Gender critical MPs condemned for ‘grim’ response to mention of trans suicide in parliament

A picture of the equalities debate, in which Joanna Cherry, Rosie Duffield, and Neale Hanvey roll their eyes while Kirsty Blackman speaks.

MPs Joanna Cherry, Rosie Duffield and Neale Hanvey are facing criticism for their behaviour during a debate on the Equality Act that could impact trans rights.

Criticism came after a clip circulated on Twitter of the MPs reacting to Kirsty Blackman explaining how a trans constituent experienced suicidal thoughts, while arguing against possible changes to the Equality Act to make sex mean “biological sex”.

Blackman, of the SNP, stated: “They said, ‘What hope is left? Should I just kill myself now and be done with it? They will not rest until trans people are excluded from public life’.”

Sitting behind her in the chamber for the equalities debate, fellow SNP politician Joanna Cherry was seen rolling her eyes and could be heard saying: “What rubbish”. Also captured on camera were Alba Party House of Commons leader Neale Hanvey and Labour MP Rosie Duffield, who put her head in her hands as Blackman spoke.

Labour MP Sarah Owen criticised the “grim” response, saying: “When someone speaks about their constituent contemplating suicide, you don’t have to agree but you should respect someone else’s truth, even if it isn’t yours.”

Another critic wrote online: “When someone talks about taking their own life, please don’t huff, moan and roll your eyes.”

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YouTube creator Jessie Earl also commented on the response, saying: “As someone who attempted suicide [because] I believed I would never be myself, the lack of care, and callousness to the mental-health assault these folks are contributing to, directly against trans people, is inhuman and unconscionable.”

During the debate, all three MPs spoke in favour of amending the Equalities Act to define any mention of sex as ‘biological sex’, a move many believe could result in removing existing rights from the UK’s trans community.

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In May 2023, statistics reported by LGBTQ+ young people’s charity, Just Like Us, revealed that, out of a survey of 3,695 adults aged 18 to 25, 88 per cent of trans people have experienced suicidal thoughts and 65 per cent who identify as LGBTQ+ have self-harmed.

In comparison, 43 per cent of straight respondents experienced suicidal thoughts, while 31 per cent self-harmed.

Despite this, so-called gender-critical groups, such as Transgender Trend, have attempted to debunk studies into suicidality among trans people, claiming the statistics are either overblown or due to mental health issues and autism.

In January, journalist Hadley Freeman also argued trans children were lying about their suicidal thoughts to blackmail their parents into receiving “sex-change hormones and surgery” – neither of which are available to under-18s in the UK – in an article for The Sunday Times that was panned by activists.

Following the debate, Scottish Greens councillor Blair Anderson compared the disregard towards the prevalence of suicidal thoughts in trans people to his experience as a gay youngster.

“I almost killed myself when I was a child because I thought being gay made life not worth living,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The exact same forces which made me suicidal 10 years ago are killing trans people today. The fact that gay and lesbian lawmakers would roll their eyes at that fact makes me sick.”

In response to the messages, Blackman thanked the support she received, saying: “I’m sure you all are, but please reach out and support your trans and non-gender-conforming friends. They are on the front line on this.”

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Joanna Cherry responds to backlash

In a statement issued to PinkNews, Joanna Cherry criticsed the response to her reaction in the Commons debate, accussing activists of “misrepresentations” that she said would have “consequences.”

“During a speech by [Kirsty Blackman MP] my body language indicated my disapproval of claims that those of us supporting the clarification petition are causing trans people to have suicidal ideation and ‘will not rest easy until trans people are excluded from public life’,” Cherry said.

“Raising suicide threats as a reasponse to legitimate debate in parliament is irresponsible,” she continued. “So is the suggestion that those parliamentarians who support the clarification of the Equality Act want to exclude trans people from public life. It is also untrue and in clear contradiction of what was said in the rest of the debate.”

During the parliamentary debate, Cherry aimed to “support the petition to clarify that references to sex in the Equality Act are references to biological sex”.

The debate was held in response to two opposing petitions on the matter, which came about after the Equality and Human Rights Commission published advice to the government on a potential change in the law.

The EHRC said such a change would allow for the exclusion of trans women from women’s sports and single-sex spaces.

Critics say this would amount to a roll-back of trans rights, and that it would effectively nullify the rights bestowed by the Gender Recognition Act.

A UN expert criticised the letter, saying: “The objective of the EHRC was to offer the government a formula through which it could carry out discriminatory distinctions currently unlawful under UK law, and that will remain so under international human rights law.” The EHRC rejects this claim.

Cherry told the Commons the petition she supported was not about changing the Equality Act, but about clarifying it.

She continued that all trans people are “protected against discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment” and that she believed that to be a right, while adding that “there is no intention to remove that protection.”

“I would not support any petition that did that,” Cherry added.

“My reactions to what was said should be understood against the background of repeated attempts to misrepresent my views on these matters from many trans right activists who frequently attack me as transphobic without any basis for their claims and in direct contradiction of what I have said.

“Their misrepresentations have consequences for me including threats of violence such as the one on Twitter yesterday which has been reported to the appropriate parliamentary authorities and the police.

“I want to be very clear that those seeking to attack or misrepresent me after yesterday’s debate that they will not intimidate me out of my advocacy for the rights of women and lesbians under the Equality Act.”

PinkNews has contacted Rosie Duffield and Neale Hanvey for comment.

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