A fierce debate rages within a major British political party as to whether trans women should be supported through women's only diversity initiatives. Now, a group of trans-exclusionary feminists are fundraising to block trans women from being elected.
Photo via Stocksy user Juan Moyano
Members of the Labour Party in the UK have raised over £15,000 in a campaign to exclude trans women from all-female shortlists, raising concerns from LGBTQ campaigners over rising hostility to trans people within the left-wing political party.
The GoFundMe page titled "Keep All-Women Shortlists Female!" was set up on Friday by Liverpool-based Labour activist Jennifer James in conjunction with 18 other members of the party. They state that the money raised will go towards their efforts to block trans women from election as women’s officers in the party and prevent them from seeking election on all-women shortlists.
All-women shortlists were introduced by Labour in 1997 to help facilitate female representation in Parliament by ensuring only female candidates could stand as MPs in certain seats.
“We believe that the election of self-identifying transwomen [sic] as women's officers and their inclusion on all-women shortlists is reducing and undermining female representation in the Labour party," the fundraising page reads.
If they meet their fundraising target of £30,000, the group plans to take Labour to court over their current policy of allowing individuals to self-define their gender identity.
“The party has recently allowed males to be elected as women's officers and males to be selected over females in all-woman MP candidate selections,” they write. “Self-identification does not define men as women, in law or in fact.”
The activists appear to be indirectly referring to Lily Madigan, the 19-year old who made history as the first trans woman to be elected as a Labour women’s officer in November 2017. Madigan received transphobic abuse and a right-wing media storm after her election made headlines. (The teen told Broadly last year: "I don’t let it bother me. I think we’ve definitely won the argument already.”)
The group's GoFundMe statement isn't just trans-exclusionary—it's also a garbled and contradictory mess. At one point it appears to conflate sexuality with gender identity (“we support all gender non-conforming people: be they lesbian, gay or trans”), before attempting to set trans people against the LGB community (“lesbians and gays are currently afforded legal, sex-based protections from discrimination and these are already being diluted by self-id"). It also states that it will use any leftover money raised to prevent trans women from accessing women-only spaces, such as domestic violence shelters.
"We are once again disappointed to see trans women singled out for prejudice and discrimination," says Susie Green of trans rights charity Mermaids. "The relentless press narrative that seeks to invalidate trans identities has a negative impact on all transgender people, including young people, our future politicians and campaigners. Women are women, and that includes trans women. Seeking to further marginalize an already vulnerable population, who often experience daily abuse is deeply unpleasant to witness."
Labour has not announced any plans to block trans women from standing on all-women shortlists. Dawn Butler, Labour's Shadow Women and Equalities Minister, said recently that the party would support trans women standing on women-only shortlists. "I think if a trans woman wanted to be included in an all-women shortlist then that should be considered," Butler told The House magazine.
Jennifer James, the creator of the GoFundMe page, did not return our request for comment.