As my bus drove alongside Hyde Park, I saw a gaggle of TRAs collected by the fountain. Ten minutes later, by the time I’d got off the bus, crossed the road and grabbed a coffee, they were just starting to make their way towards those already gathering at the Reformers Tree. I moved quickly, wanting to reach the group before the TRAs got too close.
I remember just a few months ago, watching in disbelief as the ‘be an ally, arm trans people’ banner made its way towards me. That one only ever got the one airing – I think they must have realised how ridiculous it sounded- a bit too mad even for London. This time they carried the familiar white tarpaulin bearing the legend ‘TERFS OFF OUR TURF DEFEND TRANS LIVES’.As they marched, they beat a drum and chanted ‘scum, scum, scum’. It was surreal and slightly sickening. “Posie Parker’s a fascist,” they sang to the tune of Seven Nation Army. “Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets!” Two women sitting on mobility scooters shouted back at them “Our streets!”
The women’s casual we’ll-take-no-shit-from-you-young-man attitude juxtaposed beautifully with that of the self-important, black-clad, bemasked boys leading the chanting. To say the men looked faintly ridiculous under the eye of these ostensible evil Nazi terven overlords would be an understatement. Ridiculous, but still dangerous. Someone on Twitter described them as ‘fragile thugs’ and the title fits perfectly.
The promised rain hadn’t materialised and it was a warm afternoon. I finished off my cup of coffee and chatted to friends, keeping one eye on the still-chanting group of TRAs. The police were keeping them well away from the main gathering but it would still be easy – as happened an hour later- for a small group to break through. Everywhere I looked were groups of police officers, most on foot, some on horseback, all looking fairly serious and wearing spectacularly clean HiViz. There were many more of them than of the TRAs. I heard a cheer go up on my left and saw that Kellie-Jay had arrived.
Initially I was near the front of the ring that gathered around Kellie-Jay and the livestream cameras. When the applause died down, she encouraged us to move the entire circle a little further away from the TRAs, leaving them in what she called ‘a literal and metaphorical time out’. After asking how many people were there for the first time – a surprisingly large number of people raised their hands- she led the group in a chorus of ‘It’s Almost like Being a TERF’.
“They are here,” she gestured towards the TRAs, “because we want to say- without fear of punsihment- that no woman has a penis, no man has a vagina, there is no such thing as non-binary and transitioning children is profound abuse.”
After advising anyone who couldn’t hear the speakers over the noise of the TRAs to listen on the livestream, Kellie-Jay asked women to keep their speeches to 3-5 minutes, so everyone had a chance to speak. While the TRAs were doing their best to disrupt us, yelling, rattling cans and banging drums, we were far enough away that I could hear perfectly well at the front. I spoke briefly to a woman behind me who was there for the first time. As the first woman stepped forward to speak, I decided to go and have a look at what was going on outside the circle, leaving my place to the newcomer.
The livestream of this month’s ‘Let Women Speak‘ event can be viewed on Kellie-Jay’s YouTube channel, here.
The police had adopted a different tactic this time – one that didn’t allow us to be hemmed in in a small circle, so that was definitely an improvement. They ‘d split into two rows, creating an empty space between them, a sort of nomansland where the occasional journalist or curious passerby might start to wander. One row held back the TRAs, a smaller row faced our group. Let Women Speak stewards discouraged women from crossing the first line, but most people weren’t interested in doing so. The police easily outnumbered the TRAs, who seemed slightly more spartan than last time. Apart from the two lines, small clusters of cops gathered around the park keeping an eye on things and checking smaller groups didn’t break through.There were more people at this meeting than ever before: it was hard to take even a rough headcount. At a guess: 300-400 of us, 150-200 hundred police officers and about 50 TRAs?
While the TRAs screamed “Posie Parker you can’t hide, you’ve got Nazis on your side” and “Alerta alerta! Anti fascista!” the women in the circle were able to do what they had come here to do- speak and to listen to other women speak, in a space where it was acceptable to express anger or discomfort with men in women’s spaces and the gaslighting of children.
Others sat in small groups on the grass and ate their lunch or watched the livestream. A few flags and banners blew in the breeze. Here are some photos from ‘our side’ of the lines.
Venice turned up and delighted us with a TERF skirt dance and a few of us joined her in a chorus of ‘there are many many more of us than you,’ a verse the TRAs like to chant at us. There were, indisputably, many, many more of us than them on this occassion. You can watch a short video of Venice in action, here.
A dinosaur also joined us! Hello again old friend! And of course, the inevitable TERF dogs.
So from where I was situated, it all seemed fairly peaceful, until Emma told me that one of the stewards had been hurt while trying to hold the line and prevent the TRAs surging forwards. She is ok, but has since tweeted pictures of bruising that she thinks may have been caused by being poked with umbrellas while she was caught up in their flag.
To give you an idea of the more crazy side of things, DJ Lippy went behind the lines and shot this footage of furious men screaming, women laughing, a guy brandishing a bike at the cops, and elderly women on mobility scooters blowing whistles at the TRAs.
A guy who calls himself ‘correct not political’ also captured some of the more hairy moments. You can see his video ‘Alerta alerta’ here. “There’s a bunch of raving lunatics shouting at some old feminists,” he observers before questioning the TRAs and being removed by the police.
I didn’t enter into the realm of the mad goblins but I did get the usual photos of some of their banners for your amusement.
I’ll start with what I like to call ‘death by hyperbole’.
Yes, the young person holding the ‘let us live’ sign does look about fifteen. I imagine that they genuinely believe that we would like to kill them, which is a terrible thing.
These kids believe that it’s possible to be born in a ‘wrongly sexed’ body. This idea is perpetuated by the media, the education system and even the judiciary. No wonder they’re confused. The grown ups have left the room.
As usual, there was no particular meaning to their signs. We are obviously not fascists, unless believing there are two sexes makes you a fascist. Then there’s all the DARVO: they turn up to our meetings and accuse us of being obsessed with them. ‘Trans joy’ may well outlive us all, but there was little joy in the angry, masked faces of this furious bunch.
From a distance I thought the sign in the lower right hand corner read “You cunt, Polish TERF!’ Who is this Polish TERF? Perhaps the elusive KLK whose initials appeared on another sign? Do they even understand what they’re protesting about? It seems not.
Previous attempts to interview TRAs have met with failure, but Jess Gill managed to interview a couple of them on Sunday. The insights of the young women she interviews are… well… interesting. Neither seem exactly sure why they are there, what they want, who Kellie-Jay is or what she thinks.
One says she is “protesting Rosie Parker the fascist, she has views that are homophobic, racist, all of those…”
They are confident however, that TERFS are fascists and that they deserve to be punched. So that’s nice.
The interviews are here.
Of course, the purpose of ‘Let Women Speak’ is to do just that. Let women speak. The police are not there because we are causing a public disturbance or endangering anyone. It’s not about two rival gangs being kept apart, it’s about them turning up to our meetings and screaming at us because we don’t believe in gendered souls. The police are there, whether they admit it or not, to protect a group of women from violent, angry men.
The livestream of this month’s ‘Let Women Speak‘ event can be viewed on Kellie-Jay’s YouTube channel, here. There you can hear true diversity speak, as all women have a chance to get up and say their bit.
And Aja does a great new performance piece at the end. Check it out.