Labour Women’s Declaration stands with our Working Group member and Cardiff Labour councillor Sue Lent in the face of gutter journalism attacking her right to hold gender critical views.
We call on Welsh Labour leaders to speak up in support of their longstanding friend and loyal comrade.
In reply to their articles about Sue, we have written letters for publication to the editors of The National and Wales Online. Here is a copy of our letter to The National.
The article by Rebecca Wilks published in The National on 27th April, and then picked up by Wales Online, claimed as an ‘exclusive’ and headlined “Welsh Labour council candidate suggested trans people are ‘brainwashed’” is a misleading and poorly researched piece designed to encourage the witch hunt of a long-standing and well-respected Labour councillor. This story was then amplified by Wales Online with the biased headline “Councillor stands by her “anti-trans” comments”.
Supporting women’s rights is NOT anti-trans. And following the Forstater ruling, women are legally entitled to hold gender critical views. Sue Lent does indeed question ‘gender identity’, an expression which is undefined in law, impossible to verify and which leaves many people confused as to its meaning. However, she did not say that trans people are brainwashed, but rather that the whole of society is being brainwashed into using an expression which has no clear meaning, and yet is being proposed as the basis for radical changes to our laws and social policy. As Sue Lent also said, sex is binary, it is a biological reality and as such cannot be replaced or superceded by nebulous concepts such as that of gender identity. The importance of biology is recognised by politicians of all stripes, the Leader of the Labour Party recently reaffirming this and the party’s commitment to upholding single-sex spaces. Is the National saying otherwise and telling its readers that sex is not real?
Sue Lent is a supporter of Labour Women’s Declaration and a member of the grassroots organisation Merched Cymru, which is a voice for many women in Wales.
“Merched Cymru campaigns for the rights of women and girls including our existing legal rights to single sex spaces and services where those are necessary for safety, dignity and privacy. We make no apology for this.”
That The National assumes that campaigning for the rights of women and girls constitutes anti-trans views is very revealing and we are certain that many of your readers would not agree. Sue Lent has not expressed anti-trans views, but she has asked questions including in relation to the LGBTQ+ Action Plan. Since when did rational discussion and criticism of proposed social policies become illegitimate – or is it only those which question reforms in relation to these issues? There are very different views about many proposals for reform in this area, from those relating to the Gender Recognition Act to the recent issues raised about conversion therapy – the rights of women, the impact on young people and other vulnerable groups has been the subject of much public discussion, at all levels. The issues are often complex and need nuanced debate and understanding. The impact of male-bodied people in women’s sports (see your passing reference to Lia Thomas) has been the subject of concern expressed by many leading sports people from Dame Laura Trott, Sharron Davies, Mara Yamauchi, Martina Navratilova, Tanni Grey Thompson to Daley Thompson. A growing number of politicians now recognise that fairness is the issue here, and the Sports Council Equality Group guidelines clearly set out the evidence that fairness for women and trans inclusion are incompatible. Has all that controversy and debate passed over your head? Why single out Sue Lent and slur her as a result of expressing the same doubts as many professionals and people involved in elite sports?
Similarly, there are issues relating to conversion therapy and the treatment of young people who are experiencing confusion and distress in relation to sex and gender. The independent Cass Review is currently exploring those issues and has expressed its initial concern in an interim report. After much research, countries such as Sweden and Norway are reversing their policies on treating young people with drugs whose long term effects are unknown and abandoning the much-criticised ‘affirmation’ model which doesn’t allow professionals to explore and to offer much-needed therapeutic support to young people. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has made their doubts clear too, and asked politicians to take more time to consider and consult. The EHRC has also made it clear that to hold the views that Sue Lent does, that biology is real and gender ideology a matter of debate, is a completely legitimate viewpoint and protected in law.
And as for the suggestion that Cllr Lent would be unable to discharge her duties on the committees on which she has served, that is just an unevidenced slur, which can only be politically motivated in the week running up to elections.
None of these issues appear to interest you enough to write an accurate article about women’s rights, the proposals for radical social change and the complexities involved. Instead you choose to try and destroy the reputation of a woman politician who has given many years of public service, who has expressed views that are widespread in our communities and whose integrity has never been questioned. Anyone who knows Sue knows that she speaks honestly and will not mislead and fail to address issues that are of great concern to many of the people in the communities she has served so well.
Your readers deserve better. If The National wants to go on record as finding the defence of women’s rights despicable, the belief that sex is a biological reality untrue, and that male-bodied people should be able to compete in women’s sports without question, we would be interested to know what your readers think. It is surely your duty to do the work and help to inform people on matters that are sensitive and complex, encouraging well-informed, respectful debate, not using them to destroy the public service of one woman.
Lynn Alderson for LWD Working Group