Let trans people self-identify their gender, Corbyn urges May

Labour leader says party would support any attempt to change law that would remove need for medical checks

Jeremy Corbyn has challenged Theresa May to allow people to self-identify as transgender without having to go through medical checks, pledging that Labour would support any government attempt to change the law.

Speaking at a reception on Tuesday night, hosted by Pink News to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, the Labour leader said the struggle goes on for LGBT rights but there must be a particular effort to advance trans rights.

The prime minister’s deal with the socially conservative DUP means she could struggle to push through reforms to the Gender Recognition Act without opposition backing.

But Corbyn said May would have his support if she scrapped the requirement for trans people to undergo medical tests, and instead allowed them to self-identify their gender, saying legislation could be passed with Labour backing if the Tories and DUP had a free vote.

“Discrimination has gone on too long. The Gender Recognition Act does not allow trans people to self-identify their gender and forces them to undergo invasive medical tests. This is wrong,” he said.

“Labour recognised this in our manifesto, pledging to update the act. Theresa May told Pink News that ‘changes need to be made’ but failed to include anything on this in the Conservative manifesto.

“So, I say to her today, Labour will help you keep your promise. Bring forward a bill to update the act and improve trans rights and Labour will back you. You can give your MPs and the DUP a free vote and Labour will make it law.”

May indicated before the election that the government was reviewing the law but the change has long been demanded by equal rights campaigners.

Corbyn made the speech at Speaker’s House in London during a reception held by John Bercow, the Speaker of the Commons, and Norman Fowler, the Lord Speaker.

He also criticised Donald Trump’s “disturbing” approach to LGBT rights, and condemned the violence against gay men in Chechnya.

Bercow told the gathering it was time for the Church of England to allow churches to perform gay marriage ceremonies.

“There’s always a balance to be struck – we don’t want to ‎behave as though it’s all over, that everything has been done ... Because that isn’t true I still feel that we can only really have equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so,” he said.

Justine Greening, the education secretary, who last year became the first female cabinet minister to reveal she was in a same-sex relationship, did not mention changing the gender recognition law in her speech but pledged to fight for progress in LGBT rights. She said there were still “too many pockets of communities in the country for whom LGBT rights are a mistake and think things have gone too far.”

Greening said the government and parliament has to “keep on pushing for progress” to make sure there are advances in LGBT rights but that there was a long way to go.

• This article was amended on 19 July 2017 to include the information that the reception was hosted by Pink News.


Rowena Mason

The GuardianTramp

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