The way forward
I’m proud that Britain is known as “TERF Island”
Below is an extract from Jo Bartosch’s speech at the LGB Alliance Conference, 21 October 2021
I want to talk about pride and about shame. I have never been what is crudely referred to as a “flag shagger”. I have never sat through the Queen’s Speech at Christmas, and I can’t name a single English football player.
But one thing that does make me genuinely proud to be British is that we are now known to trans activists across the world as “TERF Island”. And that’s important because the UK punches above its weight in terms of cultural exports.
What we are doing here is watched by the rest of the world. And what we are doing is standing firm against an ideology imported wholesale from the US; an ideology that has the backing of some of the world’s most powerful people.
And I’m not talking about elected politicians and peers who make the law in that building over there. I’m talking about the technocrats, those in Silicon Valley, with the power to shape minds. Social media has become a vector for body dysmorphia, and pornography has made the prospect of growing up female a sentence to sexual subservience.
Many young people now believe that their bodies can be changed like a gaming avatar. Today, lesbians only exist online as fodder for male fantasies. It’s no wonder so many girls want to opt out of womanhood. Men who use porn are increasingly becoming dead to the touch of another human, preferring to consume fantasies through a screen. For a significant minority of men, there are entire genres of “Sissy porn” and forced feminisation that are feeding their fetishistic delusion that they can change sex. For these men — typically middle-aged white men who call themselves transgender — “woman” never involves scrubbing the skidmarks out of the loo; it means being a sex object.
The technological revolution has not just changed how we think; it has moved the locus of power. A quarter of a century ago, John Perry Barlow argued, “Weary governments of flesh and steel” had no place in what he described as “the new home of the mind”.
In the years since, profit-driven social media companies have colonised space online. Unelected beardy players have programmed the parameters of what is deemed acceptable speech according to their own agenda. The rise of transgenderism, both as it manifests in confused young people and in the midlife crises of men, is just one facet of the shift towards online living.
This new form of power demands a new form of resistance. We need to think differently. Not that many years ago, I would never have imagined that I would be the one walking past protesters to speak — I would have been one of those holding a placard. And that’s been a shock, because being a progressive left winger was part of my identity.
The mob protesting here today — those attempting to intimidate and silence people whose views they fundamentally misunderstand — have the support of everyone from President Biden and Mark Zuckerberg to Russell T. Davies.
And until the most powerful political figures in the land can say only women have a cervix without fear of reprisals, the time for political purity is past. The threat to our humanity from transgenderism transcends the divisions of left and right. The divide is between those who acknowledge reality and those who commit dangerous lie. So wherever we stand, politically or socially, it must be side by side. This should not be a difficult fight — not least because sustaining a lie takes more effort than upholding the truth.
And the anger we face is because our detractors know that their position is indefensible. We should take heart from the fact that the vast majority of those as yet unaffected by this social media-borne virus instinctively know that sex matters because, like it or lump it, everyone’s mum knows where babies come from. Mother Nature is a TERF.
Lesbian feminist philosopher Mary Daly came up with the idea of patriarchal reversals. She saw them everywhere. But the obvious example is the idea that Eve — a woman — came from Adam — a man. The shift in shame is a perfect example of a patriarchal reversal, we’d need not be ashamed of knowing that sex is real any more than we are of being lesbian, gay or bisexual. We don’t need so-called trans women to voice our entirely legitimate opinions for us in case we are thought unkind. We don’t need to demonstrate that we are good people before expressing our views to appease some moron who thinks that biology is a colonial concept.
It is baffling to me that we are so defensive. We have allowed ourselves to be forced back into a shame-filled closet by the ignorance and insouciance of the wider world. Where was once there was a subtle way of sussing out if someone was same-sex attracted — a hyperawareness of whole gestures and giveaways — today, a similar system has developed for those who know that sex is real and that it can’t be changed. Some have the colours of the suffragettes or dinosaurs in their social media profiles, whereas others refuse to play the pronoun game.
And, just as in years gone by, the courtesy dance around each other before we come out was a dangerous, heretical belief that sex matters. We need to stop hiding, to stop deflecting and to boldly tell the unvarnished truth that it is impossible to change sex.
Those who should be ashamed are the perverts and straight men who call themselves lesbian, that the surgeons who right now are removing the healthy breasts of teenage girls, that the likes of Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelly, who is currently whining that the multi-million pound protection racket she runs is being unfairly targeted because journalists at the BBC are finally doing their job. They’re the public figures like LGBT envoy Lord Herbert. It’s his job to engage with this debate, to listen, to show some leadership. And yet, I can’t see him in this room. Lord Herbert, if you see this, if you ever watch this, I would like to tell you that through your silence, you have allowed yourself to become complicit. And what will go down in history as the biggest medical scandal of a generation.
We need to remember that the shame is not ours. We do not need to apologise for being lesbian, gay or bisexual — or for knowing what that means. In a way, we’ve been here before. Just as in the past, we have to lose our shame. The way forward is to come out and to stand together with pride.
Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print
Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10Subscribe