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In late 2015, my teenage daughter Jessie declared she was transgender and the experience tugged us into a rabbit hole of Orwellian double-speak and general insanity. I read so much during that time and it was such a vast learning curve that I felt compelled to bring all the threads together in an article. I was especially struck by the exponential surge in the number of teenage girls who were ‘identifying’ as boys, usually young lesbians and usually after lengthy sessions on social media.
After Jessie desisted, I wanted to share what I’d read as well as what I’d learned and eventually I finished writing an article which contained over 100 links. Jessie added a short postscript of her own and I was delighted when 4thwavenow published it in December 2016 under the title ‘A Mum’s Voyage Through Transtopia – a tale of love and desistance’.
Before you ask me any questions; before you critcise or praise my stance on transitioning kids, or the appropriation of womanhood by men, please read that. It’s where it all began.
After Jessie re-realised she was a girl and things settled down at home, I expected to put my time in Transtopia behind me and move on. Instead I became more fascinated- and angry- with the culture of misogyny and homophobia which underlies transgender theory.
For without stereotypes there can be no ‘brave transgender children’. Without the dolls and the pink tutus, a love of glitter, a gentle nature and a will to dance, what could possibly make girls of the little boys of ‘My Transgender Summer Camp’? What other than her love of Batman, karate and jumping around could make that short-haired, fierce little girl into a boy trapped in a female body? A feeling? How does a boy feel? How does a girl feel?
Without sexism, there can be no transgenderism. Without the idea that there is a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ way to be a boy or a girl there would be no need to beguile and medicate these kids in an attempt to make them ‘fit in’. Our current culture of blind affirmation is not doing anyone any favours. It is nothing short of abusive to tell a child that they are ‘wrong’, that they have been ‘born in the wrong body’ or that medication and surgery can make them into the opposite sex. Affirming a trans-identified child- and many of these kids are LGB, autistic, have suffered trauma, abuse or loss, or have co-existing mental health issues- is to set them down a path to becoming a life-long medical patient.
This first step down this pathway begins with agreeing with a confused girl that she is a boy. 21st century kids who undergo social transition young frequently progress to puberty blockers. Children given puberty blockers almost always go one to take cross sex hormones. This combination leaves a child sterile and without sexual function.
What would have happened if I had affirmed my child when she told me she was a boy?
I would have called her by her new name and ‘he/him’ pronouns.
This would have told her that I believed she was not a girl, that I thought she had been ‘born wrong’ and needed fixing in order to be her ‘authentic’ self. It would also have affirmed her delusion, every day.
I would have paid for her to see a private therapist.
Most private therapists will tell you trans-identified children become suicidal if not transitioned. The reality is, there is no data to support the idea that they are more at risk than any other child being seen under child mental health services.
I would have accessed my child cross-sex hormones.
Don’t believe those who tell you about lengthy waiting lists. If you are broke and follow the NHS route, yes. If you’ve got a couple of hundred quid spare, you can get hormones for your child quickly and easily. Gender GP is just one of the services that has prescribed testosterone for girls as young as twelve. Before we jump to blame the parents, consider: is it any wonder parents resort to this when they’ve been told their child may kill themselves otherwise?
Girls on testosterone often develop acne and male pattern baldness. They grow beards. The beards, baldness and deepened voice are irreversible. They are also at higher risk of heart attack and other diseased and illnesses. Most doctors recommend a hysterectomy within 5 years of being on testosterone.
Top surgery would be next.
Why wouldn’t it be? By this point everyone would have been using my child’s new name and pronouns. Everyone would be agreeing with her that she was a boy. She would probably be using a binder, with all the health risks that entails. It would seem like natural progression to have an elective double mastectomy. In the USA, girls as young as 13 have undergone this procedure.
She might have chosen to go on to have phalloplasty, where the skin of the arm is stripped to form a tube of flesh that’s attached between the legs. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong with this procedure.
And there we would have it.
My dysphoric child would have been left dependent on drugs and the affirmation of others to maintain this illusion for the rest of her life. And you know what? She could still never be a man.
I had been looking forward to hearing the speeches. I travelled down to Brighton by train with Jo and we met up with a few others at the station. We stopped at a café on the walk to the park and I had the privilege of paying six quid for a half-palatable coffee and a somewhat sickly but truly majestic vegan cupcake, before approaching the main event.
We were on our way to the Let Women Speak meeting in Brighton, part of the Standing for Women Speakers’ Corner Tour which “allows ordinary women and girls to share their stories”.
Standing for Women holds various public meetings around the country, most famously at the Reformers Tree in London on the last Sunday of each month but increasingly in other cities. Recent meets have taken place in Nottingham, Manchester and Bristol as well as London, and in Washington DC and New York City in the States. At most of these meetings, held in public spaces, any woman who wishes to can speak to the group about issues that concern her and her sex. Sometimes, when the women are done, male allies get to speak too.
Let’s be clear, we were not meeting in order to clash with transactivists. Currently there is still no law to stop a group of people gathering in a public park for a chat. We were not ‘organising a protest’ or deliberately provoking anyone – unless, like the protestors, you view women talking about their rights as provocation.
Brighton is the home of the wokest sheep in sheepdom. We had seen online that a protest was planned and Standing for Women had signed up 27 stewards, wearing hi-viz vests with the words ‘Let Women Speak’, to help monitor the event and provide information and support to attendees.
Our little group arrived at almost exactly 1 o’clock. Already a large crowd had gathered. I didn’t see a police barrier at that time, although there were officers milling about. On the edges of the group TRAs and those attending the meeting mingled.
While I knew there would be TRAs attending the Brighton event I was naïve enough to expect the police would keep them far enough away from us that I would be able to hear the speakers. In fact, I couldn’t even see the speakers!
When we first arrived I overheard somebody saying “I think we might be be moving,” so I half-thought we were all milling around waiting to either re-locate or for the police to move the TRAs on so we could start. In the meantime I was chatting to women I knew and those I didn’t, taking photographs and keeping an eye on the cops and the TRAs. The speeches had been happening for over an hour before I even realised they’d started. At that point I pushed myself close enough that I could take a couple of photos inside the circle by lifting my phone up above my head and clicking (see edited & above) It felt a bit like trying to get barrier at a really busy gig except I still had no idea what was going on.
Whistles were being blown and flags and banners waved. The noise and confusion were such that it was hard to tell who had come for the meeting and who had come to disrupt it, but generally people seemed in high spirits and the atmosphere was not ominous. A woman in a ‘proud parent of a trans child’ T shirt asked me why I was so hateful but it was clearly a rhetorical question and she didn’t stick around for long. I wandered around the edge of the crowd to see who and what I could see, and to take some photos for this piece. (All these photos, except the quote-tweeted ones, were taken by me on the day.)
As I couldn’t get close enough to hear the speeches I stood on the edge of the police line that had now formed. The police seemed to be making little attempt to keep the protestors far enough away that we could hear what was going on. It was disappointing. I saw a bellow of black smoke in the middle of the crowd and an officer ran out holding a smoke bomb which he half-extinguished in a flowerbed on the pavement. The smoke continued to billow out into the oncoming traffic but it was hard to see what else he could have done with it. I asked him what had happened. He gave me a hard stare, said “I’m not going to discuss it with you,” and turned away.
Later on there was quite a big kerfuffle and a tidal wave of police and TRAs tumbled towards us. The Let Women Speak stewards did a brilliant job moving women backwards and out of the way. Some of them whispered, “don’t engage just ignore them,” to women who were feeling tempted to argue with the TRAs.
It was all pretty exciting for the TRAs. They believed they had a cause and oh, what fun it was to gather in the park and shout at the evil TERFs! Some TRAs were dressed head to toe in black, imagining they looked like extras from some ninja film. Many wore face masks. One sported a tiny green Mohican and pink fluffy sleeves. I remember my mate Tim dressing much the same in the 80s. Tim had a better Mohican though. He used to dye his armpit hair green and flash it at businessmen on the tube. Another protestor wore a croptop and shorts over fishnets and held a sign saying ‘hey mom I’m in my fetish gear’. He reminded me a bit of a guy I used to know in Newcastle who went out in his underpants and ate cat food. From the other side of the police line a woman waved a ‘Your Mum’s a TERF’ flag at a group of excited young women chanting ‘transmen are men’.
I didn’t see the second smoke flare go off.
You’re a nasty poopoo head
So what did these guardians of diversity have to say for themselves? Well a couple of them enjoyed shouting ‘fascist’ at a baby on the outskirts of the meeting – I know, right? It does seem unlikely- but you can see the clip here. The woman in blue dungarees, shouting at the baby, is Carly-May Kavanagh, policy advisor to the local MP.
“You’re raising a little fascist as well?” her companion asks the baby’s dad.
“Oh, you’ll get your poo on it?” Kavanagh raises her voice at the baby. “Wow, you fucking fascist!”
“You think that’s a good idea, do you, to raise a child who believes this filth? Who doesn’t accept trans people?” she moves closers and gesticulates suddenly in the baby’s direction, calling its father ‘disgusting’.
Fortunately, baby remains unmoved by the exchange.
I knew nothing of the incident at the time but I was speaking to the baby’s mum shortly after it happened. Indignantly, she told me, ‘someone just called my baby a fascist’. Awful. Baby was fab, adorable, totally cool and checking everything out. Not displaying any fascist tendencies as far as I could tell in the two minutes I spent cooing at it.
Do whatever you want, all the time
Writer Philip Pullman’s response to the news that the ‘transwoman’ who set off the smoke bomb had been in court before was, ‘I despise transphobia’.
Cityboy446BC responded“Speaking as the person who was in fact hit, on the head, by the smoke bomb in question, I’d like to take the opportunity to say that I despise people whose response to a peaceful exercise of freedom of speech is to throw missiles into a crowd. Would you care to comment on this?”
Pullman has not replied. As far as I know, no high-profile trans rights activist has spoken out against the smoke bombs or the shouting at babies.
So there was a lot going on and I couldn’t get close enough to hear the speeches. Usually women at these meetings sit on the grass, but on this occassion I don’t think people felt secure or comfortable enough to do so with a baying mob just a few yards away.
I think we all had very different experiences of the afternoon. Many people inside the circle say it was a wonderful meeting and that they felt safe and well protected. Despite the mob, I’m told the speeches were powerful & moving & there was a strong feeling of solidarity. This shouldn’t be overshadowed by the bad behaviour, violence & disrespect of the TRAs which was met for the most part with dignity & humour. It has been suggested that we shouldn’t linger on the disruption and ‘bad stuff’ because there is so much to celebrate as women take back the public square. The talks went ahead, the meeting took place.
I, however, missed all that, so I’m going to have a little rant about transactivism.
Leaving it to chants
There was much repeating of mantras. Oh, the irony of men chanting ‘you’re not feminists’ at us because we won’t go along with their pretence that they’re women!
One popular chant was “no TERFs on our turf”. As many of the women at the meeting lived in or near Brighton, this was little more than a mediocre word play which always reminds me of that great photo of Magdalen.
There were also the obligatory cries of ‘transwomen are women’ and the less popular ‘transmen are men’. Of course, shouting something that’s untrue at a group of people doesn’t make it any more true.
‘Leave Trans kids alone’ they chanted, at the very people who believe that kids who think they are trans should be left alone. Trans children? What unbelievably sexist nonsense.
Several times a chant of ‘Posie Parker is a fascist’ or ‘Posie Parker is a bigot,’ was struck up to the tune of Seven Nation Army. Although for the most part they did their best to ignore the TRAs, on one occassion women in the circle responded with a loud and prolonged chant of “Posie Parker’s a legend”.
“Fuck off Karen” was popular for a few minutes.
And, of course, ‘trans-rights are human rights’ – which we all know to be true. I don’t know anyone who would deny that. Trans rights are indeed human rights. People who believe in gendered brains, or gendered souls, have the same sex-based rights as the rest of us. When TRAs say ‘trans rights are human rights’ that isn’t exactly what they mean. They mean that they should have the right to force us all to pretend you can change sex. That deciding which sex you wish to be should be a human right. That’s not a human right. Nor is it a human right to force people to pretend they agree with you. It’s not a human right to silence and bully people who don’t share your unfounded and phantastical beliefs.
Remember that our ‘hatred’ stems from one single thing- not a belief, but a fact. Human beings are born with a sex and that sex is not changeable.
Lies that identify as truths
It is interesting to note- although sacrilegious to point out- that trans activism is based entirely upon lies. Firstly the lie that you can change sex. Secondly the lie that hobbies, clothing & hairstyles are what make you a certain sex juxtaposed with the idea that actually no of course it isn’t that at all… but also yes it is… but also it isn’t… so it doesn’t matter how you look at all, your gender expression can be different to your gender identity, yet at the same time boobs and beards, or their absence, are essential for authentic-self-ness.
Next is the lie that women’s oppression is due to gender identity, not sex. Already there are contradictions: sex is already vitally important and totally unimportant at the same time. Under the sparkly, all-inclusive kitten heel of transactivism, the issues of sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, FGM, female sexual abuse, surrogacy and exploitation all become problematic. In an attempt to silence discussion of these issues, women are re-named as birthing bodies, cervix-havers, menstruators, chest-feeders, non-men. Men, pretty much, continue to be referred to as men.
When you deny the existence & importance of sex, petitioning for sex-based rights, especially those of women and girls, becomes framed as hateful behaviour. LGB people referring to themselves as same-sex attracted becomes ‘problematic’. Frequently we are told that the phrase ‘same-sex attraction’ was coined by the far right, and is indeed- yup, you got it- hateful. Straight people say this to lesbians and bi women. If that sounds homophobic it’s probably because it is. Acknowledging the physical differences between the sexes, especially the greater physical strength of men is also hateful. Best to just shut up about these things.
‘TERF’ is the lie that women who wish to protect their sex-based rights and who disagree with confused children becoming medical experiments are Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists.
TERFs are hateful, they want to ‘erase’ trans people, they want trans children to commit suicide – they are Far Right, fascists, bigots, racists, homophobes, anti-semites – every possible insult ‘ism’ and ‘phobia’ is chucked at women who say a man can’t become a woman. Believing that women and girls need and deserve sex-based rights, in thec eyes of a TRA, is a hateful position.
TERFs are No Fun. They are probably old and probably unfuckable. They are the storybook witches.
Of course, it is not necessary to be a radical feminist to be against the transitioning of children or to think that women and girls need sports of their own and some spaces away from men. It is not even necessary to be a feminist, a point frequently stressed by Kelly Jay which has caused contention within the feminist movement itself. It could be argued that it’s not even necessary to be a woman; the men who agree with us are called ‘TERF’ too, although generally the punishment for terfery is lighter for men.
In reality, however much you twist it, despite women reclaiming the slur, there is no such thing as a TERF.
We are not trans-exclusionary, we are man exclusionary. We do not want men in women’s spaces. Even the word TRAs use to describe us is a lie.
Using our words
If we are going to get anywhere in unpacking the pseudo-religious woowoo of the TRA movement, we have to be able to call a man a man. This is the lowest bar possible and we can’t unpack the lies unless we get over it.
If we can’t be clear about what a woman is and what a man is then we are, excuse my French, completely fucked. It’s not possible to have a discussion about the issue of sex and gender if everyone is pretending that men are- or even that they might be- women. Which is probably why TRAs like to shout ‘No debate’.
That we have a gendered soul is a belief and to be fair, let’s pull no punches here, it’s a pretty mad one. Even if you believe that there are deep and inherent differences between boys and girls, that girls are innately considerate and eager to please and boys boisterous and loud, that girls are born hating footballs and boys loving them – even if you do believe that, to suggest that a boisterous and loud girl who liked football might really be a boy in a girl’s body is completely bonkers.
But not only do you believe in this gendered soul, and demand that everyone else believes in it, you tell me we can only have discussions about gender if I pretend I believe in it too. How can a discussion take place if one side is allowed to change the meaning of the words used?
Upholding The Truth
Your perspective is The Truth. The very suggestion that your novel and unsubstantiated view might not be The Truth is an act of spiritual violence against your very being, indeed such an act of violence that you may not survive it. If somebody disagrees with your perspective, you may be driven to harm, or even kill yourself and they would be directly responsible. Disagreeing with you is hateful. This approach is completely reasonable and in no way indicative of mental illness.
The bodies of children and young people should also be sacrificed to the Truth– not all of them, of course, just a select few who really truly know they are devotees from a young age.
Not only must everyone pretend that they believe The Truth but if an individual doesn’t actually believe it they are a Bad Person. Only Bad People disagree with The Truth.
Dissenters must be sacked, ostracised, silenced.
Does this sound like a compassionate movement based on love or does it sound like a mad cult?
Rebels without a clue
The woman who shouted at a baby that it was a fascist claimed on social media that women had brought smoke bombs to throw at themselves and had ‘intimidated’ TRAs by filming them. The fragrant flower who actually threw one of the the smoke bombs goes by the names Charlie and Bliss. He has previously been in court for graffitiing an anti-Israeli slogan on a building in Brighton. The local paper reported, “He refused to tell police his real name, instead saying he was comfortable being addressed as ‘Torch’.
Many of these angry, over excited, TRAs are that which they so desperately profess to despise: straight, middle-class, white kids who want to feel special and feel they’ve found a cause. But this cause isn’t supporting striking workers, rocking against racism or saving the seals. This cause is not about truth and equality, it is about lies and beguilement and the pathologising of gender non-conformity.
This cause believes same-sex attraction is transphobic, referring to it crudely as ‘genital preferences’ and preferring the term ‘same gender attracted’ which means that men can be women and lesbians can have penises. Girls can be boys and if you feel bad about your breasts, cutting them off will probably make you feel better. Younger TRAs believe the stories they’ve been told about the ‘queer movement’ being as old as the gay rights movement, and more. One holding a sign that said ‘respect our existence or expect resistance’ called across the line to a lesbian, “You wouldn’t have rights as a lesbian if you didn’t have transwomen leading the fight! Trans people started Pride.”
Transactivism is deeply homophobic and misogynistic. It has no choice, it denies the reality of sex.
It is what it is.
TRAs tell themselves sex-based violence is not ‘a thing’ and don’t believe women should be allowed single-sex spaces. They believe, absurdly, that they are on the left, on the side of the poor and disenfranchised. They believe that gender heretics deserve to be silenced and that violence is a viable means to that end. Am I exaggerating? I ask again, have any high profile trans rights activists spoken out against throwing smoke flares and shouting at babies?
To be fair, it is possible I blinked and missed it.
Can you imagine the public backlash if a woman had thrown a smoke flare at transactivists? It would have been on every news channel and in every paper. Can you imagine the endless hang-wringing and denouncement that would be demanded of the feminist community? How we wouild be expected to cry ‘not in my name’ from the rooftops?
Yet they throw smoke flares into meetings, throw human waste over the steps of public buildings and shout ‘fascist’ in the faces of little babies. Then they pat themselves on the back and tell themselves they are standing up for the underdog. And nobody dares say a thing for fear of being the next one with a career up against the wall.
Step back and look at this as an alien might… what a fucking frenzied circus of madness.
It was back in 2018 that Man Friday organised the first women’s protest at the ponds on Hampstead Heath. On that occassion a group of women chose to swim in the men’s pond in an attempt to draw attention to the absurdity of self-ID and the City of London’s new ‘trans inclusion’ policy concerning the use of the ponds. The men didn’t like it much- which rather proved our point about single sex spaces being desirable for both sexes- and pictures and videos of Amy in her neon-green mankini and other women sporting beards and swim trunks kept the press interested for a few days. You can read the piece I wrote about that sunny day, ‘Yes, but today is Monday’, here.
In 2019, Esther Freud observed in Vogue that “at the height of summer, as many as 2,000 women, of every shape and size, all classes, all ages, from across London, across the country, even from abroad, arrive to swim and sunbathe on the meadow.”
Fast forward another three years and Venice Allan decided to organise another protest, this time outside the gates of the Ladies’s Pond, with the aim of raising awareness about the current rules and having the pond declared a single-sex space again by 2025 – the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the women-only pond.
‘But wait,’ I hear you cry. ‘Surely the Ladies’s Pond is already a single sex space? After all, the sign on the gate says quite clearly ‘Women Only. Men not allowed beyond this point’.
The second observation would be correct: the sign on the gate says exactly that, in large white letters on a black background. But the first observation is no longer true.
Although the Men’s Pond was opened in 1893, women were initially excluded. Then in 1902 ladies were allowed to swim- but only on Wednesdays. In 1911 a ‘Ladies Graceful Diving’ competition was held. In 1925, women got their own pond at last. Hampstead Heath now has a Men’s Pond, a Ladies Pond and a mixed-sex swimming area.
Something for everyone, you might think. But where’s the validation in that?
The Ladies’ Pond provides a space where women can feel free from the male gaze. For many women who visit the pond, religion or culture may stipulate that they may only swim in a single-sex space. Women may have many other reasons for wanting a single-sex space: from body issues to feelings of safety. When it really comes down to it, women should not need to list a host of reasons why they have the right to a space where they can be unclothed, away from men.
“The ponds have always had a strong element of support from Orthodox Jewish women because it is a place where modesty can be maintained,”reported the Telegraph in 2020. A lawyer called Julia told the paper “The pond can support you through crises. It helped me with the death of my parents. And with menopause, all the mood changes.”
65% of those responding to the City of London 2021 Pond Questionnaire were female (or said they were) and the most popular reason ticked for swimming was ‘for my mental wellbeing’.
Women can join the Kenwood Ladies Pond Association for just £5 a year (swimming is extra).
Until recently, men were not allowed to swim in the women’s pond. In 2017-18 lifeguards, managers and the swimming associations that use the ponds, underwent ‘transgender awareness training’. The result? Towards the end of 2017, the City of London Corporation decided that men who ‘identify as’ women should be allowed to use both the Ladies’ Pond and the female changing rooms.
This attitude may be inclusive for the small number of men selfish and audacious enough to take advantage of the decision, but for many women it puts an end to a space where they could feel comfortable and relaxed. Many Muslim women, for example, will not swim in a pond or pool when men are present. Many women who are self conscious about their bodies or who do not wish to be in a state of undress around men may choose to stop swimming altogether. For some, this may not even be a choice.
The plan was to meet at the gates of the Ladies’ Pond at 1pm. Quite a few people had arrived early which was good news for Holly and I who were blithely wandering in the wrong direction, talking about our cats, when luckily we spotted some familiar faces.
Once most of us were gathered- somebody counted 120 of us, another woman told me later she had counted 130- we lined up against the railings that ran alongside the pond and spread out our placards and banners, being careful not to obstruct the path.
Some women were in costume, others wore swimsuits or armbands. A couple had emblazoned Let Women Swim onto their towels. A few women started up a chorus of ‘If A Person has a Penis’ but I don’t think Julia Long had got there yet as the third verse was missing. The chants moved on to ‘Stand Up for Women especially when they’re swimming’ which scanned beautifully and made a great rhyme but I couldn’t help feeling that the ‘especially’ was a bit superfluous from a semantic point of view.
“We’re here, we’re doing the work of the patriarchy, get used to it”
Around this point, the TRAs turned up, or maybe they had been there all along and I just hadn’t noticed. There were maybe half a dozen of them, a couple of young men but mostly women. I recognised one of the young men from a Reformers Tree meeting. Clutching a bisexual flag and sporting trans colours, this most marginalised group turned up with their lunch in a Wild Country Organics plastic bag and the eager zeal of neophytes with a cause. After a while they began to chant “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it”. As if we weren’t. Used to it.
Some of us danced around a little nearby, and a few chanted ‘transwomen are men’ back at them, but there seemed little point. The classic moment was when they started shouting ‘we won’t engage with you’.
One woman had stitched a beautiful ‘Let Women Swim’ banner in green, russet and gold cotton. Others had handwritten signs, or had them printed up professionally. Some had made them with acrylic paints. A couple of women had ‘Let Women Swim’ bathtowels. Two women held paper signs saying “Joyous lesbians say ‘reclaim the pond'” and “Lesbians say ‘no men in the pond'”.
Some women sang and danced around or waved flags or handed out postcards to passers by. One couple gave theirs back saying ‘we don’t want them’. Many of those out for a stroll were curious about the reason behind the protest. l could see and hear conversations going on around me; several people were nodding, agreeing with the idea that single-sex spaces were essential or surprised to discover that all a man had to do to gain access to the Ladies’ Pond was to declare himself a woman. One young woman shouted ‘You’re disgusting’ and gave us the finger as she walked past.
After about an hour of standing outside the Ladies’ Pond it was time to begin the walk to the Stone of Free Speech at Parliament Square. Yes, the Stone of Free Speech is ‘a thing’!
It was a hot afternoon and the walk was a little longer than some had anticipated. The Stone of Free Speech stands on Parliament Hill, on a bluff in full sun. The umbrella I’d packed, because Siri had decided there would be a slight chance of rain, helped provide a little shade as we spread out blankets and shared our food. It was a leisurely time as women chatted, caught up and discussed forthcoming plans. Several men joined us for the lunch and speeches.
Kellie-Jay spoke first, welcoming us to the Stone of Free Speech and thanking Venice and the other women who had co-ordinated the afternoon. She referenced Sheila Jeffreys in speaking of men ‘parasitically invading every last space that we’ve carved out’ and noted how such men could be found lurking in menopause groups, and even still-birth facebook groups, looking for validation. The small group of female TRA protestors outside the pond, she said, did not realise that they were doing the work of men’s rights activism, adding that it is our duty to speak out against the trasnsitioning of children and to point out that they are being gaslit.
She observed that ‘a certain 2-bit channel 5 News presenter’ would have been breaking the law had they taken a selfie at the Ladies Pond – as India Willoughby had boasted of doing the morning of our protest.
I had not seen the tweet when Posie referenced it, I found it later when I got in. Yup, there he lies, mocking women like Catherine, who cannot swim in mixed ponds because of her religion, like Sarah, who won’t swim around men because of her mastectomy, like Karrie, who doesn’t want to swim around men after being sexually assaulted in the sea. The rights of these women mean nothing to men like this.
In Kellie-Jay’s words: “The Ladies Pond is really symbolic because they thought ‘there’s a men’s pond, there’s a mixed pond, but no that’s not good enough for me, the validation is only in the Ladies Pond’ and so that’s where they want to go.”
Catherine from Let Our Sisters Swim (LOSS) spoke passionately about the importance of female spaces and how she remembered visiting the Ladies Pond with her mother as a small child.
“I remember how going through that gate felt: like entering a magical secret garden and how special it felt that it was just for girls and grown up ladies. I would love to pass that experience on to my daughters but as Muslims we are excluded by the City of London’s corporation so-called inclusion policy.”
Follow Let Our Sisters Swim, a newly established organisation, here, on Twitter @Swimming4Women
Catherine pointed out that the sign on the gate of the women’s pond leads women to believe that they are entering a single-sex space and thus exposes them to male bodies without consent. Muslim women, she told us, are far less likely to be involved in sports, or even to be able to swim at all: one survey suggested that only one in four can swim a length of a swimming pool. If sporting opportunities are to be made available to them, it is essential that it is in spaces where they can be certain no men are present.
You can read Catherine’s article ‘Trans inclusion means Muslim exclusion’here. As she says in the article “the implications for Muslim women who will increasingly be forced to self-exclude from sports and exercise and even domestic violence shelters are far reaching.”
You can sign the petition asking the UK Government to require swimming venues to maintain single-sex or private changing facilities here.
We had taken a long time over lunch and I was unable to stay to hear the rest of the speakers, which was a great disappointment for me as Julia Long and Sheila Jeffreys were on the list, as well as Karina from Fair Cop, Janice from Object, and Aja. As there had been transmission problems, the rest of the speeches were not going to be recorded by the cameras and so won’t be available on Posie’s YouTube channel. It was doubly disappointing to know I’d be unlikely to be able to catch up with them later. Maya was about to speak, but I had to pack up my stuff and go. As I wandered down the hill, she was telling the group how her preferred name for the Stione of Free Speech was the Giant Tampon.
I also missed Aja reading her latest poem, but luckily Venice recorded that and you can listen to it here on Twitter.
“This is a fight we absolutely will win,” she concludes, “now let’s say it together LET WOMEN SWIM!”