The ongoing row in the Labour party over trans rights was ramped up following party leader Sir Keir Starmer’s appearance on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday morning.
Sir Keir was asked whether Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP for Canterbury, who has faced ongoing criticism for her stance on trans rights, was correct in asserting that “only women have a cervix” and whether the statement in itself was “transphobic”. While declining to use the word “transphobic”, Sir Keir replied, “It is something that shouldn’t be said. It is not right.”
The Labour leader added: “We need to have a mature, respectful debate about trans rights and we need to bear in mind that the trans community are amongst the most marginalised and abused communities, and wherever we’ve got to on the law, we need to go further.”
Ms Duffield has chosen not to attend this year’s conference following threats and being labelled “transphobic”.
Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, who has herself courted controversy ahead of the conference by referring to Conservatives as “homophobic, racist, misogynistic … scum”, said she was shocked by the level of abuse aimed at female politicians and it was a “concern” that Ms Duffield felt unable to attend the conference.
Ms Rayner told Sky News: “What I have been shocked by, especially my female colleagues – and that’s Conservative female MPs as well – is the level of misogynist abuse they get.
“Rosie deserves our full support and protection against that and she would get that. If she had come to conference, we would have risk-assessed and made sure that she had every bit of support that she needed to be here,” she said.
“Anybody who abuses Rosie Duffield who is a member of the Labour Party would go through our formal complaints procedure and I would expect a robust response on it.”
Labour has attracted criticism from both trans and women’s rights activists for their stance on self-ID and, in particular, access to traditional “women only” spaces such as rape crisis centres and domestic violence refuges which are currently protected under the Equalities Act 2010. The party has claimed that it would uphold legislation that makes provision for single-sex spaces under certain circumstances but has so far failed to explain how this could be enforced under a system of self identification.
Responding to Sir Keir’s comments, health secretary Sajid Javid accused the Labour leader of “a total denial of scientific facts”.
Trans activist organisation Trans Actual, said it was “disgusted to see [Mr Javid] denying the reality of trans men and non-binary people]. Lots of us have cervixes. Lots of us would like them removed actually.”