Labour MP Wes Streeting has been widely criticised for apologising to Rosie Duffield over negative responses to her ‘gender-critical’ views.
The openly gay shadow health & social care secretary said in a new interview he was “really sorry” for how Duffield’s views, which many have described as ‘anti-trans’, have been approached by Labour MPs and members.
“This is the challenge of this topic, it sometimes creates a wedge between friends,” he said during a Times Radio appearance on Saturday (29 July).
“There are times when Rosie’s… Tweeted or liked things and I’ve been really upset.
“There are times where, you know, I’ve taken a much more defensive position around trans equality and Rosie’s felt like me, personally, and others haven’t listened.”
Rosie Duffield has been the centre-point of controversy surrounding her ‘gender-critical’ views on the transgender community for several years.
Since being elected to represent Canterbury in 2017, the 51-year-old has argued trans women should be excluded from single-sex spaces, has described trans women as ‘male-bodied biological men’ and opposed the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
Her views on trans people has led to criticism from members of her constituency, who have said Duffield needs to stand up to “legitimate scrutiny.“
Her latest comments include commending the Labour Party for its recently announced policy where it U-turned on commitments to implementing self-ID in the Gender Recognition Act.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on 25 July, Duffield said she believed Labour was “going in the right direction” by aligning itself with her and others’ gender-critical views.
She added that she believed it was “great” that Labour was now changing track and pondered whether Labour leader Keir Starmer had “been on a journey” in relation to his trans views.
During his interview, Streeting said that he believed the LGBTQ+ community had “missed the mark” in criticising Rosie Duffield’s views, as well as JK Rowling, who has also been criticised for her views on trans people.
He added that his and Labour’s views on trans issues had shifted over the past few years, saying that he wants to open up “a better conversation” on the rights of the community.
“If you’d asked me this question a couple of years ago, I’d have said ‘Trans men are men, trans women are women, get over it’,” he added.
“It’s by listening to friends that I’ve thought, ‘Well, actually it’s a little more complicated’.”
‘A cheap move’
The interview was widely criticised online by members of the public and political activists alike, who accused Streeting of having “zero knowledge on this subject.”
Trans Pride South West vice chair Kaz Self wrote in a tweet: “I – and many others – have submitted complaints about Duffield, no action taken and never got a response. The party is either with trans people or not, its current stance suggests not.”
Queer writer and researcher Thomas Willett wrote on social media that pondering whether trans women are women or trans men are men is not as complicated as Streeting was suggesting.
“One group wants to remove trans people’s legal protections which will make trans lives more difficult, and trans people are arguing against this.
“Selling out an integral part of our community to further your career is a cheap move.”