Twitter spat as Green Party Candidate accused of transphobia

Jenny Steinitz and Anna Carruthers 21 January 2015

Rupert Read, the Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Cambridge, has come under fire tonight for questioning the use of the word ‘cis’ in an inflammatory tweet.

The term ‘cis’ is generally defined as the opposite of transgender, someone who is cisgender has a gender identity that agrees with their societally recognized sex. Many transgender people prefer "cisgender" to "biological", "genetic", or "real" male or female because of the implications of those words.

Dr Read, however, queried the use of this term.

The controversial tweet has set Twitter alight, with numerous angry responses from Cambridge students.

Former President of the Cambridge Union Society Tim Squirrell (@timsquirrell) replied:

And the debate turned ever uglier later in the evening as one Twitter user told Dr Read to “go fuck [him]self”.

CUSU Women’s Officer Amelia Horgan commented to The Cambridge Student: "'Cis’ is a really neutral term simply meaning ‘not trans’. People were similarly ‘offended’ when queer activists started using heterosexual or straight to mean ‘not gay’. To see a local MP candidate refusing to use the term, and claiming that rejecting it is somehow a valid feminist position, is deeply worrying.

“Nearly half of trans people under 26 have attempted suicide, and trans people face huge amount of discrimination, violence and hate crime. In this context, Rupert Read’s refusal to use the word ‘cis’ is more than just a linguistic quibble.”

CUSU LGBT+ President, Brendan Mahon, commented to TCS: "CUSU LGBT+ deplores transphobia wherever it occurs. We are disappointed that this candidate should see fit to hold and air such views. That he hopes to run for election as this city's representitave in parliament is even more alarming.

"We hope that he reconsiders them and emerges as a strong ally for the trans community."

Dr Read later defended his position on Twitter:

The comments come after James Mackenzie (@mrjamesmack) called on Dr Read to clarify an earlier tweet, in which Mr Read used the word 'moron'.

Later, Em Travis (@emt_rex) Comment Editor for Get Real – the termly LGBT+ Cambridge publication – tweeted: "I was voting Green. I'm not anymore. I'm not voting for an ableist transphobe."

In response to the backlash on Twitter, Dr Read commented exclusively to The Cambridge Student:

“For clarification, do read my entire article on the Burchill affair at 'talking philosophy', and the entire comments thread. Then, unlike the people utterly distorting my politics and repeatedly telling me to 'go fuck' myself on twitter tonight, you will hopefully understand my stance on this complex matter. The feminists I am referring to include Bea Campbell, Julie Bindel, Suzanne Moore, and many lesser-known feminists who are in some cases frightened to speak out because of the abuse they experience when they do.”

UPDATE:  On 22 January Dr. Rupert Read issued a public apology, again on Twitter.

In a following tweet he stated that he would stay off Twitter for a while in order to avoid causing further offence through such a limited medium. There was also a promise that a full statement of clarification and apology would be released in due course.