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Statement on Wes Streeting’s comments about trans-specific hospital wards

Today Wes Streeting, shadow Health Minister, went on record to state that Labour would ban trans women from women’s hospital wards. He proposed that trans people should have their own wards in hospital. In a later interview, the shadow Minister stated that the NHS handle the matter very well already and that it’s important to offer inclusive healthcare for trans patients.

We welcome that Mr Streeting highlighted the way in which trans people are treated as a political football, and that he stated that the matter of trans people on single-sex wards is a non-issue – out of the 102 NHS trusts contacted by Translucent as part of their research, none had received any complaints about trans women on women’s hospital wards. 

However, we’re disappointed that he went on to contradict those statements, by suggesting that there’s a need for trans people to be segregated on their own wards when in hospital. Not only is this completely unrealistic in an NHS that is already struggling, but it plays into and perpetuates the myth that trans women are somehow a danger to other women.

The shadow Minister has commented that trans people ought to feel safe, respected and comfortable in hospital and indicated that trans-only wards would help to achieve this. Whilst some trans people may benefit from being accommodated in a hospital side room, forcing someone to stay in a segregated trans-specific area will not protect their dignity, does not indicate respect for them as a human being, and may act to the detriment of the care they receive. With year-on-year rises in transphobically motivated hate crime, trans people often have to keep their trans identity a secret for fear that they will be targeted. Being taken to a trans-specific ward would put them at risk of being outed and targeted for harassment or worse, not to mention the potential breach of their basic human rights.

With a staff recruitment and retention crisis, funding issues, and continuing knock on effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re dismayed that Mr Streeting has chosen to give any air time to discussing a non-existent problem and feeding into the very ‘culture war’ that he had spoken out against.

Chay Brown, TransActual’s Director for Healthcare commented “We invite Mr Streeting to discuss the matter with us at any point, where we can talk to him about our research into trans people’s health inequalities, about the impact of waiting times for transition related care, and how the political and media discussion of trans and non-binary people might link with the rise in transphobic hate crime.”

“As a General Election approaches, we’d like to remind MPs and Parliamentary Candidates that trans people are human beings. The words you choose can have a significant impact on the safety and dignity of trans people.”