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Cast your eye to the top of the page you’re looking at right now and you’ll see this website described as “the world’s most fabulous LGBTQ online magazine”. The important thing here is not that we’re fabulous – everyone knows that – but that we proudly include the T for trans.

We pride ourselves on being inclusive and on standing up for the rights of our entire community. If you don’t believe me, type “trans” into this site’s search engine and check out our archive.

I’ve written before about my sadness at the increasingly bitter war in our community over issues of trans identity. Women concerned about the implications of self-ID or trans women in sport are often met with despicable abuse, while trans people who just want to get on with their lives are marginalised and vilified for simply being.

I’m guessing that there are probably some women who are driven by bigotry and hatred towards trans people. Stands to reason: there will also be women who hate black people, Jews and the disabled, just like Katie Hopkins. Let’s all agree to continue to call out this hatred wherever it occurs.

That being said, because blind hatred exists in some quarters, it doesn’t necessary follow that any criticism of trans politics is by definition abusive or transphobic. Only last week I wrote an article which was highly critical of the Church of England, but I hope nobody would suggest that I harbour hatred or “phobia” towards Christians.

Yet many people are confused about the blurring of “sex” and “gender” and cannot, for example, get their heads around talk of “sex assigned at birth” when, in the majority of cases, sex is observed rather than assigned.

Similarly, when YouTube footage emerges of men with beards aggressively picketing women’s rights meetings – men who have had neither hormone treatment nor surgery but who identify as female – some women could be forgiven for asking questions about trans ideology. And sadly, when these questions are raised, they’re often met – on social media at least – with a blanket “trans women are women, and if you don’t like it eff off” with those expressing even the mildest of misgivings being labelled as “transphobes”.

Conversely, when trans groups march at Pride events, in the minds of some they’re often lumped together with the adult babies or “furries”, which is effectively saying that trans identity is nothing more than a kink. Nothing wrong with kink, by the way, but getting your kicks dressing up as a baby is not – REPEAT NOT – anything like being trans. By the same token, deadnaming – while not constituting “LITERAL VIOLENCE” as averred by a trans activist on Twitter – is cruel, rude and unnecessarily hurtful. Just don’t do it, people.

It’s against this backdrop that the “Labour Campaign for Trans Rights” issued its 12-point pledge card. It’s a bit aggressive and smacks of student politics but, sadly, that seems to be the way of the Left these days. But that’s not the problem. My issue is with clauses nine and ten which go something like this:

  1. Organise and fight against transphobic organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and other trans-exclusionist hate groups.
  2. Support the expulsion from the Labour party of those who express bigoted, transphobic views.

This seems to suggest that anyone who is a member of or who supports Women’s Place UK and who is also a Labour member needs to be kicked out.

Women’s Place UK is a creature of the Left and was set up chiefly by trades unionists. Last summer I was one of 750 people attending a conference in Westminster about trans people in sport. Much of the conference was technical, dealing with things like hormone levels and the “fast twitch” muscle which is essential in sprinting. As far as I could tell, the women attendees were a fairly broad representation of society: all ages, all races and – as I discovered afterwards over drinks – all political persuasions.

It is absurd to suggest that the women on the stage or in the auditorium, simply by being members or supporters of Women’s Place UK, are transphobic. I was there all day and spoke to as many people as I could: academics, shop workers, students, doctors, retired people and so on. I have to report that I heard not one word that could possibly be construed as transphobic and I can only conclude that whoever penned these 12 pledges could not have attended this or any other Woman’s Place meeting.

All I heard was women from all walks of life discussing how to protect those hard-fought, sex-based rights which, shamefully, have taken so long to achieve. That the Labour Party – THE LABOUR PARTY, FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE – should effectively outlaw women who choose to get together and campaign for women’s rights is a scandal.

None of this means that Labour must agree with the Woman’s Place UK; we live in a democracy where we enjoy free speech and a free press, and it’s fine if a political party chooses not to align itself with a particular campaign group. But disagreement is one thing; labelling those with whom you disagree as “bigoted” and “transphobic” is something else entirely.

So I call on those Labour leadership contenders who back these twelve pledges to think again. I would expect you to support the rights of all minorities but attacking the integrity and intentions of thousands of decent women is not the way to go about it.

About the author

Rob Harkavy

8 thoughts on “Calling Woman’s Place transphobic is nonsense. Labour must rethink.”

  1. What this pledge is asking, is for women to deny the massive over 100 year old fight for their rights, as a sex and to accept that the current Labour Party does not acknowledge nor think those issues are still valid, for women all over the world. It is one thing to protect a minority group but not at the expense of a large population who are vulnerable all over the world and are still under UN protection in its legislation. To choose to expel those who fight for women’s rights ,leaves me incredulous. Is the UK Labour Party borrowing ideas from the old Soviet Union with its shunning and bannings and purges. Let me tell them, women will still fight for our rights. Women will still thankfully have a vote and use it to protect their interest and those of younger women and children.

  2. Woman’s Place are in opposition to existing trans rights and favour bathroom style bans as attempted by several Republican states in the US. It is the Woman’s Place policy that any trans people attending their meetings must use the bathroon inline with their born sex. They have previously given platforms to speakers from Transgender Trend, who want to ban all mention of trans people from school and were slammed by education experts for encouraging bullying after distributing anti-trans stickers and encouraging children to stick them on their exercise books. They have also platformed Fair Play For Women who are calling for shop assistants to check birth certificate of anyone they consider gender non conforming or ambiguous to ensure that trans women must not use female changing or that trans men should not use the mens. According to mumsnet users who attended Woman’s Place’s most recent conference several people called for a repeal of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.

    So whether Woman’s Place are transphobic or not is really a moot point from a trans perspective. The simple truth is they want to demolish trans rights and create a society that will be near impossible for trans people to live in. They offer no justification for this, there is no evidence that the protections given to trans people in the 2010 Equalities Act have been abused or placed women at risk, but Woman’s Place want to do away with them all the same. Of course they don’t say this directly, instead they talk about strengthenining (cis) women’s rights under the act but the effect of that would be to remove trans rights almost completely.

    I’m sure the meeting you went to did not dwell on the ultimate aims of Woman’s Place and that everyone you met was lovely and middle class. But the stark fact remains that if this group gets what they want it will roll back trans rights decades and force many of us back into the shadows. That’s why trans poeple are angry.

    1. your entire comment does not comport with reality. I will extend you the charity of good-faith assumption that your claims come from ignorance vs deliberate, underhanded misrepresentation.

      WPUK is not advocating to change any law; it’s advocating to protect the sex-based rights of women AS THEY CURRENTLY EXIST UNDER LAW. WPUK has no desire to interfere with the rights and interests of trans people.

      1. They ARE advocating a change in the law because what they state as the current law has no basis in reality!

        In addition: their opinion of how any (proposed) changes to the GRA would affect “women’s rights” has no basis in reality. All the GRA allows for is for the holder of a GRC to obtain a new birth certificate … the only things that affects is being able to marry and be recognised as husband (trans men) or wife (trans women); how your death is registered and allows privacy in the few occasions where a birth certificate is requested – such as on occasions when applying for a new job. A birth certificate is absolutely NOT a form of identity requested in every day life and a GRC does not affect where the prison service house a trans prisoner.

        While it is true that the Equality Act 2010 does allow for the exclusion of a trans person from a “single sex provision”; any exclusion must be a “proportionate response to a legitimate aim”. The EHRC state that (from the Statutory Guidelines) “If a service provider provides single- or separate sex services […] they should treat transsexual people according to the gender role in which they present”; “any exception to the prohibition of discrimination must be applied as restrictively as possible [and should] apply [a policy on transsexual (sic) users] on a case-by-case basis in order to determine whether exclusion the exclusion of a transsexual person is proportionate in the individual circumstances”.

        A blanket policy of exclusion (which WPUK argue is the law) is NOT lawful. The EHRC states that (in addition to above) “the provider will need to show that a less discriminatory way to achieve the objective was not available”.

        So they are absolutely desiring to interfere with the rights and interests of trans people.

  3. WPUK’s whole platform is transphobic. Who wrote this rubbish article and who allowed it to be published? I would expect to see such nonsense in the right wing press like The Times and The Telegraph,
    Not on publications aimed at the LGBT+ community. Shameful.

  4. But Women’s Place ARE transphobic. Not in the “oi you tranny” shouting and beating up trans women for just being trans women kind of way … but in the way they seek to undermine trans people and the rights of trans people. The persistent way that they (and this goes the same for LGB Alliance who the author of this piece also recently defended) sew discord.

    From (mis)using statistics to imply that trans people (primarily trans women) are a predatory risk; to their adherence to “trans women are men” as a starting point all of their campaigning is transphobic in nature. They claim to work only for “Women’s Rights” … well women’s rights include trans women – and that not me stating that its long established women’s groups from Women’s Aid to the Women’s Institute.

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