Withdraw party whip from Rosie Duffield MP, LGBT+ Labour urges Starmer

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

LGBT+ Labour has called for the withdrawal of the whip and suspension of Rosie Duffield from the Parliamentary Labour Party after the MP for Canterbury liked a tweet appearing to suggest that trans people are “cosplaying”.

The post by Twitter user Kurtis Lemaster criticised how the word “queer” has been reclaimed, saying: “And look at WHO is reclaiming it? Mostly heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as “gay”. Stop co-opting our language. Stop colonizing gay culture.”

Cosplay refers to costume play, which is when people wear costumes to represent specific characters. It is often used in the context of science fiction conventions and in relation to anime, comic books, video games and cult TV shows.

LGBT+ Labour said its demand “comes after a pattern of LGBT-phobic behaviour culminating in the endorsement of tweet from a person arrested on terrorism charges which accuses members of the LGBT+ community of being ‘cosplayers'”.

Update, 6.50pm: A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of homophobia or transphobia extremely seriously. This complaint will be fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures.” It is understood that the party is looking into the matter.

The group is referring to claims that the original poster, Lemaster, was arrested on terrorism charges by US authorities in November 2018 after a social media threat was attributed to an account operated by him, according to news reports.

“We have been concerned with the transphobic interactions on Rosie Duffield’s social media profiles for over a year. During that time, we have tried to constructively engage with her and have repeatedly called on the leadership to take clear and decisive action,” LGBT+ Labour chair Alex Beverley said today.

The MP for Canterbury faced criticism from Labour activists in August last year after she liked a tweet by Piers Morgan in which the broadcaster took issue with a CNN post that referred to “individuals with a cervix”.

After being criticised for liking the tweet, Duffield reacted by saying: “I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix… ?!”. She later shared a Spectator article that referred to a “transgender thought police”.

The party-affiliated group LGBT+ Labour issued a statement criticising the Labour backbencher over Duffield’s ‘like’ and comments at the time, and called for “measurable action” to be taken by the Labour leadership.

Beverley added: “This recent endorsement of extremely homophobic and transphobic comments by Rosie Duffield is yet another example in a consistent pattern of behaviour.

“We feel we have exhausted all other options and now must publicly call for the whip to be removed from Rosie Duffield and for her to be suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party.

“The party must demonstrate that it stands with the LGBT+ community and that it will not tolerate transphobia or homophobia from our membership or elected officials.”

Labour’s social media code of conduct states that members “should not give voice to those who persistently engage in abuse and should avoid sharing their content” and this applies to members who “share or like” content.

“The Labour Party has a proud history on LGBT+ rights, but history is not enough. LGBT+ rights, and the fight against discrimination, is an ongoing battle that is never over,” LGBT+ Labour national secretary Joe Vinson said.

“The Labour Party is historically the party of equality, but to remain so it must put words into action – and show zero tolerance to homophobia and transphobia from its members – including its MPs.”

According to a letter from August last year seen by Pink News, the only LGBT+ employee working in the Canterbury MP’s office resigned in protest at what she described as Duffield’s “overtly transphobic” views.

A spokesperson for the MP at the time said: “Rosie fully supports trans rights and the Labour Party’s commitment to upholding the Equality Act and updating the GRA, which the Conservative government has delayed for far too long.

“She believes passionately that people have the right to live with dignity and be treated with respect in an equal and inclusive society.”

The Labour Party and Rosie Duffield have been contacted for comment.

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