QUESTIONS TO NEC CANDIDATES

Katherine Foy
L01020
21

1.      Do you accept that trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary people are non-binary - and will you commit to respecting trans people as their self-declared gender – if so, how will you integrate this approach to tackle the culture of entrenched transphobia, from the grassroots membership up to the leadership?

"Yes, absolutely. As an aside I am pleased that this question is framed as one of acceptance and not one of belief. Society – and specifically cisgender society needs to respect trans people's self-declared gender as a matter of reality, and accept self-declaration as reflecting a need to bring legal definitions into line with the reality of our lives.

 

Our party has a growing problem of entrenched transphobia at all levels. The first step needs to be the party and the leadership accepting and recognising that this problem exists, after which the party leadership needs to signal that it is absolutely not acceptable. Bigotry thrives when it is not challenged or called out – and we saw this all too easily with antisemitism. I will use my position and platform on the NEC to push for the party to take transphobia seriously.

The next step needs to be reforming our structures and processes to integrate an anti-transphobic policy. I will push for Labour to adopt a formal definition of transphobia, as written and decided by trans people, and similar in scope to that created by Trans Actual. I will seek to have this definition included in any terms of reference used by our complaints and disciplinary processes when handling incidents of transphobia.

We clearly need a formal and established Code of Conduct that applies to all Labour Party members, staff, and representatives, and which sets our clear sanctions for instances of transphobia (alongside other forms of bigotry). I would hope to see this Code of Conduct updated and applied through the NEC.

As a openly trans woman, transphobia is an existential threat to me and my wellbeing. Eradicating it from our party is my absolute number one priority."

 

2.      Will you defend the current Labour Party policy and principle of inclusion of Transgender women on All Women Shortlists?

"Yes."

3.      How would you make sure all identities and all voices under the LGBTIQA+ umbrella are listened to on issues of homophobia, transphobia and transmisogyny, allowing for example, trans people to lead the way on their own liberation.

"I think we need to expand our understanding of the LBTIQA+ umbrella – our own party affiliate and many of our internal definitions still refer narrowly to only LGBT. I believe that we need to clearly make space to welcome individuals who are asexual, aromantic, and agender; and also individuals who are intersex.

I believe that Labour has failed to undertake any effective outreach to LGBTIQA+ communities over recent years. I know that trans members in particular feel ignored when policy issues and internal party issues arise which are specific to our community. We get only whispers and rumours through semi-official channels, assurances that unspecified and unverifiable things are happening “in the background”. I feel that when we air our concerns, we are seen as troublemakers to be handled rather than constituents to be listened to.

I would encourage the PLP, the NEC, and the party leadership to consult more directly with grassroots and member-led LGBTIQA+ organisations; including LGBT Alliance and Labour Campaign for Trans Rights (LCTR). It is shameful the current leadership has made zero effort to reach out to trans members, and has yet to meet with anyone from LCTR, during a time when trans issues have been of critical political urgency to our community and when there have been instances of overt transphobia within the Labour Party that have as yet gone unpunished. While LGBT+ Labour do good work, I believe that the party leadership are unwilling to step out of their comfort zone of speaking only to trans people who are factional allies, when instead they need to be speaking to LGBTIQA+ people from across the party."


4.      Do you believe that trans liberation must be an objective of the Labour Party, and that transphobia is antithetical to our collective aims, and if so - would you support the expulsion from the Labour Party of those who express bigoted, transphobic views.

"Yes, and yes. We are supposed to be the party of equality, and there can be no equality without equality for people of all genders whether cis or trans.

As a caveat to the second part, I recognise that everyone is human and that we all make mistakes through misunderstanding. The point of zero tolerance should never be to be punitive for the sake of being punitive. Education must be a first resort to tackle genuine ignorance. For persistant patterns of bigoted transphobia however, it is only right that we treat this as incompatible with everything our party stands for as a party of equality and justice."


5.      Will you commit to a review of how complaints relating to transphobia are handled? and will you commit to in conjunction with LGBT+ Labour and trans-led organisations to develop a clear code of conduct that includes a workable definition of transphobia?

"Absolutely. As per previous answers, I believe that we need to bring in more LGBTIQA+ organisations and members, both from inside and outside the party to better inform Labour's direction of issues that affect all of our communities. I agree that we need both a definition of transphobia and a clear code of conduct.

I believe that we have a poor track record in handling complaints of transphobia, and anecdotally I know from many fellow trans party members that complaints surrounding transphobia seem to disappear into a black hole of inaction. I would absolutely commit to a review of how these complaints are currently handled, with a view to reforming the entire process. I know that Socialists Against Transphobia are, via Twitter, currently collating examples and experiences from trans members of transphobia within the Party. I would hope to work with them and continue to signal boost their efforts towards undertaking a full consultation with trans members."


6.      When the ‘culture war’ tactic is used in the press etc and causes an increase in bigotry against certain gender identities and sexualities (often even further marginalising those with multiple minority identities) how would you ensure that these spikes in bigotry found in wider society aren’t found within Labour?

"I think that our leader frankly needs to get off the fence and do more. Keir has totally misdiagnosed the nature of “culture wars” as phenomena which Labour can just ignore at zero cost. What politicians who aren't part of minority communities fail to understand is that the Right have already begun their assault on those communities, and that by staying silent the political Left only enable rather than avert those assaults.

Trans people, refugees, travellers, are all under attack in the current press. The more these hostile narratives are aired and promoted without challenge, the more they are normalised within society. As bigotry becomes normalised in wider society, it finds its way into our party through several different pathways.

Firstly our members who are not members of minority communities will begin to hear and internalise hostile narratives. Secondly hostile press campaigns will create feedback loops wherein commentary and narratives get fed back and forth between press and public. This leads to more cynical politicians arguing that we as a party need to adopt and represent these narratives as somehow representing genuine public sentiment. Thirdly, and this is specific to my experience of transphobia within the Labour Party, when bigotry is not publicly opposed and challenged by our political leadership, it sends out the message that this bigotry will be tolerated within our party. We saw that happen with antisemitism. I fear that we are now seeing it happen with transphobia.

Our leader and our senior party figures in the shadow cabinet need to stand up and speak up more publicly against bigotry, and in support of the minority communities who are under attack. They also need to ensure that the public message of “zero tolerance” is actually enforced consistently within the party."

7.      What structures, processes, and changes do you think are required to change the culture within the party to one where homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny etc. is not permitted? – also how will you help to improve understanding of trans and non-binary people in the party.

"I think we need to establish a clear code of conduct for MPs. The worst and most public recent instances of transphobia have come from within the Parliamentary Labour Party, and so far MPs have been totally unwilling to call out their colleagues. Only by making it clear that bigotry is not tolerated, even at the top, can we hope to shift the wider party culture.

I believe that electing more trans and non-binary people to high profile roles will help improve understanding of us, specifically as human beings just trying to live our lives free from the constant attack of political transphobia. But then I would say that, wouldn't I?"

                          

8.      Why do you think there has never been a Trans person elected in the UK Parliament, or a Trans person selected for a winnable seat for Labour - and what measures do you think need to take place to ensure Trans people are represented within the party?

"I'm in my early thirties, and don't believe that there will ever be an openly trans person elected to the UK Parliament in my lifetime.

Historically we have lived isolated lonely lives, and like any marginalised group we have been far from any positions of power. When medical transition first became a clinical option in the UK it was so heavily gatekept that any political activism would have been a barrier to any trans individual's treatment – we were explicitly expected to live quiet low profile lives as a condition of being granted hormones or surgery. Standing for Parliament, or active membership of a political party would have seen us lose access to healthcare. Combined with the extent of homophobia and transphobia within wider society up until the very recent past, it isn't remotely surprising that so few trans people have been willing or able to put their heads above the political parapet.

Within the past decade global trans visibility has increased enormously, and ordinarily we should be able to expect more trans candidates to both stand and in some cases be successful in future elections. Equivalent 'firsts' are already being broken in countries all over the world. I don't believe it will happen in the UK due to both the deeply transphobic culture of our press, and the normalising of transphobic rhetoric and talking points within our major political parties. The transphobia native to Britain makes us an extreme outlier across the global north.

Parliamentary candidates and sitting MPs from minority backgrounds are the targets of an enormous amount of abuse and harassment. While some of this will be generalised towards politicians of any background, it is evident that bigotry is a particular driver of e.g. the racist abuse sent to MPs like Diane Abbot and Dawn Butler, the antisemitism endured by Luciana Berger, and the transphobia directed towards trans parliamentary candidates of all parties like Heather Peto, Sarah Brown, and Aimee Challenor.

I don't believe that the Labour Party currently offers sufficient safeguarding to candidates and members who find themselves subject to this abuse. It feels like there is too blasé an attitude of “that's politics” towards anything from bullying to constant harassment, that would not be tolerated in any other professional organisation. We need to do more as a party to protect our members, to extend solidarity beyond words, and where appropriate seek proactive and more frequent prosecution of those responsible for abuse and harassment."

 

9.      Do you support the reform of the Gender Recognition Act to improve transgender rights, as well as supporting policies which would improve trans people’s access to necessary healthcare, housing, and employment? And will you organise against and oppose any transphobic policies from our own party or any other?

" Yes, absolutely, and yes,

I believe that we should reform the Gender Recognition Act to introduce self-declaration, no ifs, no buts.

Trans healthcare is a priority issue – the current state of trans healthcare in the UK is dismal. Waiting lists go into the years. My own Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) has a waiting list of 4-5 years now for a first appointment; I'll be lucky to get treatment within a decade of my initial referral. Basic trans healthcare should be dispensed by General Practitioners – the same HRT medicine is currently dispensed routinely by GPs for cisgender patients. Partly the issue is funding for these clinics, but part of it is institutional – there is a longstanding culture of gatekeeping and clinical transphobia within NHS gender services that runs contrary to the patient-centric approach of most other medicine. I believe that we should seek to bring trans healthcare into line with global standards of best practice (WPATH guidelines), and the service standards as pioneered by GenderGP.

This week we have seen a massive public assault on trans-affirming healthcare, both in the courts and in the press. Transphobic activists will never cease their war on us until they have eradicated trans people from society. For me this has drilled home the need for parties to not only maintain our current rights, but to proactively speak for us.

I will absolutely stand against transphobic policies within Labour, and from other parties. While only the Conservatives are actively pushing a transphobic agenda at present, we should also be wary of transphobia within the SNP given that party's ongoing dominance over devolved Scottish government."


10.  Name at least one LGBTIQA+ socialist who inspires you, and explain what inspires you about them.

"I'm quite terrible at these questions normally. I tend to be a very self-critical person, but I also hold my potential role models to similar high standards, to the effect that its difficult for me to really identify any one human figure as “inspirational”. We're all flawed, and to be honest I'm very much about doing my own thing, more so than holding up any one particular figure on a public pedestal.

I would say that I admire any trans person who has put their head above the political parapet in recent years, in a climate of persistent political and media hostility and transphobia. Munroe Bergdorf stands out as someone who has faced this hostility with an abundance of calm dignity and class. As someone who is a black trans socialist woman, Munroe has been the target not only of transphobes, but of racists and the wider far right – both inside and outside the political establishment. And yet she endures, and for that I can only admire her bravery. I also appreciate how she is currently using her platform to speak up for trans children, the section of our community currently within the crosshairs of trans exclusionary extremists, and most in need of our support."

Many Thanks,

Katherine Foy

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