Labour MP Nadia Whittome calls on her own party to tackle transphobia within its ranks

Labour MP Nadia Whittome

Labour MP Nadia Whittome has called on her party to tackle transphobia within its own ranks in the wake of the government vetoing Scotland’s gender reforms, saying those who make transphobic statements should face “disciplinary action”.

On Tuesday (17 January), the secretary of state for Scotland, Alister Jack, triggered Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, which blocked the Scottish government’s plans to make it easier for people to change gender from getting royal assent. 

Following a statement to the House of Commons by Jack, a vote “to note” the motion was held on Section 35 – which passed by 318 votes to 71.

Only 11 Labour MPs rebelled against Keir Starmer’s party’s absence and voted in opposition of the government blocking the gender reform laws – including Whittome.

Nadia Whittome in a black blazer and white shirt
Nadia Whittome is one of 11 MPs who voted against Section 35 (GOV)

Speaking with PinkNews, Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome calls on Labour to address transphobic attitudes within the party. 

Her words come after the debate on Section 35 saw several Labour MPs speak in opposition to the gender bill, including Rosie Duffield, who has been previously investigated by Labour following complaints of ‘transphobic’ social media activity.

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PinkNews has contacted Rosie Duffield for comment.

“I’ve been clear that our party needs to tackle transphobia within our own ranks and have campaigned for Labour to adopt a definition of transphobia,” Whittome says.

“We should be providing a space for all Labour members to learn about the discrimination that trans people face and why urgent change is needed. 

“Those who continuously make transphobic statements should face disciplinary action, no matter their role or position in the party.

Whittome says she’s one of “many” Labour Party MPs and MSPs who are working “tirelessly” to improve trans people’s lives.

“The Tory government is hell-bent on using trans people as pawns within a culture war, so we have to get them out,” she says.

“I will be doing everything I can to ensure that our manifesto in the next General Election is one that would make a real difference to LGBTQ+ people in the UK.”

Nadia Whittome: ‘LGBTQ+ rights are integral to my politics’

Explaining her decision to go against the party line and vote against the government’s block on Scottish gender reforms, Whittome says she saw the vote as a way to address the government’s decision. 

“The vote was on a ‘to note’ motion, which means that even if we had won, the Section 35 order blocking the Gender Recognition Reform bill would not have been overturned,” she explains.

“However, this was an opportunity to show opposition to the government’s actions – actions that are stoking prejudice against trans people – which is why I voted against.”

She added: “As a queer woman, as a feminist, and as a socialist, LGBTQ+ rights are integral to my politics. 

“I want a world where every person can live a full, happy and comfortable life, free from discrimination and poverty. LGBTQ+ rights are a central part of this.”

Labour criticised for its response

In recent days both the Labour party and Starmer have come under fire for appearing to side with the Tories on blocking Scotland’s gender reforms. 

Earlier in the week, Starmer doubled down on his belief that 16-year-olds are too young to legally change gender, while also stressing the importance of “sex-based rights”.

“I have concerns about the provision in Scotland, in particular the age reduction to 16 and in particular the rejection of our amendment in relation to the Equalities Act,” Starmer told BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg. 

This comes despite promises from Starmer to “modernise the Gender Recognition Act”,, including during an October address at the 2022 PinkNews Awards.

Many of Starmer’s concerns about the legislation were seen by critics to mirror that of Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives, with the majority of Labour MPs notably abstaining from vote on Tuesday. 

Addressing these issues, Whittome praised Labour’s record on LGBTQ+ rights but noted that the party needs to listen to LGBTQ+ people more, when they call on them to do so.  

“Labour has a proud history of standing up for LGBTQ+ rights, and I am pleased that we are committed to reforming the GRA and a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy,” she says.

“But we need to listen to LGBTQ+ people – and act – when they tell us that they need us to do more and go further.

“In terms of whether 16-year-olds should be allowed to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, the reality is that at 16, there are many young trans people who already socially transitioned years ago. 

“In my view, allowing them to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate is about ensuring they are treated with dignity and respect.”

PinkNews has contacted the Labour Party for comment.

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