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Georgia L Gilholy is a Young Voices UK contributor.
Like many a politician before him, Sir Keir Starmer’s call for “respect and tolerance” appears to greenlight toleration of some of the most inappropriate forms of behaviour, namely in regards to the ongoing row over gender self-identification.
Starmer has long since decided to sit on the fence over the issue, and last week Rosie Duffield claims he had not been in touch to offer support after multiple colleagues jeered and attempted to shout over her in the Commons.
The MP for Canterbury was questioning the Government over the implications of Scotland’s new Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill for women’s safety.
For years she has been accused of transphobia and hatred, often by her putative comrades, simply for stating that biological women do, in fact, exist and that their differences with men have consequences. One such, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, was recorded yelling during her Common’s question, and later had to apologise for his conduct in the chamber.
Yet these would-be crusaders for social justice are not only indulging in the direst form of playground bullying, but are wildly out of touch with the public’s views on the issue.
Well over half (61 per cent) of British adults oppose biological males partaking in women’s sporting events, for example. And Redfield & Wilton polling, released last week, found that 45 per cent of Britons disagree (compared to 28 per cent who agree) with Labour’s support for the radical Holyrood reforms which Duffield has spoken up against.
(The SNP’s plans aim to allow people to obtain Gender Recognition Certificate without a gender dysphoria diagnosis, and slash the waiting time for the document from two years to six months of “living in an acquired gender”.)
The landmark legal change would also permit boys to enrol in girls’ schools and allow people of any biological gender into single-sex spaces such as rape crisis centres and prisons. Potentially – and crucially, as it is the basis for the Government’s decision to block the GRR Bill – this could breach existing equality law.
Of course, it is not only Duffield who has been subject to intimidation and insults due to her stance on gender.
Just days ago activists displayed signs that read “Decapitate Terfs” alongside an image of a guillotine at a Glasgow protest. The acronym stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminists, but is increasingly thrown at anyone who dares suggest that biological sex exists and that people cannot magically alter their biology to become the opposite sex, no matter how they may wish to present themselves.
JK Rowling has received death threats due to her remarks on the matter while Julie Bindel, founder of Justice for Women, has been regularly picketed and de-platformed for daring to suggest that men cannot become women.
In none of these notable cases have the women being hounded for their comments ever suggested that people who identify as transgender should not be allowed to do so, nor live safe and happy lives. It is that they object to accommodating the lie that biology is irrelevant.
I am not sure it is a coincidence that two of the most prominent such voices, Duffield and Rowling, are survivors of domestic abuse at the hands of male partners.
Moreover, the radical activists who attempt to bully them into silence claim to speak on behalf of people with gender dysphoria, as if the latter were a political monolith with identical opinions on all political matters related to sex and gender – patently a ridiculous act of condescending stereotyping in and of itself.
In fact, these radicals are often the first to direct abuse toward transgender people who disagree with their claims: transgender American YouTuber Blaire White has been accused of transphobia for criticising activists who promote extreme policies, such as permitting children to undergo puberty blockers which can leave them with life-long growth and fertility issues.
Back in the Labour Party, meanwhile, Duffield has also slammed Matthew Doyle, the Director Of Communications and a former Blair-era spin doctor, after reports he was heard complaining that the she had visited Starmer “a number of times but she also then does incredibly disingenuous things”.
“There are people in Canterbury who say it would be nice if it’s possible to spend a bit more time actually in Canterbury rather than hanging out with JK Rowling”, he reportedly added.
Not only is this irritated attitude telling, but the complaint may also be dishonest too: Duffield maintains that she had paid just one visit to the Leader of the Opposition’s office.
That the Labour leader has since been denounced as “outrageous” by several Scottish Labour groups for suggesting age 16 is too young to “change gender” proves that there is little chance of bridging the divide between the activist extreme and the centre ground.
Yet he has consistently made a pig’s ear of responding to the issue, telling the BBC in 2021 that Duffield was “wrong to say that only women have a cervix”.
If Labour is to mend its relationship with MPs like her, and the voters who overwhelmingly agree with her, they must take a hard line on party members members and parliamentarians who adopt belligerent tactics to advance extreme positions – and take a firm stand against the SNP’s agenda.