But this is just a signpost, not a watershed
Rosie Duffield, the Member of Parliament for Canterbury who sparked a firestorm of accusations by tweeting gender heresy this weekend, has gotten a vote of confidence from a Labour Party shadow minister.
Appearing on the radio show of the London Times, shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding Jess Phillips denied that Duffield is transphobic.
Duffield’s Twitter account remains locked after a firestorm over her remarks that only women have a cervix, a factual statement.
Phillips also walked a verbal tightrope to put the matter in perspective and critique a toxic social media culture.
As reported on the party’s website today, Phillips told listeners “I hand on heart don’t think that Rosie Duffield is a transphobe.”
“What I think that is happening in this case, and it’s the same for a number of different subjects that get discussed on Twitter, is that we soon find out that reasonable policy debate about sometimes difficult and complex issues – Twitter is not the place to be doing that.
“And I think the trans issue, more than anything else, deserves proper detailed debate and attention by policy makers who almost certainly should be changing the Gender Recognition Act – it is now outdated – without it becoming some sort of vitriolic war where the debate never seems to advance.”
She added: “Because of that, the rights of trans people have subsequently not advanced. So you’re right – we have all suffered a Twitter pile-on and it just is a sort of sad indictment of our politics that we can’t have reasonably political and policy debates.”
There are a couple of ways to see this. One is that it’s a relief that anyone, much less a center-left political leader, should be the adult in the room for once and get up on their hind legs in the face of the gender goon squads. Philips’s point about Twitter is quite valid, too; the medium likes outrage much better than comprehension or understanding.
But then Philips is still a politician, for she cannot let go of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), and if you asked her “what is a woman?” you would not be guaranteed a coherent, non-circular answer.
Transgender ideology has no answers for this question that are coherent or non-circular, either, which is why the pronoun police rely on sheer intimidation in the first place — not just on Twitter, but wherever women gather to discuss the impact that changes to the GRA will have on their rights. They crowd women in the streets, in the hallways, banging on the windows, shouting epithets and curses, because “this is not a debate.”
For Phillips, who rose to her position by championing victims of domestic violence, those are hard scenes to watch. Worse still for her to see victims of domestic violence, such as author JK Rowling and MP Duffield, have their suffering dismissed by a vicious mob.
This fundamental incoherence, and its expression as inchoate rage against women who dare speak their minds, is the single biggest stumbling block to anything that transgender people might want for themselves. It is also one reason why Jess Phillips and her Labour Party lost an election to Boris Johnson, of all people.
There are truisms that a politician is never supposed to abandon legislative initiatives altogether. You can see those principles at work on the Conservatives right now: while Prime Minister Johnson has clearly decided not to move ahead with GRA changes, minister Liz Truss seems to be in no hurry to finalize any sort of recommendation.
The Tories are content to kick the can further down the road and keep whistling the same tune. Meanwhile, the ground keeps shifting as voting Britons take notice of what is really going on in gender politics, shutting the window of political opportunity.
Until Labour steps away from commitments to insert “self-ID” in the GRA and reins in their most hyperactive gender warriors, they will remain out of power.
Perhaps some people will get angry and quit the party if that happens, but then where would they go? The LibDems? That doesn’t seem likely to hurt Labour very much, whereas some evident sanity might bring back some of the voters who abandoned them last year.