I've purposely delayed in writing this blog - this happened some weeks back. Everything is 100% true, except for Maggie's name.
I have never been invited to a women's networking event before, and to be quite honest, it was something that did not exactly excite me.
But a friend, Maggie (natal female), who lives some distance from my home in Portsmouth, asked me to go with her, and as I had not seen her for some months, it was a chance to catch up.
I picked Maggie up from her home, and we set off to this mega posh hotel in a prestigious location; en route, we were gossiping about family, covid and holidays. We arrived about fifteen minutes early and were directed to the Brittania Room, larger than a tennis court with very high decorative ceilings.
We registered and were offered a glass of bubbly or a soft drink by a waiter - needless to say, wearing white gloves and a white dickie bow. Dainty Edwardian-style cream-painted chairs were set out in neat rows to one side, and as the women took their places, it became clear the event was sold out. Maggie and I decided we would sit in the back row as it appeared there was more leg room, so we sat in the far left corner with bubbly in hand.
In total, some sixty women were present; some dressed in classy jumpsuits, some in smart casual dresses, and a few wearing traditional Muslim or Indian clothing. Looking back, there was not a pair of jeans (not even designer ones) in sight.
Three inspirational women speakers were due to talk to us, and as the first gave her account of how her business defied bankruptcy not once but twice and went on to be a massive success, I started to realise I was in the company of some truly extraordinary women. The second speaker had a similar story, no near bankruptcies, but she defied the patriarchy so brilliantly I was left in awe.
The final speaker told us how she left school with no qualifications but went on to university and achieved a PhD. She was a proud open lesbian, telling us the story of how she divorced her first wife and now dealt with multi-million-pound contracts for her male-dominated employer. She then touched on general LGBT+ issues and, totally out of the blue, said, "trans women are women, and trans men are men."
And to my amazement, virtually all the women in the audience nodded their heads in agreement, with some saying out loud "yes".
And I started to tear up.
Seeing the room's mood was with her, she went even further, later saying, "fucking terfs" and many murmured in agreement.
Because this was not a meeting of trans rights allies or women with specific political leanings to the left or the right, though it was clear many detested the current government. These were young to middle-aged professional women determined to do their best and beat the barriers men place in their careers.
At the end of the final talk, there was a Q and A session. "Where is feminism going?" was the first question, and all I heard was anger at how the gender-critical had dragged feminism to the gutter. Now my gender-critical friends (yes, I do have some, and I respect them dearly) will not like that - but I am simply reporting what happened.
And the truth is no longer are issues like the pay gap, gender inequality in the workplace or government being discussed.
We are not talking about climate change so to protect our grandchildren or even talking about eradicating food banks - what is getting attention is where trans women pee.
Clearly, the woman who asked the first question was a concerned feminist, so as we started to mingle, I found her and told her I was an openly trans woman. She revealed she was a senior teacher at a local private school and disillusioned with feminism. "I used to love Julie Bindle", she said, but I've gone right off her now. All she does is discuss trans women and nothing else".
Now I admit I know nothing much about Julie's history or what she has or has not done for women. One day I need to find out. I am sure she has probably done some fantastic things in the past.
But what I witnessed at this up-market women's networking event was extraordinary, and it is something I will never forget.
More to the point, it just proves that whilst the gender-crits have captured the media, as polls suggest, they are a long way behind in capturing the hearts and minds of society - particularly women in the young and middle-aged demographic.
Indeed, I think I can go further.
As trans visibility increases, as we show, we are not a threat to women but want to work for them and with them - that we just want to be loved and, yes, respected - one day feminism will be united.
Words by Steph. 09:43 20/7/22