Alison Teal: Sheffield Central candidate 'poised' to take legal action against Green Party over suspension for transgender views

An award-winning Yorkshire Green Party Parliamentary candidate is “poised” to take legal action against her own party after being suspended for more than a year in regard to her views on transgender issues.

Alison Teal, who was given a national award by the Greens in 2017 in recognition of her campaigning against the Sheffield tree-felling scandal, was selected in September 2022 by local members as the party’s candidate for the Sheffield Central seat. Ms Teal had previously stood in the same seat in the 2019 election, finishing third.

But she has been suspended since October 2022 after a formal complaint was made about her by a Sheffield councillor Ms Teal did not wish to name. She said she believes the party is deliberately dragging out the disciplinary process so they can replace her with an “emergency selection” when the next election is called.

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She said: “I’m still the candidate because I’m on a no-fault suspension. I was told a decision would be made by the end of November 2023 but they keep stringing it along. The strategy seems to be to wait until a General Election is called and then under those circumstances you would have to have an emergency selection so they would get to replace them.”

Alison Teal has been suspended by the Green Party since October 2022 but remains the party's parliamentary candidate for the Sheffield Central constituency.Alison Teal has been suspended by the Green Party since October 2022 but remains the party's parliamentary candidate for the Sheffield Central constituency.
Alison Teal has been suspended by the Green Party since October 2022 but remains the party's parliamentary candidate for the Sheffield Central constituency.

The Green Party refused to comment on the allegation.

Douglas Johnson, leader of the Green Party group on Sheffield City Council, told The Yorkshire Post: "I obviously want there to be a resolution of the issue but it's not something the local party plays any part in; it's all being dealt with a national level."

The potential legal action follows a similar case already being pursued by former Green Party deputy leader Dr Shahrar Ali who claims he faced discrimination over his “gender-critical” beliefs.

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Ms Teal said a private donor is supporting her planned legal challenge to the situation on discrimination and breach of contract grounds.

“We are poised to submit papers to the High Court. I’m trying to give the party a chance to do the right thing. I take no pleasure in going to court and costing the party a fortune. I believe the party is a real force for good but we are currently caught up in this faction fight."

She said the donor wishes to remain anonymous but added: “I can assure you it isn’t JK Rowling.”

The complaint against Ms Teal highlights a series of tweets she has made about transgender issues in recent years connected to her position that sex is an immutable biological characteristic. It alleges she misled the party by stating on her nomination form that she had no significant areas of disagreement with party policy as set out in its 2019 manifesto.

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The 92-page manifesto included a commitment to update the Gender Recognition Act to allow trans youth and non-binary people to get legal recognition through self-declaration as well as increasing funding for trans healthcare issues.

It also stated a more general commitment to equality and recognised that “rights for one group should not take away rights from others – that none of us are equal until we all are”.

The Green Party’s official position, as set out in its separate Rights and Responsibilities document, is that transgender and non-binary identities are real and the party will “push for further acceptance of transgender and non-binary people within all areas of society".

Ms Teal accepted her position differs from the party’s official stance but said she does not believe it should disqualify her as a candidate.

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“It is such a small issue that is relevant to a tiny proportion of the population. I do support trans people, I do think they need to have better healthcare and faster access to healthcare. I agree on more of the party’s policies than I disagree and was willing to stand as a candidate. Yes I disagree on this issue but I don’t believe it is going to be the highlight of our manifesto. In 2019, it was maybe eight lines of text in an 90-page document.”

Ms Teal said that prior to being selected as a candidate in September 2022, she had been asked about her views on sex and gender at a party hustings and gave a clear answer.

“My answer was sex is an immutable characteristic, biological and determined by our genetic make-up and that gender is a social construct. Given gender is a social construct I don’t think you should be in the business of confusing the two.

“No one was perturbed when I said it.”

She said she was selected ahead of three other candidates by local members a few weeks later but was then told there was “disquiet” about her selection at a national level.

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No press launch was organised for her candidacy and on October 10, 2022, five local Sheffield Green councillors each posted a graphic which did not name Ms Teal but said they would not campaign for any candidate “who discriminates against trans people”.

She said: “I read it and thought, ‘No neither would I’. I was tempted to tweet I wouldn’t support a transphobic candidate either. I almost regret that I didn’t.

“I’ve had great relationships with these people so it was really shocking and pretty upsetting.”

After a formal complaint was made about her by a Sheffield councillor Ms Teal did not wish to name, she was placed on a no-fault suspension on October 25, 2022.

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One of the contentious tweets related to her posting a link to an article about comedian and then-prospective Labour candidate Eddie Izzard using a female toilet at a hustings event.

In a tweet sent on October 1, 2022, shortly after her selection and before she was suspended, Ms Teal quoted a line from the article which read “The loss of women’s rights starts with looking the other way for an Eddie Izzard and ends with a society that doesn’t flinch at placing a male sex offender in jail with women”. Her tweet described the article as a “powerful piece” and said the matters raised were “serious issues we must discuss”.

Following the tweet, an unnamed Green Party member told the Bright Green website: “People are entitled to their personal beliefs, but they are not entitled to use the Sheffield Green Party as a springboard to launch a gender critical campaign against a trans public figure.”

Another tweet that is the subject of complaint was her response in 2020 to a fellow London-based Green Party councillor who had criticised JK Rowling. Ms Teal described him as “spreading misinformation and bile”.

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Also highlighted was a 2021 message in which she wrote: “I hope it's a minority of @TheGreenParty members who seriously believe the claims being made that people can change sex.” She tagged in three senior Green Party members including then co-leader Sian Berry who she said “ought to revisit basic biology info” and added “The arguments are facile and cannot bear scrutiny”.

A further highlighted tweet from 2020 said: “I care about trans people, and all people. Do you understand my distress? Do you care? Trans women themselves are not all in agreement that trans women are women. I'll respect your choice, your pronouns, but colonisation inevitably causes distress. Sex & gender aren't the same.”

A further 2021 tweet read: “I don't think a child can be born in the wrong body or have the wrong puberty and I find it shocking that any child is lead to believe this is true. This is child abuse.”

Ms Teal said she did not consider any of her tweets to be transphobic and in regard to the nomination form issue, said she has always been clear about her views.

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Ms Teal said two previous complaints against her made in March 2021 which previously had not been acted upon have also now been included in the ongoing disciplinary matter.

She said: “The complaint consisted mostly of tweets over the last few years which were supposed to be evidence of my so-called transphobia, which I didn’t agree with. They are not transphobic at all.

“They’ve let go of the accusations of transphobia now. What they are more focusing on now was that I was dishonest on my nomination form because it says do you have any significant disagreements with the 2019 General Election manifesto?

“We get down to quibbling about what ‘significant’ means. My argument is that this gender identity stuff isn’t significant to me and I don’t think it is significant to the population at a general election. I’m accused of trying to hoodwink them. It is a contradiction because the implication is I was being deceitful but the complaint also included a slew of Twitter posts about my views. You can’t have it both ways and say I’m hiding my views but I’m also trying to publicise them.”

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Ms Teal said she hopes that legal action can be avoided through a decision being made on her case but is preparing to take the party to court on the grounds that it is discriminating against members who believe sex and gender are not the same thing.

She said: “Women’s rights and children’s rights are very important and one oppressed group can’t be in the business of oppressing another.

“My tweets are about expressing concern about the impact that changing the rules around single sex spaces has on women. It is more obvious in sport where if we say gender matters more than sex a lot of women will miss opportunities. It is not a matter of saying trans people can’t compete or do this or that, it is a matter of let’s weigh up the issue and take a nuanced, careful and thoughtful approach. Right now it is very heavy-handed and not working and that is why there is so much kickback. A lot of people say ‘there is no debate’ - well that’s not true. There is, because it is not a straightforward thing to say a person born male and has gone through male puberty just needs to lower their hormone levels and are good to go to compete with women. Bodies are different.”

She said the situation has been challenging to deal with.

“It is really distressing because I met a lot of people in Sheffield through the Green Party. This suspension prevents me from participating in meetings and it is sad I don’t see a lot of people anymore. They say it isn’t a punishment, but it is. But I’ve had so much support from around the country and people writing to me with some really kind, lovely things saying ‘hang on in there’. It has been awful but also really lovely. You have to take the rough with the smooth.”

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She said she is not willing to stand down as a candidate over the issue.

“Me stepping down would be a subversion of the democratic vote - I’ve got an obligation to see it through. People have resigned over this and left the party - not just in Sheffield but around the country.”

A Green Party spokesperson said: "We don't comment on individual disciplinary cases.”

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