If you’ve looked up online what ‘gender critical’ means, you may have come across a lot of material accusing such women of bigotry and comparing us to homophobes of old. You may have found descriptions that claim we are even worse than that and commentators (I use the word very loosely) bandying around phrases like ‘worse than Nazis’. You will almost certainly have come across the term ‘TERF’ and perhaps fallen down an internet rabbit hole discovering what it stands for (‘trans exclusionary radical feminist’) and ‘why you should be worried’. If you got that far, you will likely also have been told that such women are akin to the Baby Eating Bishop of Bath & Wells rolled together with Mary Whitehouse, Hitler and Margaret Thatcher.
I invoke that last name quite deliberately because I know that if you are ‘on the left’ or consider yourself ‘left wing’, or a Labour voter, or a Green, or anyone left of centre – unless you fully grasp the issues ‘gender critical’ encapsulates – you may see Thatcher’s name and believe the worst. Perhaps the person saying it, or making similar condemnations, is someone who’s also on the left and who you’ve always thought highly of. Perhaps it is someone you don’t know well but who seems to believe in things you too see as important, like human rights or taking action on climate change. Maybe you have read articles in The Guardian, that don’t explicitly condemn gender critical women but subtly use language which suggests they are not decent people. But, honestly, the issue is not a simple left-right one. Nevertheless those with the loudest voices on the left are shouting: ‘Gender critical, bad’. Thousands of others on the left however are saying the opposite – and I do mean thousands.
That you will find many more right than left wing politicians, particularly Conservatives, speaking out on the issue is also true. But again this doesn’t prove a simple left-right split, where lefties can pick a side without bothering to look into, or examine and consider, the issue for themselves. It is a genuine cross party issue and if you bother to look you’ll find politics of all colours represented among gender critical ranks.
I write this as someone of the left, who has been a trade union member for pretty much all my adult life. I’ve been a workplace rep and supported colleagues with disciplinaries, grievances and smaller issues – and I’ve been the person who sticks their neck out to raise issues with management on behalf of others. I’m also someone who’s spent countless hours helping various people with things like not being able to find somewhere to rent because they’re on benefits or with benefits claims that have erroneously been refused. In short, I’m not the villain some people will tell you I am and I’m not a Tory either. In common with other gender critical women, I’m simply someone who believes in the facts of life. That is to say that biological sex is real, and is the reason all of us are here, and humans can’t change sex no matter how much some might want to.
That there is now a conflict between so-called gender critical people and those who believe in what is referred to as ‘gender identity’ is a fact. What is not a fact, is that people on the gender critical side routinely abuse those who hold the opposing view. It’s also false to claim that we are trying to take away trans rights, or prevent trans people from having happy, peaceful lives. What someone wears and chooses to call themself is a matter of freedom of expression. Denying others a right to privacy, including the sort of single-sex spaces which sometimes provide it, is not a freedom and certainly not a right.
Working out how to balance conflicts of interest and rights requires critical thinking and a broad mind. Hopefully you have that kind of mind, because over the coming months I’ll be interviewing gender critical women about their views and experiences. Many of us have been ostracised, bullied, abused and threatened for nothing more than expressing an entirely reasonable view on a matter of legitimate concern – and/or for speaking to and meeting with other women regarding the same. You may have been told, or read, that talking about such things is ‘hate speech’ and the meetings are gatherings of ‘hate groups’, but that is another lie. Rather it’s simply women exercising our human rights. As per this (amalgamated) quote from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – specifically from Articles 18, 19 and 20.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought [and] conscience … Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
Those freedoms mean nothing, if they only cover permitted views and topics. So, if someone claims that gender critical women are doing anything other than exercising their human rights, please don’t nod and/or join the witch hunt. Ask questions instead. Genuinely ask questions and listen to the answers before you respond. I’ll leave you with a question, asked on social media by a chap called Jack Appleby. “What’s more likely: That a load of life-long, left-leaning, LGBT-supporting women have inexplicably and uncharacteristically all suddenly become bigots, or that one might be missing something here?”