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The Abigail Article; Martyn Bradbury’s Article, and My Response

14 September 2019 3 comments

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This blogpost is different to my usual format of reporting on issues…

Since July 1011, I have blogged on a variety of political issues; near always political and/or environmental; mostly highly critical of the previous National Government. Other issues included Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and repression of the Palestinian people; the threat of climate change; human rights here and abroad; the  reaction to globalisation  manifested by the symptom of Trump and Brexit; opposition to the secretly negotiated TPPA; the obscenity of the international arms industry; the utter failure of the neo-liberal experiment as families were forced to live in motels, garages, and cars, and much more.

The hostile, dehumanising culture of WINZ was a problem I took particular interest in, as well as homelessness.

In February 2013, Martyn invited me to contribute to his ‘new’ project, The Daily Blog. It was a honour to participate and I devoted as much time as could be squeezed into a 24 hour period to research, write, correct, research more, format, write, proof-read – post! Always research. Make sure the facts were as correct as could be – though on occassion sharp-eyed readers picked up on a mistake and were not shy in letting me know. (Which I always appreciated.)

My motivating principle, as much as possible, was to highlight a injustice; point out where something had gone wrong, and offer a solution where possible.

The Key-led (later Bill English-led) government offered no shortage of issues to write up. There were even problems with this current government that I felt necessitated criticism.

I rarely took exception to issues and opinions expressed by my fellow Daily Bloggers, even when I thought they were wrong (we don’t all think alike as some collective ‘Hive Mind’ – more on that point in a moment).

At the top of my concerns were always those most vulnerable; the poor; the homeless; ethnic minorities, and others who were slightly different to mainstream white middle-class Aotearoa New Zealand such as the LGBTQI community.

On 5 September, my Daily Blog colleague (and in many ways, a mentor to me) Martyn Bradbury published a blogpost; “Imagine the uproar if any other Political Party self censored the way the Greens just did.

It was a critique on the Green’s decision to remove an article by “long-time Green Party member Jill Abigail“.

I have read the article.

Far from being a “moderate”, “mild”, or “reasonable”, it was a thinly-disguised attack on tran speople – specifically, trans women. Trans men are not mentioned anywhere once in her article. It was another in a line of attacks on trans women.

Ms Abigail tried to sound tolerant and inclusive;

“Transpeople are a vulnerable group that until recently has been excluded from general consideration and now justly claim their right to be treated with equal respect.”

But her subsequent comments revealed her true agenda and negated her previous sentiment;

“I am horrified by what is happening overseas: the shutting down of free speech; the silencing and abuse of academic experts; young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body, thus reinforcing stereotypes; women’s refuges and rape crisis centres no longer safe sanctuaries; lesbians being accused of transphobia if they insist on same-sex relationships; malebodied athletes entering women’s sports and taking the prizes; the very language changing to erase females/women, in the name of ‘inclusiveness’.

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Most serious of all is the medicalisation of children. I recently met a woman who had taken her 11-year-old daughter to a doctor because of a sore throat. The daughter is a tomboy, with short hair. The doctor asked the mother if she wanted the girl to go on puberty blockers. An 11-year-old goes to the doctor with a sore throat and is given a suggestion of puberty blockers?

Gender-critical feminists have allies among some transpeople themselves, who see this ideology as a misogynist, homophobic, men’s rights push. No previous extensions of human rights for new groups have involved taking away the rights of others needing protection. It would be progressive of the Greens to be working for solutions that are fair to everyone, rather than reinforcing the current divide.”

Like saying, “I’m not a racist, but…”

Those three paragraphs are a regurgitation of similar comments made by other so-called “gender critical feminists” (aka “TERFs”) and their over-eager cis male allies.

Let’s scrutinise those three paragraphs.

“I am horrified by what is happening overseas: the shutting down of free speech; the silencing and abuse of academic experts…”

Many of those “academic experts” have columns in mainstream media as well as reported widely via social media. The fact that Ms Abigail’s article has been widely reported; republished; and commented on belies her assertion of being silenced.

Furthermore, there is no automatic right for anyone to be published anywhere, unless engaging in self-publication or self-blogging. The Green Party does not publish opinion pieces by National or ACT supporters and vice versa. The Daily Blog does not publish blogposts from David Farrar or Cameron Slater, and vice versa. Even supporters of a given group cannot expect automatic right of publication.

The Daily Blog itself often declines publication of comments from individuals for various reasons. I publish on TDB at the ‘pleasure’ of Martyn, which he may rescind at any time. That is his prerogative. Anything else is “entitlement”.

The so-called “abuse” Ms Abigail references is often legitimate push-back from trans rights activists; others in the LGBTQI community; cis women; and Inclusive lesbians. It has to be reminded that publishing a controversial  opinion piece (like this one) will attract critical as well as supporting responses. That is the free speech we are continually called upon to speak out for.

young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body, thus reinforcing stereotypes…”

What “young children” is she referring to? What age?

Apply that statement to young people who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, etc and it becomes an obvious slur attacking Rainbow people. No one is teaching “young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body“. Just as no one is teaching young people to develop same sex attraction.

What “stereotypes are being reinforced”? Is Ms Abigail suggesting that only binary sex and heterosexual orientation is acceptable? Binary heterosexuality would constitute stereotyping.

The statement makes no sense except to conjure up frightening images of “young children” brain-washed by unknown agents of a secret cadre of LGBTQI.

Similar slurs were made against gay men during the horrendous “debate” surrounding the 1986 Homosexual Law  Reform process. Homophobes constantly accused gay men of lurking in toilets and changing rooms, waiting to turn young straight males gay and fearing that gay law reform would facilitate that “corruption”.

It never happened. Civilisation did not collapse. The sacred family unit has not been dismantled.

“lesbians being accused of transphobia if they insist on same-sex relationships…”

That one is more complicated to unpack because no examples are given. What constitutes transphobia? A simple rejection usually doesn’t. A full-on attack on a transgender person would do it. Have any heterosexual cis men been accused of homophobia because they declined an advance from a gay man? A polite decline would hardly constitute homophobia. A vitriolic response attacking gay men would do it.

“malebodied athletes entering women’s sports and taking the prizes”

According to Wikipedia, there are 28 prominent male-to-female trans athletes and 12 female-to-male. (And those numbers are spread over a fortyfive year span.)  Forty trans athletes out of millions of sports people around the world.

If the trans community were planning for world domination in sporting endeavours, they have a long way to go.

“the very language changing to erase females/women, in the name of ‘inclusiveness’ ”

This metaphysical complaint should be seen for what is it: chauvinistic. There is no suggestion of “erasing females/women” any more than the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1986 erased heterosexuality. Lesbianism has not “erased” heterosexual women.

Curiously, the Gender Critical Feminist theory of “erasure” appears to echo the Great Replacement theory espoused by White Identitarians;

The great replacement can generally be understood as two core beliefs. The first is that “western” identity is under siege by massive waves of immigration from non-European/non-white countries, resulting in a replacement of white European individuals via demographics…

When both are analysed side-by-side, the similarities are striking. It is no coincidence that both Erasure and Replacement fears have gain wider traction during the current Trumpian Era when “The Fear of The Other” is heavily influencing US, European, and British political discourse.

US journalist, Katelyn Burns wrote an in-depth analysis of the convergence and close co-operation between Gender Critical feminists and conservative Think Tanks, organisations, anti-abortion activists, and a prominent rightwing host on Fox TV. In Britain, Gender Critical feminists have been supported by media mogul Rupert Murdoch in his tabloids.

So maybe it is not  a coincidence that “Gender Critical Feminists” are (almost always?) white, middle class women. Likewise their cis male allies.

This chauvinism is further demonstrated with comments such as this, by Martyn;

However. As a white heteronormative cis-male, I also believe you can’t force women to accept Trans women into their spaces. Telling women who the must and must not include in the spaces they have fought for seems utterly contrary to respecting feminism.

Which makes certain the assumption that all women think alike on this issue. As mentioned above, and by a reader’s post-article comment, women do not have a single Hive Mind on this subject. There are as many diverse views on this issue as there are with cis men – and bloggers.

At the same time, consider whether any one group in society has the right to define and dictate human and civil rights for another. Think very carefully of the implications.

Does The Majority have the right to define and limit the rights of a minority? If the answer is yes, consider the implications this would have for Maori in a predominantly Pakeha society. Or gays and lesbians (as well as trans) in a predominantly heterosexual society.

Remember that women’s right to vote was determined by men. Now imagine if that vote had failed.

It was only in 1971 that women in Switzerland won the right to vote – after a general referendum by men voting. Twelve years earlier, men had voted against women having the vote.

In apartheid era South Africa, it wasn’t even a Majority holding power and denying a minority equal rights – it was the other way around until 1994.

When one group in society can define and dictate the rights of another, there should be cause for concern. That some Gender Critical Feminists are advocating some form of gender-chauvinism and denying trans women their right to self-identify as such (with some even denying to exist at all), is a giant stride back in time. It would seem to be everything that feminism and the LGBTQI community have struggled to achieve.

Over the last hundred or so years, white heterosexual men have had to share their power with others; women; gays; lesbians; other ethnic groups; etc.

It should not be a surprise that cis women are now called upon to do likewise for their trans-sisters. Radical? No more radical than women’s emancipation and dismantling patriarchal privilege.

That this seems to make some regular commentators on The Daily Blog react negatively is not only disappointing – but disturbing.

In my eight years of blogging I have read many chauvinistic, reactionary comments on the pages of Kiwiblog and Whaleoil. Whilst I shake my head at the wilful ignorance of those right-wingers, I understood that they were railing against the gradual dismantling of their white male privilege.

So it was disheartening to read similar comments – many openly transphobic – from a few TDB regulars.

We resist and condemn the injustice shown to welfare recipients; the working-poor; solo-mothers; Maori, prisoners; the homeless, and others who have been marginalised by the neo-liberal system that treats us as “consumers with spending power” rather than citizens with rights. We understand the innate injustice of an economic theory that treats humans as disposable units.

But when push-comes-to-shove, this current challenge to the predominant status quo is met with scorn, derision, and hateful comments. The response to the transgender issue on The Daily Blog, from some, has been shameful.

In 1986 we decriminalised male homosexuality. Cis hetero men did not “erase” overnight. Toilets and changing rooms are still safe to use. Civilisation  has not collapsed into public debauchery.

New Zealand was not just the first sovereign state where women won the right to vote, in 1999 we were the first country to elect a transgender woman to Parliament.

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In Wairarapa – a rural seat! Not exactly a hotbed of progressive politics pushing for LGBTQI rights.

In 2013, Aotearoa New Zealand gained marriage equality. The “sanctity” of marriage did not end. Heterosexual’s right to marry was not “erased” just because same-sex couples now shared that right.

These are rights that quite rightly we have shared with everyone. No one is denied equality and inclusion because one group feels threatened. “Get over it!” we told the homophobes and the male chauvinists.

For gods sakes, people, no one asked which toilet Georgina Beyer used when she entered Parliament.

Instead, we were damned proud of that achievement.

As a blogger, I will continue to write for those who are marginalised, attacked, scorned, and powerless. I will continue to support Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Trans people to be included in our society and to have the same rights and privileges straight cis people take for granted.

Not because I’m Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Trans, but because I’m bloody minded and I know it’s the right thing to do.

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An injury to one…

… is an injury to all.

(Popular motto of trade unions around the world)

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Postscript

Disclosure: I am a Green Party supporter (if that makes any difference).

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References

Wikipedia:  Transgender people in sports

The Guardian: The ‘white replacement theory’ motivates alt-right killers the world over

Vox: The rise of anti-trans “radical” feminists, explained

Wikipedia: Women’s suffrage in Switzerland

Additional

NZ Herald: Greens members leave after ‘transphobic’ article in magazine

Other Blogposts

Imagine the uproar if any other Political Party self censored the way the Greens just did

Previous related blogposts

Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

Anti-trans activists fudge OIA statement – Report

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 September 2019.

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