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Women’s Equality Party officer claims she was kicked out for supporting JK Rowling. The party tells a completely different story

Lily Wakefield July 30, 2020
Women's equality party hilary baxter

Hilary Baxter was a Women's Equality Party officers in Oxford until last week. (Hilary Baxter/ Facebook)

A Women’s Equality Party (WEP) officer who declared her support for JK Rowling and tried to stop trans women playing sports has been “kicked out” over comments on race and disability.

Hilary Baxter was the co-leader of the Oxford brand of the WEP until last week. She wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, 28 July: “I was a founding member of the Women’s Equality Party and chair of the Oxford branch until last week.

“I posted #IStandWithJKRowling and IOC [International Olympic Committee] petition on WEP Oxford FB.

“WEP called these ‘offensive’ and kicked me out. WEP don’t support sex based rights.”

The petition Baxter shared was against International Olympic Committee, demanding that they ban trans women from competing against cis women.  

Baxter also swiftly updated her LinkedIn, writing: “Sadly because I took a stand on women’s sex-based rights, the Women’s Equality Party terminated my membership this month.

“I intend to spend my time working and supporting a Woman’s Place UK and SaveWomensSports in future.”

The Women’s Equality Party said Hilary Baxter had membership revoked over disability and race comments.

Although Hilary Baxter insisted that she was “kicked out” of the Women’s Equality Party over her anti-trans views on “women’s sex-based rights”, the party itself explained that there was more to the story.

Although the WEP said complaint investigations were confidential, because Baxter had gone public with her version of events, the party wants to make some “clarifications”.

The WEP executive committee said in a statement: “The executive committee investigated a complaint against a branch officer and the complaint was upheld.

“The panel found that the officer had breached our code of conduct by publishing a statement on the branch Facebook page that contradicted the party’s position.

“The committee decided that her access to that social media account should therefore be suspended while she underwent training.”

The committee said that although Baxter was investigated over the “gender critical” posts, it was actually an email she sent that cinched the decision the revoke her membership.

The statement continued: “During the course of the investigation, the branch officer voluntarily shared with the executive committee an email in which she expressed views on the party’s involvement in issues of race and disability that are incompatible with the party’s position.

“The executive committee considered this an aggravating factor in the complaint and therefore decided to revoke her membership.”

WEP leader Mandu Reid also released a statement in which she said: “I was not involved in the complaints process, but I have seen the email that is referred to in the party’s statement and I was deeply concerned and hurt by what I read.

“There is no place in our party for the views expressed in that email in relation to the party’s involvement in issues of race and disability, especially by a party representative, and I therefore support the decision to revoke the officer’s membership.”

Reid said that some party members might be “concerned” that they would be “silenced” when discussing the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, and so she was creating a “better space” for members to “discuss the interaction of sex and gender based rights”.

She said that in August: “Party members will be randomly selected to be part of a citizens’ assembly… They will hear testimony from experts and those with lived experience on what self-ID for transgender people and legal recognition for non-binary people means for our existing policies.”

On Friday, Baxter took to Twitter again to say that the party’s statement on the revocation of her membership was “rubbish”.

She added: “I challenged WEP on constantly using other organisations’ ideas and protests, like BLM or DRA, rather than having any of their own.

“They wilfully interpreted this as racism/ableism in order to discredit me. I have no interest in wasting further time on them.”

Baxter has since contacted prominent “gender-critical” feminists and anti-trans groups, including Helen Joyce, Maya Forstater, Woman’s Place UK and LGB Alliance, to tell them that she was removed from the WEP for her views on “sex-based rights”.

Women's Equality Party officer booted out for views on race and disability
Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party. (Cairis Grant-Hickey)

The party has been divided in recent years over trans rights.

The Women’s Equality Party says in its policy document that it supports the right of all to define their sex or gender or to reject gendered divisions as they choose.

However, party members have been caught up more than once in volatile discourse on trans rights and “gender-critical” feminism.

In 2018, the party sacked its official spokesperson for calling parents of transgender children “abusive”, and the party’s former leader, Sophie Walker, was strongly criticised for pledging to “protect women’s sex-based rights” and “fight for single-sex spaces”.

Party leader Mandu Reid told PinkNews last year: “I think the leadership that’s been missing in other parties [is one] that acknowledges that what’s at the source of this friction, this tension, this conflict, is mistrust and fear.

“You’re not going to get a glorious, shiny consensus on an issue like this, but what you damn well could have, if you handle it properly, is to reach a point where people understand each other a bit better…  and are able to move from their entrenched positions where they’re just chucking grenades on each other.”

More: ableism, anti-trans, gender critical, Hilary Baxter, JK Rowling, Mandu Reid, Oxford, racism, Women's Equality Party

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