It has been difficult to persuade some people, including the Labour Party leadership, to listen to concerns about women’s sex-based issues. The nearly 5,000 signatories of the Labour Women’s Declaration, the women’s pledge signatories of other political parties, and people in many other group and individual contexts, have been patiently working to explain why biological sex matters, and to ensure that women are able to speak about our experiences as a sex, not a ‘gender identity’. We have been ignored, silenced, blocked on Twitter, abused online and in real life. We have not given up.
Then J K Rowling (pictured left), one of the most famous people in the world, began to make clear her support for what we have been saying, culminating in a post on her website published on 10 June 2020. She, too, has experienced an avalanche of abuse, being accused of hatred and treated to misogynistic slurs for merely wishing to promote the safety and dignity of girls and women.
We applaud J K Rowling for so clearly outlining the importance of retaining the legal definition of sex; for her concern for children, especially girls, who find in the idea of transition a way out of discomfort with their bodies or their failure to conform to stereotypes (illusory as that ‘solution’ is); her recognition of the potential impact of transgender ideology on women prisoners and on those who have experienced domestic and sexual abuse; her support for lesbians who are, of course, same-sex not same-‘gender’ attracted (despite attempts by Stonewall and others to redefine homosexuality) ; her recognition of the need to consider sex in many medical conditions. Above all, she champions the right of women to speak about our own material experience as a sex.
In her piece, Rowling mentions the changes being wrought to the definition of ‘woman’ in Scottish legislation. Essentially, the Scottish Government has recently published statutory guidance on the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018. The guidance outlines various ways in which someone can be a woman for the purposes of the Act, including always using female pronouns, or using female names on documents such as utility bills; but then states that no-one can ask for the evidence that the individual fulfils the requirements. Hence, anyone who ‘identifies’ as a woman is now eligible to count towards the intention that women should represent half the members of public boards by the end of 2022. This is despite the vast majority of responses to the Government’s consultation objecting to the proposed re-definition of ‘woman’. It is unsurprising that J K Rowling, along with many of the rest of us, is alarmed by such legal changes.
It is horrifying that so many people in the public eye, both men and women, have responded to her article with abusive messages, with demands that she retract, with extraordinary claims that she has somehow ruined their childhoods, with accusations of her being ill-informed. We are saddened that some of those making such comments are strongly identified with the Labour Party, and are echoing the deeply concerning demands of some Labour members that those supporting organisations that promote women’s interests should be expelled from the Party.
We stand with J K Rowling and hope that Keir Starmer, to whom we have written twice requesting an opportunity to brief him without response, Marsha de Cordova (Shadow Women and Equalities, from whom we have also had no response to our request for a meeting) and others in the shadow cabinet will now recognise that we represent a view that needs to be heard and understood. In the light of all the publicity, across all media, that has ensued from the publication of Rowling’s article, Labour can scarcely dismiss our views as those of some annoying fringe.
We look forward to more signatories on our Declaration and to an invitation from the Labour leadership to discuss the issues we and J K Rowling have laid out.
Thank you, J K Rowling, for ensuring that these key issues cannot be ignored.