When J K Rowling published her very clear, respectful and reasonable views on why she speaks up about sex and gender, we were more than happy to stand in solidarity with her. We also knew she wasn’t the only one who wanted to express their legitimately held views on such issues, in a rational and balanced way.
Labour Women Speak is a series of articles giving Labour women members, and supporters, the opportunity to air their views.
Kay Green is a writer and publisher and a Labour Party activist. Here she explains how seeing people being bullied led to her speaking up about sex and gender issues.
Why did I speak up? I didn’t mean to. I was a constituency officer in my local Labour Party, (Vice Chair (membership)). I thought the bit of the job description that involved ‘looking after the membership’ included dealing with bullying and abuse. Round my way, what I saw along those lines was mostly male LGBT Labour people, being appallingly abusive to, and attempting to silence/remove, autistic people, female abuse survivors and lesbians who disagreed with organisations such as Stonewall’s line on sex self-ID. Said line appears to have been informed by ‘queer theory’ which translated ‘acceptance without exception’ into a strategy that led organisations founded to support gay and lesbian people into activism that appears designed to cancel, deny and revile gay and lesbian cultures and services.
For many reasons, being a woman, and being an ally to autistic, gay and lesbian people leads me to support the retention of sex-based rights and services. I do think it’s difficult to do that and to do what is necessary to support trans people and I think we need a proper, national conversation about how we do it. Approaching the debate with those views apparently made me a ‘terf’, a ‘bigot’ and a ‘Nazi’.
I gradually worked out that the enemy is ‘gender’. To me, ‘sex’ is a biological description of our physical being, and ‘gender’ is the concept by which you can predict – or worse, dictate – what males and females respectively will do, think, say or wear on the basis of their sex. I started working on a better understanding of how different people are seeing the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’, and how those repressive, dictatorial expectations get into our heads, so that we could have that conversation more efficiently.
In dealing with that, I found myself an active member of the Women’s Liberation Movement, learned a lot about feminism, and drew the conclusion that a clear, confident, gender critical women’s liberation movement was something that I, the Labour Party, and in fact the country as a whole was sorely in need of.
For some years, the battle raged on, provoked and embittered by a continuing (often apparently vexatious) confusion over the meanings of words, and the repeated labelling of gender critical women’s groups as ‘anti-trans’. It’s been exhausting. I’m eternally grateful to JK Rowling for bringing a spotlight onto the difficulties, and also to those who are now at last beginning to articulate the importance of all of us finding out how to support those a trans friend of mine calls ‘gender refugees’.
Ironically, the need to come together to talk about sex-based rights, has led to many women learning to work with those who are not their natural political allies (ie, your sex does not dictate which party, or which wing of your party, you support but your female body has the same needs as your political opponent). When this war is over, I hope we can carry that learning into other areas of politics.
All wars generate crowds of traumatised refugees. Those generated by the bitter war over sex and gender include autistic people who can’t cope with prescribed ‘gender roles’, abuse survivors who depend on single-sex services, lesbians and trans people who’ve been forced into the open in trying to challenge Stonewall et al, and all those who have just watched the whole battle in terrified silence.
Please let’s keep the conversation going, and keep speaking up until everyone is properly regarded.