Lib Dem trans activists ‘hounded’ abuse victim by Lucy Bannerman in The Times 19.10.18

The original article is here.

A victim of domestic abuse was removed as a judge of a radical thinking prize and “hounded” out of her role within the Liberal Democrats for saying that she did not believe that men who identified as women should have access to women’s refuges.

Natalie Bird, 38, a mother of two who fled an abusive former partner, was accused of “dangerous transphobia” by transgender activists in the party. She had said that opening up safe spaces without proper safeguards to anyone who said that they were female could put women at risk.

She opposed segregating women’s refuges by chosen gender instead of biological sex, and said that it was not fair to make female victims of domestic violence, abuse and rape share services with people with “functioning” male anatomy.

After being allegedly bullied on social media by party activists, Ms Bird was brought before a disciplinary hearing to face a complaint in the name of Zoe O’Connell, on behalf of the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats. The correspondence says that Ms Bird had “expressed troublesome views”.

The hearing found no evidence to support the complaint of transphobia, but Ms Bird lost her position as chairwoman of the Radical Association, made up of party members, following a vote of no confidence. This cost her her role as a judge of the Ashdown Prize for Radical Thought; an ironic move, Ms Bird said, given that the prize’s aim was to reward “big, bold, radical” solutions to society’s most “daunting problems . . . no one has the courage to argue for”.

She says that allegations of transphobia were a smear by Ms O’Connell, who was born male but now identifies as female. Ms O’Connell is in a three-way relationship with Sarah Brown, another member of the Liberal Democrats LGBT+ executive, and Ms Brown’s wife. Ms O’Connell denied all knowledge of the case and that she was the complainant. When asked if there was another Zoe O’Connell, she did not respond.

Ms Bird said: “[Activists’] tactics seems to be the same as those used by abusive men: they play the victim publicly then privately try to do everything they can to control how others see you. They try to take away your voice and self-worth and then if that doesn’t work, threaten suicide. They built a smear campaign against me, shutting me out of Facebook groups, no-platforming me and silencing my concerns.

“Standing up for the rights of vulnerable women is nothing I should be ashamed of. The lack of freedom of speech and freedom of thought on this issue is frankly terrifying.”

A Lib Dem spokesman said that it “encouraged wide debate within the party, and was proud that we can have sensible debates with a wide range of views”.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon and Your Liberal Britain, organisers of the prize, declined to comment.