Earlier this month labour party member Jennifer James set up a crowdfunding appeal on website GoFundMe designed to challenge the decision to open all-women shortlists up to “all self- defining women” regardless of their legal gender. James believes that by opening these shortlists to transgender women, places are restricted for those born female.
My adult life debuted in debauched party island Ibiza. There I learned about the world; my bisexuality; that transgender and crossdressers are some of the funniest and most complex people you’ll ever meet. One thing people there had in common was sheer joy and freedom. And dread of going back to a world where they’d be the sexual outcast, sometimes at a cost of violence. Ibiza didn’t judge your otherness; if anything, in Ibiza you were judged if you were normal. This thinking stayed with me and formed the lens through which I viewed these recent events.
DIVIDE ET IMPERA
The current debate on the issue of self ID in Labour and accepting trans women on all women’s shortlists is regrettably dividing people who should be class allies at a crucial time. Despite being a bisexual ethnic minority woman, I am generally cynical of identity politics. Solid evidence traces its beginnings to the Democrats under Clinton, for the purposes of deflecting people from their class struggle.
Significant amounts of energy on the left is currently spent on this squabble which denigrates Labour’s image in the eyes of the bystanders and wastes consensus. I believe whatever your opinion regarding the controversial issue of trans on women’s lists and self ID in general, there should be space for debate without suspensions and accusations of transphobia. There should be space for measured debate in politics, and the left should rediscover this quintessential art. Too often emotions on each side draw over dramatic accusations. Why abandon vital solidarity before you exhaust all avenues of debate?
It’s as if having a Labour government that saves the lives of many is less important for some than not being offended by an opinion.
Regrettably, some trans activists and others have demanded the automatic expulsion of those party members who oppose the issue of self ID and trans women on all women’s shortlists. But one can oppose self-identification as a trans woman for the purposes of political representation without hating the trans person. Bureaucratic processes do not take self-identification seriously. You can’t just go to the bank and declare you want your billions because your name is Morgan Chase.
In personal matters, we all self-identify as this or other. Politics is a game of high stakes. Similar to the world of finance, there is much to gain and much to lose in politics. Though politics feels personal, the same lax rules of our personal lives — based on trust and convenience, cannot apply to the officious, highly bureaucratic and cutthroat arena of politics.
Who is to say self ID is not a slippery slope? Can we all self-identify as whatever we want in politics and be taken seriously? It does not diminish the struggle of trans people to keep logical processes in the way we conduct political representation. It does diminish EVERYONE’s chances of a better government, including the trans if the left cannot weather a debate without scandalous and trivial accusations of transphobia when reality is examined.
I am far less invested in the significance of the actual trans debate than in this tragic loss of reason in public debate of the left. That one can ask for the suspension of people like Jennifer James for questioning self ID, is of questionable strategic utility.
Opposing self ID is not subverting the cause of transgender people. It is subverting those who wish to hijack the considerable struggle of the TG by impersonating them and providing no evidence.
Surely, this should be opposed by actual Transgender people who have undergone a long and difficult battle to change to what they feel is their right gender. Because self ID allows those who haven’t gone through such a difficult transition to simply state they are the opposite gender, for opportunistic and perhaps even short-lived reasons.
I question the timing of Jennifer James’s crowdfunding effort. I question the significance of this battle in the overall scheme of all things Labour. But seeing well-intentioned members irate against their own comrades for a mere difference of opinion is what saddens me. In the class struggle, many negotiations will be found on the road to consensus. And the party that weathers them best is always the one in power.