MPs call for Commons committee to consider representation of… well, just about everyone but trans people, apparently

November 16, 2008

Via Pink News:

Facebook trans logoA Labour MP has said a new special parliamentary committee that will examine ways of making the House of Commons more diverse should include gay, lesbian and bisexual people as an under-represented group.

The House agreed yesterday to establish a Speaker’s Conference.

A Speaker’s Conference is convened by the Speaker of the House of Commons following an invitation from the Prime Minister.

Under the impartial leadership of the Speaker, MPs from both the major and minority parties are brought together to consider issues within the electoral system. It must report before the end of this Parliament.

Speaker’s Conferences are rare. The last one took place in 1977-78 and there were only five conferences in the 20th century.

Commons leader Harriet Harman told MPs it would “make recommendations for rectifying the disparity between the representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons and their representation in the UK population at large.

“As Members of this House, we represent 646 different constituencies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, it is not enough to have a geographical representation.

“For people in this country, their identity comes not just from where they live, but from whether they are men or women, whether they are disabled, whether they are black or white and whether they are gay or lesbian.

“Society has changed and we must recognise that the House of Commons needs to change, too.

“As women in this country, we now regard ourselves as equal citizens, yet we are not equal in numbers in this House. We are out-numbered by men by five to one.

“This country is ethnically diverse now—indeed, it has been for many decades—but of 646 Members, only 15 are black or Asian. To be representative of our population, we should have more than four times that number.”

Ms Harman said that she hopes at least one gay MP is appointed to the committee and expressed a hope that gay equality organisation Stonewall would “make an important contribution” to its work.

17 MPs and the Speaker will consider how to achieve greater diversity in Parliament and then make recommendations.

Backbench Labour MP Emily Thornberry at least mentions bi people – but still excludes the T-word:

“The proposed Speaker’s Conference should expand its remit to consider the increased representation of lesbians, gay people and bisexuals, because to have only one out lesbian in this place of 1,300 politicians is not sufficient to be able to speak about the lived experience of Britain’s 1.8million lesbians.”

But note that Harriet Harman – the MP calling for this – excludes mention of either bi or trans people:

“For people in this country, their identity comes not just from where they live, but from whether they are men or women, whether they are disabled, whether they are black or white and whether they are gay or lesbian.”

Note also that the LGBT Labour Co-chair, Katie Hanson, is the only person quoted in this report to use the acronym LGBT:

“Labour has lead the way in making the Commons more diverse and more representative – but there is still a long way to go. LGBT Labour welcomes the Speaker’s Conference as a way of moving this forward, and we support the call from Labour backbencher Emily Thornberry for the conference to include LGBT representation as part of its remit.

Also from the report itself:

Ms Harman said that she hopes at least one gay MP is appointed to the committee and expressed a hope that gay equality organisation Stonewall would “make an important contribution” to its work.

The involvement of Stonewall means that there is unlikely to be any inclusion of trans people because, as we know, they only look out for GL…[b] people.

And also, as we know, PFC – the group ‘traditionally’ charged with looking out for trans people – appear to dismiss out of hand anyone who doesn’t toe the conformist party line (“those kind of people”?) – so even if PFC *was* involved, it is unlikely anybody from the grass roots trans community would even be consulted anyway.

I’ll stop now before I really get into rant mode.

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ETA, Monday 17 November: See also:

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ETA #2, Monday 17 November: So I concocted a letter and emailed Harriet Harman (Leader of the House of Commons), copied to Michael Martin (Speaker).

I can’t help but feel it won’t make the slightest difference, but I guess I should be used to that by now. But you have to try.

“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”, as somebody said a long time ago.

Dear Ms Harman,

Proposal to hold a Speaker’s Conference

I refer to the recent proposal to hold a Speaker’s Conference to address the under-representation of minority groups in Parliament.

As you observed in your announcement of 12 November, “For people in this country, their identity comes not just from where they live, but from whether they are men or women, whether they are disabled, whether they are black or white and whether they are gay or lesbian. Society has changed and we must recognise that the House of Commons needs to change, too.”

Whilst I welcome the broadly inclusive nature of the comment, I am concerned that there seems to be no specific reference to gender nonconforming people. I am a trans (transsexual) woman and believe that people like me are not only chronically under-represented but also institutionally marginalised and routinely subject to the effects of prejudice and bigotry from other members of wider society. Therefore I believe it is vital that we are properly represented by those for whom we have voted.

I should be grateful if you would confirm that people like me will be included in this process, and that we will be permitted to make individual representations to the Conference.

I look forward to receiving your reply in the near future.

4 Responses to “MPs call for Commons committee to consider representation of… well, just about everyone but trans people, apparently”

  1. Lisa W Says:

    I fail to see a problem.
    Speaking as woman born transsexual I believe I’m gender included – as a woman. I don’t want to treated as a ‘trans’.
    Speaking as a lesbian I’m sexual orientation included, too.
    There is no gender or sexual orientation called ‘trans’. Everyone who is trans is either male, female, straight, gay or Bi. So your already included.

  2. Helen G Says:

    Lisa W: And I fail to see why I would want to deny my self-identification and lived experience as a trans woman. There are enough people trying to eradicate trans identities as it is; why would I want to do that to myself? Is that the only choice you would permit me?

    Trans people are already institutionally marginalised, demonized and Othered by wider society, yet we are as entitled as anybody else to full representation by our democratically elected government; and to our civil liberties. If there is even a remote possibility that the state will uphold the process of exclusion, then I believe I am entirely justified in voicing my concerns.

    I’m not ashamed of being trans and I will not apologise to anyone simply for existing.

  3. queen emily Says:

    Uh yeah. I’m a woman who happens to also be transsexual too. Sad to say, however, that we live in a world that tends to use the second to erase the first. And make any identification as lesbian as redundant, cos hey, you’re not a *real* woman anyway.

    Trans women have run for office and been sued for “false representation.” If we don’t have a policy to increase the amount of trans people in politics, there won’t be. Simple as. There is a need for trans people to be included in schemes like this, because there is a discrimination that occurs specifically because of transness (as well as homophobia and misogyny of course) and suggesting it’s redundant because you’re binary identified and a lesbian is just plain wrong.

  4. queen emily Says:

    Good letter btw :) x


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