Political parties can decide to attempt to increase the number of women in Parliament, by only selecting women candidates for particular seats. This is the All Women Shortlist (AWS). A bunch of TERFs is trying to get the Labour Party to exclude trans women from all-women shortlists. We believe that the election of self-identifying transwomen as women’s officers and their inclusion on all-women shortlists is reducing and undermining female representation in the Labour party.
We are absolutely committed to trans people, as a marginalised group, living free from discrimination and violence: we need trans representatives, trans councillors and trans MPs in our party. We are socialists and we are egalitarians. However, trans representation must not happen at the expense of female candidates and we are furious that we are having to fight another battle for women’s representation, just 100 years after the suffragette victories.
I would not write off that “absolute commitment” to trans people, they want a place for us and I want to challenge them to state what it should be; I put a message on Jennifer James’ facebook page, and will see if she replies or just deletes it. Now, it is by being accepted in society as women.
The next bit is legal stuff. An all woman shortlist which includes trans women without a gender recognition certificate is open to legal challenge, and I state why.
The Equality Act applies. Normally an AWS would be discrimination against men on the grounds of sex, so s104 gives specific permission while women are underrepresented. If any protected characteristic, such as disabled people, is underrepresented the party can make efforts to encourage potential candidates, but only for sex can the party make a shortlist only of those candidates.
After a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) I am a woman, and if I claim sex discrimination I need to show a man is treated better. I can still claim discrimination on the grounds of “gender reassignment” (not gender identity). A man can claim discrimination because women are favoured, unless an exception applies, but a cis person cannot claim discrimination because trans people are favoured.
All AWS must be open to trans women who have gained a GRC. However, a man could argue that an AWS which included a trans woman without a GRC was not entitled to the exception in s104, and so discriminated against him. A woman could argue that an AWS including a trans woman breached Labour Party rules, as the rules should be presumed to comply with discrimination law.
And we’re back. It could mean a legal debate about what “sex” or “woman” means. Emotionally, I like the idea that I have always been a woman. My most important transition moments are, first, changing my name and going to work expressing myself female; then deciding to transition, and having my operation. Gaining my GRC is a long way behind, less significant than getting my bank account, passport and driving licence in my female name. It was done by then.
I think both allies and opponents would agree. Those enthusiastically declaring “Trans women are women” and those who think we are perverts don’t think the moment of acquiring the GRC is particularly important. And yet in law it is.
That is why the consultation is important. We need to be able to get a GRC without a psychiatrist’s say-so. That I have changed my name and intend to live life long as a woman is enough. Now, getting a GRC is expensive and humiliating, but there is different treatment once you get one.
There can be disabled-only shortlists, because it is not unlawful to discriminate in favour of disabled people; but even though we are in the ICD and DSM, few of us would claim disability. A debate on whether trans women without a GRC are women would go back to Corbett v Corbett, orse Ashley. The psychiatrists would not speak for us: why do they call an androphile trans woman a “homosexual transsexual”? The law is confused- the Equality Act refers to “gender reassignment” of “transsexual persons”- but I doubt it would say my sex is female before a GRC, and it may not say so after.