It’s not easy being Gender Critical Green
Gender critical Green Party members are being treated poorly
This weekend the Green Party is gathering for its Autumn conference in Brighton. Given the increasing urgency of the climate crisis and the appalling record of the current government you might think the Greens would be an energised and unified party — clearly focussed on the all important goal of protecting the environment. Sadly, you’d be wrong. The Green Party is split — riven with bitterness and in-fighting. Not over key green issues such as nuclear power or high speed rail (on both these issues, the genuine disagreements within the party are largely conducted in a democratic way that allows for discussion and differences of opinion). No, the issue tearing the party apart is sex and gender — specifically how women’s rights and trans people’s rights can be balanced.
For some in the party, this issue is more important than even fighting climate change. One prominent young member tweeted: “Getting rid of transphobes from the green party is my priority. More than literally anything else…”
Now to be fair, “transphobe” is one of those words with wildly different meanings. It can mean a person with a hatred or disgust of trans people — expressed through bullying or harassment — in which case I would agree that the Green Party is not the place for transphobes. However, the word can also mean anyone who disagrees with any policy demanded by the most extreme Trans Rights activists. Helpfully the party member quoted above clarified what they meant by “transphobe” having tweeted “all gender critical beliefs are transphobic” and “you cannot oppose self ID and not be transphobic”.
Self-ID is the idea that someone can make themselves legally male or female purely on the basis of self-declaration. It’s a wildly unpopular idea — with only 17 per cent of the population believing that you should be allowed to change legal gender without a doctor’s approval (according to YouGov).
The young Green tweeter wants to get rid of anyone opposing this extremist policy and indeed anyone with gender critical beliefs (summarised as the belief that gender identity is different from sex which is a matter of biological reality and that there are areas of life where your sex matters).
If this were merely the intolerance of a lone extremist in the party it would be of little consequence — but in fact this view is widely held. The Deputy Leader of the Green Party Zack Polanski also thinks people with gender critical views aren’t welcome in the party. He’s made it clear that “those members who claim that trans women are men and trans men are women – should not have a place in the Greens.”
Branding the majority of the electorate — including vast swathes of your own members and supporters — as bigoted and transphobic is not only poor politics, it’s potentially illegal. In 2021, in a true landmark judgement on the case of Maya Forstater, the court of appeal confirmed that Gender Critical (GC) beliefs are a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act. That means people who hold such beliefs deserve to be free of discrimination or harassment in the same way that people shouldn’t be bullied for their religious faith or their gender reassignment.
What’s more, the party seems to know this. I have obtained a document that appears to be legal advice obtained by the party on how to handle the sex and gender issue. The advice is unequivocal — the party is an “association” as defined by the Equality Act and therefore must abide by its anti-discrimination rules. Which means “the Green Party cannot discriminate against, harass, or victimise members with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment or members with gender critical beliefs.” (The party was emailed to confirm or deny the veracity of this document and have not responded as of the publication of this piece.)
Does the party discriminate against, harass, or victimise gender critical members? That was something that Green Party Women (GPW) set out to find out. In August, GPW held a special meeting inviting members to describe their experiences of holding gender critical views in the party. What followed was a harrowing litany of accounts from women (and a few men) who had faced waves of abuse and harassment for expressing their honestly held (and to most people uncontroversial) beliefs. These women have faced insults, threats, censorship, deselection, and expulsion. Equality and Diversity officers in the party were told they couldn’t set up groups to hear differing views because that would be “transphobic”. People with inside knowledge of party committees told of how the processes had been abused in order to target GC members. One member even described being physically assaulted at multiple conferences. Many struggled to hold back tears as they told of the abuse they had received from fellow Greens despite years of loyal membership.
That so many women have faced harassment should be a mark of shame on the party. Yet the response of Chesca Walton, one of the co-chairs of Green Party Women, was to tweet: “Expressing Gender Critical views is transphobia. Like any form of hatred, transphobia has no place in a modern political party“.
The legal advice seems to be clear that “An association is liable for direct discrimination if it treats a member less favourably than another member or other members (in similar circumstances) because they have a protected characteristic” which includes having Gender Critical views. Does Chesca believe that she treats GC members as favourably as other members? It’s hard to see how that’s possible given that she thinks they don’t belong in the party.
So what has the party done about the harassment faced by GC members?
Of course, any party will have members who treat each other disrespectfully —-it’s how the party deals with such behaviour that matters. So what has the party done about the harassment faced by GC members? Its response has been to institute widespread disciplinary proceedings … against the women on the receiving end of the abuse. Many members continue to face disciplinary investigations merely for stating their views. Some have faced immediate suspension under the Kafkaesque “No Fault Suspension” system — by which someone is punished even though they’ve not been found at fault, before any judgement is reached. This system, supposed to be used for the most egregious behaviour when there’s an immediate risk of harm, has instead been weaponised as a way to bully opponents of a particular ideology into silence.
The Green Party leadership appears to know from their advice that disciplining members for their GC views could be illegal. The document states “the Green Party cannot apply a sanction to a member for any reason that relates to the fact that they are trans or hold gender critical beliefs.” That advice seems to be routinely ignored.
A common line from those who justify harassment is that it’s acceptable to have GC views in the party as long as those opinions are never voiced — it’s the action of expressing those views that merits punishment. The legal advice seems to blow that out of the water — which is just as well since there’s little point in having an opinion you’re not allowed to reveal. The law says members can express their beliefs, even in ways others find offensive, and still be protected. “It is important to remember that members do not have a right not to be offended.”
The document even gives examples of statement that would be lawful manifestations of gender critical beliefs: eg “The majority of transwomen are intact males”, “Enforcing the dogma that transwomen are women is totalitarian.”
From private correspondence I’ve learned that some leading Greens are concerned with the intolerance in the party and know there’s a serious problem. But they dare not say anything in public for fear of themselves becoming victim to the zealots in the party. Which leaves the party floundering with no strategy for getting out of this mess.
If the party truly wanted to move on from this bitter civil war it could make a start by releasing the legal advice and making clear to its members that GC views are protected and that members holding those views should not be harassed. How else can the party expect to obey the law?
Others are in the pipeline and if the party continues to disregard its own advice this wave will turn into a flood. It’s hard to see how the party can survive in its present form. There are good, courageous people in the party trying to push for honesty, tolerance and open debate. As a member myself I face the difficult decision of whether to stay and fight or resign. I’m genuinely not sure whether it’s now possible to save the Green Party, and when that party places so little priority on defending the environment, science, or the law — I’m not sure whether it’s even worth saving.
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