For the past two days #IstandWithRosieDuffield has been trending on social media. The MP for Canterbury upset the woke wing of the Labour Party when she ‘liked’ a tweet by a gay man who was criticising the word ‘queer.’ This has led to demands from the group LGBT+ Labour for Duffield’s suspension from the party and the removal of the whip.
The offending post by Twitter user Kurtis Lemaster read: “And look at WHO is reclaiming it? Mostly heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as “gay”. Stop co-opting our language. Stop colonizing gay culture.”
Lemaster, a US-based gay rapper known as Kurtis Tripp, suffered an attempt at conversion therapy as a young teenager at the hands of his religious family. Having identified as non-binary for a time he is now an outspoken critic of trans ideology.
Honing-in on the tweet, the group LGBT+ Labour have claimed that Duffield has engaged in “a pattern of LGBT-phobic behaviour”. Chair of LGBT+ Labour Alex Beverley added: “We feel we have exhausted all other options and now must publicly call for the whip to be removed from Rosie Duffield and for her to be suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party.”
“The party must demonstrate that it stands with the LGBT+ community and that it will not tolerate transphobia or homophobia from our membership or elected officials.”
Some have cited Duffield’s opposition to gender self-identification and acknowledgment that ‘only women have a cervix’ as evidence of transphobia, despite the fact that Duffield is clear that she has no animosity toward those who identify as transgender. But even in the febrile environment of social media, where disagreement is often misconstrued as hatred, no evidence exists of any homophobia from Duffield.
In February, Duffield gave an interview for the launch of Lesbian and Gay News which was yesterday shared by JK Rowling to her 14m Twitter followers. The accusation of homophobia appears to be a further attempt by activists within the Labour Party to smear the MP.
Responding to the calls for Duffield’s suspension a Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of homophobia or transphobia extremely seriously. This complaint will be fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures.”
Last November, during a series of open discussions designed to facilitate discussion about why the Labour Party lost the 2019 election, leader Sir Keir Starmer said of discussion of gender self-identification:
“I realise that then takes us into an area where people have very strong and different views, but that’s not a reason for us to do nothing. The Conservative Party simply saying ‘we’ll put it in the too difficult box’ is not acceptable, and we need to have that discussion.” But to date, the discussion has not been had.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual Labour supporters took to social media to tell LGBT+ Labour that the organisation did not speak for them. Carol Angharad of Lesbian Labour is one of those proud to stand with Duffield. Describing the calls from LGBT+ Labour for Duffield’s resignation as ‘harassment’ Angharad told Lesbian and Gay News:
“We reject being assumed to be queer. The queer train has an increasing number of passengers. We never agreed to be redefined.”
Along with the feminist group Labour Women’s Declaration (LWD), Lesbian Labour were barred from having a stall at this year’s Labour Women’s Conference. Notably this year Teresa Clark, a vocal proponent of gender self-identification, took a role as chair of the snappily titled ‘women’s conference arrangements committee’.
A spokesperson from LWD said:
“The Labour Party leadership can continue to refuse to meet LWD, refuse to meet Lesbian Labour, refuse to discuss the issues, stage-manage conferences like the women’s conference so that our voices aren’t heard and foster a climate of fear for politicians who agree with us to speak out. But this risks leaving the party well behind the curve – on evidence, on public opinion, and on the views of its own members.”
In August last year Duffield faced a barrage of abuse after she liked a tweet by Piers Morgan in which the broadcaster took issue with a CNN post that referred to “individuals with a cervix”. After being criticised for liking the tweet, Duffield reacted by saying: “I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix… ?!”.
Despite being relatively new to Parliament, Duffield is now battle-hardened; not only weathering attacks from the opposition benches, but also from those on her own side. Interestingly, MPs who have stepped in to support her include Conservative MPs Danny Kruger and Jackie Doyle-Price, and the SNP’s Joanna Cherry MP. Self-declared ‘gobby feminist’ Labour MP Jess Phillips has remained curiously silent.
But also conspicuous by his absence is Sir Keir Starmer. Both feminists and trans activists within the Labour Party are crying out for Starmer to do his job and show leadership in the debate around gender self-identification. In ducking the discussion and leaving Rosie Duffield in the firing line, Starmer has shown both cowardice and a remarkable lack of political nous. His dithering risks losing not only the support of Labour members, but also that of voters at the ballot box.
Read Jo Bartosch’s interview with Rosie Duffield here: https://lesbianandgaynews.com/2021/02/rosie-duffields-canterbury-tale-defending-womens-rights/
Top photo: Rosie Duffield speaking to the crowd at a rally in Canterbury in 2019 prior to her election as Labour MP for the city (Reuters/Simon Dawson).