Lisa Nandy and WPUK transphobia

Lisa Nandy, Labour leadership candidate, has stood up against the transphobia of Woman’s Place UK, and WPUK has written a whine which is a series of lies.

Lisa Nandy signed the pledges of the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, including “9. Organise and fight against transphobic organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and other trans-exclusionist hate groups.” She then went on the Today Programme, of which WPUK has produced a transcript. I am not sure what they object to in what she says there. The interviewer asked for her evidence that WPUK is a hate group. Ms Nandy said that WPUK cause offence, real harm with their lack of tolerance and understanding and their language, and that “You don’t exclude women [including trans women] from women only spaces”. “We should exclude people from the Labour Party who are trying to do harm to other people.”

In response, WPUK published a blog post from Ruth Serwotka, their founder, claiming that we are a women’s rights organisation committed, among other things, to upholding current sex discrimination and equality law as set out in the Equality Act (2010), including upholding protections for trans people.

This is false. They do not wish to uphold Equality law, which allows trans women to go into women’s changing rooms. See this blog post. Marks and Spencer’s policy is to allow trans women to use their women’s changing rooms. They tweeted that we could choose based on how we identify ourselves. This is as the Equality Act requires. I used one of their changing rooms last week. I have a gender recognition certificate, but that makes no difference to the Equality Act. WPUK incited their supporters to write to M&S saying this was an unacceptable and unsafe policy, women would be uncomfortable, that in changing rooms women were vulnerable and their dignity required “female only changing rooms”, excluding trans women like me.

They also demand that trans women do not use women’s toilets, saying “we feel it is important to demonstrate the right women have to establish clear boundaries”.

Never mind women’s refuges and support for women victims of violence, if I were excluded from women’s toilets and changing rooms my life would be turned upside down. It would be bearable for me, perhaps, seventeen years after transitioning, but given how I felt when I was preparing for transition it would make transition impossible. I have never caused a problem in women’s spaces.

Are they transphobic? Their manifesto demands trans women out of women’s wards in hospitals and women’s prisons. Many trans women languish on vulnerable prisoner units, with sex offenders, and I have been called a “nonce” (a sex offender) by a stranger who passed me in the street. Speeches made at their meetings rabble-rouse against trans women as if we should be feared. WPUK founder Kiri Tunks spoke of particular trans women who are dangerous, as if we should all be judged by people like her, as if we were all the same. This is a standard dehumanisation technique, designed to foment hate.

When they campaign against Gender Recognition Act reform, they say, contrary to the evidence,  “We believe that a change to self-identification is likely to threaten the rights of women and girls”. But having a GRC does not affect rights under the Equality Act, and no “predatory man” will seek one. See Layla Moran MP’s response to that claim here.

However moderate anti-trans campaigners’ language might appear, they seek to expel trans women from the women’s spaces where we have been safely for decades, without any justification. They demonise us by dwelling on isolated instances from particular criminal trans women. Well, it would be ridiculous to campaign for the exclusion of Scottish people based on the serial killers Peter Manuel, Peter Tobin, Archibald Hall and Angus Sinclair, and it is equally ridiculous to keep harping on about Karen White. I am not Karen White.

I am grateful to Lisa Nandy for standing up to WPUK and bullies like them. Serwotka demands Nandy’s “categorical assurance that you are not saying” that Serwotka is “trying to do harm to other people”. But, by supporting WPUK, Serwotka is doing exactly that.

Serwotka asks, “What are your commitments to women and girls?” It is a reasonable question. Can the Labour Party campaign for women’s rights? If our campaigning energy was not diverted by the need to fight WPUK’s transphobic hate, possibly we could.

20 February: At the hustings in Manchester, Lisa Nandy responded to a heckler: “I’ve had a bit of a taste of this over the past week. I signed a pledge along with Becky about standing up for trans rights because I believe trans men are men and trans women are women and we should say that loud and clear as a party. And the amount of hate and anger that’s been directed my way in the last week, it’s given me a very, very small taste of what people in the trans community have to face on a daily basis. So I will redouble my efforts to stand up for trans rights.”

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