On Alice Roberts, Humanists UK and compassion

One of the things I was somewhat hurt by in the weeks after I was assaulted at Speakers Corner was the lack of contact from Humanists UK. I was Facebook friends with the CEO and several other high profile humanists and the night after I was assaulted I posted an emotive rant, which was shared widely. A lot of people – including some humanists I consider to be dear friends – expressed sympathy and support but there wasn’t a peep from the leadership of the organisation I had been a member of for a quarter of a century. I’d also been a humanist funeral celebrant for eight years and, early this century, I had spent a couple of years there in full-time employment as a development officer.

I envisage any trans activists reading the above to be nodding approvingly at the lack of interest and compassion from Humanists UK. To trans activists I am a hate figure. I am the guilty party who instigated a violent attack on a poor innocent 25-year-old, 6-foot-plus “trans girl”. I am a liar, a hater, a bigot, a transphobe extraordinaire, a giant terrifying beast, a white supremacist, a Nazi.

It’s been twenty-one months since the assault and fourteen months since the trial at which the odious District Judge Kenneth Grant found Tara Wolf – the only one of my three assailants who was ever identified, arrested and charged – guilty of assault.

But the hate just goes on and on and on. It pops up everywhere. I only have to comment on a news story or try to participate in an online discussion and out of the blue some random anonymous commenter will derail the conversation with a torrent of personal abuse. The examples on the right come from Prick News.

Of course, it’s my fault for using my real name instead of hiding under the cowardly cloak of anonymity, just as it was my fault for filming a protest in a public place, for fighting back against my assailants instead of just meekly handing over my camera and for staying active and vocal online and in real life, instead of quietly retiring to the country and raising chickens or something. It’s my fault for ever tweeting that I wished I’d kicked my assailant back harder. It’s my fault for joking about getting people in headlocks, after the lie that I’d done this to one of my assailants spread like wildfire across social media. That the judge dismissed this ludicrous allegation out of hand has made no difference. It still crops up again and again and again.

The first alarm bells raised about the direction the organisation was taken came nearly a year ago, when I was subjected to a nasty and sustained attack on the Humanist UK Facebook page by someone claiming to be female (I am in no doubt they are transgender) and saying they’d lodged a formal complaint against me with the organisation for breaking their Code of Conduct. (I was never informed of any such complaint and doubt one was ever submitted or that the person attacking me was even a member.) My husband responded defending me and was banned from commenting further. I joined in and defended myself and was also banned. Finally, the whole thread was removed but not before a screenshot of most of it had been taken.

Two months later, we resigned from Humanists UK. I’ve already explained why and when I subsequently saw their appalling submission to the GRA consultation, I blogged that I was glad I’d done so. If I hadn’t resigned when I did, I would have resigned soon after, over the treatment of my celebrant colleague, Jan Williams.

Elsewhere, I wrote:

I accompanied Jan to a panel hearing yesterday. We’ve just heard that the complaint – which was by a senior staff member at HUK, inspired by some vicious and unsupportable allegations against her made on Twitter – is not being upheld…I saw the full text of the complaint against her and it was the most incompetent and appalling load of tripe I’ve ever seen. Those tweeters attributed to her some vile and despicable views she has never expressed anywhere at any time yet, instead of standing by their celebrant, they treated her as if she was guilty of a major breach and failure. I’ve never been more ashamed of HUK and regretful of my long association with them.

Jan has recently put up her own account of what happened to her: A Witch Hunt at Humanists UK.

I come across as a tough cookie, but I have felt anxious, crazy, mistreated, and hurt by HUK. I lost sleep and weight.  Thank goodness for the support of radical feminists and gender-critical Humanists!

(By the way, there is a private gender critical humanists’ group on Facebook. If any member or former member of Humanists UK or fellow traveller wants to join, let me know. You’ll need to convince us that you’re on our side before you’re allowed in!)

I never intended or expected to write anything about Humanists UK again and wouldn’t be doing so, had I not been made aware by a story in yesterday’s Independent, that Prof Alice Roberts, had caused something on a stir of a Twitter and had finally posted this.

I’m taking a holiday from Twitter for a while. I’ve argued for reason, compassion and empathy in discussions about sex and gender. That’s opened me up to more hate, bile and even misogyny than I’ve experienced before. I’m sad and shocked. Humans can be so much better than this.

According to her Twitter profile, Alice Roberts is Professor of Public Engagement in Science at Uni of Birmingham; biological anthropologist, author, broadcaster; President of Humanists UK.

I’ve spent a good part of today looking for the evidence of the “reason, compassion and empathy” she claims to have argued for and for the evidence of the hate, bile and misogyny she’s been greeted with – something, I venture to add, that the Independent journalist would have done if he’d been any good at his job. I doubt that it’s something the many tweeters who took her at her word and responded with sympathy and advice to “block the trolls, haters, idiots, etc” thought of doing, even though I noted a number of scientists among them.

I wondered how this “hate, bile and misogyny” directed at Alice Roberts would compare with that directed at critics of transgender ideology by those who brook no disagreement with it? Let’s have a reminder:

“Let me know if ur a terf so I can beat the shit out of you.”
“Kill every terf you see.”
“That’s the only thing terfs deserve, being doxxed and killed.”
“Would you kindly suck my womanly dick.”
“Terfs should be shot.”
“I haven’t pissed in the face of a terf in ages.”
“You know I can’t even be bothered setting the terfs on fire myself go and fucking self immolate you cunts.”
“If you are a terf, I want you dead.”
“Round up every terf and all their friends just for good measure and slit their throats one by one.”
“Time to eat a gyro and masturbate furiously to the sound of terfs crying.”
“Suck my girlcock cunts.  Preferably choke on it.”
“The only good terf is a dead terf.”
“Cut your throat, terf.”
“Death to all terfs.”
“Go and die in a fire terf abuser.”
“I want to set every single terf on fire I hope every terf and their disgusting allies literally dies in a fire or from cancer.”
“Why can’t we throw every terf into the volcano and watch them burn.”
“I wanna direct a snuff film where multiple terfs get shot in the head but don’t die, they just suffer in agony.”
“If you encounter a terf in the wild, deposit them in the nearest dumpster.”
“Enjoy my ladydick in your mouth cuntwipe.”
“Somebody slap this terf cunt across the face.”
“All terfs need to cease existing. Wipe them from the Earth. They are a plague to be purged.”

These are just a small sample of the tweets from “transwomen” collected on the terfisaslur website which, when I saw it for the first time, sent my peak trans experience into the stratosphere. I was sad and shocked. Humans can be so much better than this…it just that so many of those who promote transgender ideology choose not to be. I used some of those disgusting comments to make the header of this website and I’ve collected many more since. One day I hope to be able to overcome the revulsion they cause long enough to post them all here and, if I manage that, I will attempt the even more emotionally demanding task of adding all the screencaps of hate directed at me personally to those already collected here.

In the meantime, I will say that if any woman isn’t hurt and angered and any decent man isn’t horrified by these comments (and goodness knows I’ve seen plenty of both men and women dismiss them or try to justify them) they aren’t human. Actually, on second thoughts, they are human. People like that are the very reason I have lost my faith in humanity and in humanism as a world view and Humanists UK’s mindless support for such people doesn’t help any.

And, no, I’m not saying that any of the humanists would endorse such sickening comments. But I don’t see any condemnation either and they have invited Linda Riley, editor of DIVA magazine, and a staunch ally of such vicious trans activists, to speak at their convention this weekend. Riley is apparently a friend of Rachel McKinnon, the transgender cyclist who took first place in a women’s cycling event and has been responsible for some extremely nasty, misogynist comments, which finally got McKinnon banned from Twitter. Riley reportedly put in a word and got McKinnon reinstated.

I, on the other hand, got permanently banned for demanding an apology from my violent assailants and some of my online tormentors and for calling out one in particular. Perhaps Riley could put in a good word for me or any of the other feminists and allies who’ve been banned for challenging ideas we disagree with but who manage to do so without “joking” about wanting them to die in grease fires?

Anyway, it seems the conflict culminating in Alice Roberts’ announcement that she was taking a break started about a month ago. During that time she did indeed repeatedly emphasise the importance of kindness, compassion, thoughtfulness and understanding, as if anyone who raised serious concerns about transgender ideology was likely to disagree that these were desirable qualities in considering a question concerning living beings.

The only people who demonstrably disagree, so far as I can see, are trans activists and actual transphobes. And by ‘actual transphobes’ I mean people like these, not people who are resisting the redefinition of the word ‘woman’ – though of course we’re all transphobes as far as trans activists and their allies are concerned. In their jaundiced view, there is nothing to choose between those of us who say “transgender people deserve the same human rights as anyone else but transwomen aren’t women, nor are transmen men” and those who just say they want to kill “trannies”. I’ve seen dozens of tweets claiming that ‘TERFs’ want all trans people dead, which is about as desperate a lie as you can get.

The fact that kindness, compassion and understanding are notably lacking in the overwhelming majority of trans activists who post their views online wasn’t, of course, mentioned by the professor. More importantly, nor was the negative impact on women and girls of policies that centre transgender people. These omissions, together with a clear implication that compassion only need go in one direction, provoked a certain amount of anger, which I understood and share.

There was more aggravation when it became clear that Alice Roberts wasn’t going to answer a simple question which, in spite of what she suggested, was asked calmly and politely. The question was, “What is the difference between a man and a woman?” The questioner was blocked. Alice Roberts said, “I block people who are rude or objectionable. It helps keep me sane.”  Well, as several people pointed out, this questioner was not rude…so asking straightforward and simple questions is objectionable? Apparently so.

She had, a couple of weeks earlier blocked someone else who was challenging her – again, quite politely – and trying to get a clear answer from her on a fundamental scientific question. She is, after all, “Professor of Public Engagement in Science”.

Of the dozens of responses to her various comments, some were very rude, insulting, hurtful or just plain silly: she was accused of kowtowing to her “trans masters”, of being a paid shill, of hating women. Hate and bile, yes, though to state the obvious, nothing that remotely compares to what gender-critical commenters aka ‘TERFs’ put up with every day. I saw no tweet directed at Roberts that could be described as ‘misogyny’. A search revealed she’d only mentioned it once, saying to someone:

Don’t refer to me in the third person, please, whilst copying me in. It could be mistaken as misogyny.

Convicted sex offenders who claim to be female

I don’t care for people who talk about me in the third person in front of me either. It’s ill-mannered but it’s not exactly like telling me to cut my throat, die in a fire or suck their dick, is it?

Most of the comments directed at her were civil, intelligent and they made valid points that she ignored. Unsurprisingly, many tweeters expressed frustration and disappointment at her unsupported claim that biological sex isn’t “strictly binary” and at outlandish statements she made such as this one:

How I feel in myself has no bearing on what someone feels. If someone who looks like a man and has XY chromosomes tells me he feels female – I cannot tell her she is ‘wrong’. Would you?

Seriously? Even if that someone looks like one of the men pictured right and he is standing naked next to your teenage daughter in a communal shower in the women’s changing rooms at the local swimming pool? Has Alice Roberts really thought her position through? Here’s a response from a transsexual:





And if anyone is still unconvinced, you may like to address these questions from Ben, who is a father of five:

Some questions for pro-self-ID people.

Roberts also retweeted several bizarre but apparently serious tweets by the Natural History Museum Twitter account that were hashtagged #PrideMonth and were supposedly celebrating #queer diversity in the natural world. I kid you not.

This was the first of a series:


When it was pointed out that,

The ‘Queer’ ideology promoted in @NHM_London tweets directly undermines evolutionary theory. The ‘sex is a spectrum’ nonsense contradicts fundamentally how we understand Darwinism and evolution.

Alice Roberts responded that:

It really doesn’t. And the crucial point for me is that people are trying to use science (which actually does not provide the neat answers they want it to) to oppress a certain group of humans. And even if the science was as clear cut as they think it is, why use it as a weapon?

Every one of her ‘arguments’ (for want of a better word) is ridiculous and unsupportable. Who is “trying to use science to oppress a certain group of humans” and what form does this oppression take?

We are not told. But surely…surely Alice Roberts doesn’t think keeping male-bodied people – even those who claim to “feel” female, whatever that means – out of women’s sports, changing rooms and prisons is “oppressive”?

Judging by the responses, I am not the only one who sees that the professor is getting things arse-backward. Nor am I alone in feeling both astonished and dispirited at what appears to be deliberate mendacity by a small number of scientists in support of an ideology that is hurting women, children and even transsexuals themselves.

Even if we were to go along with the labyrinthine attempts at reasoning that sex isn’t “strictly binary” – how would this change our understanding of transgenderism when there are so-called “transwomen” winning medals in women’s events because of their male bodies, using their size and strength to intimidate and assault women or just telling us to suck their dicks and die in grease fires?

I look forward to hearing the answer. But I’m not holding my breath.

Alice Roberts once said, “But at the end of the day science is about evidence, not wishful thinking.”

How ironic that quote seems in light of the nonsense she’s proclaiming now.


Published 21.06.19 Updated 03.07.19

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5 Responses to On Alice Roberts, Humanists UK and compassion

  • A close relative is deeply religious. She’s a Catholic, and takes Transubstantiation literally. When I used to ask her about this, she would (naturally) be at a loss to explain what exactly it meant for a wafer to literally be the flesh of Jesus while at the same time clearly being a wafer. And what she always used to do, was say ‘In the end, it’s just about treating your neighbour the way you’d wish to be treated.’

    Step 1: Claim something that doesn’t make sense. Step 2: Equate this belief with simply being kind.

    With a bit of luck, your interlocutor (or onlookers) won’t notice that there is no logical link between the belief and ‘being kind’ and suddenly, instead of arguing that matter doesn’t magically respond to our beliefs, it looks like the nasty skeptic is arguing against kindness.

    Quite depressing to see Prof Roberts employing the same tactics.

  • Prof Roberts: Science is about evidence, not wishful thinking.
    Also Prof Roberts: A man is a woman if he says so. No evidence needed.

  • I was brought up in what was then the British Humanist Association, in which my parents were both very active members, running a local group and participating at a national level, including for many years my father having the role Alice Roberts now has. I’m glad my parents are dead, because they would be extremely distressed by what is going on. They were both scientists, and not only taught me the value of rational and evidence-based discourse, but ensured I understood the way that science progresses by careful and data-rich challenges to existing theory etc. Quite what has happened to the scientific rationality that I was brought up in, I have no idea, but I am horrified that you and Jan Williams (and others) have been put through such ridiculous lack of support and actual accusations by Humanists UK.

    • Thank you, Alice. Were your parents Hermann and Christine?

      • Yes, that’s them. Christine was heavily involved in all the education work of the BHA (including humanist representation of the SACREs etc). And Hermann as President. But both very much involved throughout their lives, in the local groups where they lived.

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