Most “Free speech” advocacy is demanding the right to preach hatred, contempt, or fear-mongering about vulnerable groups, but harassing trans people should no more be protected speech than shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Continue reading
Morgane Oger, a trans woman, was attacked and vilified by the Christian transphobe Bill Whatcott when she stood for the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. He called her deceitful simply because she is trans, and distributed flyers saying that anyone who supported her would go to Hell, “The lake that burns with fire and sulfur”. So she sued him in the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, supported by the West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).
LEAF supported her as a woman, drawing the tribunal’s attention to the experience of politically active women across the world, which can include being targeted for gender‐based harassment, as well as threats and acts of violence. The aim of such attacks is to “discourage women from being politically active and exercising their human rights and to influence, restrict or prevent the political participation of individual women and women as a group”. Their support warms me. Whatcott would not have attacked Ms Oger simply as a woman, but women come out in solidarity with her.
The judge writing the decision, Devyn Cousineau, quoted Whatcott in a particular way: “I definitely didn’t want [her] to get elected and I do want to see [her] disinvested of all political power and would rather [she] do something else with [her] time.” That is, she took Whatcott’s voice from him, by silencing his malice. Why should Whatcott’s use of male pronouns be used in a public legal judgment? Whatcott was unmanned. In summing up, he argued that his right to “Life, liberty and security of the person” under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was violated. It was too late to introduce such arguments, the judges ruled, but anyway the argument had no merit. They did not accept there was a “serious state-imposed psychological stress”.
Also showing the obsession of the transphobes was Kari Simpson, previously Whatcott’s assistant representative. She was sacked, but went to the public gallery, and asked to intervene in the case on the last day of the hearing, to attack Ms Oger’s “tactics to silence voices” and give evidence. The role of intervenors is to assist with legal issues, and she too was silenced. She shows the transphobes’ self-righteousness and arrogance, and their desperation when their hate is named and resisted.
Whatcott’s argument was remarkable in that he did not mention the Supreme Court case where he lost a similar argument about gay people. The tribunal’s time was wasted by his repeating arguments that had lost before in that case, and also by repeating claims on which the tribunal had adjudicated, such as what evidence was admissible.
At the tribunal, he wore a t-shirt with a pre-transition photo of Ms Oger on it. The tribunal told him this was improper, because the tribunal should be a safe space to air issues of discrimination, and he replied, “I see this Tribunal as an affront to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and is a completely inappropriate process”.
The purpose of the law is to “create a climate of understanding and mutual respect”. The tribunal repeatedly required Whatcott to use Ms Oger’s name and pronouns, and he refused. He would not even call her “The Complainant”. The tribunal found this deliberately disrespectful. He complained about the judges’ use of female pronouns, claiming it showed bias against him, and that it was as ridiculous as if they had ordered him to call Ms Oger “a tomato, a dog, or a cat”. The tribunal said,
For trans and gender non‐conforming people, being properly ‘gendered’ by the service providers they are required to interact with is a critical part of their ability to participate with dignity in the economic, social, political and cultural life of the province. The tribunal process should honour the dignity of the people who come before it.
How did Whatcott feel when Ms Oger called him a “Christian Jihadist”? For the purposes of the Tribunal, I was devastated and crying. For the purposes of me, I found it to be entertaining. So he showed his contempt. Possibly he does not believe the feelings of those he attacks are hurt- he cannot empathise, though his actions show the distress of the privileged when they are called out.
The tribunal recognised the claimant’s bravery: Most people would not have been able to withstand the level of discrimination that Ms. Oger faced during the Tribunal’s hearing. They should not have to. To her immense credit, Ms. Oger comported herself with grace and dignity in the face of the persistent efforts to insult, undermine, and humiliate her.
Whatcott compared her to a trans woman who was a sex offender. The judge found that associating her with serious criminality in this way is hate speech.
In his blog and social media, Whatcott attacked the judge, the tribunal, Ms Oger’s counsel as a “lesbian lawyer” which he believes to be derogatory, and Ms Oger. That might deter less resilient claimants than Ms Oger from pursuing her claim. The tribunal ruled that they should tolerate “public, forceful, and uncomfortable criticism” and that attacks on the tribunal and judges did not affect the integrity of the process, but the attacks on Ms Oger and her counsel prejudiced their participation in the complaint, and therefore awarded costs against him of $20,000, in addition to the damages of $35,000. Costs in these cases are a punishment for bad conduct.
The Canadian Association for Free Expression intervention was “unhelpful” said the judge- “inflammatory, derogatory, disrespectful and inappropriate”. It argued Ms Oger was a man, and called her a transvestite. Its written submission, submitted late, was “65 pages of dense, disorganized and barely intelligible text”.
The judge discusses how free speech should be restricted by rules on hate speech and discrimination, and I will return to this. The decision in full is here.
Another day, another transphobe, a nonentity saying what she is paid to say- but this one could be dangerous. The Mail on Sunday reported in its print edition, though not on line, that she had said in the House of Lords,
“Those seeking to rely on the protections and exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2020 [sic] must be able to do so with confidence and clarity. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s statutory codes of practice on the Equality Act 2010 explain the provisions of the Act and the EHRC is responsible for updating these codes as necessary.
“This Government has been clear that we must take the right steps to protect safe single-sex spaces for women and girls; their access should not be jeopardised. Some women’s organisations have expressed concern that predatory men may abuse the gender recognition system, intended to support transgender adults. We have heard these concerns and are considering carefully our next steps.”
This was in answer to a question by Ralph Palmer, a noted transphobe. He asked, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Equality and Human Rights Commission about amendments to its guidance on the Equality Act 2010 to help providers of services understand how to handle requests for access to services and facilities from transgender people.”
How to handle requests? Grant them. If there is a clear reason not to serve trans women with non-trans women- not just someone finds trans icky, but a clear, statable reason- explain it, and find another way to support the woman. Instead, Berridge quoted myths from WPUK, and “considering carefully our next steps” means “We are going to find the best way to make trans people, and particularly trans women, a culture war target”.
The Mail apparently asked her for further comment, and summarised her response- the law is clear that such places [single sex spaces] should be for biological women only. When they quoted her directly, it was more circumspect: ‘Transgender people can be excluded from singlesex facilities if service providers have a legitimate reason for doing so and if exclusion is the least discriminatory way to proceed.’ That is mostly unobjectionable, though I would put it the other way round- trans women should be admitted unless there is a legitimate reason to exclude.
Berridge is the kind of nonentity to be appointed a Tory “working peer”. She was Executive Director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship: I found this page asking for “prayers” about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, now deleted from their own site: Berridge would like to call gay men “Sodomites” but is too frightened to. So, meanly, she attacks trans people instead.
In February, she was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System at the Department for Education and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Women) at the Department for International Trade. These posts are so junior within government that no-one bothered to update her wikipedia entry for weeks after. But she is a person, with a name, unlike the “unnamed source” which was reported in the Times in February, saying While we believe adults should be able to live their lives, and trans rights should be respected and protected, the government also has a role to play in protecting children (nudge nudge, wink wink)- protecting children, they mean, from medical treatment facilitating transition. The Times began, Ministers are expected to drop plans to make it easier for people to change their gender amid concerns about the impact on children, but the sources they named were neutral or supportive of trans rights.
LGB All Liars, the campaign group against trans rights, has applied for charitable status, which would entitle them to apply for grants. I went digging. What is a charity? How can trans people oppose the claim of a hate group to be a “charity”? Continue reading
How can I cope as a trans activist with all the hostility to trans people, especially in lockdown with all the uncertainty?
Someone shared an Etty Hillesum quote: Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world. In Occupied Amsterdam under the Nuremberg Laws, she put that into practice.
Someone wrote, And to claim peace, we must excavate our shadows, make the unconscious conscious, reclaim and accept all parts of self.
Contrast Hilary Mantel’s description of Stephen Gardiner: Master Stephen resents everything about his own situation. He resents that he’s the king’s unacknowledged cousin. He resents that he was put into the church, though the church has done well by him. He resents the fact that someone else has late-night talks with the cardinal, to whom he is confidential secretary. He resents the fact that he’s one of those tall men who are hollow-chested, not much weight behind him; he resents his knowledge that if they met on a dark night, Master Thos. Cromwell would be the one who walked away dusting off his hands and smiling. I know resentment. I know threat and conflict, even fleeing down unknown streets at night. Resentment is curdled anger. Anger may do something about a situation, resentment cannot. Resentment focuses on the “things we cannot change”, but the “wisdom to know the difference” is hard practice, especially if there are few things we can change.
I read that rights for trans women are rights for sex offenders. I object, and read that the statement is unobjectionable, even though I feel anxiety in the supermarket, partly feeling fear, unjustified at the moment, that I might be abused as a trans woman. Etty Hillesum bought toothpaste in a pharmacy, and a public spirited citizen challenged her: as a Jew, was she entitled to buy that? She replied she was. And there are public spirited men wanting to stand up for the rights of women against perverts, by which they mean me, and so far I only meet them on line.
I sat in the Quaker meeting, on Zoom, in my exercise. It is possible to challenge an ASA ruling: can I do that? I want the people who pay to tell everyone that I am dangerous, or might be so that no-one should take the risk, rebuked. And I can’t face doing the reading or the writing to make that happen. The answer comes: I can do it, if I can let go of attachment to outcomes. Taking advantage of a video call where I can mute the microphone, I repeat that to myself aloud. “You want to cling to it, and you stop further messages,” my friend said. Perhaps; and I want to accept it, take it into myself, and act on it, because surrendering the need for a particular outcome is difficult. I have seen that with benefits appeals: if people could accept the loss, and make the appeal because it was the thing they could do at that time, they would be far less stressed; and some of them won their appeals! But that is easy for me to say, and instead, often, they resented. I have seen that expressed as a Law of Change: The individuals and the group may have goals, but they may not have cherished outcomes. It is a hard lesson.
So I wrote my challenge, and sent it off, and now see that it would have been better had I spent more time on it, and read it over and revised it before sending. But I hated it too much to do that. I hated the advert and my hate extended to the work I did against it. I would rather not have to do that work. Or I hate my work because I anticipate it will be inadequate, it will not achieve the goal I desire. I will not work well if I hate what I do, only if I can pour love into it. I read that there is an infinite fountain of Love, which I can bathe in, draw strength from, send to wherever I see needs Love. For example, Etty: I should be quite unable to do the work were I not able to draw each day on that great reservoir of peace and maturity. I read that, but I am not sure I trust it or have learned how to do it yet.
Etty Hillesum is of course my teacher and not my comparator. On 15 July 1942 she was given a job with the Jewish Council, and wrote, Tomorrow I must betake myself to hell, and if I am to do the work properly, I shall have to get in a good night’s sleep… Despite the deadly fear I saw in all those faces. All those faces, my God, those faces! And later, They are merciless, totally without pity. And we must be all the more merciful ourselves. I love her ironic prayer: “Have You any other plans for me, O God?”
A last Géricault. Though this woman is in a room, her desolation is hardly less than the shipwrecked man’s.
The Advertising Standards Authority finds nothing objectionable in a full page using lies to foment hate and fear against trans women. The full decision is below. The adverts went before their Council. What can be done now? Continue reading
I saw passionate, self-righteous loathing of me, everyone like me and all that we stand for, distilled into one word. It took me aback. Non-trans people may get some echo of my feeling, seeing the word; trans people should beware reading this post because I quote it. I fear quoting it because I fear that some cis people might read it and have a revelation- that is why trans women are so objectionable!
The word is “Womanface”.
I type the word and start to weep. I feel decades of agony. I have wanted to die, much of the time, since my mid twenties and now Covid bothers me less than it bothers others, perhaps, because, well, it would mean it would all be over. So I will unpack that word. It echoes Blackface- so for this campaigner, whatever I have done, hormones and surgery, facial electrolysis- hours of pain- and voice training, is the oppressor’s mockery and appropriation. I am the oppressor and must be resisted, though it does not feel like that from where I am, right now.
For some women, trans might seem repulsive because of their principled politics and personal bravery. In January I saw a woman tell a familiar story: she is lesbian, was a “tomboy” as a child, was uncomfortable with bodily changes in puberty and worried that had she been born a few years later she would have been sucked in by internet forums and had a double mastectomy, a beard and a baritone caused by T injections. In her twenties she became comfortable with who she is, a lesbian, not wanting to appear conventionally feminine. There are variations on this story: one friend told me of four pregnancies, of the paps where she gave suck, of the meaning of the woman’s body so different from a man’s. There is pain and even threat to life in uterine problems. I get it, I really do.
And, Patriarchy exists. There is male privilege: often men are heard, women silenced, men celebrated and women judged for ordinary human reactions, and feminists resist it, and others seem just to go along with it. Would all women be feminist if only their consciousness could be raised? But how? I read that for Black, Indigenous, and communities of color (and among other marginalized groups), silence has been a form of oppression that cuts us off from sharing our voice and agency and more. For me it’s complicated. In some ways I am confident, and I know that I have worthwhile things to say and skill in saying them, and I expect to be heard.
I appreciate a feminist perspective- how are women wronged?- even though I see how it skews perception. The concern of some feminists about trans people is skewed. On trans men, they hate the thought of mastectomy and mutilation, though that denies that trans men can make their own decisions or see their own interests. On trans women, they hate the thought of penises in women’s space, threatening women, so that a post-op transsexual might be more acceptable, or they fear-monger about trans women allegedly with penises.
If the trans woman becomes the symbol of oppression, trans women are screwed. Some feminists say trans women are the first and most important threat to women’s human rights, that we poison women’s space like a drop of ink in a litre of water, and negate the very meaning of woman- a woman is someone who feels like it rather than someone with a female reproductive system, and that destroys women’s solidarity, women’s rights, women’s campaigning. Though I see it differently- we are an anomaly, a few more or less ridiculous individuals, scared and scarred in our own ways, rather than a threat a potential ally.
So my solution is this. Recognise that we don’t fit gender stereotypes any more than you do, and this is our way of coping. We are so alike! We face similar problems!
I have said this before, and I don’t feel heard.
I am writing now because of sensed discomfort in yet another encounter, where my attempt at empathy may have got it entirely wrong, where our attempt at fellow-feeling may yet establish commonality of experience and interest. I don’t want to write about that encounter so I write of previous encounters. Words like “Whiteface” may make people impervious to finding that common interest, might stop them seeing my humanity, make them see me only as threat. Words are powerful. When I was at university I saw on a toilet door the most disgusting joke I have ever seen, in twenty-two syllables elegantly and expressively constructed to work like a joke. I have always remembered it, only once shared it, and felt that because I know it a tiny part of me is sullied.
Who is the oppressor here, and who the oppressed?
I saw that word used by Dr Julia Long, radical lesbian activist and academic. On self-isolation, she asked “would I be… forced to accept a man in womanface bringing my shopping?” Objecting to trans women in loos is bad enough, objecting to a moment’s interaction with a worker or perhaps another person in a mixed sex self-help group is- out of proportion? I don’t know if Dr Long originated the word which horrified me and made me cry while “Tranny!” hardly bothers me, but she uses it habitually. I saw it in a trans activist space, shared to show how extreme anti-trans campaigners can be. If I complained, they might tell me to spend more time in support groups and less in activist spaces.
I could make a fair case that Dr Long is the oppressor. She is highly articulate, with a number of platforms including at times the Guardian and Channel 4, and she devotes a great deal of her time and energy to monstering trans women with speech and writing at all registers from academic to dehumanising mockery, in alliance with Rupert Murdoch and the Heritage Foundation. And at the same time she is oppressed- I do not know her or her history at all, but am quite sure she will have experienced unwanted sexual attention, probably sexual violence, and may reasonably believe that her career has been held back by anti-lesbian or sexist prejudice.
I have no wish to recite the arguments why I would be seen to be the oppressor, but it does not feel that way from where I’m sitting. As Dr Long says, “Even while isolating yourself in the midst of a global pandemic, it seems there is no escaping this shit.”
Any way of escape has to involve seeing the oppression of the other. All oppression has to be recognised, as well as all the good in it: the cleverness in its creation, the comfort that it brings.
Trans people want people like me dead. That much is clear. TERF die in a fire, right?
I am taken aback by the level of fear. “Not all of us, I hope,” I said. We met on facebook, I asked if we could pm for a bit. She is masculine in presentation, and was gang raped by people calling her a man. She has been depressed. Trans activists bombed her group. Yet she admits the attacks on trans people make it more difficult for her to dress in a more masculine way.
(I quote her claims without comment on whether I believe them or not.)
I try to be winsome. “To me, we should be allies. Indeed gender is a social construct. I believe that any quality or virtue is equally bad in men and in women.”
She says terfs are hurt by campaigns to stop them meeting. It makes them suicidal. Coming together with people who think the same way is a refuge: “It’s like water or air”.
She is so sensitive to threat that when I showed her the advert from LGB All Liars she thought it was attacking terfs. Then she made her claim: that men dress as women specifically to get into women’s spaces to attack women. She has been attacked by such a man, wearing a dress. “To me, that’s a central experience,” she said. It happens in college and in schools. “In college, dressing up as women to raid the sorority gatherings is also a long held tradition.”
People’s statements are the only evidence I have. She tells me men in women’s clothes rape and murder women, and also murder trans people when they find out we are trans. She doesn’t believe me when I deny it happens here: “It would be interesting to talk to some UK women who aren’t trans and ask them”. So I asked on facebook, including some American-born women, who said it is a myth. I did not deny her account, though.
Then she went on to socialisation. “People who are born with vaginas in this culture, regardless of what we call ourselves, are put into a second class at birth. Everything about how we are raised is to train us into submission. So when I try to live in the reality that I am of equal value to men, that gets put down every time.”
“What support would you want from me?” I asked.
Believe us when we say we know what is not safe for us. Understand male socialisation makes you see women as less. Join us in creating a world safe for everyone. Stop trans allies from attacking us. “Behind all that anger is a lot of fear. We’ve all been threatened over and over again by people who claim to be protecting trans folks. We’ve lost our jobs. We’ve lost our friends. In some cases, we’ve been beaten or raped.” Stop men harassing us.
I said she did not know how I had been raised, and she said “That really is the problem. You can’t see the privilege.” Then she said I had accused her of lying about the non-trans men in women’s clothes.
I sympathise with the anger and fear, and the female anti-trans campaigners who feel that way have become fixated on one solution: the exclusion of trans women. It won’t do them any good, it won’t reduce the violence they suffer, but that’s what they campaign for. Any resistance to their campaigning makes them more determined.
One trans-excluding argument is that cis women need space for cis women only, because of male violence. If the cis woman sees a trans woman in women’s space, she will see her as a man, and will have the same fear reaction that she would if there was a man there. I am mortified at the idea I could terrify someone. The argument arouses my sympathy with my potential victim, leave alone a feminist or someone who has not thought of social justice issues. How can we counter it?
It was put to me like this. Young women may suffer continual sexual harassment and occasional extreme experiences such as sexual assault or a man demanding sex who will not brook refusal from whom she has great difficulty escaping. She seeks refuge where only women should go, a toilet, and then I come in. She reads me as a man, and her refuge is penetrated. More, almost all loos have only one door, and as I am nearer to it, I prevent her escape. Her trauma is redoubled.
The argument appeals to some feminists particularly. I wondered why a woman would be revolted by chest masculinisation surgery, yet insist on vaginoplasty? She could tolerate a “Post-op transsexual” in a women’s loo, but not a “trans woman”. Others argue against all surgery, such as Green campaigners claiming that just as we should not mutilate the rain forest we should not mutilate healthy bodies. That feminist’s position made sense to me if she sees solely from the cis woman’s point of view, thinking that the trans man is a woman victimised by society into imagining she wants to be mutilated, who is then mutilated. The answer is reducing the oppression of women and the shame inflicted on women. But the trans woman is a potential threat to women. If the trans woman has no penis the threat is slightly less.
The argument plays on my feeling of being conditionally tolerated. I will be permitted if there is no problem for anyone else. I am wary of angry dismissal, and want to avoid it, so am alive to reasons to exclude. This is internalised transphobia. Other trans women take a stand on their rights asserting trans women are women, and this may be an overreaction/ rebellion against internalised transphobia.
Anyone else, either a social justice warrior or an ordinary person who hardly thinks about such things might say, thoughtlessly, either that trans women are men and should not be in there anyway, or that trans women are also vulnerable and need women’s space. The argument particularly appeals to someone who places women’s needs above those of other vulnerable groups, which raises the question what is a woman?
Groups subject to oppression will succeed when we work together and support each other. BAME people, LGBT+ people, working class people, disabled people, have the same interests in tearing down structural injustice and implicit bias. Conservatives and oppressors have an interest in setting oppressed groups against each other and creating out-groups whom all of society can look down on. When cis women exclude trans women only the Patriarchy wins.
One is not born a woman, but becomes one, and the kind of woman may depend on skin colour, class, and disability. Talk of general women’s experience applies to more privileged women. Our socialisation is not primarily based on gender, but on all these factors. White middle-class feminists talking of the particular problems arising from feminine socialisation are placing their own problems first, ignoring those of other women, and defining what womanhood means, when feminism requires womanhood to have no stereotype at all. Judith Butler says identity categories are always normative and exclusionary. They mean that there are women these feminists’ campaigns ignore.
Trans women are oppressed as other women are. Like all women, we are required to spend a great deal of time on our appearance, or suffer from being treated as invisible. Any woman performing gender in conventional ways reinforces those conventional ways. The goal is to end these gender stereotypes, but we all succumb. Trans women have women’s experiences of sexual harassment and violence.
Taken from the NYT: When a cis woman complains that trans women haven’t had the same experiences as “real” women-born-women, then, what she’s really saying is, “Trans women haven’t had the same experiences as women like me.” If 30-plus years of intersectional feminism has taught us anything, it’s that this is precisely the move that feminists need to stop making. See also Gal Dem.
What about Judith Green’s argument? She says in her sex abuse survivors’ group, the women needed a single sex group as they had been socialised to look after the men. Had men joined, the women’s implicit bias would have stopped them caring for their own needs and placing the men first. However, trans women are also socialised to put ourselves down, ignore our needs and feelings, and cover up our real selves.
Let us be allies. Anything else is the conservatives’ work.
Scottish Poetry Library in transphobia row shock! No-one knows whether the Scottish Poetry Library supports transphobes or not, but they have said suspicious things.
They have a code of conduct which says supportive things about trans people: we will not tolerate abuse on the grounds of a person’s… gender identity. However, they also claim they can police all the conduct of people involved with them: Misconduct is when the behaviour of someone undertaking work for, with or on behalf of the SPL does not meet expected standards of behaviour, and their actions or conduct leads to … harm of other people… our code of conduct applies to online activity.
That is, the SPL claims the right to no-platform people when they tweet negatively about others. As an organisation booking speakers and letting rooms, they can’t refuse to book you because you are trans or a woman, but they can if they think you have behaved offensively. Any organisation chooses who may speak from their platform. Others may write criticising those choices, and whether they are listened to depends on how prominent a platform they have.
Then they put out a statement, criticising “disharmony” on social media. Good luck with that. We will no longer ignore bullying and calls for no-platforming of writers. Well. Hachette has cancelled its plans to publish Woody Allen’s memoir, because of protests by staff: they withdrew their platform. There is no-platforming for all sorts of reasons, but only calls for no-platforming when there is disagreement. No openly racist speaker is going to get a platform at the SPL, but what about transphobes? Transphobes get prominent platforms all the time, and trans people and our allies call for it to be withdrawn- on our twitter accounts and in blogs if we have no better platform, in emails and protests.
There are only calls to no-platform someone when the speaker is privileged and protected, and the protesters are weak. Otherwise, the platform is denied without fuss, by the powerful. Transphobe speakers are privileged- prominent in labour unions and universities, with powerful backing from Rupert Murdoch and the Heritage Foundation among others. Someone tweeting that a transphobe should not speak is not a bully, because if they had power they would not need to tweet. If a crowd of people come together on Twitter objecting to a transphobe speaking, they are met with strong tweeted resistance from transphobes powerful and powerless. Who bullies whom?
Trans people and allies sent an open letter to the SPL, worried that their powerless calls for no-platforming would be used as an excuse to no-platform them. They write in solidarity with writers combatting racism, misogyny, ableism and other structural oppressions, so that oppressive action can be freely spoken about. They ask for clarification on SPL’s support for trans people, who receive exceptional online abuse and media scrutiny. They are against bullying and for freedom of expression, but want to call for no-platforming of bullies and transphobes, and want trans people involved in reporting transphobia. They fear the SPL statement means trans people, objecting to transphobes getting to speak. The Times report and many tweets connected the SPL statement to opposition to transphobia, and the SPL tweeted that Times article. Asif Khan of the SPL seems to think trans rights conflict with women’s rights, though they do not. We believe that it is a vital right of people to name oppressive action when we experience it, and to seek accountability from people and institutions who have acted oppressively and made space for oppressive action- by internal procedures and public statements. From the Forstater case, “freedom of speech” is not a legal protection for transphobic statements.
Prominent and less prominent transphobes made a counter-statement, extensively quoted by the Guardian, claiming to promote “intellectual debate and thought” “outside a very narrow ideology” when they were being transphobic. Of course they deny being transphobic, spread transphobic myths, and claim to support “Women’s rights”. No transphobe will ever admit their transphobia.
Scottish PEN’s slogan is “Defending the freedom of writers and readers”. They are aware that hate speech, including transphobia, inhibits and restricts the free speech of trans people and others. PEN says the SPL has a responsibility to the community to consider equality issues, and its workings should be public and open to criticism. Free expression is complex and any policy that ignores such complexity can stifle the free expression of a range of stakeholders, most notably members of marginalised communities. Such as trans people.
Race Reflections beautifully expresses this discussing “Freedom of Speech” as the right to say anything without consequences. The demand for such freedom is “Insidious reversing”, where the oppressed trans people are positioned as the oppressor. It takes away our right to resist the violence practised against us.