Women have the right to be heard!

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The Labour Lewisham Mayor, Damien Egan, has refused to allow a discussion about legal protections for race and sex to take place on Lewisham Council premises. 

The proposed event, We Need To Talk About Race and Gender, is a panel discussion with Linda Bellos OBE, Danielle McDonald from The Deptford People Project and anti-racism campaigner, Sara Myers, who will all discuss how the concepts of race and gender impact BAME women. 

Linda Bellos is particularly well known for her prominent work on equalities in local government, her campaigning for black representation and lesbian and gay rights and, perhaps most notably, establishing Black History Month in the UK.

The organisers have been in discussion with Lewisham Council since November 2018 and this week Egan finally stated in an email that he would not allow the debate to take place on Council premises, citing concerns for the safety of the attendees:  "the likelihood of harm to people attending your proposed event seems to be very real from my reading of your email. I have noted you have included details of an earlier violent incident during a previous event. Because of this, I am sorry but the Council cannot support your request to hire any Council premises for your proposed event.”

The violent incident that he refers to was the assault on a 60 year old female attendee by a 23 year old male trans activist protesting against a meeting to discuss the Government consultation on changes to the Gender Recognition Act in September 2017. 

No attendees of these meetings have ever committed violence or posed any threat towards the transgender community. Instead, it is events like We Need To Talk and other meetings where women discuss the GRA consultation and other aspects of gender ideology that have been targeted by trans activists. 

The Mayor appears to be adopting a position whereby women who wish to discuss this issue are at such a threat of violence by transgender activists that it is not safe to hold a meeting in council premises. At the same time, the Council's own meetings have been heavily guarded after some disruptions from Tidemill Wildlife Garden campaigners and supporters of the recently departed CEO of Lewisham council, Ian Thomas, late last year.

It appears that, to the Mayor of Lewisham, women's voices do not rank high as priority. Last week, during Women’s History Month, Egan tweeted: 

“Lewisham Labour proudly supports trans people in our party & in our community. We oppose transphobia & are proud to be building an open Lewisham for all LGBTQ residents. We will be bringing a motion to @LewishamCouncil supporting trans rights for our next council meeting!” 

The wording of the Labour Party motion was later published on twitter by the Labour Group @Lewishamlabour, and twice women’s ‘legitimate concerns’ are put in quotation marks. 

The motion includes reference to ‘horrendous targeting of a young trans woman activist in Lewisham’, presumably referring to high profile trans campaigner, Lily Madigan, who moved to the area last September and while failing to become elected as the Women’s Officer for Lewisham Deptford CLP, has since been elected as Labour Students National Women's Officer. Madigan has faced criticism for relentlessly targeting women in the Labour Party and a number of complaints about this behaviour have been sent to the Labour Party Complaints department. They remain under investigation with no response from the Party.

Such diverging positions on what constitutes violence and harassment reveals that both Damien Egan and the Labour Group have failed to consider the facts and concerns related to the issue of transgender rights. Instead they have simply dismissed their constitutents' concerns about the conflict between trans rights and women’s rights as undefined transphobia.

Accusations of transphobia are currently being used to smear people, especially women, who do not completely accept gender identity ideology. Several campaigners have been interviewed under caution by the police at the behest of trans campaign groups. Panellist Linda Bellos and We Need To Talk organiser, Venice Allan, were both privately taken to court by a trans activist last year and it was thrown out by the CPS with no case to answer. 

Refusing to allow a panel of black women to discuss racism and sexism due to safety concerns is utter hypocrisy and a dereliction of duty towards the female and BAME residents of Lewisham. 

We urge Mayor Egan to reconsider and allow this event to take place on Lewisham council premises. 


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