Justin Welby defends Rosie Duffield, MP accused of transphobia over cervix tweet The Times 06.08.20

The original article is here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has given his backing to an MP facing accusations of transphobia and called some of those who led the attacks “cruel and wrong”.

The Most Rev Justin Welby used a social media post to support Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP who faced calls for disciplinary action by her party last week over her stance on a reference to transgender women.

It began with a message posted online by CNN, the American broadcaster, about cancer screening in the United States, which used the term “individuals with a cervix”.

CNN’s use of language was mocked on Twitter by Piers Morgan, the breakfast television presenter, who wrote “Do you mean women?” His post was “liked” by the MP.

Her intervention triggered a row in which the group Labour Campaign for Trans Rights called on the party to take action against her.

On Tuesday the archbishop came to the defence of Ms Duffield, 49, who was elected in 2017 as MP for Canterbury, where he is diocesan bishop.

“I know Rosie Duffield, who is a brilliant constituency MP for Canterbury as well as brave, honest, kind and passionate for justice,” he wrote on Twitter. “She does not seek to demean others. To troll her is simply cruel and wrong.”

His post generated 1,200 comments, many of them claiming that he was interfering in politics or accusing him of endorsing transphobic comments, although others welcomed his decision to come to Ms Duffield’s aid.

The latter group include Rachel Reeves, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, who tweeted: “Thank you Justin Welby. It is sad that it needs saying but it does.”

Supporters of transgender rights have increasingly clashed with feminists, some of whom fear that rights won by women are under threat by the blurring of biological sex and gender identity.

The controversy has echoes of that ignited in June by JK Rowling, the Harry Potter author, who mocked an online article whose headline referred to “people who menstruate”. Ms Rowling highlighted its refusal to refer to women, saying: “I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”

This unleashed a backlash in which the three principal actors in the Harry Potter films accused her seeking to invalidate the identities of transgender people. Ms Rowling, 55, responded by saying that she had empathy with trans women but that attempts were being made to erode women as a political and biological class.

The CNN post that led to the latest row read: “Individuals with a cervix are now recommended to start cervical cancers screening at 25 and continue through age 65, with HPV testing every five years.”

As she faced online criticism, Ms Duffield replied to one post with an ironic comment saying “I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix . . . ?!” Her comments were described as transphobic by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, which wrote: “We are calling on our party to take action on this incident, and firmly oppose the climate of transphobia which has helped to cause it.”