Legal Recognition of Non-binary Gender Identities — [Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:17 pm on 23 May 2022.

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Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Party Chair, Labour Party, Chair of Labour Policy Review, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities 5:17, 23 May 2022

It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I am very grateful to the petitioners and to Nick Fletcher for opening the debate.

This discussion has been of acute interest and importance to people who identify as non-binary. It is also important to be sensitive to the needs of those who describe themselves as intersex or as having differences in sex development. We must consider whether they would describe themselves as male, female or non-binary, and we must understand the differences in terminology when we discuss these issues. Everyone is different, and that is why it is essential that we discuss these matters in an atmosphere of respect, care and compassion. We will find solutions only by working together.

The background has already been set out. The Conservative Government maintain that they would reform the Gender Recognition Act. However, they are only determined to reduce the fee and put the process online. We have not seen progress on, for example, removing the spousal consent provision, which we discussed in this Chamber not so long ago. The Women and Equalities Committee and many respondents to the Government’s call for evidence called for change to provision for non-binary people.

The fundamental value for Labour when examining these issues is that of respect. We recognise the abuse that many non-binary identifying people have been subjected to—something rightly referred to by the petitioners. Furthermore, we recognise that this is a particularly visceral matter for those non-binary identifying people who may also describe themselves as biologically intersex or as having differences in sex development, as I will come on to later. Again, I appreciate that these categories are not used by everyone.

Labour has been clear that we must have far stronger measures against hate crimes, to which LGBT+ people are subject, and treat them as aggravated offences. That is surely necessary, given what appears to have been a doubling in reports of such appalling behaviour over the last five years. That is an area where I depart from the comments of the hon. Members for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and for Don Valley. We believe that there needs to be a change in the law to treat those offences as aggravated, and we believe the same of offences against disabled people, who are also not protected in that way.

We also need to acknowledge that, of course, as well as gender, sex continues to play an important role in different areas of policy. As I have repeatedly made clear in my role as shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, sex is not the same thing as gender and both are important in different contexts. That difference is reflected in legislation. For example, as a woman I am an adult female—that is my biological sex. There are, of course, also trans women who have made a transition in their gender, and they deserve respect and dignity also.