The comedian says it isn't transphobic to oppose it
I don’t know if the candidates to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the SNP have had time to consult Eddie Izzard. But the comedian has entered one of the great debates in Scotland at the moment, advising that it is not transphobic to oppose the Gender Recognition Reform Bill. Phew! It will come as a great relief to all of us who opposed the proposed law to discover that we’re not bigots after all.
Izzard’s foray into Scottish politics is instructive. He wants to be a Labour MP, confirming this week that he’s still looking for a seat after his recent setback in Sheffield Central. It must be hard for Izzard and anyone else with political ambitions to keep up: the Labour leadership at Westminster is desperate not to be accused of ‘transphobia’ but the Scottish legislation was a step too far even for them. Most Labour MPs abstained in a vote at Westminster on the UK Government’s veto of the legislation, with only a handful voting against.
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Straws in the wind? I’m not sure that many women who criticised the bill will feel like taking lessons from Izzard on what is or isn’t ‘transphobic’, but it seems as though something is changing. Labour’s line on the (apparently) vexed question of how to define a woman is evolving, with the party’s chair, Anneliese Dodds, acknowledging the difference between sex and gender in an interview at the weekend. This time last year, Dodds attracted disbelief with a woeful performance on Woman’s Hour on International Women’s Day, when she couldn’t give a straight answer to the question “what is a woman?”
On Matt Forde’s Political Party podcast, Izzard accused some people of being ‘transphobic’ when he was trying to get selected as a candidate in Sheffield. (Of course he did. Why else would anyone object to a man who insists on using women’s toilets and telling us he is in ‘girl mode’?) But his take on the GRR bill was unexpected, consisting of an admission that the length of time people should wait before changing their legal gender was a “tricky question”.
It’s odd that he couldn’t be more specific, given that the Scottish legislation requires adults to live in their acquired gender (whatever that means) for only three months before getting a gender recognition certificate. But then Izzard is hardly a deep thinker on the subject, telling Forde he doesn’t know how many genders there are: “We’re all somewhere on the spectrum, we have just got to chill out about it,” he announced airily.
That’s easy to say as a famous actor who is fawned on by most of the media, referred to as ‘she’ when he is obviously a man. Izzard can’t get through an interview without revealing his extraordinary self-regard, challenging Forde’s assumption that even if he were to be elected to Parliament, he would find himself on the backbenches. “Do I have to be backbench?” he demurred.
What he might have to be, if he really wants to be an MP, is a great deal clearer about the importance of sex. Women’s experience, from being paid less to experiencing high levels of male violence, is founded in biology. Izzard’s belief that human beings can identify in and out of sex at will is hugely damaging to women — and it isn’t ‘transphobic’ to say so.