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Mixed reaction in Wales for Labour’s new policy on trans rights

02 Aug 2023 5 minute read
Anneliese Dodds, Shadow women and equalities secretary PA Images Yui Mok

Martin Shipton

The Labour Party’s clarification of its policy on the issue of trans rights has received a mixed reaction in Wales.

The UK party’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Anneliese Dodds announced last week that Labour will “modernise, simplify and reform” gender recognition law, while pulling back from the idea of allowing individuals the right to register their gender without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party government – supported by Scottish Labour – introduced legislation to allow self-registration.

But the law was overruled by the UK Parliament following a row over the convicted double rapist Isla Bryson’s wish to identify as a woman and be transferred to a women’s prison.

In an article in the Guardian, Ms Dodds stated: “We will remove invasive bureaucracy and simplify the process. However, the law must also protect legitimate applications. Last year, the SNP’s cavalier approach to reforming gender recognition laws seemed to be more about picking a fight with Westminster than bringing about meaningful change.

The safeguards that were proposed to protect women and girls from predators who might abuse the system were simply not up to scratch. As a result, the Scottish government is still picking up the pieces, with trans rights no further forward.

Gender dysphoria

“We will not make the same mistakes. The requirement to obtain a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria remains an important part of accessing a gender recognition certificate. That’s especially the case now that gender dysphoria is no longer classified – and stigmatised – as a psychiatric disorder.

“It can help refer trans people into the NHS for support services – nearly a quarter of trans people don’t know how to access transition-related healthcare. Requiring a diagnosis upholds legitimacy of applications and confidence in the system.

“The current process also requires a panel of anonymous doctors to decide something of momentous significance, based on reams of intrusive medical paperwork and evidence of any surgery. This is demeaning for trans people and meaningless in practice. A diagnosis provided by one doctor, with a registrar instead of a panel, should be enough.”

This approach was cautiously welcomed by the group Labour Women’s Declaration Cymru, a spokeswoman for which said: “We have been very concerned that previously the Labour Party has gone along with the view that any biological male should be able to identify as a woman, with the consequence that they should be able to access spaces that should be reserved for biological females, such as women’s refuges and women’s prisons.

“Welsh Labour has stated that despite the decision of the UK Government to block self-regulation without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in Scotland, it wants to do the same thing in Wales. The current UK Government has made it clear that it wouldn’t allow the Welsh Government to do that, but until Anneliese Dodds’ statement we have been concerned that a UK Labour Government would allow self-identification. We hope we can trust Sir Keir Starmer to hold to that line if Labour wins the next general election.”

Off track

The LGBT campaign group Stonewall Cymru is less pleased with Ms Dodds’ policy clarification, backing a statement from Stonewall UK which said: “The UK has fallen off track as an international leader on LGBTQ+ rights. Just 8 years ago we had the best LGBTQ+ rights in Europe, in 2023 we stand in 17th place. We have fallen back by staying still, as other countries have progressed and modernised their legislation, particularly on trans and intersex people’s rights.

“Legal gender recognition is one of those rights where the UK has gone from leading to lagging. Passed in 2004, the UK’s Gender Recognition Act is now far behind international best practice. Crucially the 2004 Gender Recognition Act follows a medicalised model, where a trans person has to hold a medical diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’, which currently takes years to obtain, and present years of proof of ‘living in role’ to an anonymous panel to apply for a certificate.

“International leading practice has moved to a model based on legal self-determination. That is because it is inhumane and undignified to make trans people obtain a medical diagnosis to obtain legal gender recognition.

“It is wrong to suggest that safeguards cannot exist with a de-medicalised model. The Scottish Gender Recognition Reform Bill was the most scrutinised piece of legislation ever passed by the Scottish Parliament and was passed by a solid majority of MSPs with support drawn from all parties.

“Safeguarding was extensively considered by Scottish parliamentarians over the course of the Bill, including several amendments that were tabled and included to explicitly bolster protections.

“One such successful amendment was by the Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene, which created a new statutory aggravation offence connected to fraudulently obtaining a GRC. The safeguards in the Scottish Bill go much further than the UK Gender Recognition Act, and are much stronger and more specific than a GP being involved in the process, [as has now been] suggested by Labour.

“If Labour are serious about reforming the Gender Recognition Act and enhancing trans people’s legal protections, we need a strategy informed by input from trans people on their needs and priorities, and a real understanding of how practice is working internationally. Not just on legal recognition, but healthcare, anti-discrimination and education.”

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max wallis
max wallis
11 months ago

The key principle stated by Party chairman Anneliese Dodds is “sex and gender are different” and that a formal diagnosis of dysphoria will continue to be needed for transgender certification. Keir Starmer has at last agreed that women – biological women – need safe spaces. He contradicts Welsh Labour policy of requiring 3rd sector organisations like “Womens Aid” to sign up to “inclusion” of male-bodied, self-ID persons in order to qualify for WGovt grants. The new Labour statement doesn’t mention sporting teams and competitions, but Drakeford’s policy on “inclusion” is surely out of the window as well as rejected by large majorities… Read more »

11 months ago
Reply to  max wallis

Yes, there’s now a clear gap here between Welsh Labour and UK Labour. Mark Drakeford needs to address this urgently to let us all know where Welsh Labour – and the Welsh government – stands. Do they now acknowledge the legitimacy of women’s fears over self-ID, or are they still pretending it’s all just dandy?

max wallis
max wallis
11 months ago

The NHS closed down the Tavistock gender service because it followed Stonewall, effectively ignoring the “do no harm” principle when prescribing puberty-blocking drugs and sending increasing numbers of immature teenagers on the life-changing trans-pathway. Fortunately the UK medical-paediatric community has pulled us back into Scandinavian etc. best practice.

11 months ago

Labour’s “new” position is disingenuous. It says it no longer supports self-ID, yet it wants to let people change gender based on a single doctor certifying their “diagnosis” of gender dysphoria – a condition unique in relying solely on self-report (as it’s no longer considered a disorder). This is self-ID by the back door.

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