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Emily Thornberry uses ‘shameful’ past views towards trans people to teach Mumsnet users about tolerance

Nick Duffy February 5, 2020
Labour leadership candidate Emily Thornberry

Labour leadership candidate Emily Thornberry (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Labour leadership hopeful Emily Thornberry has said she is “ashamed” by her past views towards transgender people.

The shadow foreign secretary made the comments on Wednesday during a Q&A on Wednesday on Mumsnet – an internet forum popular with parents and anti-transgender activists.

Thornberry spoke about how her own views towards trans people have changed, in response to a user who said they were “frightened for my daughter’s future” because of “gender identity extremism”.

Emily Thornberry ‘used to laugh at’ trans woman.

The politician wrote: “Over the decades things have changed and I have thought about this issue a great deal and have been challenged particularly by the younger generation who have a very different attitude to identity than I did when I was their age.

“When I was at college there was someone who worked in the catering department she was known as David the Dinner Lady and we all laughed at her and she was incredibly vulnerable but amazingly brave and I look back at that and I’m ashamed.

“I hope our world has moved on and I think the younger generation have a different attitude.”

She told the user: “I don’t think you need to be worried about your daughter, I think your daughter will grow up in a world that is more tolerant and understanding and perhaps has learnt from feminism that we can all be different and it’s OK.”

Trans prisoners should be housed in ‘appropriate and safe place’, says Labour MP.

Emily Thornberry, the only of the four Labour leadership hopefuls not to have qualified for the final round of the contest so far, was also pressed on housing for transgender prisoners.

She noted that London’s notorious Pentonville prison is in her constituency, adding: “Pentonville prison is unsafe for inmates and staff, the level of violence in that institution is a national disgrace, it is under-resourced and understaffed and the conditions give a good name to the word Dickensian.

“There will be no way that a trans woman could possibly be safe in such an institution. And this is all about safeguarding.

“All our inmates deserve to be safe and to be housed in an appropriate and safe place.”

British Labour leadership candidate Emily Thornberry
British Labour leadership candidate Emily Thornberry (PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Labour politician, a former barrister, added: “I can’t get over the image of somebody I represented at Bow street magistrate court. She had been arrested for soliciting. She’d been born a man. Every single police officer there knew and thought it was hilarious that this woman had to be treated as a man.

“At Bow Street at the time there were single occupancy cells beneath the court but there was also one big room that they’d put people arrested and held overnight. They put her in this room.

“I was supposed to be looking after her and there was nothing I could do to protect her.

“She was completely humiliated, they were all laughing and pointing at her. I was ashamed. Our criminal justice system has to be better than that.”

As with previous Q&As, Mumsnet staff banned users from asking further questions about trans issues – after previous live chats resulted in users asking more questions about trans issues than every other political issue combined.

The site’s moderators wrote:  “Thanks for comments on sex/gender identity etc.

“That’s enough on that topic now – we expect there to be lots of questions for Emily on all kinds of issues and don’t want this to become a single issue webchat.”

More: emily thornberry, Labour, Labour party, Mumsnet, Trans

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