Update – Feb 26th
Yesterday, the Government accepted a proposed amendment to the Bill. The Bill was expected to return to the House of Commons for the Lords’ proposed changes to be debated, with the potential for them to be refused by MPs.
This decision means that the Government will likely tell their MPs to vote for the new wording to just include ‘mother or expectant mother’. This action was unexpected and is the first time in many years that a government has deliberately excluded a minority by changing accepted inclusive language to be exclusionary.
We welcomed the original inclusive wording of the bill, and this amendment constitutes a deliberate exclusion of trans men and non-binary people who may get pregnant. This decision hides behind a narrow interpretation of the McConnell judgement, that it is entirely lawful to refer to someone who has given birth as a mother, when the court that decided this made it clear that this judgment applied only to birth certificates, which is still, in our opinion, discriminatory.
We should be advancing the rights of trans people who are thinking about becoming parents or entering politics, not limiting them. These amendments send a powerful message to trans men and non-binary people and is likely to be persuasive in other pieces of legislation to discriminate against them in the future.
This matter will still be debated in the House of Commons although it is highly likely to pass due to the Government’s majority. It is important to get your voice heard now to ensure that your MP is aware of the potential impact of this on you or your family. This will be a great time to write to your MP with your personal stories to make sure a strong opposition is heard during the debate.
Parliament has brought forward a new Bill which introduces maternity leave for Ministers. The Bill refers to pregnant ‘people’ rather than just ‘women’. Mermaids is delighted to see the use of language in this legislation that protects everyone and excludes no one. We were also delighted to see the Bill pass through its initial stages in the House of Commons without amendment.
Unfortunately, despite the progressive and inclusive language used in the Bill, the House of Lords have proposed changes which deliberately exclude trans men and nonbinary people. This will be debated in the House of Lords today. Legal recognition of gender does not require certain surgeries. Trans men with legal gender recognition via a Gender Recognition Certificate can still get pregnant, making use of just “women” in this context factually incorrect. This amendment means the law doesn’t work for trans and non-binary individuals.
Women were not allowed to be MPs until 1918 and the effects of this are still evident thanks to this Bill. Why introduce a new Bill with language that actively excludes trans men and non-binary people who can get pregnant, and therefore discourage potential future trans MPs and members of the House of Lords?
Language like this doesn’t just affect Members of Parliament. It affects young trans people who are looking at these conversations happening, conversations about pregnancy which may be a part of their future. “People” includes everyone, regardless of who they are, who they love, or the journey they’ve been on. “People” includes women. “People” includes trans men and nonbinary people. All these “people” can become pregnant and require maternity leave and care.
The Bill, as it stands, provides protection during pregnancy for all. Without exclusion. The changes proposed erase trans men and non-binary people. Once again, we see attacks against the trans community wrapped up in a narrative of protecting women. This is yet another example of an insidious campaign that follows a pattern of taking a minority group and portraying them as a threat to women, but providing no evidence.
This is an opportunity to make the law inclusive for everyone. Changing the wording means it will need to be updated again in the future. Trans men and non-binary people are not going anywhere, and need to be included and recognised by law that affects them.