A letter to Caroline Lucas: Politicians shouldn’t legitimise hate groups

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Green Party Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, attends the launch of her party's EU campaign on March 14, 2016 in London, England. The Green Party today announced their intention to campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Caroline Lucas, the now former co-leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion, tweeted that she intends to meet with Woman’s Place UK, a controversial activist group that has previously been accused of anti-transgender sentiment.

In response to Lucas, Lucas North, co-chair of the LGBTIQA+ Greens, writes for PinkNews.

“Politicians shouldn’t legitimise hate groups” feels like a sentence that shouldn’t be controversial, but this week, the reaction to a planned meeting between a sitting MP and Woman’s Place UK proved that wrong.

Caroline Lucas MP, on Twitter, announced that she had contacted Woman’s Place to set up a meeting in response to criticisms of the Green Party stance on trans rights—“that trans men are men, trans women are women, and that non-binary identities exist and are valid.”

“Trans people said the meeting made them feel unsafe” (indy_leya and carolinelucas/Twitter)

The response to this tweet was a mix of trans people saying that this meeting made them feel unsafe, and trans exclusionary feminists saying that anyone criticising the meeting was trying to shut down free speech and control who Caroline could and couldn’t meet with.

For the trans people involved, they felt that a sitting MP and leader of a UK political party meeting with this group made them feel they had been abandoned. And I don’t blame them, I felt much the same.

Woman’s Place is an organisation known for holding discussions around reforms to the Gender Recognition Act and what it could mean “for biological women.”

People who’ve attended these events have spoken about how one-sided the discussion is, and have even said that misinformation is being shared to encourage an atmosphere of fear and outright transphobia in these discussions.

Green Party member of parliament Caroline Lucas speaks during a press conference to launch the party's election campaign in London on February 24, 2015. Bennett insisted the general election would be the "biggest, boldest campaign ever" for her party and told reporters that 90% of voters in England and Wales would have a local Green candidate. Bennett has admitted suffering a "mind blank" after a car-crash interview on radio in which she appeared unable to answer questions about key policies. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Lucas was the party’s co-leader when she arranged the meeting (JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty)

I want to be clear that I am committed to open and fair discussion and debate, but these meetings are not open and debating trans people’s right to exist safely is not fair.

At a time of heightened transphobia in our society—brought about by more media attention on trans identities than ever before, a number of high profile trans celebrities, and government consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act which might finally deliver the self-identification of gender which trans activists have been campaigning for—legitimising the views of transphobic groups is particularly damaging.

Now, I want to be clear that I’ve been reassured by Caroline’s team that this meeting was not malicious in nature—and was only an example of her commitment to listen to all sides, even when she disagrees. But in the same way that I wouldn’t trust anyone to speak to the BNP on race issues, or to men’s rights activists about misogyny, or to a homophobic group on gay rights, a transphobic organisation which sets out to be nothing but transphobic cannot be considered a legitimate voice on trans issues.

Co-Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales Caroline Lucas speaks during the People's March demanding a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal, in central London on June 23, 2018, the second anniversary of the 2016 referendum. - Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in London on Saturday calling for a second vote on Britain's departure from the European Union. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP) (Photo credit should read NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images)

Lucas has reiterated her support for trans rights (NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP/Getty)

Regardless of intentions, it is worrying to see politicians agree to meet with lobbyists who have connections to groups that protested London Pride earlier this year for including trans people.

And so, I ask that politicians—especially politicians who claim to be progressive—stand in solidarity with the entire LGBT+ community, that they stand with the trans members of our society who are on the edge of winning the fight for recognition.

I cannot help but be worried by this meeting and ones like it, and think that it is wrong to legitimise an organisation which has shown itself to be nothing but transphobic, but the Green Party’s policy is totally clear, and is something I stand by—“that trans men are men, trans women are women, and that non-binary identities exist and are valid.”

Lucas North is a public speaker and Green political activist, and is co-chair of LGBTIQA+ Greens.