The MP for Salford and Eccles has come out more strongly in favour of transgender rights than any Labour leadership candidate so far.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, one of the frontrunners in the Labour leadership race, voiced her unequivocal support for transgender women in a recent interview with Laura Kuenssberg. Without hesitation, Long-Bailey responded to the question “do you believe that trans women are women?” with a firm, decisive “yes”.
The question alludes to the UK’s ongoing debate on transgender rights, in which starkly opposing sides have emerged on proposed changes to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. One of the most contentious points of the debate has been on whether trans people self-declaring their gender should replace the current costly and invasive means by which they can obtain a gender recognition certificate, or GRC.
Getting a GRC allows trans people to change their birth certificate so that it aligns with their true gender, and this can provide affirmation as well as financial and legal assurances. Crucially though, transgender people can legally change their name, their passport, and use public facilities that align with their gender with or without a GRC.
The debate has seen transgender people and issues pushed into the media spotlight, and a transphobic backlash has ensued. It has been particularly toxic for transgender women, who have been vilified at every turn. The question “do you believe that trans women are women?” is being asked more and more, showing the extent to which transgender women’s identities are being questioned and undermined. As a result, transphobic hate crimes rose by 81% last year.
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While the other leadership candidates, Emily Thornberry, Lisa Nandy and Keir Starmer, have also spoken out in support of transgender rights, Long-Bailey has shown herself to be better-versed on the issues at stake for trans people. She is also the only MP in the running to have spoken publicly in support of changing the Gender Recognition Act.
When asked whether self-declaration, also called self-identification, should become law, she made the point that “self-IDing is the first step” many trans people take in their transition. Allowing trans people to obtain a GRC through the same process only makes sense – which is why six countries including Ireland, Norway and Argentina have implemented it, without incident or backlash.
She then said that yes, “it should be the law”.
Such a positive and affirmative statement from a prominent politician is much-needed in the current hostile media environment. While there were the usual comments from transphobic trolls, LGBTQ+ people on Twitter welcomed the public display of support.
The gender and identity reporter at prominent LGBTQ+ news outlet Pink News checked with their followers whether this was in fact “the firmest and most unequivocal support for trans rights from a Labour leadership hopeful so far”.
Someone else tweeted “Hugely impressed by Rebecca Long-Bailey’s unflappable answers on trans people and self-identification”, and applauded (via emoji) the politician’s refusal to be ambiguous on this contentious human rights issue.
One person simply said “Rebecca long bailey saying trans women are women gives me life”, which is very relatable.
Hopefully, as the leadership race continues, more concrete plans and policies for how Labour will tackle transphobia and advancements towards equality will be announced. So far, the fact that Long-Bailey has so openly stated her intention to put “the Labour party at the forefront” of advancing transgender rights is a very positive initial step.