Women’s Labour pains

The Labour Party is in deep trouble over its stance on Self-ID

Artillery Row

Angela Rayner has “doubled down on her support for trans people”, according to the perennial drongos over at journalism parody PinkNews. This afternoon, Ms Rayner — presumably taking a break from her day job as an MP to work within Labour’s burgeoning side-hustle as “Demolition Experts (Red Walls Only)” — retweeted the article with the inane addendum:

Solidarity with my trans brothers and sisters today and always. The Labour Party is absolutely committed to advancing trans rights and updating the GRA to introduce self-declaration for trans people and upholding the Equality Act. Your fight is our fight.


This invective has come off the back of Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch apparently referring to transwomen as “men” in a leaked recording — one that has yet to be heard by anyone outside of Vice — with Rayner going on to state: “Everyone should be able to be themselves and be celebrated, supported and loved for who they are.” Presumably our celebration, support, and love should also extend to convicted rapists such as “Karen White”?

Wherever we look, the Labour Party is in deep trouble

It’s hard to know where to begin with Rayner’s half-baked tweet: her apparent declaration that the Labour Party updating the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) is now actual policy? Her bizarre misunderstanding of how the Equality Act actually works? Or perhaps it would behove us to examine Labour’s apparent total and active disregard for the thousands of women (and some men) who would otherwise vote for the party were it not for its monomaniacal obsession with alienating those same people at every available opportunity?

Wherever we look, the Labour Party is in deep trouble. The tweet in question is just one in a long line of bizarre musings from a party which, in recent years, seems more concerned with ensuring everybody knows everyone else’s pronouns (even if you happen to be a 72-year-old man with a beard, although who are we to assume!), rather than winning back voters who have been systematically left behind by the Tories.

Rayner’s tweet betrays her — and the Party’s — lack of understanding over how self-ID would work in practice. For a start, self-ID in effect already exists within the Equality Act (EqA) — if not as unbridled as perhaps the most rabid of transactivists would like to see, certainly in a manner that would rightly protect from discrimination individuals who wish to change their legal sex.

Section 7 of the EqA affords protection to anyone who is undergoing, has undergone, or (and most importantly here) who proposes to undergo a process (or part of a process) to change their legal sex. Just by “proposing the undergo” the process, this would theoretically trigger the anti-discrimination measures afforded by the EqA. So where is the tension?

Well, when changing one’s legal sex, the process that must be undertaken is statutorily codified in the GRA. Without getting into the nitty gritty of the Act, this allows those who undergo the process of “transitioning” to change their legal sex marker on various official documents and, importantly, to be recognised as such for most, but not all, purposes.

In recent years this has come up against the enforcement of the “single-sex spaces” clause found in Schedule 3, Paragraph 28 of the EqA, which allows providers of single-sex services — such as rape crisis centres and domestic violence refuges — to maintain them as exactly that, irrespective of any “gender reassignment” process or otherwise.

The rationale for this has been covered extensively by feminist activists, campaigners, and sector-professionals, so it won’t be recounted here; but suffice to say, in a society where men relentlessly rape, abuse, exploit, and murder women and girls, it’s entirely understandable why those same women feel entitled to a space without the shadow of predatory male behaviour hanging over them like the sword of Damocles.

And this is where Rayner’s tweet highlights Labour’s lack of concern for women’s rights. Introducing self-ID will have two consequences. One, it will have a catastrophic impact on the recognition of women as a distinct class.

It’s high time Labour realised that women’s rights are also human rights

For example, in English and Welsh law rape is a crime that can only be committed by men (or to be more specific, those “with a penis”); how would this be impacted by a male who rapes a woman, and then “self-IDs” as a woman for nothing more than convenience? How will other violent crime statistics be skewed by the inclusion of “self-ID’d females” on the list? And to be clear, these are not transgender people wishing to undergo a “genuine” process of transition; these are violent and abusive men exploiting a loophole that will only facilitate their behaviour.

The second issue is the one of single-sex spaces. Rayner declares that the Labour Party will “uphold the Equality Act”.  Okay… So, does that include the provision for single-sex spaces to exclude individuals who only have the legal fiction of being female, as opposed to being female? Because if not, then that isn’t “upholding the Equality Act”, is it? In fact, it is doing away with an extremely necessary and highly valuable protection that women have against abuse.

Within the article itself, Rayner goes on to state: “Being an ally gets to the heart of what it means to be a socialist. Standing up for the oppressed, fighting the prejudices that exist in our society and having each other’s back.” Having each other’s back… except that of women.

Given that socialism is a theory rooted in acknowledging the material, concrete conditions of oppression and exploitation such as sex and class — and not vague notions of “identity” — Marx would likely have blood pouring out every orifice at the idea “gender identity” is somehow a theory compatible with socialism, or indeed, an axis of oppression.

Often the phrase “trans rights are human rights” is deployed as a catchall monolith to describe why the Labour Party — and other “allies” — has an unwavering obsession with gender politics. But maybe it’s time the Labour Party realised that “human rights” don’t begin and end with one community. It’s high time the Party realised, for its own sake as well as the sake of its voters, that women’s rights are also human rights.

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