Labour’s Emily Thornberry asked ‘do only women have cervixes’ during climate change panel

A cut-out of Emily Thornberry, Labour's shadow international trade secretary and MP for Islington South and Finsbury, wearing a black cardigan over a white top as she gestures with her right hand against a pink background

Labour MP Emily Thornberry was pushed into the ongoing anti-trans debate on cervixes while on a climate change panel at the Labour Party Conference, and responded perfectly.

The conversation over who and who does not have a cervix picked up again this week, after Labour leader Keir Starmer touched on the subject in an interview with Andrew Marr.

Marr asked Starmer whether comments made by Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield, who faced criticism when she tweeted last year that “only women have a cervix”, were transphobic. Starmer responded: “It is something that shouldn’t be said, it is not right.”

Later, health secretary Sajid Javid wrongly claimed it was “scientific fact” that only women have cervixes, prompting criticism.

Determined to force more politicians into the cervix discourse, Anne Ruzylo, an anti-trans activist and former Labour Party women’s officer for Bexhill and Battle CLP, and Julia Long, an anti-trans campaigner and author, attended the second day of the Labour Party Conference on Sunday (26 September), brandishing flags and signs which read “adult human female”, and “we stand with Rosie Duffield”.

In video clips posted to social media they can be seen cornering Labour politicians to ask them about cervixes.

In one tweet that has now been widely circulated, Ruzylo reported that Long had asked Thornberry: “Emily, do only women have cervixes?”

She wrote that Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, responded: “My cousin has a cervix and he’s a man.”

Social media applauded Emily Thornberry’s ‘straightforward’ and decisive answer

The hashtag #IStandWithEmilyThornberry began trending on Twitter on Monday, as Twitter users applauded her clear response.

One Twitter user contrasted Emily Thornberry’s answer with Starmer’s, writing: “Emily Thornberry’s ‘my cousin is a man with a cervix’ was so straightforward and cut through the s**t. It’s frustrating that Keir couldn’t be clearer.”

Trans writer Roz Kaveney tweeted: “Emily Thornberry was doing a panel on climate change, and Julia Long and Ann Ruzylo show up and start shouting the odds about trans men’s bits. And Emily stands up to them and for her trans cousin.”

She added: “If trans people that intimidating confronted an MP, we would never hear the end of it…”

Arthur Webber, a trans man who ran as a Labour candidate for city council in Paston and Walton last year but recently resigned over the party’s institutional transphobia, declared: “Emily Thornberry was already minister for gays so I think she’s now been promoted to secretary of state for all LGBTs.”

Last year, the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity was forced to intervene and stress that some trans men, as well as some intersex and non-binary people have cervixes.

As Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust emphasised, anyone with a cervix can get cervical cancer – so people with cervixes should attend regular screenings with their GP.

Following Javid’s comments, some have drawn attention to the fact that debating who does and does not have a cervix only serves to distract from other issues facing trans and non-binary people, such as the crisis in healthcare.