Dear Andy Burnham…

This is a letter written by Cathy Devine to Andy Burnham, Mayor of Manchester in response to his support for faster implementation of gender recognition legislation in a letter also signed by Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London), Steve Rotherham (May of Liverpool) and Dan Jarvis (Sheffield).

Cathy Devine is an independent researcher and has given us permission to publish her letter.

Dear Andy Burnham

I am writing after reading that you are a signatory to a letter to Penny Mordaunt which urges the Government to speed up changes to make it easier for trans people to have their gender identity recognised in law and remove the gatekeeping measures which currently exist in the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and benefit both transsexual people and girls and women.

I am a Labour Party member in Greater Manchester and an academic whose research specialises in human rights legislation and the Equality Act in relation to girls and women’s rights. My current project looking at the intersection between girls and women’s rights and transgender rights in sport was reported in the Guardian last month.

A Labour Government was responsible for introducing the 2010 Equality Act into the legislature and it quite rightly separately protects girls and women from direct and indirect discrimination via the protected characteristic of ‘sex’ and trans people from direct and indirect discrimination via the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’.

However, the terms transsexual and transgender have very different meanings [1]. Whereas the GRA was drawn up to cater for around 5000 transsexual people, it is estimated there are around 500 000 people who identify as transgender [2]. This is a much more diverse population of people as defined by Stonewall and includes, for example, cross dressers [3]. In addition, it is estimated that over 80% of transpeople who identify as transwomen retain their male genitalia [4].

Changing the definition of people who can be legally recognised as the opposite sex and increasing the numbers 100-fold will obviously have impacts on the protected characteristic of sex. Consequently, it is incorrect to say that the provisions outlined in the Equality Act will not change, as the very definition of who can change their protected characteristic of sex will change with the introduction of self-identification of gender and the numbers increase around 100-fold.

My concern with your letter is that nowhere do you recognise the knock-on effect for girls and women’s rights or even indicate that you have consulted with female constituents in Greater Manchester. The optics of four male mayors and the male CEO of the LGBT Foundation discounting any impacts on girls and women’s rights is really worrying for Labour. It is clear that you have consulted with the LGBT Foundation but it is unclear whether or not you have consulted with any women’s campaign groups such as Manchester Feminist Network, Woman’s Place UK, Transgender Trend, or Fair Play for Women.

The level of support for self-identification of gender is low and it is important that people are consulted on these fundamental proposals regarding changing the very definition of the female and male legal sexes and knock-on effects for a range of policy areas [5;6;7]. The 2017 Labour Party Manifesto gives a clear commitment to ‘gender audit all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation’ and yet this commitment appears to have been brushed aside as inconsequential.

I would really welcome the opportunity for some of the many Labour Party women members including several academics (including scientists & historians) and girls and women’s rights specialists, who have concerns about the reframing of girls and women’s rights as transphobic and about self-identification of gender to come and meet with you to discuss the issues from the point of view of girls and women.

Of particular concern is the fact that 75% of the huge increase in children referred to the Tavistock clinic are girls. The research shows that the majority of these children will grow up to be lesbians and there is deep concern from clinical experts that these children may be misdiagnosed as transgender [8;9;10]. There are additional concerns for example is relation to prisons [11] and the legal consequences of enshrining gender identity in law as in the case in Canada [12].

Finally, I urge you to please consult meaningfully with Labour Party members about this issue and recommit to gender (meaning sex) audit all proposed Labour Party policy and legislation as outlined in the 2017 Manifesto.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding setting up a meeting.

With best wishes,

Cathy Devine

Independent Researcher

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