The Lib Dems' transphobia meltdown is complete

20 September 2020

10:59 PM

20 September 2020

10:59 PM

The trouble with women is that they have opinions and not necessarily the correct ones. Some even have the audacity to demand a say in how the term ‘women’ is defined, which has been causing all sorts of problems lately. All credit, then, to the Liberal Democrats, who have devised an ingenious solution to the hassle caused by women and opinions: they’ve adopted a definition of ‘transphobia’ that effectively silences women who have the wrong opinions about ‘gender identity’.

As the party says up-front, its new policy has ‘drawn on the work done by organisations such as Stonewall and TransActual UK’. Bothersome women used to get stoned, now they get Stonewalled.

The definition, published by ‘the Disciplinary Sub Group of the Federal Board’ (which sounds like an S&M club for German auditors), will be ‘key to supporting the party’s disciplinary processes,’ we’re told. Its opening salvo is more or less reasonable:

‘“Transphobia” is the fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans. Transphobia, whether through words or action, may be targeted at people who are, or who are perceived to be, trans or trans allies.’

But this is expanded into a four-pronged definition that includes ‘attempting directly or through advocacy to remove trans people’s rights’, ‘misrepresenting trans people’, ‘abuse of trans people’, and ‘systematically excluding trans people from discussions about issues that directly affect them’.

Already you can see problems: ‘advocacy to remove trans people’s rights’ is a libdemishly imprecise phrase that, with malicious interpretation, could prohibit advocacy of certain women’s rights. The definition allows that ‘genuine errors or misunderstandings’ might happen and where ‘accidental offence’ is given, ‘the most appropriate course of action will generally be an apology, retraction or similar’.

But the primary target of the definition are the ‘intentionally transphobic’, for which there is a lengthy appendix of examples. First up is ‘denying trans people’s gender identity or refusing to accept it’. ‘Deadnaming’, using someone’s birth name rather than their new name, is transphobic and so is ‘misgendering’, which involves using ‘a pronoun or a form of address, which does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify’. Both actions, when done ‘deliberately, persistently and/or maliciously’ will be considered ‘a means of humiliation and degradation’.

‘Mockery or dismissal’ of trans people’s new names or pronouns will also be treated as transphobia. Specific examples include asserting that trans people are ‘confused’ or ‘just trying to be controversial’, stating that ‘I’m too old to understand all this’, or, God’s honest truth, saying ‘people will be defining themselves as Muppets and Wombles next’. If you’re going to get chucked out of a political party for anything, misgendering Great Uncle Bulgaria is certainly an original way to go.

Also forbidden is language that ‘eradicates the trans person’s gender identity in favour of their biology at birth’. In practice, it will be deemed transphobic to refer to a biological male as a ‘biological male’ if said biological male identifies as a female and even if that biological male hasn’t undergone surgery and remains an anatomically intact biological male. To give the definition the appearance of robustness, sections have been lifted directly from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, but this leads to some strange provisions. Mindful of the long-standing trope about Jewish control of the media, the IHRA gives the following as an example of anti-Semitism:

‘Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.’

The Lib Dems give as an example of transphobia:

‘Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about trans people or their cisgender allies. This includes spreading the idea of a “trans conspiracy” which asserts undue influence over media or government or claiming that cisgender allies support trans rights initiatives out of fear or bribery rather than a genuine belief that trans rights are human rights.’

Perhaps there is a canard about trans control of government or the media — though I am unaware of it — but there is none of comparable history, gravity or human cost to the Jewish puppet-master conspiracy theory.

No mirroring of sturdier definitions of prejudice can conceal what the drafters of this pronunciamento appear to be up to. The phrase ‘knowingly promoting policies and practices that actively discriminate against trans people’ gives the game away, especially when the examples cited include requiring trans people to use ‘segregated facilities’, ‘denying them access to facilities which would be required in order for them to fully participate in public life’, and ‘advocating the withdrawal or defunding of access to transition-related medical treatment’. The clear intention is to make speech or beliefs contrary to the dominant gender ideology incompatible with membership of the Liberal Democrats.

More sinister still is that this definition would appear to cover endorsing provisions of the Equality Act 2010. That law, which recognised sex as a protected characteristic, allows separate services for the sexes where ‘a joint service for persons of both sexes would be less effective and the limited provision is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. It further exempts single-sex services where ‘only persons of that sex have need of the service’ or ‘a person of one sex might reasonably object to the presence of a person of the opposite sex’.

It’s not hard to imagine the kind of services where gender-critical feminists would want to see these exemptions remain in place, but such women within the Lib Dems could face being censured by their party for ‘transphobia’. Given that party falsely claims on its website that the Equality Act created a protected characteristic of ‘sex/gender’, the writing has been on the wall for some time.

The Liberal Democrats say their list of transphobic behaviours is ‘not exhaustive’. No doubt, but it is exhausting. Progressives are so unnerved by debate and democracy that instead of pursuing political change through persuasion, they are trying to enforce a radical orthodoxy via law, institutional capture, social pressure and even intimidation. The result is as likely to be backlash as it is submission. In the end, though, it’s up to the Lib Dems to set their membership policies and if they want to redefine politics as bigotry, that’s their business. They’ve been redefining ‘liberal’ and ‘democrat’ for some time now.

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