Steph's Place

1st of November - Reith Lectures, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Kathleen Stock and Milli Hill

By Steph

Recently the BBC invited me to the prestigious "Reith Lectures" assumably because the speaker Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was talking about one of the so-called "Freedoms" - The Freedom of Speech.

Obviously, a narrative of the right wing and, in particular, some hate groups from the US. The programme was recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre in central London last night.

Chimamanda has said some problematic things in the past about trans people, and with gender-critical voices in the audience, I guess I was counterbalance.

When I arrived, I immediately noticed my name on the guest list was highlighted, and I was given two stickers, one with a number on it. Entering the Radio Theatre, I noticed from the name tags on the seats that I was sitting immediately behind Milli Hill, and I wondered if she might feel uncomfortable with me so close.

Milli and I had a debate back in June on Radio Four, and while we kind of 'get on' - I decided to mention the fact to my BBC contact.

To be clear, Milli has always been respectful of me and me to her, and there have never been any threats in either direction.  

Milli came in to take her seat with Kathleen Stock and some other people I didn't know, and shortly afterwards, a BBC man came in and gave me the option to move, which I did.

Kathleen and I have crossed swords before!

Pretty amazing that neither Milli nor Kathleen seemed to notice me, though, as I walked directly in front of them when moving seats - we trans women can undoubtedly blend in!

I have to say Chimamanda's lecture was spellbinding, talking about how people can hurt each other online by just using words, but sometimes things have to be said.

Chimamanda made the point that we should be more tolerant of other people's views and debate on social media without shouting at each other - she also suggested people should be identifiable, something I fully agree with.

I won't give away all of Chimamanda's words; you can hear the programme yourself when it is broadcast or catch it on Radio Sounds.

At the end of the lecture, the audience was invited to ask questions, and one of the first up was Harry Miller from Fair Cop, saying nothing about trans people, though. If I am honest, I don't think his question went down too well with the audience, but perhaps I am biased. Kathleen also asked a question but again, nothing about trans people. I desperately wanted to ask a question myself asking:

As Graham Norton has been driven from Twitter for just saying a "talk to a trans person" was there any hope?

But sadly, they ran out of time, and I never got my question in.

Because of some personal safety concerns, the BBC provided me with excellent security. This is not to suggest that neither Milli nor Kathleen would have been unpleasant, I am sure 'face to face' it would have been precisely the opposite. But I recall when Kathleen called me "male" on Twitter, which certainly hurt.

After listening to Chimamanda, would she use re-phrase?

Probably not.

Kathleen believes in just two sexes and rejects the United Nations' premise that intersex people exist and can, and they might "be a woman, a man, both or neither".

At the end of the lecture, I was whisked to a safe room and offered more wine, which I naturally accepted!

BBC wine is good!

They called a taxi for me, and when it arrived, I was escorted to it by three BBC employees, including one very butch security guard, via a different exit. As I walked with them to the taxi, I wondered if, in reality, I had gone to the wrong lecture for one of the 'Four Freedoms' is the right not to fear.

And fear drives the gender war on both sides.

When Kathleen was at Sussex, she experienced fear and probably, like me, she still does.

I am sure most gender-critical people don't hate trans people - but trans people like me fear my human rights are being eroded, and gender-critical have the same fear. 

Chimamanda's lecture left me thinking we should all talk more, shout less and try to get on. 

Sadly on Twitter, that is some hope.

Words by Steph 0905 01/11/22

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