The War on Trans People and Colluding with the Politics of the Right

The Women Who Wouldn’t Wheesht Review, edited by Susan Dalgety and Lucy Hunter Blackburn, Constable Press £22. 

Review by Gemma Clark

Some years ago in Glasgow, I was approached by a man who was giving away free copies of religious texts. He caught my eye and seemed perfectly pleasant, so I spoke to him for a while and felt it was alright to be open and honest with him. I told him I teach Religious Education in school and that although I am not a believer myself, I respect religion, want to teach it well, and would happily take a copy for educational purposes if that was alright with him.

He said yes, he was happy to give me a copy of the book for school. When he handed it to me, he looked me right in the eye and told me that if I read the book, he guaranteed that I would start believing in God. I never read the book, and this was partly because I was too scared in case his prediction was right. I am very happy being an atheist and I want to remain that way.

When I agreed to review the book The Women Who Wouldn’t Wheesht, I had the same niggling doubt. Intersectional feminism is an important part of my identity. What if I read this book and started to question the views I have held since discovering feminist literature and having my feminist awakening? What if I read something very compelling and had to re-evaluate everything that I believe in?

Well, I did read the book, and I needn’t have worried. Not because I was pleasantly surprised and found the book to be nuanced or well-argued, but because unfortunately, The Women Who Wouldn’t Wheesht was exactly what I thought it would be…

Although there are some anonymous contributors, one of the first things to strike me is just how many of these essays have been written by people with significant political power and influence, wealth, and/or privilege. Indeed, it causes me to reflect on the effective ban on trans voices in the mainstream media and that people like me, cisgendered feminists who support trans people’s rights, can’t seem to get a word in edgeways, despite frequent polling showing that women like me are the majority.

One of my MSPs is a contributor to the book. She once commented in response to an email I sent to her concerning an anti-abortion organisation visiting schools that young people should know that abortion is ‘taking a life’. In my opinion, that is neither true nor feminist.

The book’s David and Goliath framing of the Scottish anti-gender movement felt rather disingenuous to me when it is in lockstep with a well-funded, global anti-gender movement. The phrase ‘gender ideology’ appears many times in this book and I do wonder if those using it realise that it was, if not coined by, then certainly popularised by the Pope.

This is a view of gender that is dogmatic, rigid, leaves no space for nuance, and is colonialist. We now know the indigenous communities of North America recognised and celebrated gender diversity as did other cultures before having a colonialist ideology forced on them. Trans people are not new. Whether the so-called ‘gender critical’ movement likes it or not, some deeply dangerous and misogynistic men share their views. I don’t know how it doesn’t stick in their throats to use the same rhetoric as Matt Walsh, Andrew Tate, Putin, and every male-led anti-abortion organisation.

The global anti-gender movement picks battles wherever it thinks it can win, whether it is attempts to interfere with equal marriage rights for LGBTQ couples in Romania or abortion bans in Poland and the USA. This is an ‘ideology’ with very narrow ideas about what women should be and has no room for LGBTQ people to exist at all (I recommend recent books by Sian Norris and Judith Butler on this movement).

Indeed, some of the women referred to and lionised in Wheesht have links to the so-called Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who credit themselves with the overturning of Roe v Wade. The Southern Poverty Law Centre considers ADF a homophobic hate group… I consider them utterly terrifying.

The part of the discourse which probably gained the most attention in Scotland was women’s prisons. Isla Bryson is mentioned many times in this book. I will not disagree that this is an appalling and dangerous individual. Prisons deal with highly dangerous people all the time and my understanding is that this individual was always held separately and kept from harming others.

The fact that Bryson is mentioned many times suggests this was indeed a rare case. One good point that this book makes is that only a tiny percentage of women prisoners have committed violent crimes and 80% suffer from mental health problems. Why then, is the discourse not centred around why vulnerable women are jailed at all? Why are they not getting help and rehabilitation instead of being jailed? Something else that makes this case a rarity is that Bryson was jailed at all. Statistics frequently show only 1-2% of reported rapes result in a perpetrator being convicted. Where is the outrage for the women failed by this system every day?

One essayist in the book claims to have been told by a teacher that she had resigned because “I will not teach young girls that if they like playing with toy cars, they’re really boys”. This is an outrageous claim! Today teachers are aware of gender stereotyping and how gender ideas can send children messages about the roles they will be expected to perform or be excluded from in life. Most teachers try not to reinforce sexist nonsense like ‘cars are for boys and dolls are for girls’. Most will tell children toys are toys and they can play with whatever they like (but please share and take turns, of course).

For a movement that always tells us that they like to ‘speak the truth,’ I kept waiting for truths to be acknowledged in this book. For example, the truth that trans people are a tiny minority group, that trans women make up around 0.2% of the population, that trans men exist at all. That trans people are more likely to be homeless and unemployed, that the British tabloids constantly demonise trans people.

If I am to be honest, I found a lot of this book monotonous, but one thing in it I found very concerning and that was the parent of a trans child saying they hope to keep their child away from gender-affirming care until the age of 25. Apart from the obvious cruelty, this is a dangerous road. Some American Republicans are already fighting for a young person to need parental consent to obtain an abortion. Some high-profile leaders of the anti-trans movement in the UK have said they will happily sacrifice abortion and Gillick competence. I don’t need to explain how catastrophic that would be for some of the most vulnerable little girls in our country.

I have heard all of the rhetoric in this book before and probably, so have most people. I had expected that the ideas in this book would have at least been written in a more ‘measured’ way to lend a veneer of respectability. However, a lot of it just feels like scrolling through the Twitter/X discourse of yelling ‘man’ at trans women, which is sadly all too familiar. 

Added in was a dose of fear mongering that this was a brave act due to new Scottish hate crime laws. We now know that misgendering a trans person is not being treated as a hate crime no matter how hateful, deliberate, or just downright rude this is intended to be. The constant talk of mainstream feminist organisations, schools, and the health service being ‘captured’ sounds like a paranoid conspiracy theory. References to other favoured Twitter lexicon like ‘mutilation’ and stories of children being indoctrinated by unicorns in books is pure hyperbole not based on reality.

Most of the essays were similar, repetitive, and lacking in nuance. However, I do hope though that my right to free speech on this topic is allowed and that I will not be expected to ‘wheesht’. The abuse and threats received by inclusive feminists, funnily enough, was another women’s issue conspicuously missing from this book.

Imagine what could be achieved for women if scapegoating trans people hadn’t become a distraction and a way for politicians who have done nothing for women to make a few dog-whistle tweets and then be applauded for it as if they have done anything for us?


Comments (115)

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  1. Left Ear says:

    Thank you for writing this.

  2. John Wood says:

    I’m sorry but I profoundly disagree with just about every word. I don’t like the whole illiberal tone of the article which contradicts the argument made.

    In fact the only point on which I agree with the writer is my own hope that I be allowed to dissent and that my right to free speech will be equally upheld. This is something that again and again I have been abused for by people like the writer who fail to see that they have been played like pawns.

    I am neither abuser nor victim. Other, more human relationships are possible in my philosophy. But for even trying to understand transgenderism when I first came across it I have been subjected to blind, mindless fury even from people I’d previously respected, and ludicrous accusations of ‘transphobia’. I found myself summarily ejected from the Scottish Green Party, without due process.

    I believe human beings are a species o animal and like many other species we divide into male and female genders. This is a matter of biology. I do not accept that ‘trans’ people firm a ‘community’ with LGB people at all, or that – whatever its social expression – gender is a matter of personal choice or assignment by authority. To me, ‘conversion therapy’ of LGB people is abuse; and likewise I do not support giving medical treatments to children and vulnerable people who are unhappy with their biological gender.

    In short I simply do not believe in transgenderism. I think it is closely connected with trans-humanism – a technocratic ideology, that denies our basic humanity. I also think it is a direct attack on both women and men, denying the very existence of biological gender, and so destroying the entire feminist movement at a stroke.

    It seems to me that the so-called LGBTQi+ ‘community’ is a creation of the behavioural psychology industry on behalf of corporate greed and fascists who have set up and ‘othered’ genuinely vulnerable people in order to destroy them.

    Well I’ve said my piece. I mean no harm to anyone. But I’ll await the no doubt inevitable furious, angry, hateful response with quiet resignation.

    1. Sue Laughlin says:

      I would go further and say we are divided by sex. Gender relates to a set of stereotypes that society ascribes to the sexes which has limited both women and men. As a feminist I have been fighting against the constraints of gender. I don’t have a gender, rather I am gendered by society. Trans ‘rights’ are about defining us by our stereotypes and as such are completely retrograde

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        Spot on, Sue!

    2. Mary MacCallum Sullivan says:

      Entirely agree with the content and tone of your speech. Also a SGP expellee for trying to be ‘reasonable’. Told to educate myself.

    3. Meg Macleod says:

      Did you appeal your rejection from the green party?
      A political mistake on theircpart i believe. I wonder how many votes the greens lost by this knee jerk reaction to someone who puts forward a different opinion

    4. SleepingDog says:

      @John Wood, I have a lot of sympathy with your viewpoint as expressed. I can see the trans-humanism connection; perhaps there is also a connection to Past Lives Regression, another soullist ideology, which was popular a while ago, I think.
      The claim of soullist gender identitarians gives their game away: fearful of robust accusations of identity theft, they claim their desired identity was theirs all along (but nobody but themselves can see it).

      My studies of philosophy, politics, society, religion and psychology tend to the general (but research ongoing) conclusion that people are weird and profess to believe a lot of weird things. So for the author to condemn religious beliefs, claim to respect religion, and use some unsubstantiated reference to some wacky beliefs some group of people are said to have in the past is a characteristically weak argument for any general statement of fact, and to be filed with other weird statements people make. I mean, a lot of people apparently believed in the patriarchy.

      I took a course to find out more, and a Glasgow University team claimed that Two Sexes were invented by the European Enlightenment, and before that everybody acknowledged there was only One Sex. After digesting that, I became more enlightened, but not in the way I suspect the Glasgow genderists hoped learners would be. There was a reason why some people decided these questions should be decided more systematically.

      The author of this article uses some terms like ‘war’ and ‘existence’ in a way which is perhaps offensive (perhaps the reviewed book is too, I haven’t read it) to people actually facing existential threats in the real world today. I think we should all be mindful of our language, lest we treat real people as unpeople and prioritise uncomfortable interactions above actual ongoing genocide.

    5. Maddi says:

      You say you mean no harm yet your refusal to acknowledge other people’s basic right to exist does huge harm. You claim you are not allowed to speak, yet here you are publicly commenting on a post about a published book that espouses your views. Fundamental contradiction makes your argument nonsensical. Interesting that your comment dismissing the review as ‘liberal ‘ as if that’s an insult does actually confirm Gemma’s argument that transphobia is embedded in far right ideology though…

      1. John Wood says:

        Well, Maddi, you won’t be surprised if I say you have completely misunderstood and misrepresented my comment. It is you who cannot acknowledge my people’s right to exist or to disagree. I fully expected such a comment but it is nonsense. Fortunately it takes quite a lot to provoke me, and I’m not interested in manufactured culture wars. Everyone is welcome to identify themselves in whatever way they please. But they have no right to force me to agree with them. You sound like a Stalinist to
        me. I invite you to reflect on your response and see if you can open your mind to an alternative point of view.

        1. Richard says:

          Hi John,

          You say “they have no right to force me to agree with them”.

          No one wants you to be forced to agree with ‘them’

          If I started calling you ‘Joan’, if I debated if your view of yourself was allowed or not, if I called for you to be refused access to services that could be quite vital to your mental wellbeing, I’d imagine that you would be fairly upset?

          Trans people just want to live their lives. What right do you have to decide if they can be themselves?

          So rather than forcing you to do anything, we are asking that you provide trans people with the same respect you demand for yourself.

          I apologise if that wasn’t the abuse you were expecting

          1. John Wood says:

            You say “they have no right to force me to agree with them”.
            But you and others do want exactly that.
            It is not about whether anyone’s view of themselves was allowed or not, I have myself been refused access to services that could be quite vital to my mental wellbeing, and indeed I have been upset?
            Trans people just want to live their lives. And so do I. I claim no right to decide if they can be themselves.
            So rather than forcing anyone to do anything, I am asking that you provide non-trans people with the same respect you demand for yourself.
            I apologise if that wasn’t the abuse you were expecting

  3. SleepingDog says:

    I have requested this before, and ask again, that any author citing support for “trans people’s rights” (or any other manifesto or set of rights) provide a definitive list or description, and/or link to such. Otherwise it is clear who is using a dog whistle. Equal marriage rights were mentioned, which is something, even if some background would help, but surely there are others. I am left with the distinct feeling that some of these ‘rights’ must be too horrible to mention in public. A bit like “State’s rights” elsewhere. And a sense of someone arguing in bad faith. Of course, there could be competing and conflicting sets of ‘trans rights’, in which case it is really essential to see which the author supports. If the idea is to win people over with reasoned argument, of course. I expect this to be editorial policy.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Editor, still no response on my request?

      Anybody? Will anybody who advocates for Trans Rights (or Trans People’s Rights) please put a link in response to their definitive list that explains exactly what they want (that they don’t already have)? Please don’t leave anything out.

    2. 240626 says:

      And, of course, transexual people enjoy the same rights as everyone else.

      1. 240626 says:

        The National Center for transgender Equality also provides invaluable explanation, guidance, and resources on transgender people’s rights in the US.

        And in March of this year, the Council of Europe released a report entitled ‘Human rights and gender identity and expression’. In report’s introduction, Dunja Mijatović, the Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights, made the crucial statement that “Realising the rights of trans people is a matter of applying human rights equally to everyone, and states have the primary responsibility to lift the barriers trans people are facing in exercising their human rights.”

      2. SleepingDog says:

        @Lord Parakeet the Cacophonist, kindly stop polluting my comment threads with your garbage. If trans rights advocates feel the need for the support of a Christian-theology-promoting, village idiot, pub bore, dark triadist, self-taught-by-an-idiot patriarchal keyboard clown, I expect you will get the call. I would have thought Moderation might take exception to your shitposting.

    3. Chloe says:

      Trans people deserve the right to transition, have their legal documents reflect their gender, have access to gender affirming medical care.

      I anticipate you will disagree with all of these rights, simultaneously arguing that trans people have all the same rights as everyone else.

      I would point you to conservative logic in the 90s: “gay people already have equal rights. The right to marry the opposite sex”

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Chloe, thanks for providing this short summary of your demands, it really helps to have something substantial, otherwise we tend to argue past each other. However, unless these are only your personal demands, I would expect there would be a link to a campaign you could provide too. Past political campaigns since the Chartists have been successful in boiling down their demands into shared, public bullet lists. It would be helpful to have a little more detail, though.

        These are not human rights in a sense I recognise (unless in the narrow technical sense of not applying to non-humans).

        Whether someone wants to call themselves ‘two spirit’ or ‘gender fluid’ seems fairly harmless to me, but I don’t see any good reason to impose a legal duty for the state to recognise somebody’s self-assigned gender. Where it becomes more harmful is to conflate objective biological reality with a subjective desire, and conflate age-old terms which map onto this biological reality (man and woman, say) to these wish-states, and put these legal fictions (noble lies, if you prefer) into law, in a kind of legalised identity theft. Obviously the reason that the soullist version of gender identity was proposed was to counter the identity-theft criticism by claiming natal ownership of gender (in a thoroughly unconvincing way that draws attention to the critical flaw it was trying to obscure, in my view).

        On the legal document side, I have a counter-proposal: a cut-down abbreviated digital/paper birth certificate which is customised to any purpose, only showing the relevant information (which would include date of birth for driving and voting, but not birth sex). Would that be acceptable to some?

        Since this idea of gender is (as far as I can tell) a purely subjective state (but clearly culturally influenced), and the subject is supposed to be the sole authority, I don’t see how it maps on to the real world in a legally-applicable sense. It’s a kind of self-religion. Therefore an insistence that ‘gender affirming medical care’ is a right seems at odds, and since we don’t even appear to have a meaningful right to a NHS dentist, a bit of over-reach in my opinion. If female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal regardless of the wishes of the subject, then it seems almost racist that this ‘foreign’ practice is treated dramatically differently from the kinds of surgery implied by your demand.

        What age do you see these rights being applied? Scotland has a long history of child marriage, and lags behind England and Wales in raising this to the adult marker of 18 years. If children are vulnerable to coercion over marriage, say, then surely they are vulnerable to these gender ideologies as well?

        But I don’t have an absolutist position on this. As the Cass reports says:
        “For the majority of young people, a medical pathway may not be the best way to manage their gender-related distress. For those young people for whom a medical pathway is clinically indicated, it is not enough to provide this without also addressing wider mental health and/or psychosocially challenging problems.”
        More research needs to be conducted, including follow-up studies. The prevalence of trauma and other factors in subjects is particularly concerning, since desired medication may amount to treating trauma with more trauma.

        From a worldview perspective, I am concerned that some young people feel there is something wrong with them. Objectively, there may be nothing wrong with them, and growing up (a new experience) can be painful, confusing, emotionally intense and especially now technologically unprecedented (chaotic, complex, overloading, conflict-driven). But, if such feelings persist, who do they blame for (as it is often put) being born in the wrong body? God? A curse? A judgement from a past life? Their parents? The state? An unfair universe? These are not frivolous questions, since they can affect and distort a person’s worldview. A person’s trauma may be their own, but patterns applying widely may be recognised, and people are typically not their own best doctors.

        And yes, there are sex variations. Some species (not humans) can change sex or become ‘intersex’ and do as we humans pump ever more chemicals into the environment (see the CHEM Trust work on endocrine disruptors, for example) but that is a discussion for a different article.

  4. Meg Macleod says:

    The subject of abortion…..
    A miscarriage……
    Women grieve when they miscarry a long awaited child
    A sound scan reveals another tiny heart beat…a twin that survives to become a beautiful child…
    Where does life begin?……its not a definition that can be altered for convenience or neccessity.

  5. Jeannie Mackenzie says:

    It’s shoddy journalism to trot out those old tropes about gender critical people being allied with the extreme right. Any single issue grassroots political movement will attract people across the left-right spectrum, but everyone I have met and corresponded with on this issue is left wing.

    It’s also naive to suggest that the gender critical people seek to attack the rights of people who identify as trans. We do, however, uphold the rights of those who hold that sex is real and important not to be hounded out of their jobs, fired, refused contracts and to be shunned by their trade unions.

    The notion that the extreme trans rights movement (which is quite separate from the tiny group of people who experience dysphoria) is colonial makes me laugh out loud! Gender is the tool of the oppressor. The gender critical stance is that both sexes should be free to play with any toy, dress and present themselves how they wish. Whereas a movement that suggests a four year old boy playing with dolls must really be a girl is profoundly regressive, harmful and as restrictive as colonisation.

    I’m reminded of that great atheist, WC Fields, who was found reading the Bible and when challenged said, ‘I’m looking for loopholes’. Your writer was definitely looking for loopholes when she skimmed through this book. And as we all know, if you look for loop holes, you’re sure to find them.

    1. unitled says:

      I’m afraid it’s just the simple facts of the matter that the anti gender movement is directly aligned with the right on this – look at Putin complimenting JKR, or the support for Matt Walsh’s video essay among GC groups; look especially at the attendance by far right activists at KJK’s ‘let women speak’ events, attendance I’ve seen first hand.

      The author is spot on here in their review. How this hasn’t caused further introspection beyond ‘nuh uh’ in GC groups is baffling to me – even just from your own POV in how to make sure the overall goals of your movement aren’t hijacked exactly how the author here highlights.

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        In which Putin finally replaces Hitler as the last resort of someone struggling to sustain an argument. It had to happen.

        1. unitled says:

          JKR herself took it as enough of a smear to publicly issue a statement trying to distance herself from it – and I note the even more damning fact that the far right keep showing up at anti gender events isnt addressed in your comment.

          1. Graeme Purves says:

            I don’t agree with J.K. Rowling about much. But you are indulging in a crude and disreputable attempt to smear by association from behind the cloak of anonymity. That may be because you lack the courage to identify yourself and don’t have any better arguments.

      2. Niemand says:

        This argument is an empty deflection. The basic point is just because someone is on the right politically or even far right does not mean everything they think is wrong, let alone is to be condemned along with anyone who agrees by association.

        If there is disagreement with the dissenters here it needs to be on the basis of what the whole trans rights / gender critical debate is about.

        The GC position is logical, clear and based on scientific realities. Where I would disagree with some is the idea that trans is made up, or simply a medical condition. Clearly it is not as what we now call trans has probably existed forever i.e. people who express themselves in ways not traditionally associated with their sex and can do so from a very profound position. Gemma is right to point this out. What has gone wrong is the relatively recent explanation of that based on this notion of gender (and associated gender theory / ideology) that apparently we all have that matters more than our sex. I think this simply untrue and there is no biological evidence for it (I personally don’t recognise I have a gender at all, I have a sex and live in a society with certain gender norms). At the very least it deserves to be seriously challenged and understood that it is just a theory and more of a philosophical one than one based on any empirical evidence. I am glad to say that the tide has turned on it and it is finally being help up to the light of genuine scrutiny and it is is not doing very well.

        As someone said above, the gender strait jackets should actually be ditched in favour of an acceptance of much wider conceptions of what it means to be of the male or female sex. In other words what feminists have been arguing for with some success for many decades already.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Niemand, I broadly agree with your comment, but to your specific point on ideologies and rights, I would like to add this:
          Because I was interested in the topic, I read Hilda Kean’s The Great Cat and Dog Massacre which was centred on a British event in early WW2, which rocks the myth that the British (well, Londoners mostly: 400,000+ animals killed in London months before 1st bomb April 1940, despite official guidance to the contrary) were a nation of animal lovers at the time.

          But for contrast, Kean explains how Nazi Germany supported ideas and policies of animal rights for reasons that were both reflective of some views of populace and leadership, and of an opportunism to make diplomatic capital in the world, partly compared to the rather vile British laws and norms (eugenics-inspired dog breeding, vivisection, hunting with dogs, cruel traps etc). Pet-caring was particularly noted among German refugees, for example.

          Now today, a majority of people in Britain seem to agree with those Nazi animal rights policies (even though they were apparently ineffectively applied, resisted by German corporations intend on animal testing, and anyway Nazi cruelty to humans tends to undermine any moral credibility). Among the people most resistant are still the hunting-shooting-fishing-testing Tories, with the odd outlier like Alan Clark:

          Now, it would be ridiculous and offensive to claim that anyone advocating animal rights was a Nazi because of these associations. That doesn’t stop people doing it, of course.

        2. Anonymous and for good reason. says:

          This. Exactly.

      3. Heather says:

        Have you read the book being ‘reviewd’?

      4. John Wood says:

        You make a lot of assumptions here: for example that everyone agrees on your definition of ‘far right’, or that JKR’s views are somehow unacceptable, and so on.
        The whole ‘transgender’ thing is fake. It’s cognitive warfare designed to divide and rule people. And as I said it leads to abuse of children and the vulnerable – and anyone who dares to speak out about it. This Emperor has no clothes,
        but this is no laughing matter.

        1. Rae Webster says:

          Also anyone who uses the words “nuance” & “hyperbole” in their speech/writing should be suspected of being infected by the current “gender studies” fad.

          1. Time, the Deer says:

            ‘If you use big words [or actually, in this case pretty ordinary words], you’re stupid.’

            Sorry what?? Absolute doublethink. Catch a grip of yourself!

      5. Jeannie Mackenzie says:

        If I were to start cherry picking evidence to oppose your argument (which is what you have done with mine) we’d be here all night.
        So instead let’s just state some facts:
        Men cannot become women. You know that, I know that. The member of my family who experiences gender dysphoria knows that.
        The absurd notion that gender is more relevant than sex is profoundly regressive and right wing. Gender is the tool of the oppressor. It is patriarchal and the antithesis of a free society. Men ‘doing womanhood’ is as colonial as blackface. Trans activism seeks to colonise women’s spaces and sports. Trans activism is a misogynistic movement intent on getting women to ‘shut up’ and ‘put up’.
        None of the above excludes a gender critical person such as myself from having profound compassion for those who struggle with a deep sense of unease about gender. The answer is not to medicate or mutilate. It is to push back against the oppression of gender that seeks to imprison men and women in gender conforming roles. We have made great strides in this direction in my lifetime, but now we are pedaling backwards into a right wing, fascist mess.

        1. John Wood says:

          Thanks for this. Well said

        2. unitled says:

          I don’t think I agree with any of this to be honest – someone who might have identified as a man earlier on their life may well later identify as a woman. I’m not even sure I would count sex as fixed – sexual characteristics can change over the course of someone’s life.

          The thrust of my point is that alignment on the topic of gender between GCs and far right groups is *not incidental*, but also that even if it were, because GCs are so profoundly obsessed with trans people, they will ally with the far right because of that alignment. The anti gender movement will not be at our side in the fight against the far right and facism.

          1. John Wood says:

            I don’t agree with you. Yes, someone who might have identified as a man earlier on their life may well later identify as a woman. But so what? Are you saying everyone can identify as whatever they please regardless of biology? I have never heard of a man or woman becoming the opposite over the course of their life.

            You make associations based on definitions I don’t understand or accept. Who or what is a ‘GC’? Or a ‘far right group’? It’s no good saying ‘everyone’ knows what they are. So start by defining what you mean by these terms. You also assert that “GCs are so profoundly obsessed with trans people, they will ally with the far right because of that alignment. ” To me, this is simply meaningless. It is labelling people and then drawing conclusions from the labels you have given. It’s just what racists do.

            Again, what do you mean by “The anti gender movement will not be at our side in the fight against the far right and fascism”? Who or what is the ‘anti-gender movement’. And if you want to fight ‘fascism’, what exactly are you fighting? Is your definition of a ‘fascist’ anyone who doesn’t agree with you?

            I just happen to believe that sex, or gender, which to me mean the same thing, is just a natural part of human biology. Any social expression is a matter for whichever culture and society it is expressed in. It may change; and different people might well find different expressions of their sexuality. But I do not accept that biological sex /gender are matters of personal choice, of behavioural psychology, or ‘assignment’ by authority. That isn’t ‘fascist’ or ‘right wing’. It’s based on observation of humans as a species like many others. We evolved into two genders for reproductive and evolutionary reasons like other animals. Let’s just start there and stop setting ourselves apart from nature. If a man sees himself as a woman, or a woman as a man, they can – and have for generations – been able to adopt that role in society without much difficulty. Live and let live is fine, but the trans-activists are trying to force us all to believe something that is patently absurd and then claim victimhood when we fail to do so. No doubt the flat earthers feel just as victimised.

          2. unitled says:

            John sorry for the confusion, I wasn’t actually responding to you, I was responding to the points the other poster was making about rejecting the association with the far right. Hope that makes things clearer.

            Pretty ironic timing too considering the trials and tribulations of noted gender critical voice Nina Power!

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @unitled, ri-ii-ght, so because Wernher von Braun said humans could land on the Moon, everyone who agrees with that position is ‘far right’ or ‘associated with them’ because ol’ Wernher was a Nazi? And meanwhile all the *real* historical and present association of *certain* LGBT+ people and groups and social elites with the far right gets swept under the rug, from your bigoted perspective?

          4. unitled says:

            @sleepingdogs maybe step back and think why an argument which says ‘agreeing with Nazis is fine actually, oh and by the way YOU agree with them way more’ isn’t a compelling one.

          5. SleepingDog says:

            @unitled, from An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments by Ali Almossawi, p30:
            Guilt by Association
            “Guilt by association is used to discredit an argument for proposing an idea that is shared by some socially demonised individual or group.”

            The association fallacy:

            Yet, you haven’t even managed to make the case that Nazis supported the kind of feminism you are attacking (spoiler: they didn’t). Or that there is anything novel or unusual about what such feminists say (even if you believe in ‘One Sex’ theory: do you?).

            So, why do you (and other commenters here) choose to use bad arguments for what I presume you think is a good cause? Or are you trying to discredit it?

    2. Ivy says:

      Far from being shoddy journalism, that link is plainly true.
      See Kellie-Jay-Keen, (also known as Posie Parker), who is anti-trans, and also joins with literal Neo-Nazis

      1. John Wood says:

        It is ludicrous to assert that (1) people are divided into ‘pro-trans’ and ‘anti-trans’ and that no other views ate possible, or (2) that anyone who is not ‘pro-trans’ is a Nazi!
        Is that really what you’re saying? Seriously?

  6. Dave Millar says:

    ‘although I am not a believer myself, I respect religion,’

    How very PC. People with delusions require psychiatric intervention, not respect. Jeez, is this the 17th Century?

    1. John Wood says:

      In the Soviet Union, and in certain other countries, it was public policy that ‘those with delusions require psychiatric treatment’ . Are all dissidents now to be sent to re-education camps or psychiatric wards?

  7. Rae Webster says:

    It’s interesting that the author of this opinion piece admits being scared to read books which might change their mind. Rather worrying concept that & a failure of the education system they grew up in.

  8. Tom Ultuous says:

    Look up a 2021 BBC article entitled ‘Trans women in female jails policy lawful, High Court rules’ and you’ll find the Tory Minister Of justice standing up in court and effectively arguing Isla Blair should be sent to a women’s prison for mental health reasons. The Tories didn’t get from there to their section 35 ideologically, it was all about seizing the moment to create a new smokescreen. They only expressed the intention to amend the recommendations on trans prisoners on the website the WEEK AFTER our colonial governor stepped in with the section 35. It worked well for them with that and they repeated the success with the deposit return scheme because the Scottish govt was about to show them up by introducing the DRS 3+ years before them.

    Whatever your views are on this, we are where we are because the clown prince Boris Johnson was told by his bosses at the Telegraph to abandon May’s gender reforms and add trans people to the Tory smokescreen portfolio. Please, FFS, don’t believe the Tories saved us all from the big bad SNP. I only wish the bastards would add us “ungrateful Scots” to their portfolio and stoke their English fodder into screaming out for Scottish independence.

    My own personal position is that if my grandkid turned out to be trans I’d rather not have to tell them I stood with all the union jack waving scum that attached themselves to, and were gratefully accepted by, the WWW movement. They are in bed with the very people who would do them most harm.

    1. Ivy says:


  9. Graeme Purves says:

    My Religious Education teacher resigned his post when he realised that he had lost hs faith. Even as a teenager, I had tremendous respect for that brave decision. I still have.

    1. Drew Campbell says:

      Religious Education in state schools usually covers all three of the major monotheistic religions, along with Hinduism and its related offshoots.

      Which one did your old RE teacher lose his faith in?

      And why should faith in any particular religion be a prerequisite for teaching RE?

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        He had been a Presbyterian. He was an earnest and honest man and a good teacher. He taught us about religions other than Christianity.

        Why would someone who considers herself an athiest yet is so insecure in her stance on religion that she cannot bring herself to read a religious tract consider herself well placed to teach others about religion?

        1. Drew says:

          Not criticising your former teacher’s decision which I assume was right for him.

          Teaching RE in non-denominational state schools requires a teaching qualification, and any half-decent teacher will research and prepare each session according to curriculum guidance and draw on a range of resources. Faith in one particular sect or other, or nine, doesn’t come into it.

          Your earlier comment made a general point about teaching RE beyond the writer of the article. I don’t know anything about her but wonder if you stand by your implication that only an individual of faith should teach RE? Or have I misinterpreted your meaning?

          1. Graeme Purves says:

            You don’t say? And I do. Like Gemma Clark I am an athiest. I have a reasonble layman’s knowlege of world religions but would never consider myself a suitable person to teach Religious Education.

            Wouldn’t it be altogether more sensible and in tune with the times to integrate comparative religion into Modern Studies? Persistence with a distinct subject entitled Religious Education seems anachronistic and provides considerable scope for misunderstandings and conflicting expectations.

  10. Tom Ultuous says:

    I see the red Tories are trying to arrange a sit down with JKR. If it happens I hope they send Eddie Izzard.

    1. Niemand says:

      Good, about time Labour listened to people like JKR

      1. Drew Campbell says:

        They’re only listening to her because she has a major profile and – even more significantly – has previously been a big donor.

        The latter qualification is the real key to influencing policy.

  11. Paddy Farrington says:

    Thank you Gemma. But how disappointing that so many comments in this discussion are so unkind, tendencious, and ill-informed.

    My own views are influenced by having known someone who chose to be open about being transgender. Like everyone else, she just sought to live her life as she chose, and outing herself was a big step for her. She had hoped that the Gender Recognition legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament would make things much easier for others than they had been for her. She was appalled at the way the issue was weaponised and blown up out of all proportion by the gender critical lobby, and so she took the courageous step to be open about being trans. The fact that she felt she had to speaks volumes. Sadly, she died recently. At least she was spared reading this bile on Bella.

    1. Annoyed says:

      Paddy, how your friends feels is irrelevant and you seem to have only considered their feelings not the practicalities. Single-sex provisions mean single sex not ‘how someone feels about themself’. I’m sorry that they are not comfortable in services for their sex but that does not mean that women and girls should lose the sex-specific spaces and language that we need.

      1. Paddy Farrington says:

        My friend was into her 70s (at least) when she died, after a lifetime and a happy marriage to her husband, who predeceased her. No one lost anything from her being transgender and her living in her chosen identity. I gained a broader understanding of self-determination.

        1. Maddi says:

          Paddy this says it all. So many of the comments here seem to ignore that trans people just want to get on with their lives in safety and aren’t doing any harm to anyone

          1. John Wood says:

            As far as I’m concerned I wish the same. AndI also wish that those of us who do not ourselves identify as trans could be allowed to get on with our lives instead of being constantly attacked and falsely accused of bigotry and hatred.

      2. Chloe says:

        You’re allowed to have empathy for trans women. It’s okay

  12. Mairi Mackay says:

    Thank you for writing this excellent article, so good to see views expressed in support of trans people.

  13. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Having been involved in the women’s movement in the 1970s I struggle to recognise the way in which some people styling themselves as feminist have fallen back on the acceptance of constraining stereotypes after we struggled to throw off the prescriptions which patriarchy used to attempt to dominate our lives. The current attack on the notion of gender represents to me, an attempt to roll back on our struggle to be what we wanted to be. Simplistic and deterministic formulations of biologic sex as overruling everything else threatens to take us back to the age of the Stepford Wives where young women were offered one path with no options to express ourselves.

    Gemma is right to source the onslaught on gender theory back to religious decrees, and we should critically examine where these ‘gender critical’ ideas came from and whose interests they serve. One of the watchwords of second wave feminism was Simone de Beauvoir’s opening words in The Second Sex ‘one is not born but becomes a woman’. We insisted that how we became women would be something we decided, rather than biological determinism or social pressure.

    Thanks to Gemma for ploughing through this book and giving a fair account of it for us.

  14. Elaine Fraser says:

    This review is comedy gold.

    No engagement with any of the serious issues covered in each chapter.

    Bonkers nonsense about right wing associations.

    Zero evidence produced to back up claims we are all puppets.

    Sexist garbage that women are unable to think or organise or resist without some other group guiding them.

    If I agree with Trump or Putin that 2+2 =4 this must mean Im a spy.

    But Bravo Bella for reviewing a book you would not have mentioned this time last year ? Progress indeed.

    1. Chloe says:

      Nazis showed up to KJK’s event. They don’t show up to leftist events. They even said they view themselves as the vanguard of her movement.

      Putin agreeing with GCs on trans rights is far different than 2+2, which you cannot understand because of how deep into the ideology you are.

  15. Katharine Kinninmonth says:

    Para 2: the author confesses to her fear of literature and the effect it might wreak on her thinking. The rest = a hefty dose of QED.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      Just so!

  16. Cole says:

    This is a great review, thank you for being a supportive voice!

  17. The Bookish Selkie says:

    Well said, Gemma, and thank you for reading this drivel to save the rest of us the job of doing so. Sorry also for the state of yours and BC’s mentions on Twitter now that the Sorting Hat Sandras have found this review and are throwing a screaming tantrum about it – for a bunch who claim to not be about wheeshting women, they seem keen to try and wheesht a woman for disagreeing with them.

  18. Time, the Deer says:

    Some incredibly depressing comments here. Sad how so many in the independence movement have had their brains algorithm-ed into mush by social media and can’t even see it. That’s exactly what these fake ‘culture wars’ were designed to do.

    Live and let live, ffs, let people be who they are. There are far bigger issues than who’s using the toilet cubicle next door to you.

    1. Niemand says:

      In other words women should indeed wheesht

      1. Time, the Deer says:

        Hi Niemand. I’m a woman. You don’t speak for me. Cheers.

        1. Niemand says:

          Sure, I was speaking about those who don’t want to be told to be quiet

    2. Cathie Lloyd says:

      Exactly! Cheers

    3. SleepingDog says:

      @Time, the Deer, but do you think it is ever justified to use bad arguments in good causes?

      From studying philosophy, politics, psychology, and other related subjects, I can see historical precursors to these ‘culture wars’. Let us suppose there is a distinction between philosophy and sophistry (although not between philosophers and sophists), otherwise I think we are doomed. Historical examples of sophistry include Jesuit casuistry (quite like the cherry-picking going on in current comments). In the event, attempts by philosophers (often under duress) to ‘prove’ the existence of God (René Descartes’ fabricated conclusion from “I think therefore I am” among them) failed; and it was ‘back to faith’. But these patterns exist, and there are always people keen on applying old sophistry and refining new forms.

      Although a lot of commentary presented as argument is sub-sophistry at best, or lower forms of fallacy, often either just empty tub-thumping or (almost to me the worst) a cacophonic attempt to drown out reason and voices of witness and dissent, there are some patterns which are closely based on successful appeals to reason (the emancipation of enslaved people and the enfranchisment of women among them).

      It is these repurposed patterns that are being tested in this kind of debate. Just like arms manufacturers test weaponry in conveniently stoked-up hot conflicts (the British imperial arms-dealing state supporting its boss USAmerican Empire in Israel’s genocide against Palestinians, for example), these ‘culture wars’ are the testing grounds (with similarly entirely disposable combatants from the imperial perspective) for these argumentative (or pseudo-argumentative) patterns. It is a little more sophisticated and dangerous than turning people’s brains into mush, I think. We are talking behavioural modification goals and finding replicable ways to hack human psyche.

      Once you have improved the pattern (a distinction from an algorithm) of exploitation, you can change the payload to whatever you want to push. We can see a degeneration happening today over the appropriation of the term ‘woke’. If woke means anything, it means know your history, know your oppressors. In philosophical terms, it means see the Cave of Shadows for what it is. For philosophers it means, I guess, our jobs are never done.

      1. Rae Webster says:

        You lost them at your second sentence.

  19. Satan says:

    I’m not interested in the book, but much of the review is about the reviewer (which is really wierdly self-centered). Someone who is irreligious teaches about religion (how do you get yourself into that situation?). Someone who tries to review a book sounds like she is scared of books (eh?). etc. Less, or preferrably no, autobiographical ‘book reviews’ please!

  20. Alison Murray says:

    Gemma, well said. Thank you reading and your great response!

  21. Peter Barlow says:

    The comments from bigots here!
    Have you *no* self-awareness after reading Gemma’s insightful review?

    Probaby not.

    1. John Wood says:

      I’m sorry, but I cannot resist commenting on this.

      If we can’t agree to disagree, or to at least try to understand that different views are possible, it seems to me that any ‘bigotry’ is contained in comments like yours, which exhibit no apparent self awareness at all.

      The fact that I don’t find the review ‘insightful’ at all is just my view. I have plenty of self-awareness, thanks. You might not be able to understand my views, but that doesn’t make them abusive or wrong.

      1. Peter Barlow says:

        You’re not sorry.

        1. John Wood says:

          Are you quite sure of that Peter? Was that the most constructive comment you could make? Why the hostility?

  22. 240626 says:

    Kemi Badenoch wants to overhaul equalities law in England and Wales to allow the exclusion of trans people from single sex spaces such as prisons, public conveniences, book groups, and hospital wards.

    Currently (and this needs to be said, because there’s too much toxic ignorance and misinformation around the whole issue of trans rights), trans people can have their identity formally recognised by applying for a gender recognition certificate. This affirms their gender change in law, allowing them to update their birth or adoption certificate and have their gender recognised on a marriage or death certificate.

    This process is not expected to change, but Kemi and her cronies wants to make a clearer distinction in law between those who are born a particular sex and those who transition or identify as a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth.

    Kemi has acknowledged that such a change would disadvantage some affected groups. But who cares?

    Those who advocate for sex-based rights say it would affirm protections for those who are born biologically female. They acknowledge that the impact on trans people would probably be detrimental. But, again; who cares?

    Critics of changing the Equality Act also say that trans people would be targeted, with the potential for real-world hostility towards them increasing. But… who cares?

    Kami has said that part of her reason for intervening was the recent decision by the UK government to block a bill passed by the Scottish parliament that was designed to make it easier for transgender people to obtain official gender recognition certificates. This legislation, had it been allowed to stand, would have driven a wedge between equalities legislation in Scotland and equalities legislation in the rest of the UK, which is likely why the Scottish government was so keen on it.

    Another part was a recent petition, which was signed by 107,000 people, which called for the act to clearly restrict the definition of ‘sex’ to biological sex and not its social construction.

    A third motivation was that changing the Equality Act, which was passed by Gordon Brown’s government, would also mark the delivery of a promise made by Rishi Sunak last summer. When Rishi first ran for the Tory leadership, his campaign said he would ensure ‘women’s sports and services are protected and clarify that self-ID does not have legal force’ by amending the act to make clear ‘that sex means biological sex’.

    That promise to the Tory membership has now turned into a UK election pledge, which serves both as an enticement to more socially conservative voters and to maintain focus on an issue that has become uncomfortable one for the Labour party. Some Tories believe the push for sex-based rights is not just the ‘right’ thing to do; it’s also ripe for electoral exploitation. Kemi is one of those politicians who’s unafraid to push persistently on social issues such as gender and race.

    Kemi might also have one eye on building support among the right of the party, both in parliament and among the membership, in anticipation of another run for the leadership when it falls vacant again on July 5th.

  23. A concerned gay person says:

    Gemma’s article is absolutely spot on. As a gay person who has long stood up for trans people on social media, I’ve seen first hand just how vile the GC movement can be. I’ve seen the lies they post, the misinformation, their conflation of trans with being a predator (homophobes do that to gay people). I’ve seen them lie about the equality act, what SelfID is and make wild claims that men will start going in toilets to attack women. The fact is, trans people have used the spaces they require for YEARS and predatory cis het men have never had an issue getting into spaces because signage does not stop them.
    As someone who has defended trans people, I’ve been doxxed, I’ve been called rapist, paedo, nonce, groomer, threatened with violence, impersonated online and had the GC lot spread lies about me on social media. I had to come off twitter for my safety as they were trying to find where I lived.
    A lot of the toxicity spread by GCs is similar to what homophobes have spread about gay people.
    None of the arguments come from a genuine or honest place. It’s not about helping victims of abuse or protecting women, it’s very much about stirring up hate.
    Reading some of the comments on here, I can’t help but roll my eyes at some remarks that dip into conspiracy theory territory and are clearly disingenuous. Especially people claiming they support trans people having freedoms but in the same breath trot out the usual anti trans arguments.
    So often I see that the GC lot are also homophobic. People like Kellie Jay Keen have called us groomers, Maya Forstater has targeted inclusive education (I grew up under section 28 which was awful) and she’s targeted gay authors because they write inclusive books for kids. Coincidentally people like Maya and Kellie would happily give up Gillick and think period poverty doesn’t exist.
    People like Baroness Nicholson has a history of homophobia and transphobia and is a staunch GC. Then there’s JK Rowling – denies Holocaust events involving trans people, platforms and funds anti LGBTQ people, has dog piled people I know for criticising her (not even tagging her on twitter) and then getting death threats and being stalked.

    I’ve noticed a small group of anti trans gay men who, quite frankly are disgusting. Their obsession with finding trans people to bully or mock online and cause dog piles to.
    People like Alex Bramham who clearly has mental health issues where he can’t even accept himself as gay. Last I heard he found religion and was ‘ex gay’ so back in a closet.

    Theres also a weird obsession with genitals when it comes to trans people and the GC lot. They can’t comprehend that cis people would sleep with trans people and try to label it as coercion. They also seem to think that to support a trans person you have to sleep with them first. Always getting very personal with sex questions. Like it’s their business. Then when you stare you’re happily married so won’t be sleeping with anyone else they claim you’re a TERF in the sheets.

    The GC movement will harm women’s rights and it is dragging the LGBTQ community backwards by spreading hate/fear. You only have to look on anything LGBTQ related online to see how much hate has increased in the comments.

    1. John Wood says:

      I am sorry but this comment is complete nonsense. I disagree completely with both the tone and content..

      I stand by my previous comments. I am neither abuser nor victim. Nor are my longstanding gay and trans friends. I decline to take part in cancel culture, which I regard as manufactured for political and commercial ends ( much the same thing these days).

      As far as I’m concerned adults can identify as anything they please so long as if doesn’t hurt or harm or frighten others, but how I identify them is up to me on the same basis. ( I draw the line at coercive and controlling relationships such as paedophilia; and at ‘trans-humanism’ which denies my basic humanity).

      It abuses no-one to state a belief that gender is not a matter of personal choice or assignment by authority but of biology. It does not assert any social or cultural stereotypes. I also have no idea what ‘gender critical’ is supposed to mean, but it sounds from the context like a term of abuse, an attempt to give me a label and make me a target to attack. If so, I reject the term altogether.

      I do not believe there is a genuine ‘community’ of interest between transgenderism and homosexuality. In fact some of my LGB friends have suffered the most from trans activism. I stand up for them and for all who still believe that ‘gender’ is a word that has a meaning.

      And I believe the attempt to destroy language and all meaning and independent thought is simply Orwellian.

      You can disagree all you like, and I am open to the possibility of changing my mind. But let’s have some actual evidence – just getting angry and hostile, calling people ‘bigots’ and claiming victimhood isn’t persuasive.

      1. Chloe says:

        Every trans person I know, including myself, view your opinions as bigotry.

        Who is wrong here? You? Or every trans person?

        Homophobes can say that they don’t hate gay people, just think they’re unnatural and shouldn’t be allowed to marry for said reason. But we all know the truth. It’s hate.

        1. John Wood says:

          Thanks but no thanks for telling me I hate people. I emphatically do not. Not even you.
          You clearly have no interest at all in trying to see anyone else’s point of view.
          Please understand that not everyone can be divided into ‘victim’ or ‘abuser’ or both. I am neither.
          Before making such offensive comments please just pause and think about what they say about you.

  24. Don says:

    What war, attention seeking nonsense. Stop trying to ignore the facts, your sex at birth is either xy you are male, if you are xx you are female. Nothing can change it it is in your genes, immutable, no matter trans or gender altered you might “feel.” No matter how much you want to take over women only spaces or change your birth certificate. The uncomfortable biological facts will not change If you are born xy, then you are male. Fact. Stop confusing biological sex at birth with secondary sexual behaviour and a concept of gender! Human secondary sexual behaviour is plastic wide and varied. The clothes you wear, how you behave and homones you take is up to you, it will not change your biological sex and make you biologically male or female.
    Stop attacking women and girls and fraudulently claiming to be biologically XX should be the title.

    1. Rae Webster says:

      Well said.

      1. Peter Barlow says:

        Even with my limited knowledge I know of people XXY and XYY.

        It’s as if there *are* more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than sre dreamt of in your Gender Criticism…

        1. John Wood says:

          Transgenderism is not actually about people who are biologically neither XX nor XY. Such people need not feel inferior or abused, or any need to conform to some stereotype.

          It’s perfectly possible to accept anyone in that category for who they are.

          It’s also perfectly possible to accept that people are different and that their nature can express itself in different ways.

          However, if gender identity becomes a matter of effectively consumer choice or assignment by authority it denies the existence of biological gender, and the existence if humans as a biological species, altogether. It is the technocratic idea that biology can be controlled by technology (and therefore those who claim to ‘own the science’.

          I am not a robot or anyone’s ‘human resource’, I am a living being, like millions of others in the ecosystem we are all part of. Transgenderism to me is a product of technocracy, too close to trans-humanism. It is in fact abusive and controlling – while wearing the clothes of compassion it weaponises them in the service of an opposite (totalitarian) agenda.

          1. Rae Webster says:

            The problem is the current interchangeable use of the words sex & gender. “Gender” was introduced as a twee word for sex but has been changed to reflect more than 100 personalities all with a different flag. That’s all fine (but silly), however telling children that they were “born in the wrong body” & enabling them to remove healthy body parts & take dangerous drugs with significant side effects is child abuse.

          2. John Wood says:

            I agree Rae.

    2. John Wood says:

      Well said, thanks for that.

    1. Niemand says:

      I do not understand how non-binary is also regarded as ‘trans’. More than half of the 0.44% ‘trans’ population say they are non-binary.

      Trans surely means transgender which means identifying as the opposite sex.

      The terminology around this topic is so confusing and misleading as to almost make it meaningless. I work with a male who identifies as non-binary and yet there is no actual outward evidence of it at all – ‘they’ are simply an ordinary-looking man with a beard. I understand non-binary in a kind of political sense of not wanting to be tied to either set of gender norms but to all practical purposes the person is a man and I cannot see what is ‘trans’ about them.

      1. 240628 says:

        According to the UK government in its guidance, ‘transgender’ is an umbrella term that covers people whose gender does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. Accordingly, this can include: (trans men – people registered female at birth but identifying as male), trans women (people registered male at birth but identifying as female), and non-binary people (people who don’t identify with any gender).

        However, the government also affirms that it’s not for us to label others and that individuals should be allowed to choose the terms that are right for them. Which right to self-identification is what the whole trans debate is essentially about.

        1. Niemand says:

          How can we have a gender at birth? We have a sex at bith. Sex and gender are not the same thing! At birth, the concept of gender is meaningless. It does not make sense.

          And I am not getting into the ‘assigned at birth’ thing all over again, suffice to say I believe we are assigned nothing; our sex is observed. The word ‘assigned’ is one used by trans activists to justify their theories, just like cis etc and yet somehow this theory has become so abosrbed that we are told we must accept it. I reject it. It is an unproven theory.

          But these confusions, these distortions of language do nothing for this debate and seem almost deliberately designed to obfuscate. Trans and non-binary are cleary different things whatever the UK government claims.

          1. Rae Webster says:

            Exactly so

          2. 240628 says:

            Early uses of the word ‘gender’ in reference to men or women tended to view it as one and the same as biological sex. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, the word gender had been used as early as the 1300s to describe categories of people based on biological sex. Over the next centuries, when ‘gender’ was used outside of grammar to refer to men or women, it remained synonymous with biological sex.

            However, from the 1950s onward, psychologists who studied differences between the sexes began to reframe gender as something entirely separate from biological sex.

            John Money, who studied psychology, gender, and sex differences, was one of the first people to use the word ‘gender’ to mean something separate from biological sex. It was he who first introduced the concept of a ‘gender role’, which he defined as all the ways a person discloses themselves as being a man or woman. Money argued that people learn gender roles and that anatomy doesn’t determine a person’s gender, even though, in most cases, a person’s gender roles align with their biological sex. Money went on to argue that learned gender is more important than biology in determining whether a person is a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’.

            People are still assigned a gender (‘M’ or ‘F’) at birth by the state, based on their biological sex. This assigned gender largely determine how the person is expected to subsequently behave and how that person is educated or ‘socialised’ in those roles.

            Trans rights activists oppose the state’s assignment of a person’s gender based on their biological sex at birth, and demand the right to be able to freely change their legal registration to the gender with which they identify.

            In the case of non-binary people, the right demanded is to be able to reject altogether (or at least ‘queer’) the binary gender classification that the state employs.

          3. 240628 says:

            @ Rae

            I replied to your previous post, but my reply didn’t appear. Bit of a bugger, that!

          4. Niemand says:

            ‘People are still assigned a gender (‘M’ or ‘F’) at birth by the state, based on their biological sex.’

            This is a policised statement.

            What actually happens at birth is the child’s body is looked at and male or female parts are observed and sex is written down. M and F does not refer to future gender role, it refers to sex. If you want to use the word gender to mean exaclty the same as sex all that does is confuse things if you then say, in fact it also refers to future gender roles for the child, or, something innate that is differend from sex, in fact potentially the opposite (and hence leading to a ‘trans’ person). In fact the sex is probably already known by much earlier ultrascans. Are those scans ‘gender assginment’ too?. Looking at the tiny thing and assigning a gender path to a foetus.

            What is the point in making something simple so complex, illogical and confusing? The point is that it is political and ideological and is designed to make a cetain theoretical strain of thinking about sex and gender seem like a proven idea that is now normalised and accepted. It is not, far from it. In fact the majority reject it.

          5. SleepingDog says:

            @Niemand, a University of Glasgow Gender Studies course leader used a single theorist, Thomas Laqueur, to claim that the European Enlightenment somehow invented Two Sexes, whereas allegedly all people before that and elsewhere believed that there was only One Sex. After introducing this fantasy, they insisted that the case was proved and moved on with the course.

            Now, does anyone here really believe this? How are disagreements on substantial matters like this within the trans rights lobby resolved, because I see a lot of closing of ranks and I think the answer may be ‘not publicly’ and maybe ‘not at all’? That was not the only academically questionable approach on that course, either. I’m reminded of religious rank-closing or the gatherings of conspiracy theorists where orthodoxy and heterodoxy take second place to political influence (numbers matter when it comes to voting, another exploitable flaw in democratic systems).

            The European Enlightenment, broadly speaking, was a deeply flawed movement, too conservative, too biased, perhaps getting its best ideas from elsewhere, but it was a vast improvement over Church and dynastic politics. Among its faults were that it did not apply reason far enough. Among its successes was in separating biology from both religion and from the writings of ancient (often pagan) authorities and making it a global science. I’ve repeatedly made calls for planetary-realistic ideologies in governance, and any attempt to impose the opposite weakens our ability to deal with our planetary polycrisis, which will not take any notice of the kinds of lives we want to live anyway.

          6. 240628 says:

            Of course it’s a politicised statement. It asserts that the gender (‘M’ or ‘F’) that’s assigned to you at birth/registered on your birth certificate, based on your biological sex, shapes the subsequent expectations that are placed on you by the society into which you’ve been born. A corollary of that assertion is that, since we value self-determination, one’s ‘identity’ or behavioural dispositions ought not to be defined by those expectations but ought to be a matter of one’s own personal choice.

          7. John Wood says:

            In other words, we can identify as whatever we like, regardless of any consequences for ourselves or others? We can be the ultimate consumer and even gender is just another saleable commodity? No doubt that will be welcomed by certain manufacturers and providers of services to meet this demand? This is just classic corporate capitalism.
            What if someone identifies as trans-human? Or as an animal they wish to have sex with? Or as God?
            People can and no doubt will identify as all these things, but I cannot be required to agree with them.

          8. SleepingDog says:

            @John Wood, yes, the point is rather whether this ideology is enshrined in law, as the legal fiction element of what is sometimes termed in political philosophy a ‘noble lie’.
            I was building up to this in my question ‘is it ever justified to use bad arguments in good causes?’ The example in Plato’s Republic is especially interesting because the goal is to promote social harmony, and the method is a fiction about people being born with distinct (but invisible) elements in their souls, in a knowing falsehood that will be indoctrinated into future generations, and keep some classes in perpetual subordination. A different case, to be sure, but illustrative and useful as a thought experiment.

          9. 240628 says:

            ‘Sex and gender are not the same thing.’

            No, precisely; they’re not the same. Gender is a social construct; biological sex is scientific fact.

            Until the 1950s, our society has used biological sex as a basis for defining gender and gender appropriate behaviour in binary terms. For example, the proto-victorian poet, Robert Southey, demarked the proper behaviour of boys and girls in the following way:

            What are little boys made of
            What are little boys made of
            Snips & snails & puppy dogs tails
            And such are little boys made of.

            What are little girls made of
            What are little girls made of
            Sugar & spice & all things nice
            And such are little girls made of.

            And by ‘naturalising’ this demarcation, by binding gender to biological sex, the Victorians demonised (and persecuted) both men who didn’t behave in the way that men should ‘naturally’ behave but who instead behaved ‘unnaturally’, in ways that only women should naturally behave, and women who didn’t behave in ways that women should ‘naturally’ behave behaved ‘unnaturally’, in ways that only men should naturally behave – all in accordance with Victorian society’s dominant conceptions of masculinity and femininity.

            Transgender activists reject binary gender distinctions in general, and seek to live their lives in non-binary ways, or else seek to transgress the current practice of defining that distinction on the basis of what a person’s biological sex was at birth.

            Some men want to live as women; some women want to live as men; some want to live their lives in ways that are not bound to – or circumscribed by – any binary gender distinction at all, whatever criteria – biological sex at birth or whatever – that distinction is based on. Some of those men who want to live as women (or vice versa) believe that, in order to fully transition from one gender to another, they need to undergo surgery or drug-treatment to change their anatomy; others don’t. The whole point of counselling is to help people, who want to transition from one gender to another or to none, decide what transitioning would entail for them personally.

            Like everyone else, all transgender people (binary and non-binary) want to live as they choose and at the same time enjoy the same rights in society that everyone else does.

            Is that too much to ask?

          10. Tom Ultuous says:

            Well said 28th June. There’s twa muckle Mary Whitehouse’s among these WWW and their supporters. I mean, why don’t they just use a cubicle where there isn’t already somebody sitting on the pan?

          11. 240628 says:

            @ SD

            If that course leader did in fact appeal to Thomas Laqueur’s work to justify the claim that all people before the European Enlightenment believed that there was only one sex, then they were wrong.

            Laqueur only concluded from his research:

            a) that the dominant opinion in pre-Enlightenment physiology was based in the one-sex model of reproduction, in which differences in sex were seen as only differences in degree, that had been current in among scholars from Aristotle and Hippocrates, through Galen and Avicenna, to Vesalius in the 16th century;

            and b) that this one-sex model of reproduction was challenged and overthrown by the two-sex model that arose during the Renaissance and Enlightenment, whereupon the dominant view among scientists became that of two distinct sexes, directly opposed to each other.

          12. 240630 says:

            Yes, John; self-determination is possible; we all can – and should have the right to – choose our own identity and live how we please.

            But that doesn’t give us carte blanche to do what we like. Our actions have consequences, some of which might harm others in their self-determination. Which is why, in a democratic society, we negotiate with our neighbours on a daily basis, in our social intercourse, the rights we have of each other and the obligations we owe to one another, a negotiation in which I give up some of my self-determination or personal sovereignty to accommodate the rights you have of me and, in return, you give up some of your self-determination or personal sovereignty to accommodate the rights I have of you. That way, we can live sociably, in relative peace and with optimal freedom.

            And others don’t need you to agree with how they choose to live. It’s really none of your business how they identify.

          13. Niemand says:


            Given that you have conceded that gender is a societal construct (as feminists have been arguing for decades and is in fact the opposite of what many trans activists believe as they generally suggest we posses / have a gender from birth, hence cis and trans), then the issue of ‘all transgender people (binary and non-binary) want[ing] to live as they choose and at the same time enjoy the same rights in society that everyone else does’, hides the crucial bones of contention, avoids addressing them. The fact is we do not all enjoy *all* the same rights anyway, and one of them is rights based on our sex, currently enshrined in law. The law does allow for a trans person to have the same or very similar rights in certain circumstances based on nedical assessments, but it does not allow for it being simply self-declared.

            If gender is a construct then sex differences remain intact and matter in crucial areas, including rights. Therefore, if the question is made more precise – should, for example, a trans woman, especially (and perhaps only) if self-declared have the same sex-based rights as a woman (such as spaces exclusively reserved for people of the female sex), then the answer for many is ‘no’ because constructing oneself as a woman is not the same as being born one, and so yes, it is too much to ask.

          14. 240630 says:

            I’ve never claimed that gender isn’t a social construct; I’ve often claimed that EVERYTHING is a social construct (including biological sex), everything is ideology.

            The trans activists I’ve read don’t suggest we possess/have a gender from birth. They maintain that we’re ASSIGNED a gender at birth, based on biological sex (conceived on the two-sex model which, if Thomas Laqueur’s to be believed, is the model that came to dominate scientific thinking following the Enlightenment).

            Of course we don’t all enjoy the same rights in our contemporary society; that’s what makes it ‘unjust’. People who accept the gender they were assigned at birth on the basis of their biological and those who refuse it would enjoy equal rights in a just society; that’s what would make that society ‘just’

            As I said to John above, self-determination – choosing one’s own identity and living how we please – is a fundamental to our humanity. It’s a right that trans people shouldn’t be denied.

          15. Niemand says:

            How can sex be a ‘scientifc fact’ (your words above) and a societal construct? You cannot have it both ways. You seem quite ignorant of the different strains of trans theory.

            You also seem to be suggesting rights based on one’s sex are unjust so one assumes that also applies to age and other categories, the rights of mothers after separation compared to fathers and so on.

            As usual with this debate you have reverted again to bland generalisations about a ‘just society’ and avoided the real argument about conflicting rights which is at the heart of this debate. It does not wash – rights often conflict and you have to face that. It was the SNP line – trans rights are ‘human rights’ and a transwoman is a woman and so should be treated so in law but at the same time we will not undermine any current rights of ‘cis’ women. It is a straightforward lie as you cannot honour both equally.

            But yes trans people can identify as whatever they like as can anyone. I would never deny that and personally honour that in my dealings with trans people (which is not uncommon in my line of work). But that is not the point; the point is identifying as something does not make you that thing in the same way the thing itself is, and so does not mean you get that same rights it does, in this case sex-based ones. In my view women have the right to single sex spaces, as do the majority, and that is what is just.

          16. 240701 says:

            1. Because scientific facts are themselves social constructs (at least, they are according to the Edinburgh School’s sociology of scientific knowledge).

            2. Any distribution of rights based on discrimination among different classes of people is unjust (at least, it is on the principle that human rights are universal).

            3. Of course, conflicts will arise between different people in the exercise of their universal rights. But the way to accommodate those differences short of conflict is (as I said to John above) through negotiation or dialogue between the parties involved.

            4. No; identifying as something doesn’t make you that thing in the same way the thing itself is. But I take issue with the whole notion of the ‘thing itself’. We can have no experience or knowledge of the ‘thing itself’; that lies beyond the veil of appearance (if it exists at all). All experience is interpretative, all knowledge an interpretation. What this boils down to is that the choice isn’t between how a person identifies and ‘occult’ reality (a reality unmediated by interpretation); it’s rather between how a person identifies on the one hand and how society identifies them on the other. Why should we privilege the identity assigned by society to a person at birth over that person’s self-identification?

            Something else. It isn’t illegal for anyone to go into a woman’s toilet; it is illegal for someone – anyone – to go into a women’s toilet with criminal intent. Women (like everyone else) have a right to be and feel safe. But there are ways of achieving this without treating all trans people as if they were predators in the same way that all gay men used to be. You’d think we’d have gotten beyond that as a society.

  25. John Wood says:

    Looking back at the comments it seems to me that it comes down to a basic difference of understanding about life in general. Either we are all individuals struggling against each other for power or survival (neo-Darwinism; Freud) or we are part of a planetary ecosystem that works to increase biodiversity and so make itself more sustainable ( my view).

    I have no problem at all in recognising that people are different and that some may have issues with their biological sex. To me such people are victims of the ideology and deserve understanding and empathy. I do not think that medical interventions are usually in their interest and when it comes to children I consider it abusive.

    I don’t support medical ‘treatment’ for homosexuality and I don’t support ‘gender reassignment’ treatment either. Children and vulnerable people are targetted for political or commercial ends. I have one friend who was persuaded to start to ‘transition’ and then thought better of it.

    Undermining people’s self confidence and self-image is an old trick of the advertising industry. It sells cosmetics and cosmetic surgery. And I believe it abuses people. I do not believe it really makes them happier.

    But it is not ‘abusive’ or hateful to say that I do not accept that people can change their biological sex or that those in authority can ‘assign’ this at their discretion. In fact to make such an assertion denies the very existence of biological sex, which is absurd.

    Different social expressions of ‘gender’ have always existed. And by and large, they have been accepted or at least tolerated -until now. What I and others object to is the redefining of words to claim effectively that neither sex or gender exist. It is the Orwellian product of a nihilistic, divisive philosophy apparently designed to destroy society and turn us all into mere ‘human resources, who exist only to provide services to the self-proclaimed masters of the universe.

    I do not believe in the ‘4th Industrial Revolution’, where biology is made supposedly subject to technology. If someone is genuinely neither xx nor xy, let that be accepted as such. What it means in practice will probably depend on the individual concerned. But to claim that men can declare themselves to be biological women or vice versa – or to have no gender at all – and demand that society must agree; that doesn’t genuinely help them, or anyone else. In fact it destroys the whole feminist movement. It also seems to assert certain culturally determined ‘gender characteristics’ such as ‘toxic masculinity’. No wonder so many young men commit suicide.

    I suppose you might identify me as male, pale and stale. But to me that is real bigotry. I identify as planet Earth. As a living being, part of an ecosystem.

    To me the transgender activism emperor has no clothes. But I’ll defend the right of everyone to be safe and accepted – however they identify themselves – do long as they don’t force their views on others. Or deliberately invade others’ safety to assert some sort of ‘right’ at their expense. Live and let live has to work both ways : it cannot be live and let die.

    Cancelling , abusing, hating people who do not share your view is a kind of fascism. It’s just my point of view.

    Well I have had enough of all this hostility. I’m out.

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