Sleight of hand

Last night the LibDems debated a ‘business’ motion about management of its conference. Ostensibly it was about respecting trans people & their pronouns & bathroom facilities. Of course it wasn’t about that at all. It was a trap intended to render future debate about women’s sex based rights impossible & make it easy to expel feminists & their supporters from the party.

When taken together with last week’s party definition of transphobia with its accompanying discipline policy, it is now a ‘crime’ to believe that trans women are not the same as biological women & unbelievers face compulsory re education or expulsion. Monday’s otherwise uncontentious motion included the phrase, “Trans women are women . . ” which opponents were told was integral to the motion & could not be removed by a separate vote.

This sets the stage for expelling any party member who believes the words of the party’s own constitution’s preamble that state: “we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon . . . sex or sexual orientation”. It will no longer be possible to campaign within the party for women’s sex based rights under the 2010 Equality Act to be balanced & protected vis a vis trans women’s rights, because the party’s considered position is that they are the same.

Trans women are women

In other words, it is no longer possible to differentiate between people with male bodies & people with female bodies, so there can no longer be any sex based rights. Members who say otherwise will be re educated or expelled. This is a terrifying & totalitarian position for a supposedly liberal party to adopt & completely undermines its position as a woman friendly organisation.

Women are potentially under threat from trans women or men who may pose as trans women in sport, prison, changing rooms, rape shelters, etc. Currently exemption protections are provided for in the 2010 Equality Act.

Out of line with moderate trans people

Women, don’t expect the LibDems to defend your sex based rights in future. You have been thrown under a bus by the party. The party’s trans policy has been adopted to accommodate extremists & is not in line with the views of many prominent trans people, including Debbie Hayton and Buck Angel, who accept that they retain the biological sex they started out with.

This situation was an avoidable car-crash but the party establishment has its fingers in its ears.

I have been a Liberal & Liberal Democrat since 1966 because I care about human rights, all human rights, not just the rights of one group. The rights of different groups require respect & a solution that is mutually agreed. This is a dark day for my party.

This is my speech as delivered to the LibDem online conference:

Compelled belief – is this Liberal?

Thanks for calling me to speak. I have been a Liberal and Liberal Democrat since 1966. My passion is for fair play and against injustice. Our preamble is my template for assessing policy. This motion fails that test.

All humans deserve respect and the freedom to live the life they aspire to. That is uncontentious, but unfortunately this motion compels us to believe things that are simply not true and then proposes that members who dissent will be disciplined or expelled from the party. Quite simply this is totalitarian and I am shocked that it has even been drafted.

”In a free society,” wrote the French philosopher Montesquieu, ”it is not always important that individuals’ reason well, it is sufficient that they reason; from their individual thought, freedom is born.” Without free will and the power to reason, we cease to exist as valid beings.

Compelled belief is inimical to freedom of thought. The lines, “Trans women are women” are starkly relevant here. What is compelled belief? In the novel 1984, George Orwell invented a language, ‘Newspeak’. The aim of Newspeak was to narrow the range of thought and render dissent impossible, because there would be no words with which to express it.

This motion imposes Newspeak on our party.

Transwomen are not women, but they wish to be perceived as such. We should extend to them the courtesy of treating them as if they are women, just as we treat religious leaders as representatives of God, even if we do not believe that God exists.

With the line ‘Trans women are women’, this motion crosses over from being an expression of solidarity with trans people and becomes a mechanism of thought control, just as Orwell predicted.

We are under no obligation to see others in a way they wish to be seen, as this would require our thoughts to be under their control, but we can always treat others with respect.

Language is essential to activism. The first thing totalitarian ideologies do is remove free speech and regulate discussion. If passed, this motion would prevent women from talking about sex-based oppression in the fight against sexism. It seeks to redefine reality and you cannot compel people to live in an alternative reality unless you are a science fiction writer.

The party must not become committed to prioritising the needs of one group, i.e. trans activists, over all other groups, particularly women, even where there is huge scope for possible conflicts of interest.

It is misogyny masquerading as a rights movement.

We will have no-one to blame but ourselves if people begin to perceive us as the hard-line trans activism party, as distinct from a party with integrity which models liberal democratic principles by attempting to balance and negotiate different sets of rights. If we can’t practice what we preach then what is the point of us?

This is a secret ballot. Vote with your conscience. Vote for compassion and reason. Please reject the motion.