Julian Vigo
Nov 20, 2017 · 6 min read

Violence Against Gender Critical Women:
From Speakers Corner to the Anarchist Bookfair

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Tree in Hyde Park. (2011)

In A Quarterly Journal of Jungian Thought, Lisa Marchiano examines the polemic of gender identity today, confirming, “[W]e still have no meaningful definition of ‘gender identity’.” Her article,“Outbreak: On Transgender Teens and Psychic Epidemics,” examines the problematic terrain of current therapeutic trends in treating transgender teens, which is more about affirming the young individual’s self-diagnosis. The skepticism surrounding gender identity is mounting as people — male and female alike — realise that discourse of transgender assumes that everyone has a gender identity.

When the British government announced this summer that it would review the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 (GRA), many women grew concerned. If successful in de-medicalising gender transition, the GRA would mean that males would be able to have access to women’s changing rooms, gym showers, prison cells, hospital rooms, and other private areas. To further illustrate, this would mean that male transgender criminals like Tiffany Scott, Jessica Winfield, Marcia Walker, Aaron Herschell, and Ian Huntley would legally be eligible to be housed with female prisoners. And If you have a problem with this, then you are a TERF, deserve to be beaten up, and/or directly put into danger trans people’s live. That is if you believe the Pink News.

Josh Jackman’s article, “Transgender people ‘aren’t safe in Britain” feeds the hysteria that critiquing gender identity is tantamount to a “hate crime”. He writes: “The chief executive of Stonewall has said the UK is unsafe for transgender people.” And Jackman contends that “Britain is at an absolute crisis point in how it treats trans people” but such assertions fall flat when attacks against women by trans advocates fails to receive rebuke by Stonewall.

Then Jackman conjures the oft-repeated myth that “almost half of children” who identify as transgender have attempted suicide. It is worth reading Fourth Wave Now’s astute analysis of this irresponsibly concocted statistic which she chalks up to lazy readings of a scientific study conducted by the Williams Institute. Certainly, the suicide of any one group should be cause for concern, but what we are seeing in the UK today is that the rates of self-harm and suicide of adolescent girls which has risen 68% over the past ten year and that adolescence is simply hard for both males and females, a fact not garnering attention by the media. The rise in volence against women, similarly, is treated like a force of nature, when it is a force of male violence.

One must wonder why Pink News would publish an article which takes aim at the victims attacked by trans activists, instead of running a piece which critiques the acts of violence against women who were meeting in Speakers Corner. Jackman morphs what was an attack on a woman into a “street brawl”:

Last month, The Daily Mail and The Times wrongly accused Action for Trans Health (ATH) of condoning violence against anti-trans activists. The two outlets misreported that the trans group had called for violence in light of a fight between ATH activists and trans-exclusionary radical feminists in Speakers’ Corner last week.

And instead of coming out to condemn violence, Action for Trans Health not only condoned the violence against the women in Hyde Park, but it orchestrated the violence in large part by telling its followers on social media to stalk women in Hyde Park and to “be a nuisance” after liking a post advocating violence. Positing the attack on MacLachlan as a“fight between” two groups is not only grossly dishonest, it shows up the Pink News for misrepresenting the facts in this case.

Here is the back story.

When the government announced plans to reform the GRA, three women — Venice Allan, Ruby Radburn, and one other woman (who does not wish to be named) — organised a public talk in September, “What is Gender? The Gender Recognition Act and Beyond,” with Dr. Julia Long, feminist, and Miranda Yardley, self-described transexual and publisher of Terrorizer. Having struggled to find a venue, the organisers gained approval from New Cross Learning for 13 September. At the last minute, New Cross Learning announced that it could not host the event. “After completing a risk assessment the Management Committee believe the potential risks to the library, volunteers, public and building are beyond our risk appetite,” citing “health & safety reasons.”

The organisers of the talk confirmed that there had been no health and safety concerns before the centre was barraged with emails, phone calls, and in-person visits from various people. LGBT Lewisham and Goldsmiths LGBTQ+ were the bulk of those who contacted New Cross Learning as they likened the librarians working there to the KKK and accusing them of holding a “hate rally”.

Goldsmiths’ LGBTQ+ Society claimed credit for this no-platforming, but Action for Trans Health London was heavily involved. The link between the potential violence and these individuals was couched as “health and safety” because what the librarians feared were not the exploding vaginas of the women due to attend the talk, but rather the violence suggested by displeased trans activists.

The organisers eventually found another venue. Fearful of the threats, the organisers had the attendees meet at the Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park where people were given slips of paper with directions to the venue. The surveillance of these women by transgender activists was highly coordinated and reveals a concerted effort to intimidate, bully, and threaten.

Maria MacLachlan, a humanist celebrant (similar to a minister), was attacked at Speakers Corner. As a result of the attack, MacLachlan’s camera was smashed, the memory card stolen, and she was left with bruise on her face, among other injuries. The police are still making enquiries into the attack. Unsurprisingly, none of these facts appeared in the Pink News.

From inside the building of the Women’s Club, Chairman Ann Hallam corroborated the events that others recounted to me:

I was alerted by shouting and found people trying to get in to the meeting, plus several people trying to force entry and filming and shouting through the door. When we refused to admit them, they proceeded to stand outside shouting and (according to a neighbour) swearing loudly… It was very difficult for the attendees to enter….At least one young woman attendee was so frightened that she had to be escorted as far as the tube station lest one of the protesters followed her.

Hallam told me that she had no choice but to bring the evening to an early conclusion in order to ensure that the attendees of the event would be safe.

Many trans advocates were supportive of the violence levelled against the women attending the talk. Action for Trans Health London “loved” the Facebook post by MacLachlan’s attacker, Tara Wolf, who wrote, “I wanna fuck up some TERFs.” There were also Facebook groups which laid out plans telling people to follow the women from Hyde Park to the venue: “No Terfs on Our Turf” (now removed, run by Goldsmiths LBGTQ+ Society) and “Urgent: TERFs Never Welcome Anywhere” (now taken down). Edinburgh Action For Trans Health also supported the violence writing on their Twitter feed, “[V]iolence against terfs is always self defense.” Stonewall has not condemned the attack and when I asked them for their statement on the attack, they sent me this link.

Action for Trans Health London not only condoned and encouraged the attack on MacLachlan, but in 2015 Jess Bradley, representing THL, gave oral evidence to Maria Miller’s Transgender Equality inquiry. This means that the basis for the review of the GRA rests upon the testimony, in part, of an organisation which has actively encouraged violence against women.

This begs the question as to why Pink News elides the details of this attack and derails the important discussion of violence against women. It is unacceptable that an attack on women and the more accurate media representations of what occurred in September is misrepresented as “vile transphobia…questioning the right of trans people to even exist.” This mirrors precisely the hyperbole used against Helen Steel at the Anarchist Bookfair in October who, along with two other women, was attacked and sent death threats. This is in addition to the ongoing bullying of Steel and people around her.

Unsurprisingly, Pink News has been active stifling the voices of those who critique gender. Yet, women’s voices are gaining media exposure as more and more people are thinking seriously about the ramifications of possibile changes to the GRA and the increasing numbers of children who are being identified as transgender. PinkNews even tried to control dissent on its own website deleting the very poll it held on Twitter in September which was overwhelmingly in favour of leaving up its comment section under trans-related articles. People clearly want to discuss gender politics because this subject affects everyone.

We need to encourage debate and discussion on gender. Anything less is illiberal.

Julian Vigo

Written by

Anthropologist, critical theorist, & contributor to The Ecologist, CounterPunch, Quillette, TruthDig, Dissident Voice, Black Agenda Report & the Morning Star.

Julian Vigo

Written by

Anthropologist, critical theorist, & contributor to The Ecologist, CounterPunch, Quillette, TruthDig, Dissident Voice, Black Agenda Report & the Morning Star.

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