Is the Green party determined to make its female members feel unwelcome? After voting down women’s sex-based rights at their spring conference, the party has now suspended the co-chair of its women’s committee, Emma Bateman. The reason? According to Bateman, her decision to question whether trans women are female is to blame.
As a trans woman, who also happens to be a science teacher, I know that trans women are most definitely male. Indeed, it is only because we are male that we can be transwomen. But where gender ideology is concerned, the Greens appear to have lost touch with reality.
Bateman is no transphobe but – as with many other women – she thinks that being female is rather more than a feeling. She is also well respected in the party. In the words of writer and activist Beatrix Campbell: ‘Bateman is a calm, splendid Green activist. Many people treasure her.’
But is there a place in the party for people like Bateman? Campbell, who has herself faced Green Party discipline for apparently ‘causing distress, not just offence’, is not alone in feeling exasperated about what has happened to a party she loves:
‘Just when you imagine that it can’t get worse in Green party culture, something cruel and crazy slaps the collective face. In Stalinist Russia they’d call the use of complaints procedure against Emma Bateman ‘administrative methods’: a bureaucratic and proceduralist way of disciplining thought.’Beatrix Campbell
Behind a veneer of inclusivity, the Greens have succumbed to the gender ideology that brooks no dissent. Bateman cares about the rights of women; she was named on the defeated women’s rights motion that tried to add sex to the other eight protected characteristics that the Green party does support (age, disability, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race, maternity, religion/belief, marriage/civil partnership).
When that motion was defeated, Bateman’s own motion fell. She had hoped to persuade the party that sex and gender should not be conflated. Unfortunately the Green party leadership appears to think differently. Co-Leader (and candidate for Mayor of London), Sian Berry said:
‘Upsetting proposals aimed at excluding trans people from rights and services are being put to Green conference by an organised, loud but small group. Greens we need YOU to show up for our trans siblings this weekend.’Sian Berry
But why should the party not listen to this ‘loud but small group’? After all, they speak for many women. Do the Greens care about this constituency of female voters? No, appears to be the answer.
Although Berry insists that ‘our core values respect everyone’s right to inclusion and to be who they are’, it’s hard to see how that extends to people like Bateman.
You might be forgiven for thinking this is just a parochial row within a party on the fringes of British politics. But it’s more than that. Why? Because the intolerance at the heart of the Greens’ gender debate is not only confined to this party. Worryingly, there are signs – in the Labour party, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the SNP – that such a one-sided debate is becoming the norm.
So how has this happened? Because some now think that standing up for science and – indeed – for the safety and protection of women is transphobic. It isn’t. But those who make that point, like Bateman, risk being hounded, smeared and suspended.
Bateman has also said that:
‘It is not discrimination to say that males should not be in a women’s group.’
If anything, that doesn’t go far enough: males cannot be in a women’s group, because their presence – our presence, indeed – means that it is no longer a women’s group but a mixed-sex group.
Of course, I am not a Green party member, but if I was, then saying such a thing would almost certainly result in me being hauled in front of the type of disciplinary process that Bateman now faces. But differences of opinion should be settled in debate, not in a disciplinary. The treatment of Bateman, like Campbell before her, is outrageous.
Thankfully, not everyone is silent on Bateman’s treatment. Caitlin Collins, co-ordinator of the Bridgwater and West Somerset Green Party is organising a strike in protest:
‘We are not willing to represent the Green Party in its current dysfunctional state; nor are we willing to ask others to stand as candidates or to take part in election campaigning for the Green Party. This strike will last until, as a minimum requirement, Emma Bateman’s suspension is lifted.’Caitlin Collins, Bridgwater and West Somerset Green Party
How trans people, a small group in any organisation, gained so much prominence is not clear, but our use as a tool to keep women in their place is striking. While Bateman awaits her fate, others are forced to remain silent, often to protect their families and livelihoods. That is no way to run a party and a society. The sooner the Green Party leadership wakes up and sees the problem, the sooner they might be taken seriously.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.