It has been a trying week for the Labour Party. The leadership contenders are falling over each other in an astonishing bid to make themselves equally unelectable by a membership who are becoming exasperated with what many now view as transgender nonsense. I say that as a trans woman who is a member of the Labour Party.
Have they not learned from Jo Swinson? In December, the former Lib Dem leader’s election campaign went up in smoke on the altar of transgender ideology. Her inability to define the word “woman” is a masterclass in how not to do live radio.
Now Labour is repeating her mistakes. Events moved rather quickly. On Monday, the self-styled Labour Campaign for Trans Rights launched an appalling campaign that condemned Woman’s Place UK and the LGB Alliance as transphobic hate groups, and called for their supporters to be expelled from the party. Strong language indeed. But when the trans flag was raised, the leadership contenders came running. Now, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Angela Rayner have all signed the pledge.
However, it was back in the radio studio that Nandy stumbled on the fundamental problem with transgender ideology. She announced that “if you start from the position — as I do — that trans women are women, then…”
Unfortunately for Nandy, she floundered like Swinson before her. Transgender ideology is indeed transgender nonsense. I believe trans women are male, and women are female; male people are not female people and therefore trans women are not women. I say that as a trans woman.
But talking about it has become a statement of faith — dogma even — and it is central to both pledges. All four contenders are up to their necks in this, and by perpetuating untruths they let down three vulnerable groups. Women and children are the obvious victims. If any man can identify as a woman — for reasons known only to himself — women’s boundaries become meaningless.
Meanwhile children, some who are young enough to believe in the tooth fairy, are being told they can choose their sex long before they can understand the consequences.
Trans people also suffer. While waiting lists for specialist gender services have ballooned to more than two years, and mental health service remain chronically underfunded, campaigners have become obsessed with rhetoric and possible reform of the Gender Recognition Act. Words are cheaper than actions, and a tempting diversion to politicians with an eye on the cost.
After this week’s events, I’m unimpressed with all four candidates. I want them to cut out the dogma and focus on practical ways to improve services for transgender people. If they went into radio studios with that message, they might get my vote.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and campaigner on transgender issues