‘Woman/ ˈwʊmən noun an adult human female’- a statement so obvious the point seems oblique. Who could object to such a simple statement of fact? These words are printed across a billboard in central Liverpool, put up last week as part of a campaign by the group Standing for Women. This definition has been derided as exclusionary and transphobic, and reported to the Advertising Standards Authority.
This is the latest shot in a bitter cultural war. The two sides are those who consider that biology determines whether one is male or female, and those who believe that these are gender identities which exist irrespective of sexed bodies and lived experiences.
Liverpool has a fair share of activists concerned about transgender ideology, in the weeks preceding the billboard stickers bearing the words ‘women don’t have penises’ were placed across the city. It is as likely there were far more people bemused as to why this needs to be stated than there were those who were offended.
The response from the good burghers of Liverpool has been a self-righteous show of what might be termed ‘testeria.’ Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson responded by stating on Twitter “we will remove stickers and work with the Police to identify those responsible.” Apparently stating a biological fact warrants a police investigation. On Wednesday Liverpool Council are due to vote on the motion ‘Standing with our Trans Community’, the final point of the motion is ‘TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN.’ One can almost hear the self-righteous back-patting.
The tactics may differ, but from city councils to the anarchist fringe, the language used by supporters of transgender ideology is strikingly similar. In July activist groups shone the words “REPEAT AFTER US: TRANS WOMEN ARE WOMEN” onto the side of the Ministry of Justice. The capital letters projected across the Thames invited people to repeat and be part of the group of ‘righteous believers.’ It is hard not to read this and hear the sheep of Orwell’s Animal Farm bleating ‘FOUR LEGS GOOD; TWO LEGS BAD.’ The need to belong and to be liked is powerful.
The difference in approach of those who believe ‘transwomen are women’ and their would-be interlocutors reveals something fundamental about these opposing factions. In addition to the dictionary definition billboard and stickers, meetings have been arranged by groups across the country. The purpose is to debate how making the process of changing legal gender easier might impact on women. These meetings have sparked ‘#nodebate’ protests on and offline by those who hold that questioning the doctrine of transgender ideology constitutes an attack on the very existence of transgender individuals. Calls for discussion and factual definitions are dismissed as hateful and drowned out by the cries of ‘TRANSWOMEN ARE WOMEN’ from the true-believers. This would be laughable if it were just a fringe of shouty students, but when this is the official line of elected representatives it is a chilling affront to freedom of speech.
A year on from the attack on Maria Maclachlan by a transgender activist and more people are speaking out against this illiberal liberal consensus. Stories about the placement of male-bodied rapists in women’s prisons have hit the headlines of the right-leaning press and the public are starting to question the logic of only listening to one group. Despite this dawning realisation, in increasing numbers councils and schools across the country are progressing with ‘trans inclusive’ and ‘gender neutral’ policies that put women and girls at risk.
It is shameful that not one mainstream public organisation is prepared to acknowledge that there is a conflict between the right to self-identify one’s gender and the rights of women. From police forces to local councils those who do not accept that ‘transwomen are women’ are bullied, ridiculed and even threatened with legal action. The propaganda techniques of the ‘transwomen are women’ believers have been successful; from students’ unions to politicians, few are prepared to risk public disgrace and say ‘only men can be trans women.’ This is exactly how fascism works.