***Long read*** originally written for those thinking about Coming Out on the 19th
The core principle: sex and gender
There is ‘sex‘ – our species is naturally divided into male and female: not just us though. We are one type of the huge biological group called ‘mammals’. There has never been any doubt. Women and men, like cows and bulls, rams and ewes and all the rest of the mammals, come in those two distinct categories (‘intersex’ is a misnomer for disorders of sexual development (DSDs) which has been callously used to argue for ‘non-binary’ identities. DSDs USED TO cause confusion as to the sex of some babies. Those days are gone. Doctors do not guess. In almost all cases, they can immediately tell whether DSD babies are male or female. Human biology is binary.)
And then there is ‘gender’ confusingly, the word is often used when people mean ’sex’ but gender is a social thing. It’s a set of norms and expectations a society imposes on male and female people – men wear trousers, women cry more easily – stuff like that. We know that is not biology because the rules of gender are different at different times, and in different societies, and anyway, it’s easy to break the rules if your character is stronger than social influence. You can’t change your sex, though.. Sex has always been the same, everywhere.
If you believe that women and men should be allowed to dress, speak, behave and design their lives according to their own preferences and talents, rather than feel obliged by society’s gender rules, then you are gender critical. It’s not unusual. Nor is being ‘gender non-conforming’ (being a ‘butch’ woman for example, or a man who chooses what gender-norms designate as ‘women’s’ colours or styles). Unfortunately, for some years now, our schools and universities have been led astray by ‘queer theory’ under the ‘Q’ and ‘+’ bits of LGBTQ+. They teach young people that gender is innate, and that the road to liberation is not to reject gender rules but to reinforce them by developing and defending their supposed ‘gender identity’.
One of the reasons that people need a gender-critical ‘coming out day’ is that speaking out on a topic most people misunderstand is confusing, especially when so many organisations (such as the Green Party above) are using the language of gender ideology. There are still a lot of people who just don’t get what the sex-and-gender row is all about. They have been persuaded that gender-critical views are ‘anti-trans’. It’s hard to risk exposing yourself to a misunderstanding that entrenched – but you know, there are more gender-critical people than you might think.
The fact that biology is real and gender is imposed is the core principle of feminism. Many people are beginning to remember that, and many more older women never forgot it.
(The help and encouragement bit of this blog comes further down, under the heading ‘How to do it’. First, the nature of the problem…)
We need to challenge acceptance of queer theory’s gender-identity ideology, and the so-called ‘trans rights’ campaign that relies on it because…
1. Trans rights activists (TRAs) don’t get that it affects women
It’s a legal problem: Our legal rights are sex-based. The services, funding and political space that are available to women are protected by the sex exemption in the 2010 Equality Act, one of the nine special provisions for those recognised as likely to be unfairly disadvantaged in society. There is also a provision there for ‘gender reassignment’ so trans people are also protected but, Stonewall and other grant-chasing organisations now have a much greater interest in trans people than they do in women because, currently, there is far more funding available for trans projects. That’s why, a few years ago now, Stonewall petitioned the government to end the ‘sex’ exemption, replacing it with ‘gender identity’, so that both exemptions would work for trans issues rather than one for trans and one for sex-based women’s issues. (That’s also why there are a lot of very angry feminists out there).
It’s also a status problem: Stonewall, Pride and other trans-funded organisations have been pushing for language changes that enable their change of emphasis – changes such as describing the ‘female gender’ as consisting of trans women and cis women – thus denigrating the female sex to a sub-set of women. There was also a large and surprisingly successful campaign to persuade people that ‘adult human female’ is a terrible thing to say. Not everyone is aware of the consequences of such vocabulary policing in the large scheme of things. Those who are aware are probably already campaigning to maintain the status of women. If you don’t see why it matters, talk to someone who knows a bit about developmental psychology about how all the words and phrases specific to women and girls are being denigrated or side-lined, and how that is likely to affect the self-esteem of girls growing up in a sexist society.
2. TRAs don’t get that it affects girls
One of our local councillors, who I had thought of as a reasonable person, laughed at me and used ageist jokes on Facebook to try and jolly me out of believing that much of the pressure to transition is coming from schools, that schools’ ‘equality training’ based on Stonewall’s campaign led children to base their belief in trans children on sex-stereotypes. The average teacher is very young these days, the teaching profession having become one most people very quickly start looking for ways to get promoted out of – and one of the results of that is that there is a desperate shortage in secondary schools of women who are old enough to have experienced the full malevolence of a sexist, ageist society. The parents don’t know the extent of the harm done to girls because the teachers don’t get it.
3. TRAs don’t get that it’s a bullying issue
Of course, some teachers do get it. I suspect there is no institution in the land that doesn’t have anyone who’s seen through the smoke and mirrors. And when people do finally see through it, they also become aware of the weight of the ideology that has captured education and most of the arts and media world. Speaking out takes courage, especially if you fear you’re going to be the only one. As one women I know put it, it’s hard to know what words exactly will work, when you’re ‘speaking into the void’. There is no one visible bully, there is no specific threat but the sense of doom is there.
The most likely consequence of speaking out is no worse than the embarrassed silence of a roomful of people trying to digest that you’ve just said something powerful and dangerous. For most people though, silence is bad enough. In some ways, an immediately visible bully would be less scary than the weight of a well-funded publicity campaign working against people trying to understand you.
4. TRAs don’t get that transition is a sham
It takes a while to understand that knowing you can’t really change sex is not the same as seeing trans people as ‘bad’. They are, as one transwomen put it to me, ‘gender refugees’. You can’t actually change sex, as Nancy Kelly, CEO of the main perpetrator, Stonewall, finally admitted when she was cornered in an interview on radio 4. You can only ‘change your sex characteristics’ that is, appearances. And it’s not a one-off job. Those who attempt it are signing up to be a lifetime medical case, requiring regular chemical, surgical, cosmetic and training treatments to keep up the camouflage – forever. Because it’s not a natural thing. It takes a lot of engineering to maintain.
That’s why transitioning used to be the preserve of menopausal males with good quality health insurance. They can afford it, they’ve had time to think it through, and have been adults long enough to understand why they want to. And it is a want, not a need. Transitioning is not the only way of dealing with the feeling that you’re at odds with the world and your body just doesn’t work for you. Younger and less well off transitioners have a terrible time trying to get all the treatments out of the health service in a timely manner.
That is the only part of the trans rights campaign that has evidenced legitimacy, and that we must all have sympathy with. Appearances are desperately important to the young. If you have led young people to transition, if you have not explained to them that there are other options, other ways of learning to be content in your own skin – if you’ve done that to your children – as in many cases we have, thanks to Stonewall’s ‘training’, then it is cruelty upon cruelty to then drag our feet over helping those young people either to desist or to transition as effectively as it is possible to do.
Instead, we persuade them transition is the only way, then abandon them to an over-stretched, underfunded health service. They suffer. Trans people already have protection under Human Rights law, under the Equality Act and via the GRA, but what is missing is health care. Where young people have been persuaded to transition, whether or not they continue to want to go through with it, the appropriate care and treatment must be there for them in a timely manner.
5. TRAs don’t get that gender-identity is a sham
But if the young people hankering for trans treatments are doing so because they are autistic or lesbian, and have been bullied into believing ‘trans is cool’ and it will save them from bullies, or if they are one of the many girls who are dysphoric due to abuse-trauma or a sense that being a woman is being a second class human, then somewhere down the line, they are going to realise that they don’t really have this gender-identity that transing is supposed to serve. They will see that they are on a never-ending road to a goal that won’t solve the problem anyway.
6. TRAs think it’s a no-brainer civil rights issue
Stonewall and all the other grant-farmers were very clever in that they hitched the ‘trans rights’ movement onto the back of gay lib, which most of us now agree was 100% right and necessary. The reason that was a brilliant trick was that the main focus of gay lib was combating Section 28, Thatcher’s declaration that schools must not ‘promote homosexuality’, so when we now say schools should not promote transitioning children, it sounds like ‘conversion therapy’. When you see through the trick, it becomes obvious that the opposite is true – ‘transing’ children is conversion therapy.
The false equivalence between this and gay lib allows trans activists to write off concerned parents as ‘far right religious bigots’. The reason this is all so misleading is that schools never did ‘promote’ homosexuality, they just helped children understand and accept it. There was never any danger of schools ‘selling’ homosexuality. It’s not like double glazing. You can’t sell it to people who it doesn’t come naturally to – and homosexuality *does* come naturally to a lot of people. But being ‘the other sex really’ just doesn’t.
People tend to think it does if they have a sexist attitude. A gentle, gay male child might seem ‘girly’, or a lesbian or autistic girl may seem ‘tomboyish’, but only if you think you know how boys and girls respectively ought to behave. That notion is deeply sexist, and more ingrained than people realise, now our children have the misfortune to be growing up in a deeply sexist, sex-obsessed, pornographic society. We need to rescue them from all that by challenging sexist society, and affirming children’s right to express themselves in any way that feels right, to experiment with different appearances and interests, not medicalise them to fit the appallingly extreme gender stereotypes that are forced upon them.
7. TRAs think ‘gender critical’ means ‘anti-trans’
They just don’t get that until the last ten years or so, those people who did choose to transition managed to get on with it without pretending that they really had changed sex, let alone demanding that everyone else, including our politicians and judiciary system, must also pretend. You can be gender-critical, and understand, empathise with and support trans people. I do. I get that they have found a personal, individual way of protecting themselves from sexism. That doesn’t mean they’ve magically changed sex. My trans friends do not demand that belief of me, and in social circles, I have no problem calling them what they like to be called.
That’s personal, individual and just fine. Caveat: you’ll feel quite exuberant when you finally speak out, and find yourself among gender-critical friends. You’ll find you have quite a lot of steam to let off, and you must do so. Holding back after you’ve been bullied or silenced is very unhealthy so great – get ranting! But please don’t be tempted into being rude to genuine, rational trans people. They have chosen a hard road, and have quite enough trouble with real transphobes (who are generally gung-ho wanna-be alpha-males). I respect my trans friends, as I respect anyone who is different to me, so long as they equally respect who I am. We can and must all do that.
Of course, there are some people who DO understand all the points above, but just feel an affinity with gender-identity theory because they like a philosophy that puts women down, and/or they like the opportunity to be rude to women. I think we can and should disregard those people.
… and then there are unresolved AGP people (but we’re not allowed to talk about that).
Gender critical coming-out day, 19th December
How to do it
You are probably worried about doing it alone, about finding yourself ‘speaking into the void’ at work or college or wherever – so first and foremost, have a good think about the people around you. Lots of people are gender-critical – or at least, ‘questioning’. Many are quietly trying to signal their concerns. Try to find some of those people and have an experimental chat with them first. Message a few seasoned ‘out’ feminists online.
You may be worried about running into difficulty with those who have authority over you – your bosses or others who can affect your education or livelihood. The ground is gradually clearing there. Make sure you do know your rights. Human Rights law covers freedom of expression and freedom of belief, so long as you aren’t rude or abusive to anyone (make sure you are not!) and the Forstater ruling this year confirmed that does include gender-critical beliefs. Be prepared to assure them that you aren’t ‘anti’ anyone, you just have your own views about gender and sexism.
Your organisation is probably having doubts already, at some level – they will know many organisations have pulled out of Stonewall’s ‘equality’ schemes in this last year. They may already have realised that Stonewall’s version of the rules is just plain wrong so now, if you say ‘I have a right to think this, I have not attacked anyone’, you have legal back-up, and if the boss doesn’t know it yet, they will soon find out. Just refer them to the Sex Matters website, or the legal case, which Fairplay for Women won, to have sex addressed properly in the census, or send some clips of the growing number of politicians who have pointed out the problems that have been occurring.
So, get some allies around you if you can, make sure you know the law, and don’t just dive in and shout at everyone. As the Coming Out Day campaign put it, come out ‘as much as you can as safely as you can’. Maybe choose a few people to speak to first – think it through, and go a step at a time. If you’re worried about your kids, or your livelihood, maybe see the 19th as the start of a longer, more careful journey – but make sure you decide upon, and take, the steps you can – you’ll feel so much better when you have friends you have discussed this with.
From here on, this is stuff to browse while you think it over…
For the legal stuff, go to Sex Matters.
For the women’s campaigns – well, there are loads now – do a search but here are a sample selection: For Labour Party women, LWD. For other women in politics and campaigning, especially Trades Union women, Womens Place UK. For sports, Girl Guiding and other specialist campaigns, Fairplay for Women. (they are also good on the legal stuff). For women in Scotland, Forwomen.Scot. All these groups, and many more have facebook pages where you can go and have a chat with like-minded people.
Here’s a recent BBC interview, and my deconstruction of what we call ‘the gender woo’ (that is, being so far up the tree you can’t see the ground).
Here’s Mr Menno who will cheer up any gay men who are feeling battered by all this.
Here is the late, great, ‘Queen of the Terfs’ Magdalen Berns.
There are a lot of women walking around wearing badges proclaiming that they were ‘radicalised by Mumsnet’. If you’re not there already, it’s a great place to dip your toes in. A couple of examples:
And here are the ‘coming out’ banners and profile pics for your soc media accounts to wear on Sunday.
And here are some (now quite famous) gender-critical social media people, a few people who got it badly wrong (you can decide who is which) and some ideas and memes…
Here’s a critique of gender ideology from someone who’s been through some battles over this…
And finally, a magic word you may need to practice…
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