A photo of Westminster, part of the Houses of Parliament taken during the evening from the otherside of the river Thames. Where Equality Act 2010 was debated
A photo of Westminster, part of the Houses of Parliament taken during the evening from the otherside of the river Thames.

On Monday 12 June, MPs met in Westminster Hall for a three hour debate on the definition of sex in the Equality Act 2010. Last week we covered the debate in a general sense but left out the unbecoming behaviour that caused an uproar on social media as we felt it deserved its own article. Moss writes;

The debate was contentious, bringing the current moral panic and Culture War into Parliament yet again. Despite Tonia Antoniazzi, leading the debate, calling for “respectful, adult conversations”, we unfortunately did not see this from a number of MPs speaking against trans inclusion.

The first of these came from Jess Phillips. Partway through, the debate was paused for a second time as MPs were called to the main hall of Parliament for a vote. Seconds before the audio cut out, Phillips can be heard saying “…in a towel with men next to me…” Immediately before this pause was called, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Phillips were discussing gendered changing rooms.

Given this context, it is hard to understand who these ‘men’ could be other than trans women. While this comment was not made in the debate, and was meant to be a private comment to a colleague, it is wholly inappropriate regardless, particularly given that MPs are surrounded by mics in order to livestream the event. Whether a public or private statement, it was captured and livestreamed to the watchers of the debate.

Miriam Cates also made extremely inappropriate comments. Cates is most known for her anti-trans evangelical position: she recently made an alliance with Rosie Duffield for the Daily Express to front their anti-trans campaign. She also spoke at the National Conservatism conference in May, making references to the white supremacist and anti-Semitic conspiracies of ‘The Great Replacement’ and ‘Cultural Marxism’.

To close her speech in the Equality Act debate, Cates stated: “While academic elites cave in to aggressive and misogynistic trans activism, ordinary women are frightened to go to hospital, ordinary men fear for the safety of their daughters in public toilets, ordinary children are subjected to a psychological experiment in which they are told they can choose their gender, and ordinary toddlers are used to satisfy the sexual fetish of adult men dressed as eroticised women.” 

Ignoring the implication of ‘ordinary’ people in opposition to trans people, this final sentence is particularly monstrous. Hannah Bardell intervened to challenge this, stating “I feel it is incumbent on me to make a point of order on the fact that trans people are being characterised as predators, and that is deeply undemocratic and deeply worrying. That is not what this debate is about. For the Member to be using such language is unparliamentary.”

In response, Cates claimed “I was making the point that the vast majority of sexual predation is by men on women and children. That is what society has evolved to protect against.”

This explanation does not align with her initial accusation that “ordinary toddlers are used to satisfy the sexual fetish of adult men dressed as eroticised women.” There are no words for how disgusting and untrue a statement this is, and particularly as a statement for an elected representative to make about a marginalised group.

However, the most egregious example of this abhorrent behaviour has, to some extent, gone viral online. Kirsty Blackman, speaking in solidarity with the trans community, shared an interaction with a constituent of hers, who asked “What hope is left? Should I just kill myself now and be done with it?” Rosie Duffield, Joanna Cherry, and Neale Hanvey can be seen sitting behind Blackman as she makes this statement.

They roll their eyes, put their heads in their hands in exasperation, and Cherry can be seen and heard saying ‘what rubbish’ in an exaggerated and frustrated manner. Their contempt for trans people is on full display for all to see.

Cherry claims that her body language was ‘in response to claims that gender-critical feminists were causing trans people to consider taking their own lives’ as reported by The National. If this were true, it still seems like a selfish response: instead of concern for a citizen questioning if they should take their own life, she is focused on how this reflects on her and her activism.

We mustn’t forget that last November, the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention declared Gender Critical ideology to be genocidal in nature. The UN’s definition of genocide includes ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.’ As Genocide Watch notes, this includes the creation of unlivable conditions, and is considered genocide if this on the scale of being part of policy (fortunately, this is not currently the case).

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust defines a key stage of genocide to be denial from the perpetrators that it ever happened. We can see these ideas exemplified here: conditions making life unlivable, and denial that this is the case. I’m not claiming that Cherry is intentionally inciting genocide, but her actions in this instance are reflective of the threat that the Gender Critical and broader anti-trans movement pose to trans communities.

Online, conversations have turned to claims that Blackman’s behaviour was irresponsible due to Samaritans’ guidelines on discussions of suicide. This is a silencing tactic, denying the reality of the actions of anti-trans campaigners. Blackman’s statement did not go against any Samaritans guidelines (it’s unclear what it even goes against), and was shared with her by the person in question, without reference to plans or locations, and the trigger was not speculated on but stated by the person in question.

No matter which way you slice it, Duffield, Cherry, and Hanvey responded with contempt and ridicule at the idea of a UK citizen questioning taking their life. They were not alone. Anti-trans MPs held back little in this debate. There is no reasonable, forgivable excuse for their behaviour. It was wholly unbecoming of elected representatives.

This article was funded by LGBT+ Futures: Equity Fund is a two-year £786,000 partnership between Consortium and The National Lottery Community Fund, designed to help community-led and grassroot organisations supporting some of the most under-represented and marginalised LGBT+ communities. Read more here.