During the Spring 2015 Liberal Democrat Conference, the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats moved an amendment aimed towards extending the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy—which effectively prohibits the use of sexual orientation conversion therapy on the NHS—to transgender people. Originally, the amendment was a much larger policy motion, but after it fell at the Federal Conference Committee due to time concerns, the motion was repurposed into an amendment. The original mover of the amendment was LGBT+ Chair Dave Page, who switched with Sarah (Elizabeth) Brown to allow her to move the amendment, with the summation waived by Dave to me. The amendment passed without opposition, and my speech is, as always, below the cut.
The transphobic and whorephobic streak of the Guardian/Observer/whatever continued this weekend, when over a hundred people signed an open letter condemning the “censorship” of transphobic and whorephobic feminists. The death throes of this kind of feminism are becoming more apparent every day, and when ideologies die like this, the few dogmatic followers left try to claim that people not tolerating their bigotry are “censoring” them.
Of course, of the three examples they’ve given, they’re all complete bullshit. Kate Smurthwaite wasn’t censored by Goldsmiths FemSoc; the Comedy Society cancelled her gig when she only sold eight tickets. Neither was Germaine Greer censored; her event went ahead with nary an interruption, while Cambridge University’s LGBT+ Society hosted a pro-trans event in response. And, of course, they bring up Julie Bindel’s no platforming by the NUS LGBT and Women’s Campaigns. I’ve long been critical of the political approach of No Platform, believing it to always end up being used against us. Still, under the safety approach of No Platform, Julie “threatened to shoot trans women for getting safer sex work policy past Lib Dem Conference” Bindel shouldn’t be given a platform.
Sarah Brown, Zoe O’Connell, and Natacha Kennedy, to name three people, have blogged in response to the letter’s frankly bizarre claims. In particular, there’s a common theme among the three women exposing the logical disconnect that these people with newspaper columns are writing to newspapers to protest their being censored by… people with placards and Twitter accounts? And indeed, these people are making a huge mistake in confusing freedom of speech with freedom of association and freedom from consequences. A university union or a newspaper isn’t obliged to give someone a platform. And if Rupert Read wanted to not be criticised by his prospective constituents for his political views, he shouldn’t be a candidate for political office. They probably know that; as Sarah’s already said, “those who signed [the letter] and have a history of transphobia and whorephobia know what they’re doing and are being deeply cynical here”.
With all that out-of-the-way, I’m going to focus on today’s post by “Terry MacDonald” from the bastion of transphobia and whorephobia and formerly left-liberal publication New Statesman, titled “Are you now or have you ever been a TERF?”
Yesterday came with some depressing news for trans voters, as the Green candidate for Cambridge, Rupert Read, came out with some, at best, ill-advised statements about the word “cis”, during an argument with a Cambridge resident who was challenging him on the word “moron”. As a philosopher of language, Dr. Read should know better than this, and his attempt at citing the dictionary to prove “moron” is not an ableist term may go down as one of the biggest amateur mistakes of this election campaign. Other people have written about Read’s statements, but I’d also like to go into the implications of this for the Green Party.
Last month, Emily Brothers broke news for being the first openly trans person to be selected by Labour to fight a parliamentary election, for the (relatively) safe seat of Sutton and Cheam. The coverage has been mixed to say the least, either being positive but factually dodgy, or being incredibly negative. But what may have damaged her own campaign more than anything was an interview she participated in for Russia Today, which was riddled with inaccuracies that can only really be explained by partisanship where it’s inappropriate.
“We stand squarely for free speech and democracy”, said David Cameron last Wednesday at Prime Minister’s Questions, not more than an hour after the attacks on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. This is a rather strange proposition for the leader of a party who proposed to reinstate the ban on “extremists” from appearing on television and have been trying for the past few years to reintroduce the “snooper’s charter”. Indeed, the Tories have gone rather native in the Home Office, in contrast to five years ago when we were all criticising Labour for restricting our civil liberties.
Several hours later, the House of Commons then debated a somewhat–but not sufficiently–diluted Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, in which Tory and Labour frontbenchers alike praised the bill for being an important tool in the fight against paedophiles and terrorists: the two words that friends of this blog have previously highlighted as resulting in universally awful legislation.
After this brief sojourn into hypocrisy, Cameron took a flight to Paris where he stood side-by-side with the world’s autocrats and despots in the name of free speech. Whilst there, he lent his name to an agreement for more surveillance powers. One would think that Charb and his seven colleagues would not want that in their name. But Cameron went one step further, and proposed the worst idea to regulate a specialist field since Labour tried to ban coffee eighteen months ago: a ban on encryption.
On Tuesday, Parliament will debate the Report Stage of the Modern Slavery Bill, and in particular, an amendments that would criminalise the purchase of sex in England and Wales, similar to the one that was passed in Northern Ireland just a couple of weeks ago. It’s important that, as Liberal Democrats, we oppose those amendments.
As well as moving the sex work motion on Saturday, I had also written a speech regarding the federal policy paper on equality, which had been written and drafted by several people including the lovely Cantabridgians Zoe O’Connell and Belinda Brooks-Gordon (who had helped with, and summated, on the sex work motion). It’s a really good, and rather radical, motion, and I put in a card to speak on the trans aspects of the motion. Most of the debate centred around a Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats amendment regarding faith schools admissions, but I was eventually called… immediately after Zoe, who had already covered parts of my speech. As previously, the speech is below the cut.
I had two opportunities to speak at the Liberal Democrats’ Autumn Conference; the first was moving the policy motion Towards Safer Sex Work on Saturday evening. I had never moved a policy before, so it was radically different to in Spring when I made a supporting speech to a third-party policy motion. Although I was given seven minutes, I was called for time after four, hopefully by error of the chair of the debate, leading me to cut out some of the speech.
We also had to see off an attempt to wreck the motion from Oxford East, which would’ve deleted all lines regarding the Nordic model and weaken the policy regarding bodily autonomy. Thankfully, in the attempt, we succeeded, incredibly annoying arch-transphobe Julie Bindel in the process.
Due to devolutionary aspects, the policy only applies to England and Wales, although several Scottish speakers spoke in favour of it, including a hilarious rant by Kirkcaldy-based Callum Leslie, which makes me rather happy that the Scottish mood is the same and I expect that the Scottish party will pass its own policy at their own Conference in Dunfermline next month.
The text of the full speech is below the cut:
So Calderdale was one of the local parties who scheduled an EGM to discuss Clegg’s leadership under §10.2(f) of the party constitution, in which an election for the leader can be triggered if 75 local parties call for one. If you’re looking for the result: sorry, but I’m not going to divulge it myself. This post should be read in conjunction with Sarah Brown’s post about her local party EGM in Cambridge, and is published in conjunction with it. So here’s the speech I wrote for the EGM: I got called for time near the very end, but I was still able to get the points across.
There’s been a flurry of news stories in the past week, most likely to coincide with the country’s first same-sex marriages starting next Saturday, regarding how the bill came to pass. Firstly, we had television personality Paul O’Grady describe David Cameron as a “twat” and state the Lib Dems were “as much use as men’s tits”. Then, a few days later, Ben Summerskill tried (very unconvincingly) to attack the Lib Dems for being “opportunistic” on same-sex marriage. And finally, Tony Blair said that “in hindsight”, he would’ve pushed for marriage equality whilst Prime Minister. All this leads me to think one thing: both Labour and Stonewall seem to be very keen to take the credit on LGBT equality, especially with a general election round the corner. But this credit is perhaps undeserved, especially as they both seem to have done everything they could to stall it.