This is not the time to start campaigning against trans rights in the Labour Party, as some members unfortunately are doing. This election may unseat a Tory government which has created chaos, division and hatred, damaged the economy, set British people against each other and ruined our social safety net. Trans women are in all parties, and trans women like me are canvassing, leafleting and working for a Labour government. However a group seeking to roll back the rights of trans women and denying that trans women are women have started a campaign within the Labour Party, SNP and other parties to exclude trans women from women’s spaces.
This is my draft of an answering declaration, in solidarity with trans women, for when any woman suffers discrimination we all suffer.
1. Women and girls are subject to many forms of oppression. We are all subject to sexism. Some of us are subject to oppression because we are trans women, some because of our skin colour or national origin, some because we have disabilities, some because we are lesbian, some because we are pregnant, some for other reasons or several reasons. None of this oppression is acceptable.
2. Women are strongest when we are in solidarity, and others hear our voices and support our aims. We recognise that if discrimination against any group of women is normalised we all lose. We oppose discrimination against trans women.
3. We are concerned at the several campaigns to exclude trans women from women’s spaces. We recognise that no trans woman is a threat to any other woman simply because she is a trans woman. We do not judge any group by the actions of one or more of its members, and we reject attempts to foment prejudice against trans women because of the actions of any individual trans woman.
4. We recognise that transphobia and transmisogyny exist. Where any woman objects to the presence of trans women we will hear her, and seek to grow sisterly solidarity.
5. We recognise the campaign of vilification and hatred against trans women. We oppose all speech designed to foment anger or fear against trans women. We recognise it is hate speech.
6. We do not want trans women excluded from sports. We accept that the IOC rules requiring sustained reduction of testosterone levels are reasonable, and that trans women complying with sporting bodies’ rules should be allowed to participate.
7. We support women’s human rights. We recognise the widespread discrimination and problems of women including period poverty, unequal pay, unequal expectations in caring roles or house work, domestic violence… We oppose the diversion of women’s campaigning energy into a divisive campaign to exclude trans women.
(Note this in particular needs careful drafting. There are many threats to women’s rights and freedoms. Concentrating on trans exclusion helps no woman.)
8. Trans women are women.
Here is the petition drafted by some trans excluders, with my notes.
1. Women and girls are subject to discrimination and oppression on the basis of their sex.
This excludes trans women, because there is an implicit assertion that trans women are female by gender not by sex. We suffer sexism because we are women, and transphobia because we are trans women.
2. Women have the right to freedom of belief, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly (Articles 18, 19 and 20 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights).
3. Women have the right to discuss policies which affect them, without being abused, harassed or intimidated.
Yes; but trans allies are entitled to object to meetings whose purpose is to foment anger and fear against trans people. Some organisations take discrimination and inclusion seriously, and so refuse to let rooms for attempts to foment trans exclusion.
4. Women have the right to maintain their sex-based protections, as set out in the Equality Act 2010. These include female-only spaces such as changing rooms, hospital wards, sanitary and sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostels and prisons.
There is an argument that trans women are female by gender but not by sex. Some people assert you cannot change sex. While these are often semantic issues, semantics or beliefs about sex and gender should not be used to exclude trans women from women’s space. Trans women are women.
5. Women have the right to participate in single-sex sports, to ensure fairness and safety at all levels of competition.
Trans women should not be excluded from sport where we are demonstrably trans women, by reduction of testosterone levels. In amateur sports such as fun runs trans women should be accepted as women if they say they are.
6. Women have the right to organise themselves, as a sex, across a range of cultural, leisure, educational and political activities.
Yes, insofar as permitted by the Equality Act.
7. We condemn all attempts to undermine or limit the rights of women to self-organise and call on the Labour Party and the trades union movement to actively support these essential freedoms.
Condemnation of hate speech, disagreement, and refusal to provide platforms for those spreading fear or anger against trans women should be the position of the Labour Party. The Labour Party has women’s rights in its rule book, in women’s forums, officers, additional delegates and women only short lists.
Utterly distressed by reading that discriminatory declaration, I went out campaigning. It’s wonderful to speak to a former Tory worried about the direction their party is taking, who will now vote Labour.