An Isle of Wight councillor has lodged a complaint with the IW Association of Local Councils (IWALC) following what he describes as “discriminatory” comments made by the MP about the trans community.
Members of the Island’s parish and town councils were taking part in a Zoom call last week with Bob Seely MP. He was asked by Chair of Chillerton and Gatcombe Parish Council, Cllr Nigel Phillips, how he would vote on the Government’s plans to introduce a law that will restrict the rights of trans women in using women’s facilities, such as public toilets and changing rooms (as part of the reform of the Gender Recognition Act).
Seely: “Depending on what colour of dress they wear on that day”
The MP told those on the Zoom call that he had to represent the majority of the Island and only 1-2 per cent of the Island population identified as trans.
He allegedly used the phrase “it depended on what colour of dress they wear on that day” when discussing the use of female toilets by trans women. See Bob Seely’s response below.
Councillor for East Cowes, Cllr Karl Love, challenged the comments and says he was immediately accused by Mr Seely as ‘grandstanding’ – the MP then asked the Chair to move the meeting on.
Love: “A clear act and breach of the equality law”
In his complaint (which News OnTheWight has seen a copy of) Cllr Love says the “discriminatory comments which were made by our MP Bob Seely” were “without question an expression of discrimination and prejudice”.
“It is one thing to have a view, but something quite different to flippantly poke fun in a formal meeting and describe parts of our Island population – trans people – as ‘depending on what colour of dress they wear on that day’.
“That is a clear act and breach of the equality law and is discrimination.”
He went on to say it demonstrated a “total lack of understanding about what it is to be trans” and was an example of the discrimination which many trans people face today.
Comments written off as “lighthearted”
Following the meeting, Cllr Love said he received a call from Mr Seely who excused what he’d said as “lighthearted comments”. Cllr Love says the MP asked him not to make a complaint against him.
Cllr Love said,
“The comments were humiliating and a stereotypical representation, which reinforces the negative and in my view were used to justify his own personal and political views.
“They were in fact hurtful stereotype representations of the negative and had no place in a IWALC council meeting.”
Cllr Love says the MP should issue a full retraction and public apology for his comments.
Phillips: MP now seems to understand the issues better
News OnTheWight spoke with Cllr Nigel Phillips (who asked the original question) who explained that after the Zoom call, he put Bob Seely in touch with the organisers of the trans event that happened on the Island on Saturday.
Cllr Phillips said the MP met with them before the event and they talked him through the issues trans people face generally and also in connection with the upcoming vote in Parliament.
Cllr Phillips said Bob Seely now seems to understand the issues better.
News OnTheWight understands that Mr Seely attended the peaceful protest on Saturday by those supporting the trans community.
- In answer to a Question (last week during the IWALC zoom call) by Cllr Nigel Phillips, Chair of Chillerton & Gatcombe Parish Council, on the Upcoming Vote on Public toilets by trans people, did you use the phrase, “depending on what colour of dress they wear on that day”?
- If not, what was the phrase you used?
- Is it right that you accused Karl Love of grandstanding when he questioned you on your comments?
- Subsequent to the meeting, did you tell Karl Love that with the above comments, you were trying to be lighthearted?
- What steps have you made prior to this to educate yourself on transgender equality?
We’ve just (7:48pm) received this reply from Mr Seely,
“As I have made clear, both the comment and tone of what Cllr Love has said is inaccurate. He is seeking offence where none was intended or taken by anyone apart from him.
“I am proud of my record when it comes to the LGBT+ agenda. One of the first things I did as MP was to support Isle of Wight Pride.
“I had a good meeting last week with a transgender activist. I also attended the trans demonstrations on Saturday in Ryde and chatted with several trans people there.
“I look forward to continue to engage intelligently, sensibly and sensitively with all communities on the Isle of Wight.”
As he claims the comment was inaccurate, we asked Bob what it was he did say, and for the questions to be answered.
7.58pm 14th July 2020 – Comment from Bob Seely added
Image: © With kind permission of Allan Marsh