Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, has pulled out of the party’s annual conference, saying that she doesn’t want to be “the centre of attention” due to her views on transgender people.
Much is already being made of Duffield feeling potentially too “unsafe” to attend the Labour conference. It is, of course, never acceptable to threaten someone (online or off) – it’s also completely unacceptable to trumpet prejudiced misinformation, as Duffield has been accused of doing.
Duffield is reportedly still under investigation by the Labour Party for alleged anti-trans activity on social media, and in July, 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 have left Duffield’s office within two months of each other, the second female staffer leaving in October last year. Both cited the MP’s repeated comments about trans people as the reason.
Duffield has 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”. Duffield’s views are, in my view, not just outdated and embarrassing – they are actively harmful.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. Rosie Duffield’s opinions surely 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.
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.
But as many of the “gender critical” brigade are wont to do, Duffield likes to paint herself as the victim. According to Duffield, “angry strangers” have decided that her beliefs are transphobic. As part of the same Twitter thread on 10 September, Duffield toots her own horn about how she has “actively fought for gay rights (and all human rights)” all her life, citing a speech “after less than 2 hours sleep” at Canterbury’s first Pride event. She also adds that her speech “went viral”.
If you deny the identity of transgender people, dismiss the existence of non-binary folk and agree with hateful and bigoted statements about trans people, as Duffield seems to do, your hot air about “actively fighting for all human rights” is utterly meaningless – viral speech on two hours sleep or no.
Trans rights are human rights, and if your activism or your feminism excludes trans and non-binary people, it doesn’t mean anything.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has defended his party’s decision to ban a member from standing as an MP for saying that trans women are not women. He said: “The issue that we have been really clear [on] is that a trans woman is a woman and a trans man is a man. That is the issue that we’re fighting on. We believe that trans rights are human rights.”
On this front, perhaps Labour and Duffield could take a few tips from Davey and his clear insistence on basic respect for trans people.
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