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.