It’s four years since I entered into the most controversial debate of our day and begged for thoughtful, informed, respectful and calm discussion about what appeared to be the competing needs of biological women and trans women.
I made it clear I was neither transphobic nor anti-trans, I was merely concerned that the hard-won rights, which those of us born women have fought so long for, must not be undermined.
For that I was dubbed a TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), threatened, and attempts were made to prevent me from speaking in public.
Jenni Murray (pictured) explores why major bodies have turned their backs on Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme
So, I hesitate to enter the fray again. But, really, things have become so chaotic in recent months, I can’t allow myself to be silenced and frightened by aggressive trans activists any more. And a large part of the problem is the increasingly extreme stance taken by the charity Stonewall.
I’m so disappointed by Stonewall. Formed 32 years ago, it has done brilliant work for gays and lesbians. It campaigned against Section 28, which prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’; worked tirelessly to achieve equal marriage; and for the right of same sex couples to adopt.
Then it took on the trans issue and began to gain tremendous power in determining policy.
But it wasn’t enough to support trans women and men when it came to equal opportunities at work, which loo to use and protection from insults and violence.
With its Workplace Equality Index — billed as the ‘definitive benchmarking tool for employers to measure their progress on lesbian, gay, bi and trans inclusion in the workplace’ — the very language we have used for centuries was ordered to be changed. The NHS, Ministry of Justice, Home Office, MI6 and many universities signed up and had Stonewall’s diversity training.
They’ve been taught to abandon the word ‘Mother’ or ‘Father’ because they are not ‘inclusive’ and should instead be ‘parent who has given birth’. No! I am my children’s mother. I breast-fed, I did not ‘chest-feed’ my sons.
An email yesterday via the eConsult service to my GP. (I’d tried to call, but was told I was tenth in the queue, so I had to find an alternative.) I needed my NHS number for the National Data opt-out form, to prevent my ‘identifiable patient details being shared outside of the GP practice for purposes except my own care’. The number was texted pretty quickly and the opt-out is done. Remember it has to be completed by September 30. Some things should remain private.
My plea for sensible debate about all this often falls on deaf ears. But in recent weeks major bodies have turned their backs on Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme. Liz Truss, the Minister For Women And Equalities is pushing for all government departments to withdraw from the scheme. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has quit, as has the law firm Moon Beever, and academics are now calling for the more than 100 universities signed up to the scheme to leave. In many cases the cost of the training is given as the reason for withdrawing. It costs £2,500 a year. I suspect it’s more likely the resurgence of common sense.
Is it really right to tell universities never to use the terms ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ or to ‘ensure trans students can participate with the sports teams they want to’?
Is it scientifically accurate to say biology has no bearing on one’s gender? No. Sensible people know doctors or sports coaches need to know if you were born a man or a woman because it makes a difference, no matter how you identify.
There is part of Stonewall’s stance with which I heartily agree. ‘All employers need to ensure their staff are free from discrimination and prejudice at work.’ No group of people knows better than women what prejudice feels like.
Feminists would have been an easy group to keep on side when it came to trans rights — if we had not been attacked and cancelled as bigots. We are not transphobic. Trans people are human beings, deserving of respect just as we are, but the aggression and unreasonable demands of some activists and the ongoing extreme stance of Stonewall will not bring sympathy to their cause.
Quite the opposite.
Be warned, Louise: I still wake at 5am
Louise Minchin (pictured) has decided to quit BBC Breakfast
It’s tough to leave a job you’ve loved and performed to great acclaim for a very long time, but I understand exactly why the presenter Louise Minchin has decided to quit BBC Breakfast.
For almost 20 years she has set her alarm, first in London then in Salford, for the unearthly hour of 3.40am. It’s a punishing schedule as I know from my years in the 1980s on Today and then, after Woman’s Hour moved to the morning, I required a wake-up call at 5.30am. It curtails the pleasure of evenings out and, having to be sparky at the crack of dawn means you feel pretty whacked out for the rest of the day.
I wish Louise enjoyable and relaxing lie-ins, but I bet she’ll find herself waking early long after she’s left. I still ping awake at 5.30, then remember: it’s OK to drift off. Lovely!
Do you fight over the fridge too?
You would think everyone knows what should and should not go in the fridge. It is not so, as revealed by the super-intelligent Stephen Fry. He’s been falling out with his husband, Elliott, who insists on putting potatoes, tomatoes, ketchup and chutney in the chiller.
This is a bone of contention in my house first raised in 1980 when we began living together. ‘Why is the marmalade on the shelf?’ my partner asked. ‘It should be in the fridge.’ ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ I argued, ‘It’s a preserve. Screw the top back on and leave it out.’
I won on the eggs. Never to be kept in the cold. We managed to agree on tomatoes — fridge — although that’s debatable. But most of the space in our fridge is still taken up by jams, chutneys and the like. Stephen Fry is right. ‘When things are cold, the flavour doesn’t spread over the palate nearly as well.’
How dare a yank ditch Her Maj!
American student Matthew Katzman, incited others to vote for the removal of a portrait of the Queen (pictured) from the Middle Common Room (MCR) of Oxford’s Magdalen College
So much for the special relationship! It was a privileged American student who brought the proposal to remove the portrait of the Queen from the Middle Common Room (MCR) of Oxford’s Magdalen College. How dare Matthew Katzman come over here, benefit from an education at one of the finest universities in the world and incite others to vote to cancel our Queen?
His aim was to create a ‘neutral place… regardless of background.’ The students who passed the measure wittered on about the print being ‘unwelcoming’ because the Queen represents ‘recent colonial history’. These kids are supposed to be the brightest and the best.
Do they know the Queen represents the Commonwealth of Nations? She hasn’t a racist bone in her body. It’s time these irritating, full-of-themselves youngsters learnt respect and grew up.