Since when is the Mantra that a Transwoman is a Woman the Litmus Test for Who to Support on the Left?
Firstly to avoid any misrepresentation my reference to ‘trans Nazis’ is to be taken in the same way as references to ‘food Nazis’ which the Urban Dictionary defines as someone ‘who insists on dictating what others should call themselves based upon their diets.’
‘Trans Nazis’ refers to those who insist that support for trans rights and opposition to discrimination isn’t enough. People must sign up to the whole baggage of gender ideology such as ‘a transwoman is a woman’ and self-identification even though both are by definition subjective.
Both of these beliefs are and should be the subject of rational debate. A substantial section of feminists and the women’s movement object or have serious doubts about them because, to state the obvious, a transwoman is not a woman biologically, especially one with male genitalia. Merely saying that you are a woman doesn’t change your sex. Gender of course is fluid and can be anything you want it to be and is socially constructed. The question is why people want to identify as a gender which is opposite to the sex they were born into.
Likewise the idea that self-identification alone is sufficient makes the definition of sex entirely subjective whereas differences in sex are a material reality. This is not to doubt gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia but the solution is not to pretend that the answer is to redefine someone with these conditions as being biologically of the opposite sex to that they were born into.
Equally it is unlikely that a man would say they are a woman unless that was how they felt. However that should not be to ignore that there are men, however few is open to question, who will do so for opportunistic reasons such as gaining access to vulnerable women in for example rape crisis or domestic violence refuges. To say that all men in all circumstances who say they are women must be taken at face value is to discount the fact that some women have been raped by men claiming they are women in situations such as prisons.
Academic studies have found that ‘‘male-to-females . . . retained a male pattern regarding criminality. The same was true regarding violent crime.’ One can argue about this and there are differences of opinion but to exclude all discussion a priori on the basis that it does not fit some predetermined ideological disposition owes more to religious fundamentalism than rational argument. See Evidence and Data on Trans Women’s Offending Rate
I mention this because it was only last week that Naomi Wimborne-Iddrissi, the Secretary of Jewish Voices for Labour was supported by Momentum as part of the Grassroots 5 candidates for election to Labour’s National Executive. Immediately there was a backlash by the Lansman supporting Momentum Organiser Group, Momentum staff and others on the Lansmanite wing of Momentum whose opposition to Naomi has nothing to do with Naomi or JVL’s position on gender ideology (they don’t have one) and everything to do with the fact that Lansman and Momentum have long supported the weaponisation of ‘anti-Semitism’ as part of the right’s attacks on anti-Zionists and supporters of the Palestinians.
Momentum under Jon Lansman had an appalling record of anti-Palestinian racism and support for Zionism, and the Jewish Supremacist State of Israel (which some would also characterise as White Supremacist). False allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ were used repeatedly to attack supporters of the Palestinians, not least Jewish anti-Zionists. I was the first but no means the last victim of Lansman and Momentum’s racism. Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth, both long standing Black, and in Jackie’s case Jewish, anti-racists were expelled at the behest of the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement with the full support of Momentum and Lansman.
Lansman’s attacks on the non-Zionist Jewish Voices for Labour were endorsed by the Momentum National Co-ordinating Group. Writing in the Jewish Chronicle ‘Liar’ Lee Harpin wrote about how
Jon Lansman has launched an angry attack on Jewish Voice For Labour, writing that they are “part of the problem and not part of the solution to antisemitism in the Labour Party.”
In leaked correspondence, the Momentum founder also stated it was his “observation… that neither the vast majority of individual members of JVL nor the organisation itself can really be said to be part of the Jewish community.”
The ‘logic’ of Lansman being that because most British Jews support Israel then socialists should distance themselves from those Jews who are anti-Zionist and who do not support Israeli Apartheid. A more craven response to racism and imperialism is hard to imagine.
Over two-thirds of Labour members refused to accept that anti-Semitism was a problem in the Labour Party but Lansman and Momentum insisted on supporting the attack of Tom Watson, Ian Austin, John Mann and the Labour Right on the supposed ‘anti-Semites’ in Labour. In so doing they destroyed the Corbyn Project.
Yet far from repenting of these views Momentum, even under its Forward Momentum leadership adopted them. When Jeremy Corbyn was suspended by Starmer what was the response of Momentum’s Chair Andrew Scattergood? This ‘undermined the fight against anti-Semitism’!
Yet instead of coming clean and disavowing their past anti-Palestinian racism, Momentum is using the issue of trans rights as a pretext for continuing along the same path. Naomi is not the real target so much as a convenient political scapegoat. Since when is trans gender ideology the litmus test of who to support on the left? Since when has one’s position on anti-imperialism and anti-racism got to be viewed through the lens of gender ideology?
Naomis candidature as part of the Grassroots 5 attracted widespread, indeed virtually unanimous support from the Left with statements issued by a host of people including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Dianne Abbott, Richard Burgon and Ian Lavery as well as Ruth Hayes, Reederwan Craayenstein of Labour Black Socialists, Miriam Margolyes, Maxine Peake and the former Jewish ANC MP Andrew Feinstein.
Watch the video of Jeremy calling for support for Naomi and the other four
The 13 organisations supporting all 5 candidates are
Ø Campaign for Socialism
Ø Jewish Voice for Labour
Ø Kashmiris for Labour
Ø Labour Assembly Against Austerity
Ø Labour Black Socialists
Ø Labour Briefing (Co-op)
Ø Labour CND
Ø Labour Representation Committee
Ø Labour Women Leading
Ø Northern England Labour Left
Ø Red Labour
Ø Welsh Labour Grassroots
Ø Campaign for Labour Party Democracy
It was welcome that Momentum, which at its height had 40,000 members but which today has little more than a quarter of that, had agreed to support left unity in the wake of the unprecedented witchhunt and attack on the left by the neo-liberal Starmer Junta. It seemed that the era of Jon Lansman, scabbing on fellow socialists and allying with Zionists and assorted racists was finally over.
It seems however that our optimism was premature. There were those in Momentum who, not satisfied with having destroyed the Corbyn Project through their acceptance of the false ‘anti-Semitism’ narrative and the IHRA misdefinition of anti-Semitism were determined to continue the attack on JVL and anti-Zionist Jews. How did they manage this? By adopting the slogans and dogma of the most extreme trans activists.
Momentum and an unrepresentative transactivist clique decided to break left unity and insist that people should accept every dot and comma of gender ideology, even though it is obvious that the left is divided on the issue as is the womens’ movement. You have to be blind not to notice that thousands of feminists and women activists refuse to accept that someone born a male can simply call themselves a woman and be accepted as such without question.
It is one thing to agree that any form of discrimination against trans people is wrong and unacceptable and must be fought like any other form of discrimination. It is quite another to insist that you have to accept the gender ideology that trans activists have foisted on people like some holy mantra.
Although Lansman has gone his baleful influence still lingers and that was the primary reason why, having supported Naomi earlier in the week Momentum backtracked in the face of a strike threat by the Lansman leftovers amongst their staff. Which is reminiscent of the behaviour of the Labour Party’s own staff.
In the wake of the long-awaited Forde Report which recommended that JVL be involved in ‘anti-Semitism training’ (something I oppose anyway as racism cannot be fought by training, even assuming that anti-Semitism today is a form of racism, as opposed to a prejudiceds) the Zionist press began its own campaign.
The Jewish Chronicle led with The Forde Report distorts the battle against Jew hate explaining that ‘Three letters render the Forde Report into the leaking of a Labour document on antisemitism worthless: JVL.’. They were outraged
‘by the proposal that Jewish Voices for Labour, a group set up by Corbynites solely to push the idea that the party did not have a problem with antisemitism, should now be responsible (along with the Jewish Labour for training in antisemitism. JVL should be proscribed, not embraced.
JVL issued a statement in response to Momentum’s attempt to justify its decision. Momentum’s ‘explanation’ sought to explain why they reversed their decision to support a unified left slate for the NEC. (see below)
On conducting a united left NEC campaign –
Statement by Jewish Voices for Labour
Sat 23 Jul 2022
Statements are circulating on social media advising that Momentum has reversed its decision to support the Grassroots5 slate for the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee elections which includes JVL member, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi. We deeply regret Momentum’s decision to separate itself in this way from the united position which virtually all other left organisations have committed to.
As a candidate, Naomi has been asked by several interest groups to declare her position on a number of issues that are not consensual in our movement, nor within the coalition of 13 organisations backing Grassroots5. She has been asked to state her view on Proportional Representation, to express support for the Labour Women’s Declaration and to sign a written commitment drafted by Momentum on gender self-ID.
JVL’s position as part of the G5 coalition is that it is not helpful for candidates to sign statements or answer questionnaires during an election, that have not been agreed by the groups collectively.
We are all agreed on fundamental principles to do with freedom of expression, democracy and human rights, international solidarity, equality, working class liberation and an end to all forms of discrimination against people for being who they are. We are not all agreed on the details of how that liberation is to be achieved.
This is what we have said to those who requested a policy commitment in each of the above cases.
This is not to accept or reject the views expressed by those approaching us or our candidate – simply to explain that it would require agreement by JVL and the other G5 coalition members for us to do so. Some of these views relate to complex, nuanced subjects that require extended reflection and respectful debate – something that cannot realistically occur in the heat of an election campaign.
Naomi will be pleased if she can contribute to creating an atmosphere within our movement that will facilitate such reflection and debate in the longer term. If elected to the NEC, she would hope to have productive discussions with like-minded CLP, TU and other NEC representatives, developing principled positions on issues as they arise in consultation with the supporting groups.
Meanwhile we ask comrades to understand that Naomi is not in a position to act independently of the key groups supporting the slate.
Our goal is to bring members together around issues that unite us, not to split over those that could divide us.
Naomi’s, and our, priority is to mobilise with allies in the party to win the greatest possible number of seats for the left on the NEC. We urge all groups and individuals who share this goal to get behind the Grassroots5 candidates – Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Gemma Bolton, Yasmine Dar, Mish Rahman and Jess Barnard.
See these links for up to date information on how to support the G5 campaign and cast your votes in the ballot. (Note the party has announced a delay in the start of voting which is now likely to begin in the week commencing August 1).
JVL issued this statement in response to Momentum’ attempt to justify their breaking of ranks (yet again) whose sole effect is to give comfort to Luke Akehurst and the right-wing candidates who are overt racists and misogynists. As is always the case with Momentum they haven’t issued this openly and subjected it to the normal debate one might expect of socialists. Instead they have circulated it to a select group of its key activists because Momentum have contempt for their own passive membership, barely 3,000 of whom participated in the latest elections to their NCG. They sought to explain why they reversed their decision to support the unified left slate that has the best chance of securing a strong left-wing presence on the NEC.
In the process according to Skwawkbox CLPD and its representatives on Momentum’s NCG have broken with Momentum. It seems that Momentum are destined to disappear in a sectarian cesspool of its own making.
Momentum Weasel Worded Statement on Why They had Decided to Break with Left Unity
We recognise and salute the good work that Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi has done standing up for Palestinian rights and defending the rights of Jewish people to hold anti-Zionist positions.
It was because of this that on Saturday the NCG initially voted to endorse Naomi for the NEC election. It was also agreed that Naomi be contacted to discuss concerns that had been raised in that meeting relating to trans rights. These concerns arose from previous Left slate negotiations for Labour’s National Women’s Committee – which Naomi participated in – where the issue of self-ID became a sticking point: a candidate who was open about not supporting self-ID was strongly supported and in the end endorsed against Momentum’s wishes. As such Momentum could not support the full slate. Once elected, that candidate subsequently argued for these trans-exclusionary views publicly, before then quitting Labour.
Following Saturday’s NCG meeting, Momentum attempted to approach Naomi to discuss this and get a firm guarantee in writing of a commitment to trans rights, so we could assure key stakeholders, including trans socialists and other candidates, that all those we endorse fully support the rights of trans people to self-identify their gender.
Naomi declined a direct meeting and her representatives were unable to provide a guarantee that Naomi supports self-ID. As such an emergency meeting of the NCG was called and a democratic vote to withdraw the endorsement passed.
We make no claim as to what views Naomi does or does not hold, but in light of our concerns remaining unaddressed, we could not in good faith maintain our endorsement.
This is not an abstract issue. For years there has been a concerted attempt to marginalise trans people and exclude them from public life, now reaching a horrifying crescendo in the Tory leadership contest. This consensus against trans people stretches from the liberal to the right-wing press and, shamefully, from the Tory Party to the upper echelons of Labour, as Momentum has condemned in recent weeks. The next NEC will have a role in approving the next Labour Party manifesto. It is critical, therefore, that our candidates are open and firm in their commitments to the rights of trans people.
Momentum’s approach to the issue of candidate endorsements and what we expect of candidates may differ from other organisations in the CLGA and we do not intend to make this a point of conflict in this election. These organisations remain our allies – and we look forward to continuing our work with them to build socialism in Britain and beyond.
N.B. As standard practice we do not usually disclose the details of negotiations for slates, but due to the briefing against Momentum and the misleading version of events provided we felt clarity on this issue was vital.
Imagine what Momentum’s response would be if the demand arose that before a left candidate could be endorsed they must agree that Zionism is a form of racism and that Israel is an Apartheid state! It would seem obvious that a society which oppresses a whole people on the basis of their ethnic origin is a somewhat higher priority than a question of identity politics and a clash between two oppressed groups – women and transwomen – yet Momentum would jump up and down if Zionism was made a litmus test. After all a large section of their leadership are pro-Zionist.
What they have done is nothing more than self-indulgence prioritising the concerns of a few trans activists over someone who has always taken a principled position over the world’s only apartheid state.
There is a need for a serious debate on Trans Ideology and Transrights
In the interests of opening up debate I am including two articles below. One, which is slightly cut, is by a gender critical feminist and another is a response I did to an article by a member of the Institute of Race Relations Collective which sought to conflate gender critical feminists with the far-Right’s opposition to trans people.
A response to “the Fight for Trans rights” – the UCU Left statement
As a socialist, I stand with all oppressed people and agree with the statement “improved rights for one oppressed group should never be conditional on the oppression of other groups”.
I understand that the biology of sex is complex but I am not aware of any basis for calling into question the material reality that human beings, like other mammals, are a sexually dimorphic species and sex is essentially binary with the population almost exclusively identifiable as male or female dependent on their potential role in biological reproduction. This is what I mean when I say sex is a biological fact. Gender by contrast is socially constructed which means that I do not believe that there is anything other than cultural about gender and gender roles – these are social constructions overlaid onto (not reducible to or determined by) biological differences between human males and females and their different roles in biological reproduction designed to enforce the reproductive labour of women within the family. Even if sex were not actually, completely, inevitably binary, this would be irrelevant to the gender question. The gender binary has arisen out of a social understanding of sex as binary and like other socio-cultural phenomena serves the interests of the dominant group and maintains that dominance through socialisation. As a feminist, I reject this gender binary.
Homosexuality and gender non-conformity are a threat to a social order which depends on the adherence to gender roles within a particular socially contingent notion of family. As a consequence, they are subject to oppression and discrimination in the form of homophobia and transphobia which, whilst having similar roots to sexism are not identical or reducible to it. I am subject to sexism because I am socially read as belonging to the female sex class and the oppression of sexism functions in part through the social coercion to conform to feminine gender roles (along with other factors such as fear of male violence). I abhor the oppression caused by the construct of gender roles and the liberation we seek must include the freedom to have consensual sex with anyone we choose and to be free of gendered expectations in the development of our social identity. Gendered identities do not precede but emerge from and within sexist societies in which individuals are gendered according to their sex. I don’t see my gendered identity as a woman as a matter of self-identification, but as the result of having been and being socially read as a woman which includes assumptions about my biological sex.
Gender identity is defined as a feeling or ‘sense of oneself’, often deeply held and although I have heard some trans advocates argue that it is “more than a feeling”, I have never seen a clear articulation of what that “more” is. Accepting the concept of gender identity as a deeply held sense of being a man or woman or non-binary, begs the question of the source of this deeply held sense. I would reject (as the UCU Left statement does) any appeal to a material base for gender identity such as gendered brain just as I would reject any appeal to justification of gender on the basis of biology. The notion of gender identity being linked to a gendered brain is clearly as sexist as saying that gender roles are determined by physiology. But if there is not a material base, what is the source of this immutable deeply held sense of oneself, is it a kind of innate immaterial essence, a kind of ‘soul’? Because I am a materialist I reject this too.
I don’t believe I have a soul or that I have an immaterial deeply held sense of my gender identity. I do not claim to have the soul of a woman (how would I know?). All I lay claim to is feeling like me in my sexed body having lived in a sexist society all my life. I am, to a greater or lesser extent, conscious of the ways in which I conform to gendered expectations even as I reject the idea that there should be any expectations of me which relate to my presumed biological sex and try to resist them. My oppression as a woman is independent of whether or not I claim the gender identity ‘woman’ and in childhood it preceded any emerging sense of my social identity. Could I disguise my way out of that oppression to the extent that I could ‘pass’ as a man? Would this eradicate the legacy of oppression previously experienced? I think I cannot simply self-identify my way out because my gender identity is not just a question of self-identification but of social identification.
Rejection of gendered social norms and resultant social identities is the basis of feminism and I understand how rejection of the gendered social identities foisted on us all might lead some of us to want to escape one gender identity by taking on an alternative gender identity. I believe in the distress and suffering gender dysphoria causes and it is because I think it is important to minimise this distress and suffering that I think it is important that we seek to understand it and its causes. That an individual’s sense of self should be at odds with their sexed body and its associated social identity is a symptom not an explanation and insisting on affirmation precludes any questioning of possible causes of dysphoria. I think this is important because in a highly gendered society such as ours the phenomena of men rejecting a masculine and taking on a feminine gender identity and women doing the reverse are not equivalent. It is not the case that gender critical feminists who critique the concept of gender identity “rarely consider trans men, non-binary and other gender nonconforming people in their analysis of trans people’s experience” as the statement suggests, quite the opposite. It is noticeable, however, that trans men are much less visible and vocal in promoting the primacy of gender identity than some trans women have been.
Feminists are well aware that throughout history women have taken on masculine gender identities and sought to ‘pass’ as men. This was not necessarily the result of a deeply held sense of gender identity but often, more prosaically, to escape various forms of sexist oppression and access some of the privileges of manhood (including being able to live in a socially accepted way with their female partner). Yet, in the last decade, the gender identity service dealing with all UK candidates for a sex change under 18 saw a rise in referrals from 77 in 2009 to 2728 in 2019 with the vast majority of these more recent referrals being female. How does insisting on affirmation help, or might it even prevent, us from seeking to understand this phenomenon and its causes?
As Vaishnavi Sundar has said “In this dystopian world where misogyny is rampant and womanhood is commodified, being female comes at a cost. […] It is no surprise that young girls are fleeing womanhood like a house on fire”. There is nothing progressive about accepting that if young women feel they can’t conform with the version of womanhood this society requires of them they can seek an individual solution by becoming a man. There is nothing progressive or challenging of the gender binary in accepting that discomfort or distress caused by one’s designated gender can be resolved by claiming the other (I distinguish this from self-identification as ‘non-binary’ to which I refer later). This is so not least because it is not a solution for many as the growth in detransitioner organisations and groups testifies. The cost of de-pathologising gender dysphoria is the pathologizing of the healthy body and here I am troubled by the similarities I see between a woman having her breasts removed in an attempt to attain a better physical match with her gender identity and a woman having her breasts enlarged for the same reason. I see both as the result of the oppression of gender and both as seeking a solution through individual transformation rather than through social revolution.
Gender identity (which I see as a symptom of oppression) conflates gender and sex and denies the way in which our sexed bodies are the root cause of our oppression. This inevitably leads to the erasure of women as a sex class subject to sexism and misogyny….
While we live in a sexist society, sex is an important and meaningful social and political category which must not be erased. At the same time, I also recognise the nearly limitless variation in gender identity that can emerge from the interaction of biology and society. There are thousands of ways of being a man and as many of being a woman each involving infinite variations in degrees of gender (non) conformity. I cannot, therefore, accept the ontological position that trans women are women and trans men are men for the reasons outlined above and because it accepts and confirms the gender binary. However, I applaud and stand in solidarity with those who take the political position of self-identifying as non-binary….
Feminism, biological fundamentalism and the attack on trans rights
Dear IRR Collective,
As you know I have had links with the Institute going back to the days of Anti-Fascist Action in the 1980s. I have always been an admirer of your work and in particular of your late Director Siva. That is why I am writing to express my concern over the article by Sophia Siddiqui, Feminism, biological fundamentalism and the attack on trans rights. It seems to represent a disturbing departure from your approach to identity politics, best articulated by Jenny Bourne’s pamphlet Homelands of the mind: Jewish feminism and Identity Politics.
The issue of transrights vs gender critical feminists (or TERFS) is it seems to me one of identity politics. It is founded on a disagreement between two oppressed groups and I see no reason why the IRR or anti-racists more broadly should take a position on an issue which both divides the left, the women’s and anti-racist movements.
The piece by Sophia effectively conflates the politics of the far-Right to the position on trans and gender issues of large sections of the women’s movement, the left (& others). This is dangerous and the analysis is simplistic. This is dangerous and its only effect could be pushing people into the arms of the far-Right.
The way that the far-Right treat Black people and migrants is not the same as their treatment of sexual minorities and women. Simply confusing different forms of oppression does not help us understand the strategies of the far-Right.
The attitude of the far-Right is in any case not uniform. In France the Front Nationale is led by a woman. In other parts of the far-Right attitudes to sexual minorities have changed, for example in The Netherlands with Pim Fortyn. Today gay rights for example is used as a way of demonstrating how Muslims are not part of the Judeo-Christian heritage. The EDL have also done this to some extent.
When the far-Right in Spain and Hungary campaign around the slogan ‘If you are born a man, you are a man. If you are a woman, you will continue to be so’ they are not simply referring to accepted biological facts any more than racists do when they place Black and Muslim people outside the national collective. Clearly what they mean is that men will perform the roles men have traditionally played and women likewise. In other words physical differences translate into different functional and cognitive roles and abilities. This is not what the debate around trans rights is about amongst feminists.
Of course attacks on trans-people by whoever are to be condemned without reservation. The same with any sexual minority but it does not for example follow from that that transwomen are women. Leaving aside the question as to what we mean by a woman.
Sophia says that ‘gender critical’ feminists play into the hands of far-right street forces and extreme-right electoral parties which would like to abolish anti-discrimination protections altogether.’ I am not aware that any section of gender critical feminists are calling for the abolition of sections of the Equality Act. What they do want is to preserve those sections that protect women’s space.
The article says that ‘‘gender critical’ feminism often represent trans people as sexual offenders and threats to the safety of women – arguments that hinge on their belief that trans women are not women.’ This is confusing a number of different arguments.
I know of no one who suggests that all or most trans people represent a threat to womens’ safety. However there is a real issue about whether, when a man declares that he is a transwoman, that that must be taken as the end of the matter. Is it seriously suggested that there are no men who would not act in bad faith in order to gain access to vulnerable women? The actions of Karen White are well known but there have been several other attacks on women in prisons. Likewise transwomen in male prisons are equally vulnerable That would suggest the need for special units for trans prisoners rather than placing them in womens’ prisons.
There was also the attack by trans activists on women in Hyde Park in 2017. When I looked at the video I saw men in skirts not women doing the attacking. Just as in Nazi Germany there were gays in the Nazi party who were not only extreme anti-Semites (Rohm and the SA leadership) but were wedded to a masculinist ideology of extreme misogyny.
You say that some women ‘use the same biological arguments that a ‘man is a man, a woman is a woman’, to debase the rights of trans, intersex and non-binary people’. But if what you say is true does that not equally apply to trans women who are claiming to be women. If they haven’t had gender change surgery and transitioned on what basis do they claim to be women? That they conform to traditional sexual stereotypes?
Of course anyone has the right to claim to be a woman but you cannot claim the right to insist that other people accept that claim. This is remarkably similar to another example of identity politics when Zionist Jews claim the right to define what they claim is their own oppression when we all know that what they are really doing is defining the oppression of Palestinians.
By definition such claims are subjective and metaphysical. There is no rational method or rule to differentiate between bogus and genuine claims to be oppressed unless they are seen in terms of class and race. Otherwise it results in conceptual chaos, which is at the heart of identity politics. Sophia states that
Just as scientific racism centred on supposed biological differences to classify humans in a rigid racial hierarchy, ‘gender critical’ feminists are propelling biological arguments that essentialise sex and its relation to gender identity, contending that sex is purely biological depending on what reproductive organs you have.
It seems to me that you are confusing separate things. It goes without saying that there are biological differences between men and women. Just as there are obvious differences such as colour between Black and White people. This is not the issue.
The problem is that racists use these differences to classify people as inferior or untermenschen on the basis of physical or racial/religious differences. What they are doing is extrapolating from physical difference in order to assert that Black, Jewish etc. people are cognitively or behaviourally different, thus justifying discrimination and worse. No one that I know argues that transwomen possess different innate abilities by virtue of physical or gender differences.
Of course we must be vigilant to ensure that transwomen (& men) are not discriminated against but that doesn’t mean that their gender identity has to be accepted by other women and men without question. The definition of gender according to the World Health Organisation is ‘the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed.’ Whereas the definition of sex refers to ‘the different biological and physiological characteristics of females, males and intersex persons, such as chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs.’ In essence reproduction of the human species. So when Sophia talks of ‘gender norms’ I wonder what, in an age of gender self-identity she means. The socialisation of the female gender is for example child care. How does this fit with defining trans women as women?
I find it surprising that you are criticizing the EHRC for intervening in a case where someone is dismissed for asserting that ‘women must have the right to question transgender identity without being abused, stigmatised or risking losing their job’. Are you really saying that students at Sussex University were right to demand that Professor Kathleen Stock should be dismissed for her beliefs?
Would you agree with the (Zionist) Jewish students at Bristol University who have just secured the dismissal of Professor David Miller because his view are also a ‘threat’ to their ‘safety’ as they define it? This is a very dangerous road you are going down.
Sophia asserts that ‘What happens to trans rights today will have ramifications for anyone who lives outside of gender norms.’ Why? This assumes that gender critical feminists are all in favour of boys and girls, men and women, conforming to traditional stereotypes. One could equally ask what trans rights activists mean by asserting that they are women? In what respect? Are they not defining a woman in traditional terms?
It would seem to me, no doubt in my innocence, that the obvious solution would be for trans women and men to define themselves in terms of a trans gender identity.
I asked a friend who was a delegate at the Labour Party conference who has been involved in refugee and anti-racist work most of her life for her take on this and her response was that:
‘You did ask me and I said I struggled with the idea that biology could be transcended by self ID. I was talking to XXX XXX about it in Brighton. She said free speech is being shut down just the same as the anti -Semitism smear. As you point out victims of the anti-Semitism smear are treated very differently.
For better or worse the left is divided over the issue of transrights vs women’s rights and what is called gender critical feminism. There needs to be a debate over these issues not attempts to close down free speech by crying ‘TERF’ or ‘bigot’.
Finally can I ask you whether Sophia’s article represents the collective view of the Institute?
With best wishes,