During an interview on BBC Radio this morning, the controversial anti-trans Labour MP Rosie Duffield suggested that bisexual people are “appropriating gay culture”, and referred to an American anti-trans activist and convicted stalker – who was arrested after making threats to kill two men and joking about shooting up a school – as her “friend”.
During the interview on Radio Four’s Today show, Duffield was challenged by BBC journalist Justin Webb about the fact she had liked a tweet published by the self-confessed “Gender Critical” activist Kurtis Lemaster – who also goes by the stage name Kurtis Tripp – that accused trans people of simply “cosplaying as the opposite sex”.
Lemaster’s tweet stated:
“I’m so sick of hearing about how “queer” has been reclaimed. I had that word spit in my face as recently as 2018. And look at WHO is reclaiming it? Mostly heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as “gay”.
“Stop co-opting our language. Stop colonizing gay culture.”
This is the tweet and the guy who tweeted it. pic.twitter.com/CPBUmgoZAq
— Rachel Tomes (@RachelT1722) September 20, 2021
Lemaster has also previously tweeted that he thought the extremely high trans suicide rate was “funny”:
The man described as a”friend” by Rosie Duffield once tweeted that he thought the extremely high Trans suicide rate was “funny”. pic.twitter.com/Hc6BRNEhHq
— Evolve Politics (@evolvepolitics) September 20, 2021
In addition to his openly anti-trans tweets, in November 2018 Lemaster was arrested after threatening to kill two men and joking about shooting up a school.
In June 2019, Lemaster was convicted of felony stalking and sentenced to serve three years of supervised probation (you can read Mr Lemaster’s version of events here).
Astoundingly, despite Lemaster’s criminal history and his appalling record of transphobia, Duffield chose to describe him as her “friend” during the interview.
The man described as a ‘friend’ by Rosie Duffield on Radio 4 was convicted of misdemeanour stalking and made online threats to shoot up a school.
A crumb, just a crumb of journalistic interrogation is all we ask for! https://t.co/v98sJObB8o
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) September 20, 2021
Though Justin Webb didn’t challenge Duffield about the fact she described such an unsavoury character as her friend, he did repeatedly raise her endorsement of Lemaster’s horribly offensive tweet – asking:
“There are people who say that you, at the very least, have been responsible for inflaming some of this. There was a tweet earlier in the year that you retweeted, in other words endorsed, in which someone suggested that ‘heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as gay were part of the problem’. Cosplaying being costume playing – in other words, transgender people. That they were dressing up. Do you understand how deeply offensive and upsetting that would have been for a lot of people?”
After Webb continued to press Duffield about the tweet – which he described as “deeply, properly offensive to people who may themselves have been appallingly abused in the past” – the Labour MP not only refused to apologise, but went even further, this time by throwing bisexual people under the bus too:
“I think the point about that particular Tweet was that gay rights activists who we know from Twitter is like many of my gay friends… incredibly distressed and insulted that the ‘q word’ and other words that they find incredibly offensive are used by people.
“There are mens’ activists out there that are married to women who call themselves the ‘q word’. You know, and they appropriate gay culture in a way that is deeply offensive to quite a lot in the gay movement, in the gay rights movement.”
In what looked like desperation to make excuses for her endorsement of blatant transphobia, Duffield seemingly turned to biphobia as an excuse – implying that bisexual women who are married to men are wrongly calling themselves queer, and are somehow simply “appropriating gay culture”.
Duffield’s litany of transphobia
Coming from Duffield, such awful and incredibly outdated attitudes are not particularly surprising.
After all, she doesn’t seem to understand that claiming that “only women have a cervix” – when trans men also do – is quite obviously transphobic:
I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix….?!
— Rosie Duffield MP 💙 (@RosieDuffield1) August 1, 2020
In addition, last year two members of Duffield’s staff resigned due to her comments about trans people.
One of the two members of staff, a cis lesbian, shared her resignation letter with PinkNews – stating that Duffield’s refusal to retract her clearly transphobic comments had put her “in a highly compromised position“, and effectively left her with no option but to resign.
Duffield has also shown a pattern of refusing to retract incredibly damaging words aimed at trans people – and, after her interview today, it is clear that she seems intent on attacking bisexual people, too.
Which begs the question, which minority will Duffield come after next?
Most likely neuro divergent or physically disabled people. Neither would surprise me really. 🙁
— MuirDragonne 🏳️🌈 (@MuirDragonne) September 20, 2021
The full interview with Duffield starts at 1h49m on BBC Radio 4’s Today show. You can read the full transcript of the radio interview below:
Justin Webb: It is fast becoming one of the biggest issues in British politics because it splits the parties. Particularly on the left, the issue of trans rights pulls people apart. It’s about to come to a head in the case of Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP who believes and has said clearly in the past that she does not accept self-id as as a passport for male-bodied, biological men to enter protected spaces for women. In other words, a male cannot become a woman for all legal purposes, even with all the hormonal and other treatments available. That view sees her subjected to a torrent of vicious abuse online and has led her to say she can’t come to the party conference next week. The Speaker of the Commons has now intervened to say she should be able to, and in doing so he raises another issue – the safety of women in public life more generally. Their ability to say what they want to say and be treated decently. Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury is on the line. Good morning to you.
Rosie Duffield: Hi Justin.
Justin Webb: What’s the score with the Conference at the moment? Are you going to go or are you not?
Rosie Duffield: Erm, no, I took the decision a few weeks ago not to go. I didn’t want to be the centre of attention, and this is Keir Starmer’s first Conference speech since the pandemic, I think it’s really important that we focus on that and the policies that emerge from Conference. I really did not want to be the news story, I did not want to get headlines for the wrong reasons.
Justin Webb: How sure are you that if you had gone you would be subject to abuse at the conference?
Rosie Duffield: I mean obviously I’m not 100% sure, but some of the sort of messages that I’ve received were pretty unpleasant, and you know there are groups that will be at the party conference that my presence would irritate
Justin Webb: When you say unpleasant, what nature? What level of threats are these?
Rosie Duffield: It’s hard to know how serious to take people who post them online. I don’t always take them that seriously actually. But they’re pretty awful, and I did not want to subject myself and other people to that kind of abuse. I’m not imagining they’re necessarily going to physically harm me, but you know the kind of levels of vitriol, it’s pretty horrible, and you know I don’t feel like I want to go through that to be honest.
Justin Webb: Did you mention it to the police and to Labour’s security people?
Rosie Duffield: Erm, I have regular meetings with the police in my area, yeah. I mean I didn’t want this to be a story, Justin, to be honest. You know, I’m not sure how it kinda got out there, I mentioned it to a couple of friends that I was worried about my security. I’d had a serious security breach in the 2019 Conference. It was personal and it was a problem, and I didn’t tell lots of people, but the Mail on Sunday got hold of this story. So the people that are now trolling me for making myself the victim or, you know, the martyr, or trying to talk about my security, couldn’t be more wrong. I didn’t want this to be a story. So when it was a story for about a week last week, I then did want it to be the time that I adjust it slightly. Possible – I then did one interview with The Times which I adjusted slightly.
Justin Webb: Would it be helpful if Keir Starmer talked to you personally about it?
Rosie Duffield: Yeah, that would be good. Lots of women have been asking to meet with Starmer in groups or one-to-one about this issue, and obviously he’s incredibly busy, but it would be good to clarify what our position is as a party and just discuss how we go forward with this issue.
Justin Webb: Just to make it clear, you have asked to see him and at the moment? What’s his response?
Rosie Duffield: He’s always positive about trying to organise a meeting, it just hasn’t happened yet.
Justin Webb: But you would like that to happen soon?
Rosie Duffield: Yeah, I think it’s really necessary that we actually talk about this subject.
Justin Webb: There are people who say that you, at the very least, have been responsible for inflaming some of this. There was a tweet earlier in the year that you retweeted, in other words endorsed, in which someone suggested that ‘heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as gay were part of the problem’. Cosplaying being costume playing. In other words, transgender people. That they were dressing up. Do you understand how deeply offensive and upsetting that would have been for a lot of people?
Rosie Duffield: I think the point about that particular Tweet was that gay rights activists who we know from Twitter is like many of my gay friends … incredibly distressed and insulted that the ‘q word’ and other words that they find incredibly offensive are used by people. There are men activists out there that are married to women who call themselves the q word. You know, and they appropriate gay culture in a way that is deeply offensive to quite a lot in the gay movement, in the gay rights movement.
Justin Webb: Do you not see that that tweet though was deeply, properly offensive to people who may themselves have been appallingly abused in the past?
Rosie Duffield: Obviously I don’t understand those issues as well as someone who is in that situation but I do know that several of my gay friends and a lot of gay rights groups find the appropriation of gay culture as they see it incredibly offensive.
Justin Webb: Right, so you’re not apologising for endorsing that tweet?
Rosie Duffield: I didn’t do the tweets, I liked the tweets. I am in touch with that particular person who did the tweet and I know that he finds this particular issue incredibly difficult and I think he has a valid right to talk about it without being cancelled, as he was.
Justin Webb: I want to get on the wider issue of women more generally and their place in public life in a second, but just while we’re on the subject of Labour and all of this, is it clear to you what Labour’s policy is now on the question of whether or not…
Rosie Duffield: No (laughs).
Justin Webb: Right (laughs). Well it’s this central thing of whether or not biological females have the right to have spaces where biological males cannot go. And at the moment, the law says they can in certain circumstances. Do you understand whether Labour is or is not wanting that change?
Rosie Duffield: Well, in our 2017 and 2019 manifestos we pledged to uphold the 2010 Equality Act, which does provide protected spaces under certain circumstances, such as women’s prisons, women’s domestic violence refuges. I mean it wasn’t even specific in the Equalities Act, just in places where it is deemed necessary. Of course, that’s open to interpretation, but I would have thought at the very least that implies domestic violence settings. You know, everyone has the right to be protected, and if biological females need more spaces that are just for them… there we are (slight laugh). We have the 2010 Equality Act and we have pledged as a party to uphold that.
Justin Webb: And does that pledge in your view still stand? Are you confident that it will also be the pledge at the next election?
Rosie Duffield: Erm, I’m not confident. We haven’t had another discussion debate. Those are the kind of things that we do talk about, thrash out, at our Conference. Erm, but as far as I know that hasn’t changed. Certainly, you know, women in the Labour party haven’t been told, MPs haven’t been told, that that’s about to change. But… but just the lack of ability to discuss it means that we’re not certain.
Justin Webb: More widely, the role of women, which the speaker has weighed into now, and obviously it’s on everyone’s mind and a woman MP was murdered and we’ve had previous occasions where women have not come to Labour’s Conferences quite recently. What do we do?
Rosie Duffield: Million dollar question. I think women have every right to… just to be able to voice their opinions. I mean, I’ve seen tweets by colleagues, male colleagues, that are identical to mine, about Labour policy for example. And the comments under mine and other women’s tweets are very different to the ones of men. And this is a cross party issue. All women in public life, not just politicians, but anyone that puts their head above the parapet – Councillors, you know, people in the public eye – just get abuse for the way we look, what we say, you know, and it’s really horrible. And it always turns to violence when it’s women. You know, recent Government Ministers who have had to resign, they get lots of sort of comedy-based abuse, you know, it’s kind of jokey, a bit off the cuff and silly. But we always get the violence. Pictures of guns, pictures of mocked up nooses. That’s the kind of thing we get on social media. And Twitter really is the worst platform. And I don’t know what they can do about it but something would be good.
Justin Webb: Rosie Duffield, thank you for talking to us.