Saturday 27 August 2022

Follow Up to My Resignation Letter from LDCF

 As I did say at the end of my post of my resignation letter from the LDCF (Liberal Democrat Christian Forum) I did say I would publish a follow up about some of the context before and to answer some the queries that have come up since.

First of all the context.

Last weekend I became aware that the Chair of LDCF has signed an open letter started by Liberal Voice for Women. He had signed it not in a personal capacity as all bar one of the other signaturies had done, but on behalf of the exec of LDCF. The other exception was the Chair of Liberal Voice for Women.

Liberal Voice for Women is a group that is not affiliated to the Liberal Democrats in any way and have been asked to stop using the word Liberal in their title as it is misleading. This, however, does not stop them emailing members of the Liberal Democrats bringing Gender Critical concerns to the fore and sometime leading potentially naive members, councillors, peers and others to be swayed by their argument. Some of whom have later regretted decisions they made supporting the group and have apologised for their action, naivity on the subject and hurt they have caused long standing friends.

The current letter was regarding freedom of speech for the groups LGB Alliance and FiLiA to have stalls at the upcoming Lib Dem Conference. The only people with a right to have stalls at Lib Dem Conference would be the Groups that are made up of Liberal Democrats the groups that represent subsets of our membership. Groups such as LDCF and LGBT+ Lib Dems for example. Other groups, organisations and charities with outside interests will be invited or accepted by the Conference Committee. Some of these are ungoing concerns that share the parties values, other are groups that are relevant to the debate or areas of policy we are focussing on at present. In any event there is finite space for stalls in the exhibition part of conference.

The argument about freedom of speech is one that would sway Liberal Democrats, we love debate especially amongst ourselves. However, with relation to the two organisations in question how do they use the freedom of speech they already have?

Those who support these two organisations use their freedom of speech to spread fear about trans women, never trans men it is interesting to note. They want trans people to use the bathroom of their assigned gender at birth, ie they don't want trans women in women's bathrooms, changing rooms or spaces, but seem to ignore the implication that trans men with their testosterone shots and growing their facial hair would be subject to the same rules and have to be in "women's" spaces. 

They also use their freedom of speech to lambast, copy post, abuse and torment not only trans people but any of us who show support for them. Everytime any of us of LGBT+ Lib Dems twitter account post in support of Trans people we are attacked virolantly.

This letter is asking to allow members of this organisation to operate a stall, to share the same space as LGBT+ members who would have their own stall at Lib Dem Conference. The LGBT+ stall is more than just a stall to promote our organisation it is also a stall that has helped many LGBT+ members of the party feel safe, often for the first time, to talk about their sexuality or gender identity. This safe space would easily be affected by anti-trans groups, who also aren't too keen on trans supportive LGB people or trans inclusive feminists, being set up who knows how far away.

Now when I saw that the Chair of LDCF had signed this letter on behalf of the LDCF Exec I did not accuse the entire Exec of making a misjudgement. I reached out to friends on the Exec of LDCF to get a better picture of what was happening. I was relieved to hear that concerns had been raised by some about taking action as a group to sign this letter. 

There was also an offer to speak to the chair relayed through one of these exec members. As I have a tiring work schedule and other commitments I asked to what end this phone call would have, but heard nothing back through that channel.

Well this morning a statement (since amended slightly) appeared on the LDCF website. The initial wording started with "LDCF unanimously co-signed a letter". I took obvious objection to such wording as I was a member of LDCF and had not given permission for anyone to sign that letter on my behalf as part of LDCF, nor was there any communication with the membership of the whole about such a letter. How this could be unanimous is a party of voting geekery is beyond me.

Clearly as a past member of the LGBT+ Exec, an openly gay three time Westminster Candidate I could not stand by and have myself associated with such a poorly worded statement that seemed to suggest I agreed to such a stance. I announced I would be tendering my resignation forthwith in response to the Twitter post with the statement and drafted the letter.

I said I would publish the letter just over an hour after I submitted the resignation letter. This was to allow peope time to maybe persuade others that the statement should to be taken down from the website before further consideration was given to this matter. When it was still there at 10:30 I hit publish on my accounts.

In the interim I did get question from the LDCF Twitter account, at first anonymously but in a personal capacity. When I enquired who was asking, it was from the Chair. However, when I asked publically if he had reached out the LGBT+ Lib Dems I got the response.

We did reach out to various people including LGBTQ+ in the Party and received no response other than the same ‘they are transphobic’. We have asked very senior people in the Party for their evidence and experience also. Let’s all push now for some clear statements.

So yeah going to the authority on trans issues, being told the organisations in question are transphobic apparently isn't enough clarity. 

I was also asked to share proof that the organisations were transphobic. I face enough of this whenever I do stand up for trans rights, it is an ongoing struggle for many of us on social media. But our party is clear on what constitutes transphobia. But if the chair of any part of our party (and I say this having chaired parts of it myself) can't do some basic research, ask some relevant people and then listen to their answers. Before going ahead and doing something anyway on behalf of that organisation or just exec (not quite clear which, if either), what hope is there?

This is a Saturday I have a two day weekend this week (which only happens 50% of the time). I was hoping for some self care this morning. Thanks to those who have helped provide care to me as I went through this tough time. I may write more on this latter but for now I am taking some time for myself.

My Resignation Letter from LDCF (Liberal Democrat Christian Forum)

 Dear [Secretary],

In light of the recent statement that you have posted in the LDCF website and on twitter I cannot in good conscience as a gay, liberal, Christian remain a member of Lib Dem Christian Forum.

The statement starts by saying the the LDCF has unanimously decided to sign the letter in support of LGB Alliance and FiLiA attending our conference. As a member of LDCF I was not consulted nor did I give authority for you or any member of the Executive to speak on my behalf to make this decision unanimous of the Forum, which I believe as a member includes me.

You talk about holding the right to debate in good tension. I am aware that I and other LGBT+ members of the LDCF have reached out to members of the LDCF exec in recent days about this matter. We have pointed out that the debate we have had with this associated with the LGB Alliance have been far from a good tension. I personally have been called homophobic, mysogynistic, a groomer, a pervert and other things during such "debate" with this group. 

There is no good tension between LGB Alliance and the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats that attack and bombard our twitter and our members and supporters at every chance.Sadly allowing them into our conference exhibition space where our LGBT+ Lib Dem stall is seen as a safe space is not acceptable. As a past member of the LGBT+ Exec who has seen people taking their first steps to "coming out" at our stall this is seriously put at risk by having such a group, which only last week was classed a hate group in Ireland, in close proximity.

It is with regret that after many years of LGBT+ members being welcomed and accepted as members of LDCF. Many years of me personally speaking to many LDCF exec members either at the LDCF or LGBT+ Lib Dem stalls at conference exhibition. I was under the impression that being LGBT+ was not contrary to membership of LDCF. The events of recent weeks make me now think differently. I no longer feel I can hold membership of the LDCF.

Please accept this letter as my immediate resignation from LDCF with immediate effect.

I shall be publishing this letter on my blog in at 10:30 this morning.

Update 28 Aug 12:22 The following was just posted on the LDCF Website

The LDCF statement about the 2022 Liberal Democrats Conference arrangements, which was first issued on Friday (26/8), has been taken down to allow the Forum time to consider further these issues and the responses to it. We recognise that some people have been upset and hurt by our statement. That was never our intention, and we are sorry.
I obviously will wait to hear of the outcome of the consideration that the LDCF Exec take on these issues.

Since I announced my resignation the wording of the statement on the DCF website has altered slightly but the essence is still the same.

I will be writing a follow up post later with more details and answering some of the questions that have arisen since I announced I would be pubishing this letter.

Sunday 21 August 2022

Is Giving Transphobes Access a Freedom of Speech Issue?

 So let's say that someone uses the argument that they want to give a transphobic organisation access to a space where are large number of LGBT+ members assembly biannually. Let us also assume that they believe this is a Freedom of Speech issue.

Firstly I would ask them to look at the organisation they are seeking to give that freedom of speech to, especially in relation to trans people. Do they use their freedom of speech to dead name trans people? Do they use their freedom of speech to insult, insinuate, libel and slander anybody who defend trans rights? Do they use their freedom of speech with responsibilty or do they echo the tropes that were used against LGB people in the 80s and 90s? 

If they do not use the freedom of speech they already have responsibly. If the LGBT+ members of a group are fearful of the repercussions of allowing such a group access to a space that they consider safe, for some the first space they feel safe to be genuinely themselves.

Then you have to question why you want to allow them freedom of speech amongst a group who believe that nobody shall be enslaved by conformity, where we champion the freedom, dignity and well being of individuals. Where we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, caste, heritage, class, religion or belief, age, disability, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

If you want to sign a letter demanding that such a group is given access then ask yourself why are you a Liberal Democrat in light of what the preamble to our constitution states.