Canvassing Tips for Trans Issues and Handling Transphobic Language – LGBT+ Liberal Democrats

Below is an article from LGBT+ Liberal Democrats on answering questions that come up about trans issues when out canvassing – and dealing with transphobia if you encounter it. You can download the guidance sheet here.

The Liberal Democrats have a proud record in standing up for LGBT+ people, and leading the way on advancing LGBT+ rights. 

As a party we are committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act, banning conversion therapy for all LGBT+ people, and believe that trans women are women and trans men are men. We do not believe that this in any way runs into conflict with the rights of cisgender women and girls – for whom we also have a series of progressive policy initiatives.

You can read more about Lib Dem Equalities policy at https://www.libdems.org.uk/plan, and about LGBT+ specific policy at https://lgbt.libdems.org.uk/en/page/lgbt-party-policy-overview 

The purpose of this guidance is to give you and your team easy, digestible answers for questions you may face on the doorstep. It also tries to give you some clues as to what conversations are worth having / persuadable, and when to get out of there. 

If you have further questions please write to us at pluslgbtld@gmail.com.

1. Stay Safe

Political extremism is common in the UK, as is anti-trans extremism. If at any time you feel that engaging in a debate will be unsafe for you or others around you, please withdraw and ensure that you are not in a position where you/they are likely to be harmed.

2. Know Your Area

Whatever you say will be much more well-received if you can speak with some expertise about the issues in your ward / local authority. For example, if someone is raising concerns about a swimming pool, be armed with knowledge about what the situation is at that swimming pool.

As a rule of thumb, you can reasonably expect about 3/5 to 2/3 of your electorate to support trans-inclusive policies in a metropolitan area or in Scotland (i.e., most of the councils electing in 2022). However, being aware of the above factors will help considerably.

3. Know Lib Dem Policy

Liberal Democrat policy has been broadly unchanged on trans rights since 2014. Our key points relevant to local councils include:

Gender-neutral school uniforms (already government guidance in Scotland)

Equal access to public services

Identifying and prosecuting hate crime

4. Sample Questions and Answers

In a fast-paced environment (such as a hustings, or on the doorstep) it is difficult to understand the motives behind a question which seems “difficult” or “challenging”. It’s important to quickly analyse whether the question may be positive, neutral, or hostile before engaging.

If you reasonably suspect the question to be hostile and transphobic, there is little to be gained in answering it in detail. There is no inherent connection between transphobia and trans rights, and moving from the former to the latter can confuse the issue.

Hostile questions

Example: “Do you think trans-identifying men should be in women’s spaces?”

Why it’s hostile: This question presumes an identification of transgender women which is neither legal nor moral. Engaging with the question may imply that you agree with this premise. 

Sample responses:

  • “No, I think trans men should be in men’s spaces, and that’s our policy.”
  • “I don’t think that’s a fair question.”
  • “We are following / will follow all the relevant guidance on women’s spaces from women’s charities and experts. We take women’s safety very seriously and we’re taking / have taken steps to reduce violence against women [list steps].”

Neutral questions

Example: “Do you agree children shouldn’t have access to puberty blockers? I think it’s dangerous for children to be medicalized without their parents’ consent.”

Why it’s neutral: This question may be an honest question from a point of ignorance about trans children. Or, it may be a way of trapping you into a statement you’d rather not make. It would be wise to sound out the motives behind this question before continuing.

Sample responses:

  • “This isn’t an issue for local government.”
  • “Are you talking about a personal experience? Medical decisions are very personal ones, and as a Liberal, I think we need to take these case-by-case.”
  • “It can be dangerous for children to not have medication, too. Could you clarify what you’re asking about?”

Positive questions

Example: “One of my children’s classmates came out as transgender at school. I’m not really sure what this means. Can you tell me what you think councils should do to help schools and parents with this issue?”

Why it’s positive: This question is simply about processes every council should have to support local schools with diversity issues. It’s almost certainly not transphobic, even if the person admits (or affects) some ignorance about what “transgender” means.

Sample responses:

  • “I think it’s really important that councils offer schools all the help they need on diversity issues, without imposing an agenda. Schools in [nearby Lib Dem councils] have done lots of great work in making everyone comfortable with gender and sexuality issues, and I’m very proud of that.”
  • “I know [child/parent] at [local school] and I know they’re doing their best to support children there. I hope they know that they have the council’s full support, and as a councillor I’ll make sure we’ll be there for them.”
  • “In 2016 we brought in a policy for gender-neutral school uniforms, and the SNP stole this from us – we’re very glad they did – so it’s now official guidance in Scotland. Policies like that aren’t just great for transgender children, but all children, especially girls, really like them – it means fewer changes of clothing, lower uniform costs, and a better experience for everyone.”

(You may wish to mention if you’ve engaged in any school diversity campaigns, such as No Outsiders. This allows the questioner to find more information later, should they wish.)

5. Follow-up

You may be prompted to follow-up with a constituent, especially in writing. Only do so if it’s in response to a “positive” or “neutral” question and you feel safe. There is nothing to be gained by having protracted conversations with transphobic extremists.

If you need any help, feel free to reach out to LGBT+ Lib Dems at pluslgbtld@gmail.com, who are very happy to help you draft your written responses. 


Comments
Roz says

Thank you, really helpful

Sarah says

Well thought through and a very positive article to read through.

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