Monday, 22 April 2013


    My employer's parent organisation has a loosely organised LGBT employees group. We have periodic social meetups, drink coffee and try to discover new restaurants.
    I should really say it's an LG group by default. More lesbians than gay people at most get-togethers, I've not encountered any other trans people or indeed bi people.
    So it's rather interesting from the perspective of someone who can still sit in the scruffy heterosexual bloke camp, to encounter L&G culture on a personal level for the first time since my student days.
    My lesbian colleagues seem to tend towards the slightly more activist end of the spectrum. They would probably define their feminism with a capital F, and I was surprised to find them proudly describing themselves as radical feminists. But not transphobic radical feminists, they assured me.
    I suggested that to many trans people that has a similar ring to Paolo Di Canio claiming to be a fascist but not a racist. And there started an interesting conversation about identity, transphobia and the delicate balance of definition between victim and perpetrator. I think it was a profitable exercise for both sides.
    This last week has seen a further explosion in the nutty end of  radical feminism. Their RadFem2013 conference has lost its venue, just as the one last year did. In addition we have watched them split into factions and savagely turn on each other. If I was a partner in an American banking law firm and posting under my own name, I'd be a bit more careful about my output than one of them seems to be, I can't imagine that customers of expensive lawyers don't know how to use Google.
    Last year I was very pleased when Conway Hall cancelled the RadFem2012 booking. They did so for the best of reasons, because the trans-exclusive nature of the event was not in keeping with their ethos.
    This year however, though I have little sympathy for the radfems I can't say I am comfortable with the way I am told the result was achieved. I can see no profit in enlisting the aid of the male equivalent of the radfems. Your enemy's enemy is not necessarily your friend.
    A friend of mine caught some flak recently for a truly radical suggestion: engagement. Some people on the radfem spectrum are beyond help, so consumed by their hatred that they can never be reached. We gain nothing by reacting on their terms, or simply poking them with sticks for the fun of it. Others I agree with my friend though are misguided; they simply hate the unknown based on their assumptions and can be reached. Like my colleagues their assumptions can be changed through polite engagement, and if they can't, well that's their loss not ours.
    The alternative seems to be to seeing our community embark on a course every bit as damaging to us as the radfem hate is to their community. I for one don't think that would be profitable.


  1. Agree that MRA action leaves one very uncomfortable.
    Personally, though, feel that the trans community should have done something. Take the point that this is a small number of problematic individuals and why stir them up etc. But on the other hand the proposed conference would undoubtedly be a forum for illegal hate speech. Given that the law is actually on our side on this one, believe it should be used. Same as if a KKK speaker came to the UK to talk about race. It's not the target speakers/group that are important but to consistently put out that the law makes the normal statements these people make an offence and that this should not be tolerated.
    Engagement with the rad fem community is a very different issue. Perhaps, as evidenced in the changes in the London reclaim the night,a space for that does exist. It should be made clear that an attempt to stop radfem 2013 isn't to do with rad fems but is to do with terf hate speech.

  2. Stavvers has the full story on how RadFem 2013 was shut down. The reality is the London Irish Centre cancelled their booking because of their transphobic history. The MRA appropriated this and claimed a success they had nothing to do with. Don't let the lie stand because they will only keep bringing it up to use as a hammer to beat you again and again.

    I had some success on Twitter comparing MRA with TERFs and suggesting people don't become too sucked in by them. Since then TERFs have obviously tried to conflate trans with MRA and there's been the rise of trans scepticism (which I view as an attempt to muddy the waters and expand their circle of influence to don't knows) and then there's this latest attempt to paint us into a corner.

    This is dirty politics. People lie, twist, and cheat to get what they want as bad as any right wing religious extremist. You will never reach this infintisimally small hardcore. Never. You will also never win because you're handing control of the message and territory to them. What we can do and should be exploring taking a step back and shaping a general message, putting our energy into writing trans positive media for available outlets, and reaching out to the majority of decent people. It's positive and winds friends and last but not least a lot more fun!

  3. I'm glad to hear the MRAs weren't at the heart of this then. That was the word on the street, so to speak, when I wrote the piece.