Politically homeless? Not (quite) yet

A good few years ago, I heard that ‘the left have a problem with women’. Can’t say I had noticed – beyond everyday sexism and, you know, the patriarchy. I was too busy working full time, along with various bits of volunteering in the community and being a single mum. I re-joined Labour several years ago, and gradually immersed myself more in activism. In terms of sexism there was nothing to report here comrades, just some men in meetings talking to too much, grandstanding, and creating an atmosphere that could put women off. Pretty commonplace really, far too easily tolerated, but sadly it wouldn’t be out of place in any political party, workplace or family.

Things changed noticeably in 2018. I became aware of the election of a nineteen year old transwoman to the role of women’s officer in Rochester and Strood, to great acclaim and fanfare. This got my attention. It piqued my curiosity. I wondered what a young, self-identifying natal male would have to offer women like me in advocating for our rights, and in setting the direction of the party.

Since then of course so many more troubling cases have come to light, and far more ground has been lost for women. I realised that I was in fact a ‘gender critical feminist’ – a description that would have raises eyebrows at one time, (and possibly result in a threat of suspension and expulsion from the party), but now of course a position that’s protected in UK Law. Here’s to you Maya Forstater, you warrior!

Like many women at all levels of the Labour Party, I find that we are not allowed to discuss the conflict between gender ideology and women’s sex-based rights. Stonewall’s ‘no debate’ stance is entrenched. Female MPs like Rosie Duffield or Tonia Antoniazzi who speak out are viciously targeted online by activists. Support from Labour leadership or MPs is negligible; ‘sisterhood’ is sadly lacking in these sex wars. A female MP on twitter talked of ‘re-education camps’ for gender critical feminists in the party, and expulsion for those involved with Women’s Place UK and LGB Alliance. This enraged many women in Labour. The #ExpelMe campaign emerged as a challenge to those politicians who were prepared to sign away our rights to campaign for our sex-based rights.

Masked person with phallus
Trans activists demonstrate with smoke bombs outside Grenfell Tower

In 2020 I attended an #ExpelMe Rally. I was met outside the venue by a violent, noisy and intimidating protest. I contemplated going into the meeting, but received a message to say the attendees were staying in the building until the police arrived to escort them out and to the tube. The sight of these trans activists, some of whom were wearing balaclavas and prowling around, had me beating a hasty retreat across London back to my hotel…just before the smoke bombs were let off.

Given that all this happened in the shadow of Grenfell Tower and that locals were deeply distressed with the protest, you have to wonder at the lengths trans activists would go to stop women from talking about our rights.

So why indeed, given my frustration with Labour, was I out in May this year in the sun, wind and rain, (lots of wet Welsh rain) leafleting, and talking to Welsh constituents about voting Labour? Am I a doorstepping doormat…or a hopeless optimist? Neither, I like to think, but I know that currently I attract disdain from Labour comrades who judge me for my views.

Meanwhile, some fabulous gender critical friends are openly astonished that I continue to work to elect a party which is hurtling towards erasing women’s rights in Wales. I say that, as a socialist, I believe in Labour (more so the leftie parts of Labour), and that I have some trust in the Welsh Government. Importantly I’m just not ready to be politically homeless, yet.

Fortunately I have my ‘posse’ across Wales, of Labour women who believe we need to stay and fight for women’s sex-based rights from within the party. We can’t give up. I refuse to believe that the party of Barbara Castle, Mo Mowlam, Betty Boothroyd, and Diane Abbott, (there are other great Labour women, and you may disagree with my choice), will remain blind to the dangers of trans activism.

Women & girls in Wales remain vulnerable to sex-based oppression and its devastating effects on our lives. If (and it’s still a big if) I leave Labour, it won’t be because I’ve given up on socialism, it will be because Labour has given up on women like me.