Mind the gap

Station platform edge sign: mind the gap

This is to all our warrior women who are, understandably, running short of patience – and also, to those who are now saying they’re out of patience with our women.

Some are calling it the genderation gap and whilst that’s sometimes true, I will start by pointing out there are plenty of youngsters who saw through the trendy ideas about gender that were being taught in schools (since around 2008, apparently) and also plenty of older people who believe in gender identity and think we’ve got it all wrong, so don’t assume people’s views according to age (or hair colour) but…

I have been a “terf” for some years now – ever since I realized we needed to campaign to maintain women’s legal rights if we wanted to hang onto the diminishing funds available for women’s services but I have pretty much the same number of trans friends I had back then. I check with them sometimes, to make sure I’m not saying anything ridiculous when I talk about trans people. – Mostly, they’re okay with what I say. If they’re not, I change it – but that is perhaps a generational thing. Older trans people made their decisions back in the day when it was recognized as something that some people (mostly mature males) did, and most people didn’t see the need to fight over it so we are able to discuss it, and find compromises where necessary.

That was because Stonewall et al were not demanding that women a) pretend to believe it it all and b) give up women’s services and legal rights to facilitate it. Well, for some years now, they have been doing that and we have a big battle going on as a result. There are battles over the Equality Act (mostly instigated by people who haven’t read it) and also battles amongst women with different ideas about how to campaign, and secondary battles about who’s to blame for the battles.

Reasons to be angry

Youngsters who were led to believe they needed hormones, restrictive clothing and in some cases, surgery in order to “be their authentic selves” are very angry — either because they now regret it, or because the world does not after all believe they have “changed sex” — have good reason to be angry.

Women who’ve been slandered, shouted at, jostled and sabotaged when they meet to discuss their concerns, not to mention women who’ve been hounded out of politics or out of their jobs, have good reason to be angry.

Lesbian and gay people who’ve seen the majority of their spaces, services and funding diverted into campaigns for “self-ID” for trans people have good reason to be angry.

Older trans people who had found a perfectly good way of going on before all this flared up and made their lives so contentious have good reason to be angry.

There are a lot of men who are angry because the sound of women asserting their own rights upsets them. They think women should just shut up. I suppose they do have a good reason — it is that they were brought up in a sexist society where they have imbibed the idea that confident women are a threat to them.

The trouble is, everyone seems to be blaming everyone else and recently, many have taken to blaming whoever they personally disagree with for anything terrible that happens. We seem to have a generation who call political disagreement “hate speech” and that’s a huge problem because if you tell everyone there is hate around them, they are likely to believe you, and start hating people who disagree with them.

What’s worse, the more angry everyone gets, the more pressure is piled on – on women trying to campaign calmly, on trans people trying to get along without causing women any grief, and on professionals and parents trying to work out how best to deal with distressed adolescents.

In my local paper this week, a spokesperson for Trans Visibility Day said there was a “vocal minority” “spewing hatred” – well if there is, I hope to goodness that they stop it – but mainly I hope that people stop saying things like that, because it just inspires a whole lot more anger.

If just one person reads this and decides to start talking instead about all the people who are having a hard time because of the controversy on this topic, it will have been worth writing this post. Please help me do that talking. Here’s a snip from my piece in the last issue of The Radical Notion…

Snip from The Radical Notion article

If you want to read the rest of that TRN article, click here for a downloadable .pdf version

… you know, it really would not be that hard for a government with any kind of social conscience to sort this out. The prisons thing is on the way to being sorted now. Most local councils have had the sense to set up at least some single-occupant toilets — we need schools, and the commercial sector, to catch up on that and put their minds to providing toilets and changing rooms that really do work for everyone. (If you doubt it’s possible, consider the fact that thirty years ago, most places didn’t bother with wheel chair access. Many said it was impossible but most have, now, managed it); sports organizations are also beginning to sort themselves out.

That just leaves the legal position, and the political ramifications of that (such as all-women shortlists, and employment situations where the exemptions should apply). Let’s have some common-sense minds applied to those, please. All that’s needed is for organizations to comply with the law, and for politicians to find the will to come up with solutions that work for all parties, rather than displaying a belligerent determination to come down on the side of women or trans people, which does nothing but embitter the battle.


You know, the very first example of the “gender wars” that I came across on social media immediately became a row. It went like this: I asked a rookie question, the first reply was, “That’s SUCH a binary question. We’re WAY past all that now.”

I responded along the lines of “oh, so you’re never, ever going to explain your ideas to anyone ever again?” and got a stream of abusive responses to that.

For me, the “gender wars” had begun. I often think of that now, when someone asks me a rookie question, or tries to tell me something that, after years on this campaign, I know perfectly well is (commonly believed) nonsense. Am I always polite and patient in my responses? Oh, dear. I’ll be adding another article soon, which will be a genuine attempt to explain some of the confusions currently being generated by those attempting to deceive, and those who have been deceived. I’ll add a link here, when it’s done.

In the meantime, let’s all practice the art of being calm, compassionate and assertive, all at once. I know it’s hard — I have this terrible tendency to get sarcastic when I sit on my anger or fear, but it can be done. It can be done. It can.

And it must be done, because no one is ever persuaded to change their minds and listen because you rant at them, or abuse them, or get sarcastic with them, especially if the conversation you are having is one that you’ve had a million times before, but it’s their first time, and they still have their L-plates on.

Misplaced passion

It’s true that politicians sometimes win elections with roaringly impressive, passionate rants but the key point there is that they are rallying the troops. They are talking to people who already agree with them, in order to “bring out the vote”.

If those countless weeks on the Labour Party stall or on the doorstep during the Corbyn years taught me anything at all it is that you can change hearts and minds, but only if you listen to people, make a genuine attempt to understand what they are telling you, and when it’s time to tell them your own story, do it calmly.


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