DIVA publisher Linda Riley interviews Dawn Butler


Dawn Butler is the first elected black woman in Britain to ever become a minister, the only BAME leadership candidate and has made history by being the first person ever Afro-Caribbean person to make the leadership battle without any Union backing. 

She has also served as Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities since 2017, and has served as MP for Brent Central since 2015. 

During the hustings event, Dawn Butler accused Boris Johnson of deliberately fuelling a “toxic debate” around trans rights and the reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), pointing to the fact that consultations on GRA reform began two years ago. We spoke with Dawn backstage to find out more about where she stands on the LGBTQI issues we currently face. 

The hustings event was hosted by LGBT+ Labour, presented by PinkNews and supported by DIVA. 

LINDA RILEY: What would you say are the biggest concerns for LGBTQI voters and what would you do to address them?

DAWN BUTLER: At the moment LGBTQI voters are probably feeling a little bit under attack because they’ve got a Prime Minister, who describes gay men as “tank top wearing bum boys.” I think that one of the biggest concerns is how do we get a government that cares about the community and how do we get society to just let people live? Let people be who they want to be. The more that the current government pursues this transphobic agenda, the more trans people are under attack, the more trans people feel isolated and feel vulnerable. That’s one of the biggest things that we have to tackle in society.

How will you reassure the LGBTQI community in a post-Brexit UK that their hard fought-freedoms are safe?

It’s gonna be tough. It isn’t easy. This post-Brexit has meant that we have seen over a 400% spike in hate crime. It is something that we have to be concerned about. We will have to redouble our efforts, we will have to ensure that if we are not a part of the LGBTQI community, that we are strong allies. An attack on one is an attack on all. We can’t afford for our country to go down that spiral, we are not that country.

How will you make sure all identities and voices under the LGBTQI umbrella are listened to? 

People say, “I’m going to be your voice”, but actually the community doesn’t need us to be their voice. We can be strong allies. That’s cool, but actually the voices of the community need to be heard. Whenever there is a platform, we need to ensure that we amplify the voices of the community, and we do that by being good allies. We do that by saying we don’t share a platform with anybody that doesn’t believe in progress. Let’s not take the light of the community away. Let’s make sure we shine the light of the community as brightly as we possibly can.

Do you think Labour is doing enough to challenge transphobia in its ranks? 

I don’t think we are doing enough because we don’t have a good enough complaints system yet. It’s better than it was, but actually it’s not good enough for all forms of discrimination or racism or prejudice. That’s one of my core strategies. Campaign organise, recruit and educate. We need to include education around the LGTBQI community. Training needs to be delivered by people with lived experience, not somebody who wants to be the voice, because that’s just not going to cut it in my books. I think we need to have somebody with experience at the top of the party. I am the only candidate who has had government experience. That’s why I really want to be deputy leader of the Labour Party, so that we can pursue this in a progressive manner.

Do you plan to expel trans exclusionary radical feminists from the party and do you consider their theories hate speech?

There’s no room for anyone that’s perpetuating hate in any form, if it’s hate towards trans people there’s not a space for you in our party. If it’s hate towards black people, there’s not a space for you in our party. If it’s hate towards Jewish people, there’s not a space for you in our party. We need to hold ourselves so high that people don’t even consider being hateful towards a group of people in Labour.

What do you think of the sex and education protests in Birmingham and how would you plan to prevent that from happening again?

It should never have happened. You know who suffered the most from those protests? The children going to school. When children go to school, they’re not hateful, they’re happy to play with whoever. When you instil hate in a child, they’re taught to hate. They’re not born with hate. Children are just born to love and play and be free. Children shouldn’t have to walk through picket lines to get into school unless the picket lines are campaigning for something good – for better services or better funding for schools. 

How would you plan to protect the children from LGBTQI families? 

The effect that you have on children is fundamental. Why would you want to do that to a child? Why would you want to make a child feel that they’re not accepted? Why would you want to make a child feel that they are an outsider? We have to wrap our arms around those children, we have to ensure they have extra care and extra support, because all of a sudden, they might be questioning their home life rather than questioning people that are trying to instil hate. The people that don’t understand that need to listen to the damage that they’re doing to others, because no child should feel like an outsider or no child to feel like they don’t belong. There are enough problems in the world that we have to tackle.

Why should LGBTQI women back Labour? 

If I am the deputy leader of the Labour Party, you can be assured that I won’t back down. That I won’t give into a narrative just because some might say it’s popular. Your rights are my rights. Whenever I’ve got a platform, I will promote those rights and I will ensure that the Labour Party progresses. We don’t always get it right. But that’s okay, as long as we can admit that we’ve made a mistake or ensure that we will do better next time. Vote for me as the deputy of the party and let’s just be progressive and let people be their authentic selves.

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