Labour should support Tory reform of outdated and regressive gender law

We need a cross-party approach to amend the Gender Recognition Act and improve transgender rights in the UK

Following news that Corbyn may support the Tories’ review of the Gender Recognition Act, Sophie Cook, Labour’s candidate for East Worthing & Shoreham, and a trans woman, sets out why we need a cross-party approach to improve trans rights.

In the early hours of June 9th, as I stood on stage with a room full of expectant people looking up at me, I was totally focused on the next words that I would hear.

“Sophie Rose Cook, Labour Party, 20,882.”

In the space of five short weeks we’d achieved the seemingly impossible, taking the previously safe Tory seat of East Worthing & Shoreham and making it a marginal, increasing the Labour vote by 114% with one of the biggest swings in the country at 19.8%.

“I narrowly missed out on becoming the UK’s first transgender MP.”

But despite this achievement I still face frequent abuse online and on the streets and regularly have my identity questioned or rejected.

Being transgender and in the public eye I’ve been trolled by various groups including receiving death threats on Twitter and, in the days following the election, having a man shouting in my face to show him my ‘genitals’ on the streets of Westminster.

Transgender people face abuse, violence, discrimination and an establishment, both medical and governmental, that demands invasive proof of the commitment to their identity.

The Gender Recognition Act forces people to jump through hoops and undergo deeply personal and intimate examination of their life including medical evidence and, if you’re married, a declaration from your spouse in order to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

Despite, very obviously, being my true self and living my life in my true gender I do not have a GRC.

My passport, driving license and all other documents identify me as female and yet under the law without a GRC my rights could potentially be in danger.

“There have been cases of trans women losing their lives because the lack of a Gender Recognition Certificate placed them in harms way, most notably inside our prison system”

In a recent speech at the PinkNews Summer Parliamentary reception, Jeremy Corbyn, said that he will vote to reform the Gender Recognition Act if it benefits trans rights.

As a Labour Parliamentary Candidate and a trans woman I fully support Corbyn in his cross-party approach to reforming the Gender Recognition Act.

We now have the most diverse parliament ever with 45 LGB MPs, but still not a single trans one, and it’s time for Parliament to recognise the challenges that transgender people face and work to eradicate bigotry in all of it’s forms.

In the Labour manifesto we recognised that the act was out of date and pledged to change it and it’s refreshing to see a party leader place the rights of a minority above party political divisions.

Rather than medical evidence and panels the individual must be able to self identify and the new legislation proposed by Equalities minister Justine Greening would see more recognition of non-binary people, those who identify neither as male or female.

“Everyone should be afforded the right to self identification, no doctor, judge or politician can presume to know more about an individuals identity than they do themselves.”

In the 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality we’ve seen great strides taken to improve LGBT rights and to fight bigotry but transgender rights still lag behind, this bill will redress some of that disparity.

We must fight together to protect the rights of everyone, regardless of their gender identity, sexuality, race, religion, gender or disability because until everyone is equal, then no one is.

Sophie Cook is the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for East Worthing & Shoreham, a TV presenter, writer, speaker and sports photographer. She tweets here.

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