September 28, 2020 - 9:02am

The Liberal Democrats are once again debating transgender rights at their Autumn Conference today. Motions on topics close to the hearts of the Lib Dems — Human Rights and the Home Office, Fairer Corporate Taxation, even the European Union — were all discarded to make space for Business Motion F32, Supporting Trans and Non-Binary People in the Liberal Democrats.

The party appears to be in thrall to Gender Identity Ideology. That is the belief that we all have an innate gender identity, which should displace biological sex in law and policy. Lines 14 and 15 of the motion contain the central catechism: Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are non-binary.

Dissent would seem impossible in the party following the adoption last weekend of a definition of transphobia that condemned, “phrases or language to describe trans people which are designed to suggest that trans people are a separate category of person from the gender they identify as.”

Nevertheless, a group of 13 rebels objected to this patently unscientific imposition on their conference. Stephanie Wilson — member of the Party from Lewes, and one of the 13 — told me that, “we submitted a request for a separate vote on lines 14 and 15 of the motion because we believe it’s possible to create a welcoming environment for trans people without forcing people to sign up to a metaphysical belief.”

However, the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference Committee (FCC) thought differently. The request was struck down unanimously according to rebel group. A member of the FCC told them that, “the clause was a central part of the motion and the principle underpinning much of what it called for. A separate vote was — in the opinion of the FCC — tantamount to a vote against the motion.”

Let’s be clear, this was listed as a business motion, not a debate on party policy. But as Wilson said to me:

The fact that our amendment was refused makes it clear that the people making these decisions are not actually interested in supporting trans people, but rather imposing absolute ideological compliance throughout the party. This is in total opposition to our constitution, which says ‘no-one shall be enslaved by conformity’.
- Stephanie Wilson, Liberal Democrats

The motion is scheduled to be called at 7.40 pm this evening. It remains to be seen whether the party will allow an open debate or use the new definition of transphobia to silence any concerns.

Debbie Hayton is a teacher and a transgender campaigner.