Woman's Place UK wrote to Workers' Liberty requesting that we publish the letter below. It is a response to an article by Workers' Liberty activist Natalia Cassidy, "Anti-trans feminists blinkered on Tories", and refers to a video by Workers' Liberty activist, Zack Muddle, "Fighting for trans rights in today's labour movement". Natalia Cassidy and Zack Muddle replied to the letter below, here. Workers' Liberty champion open debate, and we publish WPUK's letter in that spirit. For more on what we believe on trans rights, see for example "Support trans people's rights!" passed at our 2018 conference.
WPUK response to Natalia Cassidy article
Although it doesn’t refer to Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) by name, anyone on the left who has been following the debates around the Gender Recognition Act will immediately know that your article by Natalia Cassidy, “Anti-trans feminists blinkered on Tories”, is, to a large extent, directed against us. As your publications frequently invite debate from opposing points of view we’d like to respond to some of the charges made and direct your readers to more detailed explanations of our positions. We feel this is necessary because the article is a caricature of what we say and do and the video which is linked to at the end of the piece does attempt to polemicise against us.
The most misleading claim is that WPUK is transphobic. That is false. We have had a number of transgender speakers on the platforms at our public meetings and work closely with them. As we say in our response to Liz Truss’ statement to the Women and Equalities Committee:
“We applaud the commitment to ensuring that transgender people are able to live free from persecution. This is something that we have been clear about since our inception:
“We are against all forms of discrimination. We believe in the right of everyone to live their lives free from discrimination and harassment.””
That is absolutely unequivocal.
Some of our members have used or are involved in the running of women’s only spaces for women who have suffered domestic abuse or sexual violence committed by men, by which we mean biologically male adults.
Women only spaces were won as a direct result of the struggles of women activists in previous decades. If we are now in a situation where even Conservative ministers recognise them to be essential and worth protecting we see that as a victory for women rather than us agreeing with a Tory policy. One could make the same point about how women in struggle forced the Conservatives to allow us to vote.
The comments on WPUK and Gillick are misleading with a direct implication that we do not want young people to have access to contraception. Again, in our response to Liz Truss we say:
“As a feminist organisation we fully support the Gillick test of competence, as well as the Fraser Guidelines which specifically relate only to the issue of giving contraceptive advice and treatment to those under 16 without parental consent.”
We also say that we want appropriate support from trained professionals for young people with gender dysphoria as they move into adulthood and note that it is predominantly girls who are being referred to specialist identity services.
Since our establishment WPUK has been advocating honest and mutually respectful debate inside the labour movement of the concerns women are raising. We have faced a level of harassment and abuse that is without precedent in the history of the British left. We are pleased that in the video you advise your supporters that you disagree with attempts to stop us meeting in public. However, venues have been coerced into cancelling our meetings, our events have frequently been the target of angry, hostile demonstrations and people who agree with us have been no-platformed, a tactic usually only applied against fascists.
Despite that, earlier this year in conjunction with UCL Women’s Liberation SIG and supported by Southall Black Sisters, the Centre for Women’s Justice and FiLiA, we organised the largest feminist event in England in many years with over 900 women taking part in our conference. We have also staged twenty-six smaller meetings in towns and cities in Scotland, Wales and England. We will not be silenced by lies and thuggery.
Articles like Natalia Cassidy’s are not an attempt to seriously engage with what we say and we invite readers of Worker’s Liberty to make up their own mind by reading the materials we’ve published online or watching the videos of our meetings. When normal political activity resumes we’ll be organising more public events and your readers will be very welcome to take part in respectful debate with us.
Woman’s Place UK
27th April 2020
The letter above is a response to this article by Natalia Cassidy, and also refers to this video by Zack Muddle (below). Natalia Cassidy and Zack Muddle have reply to the above here. For more on what we believe on trans rights, see for example "Support trans people's rights!".
• Listen to our recent audio below (or follow link to SoundCloud):
• Fighting for trans rights in the labour movement below (or follow link to Soundcloud):