Keir Starmer says “Trans women are women”

Will Labour politicians admit trans women are women, and just say so clearly?

On 8 March, (question at 19.50) anti-trans campaigner Emma Barnett demanded Anneliese Dodds tell her the “Labour definition” of the word woman.

Dodds said there are different definitions, the legal definition and the biological definition. To me, the biological definition includes trans women: I am not a ghost or a computer simulation, I am as biological as anyone. Dodds said it depends on context, which is pretty much what the Court of Session said. Then Dodds said that those who have to transition, live as women and want to be defined as women. That’s what the GRA is for.

Dodds may be misunderstanding. That’s what the Equality Act is for: we are treated as women, and truthfully called women.

Then anti-trans campaigners The Times questioned Yvette Cooper on 9 March. She just refused to answer. She refused to go down the “rabbit hole”- she was there to talk about International Women’s Day, so did not want to talk of the definition of woman. Given that The Times is so hostile to trans women, this is understandable, but disappointing. The Times called it “Labour’s rabbit hole,” but the rabbit hole is entirely of the anti-trans campaigners’ making.

Finally the Times tackled Keir Starmer on 12 March. He said female adults are women, “and in addition to that trans women are women”. Finally. “Trans women are women,” says Keir Starmer. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? He said that’s the law under the GRA and the Equality Act.

What would I say? This is my definition. I would start by simply saying “trans women are women”. If pressed, there are various further things you can say:

Women are so varied. Some women are Scots, and some are English. Some are young, some are old. Most are not trans women, but some are.

Some women have differences of sexual development and are still women. So I would not insist that a “woman” had a female reproductive system because that would exclude many women. Why should women be excluded?

The Court of Session said a trans woman saying “I am a woman” was telling the truth, and it’s sad that we should need the Court of Session, the highest civil court in Scotland, to say so. The Equality Act says trans women should be treated as women.

Most women are not trans. And some women are trans women. Language and categories have to fit reality. If trans women don’t fit your categories, you should change your categories, not erase a whole class of women.

I would hope not to need this one, but- most mammals give birth to live young, and some mammals lay eggs. Are platypuses not mammals?

Added: when anti-trans campaigners use the phrase “biological men” they do not define the term. Including people with Klinefelter’s syndrome but not androgen insensitivity is difficult, and involves a lot of clarifications. Basically, they are Tweedledum: they mean “people I think are men”.

4 thoughts on “Keir Starmer says “Trans women are women”

  1. “…Language and categories have to fit reality. If trans women don’t fit your categories, you should change your categories, not erase a whole class of women.”

    We suffer in the west from insistence on bilateralism, opposites and nothing betwixt or between. We cause that suffering ourselves, and then project it onto those we despise. How much simpler, just to allow what is… But many people cannot allow others, which means they are desperate to control others.

    Which is peculiar, given how hard it is just to live well enough for ourselves. That challenge alone gives me more than enough to do.

    Thank you so much for your carefully considered, fluent and beautifully expressed posts. You are a writer of calming genius.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you. I may quote you on that.

      Have you noticed how few anti-trans campaigners say “trans women are not women”? Instead they say riddles, which seek to appear to be obvious statements but in fact are revolutionary, and would tear down the Equality Act, such as, “Biological men should not be in women’s services.” But, defining “biological men” is difficult. To exclude all people who are men socially and exclude all who are women socially you have lots of exceptions.

      Only allowing what is, without resisting and categorising, works. Grammar is a useful example. I used to be a terrible grammar pedant. I feel adults are more aware of tone-switching, more aware of variations of grammar and less prescriptive, though the National Curriculum in England is working hard the other way. (Oops- here is a Scottish site on “fronted adverbials”.)

      People want categories, because they want to understand. Language facilitates thinking in categories, such that language which is not binary tends to sound all weird and mystic.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for your writing on these issues. I have found it very hard to think about all of these things and having someone else doing that emotional labour is hugely appreciated.

    Thank goodness Starmer has finally said it, what concerns me is his long build to a fairly uncontroversial point. At least there are now two political parties who accept this truth openly in England. Thank God for Scotland!


    • Sometimes the emotional labour is difficult, as with reading the anti-trans but also ridiculous and paranoid rantings of such as Bernard Jenkin MP. And I do want to read it, to find the root of its wrongness.


All comments welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.