Jo Swinson’s dismal election campaign was unlikely to have been helped by her inability to define the word woman. But if there are any lessons from Swinson’s ability to alienate people on the subject of gender, it seems Labour is determined not to learn them.
Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner are vying to become leader and deputy leader of the Labour party. Yet like Swinson before them, both seem oblivious that the public has little time for extreme transgender ideology. As a result, Labour is lurching towards a crisis brought on by transgender campaigners whose demand for compliance is total. By creating a narrative that trans people like me are the most oppressed in society and might crumble should someone look at us the wrong way or, heaven forbid, overlook our “preferred pronouns”, they have ensnared the party. Senior Labour figures are so firmly under this spell that they have even opened up all-women shortlists to any male person who identifies as a woman.
- Accept the material reality that trans people are oppressed and discriminated against in British society, facing a rising risk of hate crime, and difficulty accessing public services, healthcare, housing and employment.
- Believe that trans liberation must be an objective of the Labour party, and that transphobia is antithetical to our collective aims.
- Commit to respecting trans people as their self-declared gender, and to ensure that the Labour party is an inclusive environment for trans people.
- Accept that trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary people are non-binary.
- Accept that there is no material conflict between trans rights and women’s rights, and that all trans women are subject to misogyny and patriarchal oppression.
- Listen to trans comrades on issues of transphobia and transmisogyny, allowing trans people to lead the way on our own liberation.
- Support the work of trans members and organisers within the Labour movement, including supporting motions on a local, regional and national level which are presented for the furthering of trans liberation.
- Oppose transphobic motions which run contrary to our own party equalities policy, and support the NEC striking down such motions on this basis.
- Organise and fight against transphobic organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and other trans-exclusionist hate groups.
- Support the expulsion from the Labour party of those who express bigoted, transphobic views.
- Support reform of the Gender Recognition Act to improve transgender rights, as well as supporting policies which would improve trans people’s access to necessary healthcare, housing, and employment.
- Organise against and oppose any further transphobic policy from our own party or any other.
In normal times, such a list of self-serving demands, held together by a sense of entitlement and total lack of consideration for other vulnerable groups (notably women) could be a matter for a student debating society. But astonishingly, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner have backed the campaign. Both should be applauded for trying to support trans people, yet it is astounding that they chose to support these pledges.
There are worthy demands in the list, but they are tagged in almost as an afterthought. Waiting times for an appointment at a gender identity clinic are around two years, yet healthcare is barely mentioned. Meanwhile chronic underinvestment in mental health services is totally overlooked.
Other pledges are stronger on rhetoric than meaning. They demand that trans liberation must be an objective of the Labour party. But what does this actually mean?
Appallingly, the pledges also name and attempt to shame two reputable organisations. Pledge 9 calls on Labour politicians to:
“Organise and fight against transphobic organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and other trans-exclusionist hate groups.”
This claim is both outrageous and false. Trans people have attended meetings of both groups and even spoken from both platforms. So it’s astonishing that leading politicians would throw caution to the wind, adding their names to such a statement.
When I expressed my concerns to the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, I was promptly blocked. Presumably this means the group have themselves fallen foul of pledge six. Only if you are the right sort of trans, it would seem.
All this, of course, must be music to Boris Johnson. Such rhetoric is not only unhelpful and incoherent, it’s also unpopular with voters. The new Conservative government has remained largely silent on trans issues as the Labour party heads towards schism over them.
Woman’s Place UK was set up by female trade unionists and it has its roots firmly in the Labour movement. If Long-Bailey or Rayner are elected to positions of leadership, the party will be in the invidious position of having leaders who appear to think that this organisation – a feminist campaigning group that recently organised a huge conference drawing in MPs, MSPs, and senior academics among an audience of nearly 1000 people – are a ‘trans-exclusionist hate group’.
I am a trans person and a member of the Labour party. I campaign for trans rights but I also support both Woman’s Place UK and the LGB Alliance. Neither organisation is transphobic, yet these groups and their supporters are firmly in the sights of activists. If Long-Bailey and Rayner truly believe what they have signed, then they should report me. If I’m expelled from the party then so be it. But they will then need to find someone else to do my delivery round, urging others to support Labour.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 12 February 2020: Do Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner have a problem with trans people like me?