For almost a year, my twitter feed has been devoted to highlighting the painful tensions that exist between women’s rights and currently fashionable gender ideology. I’m writing this because I’m going to back off from it for a while. Being smeared as a bigot takes a toll and responding to every attack exhausts reserves of energy I have to start putting back into my work.
Before I go, here is my no-doubt ham-fisted attempt to explain what I’ve been doing this past year and why I believe you should be doing it too.
To those of us steeped in this debate, the ‘painful tensions’ I mention are obvious, but there are many who don’t see them at all. Kristina Harrison, who is herself trans, was asked which rights did women have that were in danger from the current incarnation of ‘trans rights’. She gave the following answer.
“The right of the oppressed to organise their own self-defence against sexism. The right to define themselves & uphold the legitimacy of their shared experience of socialisation & biological struggles. The right to be represented equally and by women. The right to male-free spaces such as rape crisis centres, domestic violence shelters, feminist meetings. The right to scholarships addressing female disadvantage. The right to strive for a more level playing field in sport, not have a more unequal one imposed. The right to exclusive same-sex love without being shamed or undermined as genital fetishists or slurred as bigots by homophobic gender ideologues. The right to accurate statistics so that we can best understand & challenge sex-based disadvantage & respond to service needs. The right to basic democratic rights, to assemble, debate, meet with political representatives, to play a full role in political life advancing feminist politics without intimidation, demonisation, no-platforming, banning, losing livelihood, police intimidation, and vexatious lawsuits, threats or even violence. To protect children from the weakening of safeguarding best-practice and from having fixed and potentially damaging labels attached to them which may prevent them from getting the support they really need and railroad them toward being permanently medicalised with irreversible treatments which may not be appropriate for them.
“ Now here’s my question,” she concluded. “How can you support these injustices?”
I noticed several years ago that women who were trying to talk about the subject were being harassed and threatened, their meetings disrupted with protests and even bomb threats . They were being dehumanised , smeared as bigots and assaulted . All for defending their rights and their boundaries.
I could not support these injustices, and I felt silence was complicity, so I decided to use my Twitter account to support these women.
I knew that the moment I started talking about gender, everything I said would be framed as coming from a place of bigotry and hatred. I absolutely expected that as I had seen it play out countless times before. However, I thought that by being consistent in my message and explaining it repeatedly, people would eventually see the nuances of the debate, and furthermore, the need for debate.
(Side note: pay attention to how this subject is always characterised by trans rights activists as “debating trans peoples’ right to exist” . This is a lie designed to shame you into silence. Don’t fall for it)
I must admit I also rather naively hoped a few more high profile people might join in and help make those like myself and the ‘gender critical’ women and trans people I support feel less isolated. That never happened.
It was more like this.
In fact, some people who I considered friends wrote weepy open letters begging me to ‘reconsider’ (as if standing up for women was a position I would ever revise).The cartoonist who drew my Twitter avatar called me a transphobe; Jared Holt, a commentator who covers the Far Right, whose Twitter feed I’d long admired, compared me to Carl Benjamin. All this despite the fact that I often amplified the voices of gender critical transwomen. It seems that they are the “wrong kind of trans” to some.
No wonder so many women who talk about this stuff have had to keep their identities secret on Twitter. They know what happens to those that step out of line by saying the wrong thing, faving the wrong tweet, or following the wrong person; immediate social ostracisation, at the very least.I know two men who lost their closest friendships because of this debate. The entry-level temperature around the discussion is kept as high as the belly of an industrial furnace, and that is deliberate.
But why? Why is it such a dangerous topic? Why is it policed with such venom? I’ll move on to that in a moment, but it might help to first outline the gender critical position. There are thousands of women who could describe it better than I, and I’ll provide some links to their work at the end of this post, but as this is a personal statement, here’s my crack at it.
The gender critical position is that there is no magical essence called ‘gender’ that can be born into the ‘wrong’ body. ‘Gender’ is merely a set of sex stereotypes that imprison us all, but are especially detrimental to women. Our sex is important and immutable, our gender is…well, gender-critical people don’t really care about gender. Dress how you like, wear make-up, don’t… none of that matters to us. But it does not change your sex any more than Rachel Dolezal changed her race. Of course, you try not to ‘misgender’ people, but that is a courtesy, andtreating the phrase “trans women are women” as literal truth is harmful to women who need to be able to talk about their sex in order to fight a sexist society.
Side note: As an example of what women are facing, just look at the twisted and insulting terms that now exist to describe them: Bleeders. Menstruators. Non-men ( thanks, Green Party ), uterus-havers, chest-feeders… The recent abortion referendum was a historic victory for Irish women and one in which my wife and I were proud to have played a part . But Amnesty Ireland betrayed those women and stole their achievement by immediately erasing them from the record with the phrase ‘pregnant people’.
How on earth can Amnesty defend women around the world if they can’t even say they exist?
Furthermore, gender-critical people like myself believe that telling children, some of whom are young enough to still believe in the tooth fairy, that there could be something ‘wrong’ with their body that may be ‘fixed’ with surgery and untested drugs is a form of child abuse.As I’ve said before, we do not tell anorexics that they are fat. Why then, are we telling children (children!) a similar, harmful lie? And when current ideology dictates that you don’t need surgery or hormone treatments to be trans, then why are these children being sent down a medical pathway AT ALL? It is contradictory nonsense enacted every day in gender clinics all over the world.
And that’s not all. Whistleblowers at the Tavistock centre have spoken of homophobic parents transitioning their children because of their discomfort at their child’s gender non-conformity. Shamefully, these reports have been ignored by progressive publications like the Guardian, terrified of losing the miracle of their newfound income from woke American readers.
There is a crucially important debate to be had on these matters. But we are not allowed to have it because the moment we open our mouths, we are in the belly of the furnace. When Rose McGowan defended herself against an obnoxious trans activist who saw fit to disrupt her speaking event , one in which she was describing her abuse at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, she subsequently had to issue an apology for having had the temerity to stand up for herself.
So who benefits from this? Who is feeding the furnace? Not transsexuals, many of whom are watching with horror as the rights they do have come under threat from such nebulous concepts as self ID, and are labelled ‘truscum’ for opposing them.No, there are, it seems to me, four groups that benefit from the toxicity around this topic:predatory men, con artists, misogynists and fetishists.It is in their interests and their interests alone, that none of us can have a grown-up conversation about this subject.
However, sooner or later, the conversation will happen. There are many, many women who will/never/agree to the destruction of their private spaces, their sports, their safety and the removal of their right to an equal share of society’s resources.The choice is either to stand by and allow these women to be threatened, demonised and dismissed or stand with them and ensure they have a chance at a fair hearing. I chose to do the latter and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
But for the moment, as I say, I’m backing off. If you’ve remained quiet on this until now, I hope you’ll consider taking my place.
Two essential pieces by Rebecca Reily-Cooper. Questions for Progressives and Gender is Not A Spectrum .
How we got here by Jane Clare Jones.
An Open Letter to The Guy on Twitter Who Wonders is Biological Sex is Real by Jonah Mix
Julia Beck’s speech on The Equality Act
Times reporting on the Tavistock Centre by Andrew Gilligan and Lucy Bannerman
Kristina Harrison’s fantastic Woman’s Place speech .
Michelle Moore’s powerful speech on children and trans ideology .
Derrick Jensen gave me a chance to explain myself on his podcast, as did Benjamin Boyce and Meghan Murphy. Meghan was also kind enough to host an open letter supporting my position that was signed by over a thousand women .
Magdelen Berns on Stonewall and The Cotton Ceiling (oof, I didn’t even get into the cotton ceiling…but here is Miranda Yardley with a primer ).
Kathleen Stock’s brilliant essays on the subject.
Here’s a useful link dispelling some of the most common myths spread by activists.
Please keep an eye out for women who are being banned from Twitter. The latest victim is jsoosty .