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Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves stressed that women and trans people “are not enemies of each other” after being confronted with a loaded question on gender self-ID.
The Labour MP said in an interview with Channel 4 News Monday evening (27 September) that the so-called “debate” over trans rights in Britain has become “too toxic”.
Channel 4 News presenter Cathy Newman put Reeves on the spot with a question conflating Keir Starmer’s support of reforming the Gender Recognition Act to give trans people the right to self-identify with access to single-sex spaces, which is governed by the Equality Act.
“The Labour leader’s policy is to allow trans people to self-identify their gender,” Newman said. “Does that mean if someone was born male, but self-identifies as a woman, says they’re a woman, that they could access a women’s refuge?”
.@cathynewman asks Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves: "The Labour leader's policy is to allow trans people to self-identify their gender. Does that mean if someone was born male, but self-identifies as a woman… that they could access a women's refuge?" pic.twitter.com/uNiNOauIqu
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) September 27, 2021
Reeves, the MP for Leeds West, ruled out a Labour government changing the Equality Act, which among other things protects the rights of trans people to access single-sex spaces. A service can only exclude a trans person if it is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
“The Equality Act says that there should be safe spaces for people and so no, it wouldn’t mean those things,” she began, before Newman interrupted: “Then that’s not self-ID… self-ID is someone saying: ‘I am a woman, therefore I’m entitled to all the services that any other woman is entitled to.'”
Reeves continued: “The Equality Act explicitly – and we wouldn’t change that – says that there should be places for people, where necessary, for people of a biological sex.
“But look, I think the people that make the incredibly difficult choice to identify as the gender […] different from the sex they were born, that’s incredibly difficult. I would support anybody that made that decision and made that difficult journey.
She added: “I think this debate has become far too toxic. [Cis] women face discrimination in their everyday lives, trans women face discrimination in their everyday lives.
“They’re not the enemy of each other. We need to bring people together, not divide people. This is just one more division we could do without. And I think this is a false dichotomy to say these rights are being traded off against each other.”
Reeves emphatically added: “I support women’s rights. I support trans rights – and I think most people are in the same place.”
Channel 4 presenter slammed for ‘divisive’ questions on trans rights
Newman’s interview was described as “divisive” by viewers, who accused the broadcaster for “wilfully misrepresenting” the GRA and the Equality Act.
“Cathy Newman willfully misrepresenting what ‘self-ID’ means here,” said one Twitter user. “Self-ID is just about GRA reform, it has nothing to do with single-sex spaces.”
There was upset over a since-deleted tweet by Newman, which claimed Reeves had said trans women would not be able to access women’s refuge under a Labour government.
One user said Newman’s “shameful” tweet caused them “a lot of stress and panic”.
Cathy Newman’s earlier tweet about this caused me a lot of stress and panic and it was completely disingenuous and misrepresented what was said.
Why cause people panic and have them worry about their existing legal rights for clicks?
Its shameful behaviour.
— Alex – Fold Up Toy Designer✂️📦 (@FoldUpToys) September 27, 2021
Lat year, a women’s refuge volunteer explained to PinkNews how there is a screening process that every woman goes through before gaining entry to a refuge.
PinkNews asked whether, as anti-trans campaigners claim, a cisgender man pretending to be a transgender woman could get through this screening process in order to gain access to vulnerable women living in refuges.
“I would say that it was impossible for a cis man to get through the screening process,” the volunteer said.
Labour seized by ‘distracting’ cervix discourse
The Labour Party has been seized by a toxic debate on trans rights in recent weeks, after Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield claimed that she had no choice but to skip the Labour Party Conference because of opposition to her so-called “gender critical” views.
Starmer was subsequently questioned about past comments made by Duffield about trans people. Duffield faced widespread criticism from LGBT+ groups in August 2020 when she claimed in a tweet that “only women have a cervix”.
Starmer called for a more mature and respectful “debate” on trans rights – even though human rights activists warn that framing it as a debate is “toxic” – and said that it was incorrect to say only women have a cervix. In the days since, the question of who does and does not have a cervix has dominated news cycles.
Trans men and non-binary people warn the question is not just degrading – it also distracts from vital issues.
PinkNews contacted Channel 4 for comment.