‘I’ve been cancelled!’ is the all too familiar cry we hear today from a prominent academic or celebrity that has received a backlash following their publicly expressing their ‘Gender Critical’ beliefs – but let’s not dwell too long on the total irony that this cry is being broadcast on every media outlet – some cancelling!
To start with I want to look at what constitutes discrimination, as those with Gender Critical views always deny that they hold transphobic views. Within this article I'm going to use discrimination as a catch all term throughout - the reality is that hate is complex and multifaceted, built like a pyramid with bias at its foundation, escalating through prejudice, direct discrimination, violence and ending with genocide. Many of the examples I discuss here appear on the pyramid of hate in a multitude of ways, often crossing over each other.
Discrimination is in essence a collection of ideas and phenomena that encompass a range of negative attitudes, feelings and actions, or just outright hatred toward a group of people. So now look at which ways discrimination has been expressed and then at some historical examples that groups or individuals have been made to endure.
The most of extreme would be an inference of a group being inferior or even a full denial of their very existence. It’s not difficult to find horrific examples of racism and anti-Semitism where the most extreme levels of discrimination saw unparalleled levels of racial slavery and segregation, and the mass extermination during the Holocaust. These are the extreme historical examples, but we still see plenty evidence that racism and anti-Semitism remain prevalent today.
Another powerful form of discrimination is to portray a group of people as being a danger therefore needing to be excluded for spurious safety reasons. Historically, homophobia has been greatly spread this way. Whether it be the vile scaremongering 50 years ago that gay people were a threat to straight people in changing rooms, or the more recent exclusion of openly gay people from joining the armed forces, both being an invented, unproven threat has been used to discriminate against the gay community. We have also had the disgraceful Section 28 laws in the 80’s to supposedly ‘protect school kids by prohibiting the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in school the acceptability of homosexuality as a family relationship’.
These are all forms of vile discrimination groups have endured, and now can we consider how discrimination manifests itself onto those that are Transgender.
‘Trans Women are not Women, they are Men’ – is a denial of their existence.
‘Trans Women being Men pose a threat to Cis Women in Female Only Spaces’ – implies they are a danger and need excluding for safety reasons.
‘Trans women must be excluded from Women’s Sport’ – a clear insistence that they want them to be fully excluded, and not that they should be permitted if on a fair basis. The only call is for a full ban.
‘Children are being forced to be Trans and must be protected’ – a complete refusal to accept the natural validity of being Transgender or that Trans adults were once Trans kids. A refusal to allow any form of carefully considered professional medical assistance, just an insistence that they only be given psychological intervention (i.e. conversion therapy). And finally an insistence that children need laws to protect them at school (i.e. a introduction of a transgender Section 28).
So it is clear that the discrimination the Trans Community are subjected to today falls into exactly the same categories as the discrimination inflicted throughout our history to other targeted groups and most importantly, what really needs to be acknowledged is that this list of transphobic acts completely mirrors the complete list of Gender Critical beliefs. There is nothing they claim about Trans people that is not transphobic, and their sole defence is to claim their beliefs to be in the name of feminism. Even if they are feminist at heart, this is not an excuse or justification for transphobia.
Freedom of speech does not extend to freedom to hate. We do know from the recent Maya Forstater court case appeal ruling that those holding personal beliefs are legally protected, notwithstanding that the original judge held that her views were ‘not worthy of respect in a democratic society’, but what they are not legally permitted to do, as clearly stated by the appeal judge, is to have freedom to spread views that are highly discriminatory or harmful –what those holding Gender Critical beliefs simply cannot ignore or deny is the fact that their beliefs identically match all of the most highly transphobic views that I have listed. They only hold views that are transphobic.
Having made reference to the historical examples of discrimination suffered by other groups, it is clear to see how many discriminatory views once deemed acceptable to express in public are no longer deemed acceptable. Children are no longer deemed in need of ‘protection’ from being aware of gay existence (apart from some religious groups). Once it was acknowledged the harm this caused to those discovering their sexuality, Section 28 was thankfully repealed. Those holding onto homophobic beliefs can no longer publically express ‘concerns’ of safety in sharing toilets or changing rooms and in America, Barack Obama lifted the ban on openly gay troops serving in the US military.
Racism is clearly still a serious concern and is far from being removed from society, but due to the Black Lives Matter movement following the racist murder of George Floyd, there has been signs of improvement due to the continued public outcry. At the start of the current Premier League Football Season it was evident that players taking the knee in support of BLM were receiving an element of booing, but the public backlash was evident and now every game is started with a clear and loud show of support.
And this brings us to the key point – throughout our history societies have needed to find the right level of legal protection whenever discrimination rears its ugly head, but that is only part of the story. Laws by themselves do not ensure a societies full compliance as we have seen. If anti-discrimination laws are in place then legal action can be taken to address any serious breaches, but in reality access to such remedies are only available to those in a serious position of wealth.
Simply having laws in place does not prevent the public from making expressions of discrimination – the second and probably more important factor is the publics own moral code. We know that homophobia still exists, and always will, but those holding such beliefs can no longer express them publically as society now deem it unacceptable and media outlets will no longer entertain the publishing of such views that they once deemed acceptable to print. That is because of a resetting of a societies moral code.
It is widely believed that the election fate of Jeremy Corbyn was sealed due partly to his refusal to deal with anti-Semitism within his party, which went against the moral stance of the electorate, and yet anyone watching the current TV Drama Ridley Road will see that Neo-Nazi anti-Semitic and racist views were allowed to be openly expressed in the UK in the 1960’s. As previously stated, public opinion has impacted on the reception now given to the taking of the knee at football grounds – racism hasn’t disappeared but a moral code is forcing them to keep their views to themselves.
And now we have individuals that are high profile are being condemned publically for expressing Gender Critical views, which as shown are all transphobic views, but then complain bitterly of being ‘cancelled’. This has been labelled in the media as ‘Cancel Culture’.
The latest Gender Critical ‘victim’ to claim the indignity of ‘Cancel Culture’ is Kathleen Stock, a Professor at the University of Sussex who has faced a protest from a group of students at the University who are campaigning to have her removed from the University for being, as they described online as her being ‘one of this wretched island’s most prominent transphobes’.
Her views clearly align with the ‘Gender Critical’ beliefs that are highly transphobic yet she believes she has the right to express them, and has been given the full backing of the University who employ her. I have seen evidence of a University recently sacking a Professor for expressing Homophobic views, yet the reaction from a University is diametrically opposed when it comes to Transphobia. The simple fact is that at present there is not a moral code in the UK that is preventing transphobic views to be expressed publically. The Trans Community of today are in the same position as people of colour and of Jews in the 60’s and of Gay people in the 70’s.
So what changes a society’s moral code? What forced homophobic, racist or anti-Semitic views to be deemed unacceptable to air in public? The answer is the silent majority that do conform to a far higher moral code.
Discrimination in the UK has invariably been the driving force of a loud and highly vocal minority and it has only been when the silent majority make themselves heard that the moral code changes. And what happened when the moral code changed? – those holding such beliefs are silenced. And that is the point:
‘Cancel Culture’ is not the sinister enemy to Freedom of Speech that the media insist - ‘Cancel Culture’ is simply the silent majority making their voices heard to reset a societies moral code.
Over the years the moral code of our society has continually changed for the better whenever discriminatory views are recognised as unacceptable – there have been periods in history where it has clearly taken too long, but change has always been achieved, and the difference today is that social media enables the silent majority to make themselves seen and heard far quicker, although on the down side it is clear that the UK media want to protect their own ability to platform their Gender Critical stance.
Public expressions of Transphobic views are abhorrent and cause serious harm so these voices do need silencing, hence the University of Sussex students stance on social media that Kathleen Stock be removed for pushing her vile views.
Freedom of Speech is vital and must be protected, but claims of ‘being silenced’ is used by those holding evil views wanting society to protect their right to express those evil views.
‘Cancel Culture’ is simply the name the media has given to describe what in reality is the important process of a society standing up and stamping out another evil discrimination. If the name had been more truthfully stated the action of cancelling should be 'Cancel Discrimination' and not 'Cancel Culture'.
The ‘Cancel Culture’ being complained about today is evidence that this society is again working to reset its moral code against those views that are ‘not worthy of respect in a democratic society’.
It should not have been acceptable for a democratic society to openly accept voices of racism, anti-Semitism or homophobia in the 60’s and 70’s and the media of the day may have labelled those who opposed expression of such views as inflicting ‘Cancel Culture’.
Unless I’m mistaken, the ‘cancelling’ of all forms of discrimination is what a democratic society should grasp with both hands and applaud rather than condemn with a derogative term.