“Saying men who identify as women who like women are not lesbian is absurd” No it isn’t. Men who fancy women are not lesbians. Here’s what’s happened…

There are currently several groups in operation claiming an intention to break down the confines of gender stereotypes and assumptions, some of whom say sex itself is not really a binary. Seeing an end to gender as a social force has been the defining task of feminists, especially lesbians, for generations but we now have ‘gender radicals’ and the transgender movement – and currently, in the UK, Stonewall and other branches of the LGBT+ movement defining the battle for trans self-ID as gay lib II. They are trying to break down the distinction between biological males and females,  rather than the sexist gender roles feminists and lesbians oppose. They call the feminists and lesbians who disagree with them ‘terfs’.

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Try this – follow the link to see a performance poet expressing exactly the misunderstanding that’s caused all the trouble….

A Roundhouse performance by ‘a woman with a penis’

Some misunderstandings in that performance…

Be quiet?

No, I do not want you to be quiet. I want you to revel in what you are, and express yourself in any way that seems right to you, as long as you don’t harm others by so doing.

But until you understand that the word ‘woman’ has a meaning already, and it belongs to people like me and that we need it; until you understand that by appropriating that name, you are breaking down the ideas, the representation, the spaces and the services women have fought for for years; until you understand that women are not men, that it is because of men and only because of men that women need distinct ideas, spaces and services, I will be campaigning against your stance.

Until you understand why, you will think I am a bigot, a terf, a transphobe, and you will feel utterly righteous in denouncing me, and our world will overflow with conflict and unhappiness.

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People look you up and down?

Of course they do. This is not ‘transphobia’, nor is it simple curiosity. Being a society of males and females is necessary to the survival of our species, and its consequences are hardwired into us. There are a hundred and one reasons why people want and need to know whether they are in the company of their own, or the opposite sex. If you make it harder for them to tell, they will look harder to find out – and they will find out.

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Murderers and rapists?

No, nobody is saying you are a murderer or a rapist. Please pay attention – we are saying that if you break down the right women have won to have some representation, spaces and services protected from people with penises, that vulnerability will be exploited by murderers and rapists. Abusive men will abuse society’s acceptance of gender identity – that’s what abusive people do – they abuse things. And you are helping them. You don’t mean to, but you are. That is why most people object to self-id (ie, ‘changing your sex’ without any physical or legal checks or treatments.)

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The experience of women

I was with a group of women yesterday, one of many groups who gather in quiet corners all the time now, to discuss their worries about all this. One of them was trying to find out how to use a foodbank, because her husband-as-was has suddenly stopped paying for her son’s keep. Three are busy and distracted because their daughters are in difficulty – one daughter is ill, and failing to get proper help from the NHS, another is pregnant and having difficulty, another is in trouble because her man has turned nasty – so their mothers have to step in. One of these woman is struggling to bring up an autistic child. There were also three women in the group who were raped as children, and now fear for the children who will be put in danger when people with penises have free run of everywhere.

And there were only six of us in the room. And that’s fairly typical. I know no-one ever wants to hear the words ‘you are too young’ – but you are too young to know the pressures that build up on women as they get older. I ignored the women’s movement until I was in my fifties. Women learn, some sooner, some later, why women need their own space, their own protections, their own words. Sure, younger women – and some older women who have been lucky – see no reason not to let you have your way – but not all. By a long chalk, not all. Some are fighting politely, a few are fighting loudly. Most are silently worrying.

It’s more than a shame – it’s a disaster. All you need do is drop the word ‘woman’ and join the trans people who are fighting for their own words, rights, services, spaces, instead of fighting women – if you would only do that, then EVERYONE could stand together for the rights, services and spaces each group needs.

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I am sorry

I really am, truly sorry – not to mention worried sick. I don’t want to hurt you, I don’t want to make you angry. I don’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to and most of all, I don’t want to cause a grave political divide. Some women are pretending they don’t mind giving away women’s rights for transgender wishes, because they can’t bear to hurt/anger anyone, or cause a political conflict – but I am a socialist, and I know that your rights extend right up to the point where they clash with someone else’s. Then, you have to stop and negotiate, for everyone’s sake.

I believe you have been misled.

I believe you have been sold a bad idea that is supposed to solve another bad idea.

Look in the shop, in the catalogue, on the TV – Boys’ bed-sheets, girls’ tee-shirts, boy’s shorts, girls’ films, boys’ holidays, girls’ sweets, boys’ books, girls’ music… everything has come to be demarcated according to sex. The stereotypes you grew up battered by are not innate, and they are not inevitable. I know this because I remember a time when it was not so and I do not believe the current trend for transgenderism will work for you, and I do not believe it will last. We will fight off the barrage of pink-or-blue marketing that dictates what boys and girls must like and do and be – we will reach a world where everyone can make their own choices, easy in their own skin.

You have also been misled if you think women want to exclude you. In most circumstances, in most places, you will be welcome. The places and the positions that women need to be truly women only are not extensive – but they are essential. Women have always been better than men (on average) at accepting others – and most women are mostly willing to call you whatever you want to be called – but they won’t be, if you keep fighting them.

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You are protected

‘Gender reassignment’ and ‘sex’ are both protected characteristics. You can claim all the rights women have under your own class of ‘gender reassignment’. By contrast, the exemption for ‘sex’ that women rely on is meaningful in one way and one way only – it gives women the right to organise and have spaces and representation protected from people with penises. That is all it does, and all it is for. If you manage to nullify that, then women will have nothing. You will remain protected under ‘gender reassignment’ and women will be out on their own.

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Let’s not start from here

I am glad you have protection. I am glad women have protection. Both are temporary measures, put in place to help society find its way to a state of equality and security where we can all disregard gender stereotypes with impunity. But we ain’t there yet, so please do not try to sabotage women’s rights – that helps no-one, and ultimately degrades us all.

The Morning Star letter

150 people, including several TU General Secretaries, signed a letter – not ‘taking sides’ but calling for an end to the violence and intimidation against women.

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The letter

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We could not give examples of women attacking, ganging up on or intimidating trans people because as far as we know, this hasn’t happened.

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Some lesbians decided to take a stand. Pride is, after all, a protest and declaration day for LGBT people, isn’t it?

Get the 'L' out of LGBT
Photo by Pam Isherwood/Photofusion

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We have some work to do yet, sisters. If you are feeling alone, marginalised or scared, look for your sisters. Women make up over half of the population and well over half of us are very unhappy about all this. We are organising – under the radar in many places, but we are organising. No need to stay silent. If you’re a lesbian, try searching #GettheLOut and for any women, #WPUK I know you feel nervous and full of doubt right now – must be all those threats flying around – but they are just silly kids showing off. Once you find half a dozen honest women you can really talk to, you will feel great!

Thanks to Pam Isherwood for the photos of Pride. More here

*NB added September 2018 One more misunderstanding has showed up so often in the comments about this on social media that I thought I’d better address it. The link above takes you to a performance. This is a performance poet, presenting a work for public consideration. If you are a writer or artist of any kind, you have probably guessed what’s coming next, because it happens a lot in amateur circles, and too often in apparently professional ones. Yes, it is perfectly possible for a poet or actor to present *themselves* as the protagonist in a performance. In some sense, they always do – but my commentary is addressed, as it should be, to the character this poet offered up by means of the poem.

Just as the poet, as a performer, offered that character for consideration so I, as a writer, have commented upon it. It is not personal, and to say “you shouldn’t talk about other people’s genitals” is patently absurd when one is writing about a performance called ‘A Woman With a Penis”. Even a trans-activist can’t do a public performance and decree that only those who agree with the writer’s premise may comment.