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NOVEMBER 2022 NEWSLETTER

 

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It’s been a busy few months with the Labour Party Conference, then the LGB Alliance and FiLiA conferences happening one after the other. So this is a bumper edition.  If you click on the link in the contents, it should take you to the relevant place in the mailing.

Please feedback to us on what you think or would like to be included in future mail outs by replying to this email.

CONTENTS

Mumsnet interview

LWD’s Labour Conference Fringe Meeting

LWD in Wales

Rosie Duffield

Pink News Awards

Mermaids and LGBT+ Labour

Update on Scotland

Stonewall Chair

Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Alliance Conference 2022

FiLiA Cardiff 2022

Consultation on Gender Deceptions

Future Labour Women’s Declaration Meetings and Plans

Mumsnet interview

On Friday 28th October, Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts sat down with Keir Starmer and Shadow Secretary of State for Education Bridget Phillipson to ask them Mumsnet members’ questions.   Mumsnet Asks…Keir Starmer and Bridget Phillipson

Sir Keir was asked whether he had read the Interim Cass Report. He made it clear he was aware of it but did not indicate whether he had actually read it.   He then went on to make a comment “children shouldn’t be making these important decisions without the consent of their parents.” Whilst it is clear to us that the Cass Report is not focussed on parental consent but on fostering an environment of informed decision-making for gender confused, possibly dysphoric but often gender non-conforming children, it has been illuminating to watch the Twitter meltdown over the past week accusing Sir Keir of ‘transphobia’ for these comments, including for his stated support for the single-sex exceptions in sport. Here are some examples.

                      

Keir’s words have also been welcomed by many and the reactions to them have been reported widely including in Unherd by Joan Smith and by Sonia Sodha. It has also been noted that Keir’s words on the lack of capacity of children to make decisions (in this case about irreversible decisions to remove their sexual and reproductive functions), do not seem consistent with Scottish Labour whipping MSPs to support GRA reform to reduce the age to 16 for applications.

Owen Jones has now taken up LGBT+ Labour’s campaign for Keir to meet with them, presumably for them to persuade him to retract his words about Cass/young people and also women’s sport. Wisely in our view, Keir has said he does not have the time.

LWD’s Labour Conference Fringe Meeting

As we reported in our last mailing, despite being refused a stall, LWD was active inside and outside conference in Liverpool in September and met with plenty of support from delegates and attendees.

The meeting can be watched here on our YouTube channel  and Julie Bindel has published this podcast of interviews with attendees.

We also had some great feedback from women after the meeting. Here are just a few quotes:

“Wonderful fringe meeting, listening and speaking to such brave women, all with different perspectives. Energising and practical … seems to have reignited debate too around joining the Labour Party which many of us have left. Yes, warm and energising!”

“I’m glad I went along and pleased to hear more people speaking openly about this. Hopefully more of the quieter ones will find the courage to speak out and we’ll see this wall crumble at last.”

“Really appreciated the information and perspectives on all the different issues.  And as a Green Party member trying to challenge gender identity ideology in the Greens I was inspired by the level of determination and bravery of the LWD & particularly Lesbian Labour in refusing to give up.”

“I thought it went really well. Fabulous speakers and I really enjoyed listening to all of them but also harrowing at the witch hunt so many of those women have endured. I thought the tone of it all was really respectful as well.”

We will of course be applying for stalls at forthcoming conferences across the UK. Given that Keir Starmer on Mumsnet specifically answered that gender critical voices are allowed to be heard in the party, we should be confident that these will go ahead. Anything else would be an own goal! 

 

LWD in Wales

We are working on creating a LWD Cymru page for our website.  Meanwhile if you are in Wales and would like to be added to the LWD Cymru email list for invitations to monthly Zoom meeting and monthly minutes, then please email us at lwdcymru@gmail.com

Harassment of MP Rosie Duffield

The Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield continues to be the target of harassment from within the Labour Party and we firmly stand by her right to speak out and we condemn the ongoing attacks. 

Rosie’s situation goes to the very heart of Labour Women’s Declaration that “Women have the right to discuss policies which affect them, without being abused, harassed or intimidated” and creates an intended chilling effect on others. The  LGBT+ Labour group and other groupings in the party have repeatedly called for the whip to be removed from Rosie following her recent gender critical comments at both the LGB Alliance and FiLiA conferences regarding the possibility of Eddie Izzard benefitting from provisions for women.   

Eddie Izzard, a long-time comedian who operates in both ‘boy mode’ and ‘girl mode’ (his words), has applied for selection as Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Sheffield Central constituency. Since he announced he would stand, there has been a great deal of publicity focussed on this CLP’s selection process and at times consideration about whether Izzard was standing on an All Women Shortlist. (AWS is not in operation at present although 50:50 quotas for shortlisting are). For the purpose of these processes, he has now specified that he does not wish to be considered a woman (although this further underlines the fluidity with which Izzard is treating his ‘womanhood’). In comments made in advance of Izzard’s statement that he did not intend to take up a reserved woman’s place and in the light of his previous remarks that he does not mind what pronouns are used for him, Rosie Duffield said that she would not treat Izzard as a woman, would not use she/her pronouns, and that, should hate crime legislation such as allegedly promoted by Keir Starmer at the Pink News awards be brought in to potentially make “misgendering” a crime, she would have to be arrested. (It has since emerged that Starmer did not mention misgendering, but that was not clear at the time).

As we pointed out in this Twitter thread, Rosie was only voicing similar views as to whether Izzard should use provisions to advantage women, to those held by many others including Labour MPs Steve Reed and Siobhain McDonagh. However, Rosie has had to endure another onslaught of social media abuse, insults and threats.  

Pink News Awards Speech by Keir Starmer

Above you’ll see reference to the PN awards. It is true that Keir Starmer, despite being made aware of the discredited ‘journalism’ of this online title, attended in person to present the Lifetime Achievement Award for his late friend, the human rights barrister Jonathan Cooper.

We don’t want to give click bait to PN, but during this speech, Starmer said it was time to “ban all conversion therapy” in the UK, promised to uphold the Equality Act including its provision for “safe” spaces, and also referenced a commitment to ‘modernise’ the Gender Recognition Act. So no specific reference to self-ID, but now a complete lack of clarity about what ‘modernising’ means. We’ll be continuing to ask for clarification on this directly. No doubt you’ll want to as well.

LGBT+ Labour’s refutation of the need to investigate Mermaids charity

On 13th October LWD sent a letter of complaint to Anneliese Dodds in her role as Chair of the Party about a tweet by affiliate organisation LGBT+ Labour, which refutes the need for the Charity Commission’s investigation of Mermaids for its safeguarding failures. No reply has yet been received. Affiliate organisations have a powerful role in the party, but are not subject to direct control by the party, which makes for a challenging situation when they go rogue like this. However, the party has acted decisively in the past, and needs to again now. 

Our letter included the following points:
BRINGING THE PARTY INTO DISREPUTE – To reduce reputational damage, public and government bodies have been withdrawing from association with the charity Mermaids, after the Charity Commission initiated a regulatory compliance case, and also, following PMQs yesterday, and possible investigation by the police. Indeed the charity has itself filed a serious incident report with the Charity Commission. The close involvement of Mermaids at GIDS was clearly a contributor to the conclusion that the service was unsafe partly due to being ideologically driven.

In this context this incendiary tweet defending Mermaids by affiliated organisation LGBT+ Labour, brings the Labour Party into disrepute. It compounds the offence by saying that Munroe Bergdorf, who has already once been repudiated by our party for unacceptable behaviour, “expresses better than they could” their thoughts about Mermaids. These thoughts include disparagingly describing those who have been proved right by blowing the whistle about Mermaids as “middle-aged women”.

That LGBT+ Labour, seen by many as representing our party on issues of sex and gender, should be failing to support proper investigation and due diligence with regard to safeguarding of young people, is damaging to Labour and to ourselves as members.”

Update from LWD Scotland on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill

The Gender Recognition Reform Bill was discussed by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on 27th October, and was passed “in principle”. The Bill proposes ‘de-medicalising’ the process of obtaining a GRC (i.e. self-ID), and reducing the age of eligibility from 18 to 16.

To our dismay, the Labour group were whipped to support the Bill, but said in the chamber that they would propose amendments that would ensure women’s rights. No Labour MSP voted against or abstained in spite of some being known to have huge reservations about it. However, seven brave SNP MSPs voted against, and two abstained: this was (to most people) unexpected. The Bill now enters Stage 2. The deadline for amendments is November 9th, and the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee will discuss amendments at its meeting on Tuesday 15th November, likely continuing on Tuesday 22nd November. The committee will make recommendations on the amendments, after which the Bill will be redrafted to return to Parliament (Stage 3). It is possible that the final vote could be before the winter break. LWD women in Scotland continue to try to engage the Labour group at Holyrood. We believe it will not be possible to amend the Bill so as to satisfactorily resolve conflicts with women’s rights and with the safeguarding of young people, and we are seeking to engage with Labour MSPs on that basis.

If you have friends or family living in Scotland, please ask them to write to all their MSPs, and especially their Labour MSPs, to explain why they should vote against the Bill when it returns to Parliament. If the Labour group withdraws its support with all Labour MSPs voting against, and the group of SNP rebels grows slightly to 12 voting against (we have been led to believe there are 15 possible SNP rebel MSPs) then the Bill would fall. This is an outside chance, but worth working for. Key arguments are the interaction of the GRA with the Equality Act to which Labour is committed, and the observation by Jackie Baillie, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, and others that the Bill is so poorly drafted it will be challenged in the courts. More information for you to share with MSPs can be found here from Murray Blackburn Mackenzie.  

In the past few days lots of amendments have been submitted, including some disappointingly weak amendments proposed by Labour MSPs. It’s horrifying to see how such poorly drafted and dangerous legislation is getting rushed without proper challenge, and to see Scottish Labour fail to press political advantage, even though so many of its MSPs now privately understand that the Bill is fatally flawed. At the same time our eyes today have been on this court case – For Women Scotland is seeking permission for a judicial review of the Scottish government’s statutory guidance on the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 due to the addition of a “reference to the Gender Recognition Act”.You can read the proceedings from Wed 9th November here from Tribunal Tweets

Stonewall Chair’s withdrawal of offer to speak with women’s groups

 The recently appointed Chair of Stonewall, Iain Anderson, appeared on Kuenssberg on Sunday. During the course of the programme, he explained how he wanted to ‘take the [trans] debate off Twitter and that he wanted to meet with women’s groups to have a discussion. But the following day in response to a letter from Sex Matters urging him to meet the women who founded LGB Alliance first of all, he clarified that he only meant the women’s groups Stonewall already work with, and which affirm their opinions!

Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Alliance Conference 2022

Alongside our sister organisations in other parties, (Conservatives for Women and Liberal Voice for Women), LWD ran a joint stall with Lesbian Labour. We were hugely busy during the breaks – talking with many Labour supporters who are disappointed and anxious about Labour’s current contradictory policy positions and who wanted to talk about what can be done. We are again supporting LGB Alliance on 7 and 8 November at the final two days of the malicious court case brought against them by Mermaids. Follow Tribunal tweets for real time updates.

 

FiLiA Conference Cardiff 2022

This was the biggest FiLiA yet – with over 1800 delegates and speakers – and, by popular demand, had been extended from two into three days. Some of you reading this will have been there and experienced the empowering and uplifting feelings of sharing a space with so many women all fighting, in their own ways, for women’s rights here in the UK and across the globe. Here are some great photos by Pauline Makoveitchoux.

 LWD had a stall next to LGB Alliance, which we again shared with Lesbian Labour. 

On the Friday evening, we held a gathering in a local Cardiff pub for LWD supporters arriving in the city in pouring rain, and the room was buzzing with conversation as over 40 supporters old and new met and caught up with each other.

LWD Working Group members ran workshops on consciousness raising, others on protecting lesbian spaces, and we contributed to a session on Women and Socialism. We also ran a workshop on working across political parties. 

It was fortifying to hear both the struggles and successes going on in other parties which underlined what we already know – that we are not alone in fighting for women’s sex-based rights in the political arena – and that cross party working and cooperation, further strengthened in that workshop, can pay dividends

On the Saturday night, many of us met at a local Thai restaurant to enjoy some good food and great company in a relaxing atmosphere.

Next year’s FiLiA Conference is in Glasgow and we are searching for our accommodation already.

Consultation on Gender Deceptions

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is consulting on a proposed revision to guidance relating to Section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This is described as ‘deception as to gender’, but what they mean – surprise, surprise! – is deception as to sex. Here’s the proposed new guidance Deception as to Gender: proposed revision to CPS legal guidance on Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO), Chapter 6 – Consent

The background and consultation questions (half way down), and the form to complete (at the end) are in this link Consultation on the Deception as to Gender section in the Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) legal guidance

We are preparing a full response from Labour Women’s Declaration – the deadline is 19 December –  and it would be very helpful if you would also make a response, however brief, so that sheer force of numbers convinces them that they’ve got it very wrong.

Here are some brief thoughts for responses to each question.

Question 1 – Do you think that the language used is appropriate and sensitive to the issues addressed? If not, please identify concerns and share how it can be improved. Language confused and confusing – conflation of sex and gender; use of ‘assigned’ when sex is observed.

Question 2 – When considering the factors that are relevant to prove deception and lack of consent, does the guidance strike the right balance between recognising the rights of trans persons to live fully in their new gender identity and the need not to put an undue onus on complainants to discover or confirm the gender status of the suspect? Guidance appears to suggest that people can be so convinced that they ARE the opposite sex that they can’t be accused of deception, and the onus rests entirely on the victim not to be deceived.

Question 3 – Do you agree with the evidential considerations that prosecutors must consider? If not, please identify what should be added, removed, or amended. Appears to make it possible for any trans person to claim that they believe themselves to be whatever they claim and therefore there is no deception. All the victim’s fault. Ongoing confusion of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’.

Question 4 – Do you agree with the three stages that should be considered when prosecutors are considering the question of deception as to gender? The deception is of sex, not gender.  “Offender-centric” suggests that victim’s view is of little importance. Apparent ignorance in CPS about coercive control etc. Victim-blaming.

Question 5 – Do you agree with the public interest factors that are listed? Weird things here about assuming someone is less likely to be deceptive if younger, and apparently rewriting the age of criminal responsibility. Also unclear why someone’s efforts to appear as the opposite sex is some sort of defence against deception.

Question 6 – Are there any further factors in favour of prosecution that should be included? Prosecutions for rape and sexual assault already shamefully low – should be an assumption of prosecution. Putting the onus on the complainant resembles ‘she was asking for it, her skirt was too short’.

Question 7 – Are there any further factors tending against prosecution that should be included? No

Question 8 – Do you have any other feedback you wish to share around how the revised guidance could be improved? Fatally flawed by confusion of sex and gender.

Future Labour Women’s Declaration Meetings and Plans
We’ll be producing another update in December about plans to meet via zoom and in real life in early 2023, and on grassroots activity within the party across the UK.

In the meantime, we continue our joint parliamentary work with Conservatives for Women and Liberal Voice for Women by holding monthly cross party briefings at Westminster. We also continue to respond to requests to speak to local Labour parties, Labour politicians and advisers. Our UK wide network of gender critical Labour councillors is also growing and offers mutual support and advice.

Please contact us if you would like to get more involved in any of the above. 

And finally, please sign the Sex Matters Petition if you haven’t already…

Solidarity!

 

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