Labour Women Speak #2

Labour Women Speak #2

Labour Women Speak is a series of articles giving Labour women members and supporters the opportunity to share their views on why they speak up about sex and gender issues.

Delyth Rennie is a former social worker and children’s guardian. Delyth is a member of the Labour Party. Here she describes how and why she felt compelled to speak up about sex and gender.

I’m an unashamedly Second Wave feminist, whilst acknowledging there were/are undoubtedly a lot of issues to address within that feminism.

I worked in social care for 30 years; 23 of those years as a qualified social worker including 10 years as a children’s guardian. I now work in hospitality. Whilst working as a social worker/guardian, I had NO IDEA about gender ideology or the attack on women’s rights.

On leaving social work, I joined Twitter, but wasn’t particularly active. Anyway, I had a question about female specific mountain bikes. Somehow I responded to a cycling journalist and as a result a female American mountain biker replied to me. She said female specific bikes were ‘horseshit’ and I’d retorted that what was horseshit was not being able to get a bike to fit (I’m a small WOMAN!). There was some to-ing and fro-ing and she offered advice about bikes. On reflection, I perhaps should have questioned more robustly her antipathy to FEMALE specific bikes, but the notion of bikes to fit ‘people’ rather than ‘pinking and shrinking’ seemed to make some sense. (Still no good for me at 5′ 0″ tall. I had to get a woman specific bike!)

Consequently, I followed her on Twitter and liked her sweary tweets, BUT then! She tweeted something like “Rachel you’re a woman and these bastards can f*ck off”. Attached was picture of Rachel McKinnon (who I understand has since changed name). I wondered what on earth was going on. Having hitherto been oblivious, it’s fair to say the penny didn’t just drop – a ton of loose change banged me on the head repeatedly! DUH! My awakening was the realisation that a man could identify as a woman and apparently participate in women’s sport. British cycling seemed just fine with this!!! (McKinnon is Canadian, but has participated in Masters cycling events in the UK).

Although I really didn’t know much about the debate, I quickly learnt if you question gender ideology, if you think there is ANY discussion to be had, you’re called bigot, fascist, racist!!? (I was upset when first added to ‘Nazis on Twitter’ lists, but soon got over it when I saw the illustrious company I was in). It didn’t matter that you were a left wing feminist – to some you were the definition of a ‘transphobic bigot’.

I’d naively thought gender ID was about respecting pronouns really (and like so many women, wanted to be ‘nice’ and ‘kind’). As I engaged with it more, I realised it required total and utter capitulation; that the mantra ‘transwomen are women’ was meant literally, hence a penis on a transwoman is considered a biologically female penis. And lesbians who wouldn’t have sex with a biological male who identifies as trans are therefore ‘transphobic’. The homophobia (or rather lesbophobia) as well as the misogyny at the heart of gender ideology truly dawned on me.

The journey continued and I had my ’15 minutes of fame’ when I asked Alice Roberts (TV presenter and Professor) a question on Twitter (the Humanist Society, of which she is president had ignored my letter). She responded and it went crazy!

Imagine my astonishment when I felt compelled to reply to a professor for public engagement in science: “Goodness. Each person can write their own biology? Post modern biology. Wow. Sex – female, large gametes; male – small gametes.”

My ‘pinned tweet’ is part of that discussion. I think my frustration and disbelief at the lack of scientific rigour on display became even more evident as Professor Roberts starting invoking ‘compassion’, imploring feminists not to be ‘mean’. It reads: “Mean & nasty is prioritising gender identity over my sex-based protections which are disappearing. Mean is transactivists calling us ‘terfs’ [and] Nazis. Wishing us dead in ‘grease fires’ or ‘throat punched’. Biology is not bigotry. It’s not difficult.”

Oh – and she blocked me and a lot of others who took part in the conversation. (At no point was I, or anyone else I noticed participating, rude or abusive). The age of disenlightenment indeed. (This exchange can be found on twitter via my pinned tweet should you wish to look).

I am now extremely concerned about the implications for ‘gender non-conforming’ and other vulnerable children. The sexism and homophobia inherent in the ‘transing’ of children is horrifying and I remain bewildered that so many grown-ups in the room cheer this on, complicit in the most extreme form of conversion therapy. It is also concerning that those directly involved in child safeguarding (especially social work and teaching) either remain silent for fear of losing their jobs/being disciplined/branded as transphobic, or are actually actively involved in promoting this reactionary ideology.

 

 

 

Labour Women Speak

Labour Women Speak

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.