Eddie Izzard deserves better than to be Rosie Duffield’s punchline

Using Izzard’s preferred pronouns is about simple, human respect and politeness – but this appears to be too difficult for Duffield

Harriet Williamson
Thursday 27 October 2022 12:06 BST
Comedian Eddie Izzard launches campaign to become Labour MP

The Labour MP for Canterbury, Rosie Duffield, has made headlines again for her regressive views on transgender people. While speaking at a conference of the LGB Alliance on Friday, she was asked about the possibility of misgendering someone becoming a hate crime.

Duffield responded: “Is that a serious thing? Is that coming to parliament any time soon? I hope not because you might as well arrest me now. I’m not calling Eddie Izzard a woman.”

Izzard, a beloved British stand-up comedian currently campaigning to stand as a Labour MP, said in August that she “prefers she/her” pronouns and is “going to be relaxed about it”, adding “it’s not the time for fighting each other”.

Using Izzard’s preferred pronouns is about simple, human respect and politeness – but this appears to be too difficult for Duffield. She would rather make use of Izzard to paint herself as a brave free speech defender, willing to risk arrest to misgender a future colleague and make a tired and small-minded point.

Where Duffield made these comments is also worth examining. The LGB Alliance is an anti-trans lobbying organisation that is connected with anti-abortion and anti-LGBT groups in the US, and has previously stated that opposition to equal marriage is “not homophobic”.

In the past, Duffield has talked up her commitment to queer folks on Twitter, saying she has “actively fought for gay rights (and all human rights)” throughout her life. However, her willingness to speak at a controversial and widely discredited organisation’s conference and the jibe she directed at Izzard sends a different message.

Duffield has also previously called trans women “male-bodied biological men”, aligned herself with “gender critical” views, agreed with Piers Morgan’s comment that only women have a cervix, and “liked” a tweet that referred to trans people as “mostly heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex”.

In 2021, LGBT+ Labour called for Duffield to lose the whip and for Keir Starmer to suspend her for a consistent pattern of “LGBT-phobic behaviour”. Two members of staff left Duffield’s office within two months of each other, the second female staffer leaving in October 2020 and both citing the MP’s repeated comments about trans people as the reason.

Duffield’s views are, in my view, not just outdated and embarrassing – they are actively harmful.

Transphobia is the fear, hatred, disbelief or mistrust of people who are transgender or express their gender in a way that does not conform to traditional standards. Surely Rosie Duffield’s opinions fall into this category, despite her denials?

She insists that trans women are not women and has pushed fearmongering narratives around trans people using spaces reserved for cisgender women. She has also dismissed the existence of trans men and non-binary people and has publicly supported comments that reduce trans people to dangerous pretenders. I can’t see this as anything but ugly bigotry, and it has consequences.

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Trans people have twice the mortality risk of cisgender men and women, due to being more likely to experience violence, discrimination and homelessness. Trans folks are twice as likely to be victims of crime. According to Stonewall, 41 per cent of trans people and 31 per cent of non-binary people have experienced a hate crime or incident due to their gender identity in the last 12 months.

Trans young people are also far more likely than their cisgender peers to try to end their lives, with 45 per cent attempting suicide and 92 per cent considering it.

If you deny the identity of transgender people, dismiss the existence of non-binary folk and agree with hateful and bigoted comments about trans people, as Duffield seems to do, statements on Twitter about your commitment to “actively fighting for all human rights” ring rather hollow.

Trans rights are human rights. If your activism (or your feminism) excludes trans and non-binary folks, then it is meaningless. And Eddie Izzard deserves better than to be used as a punchline by people like Rosie Duffield.

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