As Keir Starmer still struggles to tell us what he thinks the word ‘woman’ means, some much-needed common sense has been injected into the transgender debate. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published guidance for providers of single-sex and separate-sex services: in short, it says bathrooms and domestic abuse refuges can be single sex in certain circumstances. This is welcome news for women – and for transgender folk like me.
As a paid-up member of the Labour party, it’s rare that I agree wholeheartedly with a Conservative politician. But Boris Johnson has spoken some much-needed common sense in the gender debate. ‘When it comes to distinguishing between a man and a woman,’ the PM told MPs yesterday, ‘the basic facts of biology remain overwhelmingly important.’
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.
Andrew Marr’s question was simple and straightforward, ‘[Is] someone who thinks that only women have a cervix welcome in the Labour party?’ As a party member who still clings to science and reason, I willed Keir Starmer to give a simple and straightforward answer. Instead, he blustered:
Well, Andrew, we need to have a mature, respectful debate about trans rights and we need to, I think, bear in mind that the trans community are amongst the most marginalised and abused communities.Keir Starmer
News that Rosie Duffield will be missing the Labour Party conference over threats to her personal security brings to a head an appalling situation where a female Labour MP cannot stand up for the rights of women without triggering opprobrium. Keir Starmer cannot and must not sit on the fence any longer. Maybe he is trying to sit tight and hope that this goes away? This seems unlikely: Duffield’s opponents are motivated by an evangelistic zeal to silence those who dare to disagree with them.
I grew up in 1980s County Durham; it felt at the time like a People’s Democratic Republic. When the miners went on strike in 1984, Labour held 53 of the 72 seats on the county council. But whatever impression southerners might get from watching Billy Elliot, boys like me did not engage in ballet. Labour may have been in charge, but attitudes were socially conservative. We played football and supported the Toon, or Newcastle United to give them their official name. Allegiance to Sunderland raised eyebrows — in my town at least — while Manchester United was beyond the pale.
LGBT+ Labour might be a fringe group in the minds of traditional Labour voters but they have the power to extract a grovelling apology from Keir Starmer.