Before the world went mad, when I was still Vice-Chair of a Labour CLP, and active with my union, and had a seat on the committee of my favourite lefty group, I started hearing really weird things about sex and gender, including being told by a couple of therapist friends I knew that they were no longer allowed to ask questions about gender with clients. Along with increasing concerns from women’s groups about sexism, pornography, homophobia and related bullying in schools, which seemed not unconnected to the increasing numbers of girls rejecting the idea of growing up to be women, it’s what led me to put a motion through my local Labour branch defending anti-sexism work in schools, and the right and the need for therapists and counsellors to discuss matters of sex and gender freely with young clients.
The motion never moved
Everyone appeared to agree with me. The motion passed unanimously (well, there was one abstention, from someone who voted on nothing that night to preserve neutrality while dealing with disputes in the branch). It takes 2-3 weeks for a motion to branch to get to General Committee, and so become CLP policy and in those 2-3 weeks, people involved with the local Pride group spread the most extraordinary nonsense about this motion – One example that went all over Facebook was that I had framed a piece designed to deny counselling to autistic trans kids. One of those guys had a tantrum over another motion at another branch, and everything exploded.
I withdrew my motion before GC at the request of region, because it is not the job of the Vice Chair to start a war. I now realise that was the beginning of me moving out of “mainstream politics”. I already knew, as though instinctively, that a woman being attacked for doing feminism in the party would be seen not as a victim of troublemakers, but as a troublemaker. Real feminism (ie, challenging gender and sexism) is not tolerated, and I was losing interest in the idea of supposedly socialist activists who didn’t mention such things. This has happened, one way or another, to thousands of women. This is how it happens:
Ever since Labour Party conference 2017, when a fellow CLP officer said to me, come and meet X, who is organising a meeting called Mayday for Women, I’ve been aware that I was steadily moving away from Labour, away from my trade union and the lefty groups I used to work with. I have now reached the happy position where I do almost all my political work within the sisterhood of women’s groups. Silly? Stubborn? Factional? No, it’s called proportionate self-defence. I’ve been moving as far and as fast as I needed to, to allow me to do my political work.
Along with the many women who have made the same move, I work to defend the legal rights and social safeguards that women and girls need to survive in a viciously sexist society. Along with all those women, I am daily amazed by the ease, in some cases, relish, with which those in establishment positions have been colluding with the destruction of our rights. I am amazed when good people watch women bullied and pushed out, and say nothing, on the grounds that to do so would be “difficult” and “divisive”. I am amazed by the number of people who still manage not to notice that anything odd is going on.
The most significant silver lining in this situation is that we feminists have learned what we need to do. We have learned anew why applied socialism is called ‘the struggle’, about why activists for sex, race and class, disability and gay rights, and those battling ageism, had always to push against the tide, always be ready to recognise and analyse the latest weapons of capitalism, and always maintain a consciousness of how the forces of capitalism act on anyone they can “other”, demonizing them, and seeking to break their resolve. We are learning so much, and I had hoped that even those who’ve stayed in their establishment positions by keeping up their obedience to the catechism were seeing this on some level, and learning along with us.
Mummy what did you do in the war?
But lately, those who stayed put and spoke only the required words, have started looking at the fruits of the work we women have done to win back our single-sex spaces and protections, our sport and our own right to organize, and they are saying “oh, it will resolve itself”. I would like to draw their attention to all those trade union memes that say things like why do you think you have pensions, and sick pay, and all the rest of it. I would like to draw their attention to the struggles and in many cases, deaths, of all those who worked for what rights there are around sex, race and class. Most of all, I would like to draw their attention to the fact that the women of the UK have won a battle against the gender industry, but there is still a war to win, if we are to save our children – and it’s not going to be easy, because the gender industry has successfully destroyed our political solidarity in the mainstream parties, and most trade unions.
The situation is not “resolving itself” – true, the abusive gangs who turn up to protest and sabotage any visible feminist meetings or actions are getting smaller, and more obviously mad (see header pic) but that is one of the results of the calm persistence and ingenuity of thousands of women up and down the country. We still have a lot to do though, and we could use more help.
Just look at the state of ‘the left’
We are facing what threatens to be the final destruction of any meaningful politics in the UK. There are multiple, segregated teams on the left now – those who have been pushed out for being too socialist, too feminist, too XR or too BLM, and those who’ve stayed on the inside by swallowing their truths and becoming pointless. We are in crisis, and we begin to know it but – are we ripe for radical action? I’m not sure we are, because I’m not sure how many of the exiles realise we outside teams are – or should be – one team. Most of my writings, one way or another, are a fightback against how neoliberalism destroyed feminism in politics. I hope socialist and anti-racist and other activists can see the parallels. Here’s the state of play in the women v the gender industry story:
Where did this idea that children could possibly need ‘gender reassignment’ treatment come from?
As with all corrosively commercial phenomena, it appears to have started in the US and we appear to have imported it. “Health care” is an extremely profitable and therefore extremely aggressive industry in the States. We on the left know this, because it’s a never-ending struggle to stop our career-minded MPs selling first themselves, then chunks of our NHS to US-based companies.
We in the women’s movement recognize that this is one of the important strands of the battle socialism should be engaging in along with us, but the brothers can’t do that, because they think they are winning progressive points by supporting the corporate-led “gender revolution”. They are why we are at work elsewhere.
Anyway, having won some victories for women’s rights, many of us felt we needed to turn the spotlight back on what is happening to our children. For a while, we thought many gay and autistic kids had protected themselves from the trans thing by declaring as “non-binary” but, the insatiable “health care” industry is after them now. Where I live, GPs have recently been granted funds to take on and treat “trans, intersex and non-binary” young people. What can those three groups possibly have in common, and what is going to be sold to them?
Some women spoke to some other women, and we had a Woman’s Place UK meeting, focused on what’s happening to our kids, in Lewes on 21st July. One of the panelists, Sonia Appleby talked about government reports into two hospital scandals that were big news at the time the stories broke. Both were disasters in which patients died due to practices falling far below what was required to save lives. One of the reports makes the startling recommendation that the hospital concerned should aim to “put patients first”. How, asks Appleby, did they come to be doing anything else? What are hospitals for?
When companies start thinking on commercial lines, the aims are growing the business and increasing profit. These aims may be achieved at the expense of product quality and staff welfare. We know this, we’ve always known this, most of us. There are those who still believe the Thatcherite idea that competition produces excellence, but whatever their politics may be on other issues, most people in the UK still understand that our NHS needs to be a public service, not a profiteering business. Sadly, many parts of it are now extremely finance-oriented due to contracts, outsourcing or strange government arrangements that are inflicted as part of lining them up for privatisation.
Identities for Sale
To get back to the particular issue with gender, the most obvious evidence of the gender industry growing in the United States is the proliferation of gender clinics. The source of income for these clinics is people wanting “gender reassignment” treatments for their children. Profit-oriented organizations seek to maximize business, so what this industry will be aiming to do is increase the number of people wanting such treatments. Here below is a report on the future of the “market”. It starts: “The U.S. sex reassignment surgery market size was valued at USD 267.0 million in 2019 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.4% from 2020 to 2027.”
We know that companies don’t just sit and wait and hope. If they want something to happen, they work on making it happen as much as possible. Health care companies want patients. In this case, they need to work on increasing the number of people who a) feel desperately unhappy with their bodies and b) believe getting their bodies altered will make them happier.
It’s not hard to see that is an extension of the incredibly successful cosmetics, ‘health’ and fashion industries that worked throughout the 20th century to make people think they were too fat, too pale, too plain, too hairy – the list is endless and, because these companies seek to maximise profit, the remedies are a lifetime’s work, with endless products and treatments to buy.
From effective institution to public enemy number one
When you have time, please give half an hour to this video discussion with three professionals who used to work at the Tavistock Gender Clinic in London, talking about how the culture and practice at the clinic changed, and how they became dissatisfied with the way they, and their patients, were treated.
For now, a few key points from the video:
Keep the customers coming in
One of the speakers asked a team meeting why they were making the decisions they were around gender dysphoria. The answer was, “if we don’t offer the hormone treatments, the kids won’t come”. The goal then, is to keep up the number of patients (customers) who require “sex change” treatment. If you are part of a national health service, you offer treatments that the evidence suggests will be helpful. If you are part of a business, you offer what people want.
Have you got a job? Have you noticed, how careful you are, if you happen to have an idea or an opinion that goes against the main selling-line of the company you work for? Don’t you just feel your colleagues – you job even – slipping away, if you so much as think about speaking up on something that pulls “the wrong way”?
All those suicides
The popular campaign for “trans rights” uses as its main justification how unhappy trans people are, often citing a range of (usually poorly sourced) suicide statistics. In the video, we hear from someone who has worked with suicidal trans people enough to know that trajectory well. He says, “they have a lot of problems. They believe transitioning will solve the problems. When it doesn’t, they feel suicidal.”
To me, that is not a reason to up the number of young people referred unquestioningly for “transition”, but that is how the healthcare business, and the activists they inspire, spin the situation, to maximise their “customers”.
“He questioned my gender identity”
If you were tasked with building a heaven for salesmen, it’s hard to imagine a better strategy than making a law against questioning their product. The speaker here is a therapist – the job of a therapist is to help patients question, and therefore understand, their feelings and ideas. But when a Gender-Industry lobbyist did a call out for complaints against this therapist, that was the accusation that was thrown at him. He questioned something. The industry had, for a while, managed to equate therapists asking questions with that horror of the pre-gay liberation age, “conversion therapy”. Many of our MPs fell for that one – that’s why there was an attempt to put a “conversion therapy ban” through parliament – a bill that looked likely to outlaw therapists asking questions.
The political trick
All three interviewees in the video talk about a clinical issue “becoming political”. This means that, as well as the commercial angle, people have reasons outside the best interests of the patient in their minds. They want something to be true because it suits their ideology, and aren’t interested in seeing any evidence that it isn’t. At the extreme, a political attitude leads to supressing any evidence that your idea isn’t true, and demonizing anyone who talks about other possibilities. It absolutely is not safe to run hospitals and clinics that way.
Probably the most successful political trick of all time by neoliberal profiteers worldwide has been the marketing of “identity politics”. It is extreme individualism, the opposite of socialism, and I believe the very worst manifestation of identity politics has been the selling of “gender identity” to the left. Here is an ideology that persuades our young people that they may have “the wrong body”, that they may need lifelong, expensive (profitable) medical treatment to make them look like who they “really are”.
The result of that mind-bending campaign is that the very people who should be defending our public services from the excesses of neoliberal, corporate profiteering, are out there fighting for “trans rights”, and bullying and marginalising anyone who points out that a difficult and dangerous medical product is being marketed under that nebulous cry of “trans rights”.
The three professionals interviewed in that video pulled out of their jobs at the Tavistock Gender Clinic. Many, many more have lost, or walked away from, other jobs for the same reason. There are also many who have walked away from political groups – and political groups without a good variety of members is death to democracy.
For me, that was the bitterest part of my last months in the Labour Party – watching people forever running campaign reports and inquests, working out why the Corbyn movement failed, why this or that local campaign wasn’t as good as it might have been and, just as they rarely discussed issues such as racism, they blatantly ignored the fact that they’d been trying to run on “solidarity” and “for the many” whilst winking at the driving out of many women activists. That is the main reason why I believe we must defeat “gender identity” theory if we want to mend politics.
What you can do
If you have been watching the women’s movement quietly, please talk about it! More people are braving the conversations now, but the situation has become toxic because for so long, the most discerning people have said “oh, it’s complicated”, or, “oh, it’s toxic” and kept quiet. Now, it is in the news, and is beginning to be discussed. Now, it’s possible for more people to start asking questions, and that itself will make the questions easier for others to ask. You don’t have to take to a grand stage somewhere and risk all – just talk about it more to friends and colleagues. Just start asking questions. (Go on, I’ll start – what is “gender identity”? Really, what is it? We don’t know, do we? What if that’s because it’s just something someone made up?)
Here’s a suggested theme for your first conversation – try it in the family, or take it down the pub: most “sex change” operations used to be for men in mid life, who we then called “transsexuals” Now, it’s mostly girls and young women wanting to be boys. The term “transgender” is very new. The term “transgender child” is even more recent. Is there such a thing as a transgender child? What about a transgender toddler? Where do these ideas come from, the children? If not them, who? And why? Who is gaining from all this?
If you are trying to pull together any kind of socialist or left-oriented political campaign or group, please investigate who has drifted away or been pushed out in recent years. A popular movement needs to be open to everyone. “Everyone” does tend to include women, and many people, particularly women, have pulled out of local politics and active campaigning in recent years because they’ve seen something wrong with the “trans rights” movement, and either got fed up with silently tolerating it or have spoken out and been disparaged, mistreated or slandered for doing so. You need to invite those women back into the movement – or else, you need to go talk to them, and offer to work with the women’s groups.
If it’s any comfort, protests and attempts to sabotage feminist politics are getting smaller and madder (see header pic) so you should be able to look at re-integrating feminist politics into socialism without having to face anything like the bullying and sabotage women have been facing for the last five years or so.
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