Labour politicians slammed for ‘trying to erase’ UK transphobia from anti-LGBT+ hate resolution

Tonia Antoniazzi was one of the Labour MPs who proposed the amendments.

A group of Labour MPs and peers have been accused of trying to play down the UK’s transphobia problem in an international resolution on anti-LGBT+ hate.

The amendments came during a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Made up of parliamentarians from 47 member states, including the UK, it debates current social problems and international politics and it recommends policies that should be adopted by individual governments.

On Tuesday (25 January), PACE debated a resolution to combat rising hate against LGBT+ people across Europe – but a series of Labour amendments ended up dominating proceedings.

The original resolution noted that “substantial progress” had been made on tackling hate crime and discrimination against LGBT+ people in Europe, but it also drew attention to the “marked increase in hate speech, violence, and hate crime against LGBTI people” in member states.

The resolution also condemned “with particular force the extensive and often virulent attacks on the rights of LGBTI people that have been occurring for several years in, amongst other countries, Hungary, Poland, the Russian Federation, Turkey and the United Kingdom”.

Labour representatives claimed it’s ‘not relevant’ to reference UK’s backslide on LGBT+ rights

Labour MPs Tonia Antoniazzi, Kate Osamor and Ruth Jones teamed up with House of Lords members Lord George Foulkes and Baroness Doreen E Massey to propose that the UK be removed from that list. Addressing her fellow parliamentarians, Antoniazzi said it was “not relevant” to include the UK among other countries where LGBT+ rights have been under attack.

“That is not to deny that we do have problems in the United Kingdom with rising hate crime,” Antoniazzi said. “However, we are not to be put in the bracket with other countries that have worse crimes and rate of problems.”

Margreet De Boer from the Netherlands said the report behind the resolution had made it very clear “what’s happening in the UK with violent attacks on trans people”.

“I think that, for a balanced report and a balanced resolution, it’s very important also to mention it, because it is in the report, so it should be in the resolution as well,” De Boer said. The amendment was ultimately rejected.

The same Labour representatives also proposed a series of other amendments around the use of the word “sex” and descriptions about gender identity.

Keir Starmer at the 2018 Labour Party conference

Keir Starmer has faced criticism for refusing to clamp down on transphobia in the party. (Leon Neal/Getty)

One paragraph in the resolution reads: “The Assembly condemns the highly prejudicial anti-gender, gender critical and anti-trans narratives which reduce the fight for the equality of LGBTI people to what these movements deliberately mis-characterise as ‘gender ideology’ or ‘LGBTI ideology’.” It went on to suggest that such narratives “dehumanise” LGBT+ people and “falsely portray their rights as being in conflict with women’s and children’s rights.”

Antoniazzi, Osamor, Jones, Lord Foulkes and Baroness Massey proposed that the entire paragraph be deleted.

They also tried to insert an amendment that would require certain support services to be “segregated where necessary according to sex”. That amendment was widely shared on social media and has attracted significant criticism.

The parliament ultimately accepted one of the Labour representatives’ amendments and inserted “sex” alongside other protected characteristics. Antoniazzi said she was pleased they had voted in favour as “sex” is a protected characteristic under the UK’s Equality Act.

It wasn’t just Labour representatives who had issues with the resolution – Conservative MP John Howell also spoke out against it, saying he didn’t know “where to begin”.

“This report is atrocious,” he told the parliament. He refused to congratulate the rapporteur behind the resolution and accused him of presenting opinions “as if they were fact”.

The parliament ultimately voted in favour of the resolution despite vocal opposition from some members.

Labour has a ‘deep-rooted problem with institutional transphobia’

There has been an outpouring of anger and frustration from LGBT+ people on social media since the amendments came to light.

Among the most vocal critics was Dr Heather Peto, who quit as the first ever trans co-chair of LGBT+ Labour in January 2021. She condemned the Labour representatives on Twitter, saying their amendments provided “a further example that Labour has a deep rooted problem with institutional transphobia”.

Others were quick to express their disappointment at the approach taken by Labour representatives in the parliament, including activist Christine Burns who said the Labour delegation were “trying to erase official commentary about how bad it [UK transphobia] is”.

The parliament’s suggestion that the UK is faltering on LGBT+ rights is well-founded. In 2021, the UK tumbled to tenth place on ILGA-Europe’s equality index, which ranks all the countries in Europe on their commitment to LGBT+ rights and equality. The UK used to top the ranking, but human rights experts warned last year that it was in freefall due to transphobic hate speech.

The furore is just the latest chapter in the Labour Party’s ongoing struggle with transphobia and LGBT+ inclusion. The party has repeatedly come under fire from LGBT+ members over its reluctance to meaningfully combat transphobia.

A source familiar with those issues told PinkNews that all of the amendments tabled by the Labour representatives are part of a “huge anti-trans insistence” that biological sex is innate and cannot be changed.

“It sounds to me as if they’re trying to whitewash the UK because they don’t recognise their criticisms of trans people as being offensive,” the source said.

PinkNews has contacted Antoniazzi, Osamor, Jones, Lord Foulkes and Baroness Massey for comment.