At midday just seven days ago, I was behind a microphone in a room the size of a broom cupboard at the BBC studios in Southampton. Whilst I realised I was speaking live on Radio 4, I did not appreciate that it was to some 600,000 people – the vast majority not having a clue about what is often called “the trans debate” or the “gender war”. It’s part of our government’s “war on woke” – yes, they actually encourage the gender war by introducing divisive measures so to deflect from their own incompetence with the long-term aim of moving to the right and eventually getting a trade deal with the US. Brexit was stage one of the master plan to drive us to become the 51st state.
The programme was the first in a new series called #Antisocial, a posh version of the Jeremy Kyle show with the much respected (yep, I’m a creep) Adam Fleming in control. My “opponent” was Milli Hill, a gender-critical author who writes some damn good books about parenting and pregnancy. How do I know they are good? A story for another day, perhaps.
Before going live, Adam explained that we were making broadcasting history, and we all wished each other “good luck” – did Milli mean it? I am sure she did. For certain we were both nervous, I have never spoken on the radio before, nor indeed on TV. As it happens Milli, was in a similar position – two novices thrown together in the launch of a new radio show.
What a gamble!
We went live, and introductions over the debate started with Milli eloquently speaking for the ‘gender-critical’ and I responding for ‘team trans’.
To be fair, Milli only annoyed me once, saying that trans people should be “treated with compassion”.
I don’t want compassion or to be told “how brave I am” – I want the right to earn respect and live my best life in my gender – to be accepted for who I am.
I am not mentally ill or disabled, and judging from the programme’s feedback, I believe that my rationality in the debate shone through.
The hour flew by, and I don’t think either Milli or I did much wrong – if nothing else, the gender war is scripted like a game of chess. Move the Rook to this square, and the Bishop does the counter.
I guess I wished Adam had asked me to expand on some of my answers. Firstly, why did I say that I liked the public view that “trans women are women”, and secondly, why I would not enter a potential single-sex space a refuge. So to be clear, I identify as “trans” or a “trans woman” – and I do this because there are kids out there, and I want them to know being trans is cool. I don’t care about biological sex – why should I? I am me and that is not debatable.
We identify sex by gender expression.
And anyway does a butch lesbian wear a frilly dress?
We wear what we are.
The refuge issue is different. The gender-critical make a fundamental mistake of claiming that refuge spaces belong to women. They don’t. They belong to the service provider who makes their own policies concerning trans women (and men) – and I respect their right to exclude some people should they wish. It is their space!
But the main reason I would not go into a refuge is not because of my gender or sex – it is for my own mental health.
For twelve months, I wrote a series of remembrances of women murdered by men in a campaign called #EveryThreeDays. I wrote 125 stories, and the research often left me in tears learning about male violence against women.
And it broke me.
Towards the end of the campaign, I just pointed readers to newspaper reports and ran away.
The truth is that I can’t handle any more stories of domestic abuse, of women being in fear of their life because they left their violent ex. Or read about a woman attacked and stabbed to death by her partner because she texted her cousin in Pakistan.
Or how about the woman who worked in a bar? She was forced to work out of sight of customers because she had bruises all over her face. Her employers clearly knew she was being abused but did nothing to protect her – like all the women I wrote about she was eventually murdered by a man – in almost all cases by a man the victim knew.
Put simply male violence sickens me – but it’s not trans people who commit it – it’s men! And trans women suffer from male violence even more than bio-women. For sure not so much by partners or our ‘ex’ – but simply by walking down the street or going to the pub. Violence and hate crimes against trans women increase every year and Galop has reported that around 50% of trans people won’t even leave their homes because of fear. Trans women ruining women’s sport? Most are too frightened to even go to Tesco’s!
But a week later, on from ‘that debate’, where are we?
We proved that a debate could be had without hate or toxicity from either side. One commentator described our discussion as “ground-breaking”, and I hope that is true because feminism needs to come together quickly. The gender war is just a precursor to a much bigger war. The war that has cost American women Roe v Wade. The right to bodily autonomy.
The people to fear are not trans women like me – it is the far-right Evangelical Christians from the US who already have substantial roots in the UK.
Who plans over the coming years and, decades, to take away LGBT+ and women’s rights across the globe. The splitting of the T from the LGB is just a wedge issue which I started researching ages ago.
There is an organised well funded active campaign in Parliament and the media attacking equality. Their initial premise as ever is to protect others but their goal is to dismantle the rights achieved for lgbt+ people and others
In essence fascism by the back door – to blame minorities like trans people and travellers for a nation’s ills? To control democracy by banning protest? Placing restrictions on who can vote?
Can’t happen here?
Oh yes, it can. I promise you it can and it’s already started.
On the bright side is it possible for trans people to have gender-critical friends?
The answer is yes; I’ve got one, and she has thousands of followers on Twitter. We once threw bricks at each other; we now throw hugs on WhatsApp.
We talk about everything; cocktails and suntans – about fashion, hair and often about her three kids.
Feminists simply have to unite – the voices in the middle must be heard – we must save women from Gilead.
If you don’t think the Handmaid’s Tale is real?
I absolutely guarantee it is.
Words by Steph – with thanks and much respect to Adam & Milli. We did make history!