As always, when I write about trans equality I need to start off with a solemn declaration that violence against women and girls is a very real, genuine problem, a cancer in society; that women are subjected to horrors beyond the stunted imagining of the men behind that violence is inarguable. I also understand that as a man talking about this debate it’s easy to write me and my words off as more misogynist twaddle that doesn’t bear scrutiny. I can’t change anyone’s mind on that- but I can continue to talk about an issue that gives me grave concern, which is that the gender critical movement came out of a nascent period last year when certain gender critics questioned why far right activists were infiltrating their circles, and the movement as a whole decided it was a necessary cost to join hands with fascists to keep their movement building.
If you don’t take violence against women and girls seriously, shame on you is the weakest sentiment you deserve- but if you don’t take violence, both state level and personal, against trans people as seriously, you must live in a different world than I, and if you condone holding hands with far right activists to bolster your movement, you’re part of that group.
Women deserve to be heard about the violence they endure at the hands of sick men. Today the newspapers are awash with claims that Nick Cohen, long time well known alleged pervert is- shock horror- an alleged woman grabbing pervert. Nick’s defence is that he “doesn’t have the faintest idea” about the accusations, but he did ask:
1- why she didn’t report it sooner
2- he said the misogynistic conversation was “joking among friends”
3- he said the accusations come from critics including “pro Russia advocates” and “trans activists”
4- he said “I assume it was stuff I was doing when drunk”, relying on alcoholism as the fulcrum of his alleged sexual abuses
This case is important, as all cases of this nature are. It’s also common, one case in tens of thousands in the UK alone, likely more- where women are maligned for staying silent, judged for coming forward, slated for speaking up, insulted for not being able to take a joke and blamed for their own bodies. If you want to know why the gender critical movement attracts women it’s because there’s hardly scant evidence as to why women should be afraid of men. That’s something anyone with even a sparking scintilla of intellect can grasp- a movement based around rage towards men, the obvious oppressors of women, is attractive- and if that’s where the attributes of gender critical thinking stopped I’d be supportive. But gender criticals somehow take the existence of a tiny proportion of the population, trans people, and make them the malign target of their hatred towards men.
You don’t have to be a card carrying member of the tofu eating lefty brigade to see that there’s a gulf between trans women and cis men – As a cis man, do I typify the behaviours of a trans woman to you? I don’t do any of the things trans women do in regards to my gender, so it’s ridiculous, laughable even to put parity between someone like me and a trans woman. Even if you don’t believe transgender women are women, someone with any grounding in reality could see that trans women don’t behave like non trans men.
Trans folk are often maligned on the internet, accused of everything from fetishes to the newly in vogue “groomer” charge levelled at LGBT+ people by right wing demagogues. Unfortunately, too many in the LGBT+ are falsely sure that slating their peers in the community with these accusations will save them- make them the exception to the rule with regular pundits from tiktok right wingers like Kelly Cardigan to ostensibly academic folk like Debbie Hayton all too happy to agree with any anti trans sentiment, provided they can assert themselves as the only exception- But Hayton and those like her are a confusing array of figures who regularly talk about how trans women are indeed problems and shouldn’t use women’s spaces, all the while using women’s spaces if accounts are to be believed. It’s the hypocrisy of trans women who declare support for the gender critical movement who believe they, because they back the movement, should be the exception to the rule.
Additionally, one finds it hard to accept the assertion that is often levelled at trans people being erotically obsessed with your own genitals is wrong, bad and disgusting when the same group post things like this:
To ascribe your feelings to everyone is deluded, and yet this holistic monstering of trans people is commonplace- one newspaper article comes out justifying the fear of trans people- a trans rapist in Scotland- and it’s touted as proof, all that’s needed to justify the phobia, the aversion, the hatred, the violence both political and physical… whereas I just look and go ‘if one example is enough you may want to google “female teacher has sex with student” and keep a strong gin handy’.
I’m not trying to make light of these very serious issues, only point out that holistically ascribing bad behaviour or malevolence to an entire group of people based on tangential aspects of their behaviour or existence is not helpful.
And that is where we start to get to the crux of my fear. The gender critical movement is absolutely not empowering women and bolstering their protections- it’s causing wedge issue “debate” which is distracting from the continual weakening of women’s rights and protections, both away from the “trans debate” and partly- because of it. And even the front runners are guilty of an exclusionary attitude too, not just to trans women but fellow cis women too. The excerpt from Kathleen Stock’s recent musings where she declares that gender nonconforming women who are kicked out of womens’ spaces are a necessary casualty, not for a moment seeming to consider that they, as women, also deserve that protection and yet face denial from it, not by the cruel trans activists but by a fellow cisgender woman.
Let’s say we create an island and tomorrow relocate every trans person to a trans only society. Do you genuinely think that would deal with the rampant misogyny in today’s world? Would men stop hitting their wives, would police stop joking about rape victims, calling them ugly or insinuating that they like being domestically abused: see the met police texting “give her a tap, she loves it”. Would the hot-button row about abortion rights magically evanesce into nothing? Would period poverty be solved?
What issue are gender critics fighting for, besides the othering and monstering of trans women? Again, you don’t have to accept that trans women are women if you don’t want to. Nobody can compel that thought in you, but to deny the commonality in experience between trans people who experience an enormous threat of sexual assault, violence in public spaces and whose rights are being debated- not as opposed to women’s rights but in conjunction with them- see the overturning of Roe V Wade at the same time as over 300 anti trans laws emerge: surely it’s a fools errand to deny that there are shared experiences here which are of vital import, and are more useful in drawing people together than driving them apart?
But the most terrifying aspect of gender critical thinking is that, and I mean this with my entire being, it drives women into the arms of their abusers.
Gender critical men are terrifying. Honestly? I’m scared of men anyway- I understand women’s fears towards men, having been put through hell by other men in my life. If identifying out of being a man was something you could choose to do I would, because rejecting the label of a group I’m in that’s routinely oppressed me with violence, sometimes sexual, always degrading, my entire life would be appealing: but I can’t, because I am a man- and so I want to out the men who tarnish us. I want them to face up to, and be deprogrammed from their evils, to make the world actually function and to melt down the misogyny that forms the bulwarks of society. The only way to do that is to listen and understand- and I do. I understand women’s fear of men- I do not understand gender critical women’s embracing of gender critical men.
Gender critical men regularly assert that the key tenets of gender criticality when it comes to men are correct- that men are all thoughtless, violent thugs led by their penises into committing vile acts of transgression against bodily autonomy, every man a sneaky sleeper agent just waiting to pounce once your walls are down.
It is, frankly, bollocks.
We live in a society that coddles men, telling them it’s ok to get angry and shout, smash up your TV, fight in the street, thoughtlessly lay hands on other people as a “joke”. We all imbibe this as we grow, and never, not once, do our forefathers even attempt to highlight it never mind decry it as a horror. It is our job to pick this apart and we must encourage this in younger boys and men.
But it’s also our job to talk about the arrant nonsense in ascribing male violence to some magical rage gene that all men have that is just simmering away, waiting to explode. There’s absolute potential for a biological link towards being male and an increased risk of violence- but as beings who overcame our urge to chase wildebeest with sticks and live in caves, I think we can also overcome some childish urge to act with violence at every turn- to do so, society needs to push for that change, and until it does it won’t happen. Does society push men to eschew violence over thought? No. From the knee boys are told it’s ok to pull girls’ hair if you like them, the old boys will be boys trope, as young men we’re never taught how to respect others bodily autonomy and why we should, mostly because rarely does ours become challenged- and when it does become challenged, when young men prank each other in weird ways, it’s put down to childish humour rather than aggressively dealt with. As men grow we’re enabled at every turn to behave like we’re told we are wired to- to be aggressive, thoughtless, we’re bombarded with imagery of manly men or shown videos of guys on social media acting like utter fools and being celebrated, and nowadays you can’t turn left without another typically masculine looking stranger brandishing a microphone talking about how women these days don’t know how to cook as if they don’t sleep under a pile of their own laundry because they don’t know how to change bedding.
Gender critical men scare me because they embrace the nonsense- they DO think men are violent, they DO think we’re wired for it, they state blithely that men are always thinking about how to get what they want sexually. Gender critical men confess to the crimes we’re all accused of, accepting that yes, they are that way and levelling the accusation at people like me that we’re the same basal creature as they. I am not in any way like the picture gender critical people paint of the typical man, and I am not the exception- gender critical men who openly acknowledge these accusations and agree with them? They are. And yet, rather than looking at gender critical men as the dangerous openly confessed predators they admit to being, gender critical women link arms with them, pointing at them as evidence of their convictions- it’s a very “leopards eating face” moment. Rather than turning away from those who admit to being dangerous to you, you embrace them because they affirm your fears.
But of course, many reading this will assume I’m just a lefty prone to flights of fancy, no real proof.
This is an avowed gender critical man, who, in response to an Australian doctor saying his mother is trans-positive, is threatening to… well, you can read it.
When confronted on the fine point that misogyny is probably more likely to be threatening to chin an old lady than to be friendly to trans people, he claimed it was an “experiment” to “out trans activists as enjoying violence against old ladies”- his point somewhat punctuated with failure as every single pro trans person who interacted did so with rage and disgust. The most terrifying part of this is- it’s happening. It’s less than a week since Pink News reported that an 83 year old woman with dementia was assaulted by a man then thrown in a bin because he suspected she was trans- she wasn’t, not the point.
But this is the world in which we live now, where men think threats of violence against women are OK if it “owns the trans”. Where acts of actual violence are committed against women and that’s seen as collateral damage, acceptable in the battle against trans inclusion.
Because these men, these gender critical men have absolutely no interest in looking at their behaviour. They’re fine with their violence towards women- and the fact that women are turning a blind eye to it in favour of seething rage at trans people is probably worthy of celebration to them, because whilst there is a united hatred of transgender people existing, they go unscrutinised.
I will never convince gender critical women that trans people are worthy of the respect they so often reference in regards to their belief, nor frankly do I care to- it’s not for men like me to convince women not to fear someone, and as a man I understand contextually that bearded me wandering into a conversation to “um, akshually” someone who has fears about their safety is probably not helpful. That’s not my aim. But if I can make anti trans women realise that they allow their own fears to walk blithely among them, I’d hope that would at least see a shifting of the lens of blame onto the people who deserve it- non trans men who embrace this movement so holistically. I see gender critical women cosying up to men who proudly threaten violence as the same kin as women married to preachers talking about what a woman’s place is, smiling blithely that surely they’re the exception though, they’re safe because they are behind the gun- not in front of it.
There’s no point talking about the big examples- Donald ‘just convicted of sexual assault grab them by the pussy’ Trump, Matt ‘I’m literally a theocratic fascist, girls should be getting married at 14 and have babies at 16’ Walsh, Rishi ‘standing up for women but refusing to make misogyny a hate crime or entertain menopause leave’ Sunak: gender critics know, and they’ll probably never meet those men. But what about the men who proudly make their way to your marches, the ones like this:
That is a white nationalist, on your side, at your marches, or as Adrian Comerford has shown in response to Joanne Rowling on twitter, when Posie Parker interviews an avowed Neo nazi and literal confessed wife beater.
And what’s Rowling, who posted a nearly 5000 word diatribe accusing trans people of attracting Neo Nazis to these rallies, done with this info? Ignored it. Ignored the fact that Parker, who says she is not a feminist and that she will “destroy any woman who stands in her way” has open links to the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti womens’ choice group. She has called her “a genius” though.
Some gender critics questioned why so many far right fools kept showing up at their rallies- apparently the simple explanation of “your beliefs mirror theirs” was lost on them. I for example, attended a rally last year- a drag queen was reading a book to some children at Leeds Library. On one side, a huge collection of LGBT+ people and allies- on the other side- the Patriotic Alternative, described as a “neo nazi, far right fascist organisation” on their own wikipedia.
A gender critic wrote an article the next day condemning… Both sides. Oh it was terrible that the nazis were there, yes, nobody likes a nazi. But how dare LGBT+ people get angry at fascists holding up signs saying that we’re perverts and paedophiles, how dare we stand in opposition to people who virulently hate us? I note the article didn’t mention that the other side, the PA, so desperate to protect children- decided to set off the fire alarm, terrifying the kids. So many people, concerned with womens’ rights and protecting children, ignorant of the white nationalists amongst them or… embracing them.
Yes- embracing- what happened to the women who confronted the budding allyship with far right entities? Jane Clare Jones was critical of their attendance, many other women lodged concern that their movement, supposedly built around elevating women, was being swollen by those who think women should adhere to bible scripture. So what happened?
They were holistically told that it didn’t matter by other gender critical people- that the threat is so dire that allyship against trans people supersedes their allies thoughts. But can we be surprised? Let’s not forget when Allison Bailey called for allyship with racists and homophobes:
The madness in this entire thing is that if you strip back any and all nuance, it’s absolutely reasonable for women to have concerns about men and about having spaces which are dedicated to their safety and refuge. But rather than dealing with the societal reasons that we have to have refuges and protect women, anti trans campaigners think erasing trans people will solve these problems. They won’t- and the longer this goes on, the more precarity women’s bodily autonomy heads towards.
If you weaken trans people’s access to gender affirming care, you weaken a group’s access to bodily autonomy- and those same arguments can be recycled against you.
Why should trans women get access to HRT just because of their feelings, right? Well, by that same vein, why should anyone have access to abortion rights just because of their feelings?
You either holistically stand for bodily autonomy for all, or you author your own eventual downfall from your own pulpit, used by the very men who terrify me.
Nothing will change from my writing this piece, but I would hope that the less radicalised amongst gender critical women or those flirting with the movement because they understandably fear men, will hear my entreaties- gender critical demagogues do not care about your access to spaces, only for the denial of others’ access. They do not care about protecting your status as a woman, or halting violence, only to denigrate others’ status and enact violence against them, both personally and on a state level. And you can pull out your well used examples of trans people being terse with you on the internet but if you ally with radical nazis, proud anti feminists, anti abortion activists and more, I still see you are more of a problem for womens’ rights than people being mean on twitter because your views are quite literally eroding their public safety. I don’t want women to feel unsafe, I don’t want trans people to feel unsafe and I don’t want anyone to face death or rape threats- I sure do want the radical men amongst you who regularly threaten violence, both misogynistic, transphobic and just generally violent, to shut the fuck up- and you should too.
There is, and I know it doesn’t seem like it, a way through all of this, and it’s for both sides to ally against the actual problem. And the irony is, I come from that group. I am a non trans man, telling you that I walk in the spaces of cis men, I listen to them, I hear their conversations, I’ve listened to their justifications of their mad misogynist thinking. Men like that are the imminent threat, and will continue to be whilst you flirt with this distraction, and whilst you do they will continue to capitalise on it. How you handle that is your call. I have no right to tell anyone how to handle it- but I do know that continuing to work with the very men who threaten violence against everyone just because everyone happens to include the people you don’t like, does not a successful movement nor a compelling argument make.