Labour leader Keir Starmer thinks it’s wrong to say ‘only women have a cervix’

Keir Starmer and Rosie Duffield

Keir Starmer has insisted it’s “not right” to say “only women have a cervix” as he called for a mature, respectful debate on trans rights.

The Labour leader was grilled on his party’s approach to trans issues during an appearance on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC 1 on Sunday morning (26 September).

Keir Starmer was questioned about past comments made by Canterbury MP Rosie 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”.

Marr asked Starmer if someone who believes only women have a cervix is welcome in the Labour Party.

“Look, we need to have a mature, respectful debate about trans rights and we need to, I think, bear in mind that the trans community is amongst the most marginalised, abused communities and wherever we’ve got to in the law we need to go further,” Starmer said.

“And we want to go further on that. But whatever the debate is, it needs to be a tolerant debate and I’m absolutely sure our conference will be a place that is safe for the debate to take place, and it is.”

When asked if it’s “transphobic” to say only women have a cervix, Starmer replied: “It is something that shouldn’t be said, it is not right”.

Marr went on to press Starmer on why Duffield should not have made her initial comments about trans people.

Starmer replied: “I don’t think that we can just go through various things that people have said. I spoke to Rosie earlier this week and told her conference was a safe place for her to come and it is a safe place for her to come, and I spoke to others to make exactly the same principle.”

Keir Starmer called for ‘progress’ on Gender Recognition Act reform

He continued: “We do everybody a disservice when we reduce what is a really important issue to these exchanges on particular things that are said.

“The trans community are, as I say, the most marginalised and abused of many, many communities and we need to make progress on the Gender Recognition Act.”

He added that he is “very concerned” that the “debate” around trans lives should be “conducted in a proper way in which proper views are expressed in a way that is respectful”.

The comments are among the most forthright Starmer has made when it comes to trans rights. The Labour leader has tended to avoid the topic, which has become a source of frustration among LGBT+ Labour voters.

Starmer’s appearance on The Andrew Marr Show came on the same weekend as the Labour Party conference went ahead in Brighton.

The Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) confirmed in their report to the conference that they will introduce a code of conduct relating to transphobia within the party. The news was welcomed by LGBT+ activists within the party, who had been urging the party to take action to protect trans members for some time.

Frustrations among LGBT+ Labour members reached a fever pitch in August 2020 when Rosie Duffield went public with her “gender critical” views.

Duffield, who has denied she is transphobic, initially apologised for saying only women had a cervix – but she later doubled down on her views.

She went on to “like” a tweet from anti-trans campaigner Maya Forstater that branded the Law Society’s guidance on transition in professional settings as “celebrating cross dressers in the office”.

Two staffers later resigned from her office over the issue, while LGBT+ Labour called for “swift action” to be taken against Duffield.