The recent Green Party conference was the first one I’d been to. I really enjoyed the four days - met a lot of interesting people, learnt many new things, and voted on a lot of good motions seeking to improve our policy and processes.1 There were a small number of things I was less happy with, however, of which this is one.

Green Party policy is created and decided upon by the membership. Any member can propose a motion to change policy, and all members at conference can vote on the motions.

One of our policy areas is trans rights. Green policy in this area is good, albeit somewhat vague on concrete actions. The best policy in this area appears to belong to the LibDems - substantially equivalent to Green policy, but with a set of concrete proposals for governmental action.

I mention this since one of the motions to the Green Party conference this year concerned trans rights, and would have given us the best trans rights policy of any major UK party.

The first half of the motion was uncontroversial, ensuring that the language of our trans rights policy was explicitly inclusive of non-binary people, and adding a list of specific policy proposals to remove the vagueness mentioned above.

The second half dealt with protecting the rights of trans/intersex sportspeople. The new paragraph in policy would have been as follows - proposed addition in bold.

In sport, trans people are often ‘outed’, subjected to humiliating treatment, forced to provide unnecessary medical details and proofs of ‘genital surgeries’ that have no relevance to the stated aim of ‘ensuring that all of the same gender compete on a level playing field’. This is due to the extensive amount of exemptions contained within the existing Gender Recognition Act, not least of which is that a trans person’s birth certificate does not have the same legal standing as a cis person’s. The Green party would remove exemptions that allow discrimination against sportspeople who are trans and non-binary (and intersex, see RR511)

This turned out to be rather controversial, with a number of members speaking against this provision. The objections included the effect on professional sport; the lack of consultation with people in the sporting world; the effect on the separation of ‘mens’ and ‘womens’ sports; and a rather odd intervention that seemed to suggest that people might change gender to compete in this way.

This final objection, that seems to suggest that we could get ‘dishonest’ trans people, is quite sad. Transitioning is not an easy process, and I know of no cases where it has been embarked upon to gain access to the spaces of another gender. Indeed, this argument seemed disturbingly similar to those given by proponents of the ‘bathroom bills’ in the USA.

The motion was not accepted.2 I was surprised, but I’m also disappointed - clearly opinions on the place of human rights in sports differ. Hopefully, we’ll be able to have another go at the spring conference.


  1. I was also very pleased by the presence of gender-neutral toilets, captioning of the plenaries and main speeches, and inclusion cards. [return]
  2. technically, ‘referred back’; this is effectively an direction to improve the motion and bring it again next time [return]