I wrote this blog shortly after Spring Conference in May 2021 and realise I never published it:
The Green Party has just held its spring conference online. Three motions affecting trans people were heard. E03 Self Determination of Gender and E05 Recognise Trans Parents both passed and one motion E01 Women’s sex based rights fell. The text for each motion is lower down this page.
Trans and non binary friends and work colleagues have told me how much it means to them that motions E03 and E05 have passed. These motions have helpfully clarified that the Green Party of England and Wales is inclusive of trans and non binary people, that we support self identification and that we would remove the legal barriers to trans parents having their gender properly recognised on their child’s birth certificate.
Motion E01 on women’s sex based rights as drafted, attempted to exclude trans people from participating in women’s sport, despite the fact that the Equality act 2010 already allows UK sporting bodies to do this, although the majority do not choose to. The motion as written created a situation where voting for it harmed the rights of trans people and voting against it led to accusations of not supporting women’s rights.
I spoke against motion E01 and my speech is set out below. I have also included the live transcript of my speech with all its spelling confusions, so that it is clear what I actually said.
I realise that there are Green Party members who may be upset that E01 has fallen. Some of the proposers of the motion are people who are my friends and colleagues. I disagree with their motion and I hope my speech makes clear why.
I also hope that in future we can work together as proud inclusive feminists on issues affecting all women.
Speaking Notes on motion E01(as delivered)
I’m Caroline Russell from Islington Green Party.
A motion about rights of women sounds straightforward and we can all agree that “inequality and discrimination against women needs to end”.
But I cannot support this motion.
This is simply because it proposes policy that discriminates against trans people.
There are some specific things I’ll raise now:
It is untrue that Green Party of England and Wales has no policy on women’s rights. Our existing policies could be grouped together better and improved – but this motion does neither.
Sex is already referred to as one of the 14 named categories against which discrimination must not exist in RR207, in our record of policy statements.
Further, this motion frequently uses the phrase ‘sex-based rights’, a phrase that doesn’t actually have a specific legal meaning – I believe the implied meaning is rights which are based on physiological sex observed at birth – these rights already exist, and are set out in the Equality Act, 2010.
At the end of the motion it says that “it supports women’s rights to assert their own sexuality” – I support this idea, as I assume we all do, but it doesn’t make sense as a policy statement. Sexual orientation is already detailed in RR207, and making such a statement women-specific does imply that we don’t support the right of anybody else to assert their own sexuality.
Finally, this motion attempts to imply that women’s sports must exclude trans people. Sporting bodies in the UK are already free to do so, under the Equality Act 2010. But the vast majority of sporting bodies do not consider this necessary.
I am speaking now in solidarity with my trans friends and colleagues and with my friends who are parents of trans children and young people.
I hope that Green Party colleagues will join me in voting against this motion today because it goes against our shared Green Party values of kindness and inclusion.
Please vote E01 down.
The text of the motion: E01 Women’s sex-based rights
Conference adds an additional paragraph to Our Rights and Responsibilities Policy, entitled “Women’s sex-based Rights.”
This is to include the protected characteristic of sex as currently our Record of Policy statements supports the other 8 characteristics (age, disability, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race, maternity, religion/belief, marriage/civil partnership see RR207) but not that of sex discrimination – aimed primarily at women for all the reasons set out in the background below.
Insert proposed paragraph:
“RR540 The Green Party recognises: the wide range of discrimination against women in UK society; that women’s hard-won rights must be defended; and that inequality and discrimination against women needs to end. The Green Party is against all forms of discrimination (see RR207). It supports women’s sex-based rights, as set out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1979). It supports women’s rights to assert their own sexuality. Women continue to be subjected to discrimination based solely upon their biological sex. A person’s sex, as determined by their biology does not always correspond with their gender. Therefore, the terms sex and gender are not interchangeable and all gender identities are valid.
The Green Party supports women’s equality-based rights which recognise women as persons and include the right to vote and the right to equal pay for equal value work. The Green Party supports women’s diversity-based rights based upon the sex-biological characteristics unique to women which include menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and physically diminutive stature and strength. Diversity based rights recognise women as women – e.g. women’s sports exist partly to give opportunity for women to play which would not be afforded if they played with physically larger, taller, stronger, and usually faster, men. The Green Party supports the celebration of International Women’s Day on 8th March each year.”
Live transcript during E01
I saved the chat so that I could check my speech against delivery.
15:26:57 But I would like to call Caroline, Russell, please to speak against eo one.
15:26:54 So when you’re already Caroline.
15:26:58 Can I just sorry Caroline muscle (Russell) is into (Islington) Green Party Can I just clarify Do I have three minutes or one minute. You have three minutes to speak against the motion, all other speakers will have one minute.
15:27:13 Oh, sorry.
15:27:14 When you’re ready.
15:27:17 Thank you very much chair. So Caroline Russell is LinkedIn (Islington) Green Party.
15:27:23 Emotion (A motion) about rights of women sounds straightforward. And we can all agree that inequality and discrimination against women, needs to end.
15:27:34 But I cannot support this motion.
15:27:38 This is simply because it proposes policy that discriminates against trans people.
15:27:45 I want to raise a few specific things. It is untrue the Green Party of England and Wales has no policy on women’s rights, our policies could be grouped together better and improved.
15:27:57 But this motion does neither sex is already referred to as one of the 14 named categories against which discrimination must not exist in our 207 (RR207), in our record of policy statements.
15:28:14 Further, the motion frequently uses the phrase sex based rights, a phrase that doesn’t actually have a specific legal meaning, I believe the implied meaning is rights which are based on physiological sex observed at birth.
15:28:30 These rights already exist and are set out in the Equality Act of 2010.
15:28:38 At the end of the motion.
15:28:40 It says that it supports women’s rights to assert their own sexuality. Now, I support this idea as I assume we all do.
15:28:49 But it doesn’t make sense as a policy statement, sexual orientation is already detailed in our 207 (RR207) and making such a statement women’s specific does imply that we don’t support the right of anybody else to assert their own sexuality.
15:29:06 And finally this motion attempts to imply that women’s sports must exclude trans people, sporting bodies in the UK already free to do so under the Equality Act of 2010.
15:29:19 But the vast majority of sporting bodies do not consider this necessary.
15:29:26 Now I am speaking now in solidarity with my trans friends and colleagues, and with my friends who are parents of trans children and young people.
15:29:39 I hope that Green Party colleagues will join me in voting against this motion today, because it goes against our shared Green Party values of kindness, and inclusion.
15:29:54 Please vote, yo one (EO1) down. Thank you.
Motion text: E03 Self determination of gender
Insert new RR531 and renumber PSS accordingly:
“RR531 The Green Party believes that trans, non-binary, genderqueer, third gender, and intersex people should have their gender legally recognised and be empowered to update their birth certificate and any other official documents, without medical or state encumbrance. We support the right for individuals to update their legally recognised gender by self-determination, the only requirement being a statutory declaration, to how they would describe their gender, including having the option to change their name on all documents.”
Motion text: E05 Recognise trans parents
Insert new RR537 and RR538 and renumber PSS accordingly:
“RR537: The Green Party would remove the legal barriers to trans parents having their gender properly recognised on their child’s birth certificate. We would ensure parents could choose the right option for them (mother/father/parent) on a birth certificate.
RR538: The Green Party would also investigate setting up a process, in consultation with the LGBTIQA+ community, to be able to correct birth certificates that were issued with an inappropriate description of a parent.”