Keir Starmer and the trans-obsessives

Now Keir Starmer is leader of the Labour Party, he has promised to root out antisemitism, but unfortunately not transphobia. There’s a grilling by obsessive trans-haters on Mumsnet, which helps understand where Labour is on trans rights. Content: I quote the haters, and that includes transphobia, obsessive hate, and misgendering.

Mumsnet is filled with trans-obsessives. Some have chosen nicknames which refer to their obsession, often in arcane ways: “RetainTheSpousalExitClause” refers to the interim gender recognition certificate. Eight of the first ten comments were about trans rights, couched as “women’s rights”- “gender issues and the conflict with the rights of women and children”- though trans inclusion has little effect on most feminist issues. They are not even radical feminists: I counted fourteen questions related to trans, but of 175 posts on the thread only three mentioned porn and none mentioned sex work. “GeordieTerf” indicated the level of obsession, saying “The Labour candidates in my area made it very clear that they didn’t want my vote. I tried to debate my views, but the people who knocked on my door refused.” No, they would not agree with your hatred of trans people as the price of your vote. If you demand they agree with repulsive hate, of course they will not.

Mumsnet asked them to stop asking about trans- “We don’t want this to become a single-issue webchat”- and they wouldn’t. They dog-whistled: “Clearly the identity politics vote hasn’t been enough to make up for the lost votes”. I don’t know if they would object to gay or lesbian “identity politics”, but it is surely OK to talk about institutional racism- only trans rights are bad “identity politics”. Two asked what a “woman” is, as if they were spraying hate on Twitter. They don’t want a “respectful dialogue that doesn’t pit one set of concerns against others” as Starmer put it, they want to hate and persecute trans women.

What is a woman? It depends why you ask. Trans people are in all cultures over millennia, and for most social purposes trans women are women. Satisfied? A more detailed explanation is here.

Keir Starmer answered thirty questions. Five were from people whose monikers indicated trans-obsession, such as “CisMyFatArse”, though there were also questions about the last Labour Manifesto, Brexit, the NHS, Irish reunification, Scottish independence, the armed forces, Jeremy Corbyn, climate change, social care for the elderly, euthanasia, water bills, housing, special educational needs, transport and legal aid.

On antisemitism, he was clear, and I wish he would say the same about transphobia:

If you’re antisemitic, you shouldn’t be in our Party – or anywhere near it.

I would make this my personal responsibility. On day one, I would demand an update on ongoing antisemitism cases and ask for a clear timetable for their resolution. I would ask the Jewish Labour Movement and others to submit the list of cases they believe are still outstanding. And to leave no stone unturned I would also ensure an independent process and work with social media platforms to take hate off the internet.

And my test for our party will be this; do those who have left the Party because of antisemitism feel comfortable to return. Only when they do, will I be satisfied that we have made progress. At the next election I don’t want a single Labour member or activist to knock a door and be told that people who previously voted Labour won’t do so because of antisemitism.

I am not sure the terfs recognised the rebukes. One asked, “If you become Labour leader, how will you tackle sexism within the party? As a female, I am on the verge of leaving Labour over sexism I’m experiencing, both online and locally.” He replied, “…But the Party needs to be friendlier, more open and more respectful of each other. I’ve led a large organisation before and I know you can change culture through leadership, if you lead by example, if you put in place training, and if you argue for the culture that you want to see. That’s what I would do if I am elected leader.”

I think that’s what he is trying to do with trans rights. We should debate in a friendly and respectful manner. It won’t work with these obsessives. It might work with other people. It means rebuking the way the obsessives communicate, rather than their hateful beliefs. The transphobe Jo Stevens is in the shadow cabinet.

“StealthPolarBear” asked,

More than 200 of us are worried about gender issues and the conflict with the rights of women and children.

These are issues that affect the fundamental rights of half the population. They are across every conceivable layer of public policy, and affect us from cradle to grave. The issues are varied, ranging from men on women’s sport, the impact of self ID on women’s safety, the spousal exit clause and the emphasis on transition of children, including puberty blockers.

Are you concerned about any or all of these issues? How do you plan to ensure the rights of natal women and children?

He replied,

Thank you for this question – I know it’s a really important topic on Mumsnet and for parents.

Trans rights are human rights. I have met with members of the trans community and I know this is a group of people who have been subjected to incredible abuse and discrimination for a very long time.

But this conversation has become incredibly heightened, and I do understand the points being made on all sides. But if we just treat this as a political football, we are not being fair to anyone. I do believe we need to update the Gender Recognition Act. But what we need right now is a respectful dialogue that doesn’t pit one set of concerns against others. If elected leader, that’s a dialogue I would want to help facilitate.

Answering a trans-obsessive hater, he says, “Trans rights are human rights” and “we need to update the Gender Recognition Act”. These statements are unequivocal. He is on our side. “A respectful dialogue that doesn’t pit one set of concerns against others” takes away most of the arguments transphobes make, because trans-inclusion really does not prejudice women’s sport, women’s safety or the rights of children.

“rogdmum” asked,

My 14 year old daughter recently announced that she identifies as a boy. She falls under the loose description of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) where adolescents who did not show any signs of gender identity issues as children, develop gender confusion as adolescents. Many of these adolescents are autistic or have suffered from trauma or have serious mental health issues.

Referrals to the Tavistock clinic have skyrocketed from around 100 a decade ago to 2600 last year. The Government agreed to carry out an investigation into the sudden rise, but it appears to have vanished into some hole somewhere.

What will you do to raise awareness of this issue and ensure a proper investigation is carried out?

He replied,

Thanks rogdmum for this question and for sharing your family’s experience. I’m acutely aware of the anxiety and distress that this causes to individuals and families. This has to be seen as a human rights issue and we need to ensure that this debate is conducted respectfully and calmly, and with the best interests of children at heart.

“Best interests of the children”. That’s at the heart of Scots and English law on children, including social care, divorce and other matters. That means trusting doctors treating them over the prejudices of parents. It doesn’t mean transitioning every girl who ever climbed a tree into a boy, it means rejecting doctrinaire transphobia like this mother’s. I fear for the child. If they are not trans, perhaps they will transition in rebellion against the parent’s controlling tendencies, lack of trust, fear and hate. If they are trans, they may transition in their forties having had a blighted life.

“GCAcademic” asked,

What will you do to protect academic freedom and open debate in universities when so many institutions are failing to meet their legal obligations in this regard? To be clear, I am not talking about Tommy Robinson-style extremists being welcomed onto campuses, but professional people, including academics, lawyers, prison reformers, artists, etc, being prevented from contributing to events on matters of public policy, or such events being cancelled altogether due to pressure from lobby groups. There have also been numerous physical threats to speakers and academics, resulting in speakers being assaulted at two universities and a female academic currently requiring protection from two security guards at all her lectures at a third institution. The silencing of people who have the expertise and experience to contribute meaningfully to public debate on difficult issues is extremely concerning to many of us in academia, and is not a situation which is consistent with liberal democracy.

Starmer replied,

Thank you – I’m becoming increasingly concern by the shutting down of political discussion, whether in meetings or on social media by abuse and intimidation. It must be possible to have a political discussion where people profoundly disagree in a constructive and respectful way. I have long been a champion of free speech and always adopted the approach set out in international human rights instruments (which I spent my time as a lawyer promoting), which treat freedom of speech as a right and not a freedom, and sets out the limited circumstances in which free speech can be curtailed, which is where it’s lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so.

The free speech argument is hardly worth repeating. Right to free speech does not mean right to a platform. Academically worthless transphobia should have no place in universities, however exalted the transphobe. As a lawyer Starmer states the law, including that free speech can be curtailed, and again calls for “constructive and respectful” debate.

Reading the thread is depressing. These obsessives have no sense of proportion, often no apparent understanding that any issue other than trans inclusion has any importance. Perhaps capital punishment for transition would satisfy them.

Keir Starmer does not respond to their clear hatred of trans people as he responds to antisemitism. Yet he rejects their positions and supports our rights. Keir Starmer is not a transphobe. Possibly he fears he does not have the strength to counter them more strongly. I am pleased he signed LGBT Labour’s ten pledges, including this: “I will campaign to reform the Gender Recognition Act to introduce a self-declaration process and for the introduction of legal recognition for non-binary gender identities. I believe that trans women are women, that trans men are men, and that non-binary gender identities are valid and should be respected.

I saw a tweet shared on facebook: “I’ll show him exactly as much loyalty as he showed the trans community when he went on mumsnet and sympathised with a parent whose son caught ‘the social contagion’ of transness.” Like Sir Keir, I trained as a lawyer and want lawyerly precision here: “rogdmum” did not call trans a “social contagion”, and Starmer did not sympathise: he thanked her, and said he is aware of the anxiety and distress. I can be aware of her distress and utterly disagree about her child. Mentioning “human rights” and “the best interests of the children” is his lawyerly way of disagreeing. I wish he were more explicit, but he might just then get into social media storms. He pushes back against the trans-excluders.

29 June: today he gave almost nothing away, despite transphobic questioning.

26 September 2021: On the Andrew Marr show, Starmer called for “a mature, respectful debate” on trans rights. The topic starts at 45.00. He says the trans community are “amongst the most marginalised and abused communities”; that it is “not right” to say that only women have a cervix; and that “we need to make progress on the Gender Recognition Act”.

All comments welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.