Green Party leaders and candidates (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Nowt so queerphobic as folk

The Greens have gone gaga over gender and sexuality

Artillery Row

Last week I wrote an article about the nasty treatment people in the Green Party have faced when they have questioned the prevailing ideology on gender and sex. The exact figure depends on the question asked, but in general a majority of the public agree that biological sex is real and matters (these are known as “gender critical” or “GC” beliefs). The party appears to be calling most of the electorate “bigots”, which is not a great electoral strategy.

The Green Party has now issued a document that seeks to correct this, by branding almost the entire population as bigots. Their long awaited Queerphobia guidance is nine pages of near incomprehensible word salad. It must be impossible to follow for anyone not deeply embedded in contemporary gender discourse. (I should point out that this document had been in the pipeline for some time, so it probably wasn’t a response to my article — but a writer can dream).

The purpose of the guidance is to help us spot “Queerphobia” — an umbrella term that encompasses “Lesbophobia, Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia” and other related phobias. The simple principles of treating people with respect and decency aren’t apparently sufficient. Instead, an essay length document is required to lay out what is permissible speech according to the Green Party LGBTIQA+ group.

The guidance defines queerphobia as bigotry, prejudice or discrimination against someone for one of a number of traits including, most obviously, their sexuality. According to the guidance, it’s queerphobic to say that anyone’s “experience of attraction (e.g. sexual, romantic, etc.)” is “invalid, harmful or abnormal”.

I was told that even asking such questions could be queerphobic

This is given with no qualifications at all — leaving the reader to struggle to work out what is meant. We can take it as read that paedophilia is harmful, but what about extreme forms of sexual behaviour between consenting adults? One of the authors told me they obviously wouldn’t condone any harmful activity, but this makes the guidance circular and therefore useless. They say it’s queerphobic to say that any form of sexual attraction is harmful — but then admit that some forms are indeed harmful; they’re just not referring to those. It’s only queerphobic to say that the ones that aren’t harmful are harmful. Of course, which behaviours should be considered acceptable in a civilised society is precisely the point at issue. There are some forms of extreme sado-masochism that many would consider harmful even when performed by consenting adults in private. Is it queerphobic to say that it could be “harmful or abnormal” for men to perform “genital torture” on each other? Your guess is as good as mine — but when I tried to get clarification from LGBTIQA+ Greens, I was told that even asking such questions could be seen as queerphobic.

These are sensitive issues where different people will draw the dividing line in different places. It’s precisely the sort of subject where we need to feel free to speak honestly and respectfully — about, for instance, the potential harms of choking, or autoerotic asphyxiation. The guidance prohibits such a debate, however, by defining it as bigotry to question any form of sexual attraction, whilst also making it a further offence to point out the obvious dangers of having no boundary.

Next the guidance tackles the all important issue of self-identification — the key principle that people should be allowed to define themselves using whatever labels they want. Except that the guidance says there are some labels that are forbidden — in particular “Sapiosexual”, or being attracted only to clever people. (I should probably come clean and state that, although I’d not heard of this term until reading this document, I now realise I might have sapiosexual tendencies, since I’ve never dated anyone with fewer than three good A-level grades.)

If the guidance said you shouldn’t use “Sapiosexual” because it is a ridiculous made-up word that no one with any sense would spend any time thinking about, I would agree. That’s not the reason, though, because all the other ridiculous made-up sexualities are fine. If you want to call yourself “Fictosexual” (attracted to fictional characters), “Autosexual” (attracted only to yourself) or “Objectumsexual” (attracted to inanimate objects), well, that’s dandy. Being turned on by intelligence is not allowed because it’s “ableist, classist and in some situations racist or sexist”. Some might suggest it’s racist and sexist to imply that liking smart people has anything to do with race or sex — but that’s a debate for another day.

At least we’re on steadier ground with familiar terms like “lesbian”, right? If only. Unsurprisingly, the word “lesbian” is here assumed to refer to anyone who is attracted to women and identifies as a woman, so it includes trans women. But in a twist I wasn’t expecting, it can also include trans men if they wish to describe themselves as lesbian. The guidance is clear that trans men are real men and indeed are male (more on that later). So, the guidance is saying that it’s possible for someone to be male, and in every sense a man, but also a lesbian. Has your brain exploded yet? We’re only on page two out of nine.

Instead of producing a useful guide to positive behaviour that could increase understanding and empathy, the entire document is a form of scold’s bridle, telling you what you’re not allowed to say. Sometimes these prohibitions reach truly surreal levels, such as when we’re told that whilst discussing syndromes such as Klinefelter Syndrome or Turner Syndrome, it’s queerphobic to refer to them as syndromes. Surely the offensive notion is that there’s anything wrong with having a syndrome?

Finding ridiculous lines in the document is like exposing Boris Johnson lies — so easy that it soon becomes pointless. Where things get serious is in the section on transphobia, when the document strays into territory that could lead to the party breaking the law. As you might expect, the guidance takes the most extreme line on issues of sex and gender. Whilst the question of what the word “woman” means appears to have finally been settled in the rest of the country, the Greens have jumped the gender fluid shark to redefine “male” and “female” as well.

Nothing provided evidence that humans can spontaneously change their own sex

According to the guidance, all trans women are not only “real women” but are female. Remember that many trans women — likely the majority, though there’s a lack of good data — have undergone no medical transition. They are legally and physically no different from a typical male. According to the document, though, by uttering some magic words, they have transformed their sex such that they are now female — despite having the same gametes, chromosomes, hormones and physical characteristics that they did when they were male. Such a fantasy belief is so far beyond reality that it would be more reasonable for the party to declare that the Earth is flat or the moon is made of cheese. At least those bits of nonsense take some effort to disprove.

When I asked one of the authors how they could justify their claim that trans women are female, I was pointed towards a website. Nothing there provided any evidence that humans, uniquely amongst mammals, are able to spontaneously change their own sex. Apparently the key line is that “bio-essentialism plays into the hands of extreme right-wing ideologies”. Personally, I think basing your politics around an obvious untruth, so that it’s the Trumpian lunatics who end up looking like the sensible ones, is what plays into the hands of extreme right-wing ideologies — but perhaps that’s just me.

A party that aspires to power is not only promoting such a belief, but suggesting that it is an offence not to believe. This is not only mind-numbingly self-defeating but potentially illegal. As I wrote in my previous piece, the party has apparently received advice confirming that members cannot be discriminated against or censured for holding gender critical beliefs without a breach of the Equality Act (EqA). Now IANAL (not another sexual preference — short for “I Am Not A Lawyer”), but I find it hard to square the legal advice (which says the party “cannot apply a sanction to a member for any reason that relates to the fact that they … hold gender critical beliefs”) with queerphobia guidance that says it is forbidden to maintain that a person in possession of ovaries and a womb is in fact female if they identify as a man.

The legal advice confirms that members can not only have GC views but express them: for instance, saying “the majority of transwomen are intact males” is a lawful, protected statement of gender critical beliefs. The party seems to think its guidance can ignore the law — even if its own lawyers say otherwise. I should add that I’ve been told by one of the authors that the guidance has been checked by lawyers — however, they wouldn’t provide the legal advice or even say which lawyers they consulted (and anyway you wouldn’t know them; they go to a different law school).

It might seem bizarre that a political party would issue an anti-discrimination policy that breaks anti-discrimination law, but we’ve been here before. In 2020 the Liberal Democrats adopted a definition of transphobia every bit as draconian as the Green Party’s — including a prohibition on referring to a trans woman as a “biological man” or even saying “I’m too old to understand all this” (I suspect a widespread sentiment amongst senior members of both parties).

It is an outrage that a party, which is supposed to treasure liberty, freedom of speech and respect for a plurality of views, should attempt to outlaw statements of common sense or basic science. Nonetheless, the Liberal Democrat party only took notice of criticism when it was pointed out that the advice potentially breached the Equality Act. In response, the party sought advice from a senior barrister, kept the advice secret, was shown a second opinion from another senior barrister, and asked the first barrister to review the second barrister’s advice, before finally admitting that both sets of advice reached the same conclusion: the party is bound by the Equality Act — and its definition could result in unlawful discrimination of members with GC views. As a result the Lib Dems retracted their policy. The new version explicitly states that “Holding and expressing gender critical views, whether in internal debates or publicly, is protected by law”. Progress, indeed — though in policy more than in practice, as the harassment of GC women in the Liberal Democrats continues unabated.

It seems to be only a matter of time before the Greens also have to bow to the law and withdraw their bizarre guidance. The issue yet goes much deeper than one document — the real problem is the mindset that allowed this document to be released. The barrister to the Lib Dems, Guy Vassall-Adams, hit the nail on the head when he stated: “It is a feature of this debate that trans rights proponents will readily label as transphobic any speech which causes them offence.” He’s absolutely right. Of course, nothing is more offensive to trans rights activists than disagreeing with them about anything.

Much of the Queerphobia Guidance relates to policy in the areas of health care, sports, education or prisons. These are areas where open, democratic, evidence-based discussion is urgently needed. Yet, the guidance brands any dissent from the ideologue’s extremist policies as queerphobic. This document was never about preventing discrimination — it’s about enforcing conformity to a single point of view whilst silencing dissent. At a time when even Stonewall is ending its #NoDebate stance, the Green Party is in full mind-control mode. The authors and enablers of this contemptible document have put the final nail in the coffin of the Green Party’s credibility. To remain a member, you have to disregard biology, women’s rights, common sense and even the evidence of your own eyes. Count me out — I’m putting the guidance in the recycling bin, along with my Green Party membership card.

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