The MP for Canterbury said a backlash over her views had erupted into abuse and threats to her safety, adding: ‘I just thought it was better for everyone if I quietly stayed away’
A Labour MP has revealed she will miss the party conference after receiving online abuse in a bitter row over her stance on transgender rights.
Rosie Duffield will skip the annual jamboree in Brighton after saying she had received advice that her safety and security could be at risk.
The Canterbury MP told The Sunday Times she feared LGBT rights activists would “have a massive go at me” over her views, including a 2020 tweet in which she said “only women have a cervix”.
She said she was “exhausted” and at times “frightened”, adding: “We have had Labour MPs who have had to have security at conference over the past few years, and I didn’t want that sort of attention or to become the story.
“I just thought it was better for everyone if I quietly stayed away.”
She said the abuse “smells like misogyny”, adding: “The people who threaten me I don’t think are actually likely to harm me. They just say it often and very loudly.”
It is part of a bitter dispute between trans women who ask society to honour their wish to be described as women, and some feminists who say the term should be reserved for those who were born biologically female.
Ms Duffield posted in August 2020: “I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix….?!”
She also ‘liked’ a Twitter post which said “heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as ‘gay’” were reclaiming the word “queer”.
Cosplaying is a term for dressing up and the remarks were branded “extremely homophobic and transphobic” by LGBT+ Labour.
Two of Ms Duffield’s staff members quit last year over her views and LGBT+ Labour demanded she have the whip suspended.
London mayor Sadiq Khan, who receives death threats as London’s first Muslim mayor, said it was “unacceptable” that Ms Duffield felt unsafe to attend.
Asked if “someone who thinks that only women have a cervix” is welcome at conference, Mr Khan told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “They are.”
He added: “We must be able to have this conversation in a civilised way.
“And I make this point which is really important: One out of four trans teenagers tries to kill themselves.
“These are one of the most vulnerable members of our society and it’s really important we have this debate in a cool, calm, respectful way.”
Labour MP Pat McFadden said he would be “appalled if Rosie thought she couldn’t go to the Labour Party conference”.
He told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme: “Difficult issues have to be able to be discussed in a way that doesn’t result in – if someone says something that someone else disagrees with, then being placed completely beyond the pale and subject to terrible online abuse or threats or anything like that.
“We’ve got to find a way to work through issues where people can say things where someone else might disagree, some of these issues are not easy, without the consequence that you’re talking about here.”
Asked if he would use the phrase “adult human female”, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said: “The phrase actually doesn’t really encapsulate the debate, to be honest. That’s what’s the problem with it.
“The issue that we have been really is that a trans woman is a woman and a trans man is a man.
“And that is the issue that we’re fighting on. We believe trans rights are human rights.”
Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “Parliamentarians, who have been elected to speak up for their constituents, should be able to attend their own party conference without fear of harm.
“It is why we chose to discuss the security of MPs, their staff, journalists and other public figures at our G7 Speakers’ conference this weekend, because too many people have been targeted for their opinion or the office they hold.
“In order to protect democracy, we need to ensure those participating can do so without threats of intimidation.”
Discussion about this post