Rosie Duffield: What has the Labour MP said about trans people and trans rights?

Rosie Duffield against a pink background with one of her infamous anti-trans tweets

Labour MP Rosie Duffield has been at the centre of controversy in recent years due to her comments about the trans community, with her views leading to some of her party peers calling for the whip to be removed. MP Nadia Whittome has also called on Labour to tackle transphobia from within. 

The 51-year-old MP for Canterbury has repeatedly been criticised for calling trans women “male bodied” and stating that she doesn’t believe trans women should have access to domestic violence shelters, women’s prisons, and single-sex toilets. 

Criticism against Duffield, who was elected to represent Canterbury in 2017, ramped up in January 2023 when a senior aide to party leader Keir Stamer reportedly slammed her alleged friendship with JK Rowling, who has also been accused of anti-trans sentiment

Far-right blog Guido Fawkes reported Labour’s executive director of communications Matthew Doyle as claiming Canterbury residents would prefer her to spend more time with constituents “rather than hanging out with JK Rowling”.

“Couple of inaccurate comments from this chap (unsure how he thinks he knows so much about my constituency as no Labour leader has been there since I became an MP?),” Duffield said on Twitter

As the debate over Rosie Duffield’s trans comments continues, we explore the history of the politician’s controversial views from the beginning of her tenure as MP for Canterbury.

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What has Rosie Duffield said about trans people?

It is thought that Duffield’s first public mention of the trans community dates back to a tweet in which she criticised the idea that inclusive language should be used for cervical screening tests back in 2020. 

After CNN shared the latest guidelines on cervical screenings, describing those who need screenings as “individuals with a cervix”, Piers Morgan replied saying, “do you mean women?”, which Duffield was slammed for “liking”. 

“I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix…?!” Duffield then tweeted.

Since this original incident, Rosie Duffield has continuously stated that trans women should not have access to single-sex spaces including changing rooms, toilets, and domestic violence shelters. 

In 2021, she wrote a long Twitter thread about the trans community, calling trans women “male-bodied biological men”, and coming out as having “gender critical” beliefs. 

She went on to state her belief that the majority of people share her view that transgender women should be banned from “[domestic violence] refuges, women’s prisons, single-sex wards and school toilets”, despite the opposite being shown to be true in YouGov data from 2020.

Duffield tweeted: “My sins? To agree that male-bodied people should not be included in lists of murdered women, to have ‘liked’ tweets such as Piers Morgan’s ‘You mean women?’ when he read a health advice post about ‘people with a cervix.'”

The MP also opposed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which would make it easier for trans people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) to legally recognise their gender.

Duffield stood in the House of Commons on 19 January 2023 and falsely claimed that reforms of Scotland’s gender laws would “allow anyone at all to legally self-identify as either sex” and enter women’s changing rooms, domestic violence refuges and other spaces.

She’s made public comments about trans Labour Party member Eddie Izzard

Aside from more general comments about the transgender community, Rosie Duffield has also directed gender critical sentiment towards Eddie Izzard, who was campaigning to be a Labour MP in Sheffield last autumn.

Speaking during a Labour Women’s Declaration discussion group at the Labour Conference in September 2022, Duffield allegedly told attendees that she did not believe Izzard was a woman.

“I won’t lie. I won’t say a man is a woman. Eddie Izzard is not a woman,” the Canterbury MP was reported as saying.

Attendees also claimed that she threatened to leave the Labour Party if the stand-up comedian was selected for an all-women shortlist, despite the fact that Izzard claims she has never asked to be put forward for one.

Weeks later, Duffield reportedly spoke at a conference for trans-exclusionary campaign group LGB Alliance, where she was quoted as saying she would rather be arrested than call Izzard a woman.

Eddie Izzard, comedian and political activis
Eddie Izzard came under fire from Duffield last autumn. (Getty Images/Matthew Horwood)

What is Rosie Duffield’s relationship with JK Rowling like?

After the incident in which Matthew Doyle claimed Duffield should spend more time with her constituents and less time with JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author defended the MP. 

Rowling, who has long been criticised for her own views on the trans community, said on Twitter: “Rosie Duffield, an ex-assistant teacher, single mother, and survivor of domestic abuse, won Labour a seat they thought was unwinnable. 

“Post-Corbyn, she was returned to parliament with an increased majority… This is how Labour repays her.”

As well as quoting each other’s tweets and supporting each other online, Duffield is also thought to have had lunch with JK Rowling, and other so-called “gender critical” activists MP Joanna Cherry and journalist Suzanne Moore in 2022. 

Also in attendance were members of the lobby group Get the L Out, who have described gender-affirming healthcare as “a form of misogynist medical abuse against lesbians” which “promotes the medical transition of lesbians and pushes harmful drugs and unnecessary medical practices on lesbians’ healthy bodies”.

The lunch took place on 10 April 2022 – the same day that thousands of trans people and their allies gathered outside Downing Street to protest then-prime minister Boris Johnson and his plan to remove transgender conversion therapy from a potential ban of the barbaric practice.

She’s been criticised by other Labour MPs 

Rosie Duffield’s comments about the transgender community have been condemned by members of her own party, which have led to her reportedly being investigated in 2021 by Labour Party officials over her social media activity, and two of her own staff members quitting due to what they claimed were the MP’s “overtly transphobic” opinions.

The first of her staffers to leave was a cis lesbian – reportedly the only LGBTQ+ person in Duffield’s office – who quit in 2020, saying that tweets she had made were “offensive to the trans community”.

The staffer wrote in her resignation letter: “Your lack of retraction of these words indicated that it was indeed your stance, which I believe to be transphobic. 

“This put me, an LGBT+ member of your team and someone who has campaigned for LGBT+ rights for most of my life, in a highly compromised position.”

She added that while she believed Duffield was “not a bad person”, her stance on transgender issues made her position “untenable”.

While several Labour MPs have publicly defended Duffield in the past, including Jess Phillips, Wes Streeting and Rachel Reeves, several other Labour members have called for the whip to be removed due to her comments

After Rosie Duffield made headlines for claiming she will “not be calling Eddie Izzard a woman”, Young Labour Under 19s claimed her views were “transphobic and offensive”.

“Her recent comments regarding Eddie Izzard further demonstrate it. Therefore we support calls from LGBT Labour that she should lose the Labour Party whip,” the group said.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome has also spoken out about anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in the wake of the government vetoing Scotland’s gender reforms, calling on the party to tackle transphobia from within

Following the government’s unprecedented decision to block the Scotland gender reform bill, Whittome told PinkNews: “I’ve been clear that our party needs to tackle transphobia within our own ranks and have campaigned for Labour to adopt a definition of transphobia.

“We should be providing a space for all Labour members to learn about the discrimination that trans people face and why urgent change is needed.”

While she didn’t name Rosie Duffield, she added that “those who continuously make transphobic statements should face disciplinary action, no matter their role or position in the party.”

Complaints from constituents

In July 2023, Rosie Duffield’s constituents and ‘older feminists’ urged MP to – in their words – stop attacking trans people.

Several residents in her constituency wrote to the politician to urge her to “support all her constituents” and stop attacking the trans community. This occurred days after Duffield was criticised for saying a trans woman who appeared on an ITV segment on rising water bills was “not a mother”.

A group of nine self-described “older feminists” living in Duffield’s Canterbury constituency wrote to her as a result, slamming her “transphobic” views.

The letter in the Whitstable Gazette, posted by the Twitter account CanterburyWithTheT, read: “As feminist constituents of Rosie Duffield MP, we want to object strongly to her frequent, gratuitous utterances about trans people, in particular transgender women.”

Rosie Duffield, who has been outspoken about transgender people and their rights, accepts an award from Penny Mordaunt
Rosie Duffield wins the Speech of the Year Award presented by Penny Mordaunt at The Spectator Parliamentarian Of The Year Awards at Rosewood London on January 22, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for The Spectator)

This incident happened at the beginning of July. Later in the same month, Rosie Duffield welcomed the Labour Party’s new policy on reforming the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which sees it U-turn on commitments for trans people to be able to self-ID.

She appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on 25 July, alongside trans Liberal Democrat councillor Helen Belcher, and said she believed Labour is “going in the right direction” and is now just agreeing with what she and others who hold the same views have “been saying for the [past] few years”.

The MP, who has held her Canterbury seat since 2017, said: “It seems to me that Labour have come a long way, perhaps Keir has been on a journey.”

Rosie Duffield has defended her stance on social media

Despite Rosie Duffield’s transgender stance, the politician has continuously claimed that she supports LGBTQ+ rights and that she has fought for queer rights throughout her career. 

In a 2021 Twitter thread, Duffield said: “I have actively fought for gay rights (and all human rights) all of my life. A fact that is well-known, well documented, and everyone who knows me can testify.

“I chose to make my first MP speech, after less than two hours’ sleep, at Canterbury’s first Pride event.”

She added that she supports “the rights of all trans people to live freely as they choose”, though she rejected the idea of self-ID, and the rights of trans women to use single-sex spaces. 

“I will continue to support LGBT rights as I have done all of my life,” she added. 

PinkNews contacted Rosie Duffield for comment but she told us our emails were “a total waste of time”.

“PinkNews is not an outlet that I will ever send a comment to,” she said.

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