Labour warned relationship with trans people could be “irreversibly fractured”

The Labour for Trans Rights campaign has warned that the party’s relationship with the trans community could become “irreversibly fractured” and urged Keir Starmer to meet with them to discuss their concerns.

In an open letter to the Labour leader today, LfTR revealed that the group requested a meeting with Starmer following his interview with Mumsnet in October but did not receive a response. The Labour leader faced criticism over some of the comments he made about trans issues during the discussion.

LfTR co-chairs Alex Charilaou and Alexis Chilvers said: “For months, the Tory government and right-wing press have whipped up hatred against trans people. As the party that repealed Section 28 and introduced the Equalities Act, Labour should be opposing this agenda of hate and standing up for trans rights.

“Instead, the Labour leadership has consistently failed to stand up for trans rights, from endorsing transphobic talking points to failing to take action against an MP who denies the existence of trans women.

“Tragically, this has strained the party’s relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. After private overtures were unsuccessful, we are now going public with our concerns: Labour’s leadership needs to get serious about tackling transphobia and standing up for trans rights.”

The open letter – which has been co-signed by organisations including Young Labour and Labour Students – states that LGBTQ+ Labour members and voters have a “number of serious concerns around the party’s approach to trans issues”.

The signatories write that Starmer “appeared to endorse changes to the Equality Act of 2010 which would exclude trans people from accessing services they’re currently entitled to use” in the Mumsnet interview.

Starmer told Mumsnet in October: “I feel very strongly that children shouldn’t be making these very important decisions without consent of their parents. I say that as a matter of principle, I say it as parent.

“We all know what it’s like with teenage children, and I feel very strongly about this, that this argument that children make decisions without consent of the parents is one I just don’t agree with at all.”

Starmer said he is a “big believer in safe spaces”, adding: “I spent five years working hard on issues involving women who’d been subjected to – and girls – subjected to sexual violence and feel very, very strongly that there should be safe spaces, as provided for under the Equalities Act.”

The Labour leader told listeners: “For 99.9-whatever% of women, it’s all a matter of biology”. He continued: “Obviously, there are some people who don’t identify with the gender they’re born into.

“I’m not going to just disrespect them and pretend they don’t exist, and that’s why we need to modernise the legislation that we’ve got. But that can be done respecting safe spaces etc., which are very, very important.”

Starmer added: “I believe in integrity and fairness in sport, and that means that biological women need to be safeguarded in that environment as well. We should have a proper, open, decent, respectful discussion about this. Balances are going to have to be struck, of course.”

Below is the full text of the open letter to Keir Starmer.

Dear Keir,

We previously wrote to you on the 1st of November asking to meet with you about your interview with Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts. We wanted to discuss with you a number of concerns raised by the interview about Labour’s commitment to supporting transgender-inclusive policies.

We are disappointed not to have received a response from you, but our invitation is still on the table. LGBTQ+ members and voters have a number of serious concerns around the party’s approach to trans issues, and as we mentioned in our original letter, your Mumsnet interview has unfortunately put Labour’s relationship with the LGBTQ+ community under further strain. We’d like nothing more than for you to have an opportunity to clarify some of the concerns raised and assuage the concerns of trans and LGBTQ+ people.

In the interview on the 28th of October, you appeared to endorse changes to the Equality Act of 2010 which would exclude trans people from accessing services they’re currently entitled to use.

You also unwittingly used harmful rhetoric in regards to trans people being a threat in sport, as well as “wholeheartedly” supporting the disregard of Gillick competency – a long-standing medical principle that protects children from abuse from parents.

Transphobia, like any kind of prejudice, should not be welcome in the Labour Party. We urge you to listen to the trans community in this moment and to mend the party’s relationship with them before it’s irreversibly fractured. This Conservative government represents the greatest threat to us since the days of Section 28 – we need to be able to trust that Labour would be an ally in the project to build a progressive Britain.

We need a Labour Party that rejects bigotry, and holds members accountable for transphobic behaviour. We need a Labour Party that embraces acceptance and tolerance.

There can be no delay when our lives are on the line and the people we love are under attack.

Yours sincerely,

Labour for Trans Rights

Co-signed:

UNISON LGBT+
Young Labour
Labour Students
TransLucent.org.uk
LGBT+ Socialists
United We Stand – Solidarity Network
Reclaim Pride Liverpool
Michelle Snow, What The Trans
Ashleigh Talbot, What The Trans
Ben Swithen, What The Trans
Alex, What The Trans

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