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When is a woman a woman?

By Russell Grenning - posted Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Back in late May, a British man who became a member of the increasingly left-wing UK Labour Party after being, in his word, "inspired" by leader Jeremy Corbyn, decided to stand for office in his local Basingstoke constituency Labour Party. Hardly news, right? It happens in all political parties every day of the week.

David Lewis, 45, a rather cheery and very masculine looking bloke complete with bald head, beard and moustache, caused rather more than minor local ripples when he announced that he was actually standing for election as the "Women's Officer", a post which Labor rules say can only be held by a woman. Ordinarily, Mr Lewis' seemingly quixotic bid would have been dismissed as that of a crank or, at the very least, of a person with a very peculiar sense of humour.

What propelled his election bid into the national headlines was the fact that his constituency organisation actually accepted his candidature. Understandably, the position of "Women's Officer" in the British Labour Party involves encouraging women to join the party and generally speaking for women.


The British Labour Party, firmly in the grip of political correctness, has a policy of self-determination – if people define themselves as women, the party is bound to recognise those persons as women without the slightest question, verification or scrutiny of that definition. This is all in the noble causes of diversity and inclusiveness and is said to be supportive of transwomen who are people who were born male but who later decide that they want to be recognised as women with or without any surgery. Serious progressives who promote and endorse these causes say that self-identification is right and fair because any demands made of trans people to prove their gender identity are discriminatory and intrusive.

Mr Lewis explained to understandably curious British media, "I self-identify as a woman on Wednesdays, between 6.50am when my alarm goes off and around midnight when I go to bed."

Yes, seriously, he said that. And what makes him a woman on Wednesdays?

"My womanness is expressed by my saying, 'I self-identify as a woman' now and again on Wednesdays. I make no changes to my appearance. I keep my name, David and my male pronouns. I wear the same sort of clothes I wear the rest of the week. I keep my beard. I enjoy the full womanness of my beard."

Rather understandably, many Labor Party women - particularly those who self-identify as feminists - were outraged and Mr Lewis' membership of the party was suspended after the national news broke. However, significantly, Labour's National Executive Committee has insisted that its policy of treating people - that is men- who self-identify as women will stand. Nobody would or could explain to David why his party membership was suspended because, well, it could be seen as transphobic or something and nobody in the brave new world of the British Labour Party would want to be outed as transphobic or, well, something.

If Mr Lewis has been having fun tying his beloved Labour Party in knots over who is and who is not a woman just consider the case of Lily Madigan. Last year Ms Madigan – born Liam and then aged 19 – became the first transgender woman to occupy the role of "Women's Officer" her Labour Party constituency organisation. This is the same role Mr Lewis was seeking.


But if there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy and double standards about Mr Lewis being suspended from the party because he said he was a woman and Ms Madigan actually being elected "Women's Officer" despite being born a man, it becomes even more bizarre. Ms Madigan actually demanded and achieved the removal of a real actually born female Labour Party member as "Women's Officer" before winning the subsequent election because this ousted female "Women's Officer" had allegedly "transphobic" views. The ousted female "Women's Officer" had been a woman for decades since birth while Lily at that stage had been a transwoman for a few months but, obviously, must know much much more about the challenges and difficulties of being a woman.

Wrap your head around this if you can – a man who said he is a woman demanded and achieved the removal of a woman from her post and then got the post instead. This, it seems, is modern British Labor Party "feminism". Again, only recently, The Times revealed that Ms Madigan had demanded the removal of another actual female "Women's Officer" in another Labour Party constituency because she (Lily, formerly Liam) had been offended by that woman's views on gender identity.

After winning the party job, Ms Madigan said that she would "give women a voice" inside the party. Yes, the job of LGBTQ (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transsexual/Queer) Officer was also available but Ms Madigan declined to contest the "Women's Officer" position because, as she said, it was important "to represent the views of a diverse group of women".

She explained, "Firstly, transwomen are women, women who are vastly more under-represented than most. We haven't even had a transgender MP yet." Her goal is to be the first one. She explained, "Like most women I am a feminist. They aren't mutually exclusive issues, far from it. I would argue strongly that all appeals to biology are anti-feminist."

Yes, so science is anti-feminist and asserting that biology is the truth is hate speech.

But Ms Madigan's trailblazing victory wasn't all plain sailing for this truly progressive new woman.

A whole bunch of real women resigned in fury from the Labour Party which actually delighted their newest "Women's Officer", Ms Madigan, who tweeted, "Today, approximately 300 transmisogynist women left the Labor Party. Today is a good day."

Basically, these women said that allowing transwomen to become members of all-women shortlists for party positions discriminated against real women by allowing biological men onto their all-female party lists. How transmisogynist could anybody get?

Actually the British Labour Party policy of allowing men to self-identify as women doesn't exactly fit with the law. Generally, equalities law doesn't allow organisations such as the Labour Party to reserve jobs or services for any particular group although the Equality Act 2010 includes some exemptions for single-sex services. The Act was designed to ensure that there are some roles and places where men cannot enter. And under the law men who self-identify as transwomen cannot be entitled to posts that the law reserves for women unless they have a gender recognition certificate. Many are worried that if the law is changed to allow men to self-identify as transwomen - as Mr Lewis and Ms Madigan have done - then they could legally enter what are now women's only places such as domestic violence shelters, all-women colleges and hospital wards.

We can imagine the outcome if, say, a brutal and vengeful male partner of a woman he had been abusing and bashing decided a neat way if getting to her in a domestic violence shelter was simply to declare himself as a transwoman and gain legal entry.

Back in January, Labour's Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Dawn Butler, decided to set up a party inquiry to decide if transwomen should be included in all-women shortlists which was rather shutting the gate after the horse had bolted as Ms Madigan had already become a constituency "Women's Officer". There was a lot of high-minded talk about consulting widely although it seemed that transwomen had the clear upper hand in this inquiry.

Ms Butler hired a transwoman model Munroe Bergdorf as a special advisor but she was forced to resign after a week because of some unsavoury comments she had made in the past about suffragettes, lesbians and gay men emerged. She had already been sacked by cosmetics company L'Oreal as their model over racist comments she had made.

Ms Bergdorf tried to apologise by saying, "Who I was at 23 years old, is not who I am at 31" and, in any case, her offensive tweets had been "shared playfully between close friends". They must have been hilarious.

Meanwhile, Ms Madigan has announced that she is contesting the job of Young Labour's national "Women's Officer" and she is writing her life story. It's onwards and upwards for her and she and leader Jeremy Corbyn have been photographed together, both smiling broadly. If her book is made into a movie perhaps actor Jaden Smith (son of Will Smith) could be cast as Lily - yes, he is American and yes, he is black and yes, he is almost aggressively heterosexual but he is 20 years old just like Lily so anything is possible in this brave new world.

David Lewis also has lots of lovely pictures of himself smiling but Jeremy Corbyn isn't in one of them. Perhaps they haven't been able to find a Wednesday which is mutually convenient for them to meet. Remember, David is only a transwoman on Wednesdays so there is no point his meeting Jeremy on any other day of the week, is there?

But, then again, there are women and there are women, aren't there?

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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