Meet Meghan Murphy, the ‘transphobic’ feminist booted off Twitter… but who won’t be silenced The Telegraph 22.05.19
The original article by Karen Yossman is here.
Clad in a black leather jacket and a Rolling Stones t-shirt, Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy looks like any other music-loving patron as she reclines in the small beer garden at the back of The Hawley Arms, Amy Winehouse’s old haunt in Camden.
Certainly, few would suspect that the 39-year-old, who is in the middle of a whistle-stop speaking tour across the UK when we meet, has been subject to such a sustained campaign of harassment and intimidation that, in her hometown of Vancouver, she has police escorts from public engagements.
What has attracted these repeated threats of death, rape, violence and censorship – as well as a ban from Twitter last year, over which she is now suing the social media behemoth – is her staunch position on the most blistering of political hot potatoes: transgender activism.
“When they started pushing through legislation [in Canada] I was like, OK, well this is going to have a real impact because gender identity is in conflict with women’s sex-based rights,” she says matter-of-factly.
One Canadian bill that spurred her to action has the potential to criminalise anyone who refuses to use trans people’s preferred pronouns. “All these policies were being changed all of a sudden, and there was no public consultation, no public discussion, no debate,” she explains. “Nobody asked women’s organizations or feminists or the general public.”
It was into this vacuum that Murphy stepped forward. As one of the lone voices unequivocally arguing that identifying as a different gender does not change one’s chromosomal sex (and, ergo, that trans-women are not actually women) Murphy was swiftly labelled a “radical” feminist, as well as a bigot and a transphobe by her detractors, many of whom also accuse her of being Right-wing.
To Murphy, a once proud socialist with a Marxist father, it’s a laughable claim. But she feels betrayed by the Left. “The NDP [Canada’s equivalent to Labour] has fully vilified women who speak out about this,” she says. “They won’t even have a conversation.”
On Monday evening she spoke at a sold-out event on women’s rights in Bloomsbury, where she received something of a rock star’s welcome, with extended applause and whoops of appreciation as she walked onto the podium. It makes our meeting at one of Camden’s most rock ‘n’ roll pubs the following afternoon feel quite appropriate.
The reason for Murphy’s visit is because a similar ideological battle is taking place on this side of the Atlantic. Last year the Government launched a public consultation on ‘gender self-ID’, a policy which would require little more than signing a statement – and no medical oversight – for anyone to obtain a legal gender change. The debate in the UK has been equally fraught, with accusations of transphobialiberally hurled at those who dare raise the potential practical impact of such sweeping legislative reforms.
Unsurprisingly, few prominent women have publicly waded into the fray. Those who have – such as ex-Olympians Sharron Davies and Kelly Holmes, and MSP Joan McAlpine, who invited Murphy to address the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood last night – have, like Murphy, been subjected to appalling threats and abuse.
Murphy’s conviction on the issue has also played out online, initially earning her a handful of suspensions from social media site Twitter. Finally, last November, Twitter issued a lifetime ban after Murphy tweeted “yeah that’s him” in reference to a Canadian trans-womanwho still went by a male name, is believed to retain male genitalia and at the time was reportedly suing a number of female beauticians in Canada after they refused to administer a Brazilian wax, a treatment which involves the removal of pubic hair.
As a self-employed feminist writer and campaigner who used Twitter to find and promote her work – Murphy had accumulated around 25,000 followers by the time she was banned – she is now bringing a test case against the San Franciscan tech company. “I was worried about my livelihood,” she explains, as well as the implications for free speech.
With an increasing number of British women suspended or kicked off the site for publishing similar statements – last year transsexual writer Miranda Yardley was also banned for tweeting that trans woman Aimee Challenor, a former Green Party LGBT spokesperson, is a man – lawyers and free speech advocates in the UK will no doubt be paying close attention.
While Twitter has thus far refused to comment publicly on Murphy’s case, it has, in a move some might see as perverse, filed a unique US legal motion meant to protect the right to free speech, in an attempt to get Murphy’s case thrown out. She is currently waiting for a court to rule on whether or not her claim can proceed.
Murphy has genuine sympathy for those suffering from gender dysphoria (the belief they have been born the wrong sex)m but it is outweighed by her concern that trans activists’ increasingly rapacious demands, particularly in the name of trans-women, many of whom, it is believed, opt to retain their male anatomy, will have potentially devastating consequences for women and children in a plethora of areas from professional sports to domestic violence provision.
In Vancouver, she points out, a women’s rape shelter which denied services to trans-women was deemed “transphobic” by local politicians, who subsequently voted to cut its government subsidies. “Women who are escaping male violence need somewhere to go,” Murphy says. “And these places are going to lose funding unless they cave [to the demands of trans activists].” It is for erstwhile uncontroversial statements such as these that Murphy has attracted such opprobrium.
Despite her public aura of bravado, Murphy admits the incessant harassment has taken its toll. In Canada she has lost friends who are afraid to associate with her for fear of damaging their ‘woke’ credentials, received obscene telephone calls, and even been reported to the police for alleged transphobia. “They obviously thought it was silly,” she says, but nevertheless a policeman warned her to “be careful”.
“I’m scared for my safety,” Murphy confesses. “Lots of women are. I know people who’ve lost their jobs over this. Women are being silenced.”
That may sound like hyperbole but on Monday’s panel, Murphy spoke alongside British tax expert Maya Forstater, who in March became the first person in the UK to be fired for publicly stating that trans-women are not women and has now launched employment tribunal proceedings against the Centre for Global Development, her former employer. CGD said it could not discuss staffing matters, but all staff “are expected to uphold our respectful workplace policy”.
Equally telling is the fact that details of the panel’s location, organised by lobby group Woman’s Place UK, weren’t released to the 500 ticket-holders until just hours before the event was due to start. In the past, venues across the UK who have hosted the group’s discussions have been subjected to such virulent harassment from trans activists that they have been forced to cancel them altogether.
It’s the same story in Vancouver, where a January talk hosted by Murphy on the topic of transgender children – many of whom it is claimed are being given off-label hormone treatments, causing sterilisation and other dangerous side effects – was swarmed by 200 protestors. “We have to hire bodyguards and security and bring the cops so that we can have a conversation,” she says, in disbelief.
If anything, such persecution has only emboldened women concerned about what they see as trans activists’ creeping penetration of their spaces – from Girl Guides sleepovers to gym changing rooms – to speak up. “I’ve talked to lots of people everywhere and most people don’t buy into this,” she says. “And I think even a lot of the people who publicly say they do don’t buy into it.”
As Monday night’s event drew to a close and the panellists – which also included feminist writer Julie Bindel and academic Selina Todd – took questions from the audience, someone asked whether they could each recommend some further reading. Murphy, the last to answer, paused to consider her own experiences before replying simply: 1984.