A senior Tory MP has called for schools to provide gender-neutral toilets to support trans children.
Caroline Nokes, who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, said the move would ensure children were able to learn in an environment where they were “supported”.
Speaking backstage at the PinkNews Awards, she also said that human rights was not a “zero-sum game” and there was no conflict between supporting women’s rights and trans rights.
She said: “It is absolutely possible to support both trans rights and women’s rights.
“I never shy away from using the word ‘woman’ and I don’t think we should, but equally we have to recognise that trans people need to have their rights defended. They need our support.”
Asked about schools, she said: “I think there are some real challenges around our schools … I want every young person to be able to have access to education where they will be supported, where they will not be incorrectly gendered, where they will not be forced to use the incorrect toilets.”
She added: “I hate the fact that we keep coming down to talking about toilets at every opportunity, but it’s absolutely right that there should be inclusive, gender-neutral loos in our schools and that’s something that I personally will stand up for enormously.”
Ms Nokes has been a consistent advocate for trans rights since becoming chair of the Women and Equalities Committee in 2020, and has called for the proposed ban on conversion therapy to include trans people.
In December 2021, her committee called for the gender recognition process to “move closer to a system of self-declaration” by removing the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
Her most recent comments come as the Conservative Party prepares for another leadership election in which trans rights may feature prominently.
During the previous leadership election, several candidates were criticised for using trans rights as a “political football”.
Jamie Wallis, the only openly transgender MP, mentioned this while calling on Liz Truss to resign as Prime Minister, telling her: “Watching senior colleagues exploit the issue of transgender rights and weaponise it in order to score cheap political points was extremely unpleasant.”
Speaking at the PinkNews Awards, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also called for a ban on conversion therapy “in all its forms” and said his party would “modernise” the Gender Recognition Act.
In a speech paying tribute to human rights barrister Jonathan Cooper, who was given a lifetime achievement award, Sir Keir warned that the UK faced slipping backwards on LGBT rights and criticised “the rhetoric we’ve seen towards trans people”.