Nottingham’s city councillors don’t realise what they have done. By illegally banning me from giving a talk at one of their libraries, they have started a fight I doubt they can win.
My planned talk was cancelled on the ludicrous grounds that my views on transgender rights are ‘at odds’ with civic policy. Without speaking to me, or bothering to discover what I actually believe, the council decided to deny me the right to speak on their premises.
So I am going to sue them. On behalf of every woman who is being told to shut up and stay quiet, during the worst misogynist backlash I have witnessed in my lifetime, I’m taking the council to court.
My planned talk was cancelled on the ludicrous grounds that my views on transgender rights are ‘at odds’ with civic policy
They’ll hear very soon from my lawyers. And there are a lot of us, because from the moment news began to spread on Saturday that I was barred from addressing the sold-out meeting at Aspley Library, my email inbox was pinging with messages of support and legal advice.
The Equality Act of 2010, articles 9 to 11 of the Human Rights Act and the recent ruling in the Maya Forstater case — where a woman who lost her job after saying transgender women are ‘not women’ won her appeal against an employment tribunal — were cited.
In layman’s terms, that all means Nottingham City Council doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
They have discriminated against my basic rights as a woman and as a lesbian. They have erased my freedom of speech and they have grossly libelled me. For this, they are going to be made to pay.
It will doubtless take a lot of time and money, and cause me more stress than I ever wanted to endure. But I will not be bullied into silence.
The irony is that I had set out to do Nottingham a civic favour. Aspley Library, in one of the city’s more deprived areas, is under threat of closure. When I was invited to speak, I thought I’d be doing my small bit to help it stay open.
In layman’s terms, that all means Nottingham City Council doesn’t have a leg to stand on
I grew up in a working-class family in North-East England, and I know how crucial libraries are to underprivileged communities. I could never have accessed all the books I needed for my own higher education without public libraries.
The invitation to give a talk, on the increasing threat of male domestic violence and rape, didn’t come with a fee. I had offered to pay my own expenses and, since there was a rail strike on Saturday, I’d be travelling a day early and paying for a hotel, too.
But I was happy to do this if it meant a buzzing, vibrant event at the library to draw people through the doors.
It’s not hard, then, to imagine my disgust when the organiser phoned me on the train with the news that the council had cancelled my appearance. I was banned from even entering the building.
To abandon the talk was unthinkable. Every ticket had sold, which meant there were dozens of women eager to learn how they could get involved in campaigning to end rape and domestic abuse.
Many were no doubt young or vulnerable themselves. Nothing on earth could intimidate me into letting them down.
We ended up holding the talk in the car park. An enthusiastic crowd gathered — and so did a small but disruptive mob of ‘protesters’.
The self-proclaimed ‘trans activists’ were shouting abuse before I even started to speak.
My talk wasn’t intended to be about trans issues. I’d planned to speak about my history as a feminist activist, the four books I’ve written about aspects of male violence, the Justice for Women movement I helped to found in the 1990s, and the campaign that saw rape within marriage made a criminal offence.
The goal was to show young women what previous generations have done, and help instil the courage for them to carry on that work. The only reason to mention trans ideology at all was that the trans mob were shouting at us.
Yet as I wound up my talk, someone showed me an online statement from the council. It stated that my ban was ‘due to the speaker’s views on transgender rights being at odds with aspects of the council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy’.
It went on to say that the council was ‘committed to supporting trans rights as human rights through Stonewall’.
Their insidious, hectoring tactics are so intimidating that many people in the public eye — including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer — are afraid to define what a woman is
As I have previously said in the Mail, Stonewall is a charity that was set up to protect gay and lesbian rights but has been hijacked by trans extremists.
Now, it encourages businesses and public bodies to be ‘diversity champions’ by labelling lesbians like me as bigots. Their insidious, hectoring tactics are so intimidating that many people in the public eye — including Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer — are afraid to define what a woman is.
Anyone who states the obvious fact that women don’t have penises is automatically a bigot in Stonewall’s eyes.
Nottingham City Council seems determined to kowtow to that. In doing so, they are calling me bigoted and transphobic, charges I refute.
They suggest my very presence in a public building is a dangerous threat. The implication is that every feminist must be an extremist and a transphobe.
I oppose all oppression. And I will not stay silent while a tiny group of narcissistic, women- hating bullies re-brand feminism and twist reality.
Women need to stand together against male violence. I fear for young, gay women who are harangued and ordered to call themselves ‘queer’, not lesbian, by men who label themselves as ‘non-binary’.
I fear, too, for lesbians who are accused of being transphobic when they say they don’t want to have sex with male-bodied trans women.
On seeing the protesters gather, I walked over to them and asked if they had ever read anything I’d written. Two of them thought I was someone else entirely — former NME journalist Julie Burchill. They didn’t seem embarrassed when I pointed out the mistake.
They asked whether I was ashamed to stand with women wearing T-shirts with feminist slogans. This baffled me. ‘Those women? They’re my tribe,’ I said.
‘Those are fascist slogans,’ the activists replied. ‘Their T-shirts are like Nazi flags.’
How can you have a debate with people so wilfully stupid?
It would be comical if it wasn’t so scary. I’m not easily intimidated but, as the temperature of violence rises at these public events, there have been occasions when I have been afraid for my safety.
At a talk in Edinburgh in 2019, a man lunged at me. He was trying to land a punch but, fortunately, he was held back. For a moment, I thought he had a knife.
In that split second, I realised that as long as trans mobs are allowed to spit hate at women, labelling feminists as ‘TERFs’ [Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists] and other four-letter words, there is a real risk that a woman will be seriously injured or killed.
It’s incredible to me that Britain has become a country where women must risk violence to protect their most basic rights.
By banning me from speaking and labelling me a bigot for being a feminist, Nottingham City Council has contributed to that climate of physical danger. I will not let them get away with it.
Julie Bindel is co-founder of Justice For Women