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Angela Rayner has told Labour conference there is “no conflict” between women’s rights and trans rights as she addressed one of the party’s most heated debates.
The deputy leader reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to updating the Gender Recognition Act to allow for the process of self-ID – whereby a person can self-identify as their chosen rather than legally assigned gender.
Rayner paid tribute to the LGBT+ community at the fringe event, recalling how its members embraced her when she did not feel loved as a child.
“In an interview with The Times on Saturday, I talked about how I never felt loved as a child…but the LGBT community loved and cared for me,” she said.
“It meant such a tremendous amount to me as a young person and it means a lot to me now, and that’s why I’m so passionate about the issues that we have and the challenges that we face together.
“I’ve always been your ally, and I always will be your ally.”
The debate over trans rights has become one of the focal points of division in the Labour party.
In the lead up to party conference, Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield said she would not be attending because of the reaction she feared she would receive over her views on transgender rights.
Duffield has spoken out against self-ID, arguing it would grant a “passport for male-bodied biological men to enter protected spaces for biological women”, including domestic violence refuges and women’s prisons.
But Rayner insisted there was “no conflict” between the rights of women and trans women and that Labour would continue to abide by the Equalities Act, which grants trans women access to single-sex spaces except in specific circumstances.
“We are the party of equality, we are the party for the oppressed, and we are the party that is committed to achieving a world free of all forms of bigotry and discrimination,” she said.
“We will update the Gender Recognition Act to create a process of self-ID.
“Women’s rights are not in conflict with trans rights. Our fight is your fight, your struggle is my struggle.”
The Labour deputy also hit out at the government and media for waging what she called a “campaign of hate” against trans people.
“Ministers are looking at vulnerable people, they’re looking at our trans community and they are looking at people’s identities and they see it as an opportunity to divide people – that is disgusting, that is disgraceful,” she said.