Julian Huppert’s Green opponent in trouble for Twitter transphobia

One of the best moments for me of the debate on the Same Sex Marriage Bill was when Cambridge’s Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert spoke out against elements of the Bill which would cause real heartache and injustice for transgender people and their partners. His understanding, sensitivity and eloquence on these matters was second to none. Of course he was well briefed by Sarah Brown and Zoe O’Connell among others but he put his head above the parapet to try and secure fairness for people who are all too often marginalised.

His expertise on this matter (and many others) is a huge asset to the Commons.

We’re used to hearing stories of ignorance and prejudice amongst UKIP candidates. It’s quite a surprise when it’s a member of the Green Party who makes a total gaffe. Huppert’s Green opponent Rupert Read made some astonishingly transphobic comments on Twitter for which he has since apologised:

The Green Party’s Dr Rupert Read has “unreservedly” apologised for a series of tweets in which he appeared to question the validity of trans people’s gender.

He had posted that the use of the word “cisgender” as the opposite of “transgender” troubled him.

The “cis” prefix is frequently preferred by transgender campaigners over terms such as “biological” or “genetic”.

He also shared a blog post written by him in January 2013, in which he defended feminist writers who had been accused of transphobia.

The philosopher and parliamentary candidate for Cambridge described trans women as “a sort of ‘opt-in’ version of what it is to be a woman”.

His apology only added insult to injury:

But I also remain a very strong backer of feminism. All that I have done is join many feminists in saying that it is up to women, not anyone else  – and certainly not me – to decide who gets let into women-only spaces

It’s as if he thinks there’s some sort of conflict between supporting the rights of transgender people and gender equality. There is a small but deeply unpleasant element in feminism which rejects transgender women. How much better it is that everyone works together, just like the Scottish organisation Engender, which welcomes all “self-identified women” as members.

Pink News outlines how Read’s comment have landed him in trouble with his own party’s LGBTIQ group whose chair said:

We are dismayed and disagree utterly with comments coming from Green Parliamentary candidate Rupert Read.

Both recent comments on Twitter and his blog article indicate a worrying attitude towards his understanding of trans issues, concerns and rights.

Rupert’s comments fall short of the high expectations we have of Green candidates and we are deeply concerned with any suggestion that the party is not trans inclusive.

I’d rather have an MP who sought to represent all their constituents and who made an effort to understand the issues they face. In Cambridge that is clearly Julian Huppert.

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

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4 Comments

  • David Faggiani 23rd Jan '15 - 3:44pm

    Transexuality (and how we all respond to it) is an issue I’m very interested in, partly because of my own experience with friends. It’s an issue that it’s easy to get into a mess discussing (and thinking about!), as Dr Read has discovered, especially when one neglects the human feelings involved. I often feel that I don’t really ‘get it’, and then, being a good liberal, I beat myself up about that a bit, of course… (and so it goes)

    I’m a great South Park fan, and, being a fairly easy-going liberal, I found the show took a long time to effectively ‘shock’ me. It did it in Season 9, Episode 1 (I won’t name the episode here!) with an episode dealing with Trans issues in their usual crude and irreverent way. I think Trans issues often play the role in contemporary liberal discourse that Gay issues did in the UK about 30 years ago, eg. quite a lot of confusion, fear, and misinformation, as well as lots of internet touchiness, of course.

  • Zoe O'connell 23rd Jan '15 - 11:29pm

    It’s worth noting that this isn’t just trans related comments. The conversation in which the issue was raised started when he was challenged for using disablist language. Unfortunately, because I think that’s a topic politics could do better at as well, that part of the story has often been missed out.

    The Greens are generally very good on LGBTIQ issues and it’s a real shame to see this happening to people who should be our allies in the fight for equality. Sadly, there is no sign that the Cambridge Greens will take any action against their PPC – which may be related to the fact that Read is the Green party’s 9th largest donor nationally.

  • The trans stuff is not even Read’s greatest problem (it’s always, by definition, going to be a minority issue – although that’s no excuse). He’s standing on a platform of banning research using genetic modification and animals in a constituency with perhaps the greatest concentration of biological research in the world. As an ex-scientist Huppert would destroy him in any debate on this. Let’s hope it happens.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Jan '15 - 11:27am

    Not so much of the ex, g. He remains a fellow of his Cambridge college.

    I think that how a society cares for its minorities is vitally important.

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