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Don’t let the right hijack gay liberation

The slurs against left activist Ann Henderson are an abuse of identity politics discourse, writes ADAM LEWINSKI

LGBT Labour has attacked the election of respected left activist Ann Henderson to chair Labour’s Equalities NEC subcommittee.

In a public statement published on January 22, the group claimed Henderson has a “history of sharing material that has been described as transphobic,” stating that the election was a “kick in the teeth to the trans community” and “every single Labour activist who is dedicated to our values of equality, justice and liberation.” The statement was tweeted by the group, published as an article on their website and pushed via social media.

Her crime? Retweeting the details of a debate on the impact of the Gender Recognition Act last year.

Henderson is a lifelong campaigner for women’s rights and former assistant secretary to the Scottish Trades Union Congress. She gained her position on the NEC last year, backed by both Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.

By contrast, a cursory glance at the makeup of the national committee for LGBT Labour is a clear indication of the political domination of that organisation by supporters of Progress, the right’s main organisational platform in Labour.

Both national co-chairs Robbie Young and Melantha Chittenden are authors for Progress, the treasurer Stephanie Lloyd is the current deputy director of Progress and many other names on the committee are recognised right wing and progress activists.

The political weaponisation of transphobia by organisations such as LGBT Labour should be seen as a warning of the manner in which right-wing groups are able to co-opt the language of liberation for their own ends.

As Morning Star readers will know, trans and LGBT communities are amongst the hardest hit by the impact of right-wing policies – cuts to mental health services, homeless shelters and other public services. If the Labour Party were governed by the leadership of LGBT Labour, it would still be wedded to austerity and the destruction of these services.

Right-wing policies are not good for the LGBT community, they are not progressive and they certainly do not reflect the democratic ambitions of the majority of Labour’s members.

LGBT Labour’s actions show the risk that the discourse around modern identity politics can be abused, creating a cuckoo in the nest for truly progressive activists in the labour movement.

The Labour left must get wise to this act before it is too late.

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