Christine Jardine on trans rights: It’s all about people

Christine Jardine went on Woman’s Hour yesterday to talk about transgender rights in the wake of Ed’s Marr interview on Sunday where that topic was the only one Andrew Marr seemed interested in talking about.

Woman’s Hour host Emma Barnett threw absolutely everything at Christine, who patiently and calmly answered questions for over 20 minutes. It’s worth a listen here.

Barnett repeated the question Marr had put to Ed yesterday – what was wrong with a t-shirt with the slogan woman: adult human female. Ed stood up for our policy that trans rights are human rights and we support the right of trans people to self-identify very well. The one tweak I would have made was the point that Christine made. That phrase is used as a dog-whistle by anti-trans activists to justify their misinformation about and attacks on trans people.

On that question, I liked the way that my friend Duncan put it on Twitter

No matter what the subject, one of the things that Christine always does is bring it back to people. She doesn’t do abstract. It’s all about the human impact. She talked about one friend with a transgender son, another who had transitioned and stayed married and how, if she had one child who was trans and one who wasn’t, how she’d want them both to have the same life chances.

She made the point with vigour that we would all be totally ashamed of ourselves in 30 years time, just like we are now of the appalling way gay men were treated in the 80s when AIDS came to prominence.

She was compassionate, kind and clear, many things that that the atmosphere around this subject is, most of the time, not.

Later, Daisy Cooper tackled the same issue on Politics Live

She also raised the human cost of the toxicity of the debate on trans people who are more likely to suffer poor mental ill health or suicidal thoughts as a result of the discrimination they face. She was asked what she felt about phrases like “individuals with a cervix.” She said that in medical settings that is the terminology that is used  to include everyone. However, she said, this doesn’t mean that the term woman or men is in any way being erased. She also said that no woman in public life should ever feel unsafe about going anywhere for the views that they express.

I think we can be proud of the way Ed, Daisy and Christine have tackled this head on and tried to bring some sense and warmth into the subject in the face of often aggressive questioning.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Alexandrine Kantor 21st Sep '21 - 6:06pm

    So proud to be a LibDem.

  • Denis Mollison 21st Sep '21 - 10:50pm

    If we want the debate to be less toxic – as Christine rightly said – we shouldn’t be banning members for 10 years for wearing a t-shirt with a slogan

  • Peter Martin 22nd Sep '21 - 7:46am

    Its a difficult one for any male on which to express an opinion. On the one hand we have “that trans rights are human rights” and on the other we have the right of women, who would no doubt argue that they are ‘people’ too, to want their own space and decide what the word “woman” should mean. Many (most?) think it means what I always, perhaps mistakenly, assumed it to mean. But others think it means what they would define it to be.

    There’s no solution at all to this one as far as I can see!

  • Jenny Barnes 22nd Sep '21 - 1:38pm

    “the right of women, who would no doubt argue that they are ‘people’ too, to want their own space and decide what the word “woman” should mean”

    Presumably by “women” you actually mean cis women? Or are you including trans women? It looks to me like you’re assuming the answer in your question.

  • Laurence Cox 22nd Sep '21 - 1:59pm

    As Peter Martin rightly says this is a a difficult issue for any male to comment on, but I cannot see any fundamental reason against accepting both ‘trans women are women’ and simultaneously, for example, the right of womens’ refuges to deny entry to anyone they think would cause distress to their residents, regardless of gender. There are some issues with trans women in elite sports, but this is a matter for sports governing bodies, not governments.

    When I was a mature student at King’s College London a few years ago we had one toilet (not an assisted toilet) in the building that also contained the students’ union that was unisex and both men and women used to go into it without batting an eyelid. If we were starting from scratch now we would probably divide toilets into urinals and seated toilets, rather than male and female, which would certainly reduce the queues for the latter.

  • Well said Denis. Absolutely unbelievable that a Liberal party is banning people because of a t shirt. Please wake up and smell the coffee.

  • Russell Simpson 22nd Sep '21 - 2:15pm

    Without making a comment on the t shirt itself I do think it’s rather illiberal to disallow the debate.

  • Richard Flowers 22nd Sep '21 - 4:07pm

    “Is it liberal to punish someone for wearing a tee-shirt”:

    You would not support someone wearing a tee-shirt with an anti-Semitic slogans on it. You would not support someone wearing a tee-shirt with racist slogans on it. Or the N-Word. Or a neo-Nazi swastika. I very much hope you would not support someone using the F—-t word to describe *me*.

    Those slogans and symbols are not “debate”. They are shouting abuse in people’s faces to cause offence and fear, and to allow that is the very opposite of liberal tolerance.

    We do not entertain a “debate” about Jewish lives.
    We do not entertain a “debate” about Black live.

    So let us not pretend that this situation is any different.
    Prejudice is prejudice.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 22nd Sep '21 - 7:37pm

    @ David and Russell,

    You make the dangerous step of assuming that what you’ve heard publicly is the whole story.

    As a former member of the Appeals Panel for England, I would note that we maintain a level of confidentiality appropriate in such circumstances. In other words, out of respect for both appellant and respondent, the Party doesn’t disclose details of cases.

    And, given that discussing ongoing disciplinary cases with the media is, in itself, a potential conduct and discipline offence, you might be cautious about assigning credibility to what you read in newspapers not renown for their pro-Liberal Democrat leanings.

    In short, don’t believe everything you read…

  • Nigel Quinton 22nd Sep '21 - 8:26pm

    Thank you Caron for highlighting Christine’s appearance on Women’s Hour. I listened on BBC Sounds today and thought she was excellent.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Sep '21 - 9:25am

    @ Jenny,

    I’m not sure what “it looks like to” you but I’m not offering any answers at all. I do see both sides of the argument. So, I would expect, do many others. I do hope there isn’t a ‘if you’re not 100% with us you must be 100% against us’ type of argument here.

    That’s not going to help bring any resolution at all.

    You’ll have to excuse many of us who might use the noun ‘woman’ without including adjectives of ‘cis’ and ‘trans’. That does take a little getting used to.

  • “for example, the right of womens’ refuges to deny entry to anyone they think would cause distress to their residents, regardless of gender.”

    This is though an almost completely synthetic argument. Pretty much every women’s refuge/rape crisis centre etc that I’ve seen express a view are trans inclusive and this isn’t something they want.

    Eg –

  • It is nice to see Richard, Alex and Caron reminding what I did – at one point! – like about the party

    This from Mhari Black gives a pretty good summary of the situation and developments

    (Transcript – )

    Mhari is one of a number of cis women who are ‘butch’ or masculine presenting who report that they have been harassed or in some cases attacked in toilets because of how they look and accused of ‘being men’

  • Jenny Barnes 23rd Sep '21 - 9:45am

    “You’ll have to excuse many of us who might use the noun ‘woman’ without including adjectives of ‘cis’ and ‘trans’.”

    As soon as you oppose the rights of “women” to those of “trans women” you’re effectively saying that trans women are not women. Is that what you want to be excused for?

  • Peter Martin 23rd Sep '21 - 11:08am

    @ Jenny Barnes,

    Laurence Cox makes the point “There are some issues with trans women in elite sports, but this is a matter for sports governing bodies, not governments.”

    I’d say not just elite sports. What’s your opinion on this? I would agree with Laurence that the women, either trans or cis, who play sport should be able to set their own rules.

    I accept that I shouldn’t have any say in the matter. Do you think I should?

  • This came out yesterday.

    “The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination today expressed concern at the increase in hate speech, violence and hate crimes against LGBTI people in Council of Europe member States. “The scapegoating and violations of LGBTI people’s civil rights come to a large extent from political figures, including government representatives, as well as religious leaders,” the parliamentarians warned.

    Adopting the report by Fourat Ben Chikha (Belgium, SOC), the committee strongly condemned “the extensive and often virulent attacks on the rights of LGBTI people for several years” in Hungary, Poland, the Russian Federation, Turkey and the United Kingdom, stressing that the significant advances achieved in recent years were today under threat.”

    Not that long ago the UK was rated as the leading country in Europe for LGBTI rights. David Cameron got very irate when we dropped to second place IIRC. I’ve not got the source to hand but I think we ranked 10th on the last list.

  • Jenny Barnes 24th Sep '21 - 4:43pm

    I think that everyone who wants to should be able to participate in sports and where possible have a reasonable chance of winning. Segregating sport by gender is a rather blunt attempt to equalise chances – I’m thinking of the various weight classes in boxing as a possibility, and the way the paralympics allowed people with various differences in ability to participate in top level sport.

  • And today the Women and Equalities Committee reported that after they surveyed 100 stakeholder organisations :
    “Most organisations (29, 71% of respondents) told us the Government was either not making any progress on the issues they cared about (9, 22% of respondents) or contributing to the situation getting worse (20, 49% of respondents).”

    This is in reference to equalities more generally. Worth noting that one of only two organisations that said the Government was contributing to a lot of progress seems to be LGB Alliance.

    Dismissing this as a divisive issue seems to disregard the fact that such issues are rarely anything but. Section 28, the age of consent, civil partnerships, semi-equal marriage have all been divisive. Google Brian Souter!

    Sometimes you need to pick a side.

  • Laurence Cox 24th Sep '21 - 6:23pm

    @Jenny Barnes

    I would prefer to see categories based on natural testosterone level, because I think it is fundamentally wrong to ask women athletes with high testosterone levels to take drugs to artificially reduce their level in order to compete. Normal levels are 9-55 ng/dL for women and 300-1000 ng/dL for men. You would then just need two categories: below 55 ng/dL and above 55 ng/dL (‘open’ category). Further research might change the break point, or it might be necessary to introduce a third intermediate category, but even in paralympic sport there are a limited number of classifications in each group. I wouldn’t want to see too many Olympic champions in each athletic event because it would devalue the medals (there are currently eight weight categories in boxing for men and there have been as many as 12).

  • >Laurence Cox makes the point “There are some issues with trans women in elite sports, but this is a matter for sports governing bodies, not governments.”
    From what I’ve read a big issue with male-to-trans is when the athlete transitioned. Specifically, many built up their bodies as men and then transitioned. Naturally, these athletes have an advantage over women athletes who were born female and didn’t take testosterone supplements.

    Another thing I’ve noticed in friends who transitioned is mindset. It is difficult to put a finger on it and determine whether it makes a significant difference to the race result, but they definitely have retained their former (male) mindset, which means they approach races slightly differently.

    I do agree it is the individual sports governing bodies who need to decide, and we need to support them in their decisions even though I suspect for some sports the decision will be to exclude male-trans from women’s competition.

  • Christine Jardine had about 20 minutes on air, but spent the whole time talking about this one issue. Therefore I don’t think this interview was a success. Interviewers are prepared to ask the same question lots of times if it is not answered. I dislike politicians not answering the question and so I assume lots of people dislike it as well. We need to come up with a short answer so hopefully other topics can be discussed. By Monday Christine should have had one ready. I believe the issue is about a statement on a t-shirt which is transphobic because it implies that trans women are not women. When asked about our policy Christine should have clearly stated that for children under 16 a medical doctor shall determine if the child is competent to make the decision assuming that is our policy. From what Christine said I think it is.

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