To Like and Like Not: My Views on Labour’s Plan for Trans Rights

A couple of weeks ago a 12-point plan emerged on the rights of transgender people. It has not yet been adopted by the Labour Party (this would presumably have to be done at Conference) but two out of the three remaining leadership candidates have endorsed it. I’d like to say why I have problems with it.

The first part of the plan is perfectly fine; it deals with protecting people from abuse and discrimination due to their ‘presentation’ or ‘identification’. That is all of a piece with general anti-discrimination policy, so for me, points one to three are fine. The problems begin with point four which asks us to ‘accept that trans women are women, that trans men are men and that non-binary people are non-binary.’

What’s my beef here? Surely people should be accepted for who and what they are? Yes, I agree – but to accept a person as a fellow human being is not the same as accepting a particular narrative about that person. I’m not sure I even understand what it means to say ‘trans women are women’ and in an environment where it is proposed that people should be simply allowed to self-identify without any kind of medical examination, this is something that requires thought. What is a woman? What does it mean for someone to have male genitalia and say I am a woman? And if we accept this narrative, what follows? There has been little or no public debate on these topics, and without free and open debate how can we achieve any kind of understanding? In the last fifty years or so we’ve had the debate about feminism, we’ve had the debate on gay and lesbian rights and as a society we have come (largely) to a consensus on these issues, one that is enshrined in law. No such debate has taken place on transgender people; the ‘T’ has simply been tacked onto the end of LGB and we are told to accept this or be labelled as haters.

We need to look at the consequences of accepting trans women as women (I’m focussing more on women but there may be problems for cis men as well in men’s groups such as Men in Sheds). We are now obliged to accept the presence of trans women in previously safe environments such as toilets, changing rooms and prisons, and this may present problems for a number of reasons. I’m not suggesting that trans women are likely to be abusers, but that the system itself is open to abuse; that in our rush to be inclusive of some we may actually be excluding others.

But my biggest problem with the plan is point nine, which describes organisations such as A Woman’s Place and the LGB Alliance as ‘transphobic and trans-exclusionary’ hate groups. This is clearly wrong and I hope they will think better of this clause if nothing else. But my plea is this: we desperately need open, tolerant and above all respectful debate. Because without it my fear is that we will be even more divided, both as a party and as a society.

Kirk out

Ballot, Ballot, Who’s Got the Ballot?

Ballots are, as they say, ‘dropping’ at the moment for Labour leader and I still don’t know who to vote for! I’ve been up and down, back and forth, side to side and round and round and I’m currently spiralling towards the outer arm of the galaxy because I just don’t know!!! Every item of news, everything I see on social media, every new thing I learn about each of the candidates, sends me spinning in a new direction like a pinball on a table, and no clear answer is emerging. Opinions are now hardening among the membership and those helpful posts asking ‘still not sure who to vote for? Read this’ are no help at all because they are just a pitch for one candidate slagging off the others.

I’ve tried writing down the pluses and minuses of all the candidates. On the one hand, Keir Starmer has backed the readmission of Alistair Campbell to the party after he voted Lib Dem (and bragged about it) and has declined to say where his funding comes from; on the other hand he has refused to sign up to the 12-point pledge on Transgender rights. (I too am opposed to some of this, for reasons I’ll probably put in another post.) Lisa Nandy has some positives; she’s Northern and down-to-earth and might win back some of the lost seats in that region: on the other hand she lacks experience and until recently most people hadn’t heard of her. The same goes for the candidate who in all other respects I like, Rebecca Long-Bailey. The fact that she is seen as the ‘Corbyn continuity’ candidate is a plus for many, but also a minus for those who see his era as discredited and tainted by huge losses at the polls. But in the end whatever else I may feel, I think RLB lacks the experience to be Leader of the Opposition. So what to do? I still don’t know and in the end a little voice keeps telling me that it won’t matter anyway because it’s probably going to be a walkover for Starmer.

Which brings us to the deputy; and here there’s a wider field to choose from. I’d like it to be a woman, but then again I like some of Richard Burgeon’s ideas and he too has expressed reservations about the 12-point Trans rights plan. Angela Rayner is favourite but she has been critical of both Corbyn and the membership and I’m not happy about that. I’m half-tempted to vote for a BAME candidate, if only because we haven’t had one in the leadership election (I don’t know why Diane Abbott didn’t stand; maybe she’s had enough of the abuse she’s already getting, but I hope it isn’t that.) So I may vote for Dawn Butler but I just don’t know.

Fortunately it’s a different system from ‘first past the post’ so we get second, third and fourth choices which are added up if at first there is no clear winner.

Oh well. My ballot hasn’t come yet so we’ll see. Who knows what I’ll do? In the meantime if you’re a member let me know what you’ve decided – and if you’re not, who you’d vote for if you were.

Kirk out

Ten Reasons to be a Blogger

I started blogging 12 years ago in the spring of 2008 because none other than the author Hanif Kureishi (Buddha of Suburbia) advised it, and I’ve never stopped. I may have paused for a short while to take a holiday but I have largely sustained the daily – or at least thrice-weekly – discipline of writing a blog post. So why is this a good idea? Let me count the reasons.

1. You get exposure. It may not be much exposure but once published your post is out there for any and all to read. Don’t be discouraged if you only get a few views because you never know who might happen upon these posts years later. I’m constantly surprised by the number of people who stumble across posts from years before. Good tagging helps with this, as does linking to social media.

2. You get practice. When you’re starting out as a writer self-discipline is the hardest thing. You can sit with a pen and pad and think till your forehead bleeds, but if you start off with a daily blog post you’ve broken your duck. You may choose to have a blog dedicated to one subject but I allow mine to list where it will. All life lies within the blogger’s scope, and although the focus is on writing, this blog can be about absolutely anything.

3. You get readers. This is the wonderful thing about blogging: whereas published authors only get contact via book readings or email, you can get comments almost as soon as you hit ‘publish’. It’s good to look at your readers’ blogs too, if they have them.

4. You get ideas. Blogging is like turning on a tap; the more you write, the more ideas come to you. Interacting with readers can also help to challenge and refine your thinking.

5. You get a sense of progress. Once you’ve been writing a while you can look back and see how far you’ve come, not only in terms of statistics and followers, but in terms of your own writing.

6. You can use it as a platform. In the early days of this blog and lacking any other audience I used to put poems and short stories up for people to read. This can be very valuable but you have to be careful as some publishers will not accept work which has been published on a blog.

7. You get to be part of a community. After a while you come across other bloggers and start to follow them. You get a sense of what is out there and develop a community of friends. Blogs I follow include Kestrelart, Brian’s blog, Taskerdunham, A Box of Chocolates, my book world 24 and the ever-popular Beetley Pete.

8. You can do fun things like offering guest blog spots or free poetry ebooks, as I recently did to my 500th follower. People really appreciate these gestures, as they appreciate replies or ‘likes’ for their comments.

Oh look, I only came up with eight reasons. Well I guess it’s over to you now… what are your reasons for blogging? And if you haven’t got a blog, when are you going to start one?

Kirk out