Gender-critical feminists want trans women to show their passports to use public lavatories, a veteran Labour MP has claimed.
Dame Angela Eagle, who is standing to be a Commons committee chairman, said lavatories were being “policed” at the expense of those who don’t conform to gender norms.
The MP for Wallasey said the heated debate about trans people using single-sex spaces revolved around “recreating and then enforcing” gender stereotypes.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Trades Union Congress conference in Liverpool, she criticised Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, for seeking to change the wording of the Equality Act to specify that it protects “biological sex”.
This would make it clear that trans women have to use the men’s lavatories, while trans men have to use the ladies’, Dame Angela said.
‘Policed at public facilities’
She added: “Whilst that may affect a small number of people, the actual effect is that loads of non-gender-conforming women will effectively be being policed in their use of public facilities.
“We’ve never had to show a passport to get into the toilet before. I dread to think what else they might want us to show if they change the law.”
Dame Angela warned that people would be “challenged using the toilets” for merely deviating from gender norms, citing a “butch-looking woman” as someone at risk.
“This is all about recreating and then enforcing appearance, behaviour, making certain that you actually behave and look the way your sex, your gender ought to look,” she said.
Campaigners say the Equality Act must be changed to make it clear that “sexual discrimination” in the law refers to biological sex rather than gender identity.
They say this would make it easier to stop biological men using women’s lavatories or changing rooms, joining women’s rape support groups and taking part in women’s sports.
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, was set to make the relevant changes to the equalities legislation, but it emerged last week that the plans could be put off until next summer.
The Cabinet Office has put out a job application for a civil servant to “consider whether and how legislative changes to the Equality Act 2010 could be made”.
‘No freedom to offend’
Jo Grady, the union boss who was also on the panel at the fringe event, claimed people have freedom of speech, but not “freedom to offend”.
The University and College Union leader said this was something she taught to her members, who include academics, lecturers and postgraduates.
She said: “Whilst it’s clear that gender-critical beliefs are protected, the form of expression isn’t.
“You might have freedom of speech, but you don’t have freedom to offend – particularly if that offence is enshrined within law, and I think that’s one of the things that we try and educate our members about quite a lot.”
Dame Angela said the freedom of speech argument on trans rights seemed plausible “until you start analysing it”, adding: “To what extent does freedom of speech ever allow people to question the existence of other human beings?”
She said: “If that’s your definition of freedom of speech, then I don’t think it’s something the UN Universal Declaration (of Human Rights) would talk about. And I think that that needs to be challenged – people shouldn’t shy away from making the point that I just made.
“This is not about freedom of speech. It’s about putting people back in boxes, getting them out of public life, making them frightened to be themselves in public, making it practically impossible to be themselves in public.”