Archbishop of Canterbury hit with furious backlash after defending Labour’s Rosie Duffield in transphobia row
The Archbishop of Canterbury has defended “transphobic” Labour MP Rosie Duffield amid a Twitter row over who can get cervical cancer.
The reverend Justin Welby said Duffield was a “brilliant constituency MP” and suggested she was misunderstood in her apparent hostility towards LGBT-inclusive healthcare.
The controversy erupted last week after the Canterbury MP commented on a CNN tweet about new American Cancer Society guidelines, which state: “Individuals with a cervix are now recommended to start cervical cancers screening at 25 and continue through age 65, with HPV testing every five years.”
The carefully-worded guidance encompasses trans men and some intersex and non-binary people, who can be at risk of cervical cancer yet are often overlooked by primary care services.
“Do you mean women?” Piers Morgan replied, which was ‘liked’ by Duffield. When this drew criticism the MP flippantly tweeted: “I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix…?!”
She continued: “The implication that one cannot describe oneself as a woman without inviting a pile-on is beyond ridiculous now. Almost 52 per cent of the UK population are women.”
Duffield further dismissed the allegations of transphobia levelled against her as “just this week’s tedious ‘Communist’ pile on”.
On Tuesday (4 August) the Archbishop of Canterbury shared a message of solidarity with Duffield, telling his 152,000 Twitter followers: “I know Rosie Duffield who is a brilliant constituency MP for Canterbury as well as brave, honest, kind and passionate for justice.
“She does not seek to demean others. To troll her is simply cruel and wrong.”
I know Rosie Duffield who is a brilliant constituency MP for Canterbury as well as brave, honest, kind and passionate for justice. She does not seek to demean others. To troll her is simply cruel and wrong.
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) August 4, 2020
The Archbishop soon found himself in the firing line as Twitter users rejected his defence of “bigotry”.
This is, at best, spectacularly misguided. Rosie made some thoughtless transphobic comments and has refused to engage with anyone trying to point out how that negatively impacts an already marginalised community. I say this as someone who campaigned for her. Something I regret.
— Grace Petrie (@gracepetrie) August 4, 2020
Calling someone out for transphobic remarks is not trolling. Then again, I’m not surprised such a backwards-looking institution is leaping to their defence.
— Matthew Jeffery (@matbob) August 4, 2020
It’s equally cruel and wrong to erase the existence & health care needs of trans people, and doing so needs calling out and condemning, especially from an institution with a responsibility as high as the church’s regarding the preservation of respect for human dignity in society.
— David (@david_riure) August 4, 2020
Rosie Duffield’s tweets followed an increasingly toxic discussion over the past month sparked by a virulent anti-trans campaign insisting “only females get cervical cancer”.
Anti-trans activists were accused of “weaponising” cervical cancer to attack transgender people, who already face significant barriers in healthcare.
Leading UK charities Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and The Eve Appeal have both stood by their trans-inclusive advice that everyone with a cervix should have access to support and information about cervical cancer and smear tests.