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Labour, trans politics, and misogyny

A Cry For Help to Those Silently Watching

(CAUTION: EXPLICIT IMAGES)

I wasn’t going to write a blog, but I posted a version of this on Facebook when quite shocked and angry, and a few people asked me if they could share it. And then I remembered I had this website that I’d set up several years ago and never really used.

And there’s some things been going on within Labour and the left of late that have been seriously bothering me, and which need to be addressed, quite urgently.

* * *

You may not have heard of Pragna Patel, or Southall Black Sisters (SBS) – its one of the few organisations which can be said to have really made a huge difference to the lives of Black and Asian women in the UK. Set up in 1979 after Blair Peach was killed on an anti-Nazi demo, SBS been one of the most respected grassroots organisations on the left ever since.

It’s completely run by Asian women, working (very successfully) in the field of prevention of violence against Black and Asian women and girls.

However I found out the other day that the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights has been calling on Labour Party politicians to no platform Pragna Patel, co founder of SBS, from a meeting about violence against women and girls, because Patel once spoke about women’s rights at a WPUK meeting. In my opinion there’s nothing transphobic about WPUK or this speech, but you can make your own mind up here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgR7rgp78zg

Those of you who haven’t heard of Pragna Patel, or Southall Black Sisters, maybe wont appreciate just how deeply shocking it is that Labour Party trans activist members are targeting women who are held in such high regard and have such a strong record on the left, and that the whole of the Labour Party isn’t in uproar over it.  But that’s why I posted this, to give a little more background to an example that illustrates the culture that’s been developing around this issue within Labour in recent years.

Several incidents of left wing/progressive women being targeted by Labour Party members over trans self id/GRA reform have occurred just in the past *few days*:

– Most prominent is the case of JK Rowling, firstly swamped on Twitter with vicious often sexualised misogynistic abuse (typical example being “Suck my cock, TERF c*nt” https://medium.com/@rebeccarc/j-k-rowling-and-the-trans-activists-a-story-in-screenshots-78e01dca68d ) and then being accused of ‘weaponizing’ her experiences of domestic abuse by a Labour MP;

Trans rights activist tweet to JK Rowling

– The new Labour Party National Womens Officer tweeting support for a trans activist who had openly called for physical violence against ‘TERFs’:

– The rejection of the Labour Party membership application of Karen Ingala Smith, founder of NIA, another organisation leading in the field of prevention of violence against women and girls. https://niaendingviolence.org.uk/about-nia/

– The attempted disruption of a CLP meeting by TRAs because one of the Woman’s Place founders was due to speak there

And then beyond Labour, also in just the last few days:

– A concerted campaign by TRAs to remove the legal crowdfunder of a black lesbian woman raising money for a discrimination case against Stonewall for interfering to harm her employment. Background to her legal case here: https://womansplaceuk.org/2020/06/27/i-am-suing-stonewall-stop-policing-free-speech/

– Another black lesbian woman who was  banned from the LGBT dating app Hinge for specifying in her profile she was only interested in biological women.

– Reddit removing the gender critical subreddit (which had 65,000 users) but leaving in place the many subreddits dedicated to watching the abuse and rape of women

– And of course The Body Shop removing all references to the word ‘woman’ on their website, but (surprise!) keeping in place all references to men.

All this going on extra-judiciously. There’s been no formal policy change at parliamentary level since the recommendations to deregulate the GRA process and scrap the protected category of sex in the Equality Act were made by a parliamentary committee in 2015-6 (we will see how far the government has changed its position in the next few weeks when its proposals for the GRA are announced).

However despite legislation remaining the same, massive policy and practice changes have been going on in almost all UK institutions and organisations, following advice and training provided by trans lobby groups such as Stonewall, which effectively enact the proposals in the 2015-6 parliamentary report.

There has been next to zero debate within Labour, with what little debate there has been always highly fraught. Those speaking from a gender critical perspective inevitably experiencing the kind of behaviour described here, and usually in a minority as others are afraid to speak out or don’t know enough about the subject (and wont engage further as debate has been both so stifled and unpleasant)

So I’m a feminist, and I see sexism on a regular basis on the left, it exists there just as it exists across all sections of society. I have been quite vocal about women’s rights, abuse, and the safety of women and children, for several years now (having been involved in politics working with marginalised groups for almost 3 decades).

But what I’ve seen happening within certain sections of the left,  specifically towards women and on the subject of the GRA, since I’ve entered this debate, is a misogyny of a very different type and scale than anything I’ve ever seen, anywhere, on any issue I have ever come across. And pretty much every woman who has entered this debate using their own name, and asked the wrong questions, will have had some version of the punishments the TRA movement metes out for deviating from their orthodoxy.

I wrote about it a few months after I first encountered this issue – you can read here my then shock at what I experienced: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/gender-recognition-act_uk_5a9417f5e4b0ee6416a5400f).

In the 2.5 years since then I have been no platformed, have lost work with the media orgs that had previously published my work, been expelled from left social justice campaign groups, banned from social media, and insulted, or just avoided, by people I had known and got on with for years. All of this based on anonymous complaints of transphobia that I was never allowed to see or respond to directly. I did deviate from the Stonewall orthodoxy in terms of the possible policy solutions in this area. I still do deviate from it, but I was never extreme, I never called for harm, I’ve always used reliable stats, and info from reputable sources, and never used insults. And there’s so many other women with versions of the same story, livelihoods deliberately targeted for defending womens spaces or sports.

I’ve managed survive the attempts to get me expelled from labour to date, but it feels now that it is only my length of membership, and dedication to certain social policy changes that of the 2 parties only Labour would ever be likely to legislate positively for, that has kept me there this long.

The now familiar campaigns for expulsion, no platforming, attempts to interfere with employment or business or reputation or income, the mobbing and disruptions of women’s meetings, the abusive social media pile-ons, the violence and threats of violence, the censorship – directed at socialist women have now become so frequent and – due to the lack of condemnation by observers –  normalised a part of Labour Party/left culture, that the largely young and inexperienced members of LCTR feel enabled to attempt to cancel a woman such as Patel who is held in such high esteem on the left – secure in the knowledge that nobody with the clout to do anything is going to make them stop. And that last bit worries me, that’s what really really worries me.

A couple of years ago TU leaders did sign a public statement calling for an end to attacks on women around this debate, here https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/improving-climate-debate-around-proposed-changes-gender-recognition-act but that statement was itself was campaigned against by TRAs, and the conduct has continued to get worse (as it typically tends to when young or inexperienced people are not shown by their mentors that their actions are not acceptable).

If this is a normal part of our culture within Labour then I am not sure that Labour is a safe place for any woman who prioritises safety and safeguarding, or who has themself experienced male violence or abuse, and ever perceives that male violence and abuse as political. And its just not a healthy respectful place for anyone who has vulnerabilities that they could then be attacked for talking about in any kind of political way. While others look away while the attack takes place, or even endorse it. If that’s what the culture of the Labour Party and wider left has really become then I want no part of it.

However this recent case of the no platforming of Pragna Patel has a slightly different ending. This time, although there was again no admonishment of LCTR calls for the cancellation of SBS, the politicians concerned did still attend the meeting in spite of pressure applied to them. Although the previous evening the same TRAs who were trying to no-platform SBS had tried to shut down the Tottenham CLP meeting on Black Lives Matter and COVID, because Kiri Tunks (former chair of NEU and co-founder of Woman’s Place) was speaking, the chair stood firm. So both the meetings went ahead, and by all accounts were very good meetings.

And so I am still holding on to a tiny strand of hope, that finally, with the oppressive and misogynistic culture and tactics of TRAs being made so public and visible this past few days, that some of those who’ve been turning their heads away will start looking at what is going on. And maybe some will find the courage to speak up for certain standards of conduct and respect within political debate, rather than allow the shutting down of debate in compliance with the MO of trans activists. Maybe that’s what Catherine West MP (by associating with forbidden people), and JK Rowling (for speaking about a forbidden subject), and the increasing number of people who in their own ways are refusing to cow to demands to completely submit to the entire Stonewall policy project, are doing.

And that’s why I wrote this. It’s a cry for help to those who have been quietly watching, I don’t know if anyone will still be reading this far, but if you are reading, and you haven’t yet said anything, then I’m asking you to act now, before it’s too late and this weirdly misogynist and authoritarian culture takes hold in the Labour Party and becomes a long term feature.

I know this blog is too long – I started writing and realised I could write about this for days. But if you’ve got this far, and you found this interesting, feel free to send a message with your thoughts, or let me know if you’d be interested to read more (probably much shorter, maybe better structured) posts on similar stuff.

(Polite messages only, anyone sending insults or abuse will of course be blocked)