If you needed any sign that the Labour party is still deeply confused about gender identity and sex, look no further than the Labour leader Keir Starmer’s comments this week.
Asked by the Times to define a woman, Starmer replied that:
“A woman is a female adult, and in addition to that trans women are women, and that is not just my view — that is actually the law. It has been the law through the combined effects of the 2004 [Gender Recognition] Act and the 2010 [Equality] Act. So that’s my view. It also happens to be the law in the United Kingdom.”Keir Starmer
If Keir Starmer thinks that I am a woman, I am delighted to tell him the truth. Transwomen (like me) are male, while women (like my wife) are female. Biology does not lie, male is not female, and therefore transwomen are not women. Shocking that might sound to some ears, the logic is inescapable and the sky does not fall in when you admit it.
He’s wrong about the law too. The Equality Act does not change anyone’s sex – legal or otherwise. The Equality and Human Rights Commission was clear about that back in 2018:
“In UK law, ‘sex’ is understood as binary, with a person’s legal sex being determined by what is recorded on their birth certificate.”EHRC
And the Gender Recognition Act draws a very clear line between the sexes. Specifically, with regard to peerages. According to Section 16, ‘The fact that a person’s gender has become the acquired gender under this Act does not affect the descent of any peerage or dignity or title of honour.’
In a nutshell, this means that a man will not be disinherited should his older sister transition from female to male. And he keeps his inheritance if he transitions the other way. The law does not mess about when men’s sex-based rights are at stake.
What the Equality Act does do is protect ‘transsexual people’ against less favourable treatment if we have undergone (or propose to undergo) a process of gender reassignment, and rightly so.
Few people would be expected to know such esoteric detail, but Starmer is a former Director of Public Prosecutions and really should know better.
The reason for his answer and his rejection of basic biology, of course, is the vexed question: ‘what is a woman?’. Senior Labour politicians appear to be under orders to obfuscate, prevaricate, or do anything to avoid giving a straight answer to this. On Tuesday – International Women’s Day, of all days – Anneliese Dodds tied herself in knots to avoid giving a straight answer on Woman’s Hour. When faced with the same question, Yvette Cooper explained that she was ‘avoiding going down rabbit holes.’
Labour’s problem is that the entire party has fallen down a rabbit hole on one of the most basic facts of life. The party has been enchanted by the idea that men can become women and – presumably – women can become men, though we hear rather less about that. In their fantasy world, men and women are distinguished not by biological sex, but by gender identity. It is a matter of faith that can neither be proved nor falsified, like transubstantiation perhaps?
But while some Christians might believe earnestly that bread can be transformed into flesh, they do not tend to impose the idea on wider society. But the evangelists of gender identity ideology are not satisfied with an agreement to disagree over whether men can be transformed into women. They take no prisoners in their zeal to change society. And dissenters like JK Rowling and Rosie Duffield have faced harassment, abuse, and cancellation for daring to disagree.
If Starmer is serious about winning a general election he needs to stand up to the zealots. Not all Christians believe in transubstantiation, and not all trans people believe that transwomen are women. Indeed, those of us in touch with reality may well thank him for pointing this out.
The answer is simple. A woman is an adult human female – a human being characterised by female biology. Whatever nonsense Starmer has been led to believe, trans people do not need to pretend to be something that we are not in order to be protected against discrimination and abuse, and provided with the services we need.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.