This morning, both the hashtag “#OnlyWomenHaveCervixes” and “cervixes” were trending on Twitter in the UK as the Labour Party found itself entangled in a row over trans rights.
The bitter feud has been ongoing for the past year after Labour MP Rosie Duffield said that “only women have a cervix”, a remark that was met with accusations of transphobia.
Senior politicians, including Labour leader Keir Starmer and health secretary Sajid Javid, have now weighed in on the issue, which has also prompted a major response on social media.
So who has said what and what’s it all about?
How did this start?
The debate has been raging for more than a year and was sparked by comments that Labour MP Rosie Duffield made about trans women.
The Canterbury MP has faced criticism for opposing people who were born male but self-identify as trans having access to spaces such as domestic violence refuges, school toilets and prisons.
Then, last summer, Duffield liked a tweet by journalist Piers Morgan which criticised the American Cancer Society for using the phrase “individuals with a cervix”. Replying to a tweet about the new recommendations, Morgan had asked “Do you mean women?”
After being criticised for like Morgan’s reply, she then tweeted asking if she’s a transphobe for “knowing that only women have a cervix”.
She followed this up by saying that “the implication that one cannot describe oneself as a woman without inviting a pile-on” was “beyond ridiculous”.
Speaking to The Times in October last year, Duffield added: “Men seem to have a space or a door with the word ‘man’ on, then women have ‘women and anyone else’,” she said. “Why are we encroaching on women’s spaces but not men’s?”
In July, it was announced that party officials had launched an investigation after Duffield liked a tweet which said that trans people are “mostly heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as gay”. The tweet, originally sent by American rapper Kurtis Tripp, also accused trans people of “colonising gay culture”.
Labour’s party conference was held in Brighton at the weekend, but Duffield felt unable to attend the party’s conference in Brighton after receiving threats and abuse over her comments.
The 50-year-old MP was previously on Starmer’s frontbench but stepped back after breaching lockdown rules last May.
What are other politicians saying about the comment?
Labour leader Keir Starmer criticised Duffield’s remarks but stopped short of describing it as transphobic. He told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One: “It is something that shouldn’t be said. It is not right.”
Starmer — who just last week published an essay outlining his vision for the Labour party — also called for a “mature, respectful debate” around trans rights and asked people to “bear in mind that the trans community are amongst the most marginalised and abused communities”. He added that “we need to go further” in legal terms to protect the trans community.
Health secretary Sajid Javid later slammed Sir Keir’s comments as a “total denial of scientific facts”. “And he wants to run the NHS,” the Tory MP tweeted.
Meanwhile, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner told Sky News that she was “shocked” by the level of abuse female MPs — both from Labour and the Conservative party — receive.
Rayner said: “Rosie deserves our full support and protection against that and she would get that. If she had come to conference, we would have risk-assessed and made sure that she had every bit of support that she needed to be here.
“Anybody who abuses Rosie Duffield who is a member of the Labour Party would go through our formal complaints procedure and I would expect a robust response on it.”
On Duffield not attending the conference, Sir Keir added: “I spoke to Rosie earlier this week and told her conference is a safe place for her to come, and it is a safe place for her to come.
“We do everybody a disservice when we reduce what is a really important issue to these exchanges on particular things that are said.”
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has also called the debate “unhelpful and unproductive”.
Speaking on LBC, Nick Ferrari asked Reeves if it’s transphobic to say only women have a cervix.
She answered: “I wouldn’t say that”, before adding: “I just think that this issue has just become so divisive and toxic, and it pits people against each other – both groups who have faced discrimination in society, women and trans women.”
She added: “If somebody identifies as a woman or a man, they should be able to do so whatever their body parts are.”
What are people saying on Twitter?
Unsurprisingly, people have strong opinions on the issue, with many challenging Javid on his suggestion that Sir Keir’s comments are scientifically wrong:
Others, however, agree with Duffield and Javid.
Speaking at the Labour conference over the weekend, shadow equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds said that a Labour government would be committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for transgender people to legally change their gender, and continue to support the 2010 Equalities Act.
Meanwhile, the NHS website outlines that, unless trans men have a hysterectomy to remove their cervix, it’s important that they get a cervical screening every three years between the ages of 25 to 49, and every 5 years between the ages of 50 to 64.
However, as one trans man called Jamie told the BBC recently, “confusion” over his gender led to a three-month wait for his cervical screening result, instead of the usual two weeks. Although women aged over 25 automatically receive a letter reminding them that they are due a cervical screening, trans men registered with their GP as male typically don’t.