The prompt for this article stated that Rupert Read, the current candidate for the Green Party in Cambridge, is working hard to make amends with the trans community, and asked how we should respond. I’m going to argue that Rupert Read has shown nothing but contempt for us over the last month, and is merely doing whatever he and his advisors think will smooth things over quickly. The quotes after the next paragraph come with content warnings for transmisogyny and TWERF logic.
While Rupert Read has made (to my count) around 5 flowing apologies, none of them have been any good. Each of his apologies skated round the issue, apologising for misinterpretations and hurt feelings, and each of them included the strong assurance that he has never seen trans women as anything other than women, and that he has always respected us. So, with that in mind, let’s look at some quotes from his essay “Don’t throw out the Feminist Baby with the Burchill bathwater”:
“Is it enough, in order to be a woman, to psychically identify as one? To this second question, we must surely answer: no. (If it were, then it would presumably be enough to be disabled to psychically identify as disabled; it would be enough to be black to psychically identify as black; etc.)”
“…to seek to dissolve the category of ‘woman’ altogether, in favour of a sort of ‘opt-in’ version of what it is to be a woman”
“Notice furthermore that there is something deeply and viciously paradoxical about the idea that simply feeling like a woman is enough to make one one”
These are quotes he has refused to respond to when questioned on them, only saying that some of his writing has been taken “out of context”. What is the context for these quotes? Well, as the title suggests, and as the article clarifies in the first few paragraphs, this essay was a long rambling defence of TWERFs from the vicious attacks by the trans lobby.
The long articles he has written for the Independent, the ones he calls “apologies”, are in fact not apologies at all. He is reframing the situation. Many people reading those articles will assume that his one-time questioning of the word “cis” was all that we are fussing about, and will not enquire further. Meanwhile, he is brushing over the years of support he has given to TWERFs and their transmisogynist rhetoric. In presenting this as a minor misunderstanding, whilst claiming to be speaking “at length with a large number of trans people”, he frames those still protesting against him as hysterical and irrationally angry – not an uncommon tactic when trying to dismiss trans women.
The local Green Party has, sadly, decided to stick with him. They have helped him with his cover up and have (I am told) asked him not to step down. Their reasoning for doing this could, at best be seen as confused, or at worst deeply cynical. They first argue that he is not that bad, that he is trying. When they sense that that is not working they say that there weren’t any other available candidates. Then they say that due to their nomination process, there wouldn’t be any time to nominate a new candidate for the election anyway.
That last point is the one I want to focus on. Apart from it being quite worrying that a party with only one MP has already managed to become so full of bureaucratic rubbish that they can’t nominate a new candidate in the space of 3 months, the Greens are saying something else. Rupert Read might be a transmisogynist, but surely we would prefer to vote for him than someone from another party. It was when they put forward this argument that I totally gave up on getting any help from the local Green Party.
For them, transmisogyny is a low priority problem. They are willing to accept it in order to further their goals. They have no intention of doing anything to help trans women that does not further their political campaign. When this election is over, they will either continue supporting Read (having supported him for too long to back down now) or will quietly drop him and brush over the situation, never addressing how they managed to put their backing behind a supporter of violent transmisogynist beliefs.
So what should we do about Rupert Read and the Cambridge Greens? We should cut them out. They are not trying to work with us, they are trying to use us for PR. We should encourage everyone we know to vote against them. And we should put it in absolutely clear terms: voting for the Greens in Cambridge this election is voting for transmisogyny.
Martha Levine (GR.Comment Contributor)