Stonewalling

An open letter and petition, of which I am an author and signatory, to the so-called gay rights organisation Stonewall, was instigated by a group of lesbians and gay men who are increasingly worried about the failure of the organisation to listen to a range of voices in the bitter debate over transgender ideology. 

On the 19thOctober, the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act closes. Stonewall is lobbying hard for all medical and psychological intervention to be removed from the process of changing sex, which would allow men to self-identify as women, and vice versa. 

Lesbians have been the most vocal in the debate against current Orwellian transgender ideology, because we have the most to lose by conceding our sex-based rights. But Stonewall is leaving many of us behind.  

Our single request to Stonewall is that they “commit to fostering an atmosphere of respectful debate”. But Stonewall prohibits any discussion at all on vital differences of opinion on sex, gender and women’s rights. Discussions on a matter of public policy are routinely banned by an organisation in receipt of public funds.

In a statement released today, Stonewall says: “The petition … asks us to acknowledge that there is a conflict between trans rights and ‘sex-based women’s rights’. We do not and will not acknowledge this.” This says it all. 

Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is about sexual identity, whereas being transgender is not. Increasingly, LGB is incompatible with T, and the liberation and rights of gay people is being held back by the likes of Stonewall prioritising and promoting extreme transgender ideology. 

The capitulation to the misogynistic wing of the trans-activists is based on cowardice and hypocrisy. Terrified of the vitriol and threats that inevitably face those of us who speak out against self-identification, many organisations have decided to merely toe the line. This leaves lesbians out in the cold. 

The accepted definition of 'lesbian' is a biological woman who is sexually attracted to other biological women, and yet Stonewall's definition defines homosexuality as ‘attraction to the same gender'. What this means is those of us that refuse to accept a male-bodied transsexual as a woman are labelled a TERF and hounded on social media and beyond. 

I am certain that Stonewall, whose income last year amounted to £7 million, wishes to avoid the bullying and vitriol from trans activists, and therefore play safe. After all, it is easier to deprioritise lesbians – already the weakest link in the chain - than face the wrath of the new kids on the block.

Stonewall have appointed some trans folk as advisors that have clearly misogynistic views. Sarah Brown, a former Lib Dem councillor, is deputy chair of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group (TAG). In 2014, when Brown lost her seat, she sent a message to the newly elected councillor telling him to, “Suck my formaldehyde pickled balls.” Brown has written things about me too gross and upsetting to publish here, but this vile, sexist bullying has clearly gone unnoticed by Stonewall chief executive, Ruth Hunt, despite being repeatedly alerted to it. 

Aimee Challenor, who, until recently was the Greens’ equalities spokeswoman, is also a key member of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group (TAG). Challenor stood down from the race to become the party’s deputy leader following the revelation that his father, David Challenor jailed for 22 years after being convicted of torturing and raping a 10-year-old girl, had served as Aimee’s election agent when he stood in the 2017 general election and in the local elections in May this year – after Challenor’s arrest. Challenor is the creator of a blocklist on Twitter, created to silence those (mainly women) deemed to be transphobic. One of the signatories of the letter to Stonewall is the singer Alison Moyet, who has given immense support to Stonewall over the years. Moyet’s concern about Stonewall’s direction was when she experienced a vicious ‘pile-on’ on Twitter for refusing to use the term ‘cis’ (meaning not trans) to describe her female status. 

Hear this Stonewall, increasing numbers of lesbians and gay men have had enough of your dictatorial tactics. The more you try to shut down the voices of those you are supposed to represent, the louder we will shout. 

 

 

 

Our friend Tom Johnsen

We’ve just lost our friend Tom, and when you lose a friend you’re forced to think about what loss means, about what friendship means, and the nature of what and who you’ve lost. Tom was not only a personal friend to both of us; he was also a friend to the women's liberation movement, and in particular to the movement to abolish sexualised violence against women and girls. Tom was a proud abolitionist and he supported his wife Agnete and all of us in our quest to end the global sex trade. Tom’s view of the matter was simple: that no man had a right to put a hand on any woman for any reason other than she wanted it there.

So often when Agnete travelled to attend feminist meetings and events, Tom was by her side. The fact that this woman - so respected for her activism - dared to introduce Tom to so many high profile, hard-working feminists spoke volumes. Not all women dare impose their male partner on such women, lest they somehow say or do the wrong thing. There was no chance of this happening with Tom.

Tom could not and never did deny the privilege he was afforded merely for being born male. But he was not allied to the sex class of men that oppress women. They were not his family, women were. Tom passionately and genuinely believed that patriarchy could be overthrown, and that women could be and should be liberated from our oppression.

Just in case you are imagining Tom as a humanist, sandal-wearing hippie type who trotted out mantras against other men, he was nothing of the sort; he was simply a living breathing human being with his own faults and failings, like us all. Agnete will no doubt tell us in which ways Tom was not perfect; but he was the perfect friend, a warm and generous host, great fun at the dinner table with a glass of red wine or a large whiskey. Fascinating to hold a conversation with, about all manner of topics, including feminism. Tom laughed a lot. He made others laugh. He made us laugh, and now he’s made us cry for the first time and in the only way he ever could have done.

Tom was as far from a stereotype of a pro-feminist man that you could imagine. There was no effort involved for Tom to be the right kind of man, and to support women's liberation. You didn't see him hesitating, scrunching the words up in his head until he trotted out something palatable. It was all genuine with Tom, he said what he believed, and what he believed was usually right. He wasn’t afraid to have a row either to stand over what he believed to be an important point. If he thought you were talking crap, you’d be the first to hear about it. 

Who knows how much of his moral fibre was always instinctive with Tom, and how much the women in his life educated him about what really matters; he had spent five decades, after all, with the finest feminist Norway has ever produced - but what is certain is that the women's liberation movement has lost one of its best and favourite allies. Other men could learn a lot from our friend Tom. They could learn how to respect, love, and care for women. They could learn how to raise generations of boys to reject the privilege afforded them at birth, and to care more about ending the tyranny of misogyny that blights the lives of women and girls.

Selfishly, we will miss Tom for who he was, as well as what he did. He was the loveliest of men, full of love, hugs, cuddles and kindness. His legacy will be an example to other men to be the best they can be, and to give the best of themselves to the world and the women in it. The simple truth is that if every man on earth was like him there’d be no need for our movement.

We cried together last night on the phone, for the loss of our friend Tom, and for the grief our dear friend Agnete must now go through, but it strikes us too that when you’ve got two hard-arsed working class feminists bawling down a phone line over the loss of a man, that’s as good a eulogy as any man is going to get.

We loved Tom, we still love him, and it says a lot, too, given the atrocities we’re immersed in all the time, that this piece has been so difficult to write.

So goodbye Tom. We promise to raise a glass to you every March in New York. We’ll buy a whiskey and drink it for you. 

We’ll have to pretend you’re there. It wouldn’t be the same without you.

 

Julie Bindel and Rachel Moran