Clearly, attacks from the right on LGBT rights must be resisted, as Laura Miles says (“The war on trans”, January SR).
However, the potential erasure of “women” and “lesbian” as categories are real issues which are worthy of discussion. There are far reaching medical and social issues associated with self-ID, especially for children.
Laura suggests that A Woman’s Place UK (WPUK) is transphobic; it is not. WPUK was set up on a clear platform of respectful discussion, and to ensure that women’s voices are heard in the debate; “nothing about us without us” and “sex matters” are two of the principles, as their website confirms.
It is indeed unfortunate that it has been largely the right wing and liberal press that has enabled the views of gender critical socialists to be heard.
WPUK has been targeted by activists — the accusations are very well documented and include a bomb threat and the targeting of venues where WPUK holds its meetings across the country. WPUK has had to organise its meetings with venues announced on the day because of systematic harassment. Several meetings have had to move at very short notice. To suggest that the accusations of silencing are “unfounded” is just wrong.
No-platforming of speakers is a tactic and objective which I hope all readers of SR would agree should be reserved for Nazis and the far right. The attempt to conflate socialist feminists with the far right is shocking and has had a polarising effect.
The move towards the use of absurd neologisms such as “uterus owner” and “menstruator” has serious implications for public health.
Finally, on gender: there is a very clear distinction between sexual orientation (who you find attractive) and gender, which is socially constructed (as Laura says, expectations and material circumstances) and is in many cases coincident with sex.
None of this is to argue that the oppressed cannot “express their…gender identity” — far from it. I’d prefer to say that we can all express ourselves as we wish. In my case, biological female, but no holds barred on the way I behave.
But labelling socialists and feminists “transphobic” for wanting to talk is, in my view, deeply reactionary.
Socialist Review can agree with Sybil that no platforming is not a tactic that should be used against trans critical groups such as WPUK, as we have made clear in previous articles.
However, we have to disagree when she claims that WPUK simply want to have a “debate”. They are using their platforms to undermine support for self-identification and non-binary inclusion in official data. For many trans people and trans rights supporters that in itself is evidence of transphobia.
Speakers on WPUK platforms have made transphobic comments, which have gone unchallenged.
Finally, there is not a word in Sybil’s letter about the impact on trans oppression of the campaign WPUK is running, or an acknowledgment of how it has helped fuel the rise in transphobia and all the harm that is causing to trans people.