On October the 26th, FiLiA made a statement regarding Amnesty International's involvement with my event "Fly the Flag" (October 16th & 17th at Portsmouth Guildhall Square). My event was not the only protest event in the square that day, but it was the only event supported by Amnesty.
Coincidently, October 26th is the exact date the BBC published "that lesbian article" that resulted in some 20,000 people putting their name to an open letter in complaint because it was prejudiced in several ways and, therefore transphobic. The definition of transphobia (source Google/Oxford Languages) is "the dislike or prejudice of transgender or transexual people", - and that word prejudice needs to be stamped in everyone's mind.
I only recently became aware of the FiLiA statement after reading their latest newsletter, which also appealed for input into the "cotton ceiling issue"-prejudice?
So let's deal with that one first. I recently ran a poll on Twitter - a poll nearly twice the size of the one the BBC article referred to which resulted in 97% of trans women saying that they either are or want to be medicalised - in essence, effectively accepting chemical castration. What happens is a loss of interest and invariably the ability to have sex.
Many of us go further having lower surgery - making it impossible to have sex as a man. Put any woman under pressure to have sex?
A small number of lesbians claim to have been violated by some of the Trans community. One rad fem lesbian (Kat Howard) has gone public with her allegation - now surely she should refer her claim to the Police so that the issue can be investigated appropriately.
So to the FiLiA statement.
The first paragraph of their statement is not contentious - FiLiA does some truly excellent work in calling out issues like VAWG. They also mention "maternity matters", a subject I once lectured on, working on projects alongside some of the worlds best Paediatricians - being transgender is just a tiny part of me.
In the second paragraph, FiLiA says this:
"Some of our panels focused on sex-based rights and featured a range of feminist speakers from all around the world. These panels emphasised the negative impact that the authoritarian imposition of “gender identity” policies (or sex self-identification) is having on single-sex services, femicide data, children’s development and the rights of women in prison".
Here FiLiA expands the common use of "self-identification" generally used concerning the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, claiming an effect on single-sex spaces. In the UK, the issue of single-sex spaces (which I agree are required) is covered by the Equality Act 2010. It should be noted that women's single-sex spaces do not "belong" to women. They belong to the service provider who can discriminate dependent on their policies proportionate to a legitimate aim.
FiLiA also states self-identification affects femicide data. Again in relation to the UK, this is puzzling. For starters, UK trans women are rarely murdered, and in any case, the UK Femicide Census is (wrongly in my view) trans-exclusionary. That is not to say trans women do not suffer considerable violence - we do; many of us experience truly horrific male violence. Further, many young trans women are also homeless; after being thrown out of the family home 'for being trans' - living on the streets - they, in particular, suffer severely from male violence.
However, women who are murdered are invariably attacked by people they know - such as partners or former partners. In short, the men in their lives. Trans women tend not to have close relationships (many live alone) or live with supporting female partners.
I can't quite get my head around how self-identification affects children's development. I am assuming FiLiA wish to dispute my research that 49.8% of transgender folk knew they were trans before the age of nine. And as for prisons, again in the UK, trans women can not self-identify into the female estate. For sure, some claim they are trans, but in reality, that is just 1.6 trans per 1000 prisoners - not exactly a significant problem. Moreover, even trans women with a GRC can be held in the male estate. How many are trans women with a GRC in prison? Well, I recently heard a GC "expert" say there were up to twenty. The figure actually averages between one and two.
In fact, around 91% of trans women are housed in the male estate and on average, a trans woman in the male estate is sexually assaulted every thirty-three days. No one calls that out, though - except this website. Nor should it be forgotten that the vast majority of assaults are not reported. This is true for both trans women and women.
Further, in recent days, I have spoken with three ex-offenders (one trans man and two cisgender women) held in HMP Low Newton and HMP New Hall (both female estate), where the odd few trans women were also housed. I was told they experienced no significant problems at all with trans women. Indeed amongst the many issues, the women had one was that male guards invade women's privacy, and on occasions watch women change sanitary towels/tampons and having showers. Coming soon is my report on women and trans women in prison, and it will certainly be very different from the GC trans-exclusionary versions.
I have no issue with the third paragraph of the FiLiA statement, so on to the fourth, which reads:
"At the entrance of our Portsmouth Guildhall venue, women and their children were greeted by sexually abusive signs held by protestors claiming, in part, to represent Amnesty International UK. Transactivist protesters chanted “Trans women are women”, “Blow jobs are real jobs” and “No TERFs in Pompey Turf.” They held signs that read “Suck my dick, you transphobic cunts” and wrote with chalk “Transphobes can suck on my pink strap” on the Guildhall entrance".
I dispute some of this paragraph.
I was located close to the entrance and never saw any sexually abusive signs, and I was not the only one who never saw them. Nor did I hear all of the alleged chants. Certainly, "Trans women are women" was chanted, but I never heard reference to "blow jobs or Terfs", and if I had done, I would most certainly have gone home. It is true offensive signs were written, though their location is a matter of dispute. And I want to make it clear that I condemn those signs which were truly awful.
Moreover, I reached out to FiLiA leadership on Sunday morning (the 17th), after learning of the signs and told them as much. I asked them to convey my disapproval to the attendees. As far I know that did not happen.
I later learnt that those responsible were NOT part of the four different stakeholder groups that gathered in Guildhall Square that day - apparently, they were, and I quote from my source, "17-year-old kids who just turned up." In my view, age is not a defence - indeed, they were 'Gillick Competent', which is what matters. There was no excuse for those signs. They deeply offended some of my female work colleagues, my wife, many followers on Twitter and of course me. That said let's not forget that BBC article. One of the sources originally referred to was Ms Lily Cade.
She was calling for the lynching of all trans women - yes, she wants us dead!
I am yet to see any condemnation of this from GC organisations.
The FiLiA statement then goes on saying: "Protesters also held signs stating: “I AM WHO I SAY I AM: Amnesty International” and “LOVE IS A HUMAN RIGHT: Amnesty International”. Yes, a few did - but these signs are not offensive in any way.
FiLiA disagrees saying this:
" The statement “I AM WHO I SAY I AM” is a supremacist mantra. Around the UK and worldwide, transactivists have used this slogan to unceremoniously dismiss the legitimate concerns of feminists who defend their sex-based rights. The statement “I AM WHO I SAY I AM” is incompatible with a democratic society in which everybody’s human rights are balanced and respected. The statement “I AM WHO I SAY I AM” is an insult to the women and girls whose voices, lives and experiences are systemically invisibilised in a patriarchal society".
The FiLiA statement then goes on to invite Amnesty to a meeting with FiLiA.
So some four weeks after Fly the Flag, how do I feel now?
To be honest, pretty gutted. Sure we distributed well over 1000 leaflets and got support from lots of people. It was great we were able to leaflet those attending the FiLiA event and Great South Run. And the local antifascists did keep me safe from local male transphobes for which I am very grateful.
But I genuinely wanted FiLiA to have an incident-free event, worked hard to achieve it and ultimately failed. I am very sorry that was the case.
Sadly just days later, at a WPUK event in London, a much worse occurrence happened, resulting in horrific verbal abuse being thrown at women attendees and indeed at other trans people. And the people doing it were trans - and credit to my community, many trans folk, walked away. One young trans woman said she would never protest again - talk about shooting ourselves in the foot.
I do agree with FiLiA - people do have the right to protest, but equally, they do not have the right to abuse others and going forward the trans community must call it out as happened in London.
At no point was I abused by the attendees at the FiLiA event.
Okay, I was told to "bugger off", and one woman, (who appeared to be associated to FiLiA), screamed at the local antifascists they were "rapists", both on Saturday and Sunday morning. However, overall I was treated with courtesy and respect. I chated with lots of attendees and speakers and received considerable support. Many attendees made a point of coming to meet me, I got a hug from one, and some apologised, saying FiLiA leaders were out of step with their view in relation to trans women policies.
After the event, I got several emails from attendees, too - saying they appreciated I talked to them and they supported me. A couple made reference that transsexuals were different to trans. But as always, human nature being what it is, one more negative email hit me pretty hard saying:
Anyway, I wanted to ask you to explain why you thought it was valid to protest outside FiLiA? I was at the conference and a colleague mentioned she had spoken to you.
The things happening to women globally are horrendous, and to find ourselves having to deal with the distraction of that protest made no sense. The conference heard from the Lesbian refugees in the Kakuma camp in Kenya where they have been housed after fleeing Uganda. They are in the LGBTQI block, and they are repeatedly beaten and raped and have no money. We heard from women in Afghanistan, we heard about women in India, story after story of misogyny enacted upon women because of our sex.
We have a right to discuss these things.
The disgust was tangible when we emerged to hold our femicide vigil to honour the memories of all the women killed this year at the hands of male violence. The space had been desecrated by obscene pictures chalked on the square by protesters.
Do you really want to be associated with such inappropriate protests?
You could have bought a ticket and come and heard about women's lives. Been part of the sisterhood.
So I replied, informing her I was solely there because of FiLiA's policy to GRA reform. The simple truth is I do not believe anyone can object to reforming a law that works for just 1% of trans people.
We are talking about human rights.
And I am part of that 99% per cent the law doesn't work for - I can live as a woman with my "female" driving licence. I can actually get into single-sex spaces; I have the best photo-id on the planet a female passport - but the fact is I respect single-sex spaces and choose where I go carefully. But if I die tomorrow, I die as a man and that makes me very unhappy.
FiLiA will say (along with others) that sex is immutable - that I can't change sex.
Biology, don't lie - I have never denied my sex, but society dont inspect genitals on a day to day basis - we DO live by gender.
Moreover, it is my human and legal right to change gender - and no one, simply no one, can deny that.
And it is this fact that justifies "trans women are women" - albeit that personally I identify as "trans". I am proud of who I am, the journey I took - one of the most difficult in humanity.
FiLiA says some 1100 (mainly women) attended their conference so if 1% of the population are trans in theory eleven trans women may have attended the FiLiA conference.
Who were they?
FiLiA doesn't check genitals either - why should they?
Trans people exist and we are everywhere - many 'live in stealth' without issue - indeed I was one until I decided to be "openly trans".
So I am just wondering what "problem" I and my trans sisters am to gender criticals? I don't accept that "rights" clash - just overlap.
I dont deny sex, I respect single-sex spaces, I can understand there are valid concerns about trans women in sport - and I am sure I am not alone.
Further, the Equality Act works very well for everyone - what's the issue? This is proven by the lack of case law in legal actions involving trans people.
And in regards to FiLiA wanting to meet Amnesty, well, talking never hurts but the fact is they are talking to the wrong people.
The gender war is about transgender people, and if Amnesty International withdrew support from us, it doesn't solve the problem!
Trans women will not melt away like snow.
We are here and will be on this earth when the world ends - and given climate change, that might be quicker than we would all like.
So to end this rebuttal, reply - or is it rant - what are we left with?
Well, the hope is that FiLiA has some vision and recognise they are in a unique position.
Many trans folks and our allies actually have a little respect for FiLiA.
They do some amazing things for women worldwide and are in a great position to end this friggin gender war - the war that pits women against women - the war that advantages men!
The war that politicians don't want to end because it deflects from their patriarchal agenda.
Whether FiLiA wants to work to end the gender war though, is an entirely different matter.
Authored by Steph - all opinions my own. @PlaceSteph