Lib Dems amend definition of transphobia – LGBT+ Lib Dems vow to resist

The Federal Board announced yesterday that it had amended its definition of transphobia in light of recent legal advice. The new wording can be found here,

However, LGBT+ Lib Dems, the official party body for gender and sexual minorities, has vowed to resist it, saying that the party had been unable to stand by its values when confronted by well-funded and organised transphobia. They said:

Like many reading this, the team at LGBT+ Liberal Democrats are disappointed and frustrated with the recent revisions to the Liberal Democrats definition of transphobia. While some tidying up of it may have been needed to protect against vexatious legal challenges, we are sad that our party has been pushed so far backwards.

As a party, we see ourselves as having the longest and strongest record on advocacy for trans rights and the wider LGBTQ+ community. Only last month our leader, Ed Davey MP, met with trans and non binary activists in the party to talk about trans people’s lives in the UK today. Many, many people throughout our party are staunch trans allies – be that in Parliament, the Council chamber, or party staff. And yet institutionally we remain risk-averse, unable to fully stand by our liberal values (as clearly laid out in the preamble to our constitution) as an organisation when confronted by well-funded and organised transphobia.

This process began earlier in the Autumn, and LGBT+ Liberal Democrats were sought for consultation on these changes. Naturally, we had a strong line on any changes that might be made, but sadly these do not appear to have been reflected in the final version. Key points that we raised in our response included:

  • Seeking further information on the balance of risks if we kept the previous version of the definition
  • Probing the promotion of ‘gender critical’ views. Why do we need to specify these views, rather than transphobia more broadly? Why are they deserving of explicit protection?
  • Highlighting the rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association of trans, LGBTQ+ and pro-trans members of the party
  • Questioning the relevance of any employment law to political party associations

We understand that a lot of onus has been put on a specific part of the revised definition as part of the defence of it. In one paragraph (7) the new definition specifically prohibits creating a “hostile environment” for trans people in the party. Some have argued that it is virtually impossible to meaningfully advance transphobic views of whatever kind, without ultimately falling foul of this. However, even under the prior definition, it has been many of our member’s experiences that a hostile environment already exists, and people have already resigned their membership because of this.

Even assuming that this is the case, and that this section contains our secret weapon against transphobia, there is too much ambiguity elsewhere in the revised definition to protect against wilful misinterpretation. We have already seen misleading and concerning tweets and comments, saying that the revised definition now allows deadnaming and misgendering. This is entirely untrue – but has been weaponized by transphobes anyway.

Publishing this on the first day of trans awareness week was also, frankly, shocking. We understand it was published swiftly to avoid being weaponised by transphobes, but the result has been to make us look utterly stupid at best, or worse – insincere.

The fact that a political party can essentially be cowed into this position highlights once again the dangers of organised and well-funded transphobia in the UK. Many will be aware of the looming threat of punch-down complaints and spurious law-suits, which have a far more chilling effect on freedom of speech in our politics than anything LGBTQ+ people themselves could pose.

The LGBT+ Liberal Democrats will resist this revision through all routes available to us. At a time when trans people are feeling particularly under threat, the leading liberal party in the UK should be standing with them, firm and proud.

 

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10 Comments

  • Massimo Ricciuti 16th Nov '22 - 7:30pm

    Well done! Proud to be with you!

  • Is Liberal Voice for Women going to be allowed an equal amount of space here to put the alternative view? Seems only fair.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 16th Nov '22 - 8:56pm

    Tony, they are not an official party body so no.

  • You can’t both allow ‘Gender Critical’ views and avoid creating a hostile environment for trans people in my opinion.

    I think it’s incredibly unfortunate that guidance which ought to be in line with our values and be something reassuring to trans people is instead explicitly welcoming people with bigoted views into the party.

    It also spends far too much time trying to explain what isn’t transphobia.

  • Jenny Barnes 18th Nov '22 - 1:32pm

    You could do something similar for homophobic hate speech. Just call it “same-sex attraction critical” and you’re welcome in Qatar.

  • Catherine Crosland 19th Nov '22 - 7:13am

    I agree with Andrew Hickey. It is unacceptable that the Party’s definition of transphobia has been changed without even consulting trans people. It is never acceptable to make decisions that will affect a vulnerable minority group of people, without members of that group of people playing a leading role in the decision. Why couldn’t LGBT+ Liberal Democrats have been invited to write the new definition (assuming a new definition was needed).
    It is worrying that the new definition seems to accept that “gender critical” views are a protected characteristic, and that the party must be bound by this. The Maya Forstater ruling, on which this assumption is based, was really about employment law, and does not necessarily apply to a political party. But shouldn’t we as a party be challenging the whole idea that so called “gender critical” views can be a protected characteristic? As Andrew says, “gender critical” really just means transphobia. To say that this is a protected characteristic, seems like saying racism could be a protected characteristic, if racists called themselves “race critical”.

  • Bizarre that a definition of transphobia should cite legal protections for gender-critical people over (or at least, instead of) the greater legal protections that exist for trans people.

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