to have the fight. I’ve got thick skin, and I’d rather it was me that gets that criticism rather than someone else.”
The Female Eunuch author Germaine Greer sparked controversy for claiming that trans women were “not real women”.
In 2016, she backtracked slightly but then added it “wasn’t fair” that “a man who has lived for 40 years as a man and had children with a woman and enjoyed the services – the unpaid services of a wife, which most women will never know ... then decides that the whole time he’s been a woman.”
UPDATE: A Labour party spokesperson said: “At the NEC today it was confirmed that all women shortlists are and always have been open to all women, which of course includes trans women.
“The party will consult with key stakeholders about the wording of this policy and will issue guidance to CLPs.”