Keir Starmer sparked both praise and fury as he reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to reforming the Gender Recognition Act and introducing self-identification for trans people.
The Labour leader made the pledge to the LGBT+ community as part of a video message for PinkNews‘ Pride for All celebrations on Wednesday (9 June).
In the message, he harked back to the struggle for equality at the heart of Pride, reminding viewers of how “that struggle continues today” as the pandemic exacerbates injustices.
“LGBT+ people still face discrimination in the workplace, hate crime continues to rise, trans people are one of the most discriminated groups in our society,” he said.
“Labour knows how much work there is to do. We will always stand as an ally with the LGBT+ community in the fight for true equality.
“We’re campaigning to ensure conversion therapy is banned once and for all, and we’re committed to updating the GRA to introduce self-declaration for trans people.”
Keir Starmer has previously spoken of the “desperate” need to reform the GRA and allow trans people to self-identify at the 2020 PinkNews Awards.
Starmer’s decisive call for action drew a sharp contrast from the Tories and won him effusive praise from LGBT+ veteran Michael Cashman, who said he planned to rejoin the party.
“Absolutely brilliant. No equivocation. This is what I call leadership. Congratulations Keir Starmer,” Cashman tweeted. “Tomorrow I apply to rejoin Labour.”
Others remained unconvinced, pointing to Starmer’s reluctance to condemn alleged transphobia in the Labour party or suspend Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield for her repeated anti-trans comments.
But for many anti-trans voters, his continued support for GRA reform was the final straw.
“For as long as Labour supports this policy I will never vote for them,” commented one Twitter user. “How out of touch he is,” said another. “Labour are finished.”
The hashtag #Labourlosingwomen soon began trending online as transphobes vowed – not for the first time – to leave the Labour party.
But outside the Twittersphere, their boasts that Labour is now “finished” carried little weight while statistics show that transphobic views remain nothing more than a disruptive minority in the UK.
According to figures from the EHRC, obtained from the 2019 British Social Attitudes survey, 76 per cent of people in the UK believe prejudice against transgender people is always or mostly wrong.
And a massive 57 per cent of women surveyed by YouGov for PinkNews agreed that trans people should be able to self-identify as their chosen gender, compared with 43 per cent of men from an overall sample of UK adults.
Only 21 per cent of women said they were against trans people self-identifying, compared with 33 per cent of men.
In his speech for PinkNews, Keir Starmer spoke of his pride in the Labour party, “which has a long history of standing with the LGBT+ community and working with you to advance your rights.”
“The values of equality, of justice and of fairness, are so important to me,” he continued. He’s unlikely to seek a demographic that doesn’t want the same.