UK

Labour MP Emily Thornberry perfectly shuts down tiresome question about men with cervixes

Josh Milton July 31, 2022
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Emily Thornberry laughs

Emily Thornberry. (Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

Labour MP Emily Thornberry gave a masterclass in shutting down the dragged-out “debater” over whether men can have a cervix.

Frances Barber, the 64-year-old The Escape actor, tweeted the MP for Islington South and Finsbury saying she wants to grill her on the body parts of trans men for some reason.

She wrote: “I would love to sit down with my MP @EmilyThornberry whose leaflets are pushed through my door at every election hustings. Look her in the eye & say: ‘Can a man have a cervix?'”

Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, urged Barber to swing by one of her upcoming surgeries at Islington Town Hall in north London.

“My cousin is a trans man. I presume he has a cervix. I haven’t asked – it’s none of my business,” she answered.

“My business is to love him & protect him from bullying. You are better than this.”

Emily Thornberry’s no-nonsense reply quickly earned her the title of “icon” from LGBTQ+ users, many praising her unwavering support for the trans community.

Barber, not responding to Thornberry’s tweet directly, said: “I have just been told I’m hateful because Emily Thornberry has a trans family member. I didn’t know. She’s my MP. Surely I’m allowed an opinion?”

This wasn’t the first time Barber remarked about the lives of trans people. She has said “women do not have penises“, something she says is “science”, said trans women should be excluded from single-sex spaces like hospitals and refuges and suggested trans women are not women.

Defending Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who has become one of Britain’s most outspoken trans rights critics, Barber said: “JK is totally on the side of Trans, as am I …go well.”

Many trans men and non-binary people can have cervixes and can develop cervical cancer. Cervical cancer kills more than 850 people a year in Britain, with estimates placing the number of lives saved by cervical screenings at around 5,000 every year.

But the debate over people’s body parts has raged in the British media for years, often to the exhaustion and frustration of trans people.

Britain’s leading cervical cancer charity, the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, was forced to wade into the “debate” in 2019 after transphobes launched a vile Twitter campaign saying “only females get cancer”.

“We’re aware a hashtag is trending that raises the issue of gender identity and cervical health,” Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust tweeted at the time,

“At Jo’s, we want to ensure everyone with a cervix has access to the information and support they need to attend #CervicalScreening, regardless of their gender identity.”

Public health officials and researchers alike have stressed that saying trans men, non-binary and intersex people can not have cervixes leads to healthcare discrimination. Some trans men say they have not been offered cervical screening appointments, with much of the messages targeted toward women.

This can make some trans men feel out of place and discouraged not to seek out a screening through their general practitioner (GP) altogether. 40 per cent of trans men who are eligible for a smear test have never been screened, often skipping appointments out of fear of prejudice or their doctors refusing to care for them, a 2019 study found.

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