The Sheffield Green Party has defended “open debate” after a candidate in next month’s local elections described trans rights activism as “aggressive” and “offering difficulties”.
Peter Garbutt, standing in the Nether Edge and Sharrow ward, posted several tweets in recent months focusing on various aspects of the trans community.
A sitting Green councillor has now said there must be “respect” in the conversation around such issues, and there is a “bubble” in the debate.
Speaking on behalf of the Sheffield Greens, Councillor Douglas Johnson said: “The first thing is the importance of avoiding labels. There’s a need for people to be objective about evidence to support opinions they hold.
“To be frank, there is a bubble of people who get all into the transphobia debate. There’s an awful lot of jargon so it’s quite hard to follow what’s going on if you’re new to this.
“What characterises the Green Party is respect for a variety of views and we want open debate. We try not to get too drawn into one ideology, there is a problem with dogmatic thinking.
“If you deal with anyone who’s trans, you realise that it’s very much down to the individual. And labels can have the effect of taking away respect from the individual.”
Mr Garbutt came under fire after some of his tweets from January resurfaced.
In one of them he wrote: “…I came across the TRA [trans rights activism] campaign, which is aggressive and challenges women’s rights. For me, the debate isn’t trans people, it’s abt (sic) the TRA ideology.”
In another tweet, he said while he supports trans people, he does not support what he calls “a radical trans ideology” he sees as “offering difficulties to them.”
Further tweets referred to Mr Garbutt’s interest in the “recognition of a problem” as regards trans women in sport, and an implied claim trans women have an advantage in sport.
He also said there are “areas of friction” between trans rights and women’s rights.
Garbutt has come under criticism online over his views. One user wrote: “I’m a cis woman, and the rights of trans women do not have to be “married” to my rights in any way. They’re all women’s rights.”
Another accused him of “demonising” trans rights activists.
Last year, a local Green candidate in Esher and Walton was suspended after shouting ‘transphobic abuse’.
Former leadership hopeful Aimee Challenor accused the party of transphobia when she quit in September. Peter Garbutt has been contacted for comment.