By Ruth Cashman & Kas Witana candidates for Momentum NCG
The government have leaked plans to drop changes to the Gender Recognition Act to The Sunday Times. Changes drawn up under Theresa May’s government would have streamlined the legal process of changing a birth certificate by removing some barriers like medical diagnosis and lengthy and intrusive evidence procedure. Consultation on the updated Gender Recognition Act (GRA) closed in 2018 but the government has since dragged its feet on implementing it following a spectacular and well-organised backlash from opponents.
Labour seem to be doing their best to avoid taking a position on the issue, raising concern that previous support for changes to the GRA have been dropped. Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds criticism of the government was to say it was wrong to announce changes to an “extremely sensitive” policy area by leaking them to a newspaper.
This is a terrible failure in solidarity for our trans comrades. Not only should we campaign for changes to the GRA, but we must also go much further. The labour movement should be looking to integrate fights against oppression and bigotry into the broader class struggle. We should support changes which make it easier, cheaper and less degrading to change our legal gender. Self-declaration helps trans people by removing some difficulties in social recognition of their identities, helping to counteract their marginalisation. We must challenge misinformation and scaremongering about single-sex spaces. It is austerity and chronic underfunding that endanger domestic violence services and refuges, not trans women. We must campaign for better provision of holistic gender identity services and trans healthcare, which are currently seriously underfunded and inaccessible. This should be provided in an NHS in public ownership, with adequate funding and under democratic control.
Unions, the Labour Party and the labour movement must organise to tackle transphobia, sexism and harassment at work and in wider society. We have signed the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights pledges as an act of solidarity and recognition that trans people in the party and in the wider labour movement are facing a sustained period of abuse and opposition to their rights and dignities. However we have serious reservations about pledges 8 and 10. We feel that these run contrary to democratic norms and in fact do very little in terms of challenging and overcoming transphobia that does exist within our movement. The problem of transphobia in the party is not overcome by expelling X transphobes but by a serious political intervention & equipping activists with the tools to educate those around them and change people’s minds on this issue.