Blog post

Open Letter

March 6, 2018Heather Brunskell-Evans

As some people are aware, I was a Spokeswoman for the Women’s Equality Party’s (WEP) policy on Violence Against Women and Girls. As a result of my views expressed on the Moral Maze Radio 4 on November 15th, 2017 complaints were made by one or more party members, and I became the subject of a 3-month investigation. The Executive Committee upheld the complaints and on February 20th, 2018 my elected position was taken from me. I was informed I could retain membership but I declined to do so.

Many people have contacted me about the investigation, querying what the issues were and exactly what happened. I have thus far largely maintained silence, hoping that the WEP’s action would speak for itself. However, I have decided to speak out following an event held in London on 27th February by A Woman’s Place UK  at which the current leader of the WEP Sophie Walker and I were both present.

On the Moral Maze, I had expressed the view that gender is a social construct while sex is a biological reality which families and society invest with meaning. While I believe adults can define their gender in whichever way they see fit, more caution should be exercised when it comes to the medical transgendering of children.  I said:

“A genuinely progressive society would allow boys and girls to be whatever they want to be so I am absolutely perfectly happy if boys want to wear dresses…. but the problem comes when we decide that the child is genuinely internally and in some sense not a boy but a girl and that is where we get into trouble.  So, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with a boy’s body if he wants to wear a dress.”

In the interests of transparency let me explain the original charges. One or more WEP members alleged the above views demonstrated:

  • “Discrimination against transgender people”
  • “Lack of suitability to represent the party”
  • “Fundamental disagreement with the core values of the party”

The Committee upheld the complaints and also concluded that my subsequent conduct had brought the Party into disrepute. I disputed the Committee’s findings. I did not accept that I had fundamentally disagreed with the Party’s core values. The Committee’s Report makes clear the core values with which I am fundamentally at odds is the Party’s core value of gender. I initially found this assertion nonsensical. At the time of the broadcast I believed my views were wholly commensurable with the Party’s stated position: “everyone has the right to define their gender or to reject gendered divisions as they choose”. The core value that a child’s biological sex could be socially constructed had not been made clear to me.

I was somewhat surprised to hear Walker state at the #WPUK event that she could not discuss the WEP’s decision to divest me of my role because of issues of confidentiality. This is extremely misleading:

  • Firstly, when I was interviewed I adamantly refused to be bound by rules of confidentiality. I feared that confidentiality would protect the complainant(s) and the WEP but ‘put me in the dock’ behind closed doors.
  • Secondly, although it did not name me, the WEP drew attention to the fact that, on the date of the broadcast, a complaint had been received and a Spokesperson was being investigated for conduct which promoted “prejudice against the transgender community”. There was no constitutional obligation to publicize the complaint or the ensuing investigation, but the Party chose to do so.
  • Thirdly, in today’s world of social media, it should have also been obvious that the moment the investigation was publicized I would be immediately named, and indeed that was the case. After the programme, Toni Harrison, a trans identified WEP member, tweeted to @WEP that my expressed views had demonstrated transphobia and that the WEP should divest me of my role.

The identity of the complainant(s) has been kept confidential

I was moved to exercise a right of reply when Walker refused to address some comments from the panel about the political significance of what had happened to me. She used the issue of confidentiality as the reason for her silence.

My reply to her at the #WPUK event is here:

 

The purpose of the #WPUK event was to discuss the possible impact on women and girls if the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition ACT (2004) become enshrined in law. The law would enable men to self-identify as women through changes to certification, including birth certification, which would record natal female not natal male. Panelists variously explored issues of the increasing current de facto acceptance that transwomen are women by the Labour Party, the WEP, and other institutions. They did so with subtlety, and affirmed their respect for the rights of trans identifying adults. However, the following day Toni Harrison tweeted about the event:

 

It is becoming clear that sections of liberal society are persuaded by reductive binary logic: either you accept that men who identify as women, including those with unmodified male bodies, are not only transwomen but are women and have been sexed female since birth, or you are a transphobe (and worse).

In conclusion, I utterly disagree that I promote transphobia, and I have found it shocking that the WEP has chosen to adopt this stance. The importance of this debacle goes far beyond the local, internal wrangles of a small Party. The issues upon which these events shed light are societal, and illustrate a deep belief system at the heart of transgender identity politics whose consequences are wide-ranging: Men who identify as women are women and this belief has to be accepted not only as rational and but as the irrefutable truth.

In anchoring transgender identity as inherent, outside of the social forces that have shaped it, and in describing any dissent as illiberal, free thought as well as free speech can be erased. Whilst the WEP and the Labour Party leave unremarked the chilling comments such as the ones made above, they discipline and expel women party members for any dissent from what has become an article of faith.

The significance of the WEP debacle is the larger terrible irony that a Party which had set out to be revolutionary for women has highlighted the very weakness of its own approach. The result of aligning itself with transgender identity politics is to obfuscate, drown out and suppress the very voices the WEP set out to listen to and to promote, namely the voices of women.

The more ‘the progressive left’ enshrines in its constitutions and policies its belief that transwomen are women, and that boys who do not conform to gender stereotypes are girls, and compels its party members and officials to faithfully adhere, the greater the need for women to resist such authoritarianism and to continue their historical struggles for bodily, intellectual and political freedoms.

Heather Brunskell-Evans

 

 

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