The Labour Party conference is next week in Brighton but one Labour MP who will not be attending is Rosie Duffield, the MP for Canterbury, who has been compelled to withdraw because of the level of online abuse she has received from transgender activists.
Duffield stated that she just did not want to face the intimidation – "LGBT+ Labour now seem to hate my guts and I feared they'd have a massive go at me at conference."
Who can blame her? But how have we ended up in a situation where a female MP does not feel safe attending her own party conference?
There are always people on the fringe who threaten violence and seek to intimidate. They only succeed when more mainstream figures defend them – and others keep silent. Ash Sarkar, the media commentator who describes herself as a 'luxury communist' has joined the attack: "Rosie Duffield is perfectly entitled to her view that trans people should have the protections they have had for years, enshrined in the Equality Act, taken from them. But the fact she does so while a member of a supposedly progressive party is an embarrassment to Keir Starmer."
Ms Sarkar not only misrepresents Rosie Duffield who does not want to take away trans protections, but has sadly provided a dog whistle for those Labour activists who want to hound her out of the party. So far, the silence from the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, when one of his MPs is being abused, is the real embarrassment.
Why has Duffield aroused such hostility? She made the statement that "only women have a cervix". This is a simple biological fact. But herein lies the problem. A new ideology, the 'progressive' one cited by Sarkar, has become the prevailing ideology among the political classes and at its core is a denial of science and reason.
In order to accommodate this ideology, it seems as though many political (and media) personnel have lost their collective minds. For example, here in Australia the government health department recently issued a poster asking 'people with a cervix' to come forward for screening. We used to call them women!
We now have emoijs that show pregnant 'men' and health deaprtments that won't use the term 'breastfeeding' or 'mother' in case it offends a trans activist. Recently I wrote an article for the Australian Presbyterian pointing out some of the dangers that women face today. But of all of them I suspect that being redefined out of existence is the preeminent threat at the moment.
As the Duffield case was unfolding Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Lib Dems gave an extraordinary interview on the Andrew Marr show on the BBC, which showed just how far down the rabbit hole some of our leaders have gone. He was asked about a Lib Dem politician, Natalie Bird, who was banned earlier this year from standing as a Lib Dem candidate for the next 10 years. What was her crime? She wore a T-shirt with the slogan 'woman = adult human female'.
When asked what was wrong with the phrase, Mr Davey was unable to answer (when politicians say "let me be clear" you know that that is a sign for the fog to descend!). His argument was that the phrase "does not encapsulate the debate". But that is precisely what the debate is! 'What is a woman?' The fact that a leader of a political party in the UK (and indeed in many other Western countries) cannot answer that question shows just how much trouble we are in. In another example four Green party candidates in Yorkshire were also unable to answer the same question – with one suggesting that "being a woman is an attitude."
I'm sure my mother, wife and daughters will love to hear that!
But Davey went even further. He stated, without a shred of self-awareness or embarrassment: "We absolutely believe in free speech, but we also believe we need to protect human rights and we need to believe in equality." At this point words have ceased to have all meaning – or at least, you need to translate them to see what he is really saying.
Ms Bird is not equal. The feelings of those men who say they are women (despite being biological men) must trump the feelings of any woman who thinks that being a woman does have something to do with biology. Ms Bird escaped an abusive partner and three years ago was attacked when she suggested that women's refuges should be segregated based on biological sex rather than chosen gender.
Most of us can understand why a woman who has been abused by men would not want to share a refuge, a prison cell or other 'women's safe spaces' with a man. But not Mr Davey. He repeated in the House of Commons that the Lib Dem policy was to allow anyone who claimed to be a woman into women's spaces.
His definition of 'free speech' - 'you are free to say what we say you are permitted to say' - is not in any sense 'free speech', any more than the 'diversity' which demands that everyone be the same is diversity. Or that the 'tolerance' which will not tolerate any other point of view is tolerance.
Ed Davey, by his intolerant attitude, is giving sustenance to those who want to abuse women who are standing up for women's rights. The treatment of Rosie Duffield and Natalie Bird is not unique. It happens whenever any woman especially dares to speak up for her sex. And why? Because this new ideology does not permit any deviation. It is intent on domination and the primary target is women and children.
This week it was reported that Scottish primary school children are going to be given the book "What Does LGBT+ Mean?", which will teach nine to 11-year-olds how to use 'they' instead of 'he' and 'she', to avoid stereotyping. The irony is that the Trojan horse being used to smuggle this in is under the guise of 'anti-bullying'. Ironic because this ideology is currently responsible for more bullying of women than any other. Teaching children that biology has nothing to do with sex is both anti-science and anti-woman. It can only lead to more confusion, abuse and bullying.
How should the Church respond? Archbishop Justin Welby did us no favours when he tweeted: "Absolutely everybody has the right to be safe from abuse, threat or harm. That includes @RosieDuffield1 AND the transgender community. It's about time we looked for our shared humanity in our dealings with others, rather than the division."
What's wrong with that tweet? Apart from just being 'sugar and spice and all things nice', it makes an equivalence between those who abuse and threaten, and with those who say that only women can have a cervix. Stating a biological fact is not the same as abusing and threatening. It was a weak and wet response.
Our church leaders seem to find it remarkably easy to pronounce on social and cultural issues which are in fashion, but seem to have a penchant for keeping remarkably evasive on issues where their words could actually mean something. But in a world where a self-professed socialist politician can wear a designer dress to a $35,000 per ticket do for the rich with the words 'tax the rich' on it, I suppose nothing should surprise us, not even pregnant men and liberal politicians who deny liberalism.
When we are so in danger of losing touch with reality, it is surely the duty of the Church to speak up for women and to proclaim the truth. God did not create humanity with 101 genders. Human beings are not 'assigned' a gender at birth. And gender and biology are inextricably linked. We no more get to pick our own sex than we do our own height or parents.
In the beginning God made us male and female. A man is an adult human male; a woman is an adult human female. If our politicians can't say that, can our church leaders? Or maybe GK Chesterton was right – once we lose belief in God, we also lose belief in humanity. We no longer know who God is, and it appears we are losing our understanding of what humanity is.
David Robertson works as an evangelist with churches in Sydney, Australia. He blogs at The Wee Flea.