Dear handmaids… (my response to an open letter to Liz Truss)

I owe a debt of gratitude to 44-year-old retired Mixed Martial Arts fighter, Fallon Fox. Fox was the first athlete in MMA history to be openly transgender – though he only admitted it after he’d already taken part in two professional fights in the women’s division. During the course of his career, he knocked two women out: one of them – Tamikka Brents – sustained an orbital bone fracture and a head wound requiring seven staples. Six years later, Fox is still boasting about it.

Why am I grateful to him? Well, because he publicly represents all that is rotten about transgender ideology. Like all male athletes competing in women’s sporting events, he’s a cheat. And, like so many trans-identifying men, he is a violent misogynist thug.

Yet we are supposed to accept him as a woman, ‘respect his pronouns’, etc, etc. Who can blame us for feeling uncomfortable and even afraid of being in a changing room or being followed into the Ladies by men like Fox? And it’s not as if he’s the only one.

I’m also grateful to Joss Prior – and those are words I never thought I’d say – for publicly expressing his admiration for Fox’s tweets.

How easy do men like these make it for us to argue that males should stay out of female spaces, however they ‘identify’?

Just to be clear:

Not all men are violent and thuggish.

Not all men who ‘transition’ i.e. claim to be women, with or without medical intervention to alter their appearance, are violent and thuggish.

But those men who are violent and thuggish don’t become less violent and thuggish when they start claiming to be women.

So don’t even think about misrepresenting my view as one that holds all trans-identifying men are unsafe for women to be around!

Prior is the gift that keeps on giving and, having seen these two tweets being circulated on social media yesterday by people who are rightly sickened by them, I went to his Twitter timeline in search of more treasure.

There I came across his tweet expressing orgasmic delight over an open letter to Liz Truss signed by over 7,700 self-identifying ‘cisgender women’ – more properly known as ‘handmaids’ for their promotion and enabling of a misogynistic and homophobic ideology that hurts women and children.

Prior refers to women who refuse to kowtow to male entitlement and deny biological truths as ‘cranks’ and gets off on women like these handmaids, who go along with his delusions

Given that the apparent purpose of the letter was to criticise the Minister for Women and Equalities for taking on board women’s concerns about proposed amendments to the Gender Recognition Act in favour of self-identification of gender, the list of signatories contains no surprises. Most are unknown but included are several politicians – including MPs Layla “I see someone in their soul” Moran, Kate Osbourne and Nadia Whittome. Suspended GP, Helen Webberley is one of the few doctors who signed together with several lawyers and academics – not all of them in ‘Gender Studies’ –  which, given the abysmal quality of the letter and the untruths contained therein, is somewhat more surprising.

“Give it your best shot” was the anonymous response to a query I sent through the website’s contact page in which I said I intended to write a blog post about the letter. Thanks for the encouragement. Here we go:

Last April, you announced that your plans for reforming the Gender Recognition Act will follow three “very important principles”: protecting single-sex spaces, allowing trans people to live without fear of persecution whilst maintaining “proper checks and balances”, and protecting under-18s from making “irreversible decisions”. On the surface these principles may sound reasonable, but we are incredibly concerned that the language you have used is very similar to the anti-trans rhetoric used by transphobic hate groups and organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, Transgender Trend and the LGB Alliance.

It can be taken as read that the word ‘transphobic’ simply means disagreeing that people born male can actually be women and vice versa. Given that this is a biological truth and that believing otherwise requires suspending one’s ability to think critically and deferring to an irrational, incoherent and scientifically unsupported ideology, it is hardly surprising that the overuse of this term against individuals and groups hasn’t had the effect of stopping us campaigning to preserve women’s sex-based rights and protections and against the ‘transing’ of children. We can safely disregard its use here but, for the record, a ‘phobia’ is an irrational fear. Wanting to hang onto the rights fought for by generations of women is entirely rational and all three of the groups mentioned can boast the support of some trans people. WPUK has platformed two transsexual speakers.

So on what grounds are you calling these organisations ‘hate groups’, cisters? Where exactly is the hate?

Is it in wanting to advance the interests of LGB people, amplify the voices of lesbians, protect children and promote free speech, as the LGB Alliance was set up to do last year and which has, ever since, been the target of an extraordinarily vicious campaign of hate and defamation that you are now a part of?

Is it in wanting every child to live free from discrimination and harassment and with the right to express themselves as they wish without unnecessary medical procedures resulting from having an adult ideology imposed on them?  Is it in wanting all children to be safe and free of bullying and having the right to boundaries with the other sex? Is there anything on Transgender Trend’s constitution page or anywhere else on its website that can reasonably be described as ‘hate’?

I find it very hard to believe that all – or indeed any – of you who signed the letter know much about Transgender Trend, whose founder, Stephanie Davis-Arai was shortlisted for the prestigious John Maddox prize a couple of years ago.  And I urge anyone else who is as ignorant about this group as are the signatories but who are perhaps of a less jaundiced mindset to look at their website and, in particular, at the materials produced for schools and then donate to their new fundraiser.

Or is this supposed ‘hate’ you speak of to be found at WPUK, which was set up by a group of socialist feminists after the assault on me at Speakers Corner in September 2017, the group’s aim being to ensure that women’s voices were heard in the GRA consultation and whose list of demands include the right of women to self-organise and an end to male violence?

Seriously, where is the hate?

Transphobic groups have argued that to protect women’s single-sex spaces, trans women must be barred from entering them.

Well, yes. If trans ‘women’ enter women’s single-sex spaces, they cease to be women’s single-sex spaces. They become mixed-sex spaces. You might not mind sharing changing rooms, refuges, hospital wards or prison cells with men who claim to be women. Those of us who’ve directly experienced or simply witnessed violence, bullying and misogynistic abuse of women from dozens of such men, feel differently. Is it really too much to expect you to empathise with women who feel differently than you for good reason? Why do you prioritise the feelings of these men over the feelings of those of us who were born female and have had to endure their hatred?

Wanting men to stay out of women’s spaces isn’t ‘hate’. Got any better arguments?

They campaign against reforming the Gender Recognition Act, and claim that simplifying the process by which trans people update the gender marker on their birth certificate will result in a rise in sexual assaults against women.

Sex, not this nebulous concept of  ‘gender’, is recorded on birth certificates and the campaign against amending the GRA is not just about fearing sexual assaults, though that is certainly a legitimate fear given that

  • the majority of trans-identifying men are heterosexual and keep their penises;
  •  that in the UK, an estimated 510,000 women under the age of 60 are sexually assaulted each year;
  • that nearly 90% of complaints about changing room sexual assaults, voyeurism and harassment in swimming pool and leisure centre changing rooms take place in unisex facilities, even though such facilities are in the minority.

But not wanting men in women’s spaces is also about desiring privacy and dignity, which is important to the psychological well-being of women – especially those who are survivors of male violence and abuse and goodness knows there are plenty of us.

This is despite the fact that several countries have implemented similar reforms to their gender recognition laws without any negative impact to cis women whatsoever.

What counts as ‘negative impact’? Would women being embarrassed, frightened or traumatised by finding people who are perceptibly male in spaces they only expect to find females count as a negative impact? If not, why not? If it would, how do you know it doesn’t happen? How, for that matter, do you know that incidents of voyeurism or molestation haven’t happened? You do know that most sexual crimes go unreported, right?

These transphobic groups also argue against any gender-affirming healthcare for trans under-18’s…

Quite right too. Gender refers to cultural expectations placed on people on the basis of their biological sex. It is regressive – we should be challenging it and raising youngsters to have the confidence to be themselves and express themselves as they choose without leading them to believe they can be what they are not, without encouraging them in the belief that they must fit one or other ideological labels and without reinforcing backwards gender stereotypes.

In spite of some controversy over the desistance rate in children and young people, the weight of evidence suggests that the majority of children and teenagers who wish they were the other sex eventually grow out of it. Not enough is known about the onset of gender dysphoria in adolescence to determine the most appropriate treatment but it is surely significant that “treatment-seeking adolescents with GD present with considerable psychiatric comorbidity.” Source.

…and mislead the public into thinking that under 18’s are being given gender reassignment surgery on the NHS…

No, they do not! Three specific groups have been named – none are making any such claim. Groups like these and other feminist campaigners such as Fair Play for Women, Standing for Women, For Women Scotland and ReSisters, all of whom would probably also be defamed as ‘hate groups’ by these signatories, have no need to lie. Why are over 7,700 women (plus a few men, by the way) putting their names to a demonstrable falsehood without checking the truth of it?

And it’s not the only falsehood…

A handful of trans teenagers each year are given puberty blockers, a safe treatment available to trans teens on the NHS since 1989. Multiple scientific studies show that puberty blockers are a life-saving treatment for trans teenagers who want them.

A word of advice: When writing to someone powerful, if you want your arguments to be taken seriously, it’s a good idea to support them with actual evidence rather than making sweeping claims and just hoping they’ll be believed.

A handful of teenagers? Not according to reports about the GIDS last year, which said, “around half of children who are seen at the clinic are put on drugs to pause their puberty, known as hormone blockers”.

So how many kids are seen at the clinic? Ten? Half of ten would indeed be a ‘handful’. But no. The report tells us that “GIDS had 2,590 referrals last year, compared with just 77 patients a decade ago”.

I admit to being sceptical that over a thousand children were in fact prescribed blockers because the figure simply beggars belief. But I doubt it was merely a “handful”.

A safe treatment? That’s a rash claim to make at a time when a legal challenge to stop puberty blockers – Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone agonists (GnRHa) – being prescribed is underway. In fact, they are used off-label. They have not been certified as a safe or effective treatment for gender dysphoria by their manufacturers, nor by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. Even GIDS admits that they “don’t know the full psychological effects of the blocker or whether it alters the course of adolescent brain development” and, as the very alarming report on this evening’s BBC Newsnight programme showed, GIDS is not exactly an open book.

A still from BBC Newsnight’s report on the GIDS, quoting a member of staff

Instead of taking the word of those with a vested interest in giving this experimental treatment to children, how about doing a bit of independent research? Or at least read a more objective view on the subject. Prof Carl Heneghan, director of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, would be a good one to start with. Gender-affirming hormone in children and adolescents

Given that two claims in the first sentence in the above quote from the letter don’t stand up to scrutiny, I suggest the claim in the second sentence about multiple scientific studies without reference to a single one be taken with a pinch of salt.

Trans equality was not widely seen as an issue until the Transgender Equality Inquiry of 2015 triggered a concerted campaign in the media to depict trans rights as a new threat to cisgender women like ourselves.

Trans equality isn’t the issue – women’s sex-based rights are. It almost sounds as if you think feminists campaigning to hang onto them are stupid and incapable of seeing for ourselves how they are threatened by the promotion of transgender ideology. If I may say so, the three groups you mention – and the ones you don’t – have all made a better job of articulating women’s concerns than you have and, unlike you, they have managed to do so without stating falsehoods as if they were true and calling people bigots.

We reject this assessment. As cisgender women, we are angry that these groups claim to speak for us, and try to justify their bigotry against a vulnerable minority in our name. It is disturbing to hear an equalities minister repeat their talking points almost word for word while outlining plans to reform trans rights.

I don’t believe any of these groups claim to speak for handmaids like yourselves. In fact, they claim to speak for nobody but themselves but the fact that they have gone from to strength to strength, in spite of dishonest smear campaigns against them by people like you, suggests that they do speak for quite a lot of people. If Liz Truss repeats their talking points, perhaps you should consider engaging with those talking points instead of misrepresenting what they are actually saying.

And, by the way, do you actually know the meaning of the word ‘bigotry’?

Over the past two and a half years, dozens of meetings to discuss women’s concerns about transgender ideology and the GRA have been targeted by trans activist bullies trying to get venues to cancel, picketing outside, shouting, intimidating and assaulting attendees. Feminists have been doxed to employers for expressing personal views outside working hours about the immutability of sex and the negative impact on lesbian spaces of entitled heterosexual trans-identifying men. Lesbians have been refused service for proudly proclaiming their lesbianism on a t-shirt. Many of us have been victims of vicious defamation campaigns.

This has only happened in one direction. Who are the real bigots in this conflict?

The fact that you chose to make this a priority during the biggest crisis the world has faced in decades is even more disturbing. During lockdown, hundreds of women have been killed by abusive partners. Ethnic minorities are four times more likely to die from COVID-19. Surely these issues are more urgent?

And I’m sure you’d say exactly the same thing if Liz Truss had announced the government were pressing ahead with plans to amend the GRA in favour of gender self-id, right? Course you would.

We sign this letter in the hope that you will listen to us, as well as transgender and non-binary people and organisations such as Stonewall, the LGBT Foundation and The Kaleidoscope Trust. We urge you to speak to trans youth, to seek out evidence and use facts, and to reconsider sharing talking points with groups that have been widely condemned as transphobic hate groups.

Seek out evidence and use facts just like you didn’t do?

That you repeatedly call groups that campaign for women and gay people ‘transphobic hate groups’ without once referring truthfully to anything any of these groups has actually said should be enough to convince Liz Truss to treat your letter with all the contempt it and every single one of its signatories deserves.

But at least Joss Prior loves you.

 

Published 18.06.20

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