Public Sector

As a result of the Victoria Derbyshire show, I was overwhelmed by support and kindness from women I had not met

I care because I have rejected gender stereotypes since my teenage years in the 1970s.  I strongly disagree with having to tolerate men in women’s spaces.  I am particularly angered (on behalf of my daughter) by the takeover of University Feminist Societies by men.

As a Non-Legal Member of the Employment Tribunals (England and Wales) I was astonished that transgender discrimination was featured at the 2019 Regional Training Day.  In 24 years as a member I have never come across such a case.  Nor had any of my colleagues.

I was annoyed at myself for destroying the slides used in the presentation, but on reflection they are normally sent out in advance.  I have searched in vain for any trace of them on the Judicial Internet or my email account.

Many colleagues were, like me, horrified at the notion it was fine to call a person “Queer” if that’s what they chose.  We were informed that sex was “assigned at birth”.  At that point I thought “I have to say something here”.

I raised my hand and said “Sex is not assigned at birth. Like many women, I have given birth.  Sex is a clinical observation. It is important for the treatment of many medical conditions.  Often it is known long before birth, at the 20 week scan.  I’ll just leave that there”.  I didn’t expect a response and didn’t get one.  But many of my colleagues indicated subtly that they supported my view.

On another occasion I was identified on Twitter by a BBC production assistant as someone who had rejoined the Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn announced he would step down as Leader. 

I was invited on the Victoria Derbyshire show to ask a question regarding my Labour Party membership.  During a telephone conversation prior to the show I had a list of questions prepared that I would like to ask.  One of them was “Are transwomen women?”

It was confirmed that that is the question I would ask. I had decided to frame my question around the specific issues of Labour All Women Shortlists and CLP Women’s Officer roles.

I was as nervous as hell but thankfully I am semi-retired. I did wonder if I might put my Judicial Appointment at risk.  I thought of Maya Forstater, whose Crowdfund I had supported.  I felt it would be dishonourable not to take this opportunity.

In the studio, they took away my bag because they didn’t want “the set to look like an airport lounge”.  I wish I had remembered my bottle of water inside, because when I stood up to speak my mouth was so dry I could barely speak.  I got my point across though.  It was received in complete silence.  Keir Starmer said “We should all dial down the rhetoric” (?).  Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long Bailey informed me that “Trans women are women”.   

Thankfully, for me, there have been no negative consequences.  I sat on a case in early March with the Employment Judge who took the training session.  He remembered me from that, but was professional and friendly.  I felt like perhaps I had struck a chord. 

As a result of the Victoria Derbyshire show, I was overwhelmed by support and kindness from women I had not met on Twitter before, and invited to join the Facebook group.  I don’t think I could have lived with myself if I’d passed up that opportunity.  I think I have been blocked by most transgender purists.

Fiona Robertson, Semi-retired former TU Officer, Employment Tribunal Member