Last weekend, Labour MP Rosie Duffield did something so terrible it prompted a torrent of online abuse and calls for her to resign. Eventually she locked her Twitter account.
So what did she do that was so awful?
Her first offence was to “like” a tweet by Piers Morgan. The broadcaster CNN had tweeted about American Cancer Society guidelines that state: “Individuals with a cervix are now recommended to start cervical cancers screening at 25 and continue through age 65, with HPV testing every five years.” Morgan’s reply asked: “Do you mean women?”
People who scour Twitter looking for examples of wrongthink by prominent figures were quick to spot Duffield’s “like” and started to attack her. She then tweeted: “I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix….?!”
Woke Twitter was outraged. Labour Campaign for Trans Rights wrote: “We are shocked and saddened at the inaccurate, transphobic comments of Rosie Duffield MP” and called for the Labour Party to “take action”. The Guardian columnist Owen Jones tweeted, with his usual sense of proportion: “It’s still nauseating to watch transphobes in a country in which most of the media is on their side pretend they’re the ones being silenced and persecuted.” (Let’s remember at this point that Duffield spoke so movingly in parliament about her experience of domestic abuse that fellow MPs were reduced to tears. Being a victim of domestic abuse is obviously nothing, however, compared to the horror of being told that only women have a cervix.)
Leaving aside the abuse and the histrionics (par for the course in the world of trans politics): is Duffield right or wrong?
The trans activist argument is that by insisting that only women have a cervix, Duffield is excluding trans men (biological females who identify as male). As a group, trans men are – the argument goes – less likely to seek cervical smears, and therefore inclusive language (“individuals with a cervix”) will remind them to go for screening. Moreover, there are some women who don’t have a cervix, so telling all women to go for screening risks including a group that don’t need it. By “women who don’t have a cervix”, trans activists are referring, not to the minority of women who have had gynaecological surgery, but to trans women (biological males who identify as female).
It sounds so reasonable. Who wouldn’t want to be kind and inclusive? Who wants to make trans men, an already vulnerable group, feel left out?
But the argument disguises what is really going on here. We all know what a man is, and what a woman is. We know that when someone chooses to “identify” as the opposite sex, they don’t become the opposite sex – though because most of us want to be polite, we pretend that they do. The goal of trans activism, however, is to eliminate biological sex as a differentiator altogether. In trans ideology, it is gender identity – how we feel inside – that is real, while biological sex is socially constructed. (Some of us reject the idea of gender identity altogether; I don’t feel like a woman, because I don’t know how a woman is supposed to feel. I am a woman because that is my biological sex.)
Once you have convinced people that biological sex categories don’t exist, then it no longer makes sense to have any kind of sex segregation.
It means you can’t have refuges, prisons or changing rooms that admit only biological women; biological men can no longer be excluded from women’s sports. Lesbians and gay men can no longer define their sexuality as “same-sex attraction”; instead they have to be open to considering sexual partners of the opposite sex but same gender identity. Many lesbians have already spoken out about being bullied and labelled as “bigots” and “transphobes” for refusing to consider trans women as sexual partners. Statistics on violence, poverty and employment traditionally broken down by sex will cease to be useful once we break them down by gender identity instead.
This seemingly innocent plea for inclusivity is, therefore, nothing of the sort. By erasing biological sex as a category, we remove women’s ability to define themselves as a class and to protect themselves through single-sex spaces. Anyone who has the temerity to suggest that biological sex is real risks, as JK Rowling has found out, experiencing the full force of cancel culture.
In this context, uttering the words “Only women have a cervix” becomes, not just a statement of fact, but a powerful act of resistance.