“Biological men”

What do the anti-trans campaigners seek to achieve by the phrase “male-bodied biological men”? What do ordinary people hear?

When I read Rosie Duffield’s twitter rant against trans people, I thought it was a fig leaf. Complaints would flood in to the Labour Party, and she would say, “Who, me? Transphobic? I have always supported gay rights and human rights, and the rights of all trans people to live freely as they choose. I am only against violent men pretending to be trans.”

Then the Labour Party would say “We don’t believe she has demonstrated hostility or prejudice based on gender reassignment or identity”, quoting their rule book 2.I.8. She has never rebelled against Labour this parliament. She probably has some name recognition in her constituency, but outside it only among people with an obsession with politics. Complaints against MPs are a political issue, and the NEC will not discipline Duffield. After an investigation by the EHRC they take antisemitism seriously, but not transphobia. But when she refers to “lists of murdered women”, no man was pretending to be trans after being murdered, and Naomi Hersi, who still spent some time presenting male, was never included. Andrea Waddell, murdered in 2009, was initially included in the Femicide Census, and only removed in 2020. She is referring to trans women, not pretenders. Here’s the Labour Party complaints policy. Please do complain– you don’t need to be a member of the party- but don’t hold your breath. I have complained.

The phrase “biological men” started out as a way for anti-trans campaigners to make a distinction for themselves. They were not against “genuine transsexuals”, who have had a diagnosis and a genital operation. They were against “self-id”, which would result in people who weren’t genuine transsexuals in women’s spaces. They are far beyond that now. They initially realised there were some people who couldn’t help it (irony alert) and were to be pitied not condemned, but now they are against all trans women.

It could be a compliment. They call us “biological men”, as an admission that legally and socially, from a freedom of the individual and human rights perspective, in ordinary language and in the views of most people who don’t really care, we are women. However more likely it is a despairing assertion that they are rational and scientific. This is to deny the evidence that trans women exist, and always have. Trans women are women. They call us “biological men” to reassure themselves, but we do not disappear, or change our nature.

The anti-trans campaigner goes into a loo and sees a trans woman. And instead of thinking no more of it, like any normal person, she has an extreme emotional reaction, like an arachnophobe seeing a spider. Then she goes on the internet, like a QAnon cultist or anti-vaxxer, and finds others who share her fear and rage, and together they express their perplexity. “But- it’s a Man. A biological man.” Obviously they could not say “Real man”. It’s a verbal tic.

As for “male-bodied”, initially it might have meant not having had a genital operation, but now means a Y chromosome. Even Klinefelter syndrome people, with two X chromosomes, are included.

It’s gaslighting. To write “trans women are men and shouldn’t be in women’s services” is horrible, but just simple hate. Instead she writes “I’ve always fully supported the rights of all trans people,” and until you are used to the tactic there is a weird, destabilising feeling.

Duffield now seeks notoriety among trans people and anti-trans campaigners. So she writes this self-righteous screed, and trans people and our allies take notice, and are disgusted with her. One more stupid hater. What about ordinary people who don’t take an interest in politics, leave alone trans rights?

Most people don’t know what “woke” means, and pay no more attention to the arcane rantings of transphobes than they do to 9/11 conspiracists. Burning aviation fuel might not melt steel, but instead of being intrigued, and reading on, they think about their real lives and real concerns. Then the word “biological” might be confusing. Of course men should not be in women’s spaces, they would say. But trans women? Don’t know, don’t care.

Tonia Antoniazzi MP and transgender crime statistics

Tonia Antoniazzi MP is a transphobe, who uses her voice in parliament to attack trans rights and attempt to make trans people look bad.

On 17 May 2021, in a debate on the Queens Speech on violent crime, where Labour MPs should have been pointing out the many failures of the Tory government, Antoniazzi chose to make a misleading case against trans people, in order to smear us as sex offenders.

How does recording sex by gender identity affect the profile of sex offenders? Does it matter?

Most victims of sexual offences do not report them, so the number of crimes in crime surveys is far higher than the number of charges or arrests. About 3% of women were estimated as having been sexually assaulted in 2017, from a survey of a representative sample, and 1% of men. In 2016 there were 53m UK adults, so that is around 800,000 women sexually assaulted, and around 200,000 men.

However only 6960 offenders were found guilty of sexual offences in all courts in England and Wales in 2017. The conviction rate was 62%, but there is a time lag between charge and conviction or acquittal. So say 11,000 people were charged in court.

Women make up 2% of prosecutions for sexual offences, says Antoniazzi. You can download a spreadsheet. In 2017/18, 28,589 males were arrested for sexual offences, and 628 females.

Say 0.1% of women are trans women who have taken some step towards transition. So, say 25,000. Say they have “male patterns of offending” as anti-trans campaigners claim, though this is not backed up by evidence. If the proportion of trans women was 46 times the proportion of cis women who were arrested for sex crimes, 26 might be arrested for sexual offences, and six convicted. If they are counted as women, then the number of women arrested has gone up by 4%.

But if there were 26 trans women who were counted, or not, as women, the proportion of arrestees who were women would go up from 2.15% to 2.24%. That is, a tiny percentage of arrestees are women, whether trans women are included as women or not.

That statistic, that 0.1% of women are trans women, is my best estimate, but it is not clear how many people identify as trans, ever express themselves in public as their true gender, or take steps towards transition. The census, which starts to be published next year, may start to give us a better idea.

A tiny proportion of those arrested for sexual offences are female, and that proportion is not changed beyond a rounding error whether trans women are included as women or not.

Antoniazzi says, “We need to count sex”. She objects to police forces counting suspects’ sex on the basis of gender identity. She wants trans women counted as men.

Even if trans women offend 45 times as much as other women, the increase from 2.15% to 2.24% of offenders is tiny. There would be no change in conclusions drawn about the need to protect women and girls from male violence, or the relative threat from women or men. Trans women need protection just as cis women do.

Whether we need as a society to take violence against women, or men, more seriously is shown by the proportion of offences resulting in arrests. Of about a million sexual offences, there are 6960 convictions. Most victims do not report the offence.

Recording trans women as men does not make any change to the lessons we learn. Women are vulnerable and need more protection than we have. Such protection might be improved by greater resources for police, and greater cultural condemnation of male sexual violence. The culture still makes excuses for men, and even glorifies male sexual aggression. Complaining that trans women criminals should be called “men” actually reduces the effort to protect women, because it diverts campaigning energy from a real threat to a harmless minority.

And, it would make life harder for vulnerable trans women in the justice system. If we are recorded as men, we have yet more evidence that the system is against us for who we are, rather than what we have done.

It would probably backfire on the anti-trans campaigners, showing trans people do not have a high rate of sex offending. They want to say, Look, look, there were six trans women convicted of sexual offences!! Trans is Bad!! They’re all like that!! Of course we are not all like that, and I am not a sex offender, but the extremists use such stories to radicalise each other.

An MP should consider the 800,000 women who suffer sexual assault in a year, and speak up for them, not speak against trans people, a tiny, vilified minority.

The records of “biological sex” of offenders she demands would tell us nothing except that some trans women are criminal. We know that already. If it is ridiculous to say Rosemary West is a murderer therefore cis women cannot be trusted, it is equally ridiculous to say Karen White is a rapist therefore trans women cannot be trusted. Antoniazzi would stir up fear against us.

“We must respect the privacy of transgender people,” she says, but would make an exception when we are arrested.

Then she cites an increase of 84% in reported child sex abuse by female perpetrators between 2015 and 2019. It could mean 2015 had particularly low figures and 2019 particularly high. We can’t establish a trend without more years. We don’t know if this is because of increased reporting, and one expert the BBC quoted thought that explained the whole increase. But the MP called recording trans women as women “data corruption”, and suggested the increase was due to “those identifying as women”. In 2019 there were 1048 more offences reported than in 2015, and to suggest that a significant proportion of those were by trans women is monstrous as well as ridiculous. It is clear hatred.

Antoniazzi then refers to Lauren Jeska. Her attempt to murder was a monstrous crime, but to use it to argue that the justice system must count trans women offenders as men is also monstrous. The number of convictions of women for attempted murder is so small- six in 2017, from Antoniazzi’s figures- that even were it to double it would tell us nothing about female violence. She fulminates that calling Lauren a woman “falsely elevates the number of females convicted”. It does not, because trans women are women.

Antoniazzi has demonstrated a level of prejudice against trans women that should result in withdrawing the whip. Statistical arguments by other transphobes and haters are no more robust than hers. She met with anti-trans hate groups as long ago as 2018, and asked questions about trans women sex offenders in prison in July 2021. It is a good job she left the Women and Equalities Committee in November 2019.

Discussing trans rights with people who don’t care

Some people do not know what LGBT stands for. Being online gives a false perspective. Being interested in trans rights, we could scroll for hours a day and still read only a tiny proportion of the insane hatred devoted to rolling back trans rights, and the resistance to it. Twitter, facebook, etc, are desperate to show us transphobia in the hope we will engage, but usually only those already invested look.

I wanted Greens to know Shahrar Ali was making his pitch to anti-trans campaigners, so shared my blog. Mad haters plunged in: one alleged that Ali was being targeted by Zionists for his support for the Palestinians. Unfortunately, I called them “mad haters”, which makes me seem angry and confrontational, not good on a Green forum. Another went to the drafter of the Labour Party Transphobes’ Declaration and passed on her scurrilous accusations against me.

By using the term “mad haters” I had a tactical loss. I defended it- they are “mad” in that they are divorced from reality, only caring about opposing trans rights and not any other party issue; and they are haters, demanding the exclusion of absolutely every trans woman from all women’s spaces. And I was still rebuked, and warned to use constructive language, by people who apparently thought claiming a Jewish conspiracy was absolutely fine. She’s not attacking Jews, she’s attacking “Zionists”. Yeah, right.

Then someone wrote, “I certainly wouldn’t be happy with a Green party that didn’t support trans rights, but it doesn’t seem to me Shahrar wouldn’t. He explicitly says he supports the Equality Act.”

I wasn’t sure about that. Was this an anti-trans campaigner who had the knack of appearing reasonable? Ali does not say he supports the Equality Act, only “all the protected characteristics”. Anti-trans campaigners say they “support trans rights”, meaning trans rights as they define them- a right not to be harassed in the street or be sacked for being trans, but not a right for trans women to use women’s loos. But if someone could not recognise a trans flag, they would not spot that nuance by themselves.

So I explained, and met another question: How is ‘sex based rights’ code for excluding trans women? I explained that too. To my slight surprise she accepted my argument, saying people should accept the “single-sex” services in the Equality Act should include trans women. Then, rather than putting an argument, she was thinking out loud as she typed, she said some women felt vulnerable and threatened by trans inclusion. Could we work together?

No, is the answer to that. They make it a zero sum game- no trans women in women’s spaces, ever. They could see what they gain by trans inclusion, and work for a range of spaces, but they would be affronted to be restricted to some out of the way loo which was for trans-excluders, with the women’s for all women. But this woman has Green sympathies- For the Common Good- and likes to think people can always work together.

And then she said, if Shahrar supports the EA, surely he supports trans women in women’s spaces? I had to explain the other code he uses, around “politically homeless” women and “sex-based rights”. She still thought there was some doubt, and a need to help both sides of the “debate” to understand each other. Only a direct question to “Shahrar” would clear it up, but he isn’t answering.

-Do you still think there is doubt?
-The vast majority would not read Shahrar’s site the way you do. And trans people need to listen to the excluders, and hear their concerns.

She is right on that. People would not read it that way, unless they are engaged with the debate. They do not read it closely, and don’t particularly think about the bits they don’t understand- of course no novelist should receive a death threat for writing a think piece, and they don’t bother asking which novelist he means.

From Sara Ahmed, I get the understanding that people do not like to believe their social group contains bad people such as sexual predators, or those who discriminate on gender, colour or sexuality. So, they find accusations of bad behaviour a threat. The accusations and the accusers threaten their comfortable illusion that everything is OK. Surely Professor Smith would not do such a horrible thing? Diversity policies are put in place as proof that the organisation acts properly on diversity, not as a template for action against discriminators.

So I asked her directly. Now I have explained the code, do you accept Ali is calling for trans exclusion? I explained the whole screed again. And I was rewarded. “I think the issue here is exactly as you say.” But then, she immediately qualified. She still wanted a straight answer from Ali to “clear things up” and could see that Ali’s site could be interpreted as innocuous.

Even LGBT+ people disagree on what letters to add to the end, or what they stand for. QIA- Allies? Asexual? Both? I have seen a strong argument that Allies are definitely not included. The mad haters have created a jargon all their own. “Sex is Real” they say, and only the trans excluders and trans people, only people who have scrolled for hours and hours, see the pure nastiness they put in that phrase. It is hard to persuade the unengaged, and has to be done with great care.

Still, it’s lovely to think of someone who gets sympathy when she whines on a mad hater group, “I can’t go out, because there are no single-sex toilets anywhere! I haven’t bought new clothes in five years because there’s only mixed sex changing rooms to try them on!” Then she tries that with unengaged people, and meets perplexity and derision. If instead she stokes paranoia- trans women are dangerous, penises in women’s loos, etc- she may put off the Left-wingers, as she is more clearly spreading hate.

Shahrar Ali

Shahrar Ali would be a disaster for the Green Party if elected leader, or even if he got a significant vote. His “Elect Shahrar” page says almost nothing about the climate crisis, and a great deal of lightly coded argument against trans rights.

He starts with four bullet points. The first refers to “climate and ecological emergency”. If anyone would not prioritise that, they should not be in the Green Party. The second promises to reach out to “politically homeless women”.

Who are these women? Not all anti-trans campaigners are “politically homeless”. Nobody agrees with everything a party would do in government, as the Greens soon will be in Scotland. Anti-trans campaigners could vote Green despite the party’s trans inclusive policies, if they too would prioritise the climate emergency. They are only “politically homeless” if they make their campaign against trans rights the most important political issue. The other two points refer to his race, and his popularity.

Then there are 224 words on the climate crisis. Why can’t humans co-operate, he asks. “We are the last generation able to save the planet from ourselves”- a stirring call, but with very little on policy. He mentions short-haul flights, but would he ban them? The Greens should be more popular, he says.

Then there are 342 words, all dogwhistles against trans rights.

“We are fractious,” he says. Well, yes. Ali and others turned the Spring conference into a series of demands to fight against trans rights. He lost, but he sought to mandate misgendering. This wastes time and creates the “fractious” atmosphere he claims to oppose.

He wants “Services provided on same sex lines”. This is an anti-trans dogwhistle. Services are provided on same gender lines. Trans women are women. This is how the Equality Act works. “Same sex” is the wording used to make anti-trans campaigners angry and resentful, as if they might lose something. Trans women are in women’s spaces already.

He opposes “bullies”. So do I. Does he mean any bullies in particular? Trans people and our allies. This is clear from the next paragraph- he refers to an author receiving death threats “for publishing a thought piece”. Who could that possibly be but JK Rowling, who has said some pretty nasty things about trans people. It’s the most provocative way of putting it. All women on the internet get death threats. I have had a death threat, though my twitter is moribund. Any anti-trans campaigner, or trans ally, will get the reference immediately.

I would take a stand against abuse of women. Any Green voter would. That does not mean opposing trans rights. Trans women get abuse too.

He will defend all the protected characteristics, he claims. Someone trying to fool a person who was not transphobic, but did not understand the debate, might claim that means he is pro-trans. However, he qualifies it, by saying he will support “sex-based” rights. That is the anti-trans campaigners’ argument that cis women’s sex is female, and while a trans woman’s gender may be feminine her sex is still male. In other words, he would oppose trans people being treated badly as he defines it, but excluding all trans women from women’s spaces is absolutely fine by him. Then he refers to those “politically homeless” women again.

The page is deeply dishonest. If he were honest, he would say straight out that he wants to exclude trans women from all women’s services. Instead he says that in code, wanting to get all the votes of anti-trans campaigners while alienating as few as possible of the members who are vaguely pro-trans but don’t follow his coded references.

The website is almost entirely aimed at getting the votes of anti-trans campaigners. Ali is a front bench speaker for the party already. If he gets a significant vote, either trans people and our allies will leave, or the debate about trans rights will consume the party, crippling its ability to affect local politics or campaign on environmental issues. Shahrar Ali’s election would be a disaster for the climate.

1 September: Siân Berry dared to say Green party members should not vote for him, and this made him produce a ridiculous, long-winded reply. He condemned her for tweeting that, an uppity woman daring to express a political opinion he did not agree with, and then made the scurrilous accusation that because she disagreed with him she would not perform her last duties as acting leader properly. His grievance and sense of entitlement is as great as that of the extremist haters who would drive all trans women out of all women’s spaces.

Mumsnet Law

Anti-trans campaigners have a peculiar interpretation of the Equality Act. Trans people are entitled to protection from discrimination, but for the anti-trans campaigners that only means no-one is entitled to treat you badly on the grounds that you are a “man”, as they would put it, presenting female or a “woman” presenting male. On transition, trans women, or “trans identified males”, are not entitled to use women’s services because these are described in the Equality Act as “single-sex” or “separate sex” services (schedule 3, paragraphs 26 and 27).

After two years and a diagnosis, you might get your gender recognition certificate, where your gender is declared on the certificate and, unfortunately for Mumsnet lawyers, your sex is also changed by s9 of the Gender Recognition Act. So, for them, the purpose of the Equality Act, schedule 3, paragraph 28 is to allow you to be still excluded from all women’s services. The legitimate aim is to alleviate the distress of cis women who see you there. So, after exclusion, you would have to produce your GRC to show you could not be excluded under paragraphs 26 or 27, and you would still lose a discrimination claim because of paragraph 28.

For the die-hards, the dismissal at a preliminary hearing of Ann Sinnott’s case does not change this. The EHRC guidelines said that trans women could be excluded from women’s services. When trans women go into women’s services, that goes back to tolerance, or that nobody bothers to exclude us, as it was before 2010. A cis woman service user might try a human rights case on her right to privacy if the service provider did not exclude us.

Of course I look at this from the perspective of a trans woman, and am horrified. Could a judge ever accept it? They could say that the plain meaning of the words “single-sex” and “separate sex” requires it. I don’t think that was the intention of the Act. It gives the heading “gender reassignment” then defines a “transsexual person”, who is “a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment”- from the moment we decide to transition. So, the Equality Act confuses gender and sex and does not make the distinction the Mumsnet lawyers make.

Fortunately Sinnott’s case shows that excluding a trans woman from women’s services is indirect discrimination.

Now I consider the concession made by Karon Monaghan, QC for the trans-excluders in the case of FDJ, the recent case on trans women in women’s prisons. The judge said, “As Ms Monaghan QC on behalf of the Claimant pointed out, the relevant legislation (to which I will refer later in this judgment) [including the Equality Act] tends to use the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ interchangeably”. So, under the Equality Act, my sex and gender are both female, from the date that Act was enacted or the date I decided to transition, whichever is the earlier. Otherwise, the trans women in women’s prisons described in that case would simply be transferred to men’s prisons, as they do not have GRCs.

There appears to be unlimited money available for cases against trans rights. I feel it is like Donald Trump’s cases against the 2020 election- useless legal action designed to provide cover for his social media campaign. The radicalisation, the fundraising and the legal actions have the aim of increasing hate, even if the cases mostly fail or are irrelevant. If people believe, however disingenuously, that they have the right to complain about trans women using women’s services, they will.

Helen Joyce, “Trans”

Birds swim, fish fly, mammals lay eggs. Nothing natural comes in nice, clear categories. However precisely we define them, every concept has fuzzy edges which challenge our understanding of it. Most or all women are indeed “adult human females”, whatever that means, and some women are trans.

I only did not chuck Joyce’s book across the room because it was on an e-reader. Every paragraph contains falsehoods or inaccuracies or simply misses the point. “This is a book about an idea”, she claims, which she calls “gender identity ideology”, which is simply not the way I see myself or any other trans person.

According to Joyce, “gender identity ideology” is a wide-ranging philosophical system which defines and describes everyone. It “sees everyone as possessing a gender identity,” she claims. However, many women, especially anti-trans campaigners, say they have no particular sense of a gender identity. Therefore gender identity ideology vanishes in a puff of logic. But, since it is her ideology rather than ours, trans people don’t vanish with it. We’re still here.

As a quasi-scientific explanation of humanity used to justify the argument that trans women are women, gender identity ideology only exists in the minds of the anti-trans campaigners. What we have instead is stories. I wanted to transition more than anything else in the world, but the thought terrified me. So I needed stories to justify this decision to myself and fortunately the word “transsexual” was there to help with that. I was a transsexual. There is fiddling with language since- transsexual, transsexual person, transgender, trans woman, whatever- but it made enough sense to me for me to transition. And I wanted stories to tell other people, to explain myself. This is my identity. It feels like who I am. And others observed how much happier and more relaxed I was, expressing myself female.

If “Trans” is a book about an idea, as the first sentence of the introduction says, then it can be put in the bin. It refutes a straw man so ridiculous that no-one need pay any attention to it. So what if Magnus Hirschfeld, Harry Benjamin and John Money had ridiculous ideas. They helped a huge number of people find our true selves. Unfortunately it is a book about people, which seeks to change how trans women are seen and treated, to expel us from the women’s spaces we have been in for decades, officially and as of right since 2010. Yes, all of them: her chapter “We just need to pee” sternly expels us.

Trans people, mostly harmless eccentrics, are portrayed as the great threat, to women and children. She claims studies show children with gender dysphoria mostly “grow out of it”, but such studies were flawed, based on the idea that being trans was a “disorder”, and some children were referred to clinics because they had a few cross-gender behaviours- boys liking dolls, for example- not a consistent, years-long conviction that they were of the other sex.

Rather than ordinary people trying to live our lives, she claims there are “trans activists”, funded by billionaires. The funding is on the other side. Someone I knew got money from a billionaire, paid through an intermediary- but she is an anti-trans campaigner. There was around £20,000 for a Times full page advert, and there are oodles of more or less hopeless cases against trans rights.

“Gender clinics have come under activists’ sway”, she claims, and the result is the mutilation of children! Help! Murder! Polis! What could we possibly gain by transing cis children?

However, in case her hate is showing, she distinguishes “ordinary trans people who simply want safety and social acceptance” from those nasty trans activists. Who are they? They have not had surgery, because people coming out as trans don’t usually “under[go] any sort of medical treatment”, (her claim is untrue) even though those cis children are “fast-tracked to hormones and surgery”.

She discusses David Reimer, whose penis was damaged when he was a baby, so he was brought up as a girl. His parents and teachers maintained the fiction that he was a girl, but he was unhappy and unfeminine, gaining the nickname “Cavewoman”. This is evidence of an innate gender identity, which survives despite socialisation. Joyce denies that. She claims his biology made him a boy. This contradicts much feminist thought, which claims that femininity is the oppression of the patriarchy, and that women have “masculine” characteristics which get suppressed by socialisation. But Joyce claims that being a biological male made him masculine despite his upbringing.

It’s all a ridiculous fantasy, belying Richard Dawkins’ cover quote: “Frighteningly necessary, thoroughly researched, passionate and very brave”. So he’s a transphobe: trans is frightening, restricting us is necessary. Did he even read it?

“Woman: adult human female.” Why is this definition seen as stirring up hatred?

Because that is its intent. It’s like “There ain’t no Black in the Union Jack”- a statement which might seem trite or inane, so obvious as not to need stating, has a particular association for those who weaponise it, and its intended victims. I am a woman, they falsely deny that.

A full page advert in The Times, with many more viewers when circulated on social media, asked that question. There are two stages to this, and the hatred is more overt in one than in the other. First, we need to know the facts.

Trans people have been transitioning for millennia, and since the 1960s in Britain this has been officially recognised. Psychiatrists were supervising trans people and getting our documents changed then, and when I saw my psychiatrist in 2001 he gave me a card saying that it was a normal part of my treatment for gender identity disorder for me to use women’s services. The Equality Act 2010 made this clear: trans women could use women’s “single-sex” spaces unless there was a particular reason to exclude someone. Socially, trans women are women, which means we can live our lives, mostly, freely and without hurting anyone.

The number of transitioned trans people has increased. In 2002, the government estimated there were 2000-5000, and in 2011 GIRES estimated that 12,500 adults had presented for treatment but another 90,000 might later. Now, around 50,000 have. This is an increase by an order of magnitude in twenty years, but is still only around 0.1% of the UK population.

In 2017 the UK Government proposed reforming gender recognition. One possibility was to remove the requirement for a psychiatrist’s opinion before we could get a Gender recognition certificate (GRC). That would be appropriate, because the International Classification of Diseases no longer classes gender dysphoria as an illness. At that moment, the hate campaign really got going. Now, it is obvious on facebook. Some people are vitriolic and obsessive anti-trans campaigners, but perhaps 30% of the population are mildly transphobic– mostly tolerant because they don’t care, but holding a few anti-trans opinions.

On social media, the people supporting the “adult human female” slogan are increasingly radicalised, and the hate is clear. Always, there is an attempt to present trans people as seeking new rights, or predatory men pretending to be trans in order to get into women’s spaces, to create fear and disgust and invoke the cognitive bias of loss aversion. There is the claim that cis women in women’s prisons lose if trans women are housed there, and endless reference to Karen White. White is a rapist, and should not have been in the women’s general population, but the campaigners argue we are all like that which is a standard tactic to dehumanise a minority group. There is constant reference to Laurel Hubbard, and the claim that her inclusion makes women’s sports unfair, though there are hardly any trans people in sports at any level.

However, there is another stage. They want to normalise the idea that trans women should not be in women’s spaces. This is Joanna Cherry’s line: she claims to support trans rights, while demanding that trans women be excluded from women’s spaces. That is behind the demand to distinguish gender from sex, and the insistence that trans women are men.

The last Labour government fostered an inclusive society, where prejudice was seen as a bad thing. It stopped being normal to express bigoted views about LGBT or BAME people. People are willing to let others live their own lives and make their own choices, and if those choices are different from the ones they would make people are less likely to condemn. For the hard right to change that takes huge effort. The right wing press has for decades presented immigration as a threat, and now is doing the same to trans people.

This requires repeated monstering, mockery and hatred. But someone who minimises trans people’s needs might not realise they were hateful. Consciously, instead of hate and fear they might feel slight distaste, pity, indifference to our pleas, contempt and a sense that we were deluded and ridiculous. It is this indifference which the advert is designed to arouse. The groups behind it refer slightingly to “men’s feelings”, denying the desperation we feel before we transition. Once this stage is reached, we become the out-group, the people it is normal to despise. Refugees, whom even the BBC calls “migrants”, are already in this position. After trans people, who will be next?

Another advantage the hard right gain from such propaganda is to demoralise and split the Left. The Green Party is conflicted, and has lost its co-leader Sian Berry. There are efforts in the Labour party to create similar conflict.

Escaping the culture wars

The Fabian Society shows how culture wars are created by the right wing to damage the left. Its pamphlet “Counter Culture” details how we could resist them and build solidarity: by working to end culture wars, not to win them. Culture wars are political fights picked not to change public policy, but to enflame emotion and deepen division as a campaigning tool. They do not show differences in interest or beliefs among people generally, but instead are fomented by elites.

Even right-wingers who might profit electorally should see that the damage to social cohesion is not worth it. The Left sees we have “more in common than what divides us”, and only solidarity offers real security. Our anger at injustice can give us energy for campaigning, but harms us when it breaks relationships.

I got the pamphlet to see what it said about the anti-trans movement. There may be 50,000 people transitioned or transitioning in Britain now, but trans is dragged up constantly by the right wing press, and Tory MPs recognise it is a wedge issue to divide the working class from other disadvantaged groups. “MPs have been piling pressure to engage in a war on woke. Issues ranging from alleged BBC bias and Extinction Rebellion to trans rights and Black Lives Matter could unite the base, wrote Katy Balls. So this is a campaign strategy, to “fatten the pig before market day” and get people identifying as Tories, rather than a coherent strategy on policy, and the war against trans people is a central plank.

“Culture war” is an American term, concerning issues of who we are as a nation. The international hard right exports this around the world. Though in Britain Christianity is less important, and on the Left as well as the Right, the media which ignored culture war in 2015 was writing about it daily in 2020. Even now, few people care. But Tory voters who have “leant their votes” in the North of England are economically left wing, dividing them from the core Tory vote, members and MPs. But on questions of identity and values, Tories are united, and Labour MPs, members and voters divided.

Populism is different: a view of Left or Right that the corrupt elite oppress the real people. So for the Left, plutocrats distort our politics to avoid paying their share or supporting the common good, and for the Right, enemies of the people, such as judges, tried to block Brexit. But most people are reasonably accepting of trans people, and those working for us or against us are educated and comparatively wealthy.

The writers propose three elements in culture war. 1. An attempt to argue that the Left undermines or disrespects Britain or its people. Jonathan Haidt says on the Left, morality is based on care for others and fairness, but on the Right includes respect for tradition, loyalty and sanctity. 2. This exploits majority fears, and the loss aversion cognitive bias, with zero-sum thinking that others’ gain is our loss, producing a thwarted sense of entitlement, that something is being taken from us. 3. Something minor, marginal, or made up is being amplified: you will rarely see a trans woman in a women’s loo, and Laurel Hubbard is one trans woman in a competition of 11,000 athletes in 339 events, the first since trans women could compete as women in 2004.

Culture war is a Right wing strategy to divide, distract and demoralise the Left. The British Social Attitudes survey shows an increasingly liberal outlook. The media is creating culture war, for example The Times’ obsessive reporting demonising trans people. 2% of the people produce 80% of the tweets. The BBC found someone from Philadelphia to argue that Adele committed cultural appropriation, in order to stage a “debate”.

The culture wars distract us from real issues that affect our lives. A cis woman might read a pejorative article about Laurel Hubbard, “do her research” and start campaigning against trans rights even though she has never had a bad experience with a trans woman, let alone have her off-line life affected by trans rights. They divide feminists on trans rights, so feminists oppose each other with arcane debates, rather than working together against patriarchy, and appear irrelevant to other women. We spend time in smaller echo-chambers, so do not seek common ground. And people on Left and Right use the word misgendering as a shorthand for allegedly woke policies, not in the interest of the working class, which the Left should avoid- as if we could not support trans rights as well as equitable economics. But working class cis people may have trans friends, and trans people also suffer materially. Class is a matter of identity.

The culture war demoralises us, exhausting us. The class interest of the majority of people, in getting companies and the wealthiest to pay fair taxes, is clear, but the Right would claim supporting Black rights is an attack on white people. Women, particularly Black women, in politics face dreadful abuse.

The culture war is fomented by grievance mongers driving a wedge between supporters of interventionist economic policy, tempting some away by a “war on woke”. And by those who make a living from outrage, such as Melanie Philips. Once they start, people affected join in- trans people on facebook occasionally speak up for our rights, because our lives are affected, and so public threads started by enthusiastic trans-excluders grow like tumours. Toxic social media polarises debate, then news media gets attention by quoting tweets, or inviting grievance peddlers to “debate” on news programmes.

Then there are trolls, who enjoy being transgressive, or enjoy seeing others emotionally wounded, or are marginalised people who crave status, or who work for malign foreign actors seeking to promote division. Social media amplifies them.

How can the Left build a better politics? We need to repay our debts to those who have sacrificed or suffered the most, from the financial crash, austerity and Covid. We need a vision of the future everyone can value. Robert Kennedy in the 1960s built a coalition of working class whites and blacks by saying what he believed, and giving a coherent, popular message, rather than relying on focus groups, by finding a consistent story that unites voters in all battlegrounds. We need to mention all groups by name, or they do not feel included. Their dignity and feelings matter, not just their income. A story of our past which everyone can take pride in showing the unity Gareth Southgate builds in his team?

Politicians should calm down angry division, and show how they can negotiate a solution where everyone wins, through co-operation. To love one’s country is not a matter of having a particular view on the legacy of empire, but to uphold the integrity of its institutions; not to demonise immigrants and benefit claimants, but those who seek to buy influence or avoid their responsibilities to society. We should shame culture war peddlers, and promote the understanding that a diversity of opinions and values is essential to democracy. We need to regulate social media out of making money from division and misinformation.

We should name and oppose the attempts to distract and divide us. We need to know a good argument before facing the questions. 77% of people believe the media makes the country look more divided than it is, and 44% believe politicians exaggerate culture war as a political tactic. Why are they trying to shift the debate from covid deaths to statues?

We need inclusive social movements, cross-class, multi-racial and intergenerational. We should not use a language of weakness and shame, labelling people vulnerable or hard to reach. We should use clear language- most people agree that it is easier to get ahead if you are white, but far fewer agree that there is white privilege in Britain.

The pamphlet is freely available here.

Pride Month in Parliament

“I am a proud lesbian, a proud feminist and a trans ally, and I see absolutely no contradiction between any of these values.” I find Angela Eagle’s words moving, and wish they did not need to be said. The House of Commons debated Pride, and stood up for trans rights, and other MPs had similar thoughts: Alyn Smith, SNP, said “Women have nothing to fear from trans equality.” Kirsten Oswald, SNP, said “Trans people should feel safe, secure and welcome”. They need to say it because we don’t feel that.

Mhairi Black, SNP, gave a powerful speech which is worth watching. She starts with the British Empire exporting homophobia round the world. We LGBT people are more likely to self-harm or be suicidal, or the victim of a crime, but less likely to report it to the police. It is worse for trans people. She spoke of the “organised and concerted international campaign against the trans community”. An International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation report found “Transphobia has long been one of the most major and ubiquitous narratives around which the far right mobilises… Transphobia should be recognised as a security concern.” She connects the US right-wing to campaigns in Britain “purporting to speak for LGB people”, though in reality LGB people support us.

The Values Voters Summit speaker claimed “women, sexual assault survivors…ethnic minorities who…value modesty, economically challenged children…and…children with anxiety disorders” might be drawn in as allies against trans, by preying on their fears. In reality,

We are battling the same problems and the same patriarchal beast.

The anti-trans campaigners target trans inclusive rape crisis centres. The media platform these hateful views uncritically. Trans people contact her, because they are too frightened to contact their own MP. We are living in a moral panic fanned by organised misinformation and radicalisation.

You can also watch Stewart McDonald, SNP. “God is shining on us”, he said. I am glad when Christians speak of their Christianity, in speaking up for LGBT rights. He said, “We do not have a community if we expel one part of it”. He talked of transphobia in the Times and the Herald. If an Imam wrote such things people would “go off their nuts”- good to hear the vernacular in Parliament. He and I find hope in Stonewall and the Equality Network. Martin Docherty-Hughes, SNP, also talked of “non-state actors targeting the most vulnerable, specifically our trans brothers and sisters”. “Diversity is our greatest strength,” he said.

Alistair Carmichael, LD, made the same point: “using defining characteristics for a political purpose is as low as it is possible to go.” As Ian Byrne, Labour, said, “Division of communities leads to a breakdown of cohesion and the opportunity for hate and fear to flourish.”

Sarah Owen, Labour, attacked “so called charities” and MPs pandering to those who call trans dangerous. She said trans people are fearful when the media refers to the “Trans Taliban” to describe “trans people who just want to get on with their lives”. “Those who genuinely believe in human rights do not choose which human’s rights they support and which they do not.” Precisely. If the Government can remove protection from Shamima Begum, it can remove protection from me. She said, “we need to start seriously asking ourselves who these people are coming for next”.

Kim Johnson, Labour, spoke of how the government had disbanded their own LGBT+ advisory panel.

Angela Eagle connected that radicalisation to the Conservative Party, talking of “the Government’s increasing appetite for fomenting divisive culture wars that seek to pit one group in society against another. That emboldens bullies and problematises vulnerable minorities. It generates fear and resentments, which can only do harm.” Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes soar, but prosecutions plummet.

Many MPs spoke of trans health care. Charlotte Nichols, Labour, gave a waiting time of 18 months, which seems low to me. She said, “supporting LGBT rights is political. We are not a colourful add-on to brands that do not challenge ongoing homophobia or transphobia. A rainbow does not mean that every storm has ended.” There is some confusion here. She says, “more than 13,500 transgender and non-binary adults are on the NHS GIDS waiting list in England”, but GIDS is the Gender Identity Development Service, for children and young people. Still, it is a huge statistic. Elliot Colburn, Conservative, said we face “years and years” of waiting lists. Kim Johnson said that even after the Government’s planned new gender clinics, there would still be nearly 10,000 on waiting lists.

I worry that the emphasis on health care pressures trans people into medicalisation we might not choose for ourselves.

Angela Eagle said the Government have reneged on their commitment to reform the GRA. “The current bureaucratic, demeaning and intrusive process, which involves them having to get doctors to agree that they are suffering from a mental illness and to certify that they have lived in their preferred gender for two years, is no longer fit for purpose.” Crispin Blunt, Conservative, mostly praised the government, but alluded delicately to the government’s “misfired response” to the GRA consultation. The speaker rebuked him for taking too long.

The Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts used GRA reform to call for greater devolution to Wales.

The debate is personal. Peter Gibson, Conservative, who is gay, spoke of his nephew Luke who is trans: “I am reminded of the same journey of fear, acceptance, love and celebration that gay men and women go through”.

Angela Crawley, SNP, spoke of being raised Catholic, a faith she still respects and “to some extent I admire”. It made her feel deep shame and believe she could never have a family. Now “I am incredibly proud of who I am”. She moved me to tears, especially when she congratulated Angela Eagle, “whose very presence, bravery and courage in this Chamber have paved the way for so many of us”.

So did Dan Carden, Labour, also on video, who said how frightening coming out can be- but “hiding who you are into adulthood will cause you far more suffering anyway”. He was traumatised. He suppressed his emotions and became alcoholic. “Drinking was destroying my body.” “For me, it was about losing who I was over a long period of time. It was desperate isolation.” In his third year of recovery he has a loving partner and appreciates everything he has.

I used to live in Newport, and am glad one of its MPs, Jessica Morden, Labour, singled it out: the council flew the Progress flag, to recognise “the breadth of sexual and gender identities that we welcome” in Newport.

Alistair Carmichael, LD, did not speak of trans but spoke of the most northern Pride in the UK, in Kirkwall, and the delight of gay friends who have given blood for the first time. It is a symbol of inclusion.

Wera Hobhouse, LD, spoke of all the Tory promises since 2015 to ban conversion therapy, and their current undated consultation which is only further delay. She said Alan Turing is now on the £50 note. He suffered chemical castration ordered by the State, and the current delay on conversion therapy means his use as a figurehead is hypocrisy.

Bizarrely, the minister Mike Freer claimed the government “are committed to levelling up outcomes for LGBT people”, showing how meaningless that slogan is. He said, “the Government believe that the current provisions of the GRA allow for those who wish to legally change their gender to do so”.

Joanna Cherry, self-proclaimed lesbian campaigner, was too wily or too ashamed to attend with her usual dog-whistles.

MPs also mentioned inclusive education, also a target of the far right; HIV; and international aid, which the government is cutting.