I’m on the board of the Fawcett Society which campaigns for women’s equality. Last week, a ruling was made which found in favour of a woman, Maya Forster, who had been dismissed from her job for expressing her views on the trans debate and established that gender critical views are a protected belief. She and others then attacked me and the Fawcett Society for not saying anything about the judgement. Millicent Fawcett, who the charity is named after, coined the motto “courage calls to courage everywhere”.
“Where is your courage?” furious gender critical women raged at me. It’s a fair question and I’ll answer it today in an entirely personal capacity. Hands up. Guilty as charged. Squeak squeak. I’m absolutely terrified about this debate. Even as I type, my anxiety levels are through the roof. I’m braced for the inevitable, merciless online abuse. I even booked in an emergency session with my therapist to work out a coping strategy for my mental health. Does this sound right to you? No. Because it’s not. This debate has become utterly toxic.
This week, I have been called both a disgusting transphobe and someone who is selling their biological sex down the river. I haven’t even said anything on the topic. Why would I? I’m not an idiot. Until now… But it’s time to stop this cowardice and to speak up. I’m sorry to disappoint but I’m not picking a side. The stakes are incredibly high on both sides, and I get that. But what I cannot and will not accept is the level of mindless cruelty and polarisation which is ripping apart progressive politics and making enemies of people who should stand shoulder to shoulder.
As with so much right now, extremist, unforgiving, rigid voices on both sides dominate the online war in a fight to the death of who can scream and shame the loudest. And all it does is alienate people in the middle who want to find a solution which is humane, modern and common sense. But more moderate voices who could find the common ground here and find useful solutions are too scared to join in and who could blame them?
Sorry to get all supply teacher, but everyone needs to stop and reflect on their behaviour. If you get off on misgendering trans women, calling them men in dresses or making other pathetic, vile comments, you are part of the problem. If you enjoy slagging off older women who express a view about single sex spaces as ugly old cows who no one would want to f*** anyway, then guess what, you are part of the problem. There has got to be a way through this because newsflash — the only group benefiting from this vile punch up are the forces of social conservatism who are no true friend of either side.
There’s a lot of talk of courage. Organising a Twitter pile-on is not brave by the way. What about kindness and empathy? Most people are accepting of anyone providing they’re not a total arsehole. I’m part of a wonderful Facebook group of older women celebrating confidence in our “hot girl years”, AKA the menopause. Trans women are not only welcome, they are cherished — we have all learned from their stories and world class ability to accessorise.
I’m not saying all of this is easy, but there has got to be a way through which moves on from women taking lumps out of each other while powerful cis men sit back and laugh. And that will only happen if more moderate voices have the guts to speak up. And access to a good therapist.
How do you think the conversation around trans issues can be improved? Let us know in the comments below.