Published: 14:42, 10 September 2021
| Updated: 00:31, 11 September 2021
An MP has hit back after an openly gay council leader criticised her for liking tweets described as "transphobic".
Canterbury 's Labour MP Rosie Duffield has taken to Twitter to respond to a piece penned by leader of Canterbury City Council Ben Fitter-Harding.
Mr Fitter-Harding wrote about his experiences as the authority's first leader from the LGBTQ+ community, ahead of tomorrow's Canterbury Pride.
He tells in the article of his delight at being embraced by voters as a gay politician, having once feared his sexuality would prevent him from ever entering politics.
However, he adds, "members of [the LGBTQ+] community are still hurting, and they need us now more than ever".
"Recently, for example, Rosie Duffield MP has once again come under fire for liking transphobic tweets," he wrote.
"For all of those grappling with issues of gender the last thing they need is their MP supporting sweeping claims about who can and who cannot be a woman.
"That this woman in particular, who was so celebrated by the LGBTQ+ community when she defeated Julian Brazier in 2017, could now inflict such pain upon it is something many of us find hard to bear.
"Yet progress continues, even as people like Ms Duffield attempt to stand in the way."
Ms Duffield - who has been MP for Canterbury since ousting stalwart Tory Sir Julian - has come under fire for her stance on some trans issues.
Last August, she was branded a "transphobe" on Twitter after liking a controversial tweet by broadcaster Piers Morgan in which he took issue with a CNN post that referred to “individuals with a cervix” in a reminder about the importance of smear testing.
Mr Morgan replied to the tweet, asking: “Do you mean women?”
After endorsing Mr Morgan's view, Ms Duffield was flooded with complaints from social media users arguing that the comment undermined the status of transgender men.
"I do not accept self-ID as a passport for male-bodied biological men to enter protected spaces for biological women..."
Responding to the criticism, the Canterbury MP wrote: “I’m a ‘transphobe’ for knowing that only women have a cervix....?!”
Her comments sparked backlash from many, including bosses at Pride Canterbury, who called for her to apologise. Mrs Duffield declined to comment to KentOnline at the time.
She later faced calls from LGBT+ Labour for her whip to be removed after she liked a tweet by American rapper Kurtis Tripp, which was branded transphobic.
He wrote: "I'm so sick of hearing how "queer" has been reclaimed. I had that word spit in my face as recently as 2018. And look at WHO is reclaiming it?
"Mostly heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as "gay"."
Ms Duffield was contacted by KentOnline to ask her views following this but did not respond.
Today, she has taken to Twitter to hit back at Mr Fitter-Harding's article - writing that she "always fully supported the rights of all trans people to live freely as they choose", but worries about the erasure of women’s safe spaces.
She began by criticising Mr Fitter-Harding for being "happy to support, work with...an MP who actively sought to outlaw equal marriage and was openly against gay rights".
She refers here to former Canterbury MP Sir Julian Brazier, who opposed gay marriage, once branding it "a very radical measure which will undermine a treasured institution and could have unforeseen consequences".
Ms Duffield continued on Twitter today: "I have actively fought for gay rights (and all human rights) all of my life. A fact that is well-known, well-documented and everyone who knows me can testify.
"I chose to make my first MP speech, after less than 2 hours sleep, at Canterbury's first Pride event."
She went on to detail her "feminist and gender critical beliefs", which have previously proven problematic.
Ms Duffield - who has spoken openly about her own experiences as a survivor of domestic abuse - wrote: "Whilst I've always fully supported the rights of all trans people to live freely as they choose, I do not accept self-ID as a passport for male-bodied biological men to enter protected spaces for biological women.
"That includes DV refuges, women's prisons, single-sex wards and school toilets."
Ms Duffield has previously spoken to KentOnline about the abuse she has experienced in the wake of the "transphobia" row, revealing she was left "completely terrified" by threats made against her.
"I will continue to support LGBT rights as I have done all of my life, whether stranger men say so or not..."
On Twitter today, she wrote: "Some angry strangers, none of whom have ever met me, have decided what I believe and that it is 'transphobic', which seems to others piling on to be the worst of all possible crimes.
"My sins? To agree that male-bodied people should not be included in lists of murdered women; to have 'liked' tweets such as Piers Morgan's 'You mean women?' when he read a health advice post about 'people with a cervix'."
She continued: "While there may be a very small number of people who now identify as men and still have female organs, the vast majority of women should not have to rename our bodies or ourselves accordingly.
"We have fought forever for our own names, our own spaces, to own our own bodies, our rights and our votes. As have all gay people too.
"If my views of feminism, women's rights and women's basic physical safety offend some men like [Mr Fitter-Harding] then that reflects pretty badly on him. I did not ask him what his views were on women's rights."
"I will continue to support LGBT rights as I have done all of my life, whether stranger men say so or not.
"Erasure of women's views, voices, and work in the community is why feminism is now more important than ever and misogyny such as this is growing. We must always speak up."
Read Mr Fitter-Harding's full article here.