Hi, I’m Rebekah and I’m the cover girl for the Labour Party’s official ‘Tackling Transphobia 101’ training video. This fact was brought to my attention by a feminist friend who was surprised to see her Facebook mate pop up in a presentation in a Labour Party diversity training session. A bit of digging revealed that the video, apparently originating in Wallasey, has been shown all around the country under the Labour Party stamp of approval in an attempt to combat the nebulous spectre of transphobia. That’s me, it seems.
This is far from the first time a woman has run afoul of the Labour Party’s crusade to stamp out the pestilent scourge of sex-based rights. After the fauxhemian glory of Corbyn, us lefty hippies were ecstatic that Labour, rejuvenated and phoenixlike, would once more become a party for the marginalised and disadvantaged. The celebration for me and many other women started to evaporate with the alarmingly strong arm of Momentum followed by our Great Leader’s sudden, gung ho conversion to the “transwomen ARE women!” chorus. Jennifer James set the initial tone of dissent with her legal challenge to the ridiculous proposal that men could legitimately take places on all-women shortlists and received huge support on all fronts, showing that rather than suddenly having become infected with a mysterious plague of bigotry, left-leaning women were questioning the wisdom of Labour’s decision to laud men above women on the condition they’re wearing coral lipstick and a pink hoody.
Everyone is by now familiar with the party’s bizarre trajectory following the outrageously stupid election of an obnoxious 19-year-old boy, Lily Madigan, to the role of Women’s Officer and the subsequent removal of Anne Ruzylo - a finer activist and politician than Madigan can even comprehend, never mind become. At this point, women were starting to give the whole mess a lot of side-eye, including Venice Allan who was suspended in early 2018 for daring to point out that the emperor had his nob out and wanted everyone to stare at it. (I am of course paraphrasing)
Corbyn and Starmer have both appeared at LGBTQI+∞ news conferences to do wonderfully progressive things, like gratuitously share their presumably unguessable pronouns and make cringey, simpering vows to back self ID at all costs, despite the rising swell of objection from women in the party. What would we know, right? We’re just a load of transphobic lezzers, or even worse, MUMS. We don’t know anything about the esoteric working of the big boy’s political leagues and are so best ignored.
So. We’re yelling and waving our arms about what a terrible idea this all is, what with the male rapists in women’s prisons and fishnetted, pole dancing Heather Peto repping for women in Nottingham and such. Labour is haemorrhaging members in an action that became known as the Mayday resignation in which hundreds of women publicly resigned from the party. Labour continued to resolutely ignore us, leaving two distinct possibilities to consider - that local and leadership actors are unaware of our concerns (vanishingly unlikely) or that they’re blithely pretending that we’re making a fuss over nothing. Neither of these possibilities convince me that there’s a place in the party for gender critical women now or in the forseeable future. Labour has become Wokeback Mountain and women are Not Invited.
There’s a lot more to this slightly shoddy political rollercoaster so I shall try to keep to the basics. I had already left the party by the time I was chucked out of the pub, having already spent considerable time and energy at a local level trying to make my concerns heard. What I noticed other than admirable determination to change the subject (one memorable chat with Macclesfield Labour Councillor Neil Puttick somehow turned to the pressing matter of potholes in response to my asking whether he thought men could be women), there is still this strange insistence that toxicity is present on ‘both sides of the debate’. That’s an actual soundbite from an email from my Women’s Officer and one we’ve seen regurgitated ad nauseum - even though the most cursory look at the ‘debate’ on any given day on any given platform will disabuse anyone of that notion. This very article could be decreed hateful because I said a 19-year-old boy is a 19-year-old boy. In the meantime, feminists are getting rape and death threats, lesbians are receiving the most appalling homophobic abuse and as far as Labour is concerned that’s just dandy.
Into this fracas, please extend a warm welcome to Linda Wall of Wallasey CLP: proud creator of ‘Tackling Transphobia 101’ and even prouder supporter of #girlslikeus which he thoughtfully features in his public Twitter bio in case any of his constituency followers feel so moved as to experience his extra curricular activities. (I wonder if such a link would be frowned on or penalised were it in the bio of a female public facing Labour official…?) Linda and his buddies at Momentum, the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, The World Transformed and the Labour Party LGBT+ Network seem like sensitive souls, intent on protecting trans people from seditious womanly behaviours like wearing a T-shirt defining the word woman, or handing out leaflets featuring such outlandish content as concern for the safety of Girl Guides. Scary stuff. You can easily see why they’d take to Powerpoint as a matter of urgency to show the world my face and entire name in the service of tackling transphobia.
The thing is though, in this brave new world, EVERYTHING is transphobic. Supporters of trans rights routinely turn on each other for failing to follow the ever-changing rules. I’m a vocal women’s rights campaigner so I’m by default ‘transphobic’ for simply not involving men in my political interests. As in the curious cases of Rosie Duffield and Marion Millar, what’s happening to me could happen to any woman in our position.
I’m in contact with a number of women in Labour Women’s Declaration and Lesbian Labour who are trying to effect change from inside the hostile conditions within the party culture. More power to them and I wish them all the best but for me and many others, Labour is a sunken ship. Lots of these women have submitted complaints on my behalf, as has the Free Speech Union but I’m not optimistic that they’ll be upheld, or even acknowledged. Our mate Linda has ceased communication with me following a petulant demand that I don’t share the training material, even though they feature me quite explicitly and has seemingly gone to ground following my recent appearance on GB News - decisively blitzing any remaining lefty credentials I had. This should show beyond doubt that this is neither a left nor right issue and affects every woman regardless of political persuasion.
As yet, no left-leaning platforms have asked to speak to me, echoing the reluctance of Labour party officials to address the video. FSU have written to Keir Starmer asking him to intervene on my behalf and I’ve once again attempted to contact my local CLP to ask for a statement. My messages have been read and it’s been decided I’m either not worth the time or they’re too cowardly to say anything at all until they know which way the wind is blowing. It’s disappointing but not surprising.
Because of this silence and stubborn unwillingness from Labour to engage, I’ve felt like going public with this is the only option. Why is it ok for a man in a position of relative influence to single out a woman and place her in the firing line of trans rights activists? Women lose jobs for speaking out about this. They’re arrested and charged over tweets.I’ve had my activism brought up in the Family Courts as ‘proof’ I’m an unfit parent. I know countless women who’ve gotten into trouble for defending our rights, and countless more that fight anonymously because they’re terrified of the backlash. Men like Linda are deliberately trying to punish us for disagreeing with them and there’s something rather sadistic in the smug pleasure they seem to take in doing so.
Linda has framed me as a bully that has to be challenged, and so I intend to bring my narrative to the fore and ask again - who is really bullying who here?
Rebekah Wershbale is a lesbian radical feminist activist who also inadvertently became a T-shirt model whilst attempting to make the world a better place for women and girls.