Katie speaks out on anti-Trans group's visit to Newport
5th October 2019
A group that claims it stands up for the rights of women and girls came to Newport on Friday 4th October. They described the charity, Mermaids, that supports Trans kids and their parents, as a "child abuse cult". Members of the event's panel and their associates bullied and harassed Katie online just because she is Trans. Here's what Katie has to say about those who promote hatred of Trans people.
An anti Trans event hosted by a fringe element of the Green Party calling itself the ‘Women Together Fringe’, took place yesterday evening on Friday, October 4th in my own home town of Newport, South Wales; the place where I was born, raised and have lived all my life.
For me, this was a sad day for Newport. As a Newport trans woman, to think that a transphobic hate rally took place here makes me feel profoundly depressed and essentially ‘othered’; spotlighted as a potential target for complete strangers to scapegoat and to take out all their frustrations and insecurities upon. That a group of people from outside took it upon themselves to travel here and meet in my home town with the sole intention of discussing a ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’ that they are convinced I am, makes me feel even less safe than I already do usually. And, I’m sure many of my trans friends in Newport also feel the same way.
The attitude of the people who descended on Newport on yesterday evening reeks of entitlement. We, in the trans community, do not exist purely to provide a ‘useful’ tool to be exploited in some abstract political ‘cultural war’ – although if one were to accrue all their knowledge of the world from social media forums such as the seemingly unfettered transphobic playground that is Twitter or the shamefully historically and institutionally transphobic British press they might be forgiven for assuming we do!
Moreover, contrary to much anti-trans activist propaganda, the trans community is not trying to collectively silence anybody - however irrational, downright absurd and offensive the ideas may be that they so foolishly wish to squander earlier hard won rights to freedom of speech upon. What such people fail to realise, however, is that with any freedom comes responsibility.
If you start an unfounded rumour that your neighbour - the innocent, hard-working, honest, harmless trans woman who lives down the street and who is just trying to get on with her life – is a dangerous sexual predator then it is YOU who will share a large part of the responsibility for any subsequent injustice or ill that befalls her. If you tell the distraught parents of a desperately unhappy transgender child suffering from gender dypshoria to dismiss their child’s pain and ignore their child’s pleas to live in the role of the gender they identify as then it will be YOU who bears the guilt for setting that child back years, if not decades – or, indeed, for the rest of their life. This will be all because you instigated an environment in which not one adult believed them at the time when they needed the support of those with the power to shape their future the most. Unbelievably, many of the people who came to Newport on October 4th to espouse transphobic hate under the hopelessly high falutin’ guise of ‘gender critical feminism’ are continually engaged in exactly those harmful pursuits.
It’s undeniable that exposure to transphobic hate speech and malicious lies can have a knock-on effect and harm REAL trans people in the REAL world in very REAL life damaging, often tragically life-ending ways. In litte under two months’ time, at this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20th, we will once again be holding vigils and lighting candles to remember the latest several hundred people across the globe whose right to life, since the twelve months from the last TDOR, has been cruelly stolen from them simply because they are transgender.
Most – if not all - of the perpetrators of these transphobic murders are cisgender males. This makes it even more bitterly ironic when transphobic, self-proclaimed ‘gender critical feminist’ groups and individuals like those who visited Newport yesterday seek to derail feminism by attempting to shift the blame for cis het male violence onto a minority group of women just because we happen to be trans. If one of the central tenets of feminism – if not the central tenet - is for ALL women to put aside their differences to unite against gender oppression then surely doing this, along with enlisting the help and patronage of some of the most notoriously anti-feminist, misogynistic ideologues out there, not merely runs contrary to feminism but is its very antithesis! Moreover, transgender women and girls do not exist in a vacuum where we are magically immune from the misogynistic discrimination, harassment and violence that other females face. It’s just that we’re subject to the same disadvantages of other women, but with transphobia on top of it. Maybe some of the speakers and attendees at yesterday evening’s ‘conference’ might care to consider this when they so confidently, actually cavalierly, advocate that it is safe for trans women and girls to share bathroom and shower facilities with cisgender males?
For me, this sudden transphobic invasion of my birthplace and home also takes on a personal dimension. Some of the people who used to cyber bully me on Twitter with body-shaming, unsolicited sexual remarks and transphobic slurs, culminating in circulating my picture online to falsely accuse me underneath of the most hideous crimes imaginable are amongst those cheering on yesterday’s supposed ‘green party fringe feminist’ event. These are the trolls whom I ended up reporting to the police but who nevertheless eventually won and got their own way by successfully driving me off Twitter. So much for silencing freedom of speech through intimidation! The victimisation and harassment I received is nothing unusual, however. It’s actually the norm for most trans people and those cis people brave enough to come out as our allies, both online and frequently offline in their day-to-day lives too.
Despite so many of those who describe themselves as ‘gender critical feminists’ identifying as being vaguely ‘on the left’, even the most cursory perusal of their online threads will reveal that the groundswell of their support comes from the alt-right and beyond. For example, it is common knowledge that one of the transphobic Internet trolls who expressed an interest in trying to attend yesterday’s Newport meeting was actually a former member of the National Front – and there is a photo circulating of him from that time giving a Nazi salute. Whether self-identified life-long socialists and liberals within the ‘gender critical’ movement like it or not, their anti-trans rights activism has become part of the general resurgence and disturbing mainstreaming of the far-right that has been gathering pace over the last few years. Spurred on by Brexit and the election of several right-wing populist leaders across the globe such as Donald Trump, the ‘excuse’ that you don’t agree with the far-right and are only collaborating with them as a means to an end does morally not stand. We’ve heard this before.
The other week we had both the Brexit Party and UKIP delivering conferences right up the road from where I live in Newport. As a sign of the times at how disturbing and violent the language surrounding UK politics since the rapid resurgence of the radical right has become, our local newspaper, The South Wales Argus, reports that at last Saturday’s event held at the Neon, Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage concluded his speech with the chilling promise: “Once Brexit is done, we will take the knife to the pen pushers in Whitehall.” https://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/17918581.nigel-farage-whips-brexit-party-crowd-newport-rally/
Meantime, at the UKIP conference held at Newport’s ICC, Katie Hopkins was ‘guest of honour’ while UKIP education spokesperson, David Kurten, railed against teaching LGBT awareness in schools, alongside bemoaning the opportunity that many children are now being given to freely and openly identify as the gender that they realise themselves to be. At the same conference, there is also disturbing YouTube footage of another UKIP candidate suddenly receiving rapturous applause when she mentions both the Muslim and Jewish communities in a negative light.
A few months’ before, UKIP canvassed in the streets of Newport, filming videos to promote themselves, which they subsequently uploaded on YouTube. Some of these featured the now notoriously far-right misogynistic YouTuber, Paul Benjamin, a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad. Earlier on in the year, we even had angry shouty-mouthed, pathetic little Tommy Robinson wannabe James Goddard together with his self-styled, Neanderthal army of knuckle-dragging ‘yellow jackets’ show up here – primarily as an attempt to stir up hatred against Newport’s long-established Muslim community. Amongst Goddard’s other beliefs are that transgender people should not be allowed to adopt children.
Hands up who else is fed up with Newport becoming a magnet for a motley array of increasingly bizarre far-right, tin-foil hat clad losers who assume The Port will be fertile ground to sow their seeds of hate and to market their absurd conspiracy theories? Surely I can’t be the only Newportonian who feels this way? Our city may need a lot of things but one thing it can definitely do without is the introduction from outside of divisive, hateful politics – be they racist, homophobic, misogynistic, transphobic or otherwise. If people believe and assert as their right to get together to preach views that the majority of reasonable people find hateful, offensive and quite frankly absurd then they should also accept – let alone not be surprised - when the rest of us unite to openly voice our disagreement with them, publicly protest against them and make our own voices heard! In that spirit, I hope that all followers of the Wales Equality Alliance, members of the trans community and our friends and allies will join with me in condemning the blatantly transphobic event that took place in Newport on Friday, October 4th. Many thanks for considering my thoughts. There will NEVER be a welcome in the hillsides of Wales for hate.
Background information: The Wales Equality Alliance was established by activists and concerned transgender patients in Wales in 2018. Its aims are to advance transgender equality in all areas including ensuring equality of health care provision for transgender patients. It has both a watching and campaigning brief. On health issues, the Alliance has met with Vaughan Gething, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, and with the Cardiff and Vale UHB. The Alliance is partnered with Pride Cymru and is supported by academics, key figures Welsh politics as well as concerned members of the public.