The conflict between Trans Rights Activists (TRAs) and ‘gender critical’ women (and men) is not two rival factions meeting for ‘turf wars’. This is not the Montagues and Capulets biting their thumbs at each other. There is no ‘wrong on both sides’.
Most people I know would be able to tell you what they want from the Gender Wars. They have clear objectives. They want women’s rights protected. They want single-sex spaces protected. They want women’s sports protected. They don’t want children beguiled and medicalised by a cult that believes that we are born with culturally gendered souls.
TRAs are a little less specific about their requirements. They like slogans like ‘No TERFs on our Turf’ and ‘Trans Rights Are Human Rights’. They talk a lot about hatred and fascists and erasure and ‘no debate’. But what do they actually want?
Trans people should and do have the same human rights as the rest of us. But when those rights are sex-based they don’t sit well with trans ideology. So ‘trans rights’ means something much more complicated than ‘the same rights as everybody else’. Nor are ‘trans rights’ a harmless demand, because they erase single-sex spaces and the protections put in place for women and girls.
ONS statistics tell us that males are responsible for 85% of violent crime and >93% of sexual violence. It is not fair or reasonable to put a man into a women’s space because he says he belongs there, whether or not we believe his intent to be nefarious. Men have most of the world. Women would just like a few spaces without them please: where we can change and shower and exercise and chat. It seems fair enough, right? Trans rights says not. That isn’t allowed. Trans ideology trumps biological reality.
Venice Allan put it very well a few years ago, when she said, “‘Trans rights’ means the right to lie about your sex. ‘Transphobia’ is the refusal to believe that lie.”
In order not to find ourselves garlanded by the yoke of TERF or transphobe, we must say we believe their ideology.
A man is a woman if he says he is. A woman is a gay man if she says she is. A lesbian can have a penis. Small children can be born in the wrong body.
If you support ‘trans rights’ you must be seen to believe all those things. And TRAs really, really don’t want to talk about this, which- I strongly suspect- is why their banners are so vaguely accusatory and their demands often violent or nebulous.
Remember why women started meeting outside in the first place? There were a few good reasons, but one of the main ones was that TRAs would call venues up and threaten them with everything from bad publicity to bombs if they hosted our meetings.
Not happy with having driven us from conference halls, pubs and students unions; emboldened by the behaviour of their American counterparts on Kellie Jay’s recent tour of America; TRAs recently turned up to hunt us down, first in Brighton, then in the middle of Hyde Park in order to bang drums, yell abuse and attack us and tell us that we are full of hatred.
This piece is going to look at some of the banners TRAs brought along to the most recent meeting in Hyde Park and try to work it out- what do they actually want?
The TRAs don’t listen to what we’re talking about, of course. If they did they’d hear women talk about experiences of sadness and joy, about families and workplaces, and how gender has affected our lives and the lives of those we love and work with. I think they really do believe that we meet to spread hatred and plot about how to erase them. I think they really do believe that we are boring old monochrome conformists, trying to clip their magical butterfly wings as they float around the altar of the gender fairy, contemplating the morning’s pronouns. How dare we not believe?
On the afternoon I took these photos, we were leaving the coffee hut when we noticed a group of masked people with banners gathered a few feet away. By the time we got back to our group they were striding across the grass purposefully, chanting loudly.
What were they chanting?
Trans liberation, no assimilation
It was hard to work out what they were saying, but I’m pretty sure it was “trans liberation, no assimilation”. All very Doctor Who.
You can hear the chant here in a short video on Twitter.
‘Trans liberation, no assimilation’. What is that even supposed to mean? What do they want liberating from? Reality? Their own bodies? What don’t they want to be assimilated into? Society? If you don’t want to be assimilated into society, you can always go and live in a cave in India. Or possibly Wales. India is a more popular destination for the discerning troglodite, I believe. The nights are usually warmer but can come with the added disadvantage of bears. But I digress.
Call me a far-right fascist if you must, but if you want healthcare, a basic education, your rubbish collected and loads of free-at-the-point-of-entry museums and art galleries then some sort of low-level assimilation is going to be inevitable. Then there are those iPhones, for example. And the Nike trainers. And the constant demands for affirmation through pronouns. You don’t want to be assimilated? Aren’t your demands all about exactly that?
“Whose streets? Our streets!” chanted the group, masked and potentially intimidating, bearing a sign that demanded their ‘cis allies’ arm them: they marched on us like… well… like a very small fascist army of angry students.
And as I’m dwelling on this, Kellie Jay arrives. I move forward to take a photo, just as a black-clad TRA runs forward and sprays her in the face and over the shoulders with a jet of water from a plastic bottle with a ‘sucky’ top.
“Just ignore them”
Sometimes a bit of light is needed. I think the situation needs a good hard looking at once in a while. You can listen to or watch the speeches here. Let’s unpack those chants and unfurl those banners! Let’s ask the million dollar question.
What do they actually WANT?
These young people have carefully painted their deepest thoughts and most passionately held desires on to banners.
Come, gather around. Let us listen.
‘Trans liberation is women’s liberation’
If you believe a woman who thinks she’s a man IS a man, then surely women’s liberation is not about her even though she ‘is trans’ because you don’t believe she’s a woman.
As not all trans-identified people are women, this would suggest that women’s liberation is primarily about men who think they’re women?
This vague, yet worthy sounding liberation is liberation from what? From gender? From stereotypes? That’s great, those are things we want too. Surely nobody likes sexism and stereotypes? Liberation from patriarchy? Bring it on!
Liberation from reality? You never see a TRA with a sign claiming that ‘trans liberation is men’s liberation’. Why not?
‘Trans liberation is the antithesis to women’s liberation because it is founded on gender stereotypes’ would be more accurate, but you’d need a bigger bit of cardboard.
The weeping rainbow
This sign is the most baffling. After some contemplation, this is what I see. Here are twin babies wearing pink & blue nappies. They wanted to play ball in the rain but their mum said ‘no’, so they took away her umbrella and pooped beside her and ran away. Maybe the mother is lying on a towel? Perhaps they are on a beach and the poor innocent darlings are being lured towards a dangerous sea as their mother weeps for the lessons they must learn alone?
Alternatively, two happy, frolicking, trans people have gorily murdered someone and the rainbow is weeping acid rain. But the trans people are immune to it. Hence the discarded umbrella.
Perhaps it’s an advert for the Globe’s next production of Hamlet?
Make her the last
This was the sign I found the most disturbing because- never mind the outlandish accusation- it seemed to be a direct incitement to violence. It was being held by a very young woman. Several women spoke to the police about it and were told different things. One told me an officer had said the sign shouldn’t be allowed but they were currently too busy to do anything about it. Another said she had been told it was fine.
A third was told bruskly by an officer, “Free speech, you can say what you want, so can they,” as if there was some kind of equity in the situation.
In the same exchange, another woman said to one of the officers, “It’s absurd, you can’t change sex,” and was told by him, in complete seriousness, “Oh they do, you know.”
Sharing the same crayons and identical clothing was an even younger person holding a sign which read “We don’t need ‘recognition’ Gender illegalism now!”
I suppose this could be interpreted as a call for the GRA to be repealed, but that seems unlikely. An advocation for self-ID maybe… but wait… whatever they want, it has to be illegal?
“Go ahead, wear what you like, mate.”
“Shut up you fucking fascist! I’ll wear what I like and don’t you dare tell me it’s ok!”
Perhaps somebody has read an article about Foucault or been rumaging through the archives of the Anarchist Library? Whatever it was that instigated this particular outburst, it isn’t quite as big and clever as the person holding the sign seems to think it is because it doesn’t make sense. What about all those hormones you want? That top surgery? The State has to give it to you but it has to be illegal as well? What kind of pampered anarchy is this?
Transphobes do not speak for lesbians
“Dykes for trans rights always”
This one I cannot understand. If a man can say he is a lesbian, if he can say his penis is a lesbian’s penis, then the word ‘lesbian’ ceases to mean anything at all. Surely if these’s one thing lesbians should be able to agree on, it’s that men can’t be lesbians? But it seems not. This person’s sign is demanding that men should be able to call themselves lesbians if they want to. So that’s nice. Very inclusive. For the men of course, not so great for actual lesbians.
Come and take it
The attempted dark glamour of the syringe and pill bottles looks a bit like something a 12 year old 80s child might have drawn in a ‘say no to drugs’ poster competition at school.
But what does it mean? Is it an invitation or a dare? Does ‘take it’ mean ‘consume it’ or ‘remove it’?
Are we partying or fighting?
My feeling is that it’s probably a challenge ‘come and take our hormones away from us if you dare’ rather than an invitation to indulge in a testosterone and oestrogen binge.
Either way, nah, you’re alright. Probably better sticking with a toke on that joint.
all TERFs are child abusers – scratch a transphobe find a racist
‘Scratch a transphobe find a racist’ seems a particularly nonsensical suggestion, but TRAs are expert cuckoos when it comes to latching on to all forms of marginalisation.
Anyone who thinks you can’t change sex and that women’s rights are worth defending is, obviously, an evil, right-wing racist who eats trans-identified babies for breakfast.
They want you to believe that people who acknowledge the reality of biology are racist child abusers. The fact that there is zero evidence for either of these claims doesn’t matter at all because reality doesn’t matter at all!
gender is a performance
But wait… which is it to be? Is gender the innermost essence of our souls, an identity at the heart of our authentic selves, a feeling that must be expressed, respected and validated if terrible consequences are not to ensue?
No. Gender is a performance. We know. That’s what we’ve been saying all along. Can we stop now, please? Why not?
TERFs off our turf – Defend trans lives
How is Hyde Park their turf? I’ve been hanging round here since I was a teenager. Some of us were at Pride marches and meetings in Hyde Park long before this lot were even a twinkle in the non-binary polyamorous milkperson’s eye. Some women present were involved in the protests of the 70s.
Guys, nobody is threatening your lives. If there are trans lives being threatened, they’re mostly those of impoverished prostituted male transexuals in South America. And yes, that’s really shit. What are you doing about it?
Be an ally. Arm trans people.
“No justice, no peace. Fight back. ACAB”
ACAB? Mate, the cops are the ones here defending your right to wave your nasty little incitement-to-violence banners in our faces. Aren’t you ashamed to be so ridiculous?
This demand does at least seem very clear. Trans people should be armed. They shouldn’t have to find weapons for themselves though. A good trans ally should aquire weapons and give them to trans people.
I don’t think it’s generally a good thing for people to be armed, trans or otherwise. We Brits tend to be a bit like that. I especially don’t think it’s a good idea for unstable people to be armed, and if your primary occupation is trying to convince people you’re the opposite sex, I sense just a tad of instability. This is not the same thing as suggesting that all trans-identified men want to go round stabbing people to death.
Last week in the States a trans-identifed young man bludgeoned his father and then stabbed him to death. Nikki Secondino, who had been taking cross-sex hormones since he was sixteen, also stabbed his sister, leaving her in a critical condition. Initially, neighbours reported, he told police that his home had been invaded and he had been sexually assaulted, before admitting to the attacks himself.
The young man is filmed being led in handcuffs past the press. He pushes out his chest and shakes his hair, a smirk plays on his lips. ‘She,’ says the press, playing into his fantasy. ‘She. The elder daughter. She stabbed her father. She confessed’.
In 2019 the Australian press announced: ‘Sydney axe attacks: Woman jailed for wounding 7-Eleven customers’. Evie Amato, a trans-identifed man, attacked three people in a garage with an axe, almost killing two of them. “She,” said the press. ‘She swung her axe,” and was ‘out of her mind’.
This week America executed a trans-identified man who stalked, raped and stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death. ‘She,’ says the press. ‘She spoke quietly. Her trial’.
And in the UK? Check out ‘These are not our Crimes’.
Arm trans people? Let’s not.
At the Brighton Woman’s Place meeting in 2018, TRAs held up signs saying ‘our lives are not a debate’, ‘trans rights are not a debate’, ‘ fight transphobia, fight the hate’ and ‘you’re just jealous’.
As we left the meeting they chanted ‘Non-binary people are valid!’ ‘No debate! No debate!’ ‘Fight back, fight back!’
At the 2019 meeting in Haringay, London, protestors held placards reading ‘respect trans children’ and ‘believe trans kids’. As we left the meeting they chanted the same slogans.
“Can you explain what you mean by ‘believe trans kids?” asked Venice, to which one of the protestors responded, “you’re a cunt” and another, “you’re a fascist”.
Classic examples of more vague or meaningless slogans were on display at the Women’s Liberation Conference in 2020, including the predictable ‘Trans rights now’ and ‘No TERFs on our turf’ but also the more imaginative and startlingly vague, ‘there’s no CIS in Team’ and ‘I don’t know show kindness’.
In Brighton in 2022, protest signs read ‘hate is not a protected right’ and ‘combat TERF hate’, ‘love trumps hate’ and ‘love wins’.
‘Sisters not cis-ters! Transwomen are women! Transmen are men! Non-binary people are valid!”
Do any of these slogans really mean anything?
What do they want?
They’re pissed off that they didn’t get to choose their sex (you can in a computer game, right? So it’s sooooo not fair) and because that’s impossible they want the right to lie about it, and the right to force everyone else to go along with that lie. Oh, and just to make it more interesting, we’ll add in people who are neither men nor women. It must all be validated, constantly and only a bigot would disagree.
“I demand the right to make you complicit in my pretence’.
That’s the ‘right’ in ‘trans rights’.
But let’s face it, it would look shit written on a banner.