It could have been me

In September 2017 I considered going down to London to attend a meeting. It was about the potential impact on Women and Girls if the definition of Woman were to be changed from “the adult human female of our dimorphic species” to “anyone who feels like a woman”. This would include men – adult human males.

I had concerns about the safeguarding issues this would present, and concerns for survivors of male violence who needed Women-only spaces in which to heal and be safe. I also had personal experience of being part of a regular Women-only event. It had become unviable to keep it Women-only when existing single-sex exemptions provided in the 2010 Equality Act proved to be unworkable. I had a diary clash I was unable to change, so in the end I didn’t go to the London meeting.

Hounded out of the venue
The talk – ‘What is Gender? The Gender Recognition Act and Beyond‘ – was the first of a series being held across the UK. Like others I knew of, it turned out that this one was left without a venue. Those opposed to these meetings had put pressure on the venue – which, concerned for the safety of its staff, had cancelled the event. The attendees were instructed to gather at Speaker’s Corner – that symbol of Free Speech – and await information about an alternative venue.

We are all Maria
Maria, a woman my age, was taking photos and video clips of the gathering when she was suddenly physically assaulted by someone who believed the meeting should not take place. That could have been me. A 61-year-old Woman, waiting to attend a meeting. That made it personal. That made it my fight. A real “We are all Maria” moment.

The new discourse
I pledged then to do all I could to make it possible for people to get information about this subject. Such a profound rewriting of fundamental concepts of human biology was going to need gradual re-education and years of discussion and awareness-raising if it were to be accepted as the new discourse – the new way of understanding sexual differences.

An impact assessment needed to be done on how everyone would be affected. In particular those with the protected characteristics outlined in the 2010 Equality Act. Women’s rights and Lesbian rights have long been focuses of my activism – so this was familiar territory and directly relevant. One year on, I look back at what I have witnessed, and the way my world, and the world around me, has changed in that time.

“Ahead of the law”
To begin with I wrote to my political party, listing my causes for concern. The Labour party has a massive membership. It’s committed to Women’s rights. JC is at the helm. Dawn Butler is Shadow Minister for Women. I was hopeful. A year later I am still waiting. No-one answered my questions. I am extremely tenacious. This has never happened in all my years of activism. It seemed that this subject was taboo.

The author in conversation with Dawn Butler, shadow minister for women

I have watched with sinking heart as the uninformed – or misinformed – Labour party, and now the TUC (with the exception of the FBU, NUJ and AEP), in a rush to be seen as inclusive, have accepted Self-ID before it is law. Meanwhile they ignore Women’s concerns, refusing to listen and going against our own manifesto commitment to do a full impact assessment before changing any policy. On May 1st, over 300 committed, strong Labour Women activists left in protest. I considered being one of them, but I decided to stay and fight as a member for Women’s right to safe space and equal representation. The NEC’s response to this mass exodus was denial, instead of taking the opportunity to listen to Women’s concerns. Jeremy Corbyn announced on the Andrew Marr show that he would meet and discuss with Women. He hasn’t yet. Given that this decision runs contrary to the law of the land, money was crowdfunded to fight in the courts, and that is still ongoing. I began to lose heart.


‘Non-men’ – A tweet from the Green Party Women’s account

Other political parties were all trying to outdo each other in their acceptance of the new ideology, equally deaf to the concerns of their female members. The Young Greens, in their rush to erase the word Woman, even came up with “non-men” as a replacement. That was at least good comedy material. (Lyric rewrites anyone? “No non-man no cry?”) The Women’s Equality Party meanwhile removed one of its spokeswomen for stating the fact – and a basic tenet of feminism – that gender is a social construct.
So where to politically and what next? Surprisingly for me as a Socialist, I found myself having constructive dialogue with a concerned Tory MP, and helped get a seminar in Parliament focusing amongst other subjects on deplatforming, blocks in research, the impact on Women in sport and the need for Women-only survivors’ services. He was subsequently investigated for hosting a follow-up meeting. I was still convinced that most people just didn’t have the information. So I did my own research to gather some facts.

Affirmation only
I was shocked and concerned to discover a huge rise in the number of girls around 12 years old being referred to the Tavistock clinic. Overwhelmingly, this meant Girls who were attracted to other Girls. In the absence of any Lesbian role models, this meant they were a boy. Girls who were rejecting the prospect of a life lived as a Woman in our misogynist society – lower pay, sexism, rape culture, periods, breasts, Lesbophobia. Girls suffering from a condition which hadn’t previously existed and needed a new label – “ROGD – rapid onset gender dysphoria”. A condition which is socially and culturally caused.

The rise in referrals to the Tavistock clinic in recent years. Source:

Surely the professionals would support them through and help them see the bigger picture? But no – I met with counsellors afraid to do their job of helping clients fully explore decisions, since their ruling body has imposed affirmative counselling. Any active questioning is considered the equivalent of gay conversion therapy. It has also produced a gobbledegook definition of Woman.

Follow the money
What was going on? A 200% increase in referrals. I smelled a rat. Who was fuelling this? “Follow the money” is always a good strategy. I found out that Big Pharma were massively investing in promoting the new ideology – creating a market for cross-sex hormones and suggesting prescribing puberty blockers to children as young as nine. Advising on panels, shaping policy, pushing the ideology through well-funded charities. Billionaire backing buys a lot of media presence and can influence academia. Pay scientists. Shut down the opposition.

A campaign of silencing
And it did. Event after event was targeted. Friends and activist sisters were targeted. Attempts to discuss and debate were shut down. Facebook and Twitter accounts blocked, pages removed. Research grants refused. De-platforming has become common.

The process of creating a new “enemy within” began apace. Any dissenters became “the enemy”. Abusive terms were coined and repeated ad nauseam until they have become commonplace. To quote a famous propagandist : “if you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” And those who still don’t believe – who dare to question, who hold a different opinion – are accused of “hate crime”. This, incidentally, has trivialised and devalued the term, making it less effective as legislation.

Violence, risk and “new speak”
The violence against Maria was not an isolated incident. In the public library in San Francisco, there was an exhibition of the barbed weapons proudly used to silence those who dare to speak out. Calls for violence against dissenters multiply online. We risk being beaten for asking questions. How far has this gone? I have witnessed one organisation after another willingly adopt a policy implementing the new ideology, with no reference to users or awareness of the implications. Girl Guides, YHA, the police, schools – to name but a few.

Women’s health and reproductive rights, abortion and maternity protocols have all succumbed to the “new speak”. Their organisations opt to erase centuries of gynocentric terminology, and the basic fact that we are all of Woman born. The words “mother” and “breastfeeding” gone. Abortion services to be extended to all “pregnant people”. Cervical cancer screening – with the lowest uptake of all screening – encouraging “people with cervixes” to have a test. Why? In order to include women who have retained their reproductive capacity, but now wish to be considered as men.

Lesbian erasure
This also affects me as a Lesbian. I raised my concerns with my national lobby group Stonewall, which is supposed to speak for me. I have had a futile year of non-answers to my correspondence. The word Lesbian is non-existent. It does not appear on the “welcome” page of their website. It is not a drop-down category. Here, as with many other places we used to have a presence, we are being erased. I have joined with other Lesbians to protest this erasure and we have been met with derision and hatred. Stonewall refuses a dialogue. They do not speak for me, they won’t even speak to me. I never gave permission for the LGBT+++ alphabet soup to grow and grow until it is meaningless. I want out!

Around the world
I met privately with other concerned women and heard how this saga is playing out in other countries. A Swedish woman shared her story of escaping the clutches of the new ideology, but not before she had undergone an elective double mastectomy. An Iranian Lesbian managed to get out before she was forced into fully-paid-for procedures by the state, who only accept opposite-sex attractions. I was inspired and strengthened in my resolve, having shared time with these courageous sisters.

Which is good news – because the more I enter the rabbit hole, the more estranged I become from those around me. It is like when I was on the Walk to Moscow raising awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons in the 80s. I used to talk to people who had no knowledge of the inherent risks they posed. Being more informed about the subject created a gulf. That is the same now. I often seem to be speaking another language. And I feel like I am back in Moscow in 1983 with the Soviet dissidents in the Peace movement. Listening to forbidden radio stations. Knowing that we were in a bugged apartment – saying one thing whilst writing another on the Etch-a-sketch to throw off the KGB, who were trying to find out what our actions were and where they would take place.

Familiar territory
Yes, I recognise this for what it is. Because I have been there. People afraid to speak out for fear of repercussions on their family, friends, jobs, futures. Not knowing who to trust. Finding inventive ways to recognise other activists. Being undercover. Again.

Paula singing in a flash mob choir to protest against Trident in the house of Commons lobby

Like the action outside the American Embassy in 1986 when we all dressed as tourists to enable us to get past the police blockade. I went to London in a skirt! Unheard-of for me. Or the flashmob choir in the lobby of the House of Commons when we sang “Trident – A British War Crime” until they threw us out.

I will speak out
Surely our robust Parliamentary system will sort this out?
But no. Our political system appears to be failing us. Just this week the supposedly-impartial Speaker of the House refused to grant an Urgent Question about flawed prison policy which seriously impacts on the safety of Women prisoners. The transfer of a rapist to a women’s prison had catastrophic results. Urgent action is required to avoid a repeat. Yet no discussion was allowed. Was the Speaker looking through a Kaleidoscope, perchance? So, one year on, I say: I will continue to speak out. The resistance to this silencing builds daily. I recognise my sisters.

And these things I know. I am a woman – an adult human female. I am a Lesbian – a female homosexual attracted to others of my sex. The emperor is naked and I can see that he is a man. Those dishonest tailors spinning the yarn, and fashioning the invisible garments, have big bucks to make. Whilst Women, Girls and Lesbians have our hard-won rights to lose.

Paula Boulton 13.09.18