This article by Jan Oliver was first published on Socialist Feminist Network in December 2017.
Dear Jeremy Corbyn
I am an ordinary working woman. I come from a trade union, Labour voting family – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I have always voted Labour and I have been involved in anti-racist, gay liberation, pro NHS, feminist and trade union campaigns since I was a teenager. I have been a member of Labour and Momentum for some time. I write now, with a great deal of sadness. I have already written to my local MP but received back only a standard reply which did not address my concerns. Yet my experience tells me that what I write here represents the views of many ordinary women and men in this country.
As a woman and as the mother of a young woman, the protection and rights of women and children must be one of my priorities. Protection. not just against domestic abuse, rape, sexual exploitation, inadequate care services, degrading and demeaning representations and work underpayment but now against the demands, distortions, lies and claims of what appears to be a science-denying sect sweeping aside the safety of women and children and, which is apparently supported by yourself and the Labour Party. I refer of course to the very well- funded and, well organized, movement that claims that science, in the form of biology, is an illusion, and that only reported personal feelings determine whether one is a man or a woman.
As a feminist I do not care what gender role or fantasy people choose to act out as long as it does not harm others. I have no issue about the behaviour of transmen (adult women who claim to be men), cat people, dog people, baby adults or any other group because they neither threaten others, nor take away the hard fought for rights of other vulnerable groups. But I am concerned about fully intact physical males jeopardizing the safety of women by claiming the legal right to self- identify as a woman and to enter any female only space – changing rooms, domestic violence asylums, rape crisis centres, and women’s prisons and, to physically endanger and, in some cases, to actually seriously injure, women in women’s sports teams. Men who claim the right to take funding and positions meant by law to go to women. As part of a reality based community, I am concerned that the Orwellian erosion of meaning in our language will lead to a decline in our ability to debate and reason. Increasingly acts of male sexual violence rape and murder are being reported as female crimes, distorting facts, statistics and our understanding and analysis of crime. I am concerned that at the very time when the world needs science to defend the earth against global warming and the destruction of our natural habitat, science is being left undefended and undermined.
I hear claims that transgender people experience oppression and persecution, to which I am totally opposed. You pat yourselves on the back for being inclusive whilst women who try to broaden the debate away from the hostility of social media into the real world are subjected to abuse, intimidation and silencing. But you are too late to silence the debate. Feminist women and their male supporters will continue to look at the evidence and to question, whether we can vote for a Labour Party that is intent on destroying the rights of women, and the safety and health of our children by proclaiming that a transgender woman is a woman simply because they say so. A party which appears to be advocating gender rather than biological sex as the determinant in accessing female only services and spaces. A party whose spokeswoman, in the form of Emily Thornberry, on national TV weakly shrugs, smiles and says that she “doesn’t care” about men using women’s facilities. A party which consults only transgender activists -not women, -not de-transitioned people – not transsexual groups – about sex, gender and the consequences of transitioning confused and non-conforming young people. And which encourages people who are, biologically and legally, men to represent women on, and in, women’s posts and panels.
I fear that the Tory party will eventually pick up crucial votes from women swing voters on this issue and I do not want to see another Tory government attacking ordinary people’s living standards, destroying our NHS and destroying our environment. And yet who can women – who can I and my family – vote for, now that the Labour Party is throwing away our rights and threatening the safety of our children. How can Labour women vote at all? Is the Labour Party for the many? Because right now, it seems, it is for the few.