Article in The Times 18 January 2018

The original article can be read here.

Fight to bar trans women from Labour shortlists

A row has erupted in Labour over a campaign to prevent trans women who have not legally changed gender from appearing on all-women shortlists for party nominations.

Almost 20 female activists from local branches across the country have started a crowdfunding campaign to fund legal battles over the issue.

They say on their page, which by last night had raised nearly £16,000, that “the election of self-identifying trans women as women’s officers, and their inclusion on all-women shortlists, is reducing and undermining female representation in the Labour Party”.

They are “committed to trans people, as a marginalised group, living free from discrimination and violence”, they say, and support trans representation, but add that it “must not happen at the expense of female candidates”.

Jennifer James, who sits on the executive of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, a left-wing pressure group, is one of the leading campaigners. She has insisted on social media that she supports all people legally recognised as women — those born female and those who have gender recognition certificates (GRCs) — on all-women shortlists, but argues against the admission of self-identifying women.

Some people oppose the process involved in obtaining a GRC, arguing that it is invasive and demeaning. Surgery is not necessary, but applicants must have a diagnosis of gender dysmorphia and proof that they have lived as their chosen gender for two years. The government is consulting on whether to make it easier for people to self-declare their gender.

The campaign to stop self-identifying trans women being on all-women shortlists has been branded transphobic and bigoted. Clive Lewis, the Labour frontbencher, tweeted: “I’ve listened to arguments on both sides & I’m happy to say I think any move to allow trans women onto all-women shortlists has my whole-hearted support. The crowdfunder . . . is wrong & should be opposed by @UKLabour.”

Ms James said: “Clive it’s not up to YOU to decide a group of Labour women are ‘wrong’ to mount a legal challenge about the misapplication of party rules.”

She told The Times that critics should “stop name-calling, then sit down and formulate an actual argument”, adding: “The whole purpose of the bigotry accusations is to stifle debate.”

Another backer is Venice Allan, a feminist campaigner who accused Labour of “an appalling, Orwellian betrayal of women” after she was asked to leave a Christmas reception because her views on trans rights made guests “feel unsafe”.

The campaign says on its page that “women, as a marginalised group, are entitled to AWS [all-women shortlists] under Equality Act 2010 exemptions. Trans people who have had gender reassignment are also, rightly, protected as a group under the act but men who simply self-ID as women are not.”

The campaign will spend the money on legal challenges to the inclusion of trans women on all-women shortlists.

A Labour spokeswoman said: “All-women shortlists in the Labour Party have always been open to all women, which of course includes trans women.”