Tweets and reality

Is Eddie Izzard a lesbian? It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

Some words have precise meanings. A zoologist plying his trade would not call her a “cat”, meaning the family Felidae or the genus Panthera or Felis. But you might see her moving on stage with feline grace. She is not a planet, because that has a clear meaning- Pluto was, then it wasn’t- but she is a star. She may be a hepcat- I knew slang, I thought it was 1960s, two words, hep for fashionable, cat for cool person. Words are slippery. Even scientific words have fuzzy edges where they may or may not apply.

Eddie says he’s a lesbian in a man’s body, and is that a good thing? A lesbian is a woman attracted to women. Homophobes find that weird, shameful or disgusting, and mourn the time when more people shared their opinion. If Eddie calls herself a lesbian it’s aspirational, something he wants to be. It becomes something to be proud of.

It’s only a bad thing if it forms some sort of threat to lesbians. The Times argues that it is, that lesbians are erased. Grace Petrie tweeted that if the transphobes were concerned about lesbian erasure, they might start a regular lesbian life column. No, because they only support lesbians in order to attack trans folk. The Daily Mail even supported a trans woman, once- to attack Muslims.

Insisting on too rigid a distinction between lesbian and bi might be biphobic. Trans women are women, so trans women attracted to women and not men are lesbians. If you think that’s a threat to lesbians, please explain why.

Right now, there are things to be angry about. The extreme incompetence of the British government has led to a sudden lockdown, when we can only go out to work if it is impossible to work from home, no more than two people can meet outside in a public place, and all the shops but pharmacies and supermarkets are shut. Schools are shut, but even on Monday 4th the Department for Education had a high-level meeting insisting they would be open, and children would be regularly tested for covid. So schools, without additional funding, have had to plan a testing regime, only to find now they will have to implement distance learning, with no notice. The hospitals are full, but infections have continued to rise, which means people will die who would have survived had they received proper medical care. Bizarrely, churches can open for worship, though many run food banks.

So, the usual suspects stir up anger against trans people instead. Jackie Doyle-Price, Tory MP, tweeted anger at Eddie calling herself a lesbian. Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP who should know better, liked the tweet. Tories, being English Nationalists, need to stir up hatred against enemies. Duffield has no such excuse.

Duffield also liked a tweet about a transphobic picture book, “My body is me”.

Bodies are different. Children are too.
Some prefer pink things. Some prefer blue.

That might be seen as reinforcing gender stereotypes in the most basic way. The book, which is unavailable on Amazon, shows children with “girl” hairstyles and “boy” hairstyles.

My body can act like a low flying plane
A mermaid, a dragon, one part of a train.

The plane- a boy walking, with planks strapped to his arms. Why low-flying? I stuck my arms out, no planks needed, and yelled NEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAOOOOWW. I was definitely high flying. It doesn’t set much store by child imagination. The mermaid is clearly a girl. Rigid gender stereotypes, again.

You are born in your body. You don’t have a spare.
So love it, hug it, treat it with care.

“My body is me” might be materialist, denying the existence of an immortal soul, so distressing Christians, but “You are born in your body” is denying the truth of trans children. Most children simply won’t understand, they won’t know what the alternative might be, but the five year old AMAB child who knows she is a girl will learn in the most direct way that she is not acceptable as she is, and has to keep quiet about it. Most children are cis, so will be unaffected. Some are trans, and will be traumatised.

Pink News reported, and quoted Duffield’s response- “click bait non story sourced solely from the weird world of Twitter” which she inhabits.

Duffield is doing the Nationalists’ work for them, spreading hate. It is deeply hypocritical of her to say that the pandemic and Brexit chaos are more important issues.

Should we respond to the phobes? Arguably not, it just gives them oxygen. Trans people spending too much time looking at this may become depressed. Haters will be encouraged to hate more. On the other hand, Duffield is doing Tory work, supporting Tories, and spreading hate in the Tory interest, so the Labour Party should take action against her.

Antisemitism, transphobia and the Labour Party

I welcome the report into antisemitism in the Labour party. Its recommendations should apply to transphobia as well. The transphobe MSP Jenny Marra and MP Rosie Duffield have faced no sanction for their transphobia. The transphobic document the “Labour Women’s Declaration” has received no condemnation from the Labour leadership. Transphobia is rife in the Labour Party.

I have taken paragraphs from the report, and substituted “transphobia” for “antisemitism”, “trans people” for “Jewish people”. I do this because I find transphobia in the Labour party quite as offensive as antisemitism.

The Labour Party must acknowledge the impact that years of failing to tackle transphobia has had on trans people. Rebuilding trust and confidence with its members, the Trans community and the wider public will be crucial for the future. A transparent and independent transphobia complaints process, which ensures that all cases of alleged discrimination, harassment or victimisation are investigated promptly, rigorously and without political interference, must sit at the heart of this. (p3)

Politicians on all sides have a responsibility to set standards for our public life and to lead the way in challenging HoBiT in all its forms. What politicians say and do matters. Their words and actions send a message about what is acceptable and what is not. (p4)

The Party has shown an ability to act decisively when it wants to, through the introduction of a bespoke process to deal with sexual harassment complaints… it is hard not to conclude that transphobia within the Labour Party could have been tackled more effectively if the leadership had chosen to do so. (p6)

An effective and transparent complaints process is critical to building trust with members and the general public, yet the Labour Party’s response to transphobia complaints has been inconsistent, poor, and lacking in transparency. (p9)

There is:
no clear, publicly accessible guidance for members on how transphobic conduct is sanctioned
no clear guidance for decision-makers on how to decide on the appropriate sanction
a continuing failure to provide adequate reasons for sanctions, and
poor record-keeping, implementation and monitoring of sanctions. (p10)

There was a failure to deliver adequate training to individuals responsible for handling transphobia complaints. The approach to training for antisemitism is in stark contrast to the training provided for those handling sexual harassment complaints, for whom the Labour Party has implemented a comprehensive training scheme. (p11)

We expect the Labour Party to have practical training in place within six months of publication of this report. We also found that the resourcing of the complaints process was inadequate. (p11)

Why can’t the EHRC recommend this for all discrimination complaints?

The Party should… Engage with Jewish stakeholders to develop and embed clear, accessible and robust principles and practices to tackle transphobia and to instil confidence for the future. (p12)

[and] commission an independent process to handle and determine transphobia complaints. (p13)

[and] Publish a comprehensive policy and procedure, setting out how transphobia complaints will be handled and how decisions on them will be made. This should include published criteria on what conduct will be subject to investigation and suspension. (p13)

[and] make sure the complaint handling process is resourced properly so that it can deal with transphobia complaints effectively and without delay. (p14)

The EHRC says Jewish stakeholders should be consulted on training programmes. I want trans members consulted on transphobia and training for all with positions of responsibility within the Party.

In the introduction to the report, the EHRC says,

Under the Equality Act 2010, the Labour Party must not discriminate against, harass or victimise its members, associates, guests, or those wanting to become members, on the basis of a number of protected characteristics… Leaders and representatives of political parties should uphold and defend their right to speak freely, but they also have a responsibility to conduct debate responsibly, and to lead others in doing so. They should create an environment where discrimination, harassment and victimisation is not tolerated, so that all party members feel valued and respected.

There is no excuse for the Labour Party not responding to transphobia as it has committed to responding to antisemitism.

NEC nominations and trans rights

Updated 13 November: the results of the NEC elections have been announced. Candidates in bold were elected. Most have spoken up for trans rights or against transphobia.

Labour Party members voted for National Executive Committee CLP representatives. Every eligible member could vote for nine CLP reps and one treasurer. What are the candidates’ positions on trans rights? The Labour Party LGBT Network asked a long list of questions, mainly about trans rights. Most candidates have spoken or written in favour of trans rights, or against transphobia. The ballot closed at noon on 12th November, and the results were announced the following day.

Continue reading

Single issue campaigners

Some Labour Party members hate trans people, and in particular trans women, so much that they do not think any other political issue is important. Such single issue campaigners are a blight on the resources and prospects of the Party, causing division and driving members away. We would be better off without them. For example,

I am preparing to leave the Labour Party. I have never voted for anyone other than the Labour Party throughout my life but now feel unsure of what I can do in the next election. If the Labour Party does not support women’s sex based rights then it does not support me or any other woman.

“Sex-based rights” is code for expelling trans women from women’s spaces. According to these people, I should not even be allowed in a shop changing room to try clothes on before buying them, even if the cubicles have walls and lockable doors stretching from floor to ceiling, however long I have transitioned, even if I pass. To win this right to be there without the possibility that a trans woman might enter too, which the Labour Party opposes but many in the Conservative party would support, she will relentlessly abuse and diminish the Labour Party.

It is a lie to speak of Labour’s “silence on women’s rights”. Labour supports women’s rights, having introduced the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act, and the Equality Act. However, in these people’s view it seems only the “right” to be in a space where trans women are guaranteed never to enter matters.

The level of abuse is appalling.

  • “Please put some grown-ups in charge so that I can vote Labour again.”
  • “I have always voted Labour but am disgusted at the direction they are going in”
  • Anyone opposing transphobia is abused as “simpletons, misogynists and the deeply ignorant.”
  • “The Labour Party are a misogynistic disgrace.”
  • “Shame on the Labour party and shame on Keir Starmer.”

For these people, expelling trans women from women’s spaces is treated as the only political issue, more important than the pandemic or the corrupt contracting out of public services by the Tory government; and the only feminist issue, more important than VAWG or street harassment. Nothing Labour does in campaigning for women and women’s rights matters to them.

One asks, “Is Labour losing support because of the silence on women’s rights?” Nothing Labour does for women matters to her.

We can’t know that these quotes come from Labour supporters rather than trolls or even bots, because there is no verification done. And, they are writing on a social media space where the greater hostility to trans people, particularly trans women, is glorified, and any dissenting voice quickly silenced. In that space, they get more little dopamine hits from Likes, the more hostile they are.

The comments are completely out of proportion. If they do not think Kier Starmer, Anneliese Dodds and Marsha de Cordova are adults, who would be better? They are aggrieved, and see themselves as victims, even while imagining they are more knowledgable and intelligent. They encourage each other, and get more extreme.

How many people think like that? Hundreds; but their voices are magnified by such as The Times, with its anti-Labour and anti-trans agenda.

Some of these people claim to activism in the past, canvassing or getting out the vote. However, now, they are simply a burden on the party, abusing its leader, policy and membership. All their claims of loyalty and long-term adherence are only made to try to strengthen their voice against Labour policy. They do no good for our party. They set back the cause of women’s rights and LGB rights by stoking division. If they cannot develop a sense of proportion, they should leave.

Rosie Duffield

Is it transphobic to tweet “Only women have a cervix”? Yes. Rosie Duffield MP said “I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix….?!”

Trans men have cervixes, and need screening. Nonbinary people are entitled to object to being called women. There is a feminist argument here. Cervical cancer, period poverty, rising child mortality linked to Tory austerity policies, are not “women’s issues”, of interest to women, they are people’s issues and all people should be concerned about them. Rosie Duffield was born in 1971, and inclusive language for women, eg “police officer” rather than “policeman”, had been mostly won when she was in high school, though Dover District Council has a “chairman”.

Trans rights has been a huge issue in the Labour Party at least since the Labour Women’s Declaration, a transphobic document, was launched in time to disrupt the Labour election campaign. Duffield knows the issues. She is deflecting to call this a “communist pile-on”- I voted for Keir Starmer in the leadership election.

The trail goes back to the American Cancer Society, which on 31 July published a paper updating screening guidance: “Cervical cancer screening for individuals at average risk”. The abstract begins, “The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that individuals with a cervix initiate cervical cancer screening at age 25 years”. CNN reported this: “American Cancer Society now recommends screening start at 25, not 21” is the headline, and the report starts “Individuals with a cervix”. Immunisation against HPV has reduced the risk in younger women.

My use of “women” there is not a mistake: the research is on women, without sufficient data to show that the risk is also reduced in trans men and nonbinary people.

CNN tweeted the first paragraph of that report, and a link. So the tweet started “Individuals with a cervix”. Piers Morgan retweeted with the comment “Do you mean women?” Rosie Duffield saw the tweet, and clicked the heart symbol. Then she started arguing when people objected.

I googled NHS cervical smear testing, and saw this: “Cervical screening (a smear test) checks the health of your cervix. The cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina. It’s not a test for cancer, it’s a test to help prevent cancer. All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited by letter.” “People with a cervix” includes trans men and nonbinary people. I prefer “people” to “individuals” here: “Individuals” sounds more formal, but scientific papers should not be formal for the sake of it, just when necessary for clarity. “Legal persons” such as companies do not own cervixes.

Someone has had the bizarre misconstruction, possibly intentional, that “a test for cancer” means a test that causes cancer, and the NHS feels the need to explain that is wrong- they would be better to omit “It’s not a test for cancer”, because it clearly is a test for cancer or precancerous changes, and just put “It’s a test to help prevent cancer”.

Rosie Duffield’s tweets are now protected. Only approved followers can see them. However, she commented “I’m a transphobe for knowing only women have a cervix?” Labour List then quoted Jess Phillips saying Duffield was not a transphobe. They quote Duffield:

the post by CNN “isn’t a post about transphobia, it’s a post about female body parts… Hugely insulting to all women, trans or cis, in my opinion”.

Many of her followers and Labour activists reacted angrily to her comments, calling for her resignation. The Labour MP called the reaction a “tedious communist pile-on”, and said that it was “hardly a suitable discussion for Twitter”.

“Insulting to trans women,” says Duffield. Most of the “Debate” is an attack on trans women, an attempt to incite fear of us, an attempt to restrict our rights and normalise prejudice against us, but here the issue is trans men. Duffield is not stupid and should know that.

Labour party rules are convoluted, but clause 6.I.1.B says that in any alleged breach of clause 2.I.8, “any incident which might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on… gender reassignment or identity…” the NEC “may” suspend any individual, then the General Secretary or other national officer shall investigate, then the NEC “may” discipline under clause 1.VIII.3.A.iii, whose sanctions include expulsion from the party. “May” indicates discretion, “shall” indicates none. The Disputes Team will investigate and pass the complaints to the Disputes Panel of the NEC.

Clause 2.I.8 says no member shall engage in conduct which is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Party. The NEC “shall” regard hostility or prejudice based on gender reassignment or identity as conduct prejudicial.

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You can complain here. This is my complaint. Duffield is MP for Canterbury, so from the South East. She is 49.

Rosie Duffield said, “I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix….?!” Trans men and nonbinary people may also have cervixes. The statement erases trans men and nonbinary people. Duffield disregards the feelings of those trans men and nonbinary people, who may object to being called “women”. Therefore she indicates prejudice against them contrary to the Rule Book Chapter 2 clause I.8.

“Individuals with a cervix” is inclusive language, which includes cis women as well as nonbinary people and trans men. “Women” excludes trans men and nonbinary people. It is thus just the same as using the phrase “police officer” rather than “policeman”. Duffield would understand that transphobia is an issue in the Labour Party. It has been an issue at least since the transphobic “Labour Women’s Declaration” was issued in November 2019, just in time to disrupt the Party’s election campaign.

Objecting to inclusive language for trans people is prejudicial, just as objecting to inclusive language for women, insisting on “Chairman” rather than “Chair” or “Chairperson”, would be sexist.

I object to Ms Duffield calling this a “Communist pile-on”. I have been a party member since 2017, and have canvassed and campaigned for the Party. I want the Party to win. I am a trans woman and an ordinary member of the Party. I voted for Mr Starmer as leader. I find Ms Duffield’s statements personally offensive.

The Labour Party says what will happen next.

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What about Jess Phillips? Labour List quotes her saying she does not think that Rosie Duffield is a transphobe, and that Twitter is not the place for reasonable policy debate about sometimes difficult and complex issues such as the trans issue, which “more than anything else, deserves proper detailed debate and attention by policy makers who almost certainly should be changing the Gender Recognition Act – it is now outdated.”

I am grateful to Jess Phillips for being part of the Women and Equalities Committee which recommended a great increase in trans rights. She is right that twitter is not the place for policy debate, but that’s a criticism of Duffield: when people pointed out she had liked Morgan’s tweet she should have stopped tweeting. She should have known about inclusive language, and not liked Morgan’s tweet which mocks it.

The “vitriolic war” here is Morgan’s mocking response to trans-inclusive language, and Duffield’s support for it. I have emailed Jess Phillips asking her to ask Rosie Duffield to apologise.

This is a sad tale of how people can be radicalised against trans rights. In 2017, Duffield signed this supportive Early Day Motion.

12 October: Duffield wants to ban trans women from women’s loos. Here she is in The Times: ““It was during the Labour Party conference. He [her abusive former partner] arrived in the space where I was with two friends, late at night, and it was very obvious it wasn’t a coincidence and he was physically threatening. The first thing that one of my colleagues did was rush me to the nearest women’s bathroom. We could go in and lock the door and I could calm down. If he had been able to access that room things could have been very different.”

The lie is that any man could just go lawfully into a women’s loo. It is ridiculous. The man could easily have forced his way in. A lawbreaker who will assault a woman will not be deterred by a sign on a door, and would hardly go to the bother of getting a GRC in order to follow Duffield. The argument is wholly false. But with the allusion to domestic abuse, it is designed to arouse fear, and attach it to innocent trans women. She uses the term “women only” to mean excluding trans women.

July 2021: Duffield is under investigation by the party after Liking a tweet saying trans people were “mostly heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as gay”. Cosplaying is a bit of fantasy fun. Trans is expressing my true self so that I can flourish, rather than fail to thrive because I feel pressured to pretend to be something I am not. Trans is self-expression for survival.

10 September: Duffield has a long twitter thread against trans rights calling trans women “male bodied biological men”. I wonder if the Party investigation is over, or if she has got a lawyer to draft it, or if she’s just had a meltdown.

Lloyd Russell Moyle, the Labour Party, and trans rights

“Labour must stand with trans people against a new section 28,” wrote Lloyd Russell-Moyle in Tribune. It’s a good article.

Recently, of course, we saw people like JK Rowling using her own sexual assault as justification for discriminating against a group of people who were not responsible for it. Trans people are no more likely to be rapists; in fact, they are more likely to be victims of sexual assault themselves. That’s why, despite JK Rowling’s hate towards them, hundreds of trans people wrote to complain to The Sun when it trivialised her domestic abuse on a recent front page… Those who try to weaponise women’s rights as a tool to push transphobia are hurting women and trans people, and we should not be quiet in calling it out.

JK Rowling’s hate is well documented. Her ex-husband’s violence does not excuse it and is entirely irrelevant to innocent trans people. However Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, told Russell-Moyle, a shadow junior minister for the Environment, to apologise. When I searched for him, Google was quoting wikipedia as saying he is a “politician and men’s rights activist”, though the lie had been deleted from Wikipedia when I went there. He is a politician who has a reasonable view on trans rights.

However Russell-Moyle apologised on twitter.

I want to apologies unreservedly about the comments in the article that I wrote last week in Tribune regarding Trans rights in which I mention J.K. Rowling. J.K. Rowling’s first disclosures of domestic abuse and sexual assault in her recent article on Trans issues were heartfelt and must have been hard to say. Whilst I may disagree with some of her analysis on trans rights, it was wrong of me to suggest that she used her own dreadful experience in anything other than good faith. I have asked Tribune to remove the line in question.

The paragraph is still there. Tribune explain, “It is against Tribune’s editorial policy to amend the contents of articles after publication in the fashion requested,” but they publish the apology.

As Moyle says,

While it is sickening to see trans people being caught up in a lazy attempt by the government to gain headlines, we must also know that their existence was threatened day in and day out even before this latest fiasco. Socialists must not only defend their rights, we must stand with them against exploitation, intimidation and mistreatment by the state.

On Monday morning, Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, was interviewed on The Today Programme (from 2:10:04 on the recording). He said “The PM is good on promising and bad on delivery”- mentioning the broken promise to build affordable housing- but the interviewer wanted to ask about his sacking Rebecca Long-Bailey, former shadow Secretary for Education, and Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

On Rebecca LongBailey, he said he will “take the action that is necessary on antisemitism… we can move forward with a clearer view of what needs to be done to rid the Labour Party of any sense of antisemitism”. Good. I have followed the equivocation, a little, what Amnesty International said, what Maxine Peake said, what Long-Bailey actually tweeted, and equivocation just perpetuates the smell of antisemitism.

JK Rowling was clearly in bad faith. To describe her experiences of partner violence would have been brave and valuable in the struggle for women’s rights. To describe them and then go on to express vile prejudice against trans people is using them in propaganda and demeans her. However as the interviewer Nick Robinson pointed out, she is a life long Labour supporter, and as we know very rich with a huge platform.

What did Starmer say? He said social media is never the best guide to public opinion.

[Moyle] was wrong to say that and he has apologised for it and I have accepted that apology… that was my judgment call and I’ll be judged if you lead a political party you have to take responsibility for the decisions you make.

The interviewer framed the question in exactly the most damaging way, saying “the conflict between two sets of rights trans rights and women’s rights to safe space How do you as Labour leader choose which side you come down on?” He gabbled in the way people do in these interviews, never pausing for fear of interrupting, producing a stentorian monotone.

I think that’s the wrong question, and that’s the problem: people are saying which side are you on this. I think the trans community deserve more protection than they’ve got. I don’t think the legislation goes far enough. That then takes us into difficult questions. Let’s take those difficult questions in a mature calm way without taking sides. Treating this as a political football which is what’s happened over the recent months is completely the wrong way forward. There’s a better way, and that is to reflect, and to do it in a mature, I would hope cross party basis, because the entrenchment is no way- that doesn’t protect the trans community, it doesn’t protect some women who are completely concerned about safe spaces. Let’s have the conversation.

I am convinced there is a way forward here if everybody is prepared to stop chucking bricks at each other, have a mature conversation, not treat it as a political football, and I think the sooner we get to that the better.

Well. He often says “trans rights are human rights”- trans people are human, I hope no-one would disagree. It could be completely neutral, even anti-trans: transphobes claim to support trans rights when seeking trans exclusion. “I don’t think the legislation goes far enough” to support our rights. He isn’t taking sides, he says. I trust he is a progressive. Here he was neutral, and with the storm of Government transphobia that is hard for me to hear; but his words before have been supportive.

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On Good Morning Britain, the same day, Keir Starmer got friendly questions about the PM and the polls, and transphobic questions about trans rights. Piers Morgan ranted:

There is a creeping sense that the transgender lobby is being so aggressive that it’s actually beginning to damage women’s rights? … I mean can somebody who is born with a male biological body simply say I am now identifying as a woman and be afforded full respect do you think that’s right… and have all the rights a woman should have?… JK Rowling is trying to defend women’s rights, she’s not transphobic, from anything I’ve read, she says she supports transgender people, she supports their rights to fairness and equality… is it right that people born in male biological bodies should be able to compete in sports against people born to female biological bodies given that there is in almost every case a massive physical advantage…

Susanna Reid backed Morgan up.

RLB does not actually write the words over which she was sacked but she retweets an interview, but LRM had actually written the article in which he criticised a woman for talking about a sexual assault that she had experienced.

Keir Starmer did not state a personal view. He said Moyle was right to apologise.

Well what I’ve said in this because it is a sensitive issue, trans rights are human rights, the legislation we’ve got doesn’t go far enough and we all have a cross party consensus about it to look at it and see whether it can be developed. But what concerns me here is that this whole issue has become a political football. There must be a space for a mature discussion about how we improve the rights of the trans community, obviously preserve safe spaces. I’m very conscious of the experience of women that have gone through sexual assault, sexual violence, I worked on it very hard as DPP with women’s groups, I do absolutely understand that, but there is two sides here. Let’s stop the political football and have a mature debate about how we improve-

I think we need to respect the right to self-identify, but we need to look at the framework that goes around that. That’s where the legislation needs to take place. That’s where the broad discussion needs to take place. I really don’t want to get drawn in to doing the opposite of what I’m suggesting here which is treating it as a political football. It’s complicated, it’s sensitive. I don’t think that hurling things at each other is the way forward…

I think we can go forward on this if we have a sensible debate about it without just drawing hard lines in the sand. On both sides we need mature reflection on it. We need absolutely- There was a cross-party consensus about this on the discussion that needed to take place and that’s fallen away and that’s a great shame. I actually think these are practical issues there are good questions, let’s reflect on them and find a consensus on the way forward because just chucking mud at one another is not going to help.

Starmer played a straight bat on this. ITV’s article under the video quoted at length stuff they had got they found interesting, but on trans they only quoted “[Moyle] was right to swiftly apologise and he did.” However he said some reassuring things for trans people. “The legislation does not go far enough”. “We need to respect the right to self-identify”. I consider he means there needs to be an advance in trans rights. It might not be as far as we wish. He says we should not draw hard lines. I don’t think a consensus is possible with the hard line anti-trans campaigners, but it might be with some people.

I don’t like the interviewers at all. Anti-trans campaigning was portrayed as reasonable concern, and Morgan played up the alleged threat of male bodies.

Dropping “Trans women are women”?

“I’m really focused on the idea that we don’t have to convert everybody to our way of understanding gender,” Nancy Kelley said in her first interview since taking up the position as head of the UK’s leading gay rights charity. “For Stonewall to succeed, it doesn’t have to make people believe as it believes. What it has to do is make people support changes that make trans lives easier.”

Kelley said that her priority was to reach a broad consensus that trans people need protection and that reforms to the administrative process – “which makes little difference to anybody apart from trans people” – are treated as just that.

“There is a lot of debate on the theory of gender and sex, it’s all terribly interesting and there are a million PhD theses to be written about it,” said Kelley, “but for the experience of trans people’s lives to be more positive, and for them to have lower levels of hate crime, better access to health services and more inclusive schools and workplaces, we don’t need people to agree on what constitutes womanhood.

“We must come back to the basics of building empathy for the idea that we want our fellow humans to experience a dignified, positive life,” said Kelley. “And there are things that as a society that we can change to make that more likely.”

What does that mean? I fear it means making trans people more uncomfortable. I don’t think it means taking the edge off hate groups’ campaigns against trans people, or necessarily off Stonewall. It may confuse the general public.

In theory, I could agree. However when I say “trans women are women” I mean we are socially women, not necessarily that we have women’s brains or women’s souls or are in some way intersex, just that society grudgingly tolerates transition. Hate groups hate that simple phrase. Graham Linehan has just been kicked off Twitter for tweeting “Men aren’t women”.

What is “Stonewall’s way of understanding gender”? I searched Stonewall for “transgender” and did not find the page “the truth about trans”, though that page does not use the longer word. I fear Nancy Kelley is going to be changing the website, or changing their campaigning.
In their “glossary of terms” I found

Transgender woman
A term used to describe someone who is assigned male at birth but identifies and lives as a woman. This may be shortened to trans woman, or MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female.
Gender
Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth.

I would like Stonewall, and Nancy Kelley, to make people believe that definition of gender, but I find the definition of “transgender woman”- not a phrase I would use- fairly non-threatening to trans excluders. We “identify and live as women”. This is alright so far as it goes, but does not say we are actually women. However on “The truth about trans” they say “Being trans isn’t about having (or not having) particular body parts. It’s something that’s absolutely core to a trans person’s identity and doesn’t alter – whatever outward appearances might be.” We don’t need to have surgery. I find that an absolute minimum on trans rights, as a demand we have to have had surgery excludes all those starting transition, but trans excluders fearmonger about our surgery. It also says,

So, could a lesbian have a trans woman as a lesbian partner, or a gay man be with a trans man?
Of course. If they fancy each other. First and foremost, we need to recognise that trans women are women, and trans men are men. After that it becomes a matter of who you are attracted to. Adults are free to have relationships with other consenting adults, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What would reforming gender recognition mean?

If you’re a cis person, it will barely affect you. All that will happen is that trans people in the UK will have a slightly easier life. However, it will mean you and your family are living in a fairer society, one where people – maybe including some people you love and care for personally – are free to lead the lives they want to live, without the abuse and discrimination that’s an everyday part of life for many trans people at the moment.

It says trans children should be supported, and trans women should be in women’s toilets, women’s refuges and women-only shortlists. It does not mention sport, but that may be an oversight. It’s fairly clear “The truth about trans” is written by a trans person, or an extraordinarily sensitive ally; the glossary probably not.

Having trans women “experience a dignified, positive life” means treating us for all social purposes as women. I am happy to say “Sex is real” as long as that is not taken as some sort of denial that socially I am a woman. I would like Stonewall to campaign against rigid gender stereotypes, as that would help free lesbians, gay men and even straights, as well as trans people.

I don’t know whether Stonewall under Ruth, Baroness Hunt, had one way of understanding gender. Gender is complex and can mean different things when discussing trans people and when discussing wider society. I am happy Nancy Kelley, another lesbian, wants to “make trans lives easier” and get widespread support for that. But I don’t know what changes Ms Kelley might make in trans campaigning, and fear the fairly meaningless words at the start of this post will encourage trans excluders and dispirit trans people. I would love there to be less heat in the trans debate, for anti-trans campaigners to build bridges with trans people and for both groups to find how we could work together, but at the moment both sides have a “with us or against us” mentality, prone to analysing the words of prominent campaigners like Nancy Kelley like theologians analysing the words of Jesus. It ain’t like working for the National Centre for Social Research, as Kelley formerly did.

“I don’t know if the government is stoking a culture war,” said Kelley, “but they’re certainly not reassuring the trans community that they will make positive steps, and the trans community is incredibly distressed and worried.”

She is on our side. Cut her some slack. I am not sure she is ready for this, though.

I was bothered by this because trans people are worried by Keir Starmer. Rather than saying “trans women are women” he now says “trans rights are human rights”, and we get wound up. Recently LGBT Labour’s campaign for “progressive reform to the Gender Recognition Act” (as anodyne a name as anyone could ask for) was published under the heading “trans rights are human rights”. No trans person could disagree. Trans excluders might have difficulty disagreeing with the phrase, even if they might disagree on what our human rights should actually be. Maybe that’s the point.

A “nuanced debate”

What possible answer is there to “Do you condemn death threats?” but “Yes”?

Keir Starmer’s spokesperson was asked about JK Rowling’s screed on trans, and replied,

“This is a nuanced debate, a very important debate, and what Keir wants to do is work closely with all sides of this debate in scrutinising the government proposals and ensuring that we remain committed to trans rights.”

Did Sir Keir stand by the last Labour manifesto on trans recognition? “Keir stood on that manifesto and Keir has a proud history of supporting advances in human rights across a variety of areas.” He need not say, to most of his audience, that the manifesto of a party that lost is as valuable as a month-old newspaper.

Did anyone send death threats? It is loathsome if they did, but even if they were trans, I am not responsible for them any more than I am responsible for Bad Things done by my fellow left-handers.

This led to wailing and gnashing of teeth on trans facebook. “I will never vote Labour again,” wrote someone who perhaps prefers Tories. What part of “ensuring that we remain committed to trans rights” does she not understand? “Nuanced debate” allows Sir Keir to dismiss out of hand the anti-trans rantings, while denying he is doing so.

The Times, a paper which can only be trusted to Murdochian levels of truthfulness, screamed “Labour Stands Back From Gender Debate”. “Measures designed to prevent people with male anatomy using female lavatories and domestic violence refuges have also been included in a package drawn up by Liz Truss, the equalities minister.” Well, honestly. Do they expect me to carry confirmation of surgery about my person? Who would be entitled to inspect it?

Labour Shadow Ministers spoke up. The Shadow Home Secretary said, “we need to listen very carefully going forward in what is an extremely sensitive area”. The Shadow Justice Secretary said, “I’m not sure the government just scrapping plans and then leaking it out in a newspaper is the way to deal with this, you need a much better way that’s sensitive, that seeks consensus and respects everybody’s rights.” So the Times reports TV interviews. These are not positive commitments to trans rights, but there have been such commitments before.

It is beneath the dignity of the Leader of the Opposition to comment on the calculated nastiness of “A Government Source”, however prominent its platform. When a minister makes a statement, the shadow minister should make the appropriate response, which I am hopeful will be to oppose, on the side of trans recognition, with a truthful account of the actual position rather than fearmongering about claimed threats to women’s spaces.

Meanwhile, “a nuanced debate” is a meaningless phrase, saying “ask me later”. Nuanced means you can’t pin him down to one “side”.

The statement by A Government Source is froth. Johnson wants to distract from his complete failure on covid deaths, on care homes, schools, lockdown, reopening, everything. An actual statement on trans rights would be useful, but I could think of little else before Liz Truss, the responsible minister, appeared in the House of Commons yesterday, and she said nothing.

I may cut down my news consumption. Much of what Mr Trump does is distraction, and reading the breathless coverage, even the magisterial disdain of Michelle Goldberg, just gets me wound up to no purpose. Instead I have read one book, “Surviving Autocracy” by Masha Gessen, and even considered reading John Bolton’s when it comes out, though he is a monster, who joined Trump’s regime because he thought he could use it to bomb Iran. But day to day Trump coverage is no more valuable than any other reality show. There is of course Gerry Adams’ response to “Do you condemn,” but he was in specific circumstances which do not apply now.

Both the Trump and the Johnson governments are doing real harm to people, but that’s all the more reason to keep my head clear.

Prime Minister’s Questions

Keir Starmer shows the complete failure of the UK government to deal with Covid, and the appalling resultant death rate. ABdP Johnson shows the Tories’ concern for spin and presentation. Can Mr Johnson explain 10,000 additional deaths in care homes? He can not.

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition, gave the facts. The average number of deaths in care homes in April for the last five years has been just over 8000. This April, there were 26,000 deaths in care homes. 8000 are recorded as Covid deaths. He asked, can the PM say what the government’s thinking is on the additional 10,000 deaths?

Johnson: Covid is an appalling disease and the elderly are vulnerable. But since the care homes action plan began there are fewer deaths and fewer outbreaks in care homes. We need to reduce infections in care homes. We must fix it and we will.

That is, 10,000 additional deaths and he gives no answer. There are about 418,000 people in care homes, who must be terrified.

Starmer: we need to understand the figures. The overall figure given for Covid deaths is 32,600, greater than any other country but the US. The government has compared the figures to other countries, before, when ours were less. Yesterday, the government stopped publishing the international comparison. Why?

Johnson: The epidemic is unprecedented (untrue) once in a century (well, we hope so). Comparisons with other countries are premature. (So why has he been making them before now?) The figures are stark and deeply, deeply horrifying. This has been an appalling epidemic. We are getting the numbers down, and making small modest steps to come out of restrictions on going to work.

Johnson’s incompetence is skewered, no matter how much he wriggles. I would support the government in their efforts, if they were willing to admit the slightest mistake. This We are Fixing It line makes me hate him.

Dr. Jamie Wallace, Conservative for Bridgend, said the Tory government’s road map out of lockdown was clear, but in Wales the devolved Labour administration gave no such clarity. “Does he agree with me that the people of Wales deserve a government that is honest and clear with them about the road ahead?”

Wallace is so sycophantic, he fails to notice the trap he has laid for Johnson, who is opaque and blustering. Johnson said the four nations are working well together. People who talk of confusion or mixed messages are grossly overstating the position. The common sense of the British people is shining through this argument. They can see where we need to go.

John Spellar, Labour for Warley: The Foreign Office has washed its hands of people with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, stranded in other countries when their families are here. Will you sort this out?

Johnson: 1.3m British nationals (people with indefinite leave do not have citizenship) have now been returned. We are doing everything we can.

Peter Bone called for the Electoral Commission to be abolished. The commission attempts to ensure the fairness of our votes, with insufficient powers of investigation and sanction.

Johnson again refused to seek an extension of the Brexit negotiations. Remember that the disaster for the economy of the Tory hard Brexit is coming.

As a lawyer, I love Mr Starmer’s approach, and find Ian Blackford’s blustering by comparison. I can’t remember what Mr Johnson said that “surprised” Mr Starmer, but this particular piece of lawyers’ jargon needs explained. “I am surprised” means Dude! WTAF!!!!!!!

Mr Starmer was polite, and that is his way. Before, he was polite to trans-excluders, and trans people worried that he sympathised. Looking at what he said, he was not sympathising at all. In the same way with Mr Johnson he is raising the questions which must be answered eventually, and rather than shouting or repeating that the PM has not answered, he moved on. It will produce a clip or two for the news bulletins, showing Mr Starmer calm and measured, and I hope bringing out that Johnson did not answer about 10,000 unexplained deaths. I hope journalists and the public will continue to raise those questions, and I am doing so here now.

Right now, it’s lovely to see PMQ as a sort of headmaster’s office, where naughty Boris Bunter goes up before the beak and shouts Yarrooo a lot as he gets his deserved thrashing. The problem is that the Remove, indeed the whole rest of School outside that office, is firmly under Bunter’s control, and Bunter is selling it all off to buy cream cakes for him and his chums.

Once again.

10,000 unexplained additional deaths in care homes in April.

The deaths are coming down, though far too slowly for my liking. And between 7 March and 8 May there have been 49,833 deaths above the weekly national average in England and Wales, which declined from 11,498 to 9,576 as the weather warmed. At worst, that was a doubling of the weekly death rate. 33,365 deaths from Covid were registered in that period, though on 1 May the official Covid death rate was 27,510, being UK deaths in hospitals after a positive test. That figure is 33,186 at 13 May.

Labour infighting

The invasion of Iraq was a turning point for the Labour Government and for its supporters. For some Labour members it is a symbol of all that was wrong with Tony Blair as PM and Labour politician. We should not be fighting amongst ourselves. We should not first criticise the last Labour government, but the Tories’ ideological devastation of government’s acts for the good of the people, and ideological campaign against international co-operation. So the question for this Corbynist pacifist is, can you defend the Iraq War? Yes.

Trying to set aside hindsight, I argue R2P, the Responsibility to Protect, could be an argument for the invasion. Saddam Hussein’s regime was uniquely vile. His campaign against the Kurds has been recognised as the Anfal Genocide, which included the Halabja chemical attack. There was also the British alliance with the US, which advanced British interests. There is less justification from the US point of view- Saudis based in Afghanistan attack the US, so the US invades Iraq. I wonder how accurate a portrait of Bush Benjamin Hayes in Homeland series 8 is.

As a pacifist I would rather Britain had taken a principled stand against invasion, in the UN Security Council. Neo-colonial wars do no-one any good. And I recognise the idealism as well as realpolitik behind British involvement. Hindsight can show decisions were wrong which were made in good faith. Even the Dodgy Dossier, selecting what intelligence to reveal by whether it supported the case for war, rather than by how reliable it was, is justifiable. Experts tell the truth, and politicians decide, then politicians persuade.

So let us now praise good government: Attlee’s welfare state, Wilson’s liberalisation including the Abortion Act and the Sexual Offences Act, Callaghan as a “strong and efficient administrator” weathering economic difficulties, Blair’s Sure Start Centres and work to reduce child poverty, and Brown’s strong action mitigating the 2008 recession, among many other things. And let us remember the Tories- Suez, “selling off the family silver” for far less than its value, the great distraction from Britain’s real interests that is the Brexit debate, and now the botched response to Covid resulting in possibly more deaths here than anywhere else in Europe, and all the money Rees-Mogg and others are making from Covid market disruption. And always the cuts and mismanagement of public services, and failure to deal with climate crisis. Johnson’s view of public money- the Garden Bridge when Mayor, now HS2- is, spaff it everywhere except where it will do any good.

We have to stick together. We have to get behind Keir Starmer. It would have been better if we had got behind Jeremy Corbyn, rather than having the botched challenge to his leadership in 2016. Much of what Mr Starmer pledges is out of Corbyn’s policy: Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system. I am proud of the call for migrants’ rights. Corbyn and the membership moved the party leftwards.

That is why people on the right of the party calling for party unity now should be heard. Yes they were the schismatics undermining the leadership, allied to those leaving the party last year, but the policies they now support are close to the policies from the manifesto. Now Corbyn is out, and Rebecca Long-Bailey is shadow Education secretary rather than Leader of the Opposition, some on the “We Support Rebecca Long-Bailey” facebook group are saying they are leaving the party. At membership level, canvassing is far more important than going to meetings. Reading those self-righteous posts, I was struck by the nastiness of some on the Left, wanting to be saints of their own tiny sect rather than members of a governing party.

I would rather Britain had not invaded Iraq, but I am not going to use the war as a purity test. Many in Parliament now, even in the Cabinet or Shadow-Cabinet, were not there in 2003. Move on, and don’t do down Labour governments. Photo by Ruth Gaston.