Andrew Marr’s question was simple and straightforward, ‘[Is] someone who thinks that only women have a cervix welcome in the Labour party?’ As a party member who still clings to science and reason, I willed Keir Starmer to give a simple and straightforward answer. Instead, he blustered:
Well, Andrew, we need to have a mature, respectful debate about trans rights and we need to, I think, bear in mind that the trans community are amongst the most marginalised and abused communities.Keir Starmer
It’s not true, Keir. Some of us in the trans community are doing rather well for ourselves, certainly in the UK. We have robust legal protections — we even have our own protected characteristic under the Equality Act — and most people wish us well. Some trans people do fare less well but whether it is because they are trans is a question in need of serious research.
But more to the point, this was a question about women’s rights. It concerned Rosie Duffield and her right to claim the word ‘woman’ for someone who has a cervix — in other words, an adult human female. Starmer’s instinct to defend trans rights suggested that while he might claim we are marginalised, the truth is rather different. We are central to his thinking.
Marr tried again: ‘Is it transphobic to say only women have a cervix?’ At that point, the wheels came off the bus.
‘Well, it is something that shouldn’t be said. It is not right. But Andrew, I don’t think that…’Keir Starmer
Shouldn’t be said? It’s the truth, for heaven’s sake! Only women have a cervix. Just like only men have a prostate. These facts are fundamental to human biology, but the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition thinks we should keep quiet about it.
I might be trans but I am also a secondary school science teacher. If Starmer is genuinely clueless about human reproduction he needs to mug up before his next interview. BBC Bitesize for GCSE Biology has a good summary if he needs somewhere to start. I might add that he could mention trans men alongside women if he wanted to be sensitive to transgender people. Trans men are female and have cervixes just like other females. Some women with certain intersex conditions may not have a cervix and others may have had them removed, but the point remains: sex is binary and only one sex has a cervix.
But Starmer has fathered children of his own. I suspect he knows how it all works; he just dare not answer the question for fear of upsetting the transgender thought police. For a group supposedly among the most marginalised, they wield remarkable power in this debate.
If there is any consolation to Starmer, Ed Davey is in exactly the same pickle. He failed the test last week when Marr posed the question, ‘What is wrong with this phrase: “woman — adult human female”?’
‘Well, Liberal Democrats believe that trans rights are really important because trans people are some of the most discriminated against in our society today,’ Davey blustered.
The teacher in me wonders if they have been copying each other’s answers. That practice impresses nobody — certainly when the answers are wrong, and we can all see they are wrong. It won’t stop here, either. These questions will not stop coming until opposition politicians show some backbone and start answering them.
Maybe they could take lessons from Shahrar Ali, a candidate in the current election for leader of the Green party of England and Wales? He understands biology and he has the bottle to announce it publicly.
If Ali wins the Green party contest, Starmer’s problems will become critical. He risks a potential exodus of members and activists to the party.
But whatever happens in the Greens, if Starmer is serious about fighting — and winning — a general election he needs to be able to stand up the transgender lobby. No doubt there will be hissy fits and squeals of horror, but appeasement is not an option for a potential prime minister.
At the 1985 Labour Party conference, Neil Kinnock established his authority as Labour leader when he told the Militant tendency where to get off. According to contemporary reports, ‘the praise heaped upon Mr Kinnock was the sort of adulation for a leader which had not been heard for decades’.
Does Starmer have the bottle to follow Kinnock’s example? If he doesn’t, the Labour party needs to find someone who does.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 27 September 2021: No, Keir, trans women like me do not have cervixes.