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Labour MP Rosie Duffield’s vicious transphobia row has left her trans constituents stunned and listless

Tom George September 9, 2020
Rosie Duffield

Rosie Duffield insisted 'only women have a cervix' on Twitter. (Facebook/Rosie Duffield)

Rosie Duffield was elected on a platform that vocally spoke out in support of the LGBT+ community. But in August, the Labour MP for Canterbury, Kent, was forced to apologise after she found herself at the centre of an online transphobia row.

Duffield liked a tweet by broadcaster Piers Morgan that took issue with the inclusive language of a CNN tweet that stated that “individuals with a cervix” can now get cervical cancer screenings at 25.

After initially standing by her actions, making the incorrect assertion that “only women have a cervix” and calling the backlash “this week’s Communist pile-on”, Rosie took a step back from social media.

Taking to Facebook to share that she had been hurt by the accusations of transphobia, Duffield called for women and trans groups to come together before apologising for “any offence [her] own recent use of language on this issue may have caused”.

“I am, and always have been, completely supportive of trans rights,” Rosie said in her statement. “I have spent decades campaigning for equality and supporting LGBT+ rights.”

After years of supporting LGBT+ rights, MP’s remarks leave her trans constituents stunned and listless. 

However, this is the very reason why Rosie’s comments both shocked and concerned Canterbury’s LGBT+ community in the first place.

When Rosie first ran as the member of parliament for Canterbury in 2017, she ran on a platform that was vocally supportive of the LGBT+ community and a promise to fight for them.

She exposed the homophobic voting record and history of transphobic comments from Canterbury’s incumbent MP since 1987, Julian Brazier, while also promising that she would be “standing up to homophobia and transphobia and celebrating the diversity of our incredible constituency”.

The day after her election, she would give her very first speech as MP at Canterbury Pride 2017.

“To go from that delight a few years ago to then find that Rosie had made transphobic comments came as a particular blow to me,” Chay Brown, a local to the Canterbury area and a director at TransActual, a group dedicated to correcting misinformation about the trans community and fighting transphobia within the press, told PinkNews.

“I remember sending her a message on Twitter to congratulate her [election win] and I felt a real sense of hope that the area of Kent that I lived in at the time was going to get more progressive,” Brown added.

With 2020 already being a difficult year for the trans community with aggressive social media debates surrounding basic rights, an increasing number of murders per year of trans individuals and the inability to access valuable healthcare due to the pandemic, Rosie’s sudden lack of support was worrying for an already hurting community.

“As a trans man, it was my identity that she was denying,” added Brown.

“I have a cervix and I am a man. In fact, I’ll have a cervix for probably six months longer than I expected because COVID-19 means that I will be spending even longer on the NHS waiting list.

“To say that only women have cervixes denies my very existence and identity denial is transphobia.”

In a Facebook post, Pride Canterbury called on Rosie to explain her tweets and apologise.

“Trans individuals are suffering and we need to stand by them,” they said. “Twenty-eight per cent of trans people were a victim of crime in England and Wales in the last year – double that faced by cisgender people.

“Stonewall suggested that a surge in anti-trans rhetoric in the media could be linked to this.

“This is simply intolerable and we ask you to stand with us and make a positive difference.”

‘I felt Rosie Duffield was saying I am a woman when I am not. I am a man with a cervix.’

Speaking to Lea Baynes, one of the volunteers at Pride Canterbury, he explained how he felt let down by Rosie’s recent comments.

“I voted for her [in 2017 and again in 2019] because I felt included in her policies,” Baynes said.

“I really thought she cared about LGBT+ issues. A lot of people are saying that this is anti-trans women but it’s more anti-trans men.

“I felt she was saying I am a woman when I am not. I am a man with a cervix.”

Both Brown and Baynes accepted her apology, but a part of them both question its sincerity given the week-long period of silence between it and the original comments.

Rosie Duffield Labour MP for Canterbury Speaking at the Jewish Labour Movement Rally Fringe event at the 2019 Labour Party conference. (Nicola Tree/Getty Images) on September 22, 2019 in Brighton, England.
Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, speaking at the Jewish Labour Movement Rally Fringe event at the 2019 Labour Party conference. (Nicola Tree/Getty Images)

“I have spoken to her at a couple of Canterbury Pride events and I genuinely felt like she cared about trans rights,” Baynes said.

“Her apology was an apology. But you never know what someone really thinks.”

They both would also like to see actions, off of social media, to show that she means what she says about supporting trans people.

Brown argued he would “like to see that Rosie has sat down with some trans people and listened to their experiences.

“Especially their experiences of struggling to access appropriate, timely healthcare.”

Both Pride Canterbury and TransActual have welcomed Rosie’s apology and invited her to sit down and talk with the latter.

“By finding out about trans people’s lived experiences and especially developing an understanding of the barriers trans men and non-binary people with cervixes encounter when seeking cancer screening and other healthcare services, Rosie will be better placed to advocate for the needs of her trans constituents,” they said.

Whether the offer will be accepted, however, remains to be seen.

Rosie Duffield did not return PinkNews’ request for comment.

More: Canterbury, Centerbury Pride, cervix, Labour party, people with a cervix, rosie duffield, Trans, trans rights, TransActual, transphobia

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