Keir Starmer and the trans-obsessives

Now Keir Starmer is leader of the Labour Party, he has promised to root out antisemitism, but unfortunately not transphobia. There’s a grilling by obsessive trans-haters on Mumsnet, which helps understand where Labour is on trans rights. Content: I quote the haters, and that includes transphobia, obsessive hate, and misgendering.

Mumsnet is filled with trans-obsessives. Some have chosen nicknames which refer to their obsession, often in arcane ways: “RetainTheSpousalExitClause” refers to the interim gender recognition certificate. Eight of the first ten comments were about trans rights, couched as “women’s rights”- “gender issues and the conflict with the rights of women and children”- though trans inclusion has little effect on most feminist issues. They are not even radical feminists: I counted fourteen questions related to trans, but of 175 posts on the thread only three mentioned porn and none mentioned sex work. “GeordieTerf” indicated the level of obsession, saying “The Labour candidates in my area made it very clear that they didn’t want my vote. I tried to debate my views, but the people who knocked on my door refused.” No, they would not agree with your hatred of trans people as the price of your vote. If you demand they agree with repulsive hate, of course they will not.

Mumsnet asked them to stop asking about trans- “We don’t want this to become a single-issue webchat”- and they wouldn’t. They dog-whistled: “Clearly the identity politics vote hasn’t been enough to make up for the lost votes”. I don’t know if they would object to gay or lesbian “identity politics”, but it is surely OK to talk about institutional racism- only trans rights are bad “identity politics”. Two asked what a “woman” is, as if they were spraying hate on Twitter. They don’t want a “respectful dialogue that doesn’t pit one set of concerns against others” as Starmer put it, they want to hate and persecute trans women.

What is a woman? It depends why you ask. Trans people are in all cultures over millennia, and for most social purposes trans women are women. Satisfied? A more detailed explanation is here.

Keir Starmer answered thirty questions. Five were from people whose monikers indicated trans-obsession, such as “CisMyFatArse”, though there were also questions about the last Labour Manifesto, Brexit, the NHS, Irish reunification, Scottish independence, the armed forces, Jeremy Corbyn, climate change, social care for the elderly, euthanasia, water bills, housing, special educational needs, transport and legal aid.

On antisemitism, he was clear, and I wish he would say the same about transphobia:

If you’re antisemitic, you shouldn’t be in our Party – or anywhere near it.

I would make this my personal responsibility. On day one, I would demand an update on ongoing antisemitism cases and ask for a clear timetable for their resolution. I would ask the Jewish Labour Movement and others to submit the list of cases they believe are still outstanding. And to leave no stone unturned I would also ensure an independent process and work with social media platforms to take hate off the internet.

And my test for our party will be this; do those who have left the Party because of antisemitism feel comfortable to return. Only when they do, will I be satisfied that we have made progress. At the next election I don’t want a single Labour member or activist to knock a door and be told that people who previously voted Labour won’t do so because of antisemitism.

I am not sure the terfs recognised the rebukes. One asked, “If you become Labour leader, how will you tackle sexism within the party? As a female, I am on the verge of leaving Labour over sexism I’m experiencing, both online and locally.” He replied, “…But the Party needs to be friendlier, more open and more respectful of each other. I’ve led a large organisation before and I know you can change culture through leadership, if you lead by example, if you put in place training, and if you argue for the culture that you want to see. That’s what I would do if I am elected leader.”

I think that’s what he is trying to do with trans rights. We should debate in a friendly and respectful manner. It won’t work with these obsessives. It might work with other people. It means rebuking the way the obsessives communicate, rather than their hateful beliefs. The transphobe Jo Stevens is in the shadow cabinet.

“StealthPolarBear” asked,

More than 200 of us are worried about gender issues and the conflict with the rights of women and children.

These are issues that affect the fundamental rights of half the population. They are across every conceivable layer of public policy, and affect us from cradle to grave. The issues are varied, ranging from men on women’s sport, the impact of self ID on women’s safety, the spousal exit clause and the emphasis on transition of children, including puberty blockers.

Are you concerned about any or all of these issues? How do you plan to ensure the rights of natal women and children?

He replied,

Thank you for this question – I know it’s a really important topic on Mumsnet and for parents.

Trans rights are human rights. I have met with members of the trans community and I know this is a group of people who have been subjected to incredible abuse and discrimination for a very long time.

But this conversation has become incredibly heightened, and I do understand the points being made on all sides. But if we just treat this as a political football, we are not being fair to anyone. I do believe we need to update the Gender Recognition Act. But what we need right now is a respectful dialogue that doesn’t pit one set of concerns against others. If elected leader, that’s a dialogue I would want to help facilitate.

Answering a trans-obsessive hater, he says, “Trans rights are human rights” and “we need to update the Gender Recognition Act”. These statements are unequivocal. He is on our side. “A respectful dialogue that doesn’t pit one set of concerns against others” takes away most of the arguments transphobes make, because trans-inclusion really does not prejudice women’s sport, women’s safety or the rights of children.

“rogdmum” asked,

My 14 year old daughter recently announced that she identifies as a boy. She falls under the loose description of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) where adolescents who did not show any signs of gender identity issues as children, develop gender confusion as adolescents. Many of these adolescents are autistic or have suffered from trauma or have serious mental health issues.

Referrals to the Tavistock clinic have skyrocketed from around 100 a decade ago to 2600 last year. The Government agreed to carry out an investigation into the sudden rise, but it appears to have vanished into some hole somewhere.

What will you do to raise awareness of this issue and ensure a proper investigation is carried out?

He replied,

Thanks rogdmum for this question and for sharing your family’s experience. I’m acutely aware of the anxiety and distress that this causes to individuals and families. This has to be seen as a human rights issue and we need to ensure that this debate is conducted respectfully and calmly, and with the best interests of children at heart.

“Best interests of the children”. That’s at the heart of Scots and English law on children, including social care, divorce and other matters. That means trusting doctors treating them over the prejudices of parents. It doesn’t mean transitioning every girl who ever climbed a tree into a boy, it means rejecting doctrinaire transphobia like this mother’s. I fear for the child. If they are not trans, perhaps they will transition in rebellion against the parent’s controlling tendencies, lack of trust, fear and hate. If they are trans, they may transition in their forties having had a blighted life.

“GCAcademic” asked,

What will you do to protect academic freedom and open debate in universities when so many institutions are failing to meet their legal obligations in this regard? To be clear, I am not talking about Tommy Robinson-style extremists being welcomed onto campuses, but professional people, including academics, lawyers, prison reformers, artists, etc, being prevented from contributing to events on matters of public policy, or such events being cancelled altogether due to pressure from lobby groups. There have also been numerous physical threats to speakers and academics, resulting in speakers being assaulted at two universities and a female academic currently requiring protection from two security guards at all her lectures at a third institution. The silencing of people who have the expertise and experience to contribute meaningfully to public debate on difficult issues is extremely concerning to many of us in academia, and is not a situation which is consistent with liberal democracy.

Starmer replied,

Thank you – I’m becoming increasingly concern by the shutting down of political discussion, whether in meetings or on social media by abuse and intimidation. It must be possible to have a political discussion where people profoundly disagree in a constructive and respectful way. I have long been a champion of free speech and always adopted the approach set out in international human rights instruments (which I spent my time as a lawyer promoting), which treat freedom of speech as a right and not a freedom, and sets out the limited circumstances in which free speech can be curtailed, which is where it’s lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so.

The free speech argument is hardly worth repeating. Right to free speech does not mean right to a platform. Academically worthless transphobia should have no place in universities, however exalted the transphobe. As a lawyer Starmer states the law, including that free speech can be curtailed, and again calls for “constructive and respectful” debate.

Reading the thread is depressing. These obsessives have no sense of proportion, often no apparent understanding that any issue other than trans inclusion has any importance. Perhaps capital punishment for transition would satisfy them.

Keir Starmer does not respond to their clear hatred of trans people as he responds to antisemitism. Yet he rejects their positions and supports our rights. Keir Starmer is not a transphobe. Possibly he fears he does not have the strength to counter them more strongly. I am pleased he signed LGBT Labour’s ten pledges, including this: “I will campaign to reform the Gender Recognition Act to introduce a self-declaration process and for the introduction of legal recognition for non-binary gender identities. I believe that trans women are women, that trans men are men, and that non-binary gender identities are valid and should be respected.

I saw a tweet shared on facebook: “I’ll show him exactly as much loyalty as he showed the trans community when he went on mumsnet and sympathised with a parent whose son caught ‘the social contagion’ of transness.” Like Sir Keir, I trained as a lawyer and want lawyerly precision here: “rogdmum” did not call trans a “social contagion”, and Starmer did not sympathise: he thanked her, and said he is aware of the anxiety and distress. I can be aware of her distress and utterly disagree about her child. Mentioning “human rights” and “the best interests of the children” is his lawyerly way of disagreeing. I wish he were more explicit, but he might just then get into social media storms. He pushes back against the trans-excluders.

29 June: today he gave almost nothing away, despite transphobic questioning.

Selina Todd

Selina Todd’s invitation to lecture at the University of Kent should be withdrawn, because she campaigns against trans people’s rights. Many academics agree, and have signed an open letter to the University.

As colleagues and students at the University of Kent, we would like to register our opposition to this event. Selina Todd is a self-proclaimed gender-critical feminist who has been widely criticised for her arguments against trans people’s- particularly trans women’s- right to self-identify. We believe that the message that our hosting of Selina Todd sends to trans and nonbinary students and staff in the university, our students who are trans and nonbinary allies, and our trans and nonbinary future applicants, is that the School, and more broadly the University, believes that trans identity is “up for discussion”.

They say there has been no proper consultation, that trans and NB people have to defend their right to exist. As Sara Ahmed says, there cannot be a dialogue when some at the table are, in effect or intent, arguing for the elimination of others at the table. Todd’s ideas encourage trans excluders, contribute to a wider climate of intolerance, and justify transphobic violence. Todd has many platforms to spout her views, arising from her privilege which trans and NB people may lack. Transphobic speech is hate speech putting trans and NB students and staff at risk.

What kind of thing does Todd say? She complains that she has been misrepresented, the poor thing, then starts with a misrepresentation. I believe that UK law should remain as it is, with sex a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act, against the claim of some trans activists that people should be able to define themselves as men or as women simply by describing themselves as such. Gender recognition reform will not affect the Equality Act, which already protects those who have decided to transition in their true gender. She implies transition is a silly whim rather than a terrifying but necessary striving for freedom to be ourselves. She goes on to claim that trans rights are “highly socially conservative”. She should tell that to her social conservative allies. Her page headed My Feminism currently only mentions trans issues, as if equal pay, VAWG or reproductive rights do not matter to her. Not everything she writes is harmful: I found her essay on refusing to be overworked interesting.

The public lecture comes under Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. In October, David Olusoga and Razia Iqbal spoke on Empire. Todd’s title is Women and Social Class. The University has put out a statement that Her visit is in conformity with the University’s Code of Practice concerning Freedom of Speech, External Speakers and Events. They link to their Student trans support policy, which specifically includes those who do not seek medical treatment, and nonbinary people. It recognises people might transition at University: The University recognises that the period of transition can be very complex and difficult for the student, and wishes to act in a supportive and sensitive way to ease any transition period. It’s a 37 page policy. As Sara Ahmed says, having a good policy document can be an end in itself- asserted to be proof that they are trans-accepting rather than a pledge to take useful action.

The Universities and College Union election candidates have made a joint statement on Academic Freedom and Trans Inclusion. The right of transgender, non-binary, and gender diverse people to self-identify in no way threatens academic freedom. Claims to the contrary not only undermine the dignity of our colleagues and students but also divert attention from those forces which are increasingly undermining academic freedom in the United Kingdom. They show that media stories do not show the real threats to academic freedom, from the ways academics are managed, but made up threats in a way that undermines the dignity and threatens the safety of transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse people.

29 February: Todd was kicked off the platform of the Women’s Liberation Conference in Oxford, because feminist trans allies threatened to boycott the event. Lola Olufemi, not a trans woman, said, I have seen first-hand how middle-class white women with social capital have used their gatekeeping power to harass trans people, threaten them with defamation, actively work to curtail their rights, refused to extend solidarity, and then claim victimhoodResist this imposed culture war, and practise a feminism that recognises that trans liberation is central to our collective liberation.  Todd made a statement, claiming single-sex spaces are enshrined in law, but “her opponents believe the law should be changed”. It is difficult to believe Dr Todd does not understand the current law on self-declaration, so she is deliberately lying.

16 February 2021: Todd was on Radio 4 complaining about Free Speech again. She’s left the University and College Union, and supports the Tories’ free speech law. Every other academic sees how it will chill debate in universities.

JK Rowling

Is JK Rowling transphobic? Not necessarily. She does not tweet a lot. She has retweeted a bit about Brexit this year, of tweets and articles opposing it.

I’ve seen a meme claiming she tweeted, Ron Weasley was indeed transgender. Ron was born female but magically transitioned to female [sic] at the age of four. Gender transition is much easier in the magical world than it is in the muggle world- yet so similar. Yet a search doesn’t find those words. It is a forgery. When asked in 2014 if there were LGBT wizards at Hogwarts, she replied, But of course. If Harry Potter taught us anything it’s that no-one should live in a closet.

She followed a number of anti-trans campaigners, and liked some of their tweets, but that does not mean she is an anti-trans campaigner herself. Then yesterday she tweeted,

Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?
#IStandwithMaya

So. It’s proven, say some. She’s transphobic. And the media world wide has an interest: it’s in NBC and CBS. The Times has a picture of three women with a banner “WOMEN SPEAK UP!”. That’s terrifying. The attempt is to make campaigning against trans a mainstream feminist issue.

Pink News quoted LGBT folk condemning her. Some are vitriolic: “Who knew she would identify with Voldemort”.

And I’m not. My greatest fear is that people identified as transphobes or anti-trans campaigners or TERFs will take up that point of view. So this is my defence of JK Rowling.

She says what Maya Forstater did was state that sex is real. The anti-trans campaigners would have you believe that sex is real and gender does not exist. No-one has a “gender identity”, it’s just a word trans people use to try to justify ourselves.

Of course sex is real. Almost everyone has a reproductive system, and which you have, and which you were born with, matters. And trans people talk of our gender identity. But also, there are gender stereotypes in the world which affect everyone, and one way gender-variant people deal with that is to transition.

She did not merely state sex is real, though. She had a public dispute with a non-binary person and insisted that they were a man. That’s the moment where it stops being merely having an opinion, and starts to encroach on others’ rights.

I don’t know why the employer failed to renew the contract. Forstater says the reason is her position on trans. I could not find a statement from the employer on the reason, but they say she was “an unpaid visiting fellow and occasional paid consultant”, so not entitled to challenge the failure to renew. She’s the author of some articles still on their website.

Knowing of JK Rowling’s initial poverty, I see why she has sympathy with people losing their jobs, and I am glad of it. The technical details of Forstater’s employment rights are not in the papers, and possibly few people would think them relevant. Forstater had that source of income, and now she doesn’t.

That’s the defence. Sympathy with someone sacked. I am wary of calling someone a hater or transphobe. Forstater is a proven extreme hater and transphobe- hating trans people is part of her “sense of self”. Rowling- I don’t know. I would rather refer to transphobic acts or speech than transphobic people, unless clearly proven. As for the tweet-

Forstater says gender identity, and gender transition, is a myth. That’s more than saying sex is real, but her backers deny it.

“Force women out of their jobs”? That’s another TERF myth. The idea that trans women are men is widespread, not simply among TERFs.

So, rather than a “transphobe”, leave alone a TERF, I would call JK Rowling ignorant of trans issues but sympathetic with a woman who has lost her job. But, the tweet has worldwide attention, and is at best ignorant, so the tweet is transphobic.

So tweets accusing her of being a TERF are harmful. Attacked like this, anyone might be wounded, and keep asserting what they thought was reasonable, and get attacked more. It could drive her to the TERFs.

Trans women are women. Transition is an appropriate way of dealing with gender variance. Trans women are not a threat in women’s spaces, and should only be excluded if there are specific reasons relating to the particular trans woman. But not everyone contradicting any of that is immutably hostile to trans women. It could just be ignorant. It could be considering others’ rights as well as our own- I sympathise with people losing their jobs, often.

Slate says she’s no longer an LGBTQ ally. It’s a good article to explain what is the nature of Forstater’s case, and saying Rowling is not an LGBT ally- standing together- may get her to rethink. The Spectator, though, exults: this is a turning of the tide, and people will now speak openly of the need [Irony alert] to protect real women from transsexuals.

The more publicity such disputes get, the more our enemies prosper.

8 June: Rowling is more clearly transphobic here.

The Lonely Transsexual

The Lonely Transsexual is a fascinating blog. Some of her/his writing makes me want to punch the air and shout YES! Some simply misses the point. She gets herself in some sad fights, though.

Pronouns- I will use “she”, as she has a diagnosis of gender identity disorder and transitioned, was a husband, and identifies as transsexual. However she also says she is a man. When she says she is gay I interpret that as attracted to men.

She thinks pronouns should refer to sex not gender. She is happy to be called “she” as long as it is not coerced. She is a man and does not object to “he” though it reminds her of her medical condition, gender dysphoria, so hurts. I see no difficulty in calling gender variant AMAB people who transition “she”. That does not mean that you can’t make assumptions with other gender variant people. Generally, it’s courteous to use the pronoun people choose, and while someone might have suggested the pronouns on her list from xe to per, most people seem to use he she or singular they.

She learned to hate herself as an Evangelical Christian, but has now found an accepting church.

What I like, first. Being trans is about a mismatch between gender identity and biological sex… Biological sex should not determine gender roles and stereotypes however right now it does.

Well, yes. There are gender variant people. Some of us express ourselves using gender stereotypes of the opposite sex. Some assert our sex but resist or subvert the stereotypes. Some resent the term “gender variant”, saying concepts of gender are incoherent and without meaning or value.

However I disagree with her when she says transvestites have legitimised themselves by coopting transsexualism and intersex, and what was a fetish has become an identity. I am sure there are still men who dress wholly or partly in women’s clothes and would not transition. My friend was sick of cross-dressing all the time after a week. He used women’s loos when dressed female but would not use a refuge.

Most people who would transition want some surgery and hormones. There has not been some great takeover by “transvestites”. Possibly more gender variant AMAB people are transitioning because they think it is more acceptable.

“The” Lonely Transsexual? So many of us are lonely. It is a difficult path. We distrust cis people and do not get on well with other trans women, because they reflect our insecurity and difficulty back to us.

She writes of her hatred of her penis. She could not consider sex. I don’t think that puts her in a separate category. Some people hate the thought of infertility or body alteration. You can be trans, even “transsexual” according to doctors’ definitions, and not want surgery.

A transwoman is no more a woman than a seahorse is a horse. Sigh. Arguably. But we exist, and if we are harmless making an exception and allowing us in women’s spaces seems worthwhile, so that gender variant people may find our way of being variant.

She doesn’t pass, and has stopped trying to. She uses makeup to express herself, and is fine that no woman would use it like that. This is brave. No longer worrying about fooling people into believing she is a cis woman allows her better to be herself. I’m not doing it for you! Today I am sporting a two color eye makeup in blue and purple, blue eye liner and blue lipstick! It’s my look and style and I like it. This attracts hatred: she was standing at a crossing and a middle aged woman hissed “pervert” at her.

I love the bravery. She is not fitting in. She has found a new way to be gender variant.

Yes AMAB people get sexually aroused by dressing female. But if you see one so dressed in the street they are probably not aroused. It makes tucking difficult. They probably do it too much to be aroused all the time.

She is read as TERF. A commenter writes, I recognize the risks that you and the high profile women’s rights advocates are running in this fight. They run no risk beyond being despised for the exclusion they preach, but incipient martyrdom is so much a part of their identity. I feel Lonely TS could be more challenging to such commenters. Being stuck in the binary with the trans-excluders is a waste.

Is she British? She knows the gender marker on the UK driving licence, and goes into some detail on the Gender Recognition Act, but does not know the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 was superseded by the Equality Act 2010 and uses US spellings- color, license. I find this odd. An American might be glad to hear of the GRA but not want to go into the minutiae. And I would expect most churches over here to accept a trans woman, except the most extreme Evangelicals.

I wanted to find out whether she uses men’s, women’s or disabled loos, but don’t need to know. I am sure she feels guilty and conflicted or frightened whichever she uses, and that is a shame. She is concerned for the rights and feelings of others, and I wish she knew she has a right to exist, in her unique way.

Gender free

I love the idea of being “gender free”. People could be themselves, rather than being “masculine” or “feminine”. A gender-free society would liberate everyone, as no-one really fits the stereotypes. However, our society is riven with gender stereotypes, and pressure to conform to them; so, now, gender free could mean consciously resisting such stereotypes, consciously bringing out aspects of the personality which do not conform, and lessening unconscious attempts to conform. Such free people would embolden and empower others to free themselves.

The term apparently came out of gender-critical people objecting to being called “cis”- so there are three categories, transgender who change gender, cisgender who are happy with their gender, gender-free who reject gender. Someone with a EU ring of stars as their profile picture- how much we might agree on, if we met- tweets “I reject gender as a restrictive and damaging social construct. My sex is female and that is enough for me.”

That does not mean that it should be in opposition to trans rights. “Gender-free” people would admit there is a problem with gender as constructed now. Not all people do. Many people are very happy with gender stereotypes. So we could be allies. There is only a problem if one group objects to the other’s way of subverting gender.

But then I looked at twitter, and found something to contradict that. “Gender free” is a new concept, and there is no Authority handing down definitions for it; so different people may define it differently. “Gender free folk are not saying they are exempt from gender norms. They are saying they don’t have a sense of inner gender identity.” That is merely opposed to trans rights, and not (by itself) seeking any change to oppressive gender norms. All I could say to that was, OK, but I have. I am female. And I am feminine.

Here’s another tweet making this a battle when it need not be, from a person with a male name and another ring of EU stars. “Gender is fine as long as it is not a weapon to erase women. Too often it is.” Um. I am unclear how 30,000 trans women could erase 30,000,000 cis (or genderfree) women, and I fear the erasure is going the other way.

I did not create the term, but would hope it might come to mean something which would subvert gender norms without subverting trans rights, or monstering trans people. However that is unlikely, so I hope it will die the death as not a particularly useful term. There is a twitter account “Gender free” which confusingly uses Monica Helms’s transgender pride flag, which I would insert here except it has not been Recommended for General Interchange by Unicode, and is not recognised by wordpress. The twitter account is simply abusive: “Came out as gender free. We are valid” it proclaims, as an attempt to subvert the claim of trans identity. They want to steal our words, and deny us the words we use. If they say “TERF” is a slur, I doubt they would accept COPCOC

completely ordinary people with completely ordinary concerns

as a word to describe themselves. Like Neo-liberalism, theirs is an ideology which seeks to hide by denying the word. “Genderfree” is “@peacetruth”.

I don’t mind calling anyone valid. I am irritated that she would not return the favour.

Transphobes deny reality

You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. What has Woman’s Place UK achieved? Nothing that they should feel any pleasure in whatsoever. They have made Rupert Murdoch quietly satisfied, and enabled his organ to print as many as four trans-bashing articles in a week. They have made David TC Davies very happy- after trying to rile feminists in service of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant nationalism, he has finally managed to rile some of them against trans people, to further his far-right, hate-stoking ends. This is the MP who voted to limit abortion to 12 weeks, so making him happy is not a feminist cause.

What do they think they have achieved? They think the consultation on gender recognition reform is thanks to their agitation. Yet Justine Greening announced it in July 2017, two months before WPUK was formed.

They don’t understand the proposal, even after completing the consultation. Who is allowed to go into women’s spaces is governed by the Equality Act. That will not change. A gender recognition certificate is almost entirely symbolic. And yet they claim any man will be able to go into women’s spaces. They seem to think that men will either declare themselves female without being transgender.

That’s a matter of muddled thinking, partly because of the way people have become more extreme as this debate has gone on. Most on the side of WPUK seem to recognise the category of true transsexual, a person who has a diagnosis and medical treatment and probably should be accepted in the acquired gender. In their need to exclude men from women’s spaces, some might extend the requirements: they must have had surgery, so excluding people on a path to surgery; they must pass, to avoid distressing women present; their motivations may be suspect, and “Autogynephilia” is a good excuse to exclude trans women with a diagnosis and surgery.

There are two clear, principled positions: trans women are women, and should be treated as women; trans women are men, and women’s spaces and privileges should be for women born women only. Between these views, it is hard to draw a line, and can just lead to confused argument between allies rather than Opposing the Enemy. So there is the assertion that men will come into women’s spaces. They mean different things by that. Some mean post-op transsexuals, some claim to mean men who are not really transgender but are using the system.

So there is a dispute about what is likely to happen. I say no man will declare himself to be a woman unless s/he is trans. I say no man will enter a woman’s loo or changing room without presenting female, and generally that will be fairly clear- no beards, for example. This is not a question of fact- we cannot be certain of likelihood- but I find their fears ridiculously exaggerated. I also feel some risk should be tolerable, for the sake of us well-intentioned trans women. They seem to accept no risk at all.

They overestimate the numbers involved. I put it at 40,000, about 0.1% of the population will transition. More may want to but not, for various reasons. I think that’s a manageable problem, not deserving the great scrutiny they give it. I say they are ignoring the hard Right’s delight in fomenting conflict on the Left and prejudice against trans people, and enforcing strict gender stereotypes. They seem to think that just because they are Left themselves they have no responsibility for the hard-Right causes they further.

Punch a TERF? Don’t.

Sophie Cook was part of the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme. Labour Women’s Network says “Everyone at LWN and UK Labour is proud of you!” Trolls on twitter disagreed. They have a hashtag “Labour losing women”, as some transphobes think Labour refusing to discriminate against trans women is more important than any other political issue, and so are leaving the party. It may be as much as a few hundred out of 552,000. The abuse, some from Tories and some from gender-critical feminists, is blanked out. Select Text to see it, if you must.

“Nonsense”. “UK Labour should be thoroughly ashamed”. “Sick. It’s actually sick”. “Disgrace”. “He stole that place from a woman”. “That hulking manbeast took a place from a woman and you’re all pleased? Jo Cox’s spirit must be in despair. Everything she worked for being made a mockery of. Shame on you all”. “Trans women are dudes wearing dresses”. “And poor Jo had a penis in her name”. “LWN, you are a sexist misogynistic disgrace”. “Denying material reality and biological facts are signs of mental illness”. “Labour plans to exclude women from their party. I am surprised they aren’t advocating taking our vote away”. “A burly bloke in a shitty wig”. “Mediocre man”. “I don’t give a sh!t about his feelings. What about the feelings of real women?” “Jo Cocks award?” “That’s a geezer in a wig”. “Cock in a frock”. “It’s a fucking bloke. A bloke has just graduated from a ‘women in leadership’ programme. Makes perfect sense”. “Yeh if he looks down than the delusion that he is a woman will be gone, he will see his cock!” “Your misogyny is showing, zip up your pants”. “Hahaha beardy bro alert”.

This normalises hatred for trans people. Someone who tweets like that would be more likely to shout abuse on the street. But the answer is not to retaliate. Somewhere on Twitter, Dad @AeroKaty boasted of punching a TERF: “I hope her face is embarrassingly fucked up for work tomorrow because the only thing fucked up on me is my fist.” Screaming into the Void tweeted, “there’s nothing like physically fighting a TERF together to remind you how much your friends are truly your chosen family”. Someone has written a Tumblr blog claiming to be the victim. In a bar, a trans man had told her she was not welcome “and my smart ass said ‘Why because I know you’re a female?'” I could not find the Screaming tweet, but took this from a “gender-critical” blog. Only confirmed followers have access to AeroKaty’s tweets.

So some troll has gone round twitter collecting punch a TERF tweets, in order to radicalise opposition to trans rights and work to exclude trans folk from Prides. The trouble is, the punch a TERF tweets exist. ( Boss ) @praesidency wrote, “I’ll say it again- happy pride. Punch a TERF.”

Please, please don’t. Don’t hit people, however abusive they are. Trans men, it is not Real Bloke to punch someone except in self-defence- defending against physical attack, verbal attack does not count. Trans women, it is mannish to use physical violence unless necessary for physical survival.

“If biological sex isn’t real, how can one be same-sex attracted?” the troll asks. Poor thing. Humanity is too complex for some people to understand. They want to fit it into discrete logical categories, or their brains will implode. But she can’t erase trans people just because she can’t produce separate definitions for us and for lesbians. I exist. I am a woman. She is a lesbian, and I don’t care if she does not find me attractive.

Trans women- if you come on to a lesbian, and she does not reciprocate, stop immediately. It’s not just that it is rude and offensive to carry on when you are not wanted: she may go and tweet about it.

Twitter is not a place for nuanced argument. It can make announcements, or it can radicalise entrenched positions. No gender critical feminist is going to persuade the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme to exclude trans women by tweeting at them. She is only going to make both sides angrier. So someone might leave Labour, as if they did not care what the Tories were doing to the NHS and the education system, and someone else might want to “punch a TERF”.

Debbie Hayton

Is Debbie Hayton a True TranssexualTM or a “feminine man”? It depends who is talking to her.

On 4 May she and sixteen others wrote to the Guardian, saying “Transsexual people undergo a meaningful transition, including hormone therapy and surgery”. They distinguished this from “male bodied people, including sexual fetishists, demanding access to women’s space”. However on 10 May in the Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff reported her saying she had male privilege from her upbringing, in an ideal world would present as a feminine man, and gave this utterly bizarre justification for transitioning: The problem is, as a teacher, if I express myself completely as non-gendered, I couldn’t get on with the job. If somebody comes in saying: “I’m not a woman or a man” then every time I did a new class, you would have to go through that with them, when what you really want to be doing is teaching them”.

So, she got castrated so as not to have to explain herself to pupils. Actually trans women need to be explained to pupils, and the explanation is not necessarily easier than of an effeminate man the pupils might think was gay. I can see it might be a problem for a supply teacher, but others don’t get new classes that often. If the school has an ethos of acceptance and respect for difference, she will be accepted, and if the school is an academy, many of which have an authoritarian ethos, she won’t. It may be more difficult to get a job where she can fit in. Or, she can pretend to be someone else, like every other teacher in a bad school.

Debbie is active in her teaching union, which has several gender-critical feminists. Do they like her? No. I saw a facebook thread. “Like a too eager puppy,” said one. “Somewhat cute but has annoying habits, like humping your leg. I am a cat person.”

Why tolerate her? “When accusations of ‘transphobia’ are made, TIMs get listened to and women don’t. Like it or not we’re stuck with them.” TIM means “trans-identified male”, or trans woman. But they’re not happy: “I prefer the ‘PUNCH TERFS! DIE CIS SCUM!’ variety. At least they’re honest.”

I am using whatever platforms I have to attempt conciliation with gender-critical feminists. I identify as a feminine male, and have had the operation. I have much less visibility than Debbie Hayton. I would even speak on an “A Woman’s Place” platform, if they would have me, even if another speaker gave a transphobic rant. All trans women are ludicrous and easy to mock. There is an intense vulnerability in being yourself, which many of us do not manage even after transition.

And, don’t throw other trans women under the bus. Don’t claim sexual fetishists are demanding access to women’s space- for some TERFs, with an unforgiving understanding of autogynephilia, that includes post-op transsexual women who have ever been aroused by dressing female, so all gynephile trans women. Don’t claim reform of the Gender Recognition Act has anything to do with such problems. One radical feminist graciously said she would permit me in a woman’s loo, because she knew I was post-op. But, when I was considering transition and going out dressed to see if I could hack it, with a functioning penis, I still needed the loo.

Using the word “male-bodied” is problematic. It won’t endear you to the TERFs, many of whom believe it fits you. Your pelvis is still male, and every human cell will have a Y chromosome. Your labia are a mere simulacrum, the shredded remains of your penis.

That letter said she had a right to define as transsexual, but transgender activists sought to remove the distinction. Well, some object to the word “transsexual”, precisely because it distinguishes between us and creates social pressure to have surgery. I could identify as transsexual but instead identify as trans. There is a temptation to claim I should have rights, because I have a medical condition, diagnosed by a psychiatrist, but there are all those fake trans perverts from whom I, as well as the real women, need protection. No-one prejudiced against trans women will make such distinctions, so claiming that does us no good and gives ammunition to our enemies. Debbie wrote, A Plea to Trans Activists: We Can Protect Trans Rights Without Denying Biology. However no-one denies biology. We all know what we are. And no-one is a trans activist- we are just ordinary people living our lives, speaking out against everyday prejudice.

Now Debbie Hayton is claiming she has autogynephilia, and that because she imagines she has, every lesbian trans woman must have. I refuted that claim.

Different experiences

Trans-excluders argue that trans women do not have women’s experiences, so must be excluded from women’s spaces, and the experiences we cannot share are having a female reproductive system, and being socialised as women, which they experience as oppressive.

I don’t have that experience of menstruation, but nor do many women with disorders of sexual development, who would be accepted as women by the trans excluders. To be clear, “But you accept intersex women as women” is a valid argument against “You are not women, because you do not have a woman’s reproductive system”. It is a lifelong series of experiences, usually following the same path, which moulds a person’s life, but it does not mean that I cannot be accepted as a woman, and I have experienced variations in hormone levels which I have found difficult.

I don’t have the experience of men coming on to me and not taking no for an answer from the age of 13, but here women’s experiences are variable. Some girls are seen as unattractive. People are seen as more or less sexual. I have experiences of anxiety or anguish around relationships, and I have had men coming on to me or feeling me up. It can’t be said that we do not have women’s experiences of relationships, as women’s experiences are varied, and we share them with many.

Being socialised as a woman- well, women’s experiences are varied there, too. If you want to climb trees as a child, does your family encourage you or not? Some families are keen that their daughters not feel restricted in what they can do. As with everything, some families are keen to fit in, and some to nurture and celebrate the gifts of each child. That is what is most important for me: the parallel trans experience of not being allowed to be yourself, which happens to those of us least fitting our birth gender, may be mitigated or reinforced by family.

The women who would most keenly exclude us seem to have had these experiences together at a peculiar intensity- shame inculcated at bodies and especially menstruation; sexual abuse and harassment from early teenage; and gendered expectations not fitting their true selves and felt as particularly oppressive. That can seem like one Woman’s experience which “transwomen” can never experience. Sexual harassment can be appalling- I worked briefly in a hotel where the cook often repeated a vile phrase about sex with young girls. If he acted on it! I don’t know how many women have such an intense experience, and how many react to it as trans excluders seem to.

Generally, though, the difference between women who welcome us and those who would exclude us from women’s spaces is openness to us, and not particular experiences. Can you feel sympathy with this person, or do you experience them as intruding where they should not be? If we might be harmful, what level of harm and what level of likelihood of that harm is believable, or necessary before we must be excluded? Some would take a logical line- woman is biology, not gender identity, so we are not women, but back that up with heightened statements of the risks we pose. Yet if you are open to including us, our experiences are not sufficiently different from other women’s to make you stop.

Tara Wolf

Tara Wolf, a trans woman, has been convicted of assault of Maria MacLachlan. There are estimated to be 1.2m violent incidents in a year in England and Wales, including 13,000 assaults with a blade with intent to cause serious harm; yet this minor assault reaches the pages of The Times. It was tried before a district judge, a professional lawyer, rather than a magistrate, which shows the case’s sensitivity, but still. The article starts,

A transgender activist was branded a “violent thug” yesterday after being found guilty of attacking a 60-year-old woman at a rally.

Tara Wolf, 26, who was born male but identifies as female,

Why the need to explain? Most people will understand the term “trans woman”, and anyone who doesn’t would hardly be interested in the article. Thank goodness they don’t know her dead name. Who “branded”- I think they mean “called”- her a violent thug? Her victim, who has not behaved with grace. That bit’s at the end of the article: The judge also said, however, that Ms MacLachlan showed “bad grace” for failing to use her attacker’s preferred pronoun during the trial. Ms MacLachlan, speaking outside court, told of her disgust at being forced to address her attacker as a woman.

“It was particularly offensive because he is a violent male,” she said. “I have no problem addressing some of my trans friends as ‘she’. I have made a few trans friends as a result of this incident who have been very supportive and I completely respect them.

“They are not pretending to be women. He is a violent thug.”

Well, if you want people to sympathise when someone misgenders you, don’t assault them. Tara herself showed little remorse, issuing a statement which I have only seen on facebook: Throughout the trial, the claimant and witnesses in support of her spitefully referred to Ms Tara Wolf using “he” pronouns, despite being instructed to desist in this behaviour by the district judge. These bigots were offered the opportunity to refer to Ms Wolf as “The defendant”, an inoffensive gender neutral term, but persisted in their campaign of harassment against Ms Wolf by repeatedly misgendering her, intent on continuing to cause psychological harm against the defendant.

Well, Boo-Hoo. If you’re that much of a shrinking violet that psychological harm ensues from being misgendered by people who are never going to pass up the opportunity,

don’t assault one of them!

I mean, really. It’s not rocket-science!

Tara quotes the judge as saying she had caused “low harm” by her assault, and had “low culpability”, but she was still convicted. Tara says the fine was £150, and neglects to mention the £30 victim surcharge and £250 costs, which must not be “grossly disproportionate” to the fine or a sum beyond the capacity of the defendant to repay within a year. The fine depends on the defendant’s disposable income, so it is not clear whether it is large or not. £30 is the minimum surcharge, which is not paid directly to the victim. Instead, Maria could make a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

It’s odd that Maria’s criterion for deciding whether to call a trans woman “she” is whether they claim to be women. If they don’t, and don’t offend her in any other way, she will deign to use female pronouns.

The Daily Mail’s headline was that Tara had “walked free from court”, as if all such minor assaults should end in clink. What would our prison population be then? 1.2 million, perhaps, a greater proportion of the population than even the USA. The Mail’s report gives considerably more detail, including the judge’s statement I suspect if that was the only altercation that was recorded during that event, it would not have resulted in this trial. So far from prison, in fact, that she was only prosecuted to make an example of someone. The commenters are still disappointed.

The videos appear to show MacLachlan holding a trans woman in a head lock but the judge “rejected evidence” of that. At the verdict, Julia Long, a passionate transphobe, shouted “Guilty, guilty, violent. The man is guilty, I don’t care.” Then she and her companions went to the court’s balcony and shouted “Guilty, guilty of male violence!”