Tag Archives: Transgender

Somewhere in England’s Green and Pleasant Land…

 

* Rising and falling stars: Aimee Challenor

(First appeared on Byline, September 2018)

Somewhere in England there is a girl who was raped, tortured and electrocuted by a well-known local Green Party figure in Coventry, David Challenor. During his criminal trial his victim described his rituals in which he dressed as a little girl or a baby in a nappy, at a house used as an official Green Party address in 2015. For anyone, this case is cruel and cautionary – for Greens it is a huge political crisis.

We know that nothing is more important than community respect and validation for the survivors of sexual crime. This girl didn’t get it. Her lonely journey to the criminal court was vindicated – last month the perpetrator, David Challenor, received a 22-year-sentence.

But she was denigrated and abandoned by the people who mattered most, her intimate community, the Challenors, well-known Green Party activists. It was the abuser they supported, not his accuser.

The police interviewed members of the family in October 2015, including Aimee Challenor,  who had just left the care system and began the process of transitioning to a girl. Aimee was an ambitious young trans activist who became Green Party equalities spokesperson in 2017 and a party candidate. Hailed as a ‘rising star,’ Aimee Challenor pitched into the party’s deputy leadership election.

She insists that despite the criminal charges she was ‘building bridges’ and attempting reconciliation with her father, who she twice appointed as election agent – there are no criteria regulating agents, according to the Electoral Commission. But she declined to inform the party leadership until Challenor was sentenced. Individuals knew, but didn’t act.

Coventry Pride took swift action after learning of the case in 2016. Why didn’t the Green Party or other organisations associated with Aimee Challenor, like Stonewall, follow its lead?

Members are now asking whether there was anything else Aimee Challenor didn’t disclose, they are alarmed by robust research by veteran social media monitors.

that reveals her own involvement in adult-baby fetish network

The scandal has scalded the Green leaders. An inquiry has been launched, David Challenor has been expelled. When mutiny among party members forced Aimee’s suspension in early September, Aimee Challenor quit, accused the party of transphobia and blocked Caroline Lucas on Twitter as a trans exclusionary radical feminist.

But the inquiry needs to do more than poke around the guile and cruelty of David Challenor and the Green Party needs to do more than lament its own misfortune in being gulled by the Challenors. And it needs to ask why the party’s initial official statements about the scandal pathetically paid more attention to Aimee Challenor’s need for support than the vindicated – but traduced – child.

The inquiry should ask how the party lost its marbles about gender and sexual politics and whether the party’s hard-line trans policies provided what sexual violence scholar Prof Liz Kelly calls a ‘conducive context’ that shielded the Challenors from scrutiny.

How did an open and democratic party sometimes behave like the Inquisition hunting trans heretics, particularly feminists, who have been harassed and disciplined, notably the lesbian activist Olivia Palmer, who has been expelled?

How could it come to pass that the Green Party has forced luminaries Rupert Read and Jenny Jones  to publically recant their scepticism.

Aimee and David Challenor mobilised Twitter widgets to block ‘trans exclusionary radical feminists’  – last year Aimee Challenor proclaimed the campaign’s success in blocking 50,000 people deemed ‘terfs’ and bigots, and getting one vocal feminist transsexual, Miranda Yardley, being banned from Twitter for life.

When Miranda Yardley was invited to address North Surrey Green Party, they were forced to disinvite Yardley and then became the subject of a ‘transphobia’ complaint themselves. The Green Party executive didn’t protest against ‘terfblocking’. The party’s universally-respected leader Caroline Lucas hated it, but described herself as powerless to resist it. I myself complained to a senior member of the Party about terf-blocking and others did, too. Apparently no action was taken. Now Lucas herself has been terf-blocked.

The inquiry should ask who in the leadership supported Aimee Challenor’s legal action to silence Green Party activist Andy Healey – he launched Gender Critical Greens, a feminist resource, and insisted on identifying Challenor as a man. The legal action against Healey is still unresolved. Healey was not allowed to address the party conference, whilst David Challenor was given a platform to propose motions despite his impending trial on the most serious child sexual abuse charges.

Other political parties should not be smug about the Greens’ crisis and catharsis – they’ve tolerated a trans modus operandi and ideology that is bulwarked by a kind of religiosity, by claims that to debate its hypotheses is to eliminate trans people: debate is death.

The Working Class Movement Library in Manchester was aghast to find itself targeted by a trans campaign to staunch its funding.

Gay organisations, too, have been blasted by trans harassment, Manchester’s Queer Up North Festival Organiser, Jonathan Best, chronicles his grim experience. Gay people are increasingly alienated by the seemingly endless expansion of categories attached to ‘gay and lesbian,’ including trans, that have nothing to do with sexual orientation.

A closed Facebook group was promoted to name and shame academics deemed transphobic, by Goldsmiths University trans researcher Natacha Kennedy. Kennedy is also Goldsmiths’ Mark Hellen – they are one person, two personas. They appeared as ‘joint’ authors of a paper on ‘transgender children’:

Sussex University philosophy professor Kathleen Stock became a cause celebre when she was pilloried for urging philosphers to engage in the gender debates flaring in social media. She was condemned as transphobic by the students union but in July the university’s vice chancellor Adam Tickell ventured where the Green Party does not tread by affirming both trans people’s human rights and academic freedom, ‘I hold a deep rooted concern,’ he wrote, ‘about the future of our democratic society if we silence the views of people we don’t agree with.’

The Liberal-Democrats, the Tories and Labour, gay organisations and mass media commentators across the political spectrum should all start asking how they fell for trans folly that is not sustained by science, that doesn’t enjoy consensus among many trans women and trans-sexuals, and certainly not among maybe most women.

The dogma has been assiduously promoted as a new civil rights frontier and fortified by no-platforming, bullying and what can only be called blacklisting of dissenting voices deemed ‘terfs’ and ‘bigots’ on the wrong side of history. The mantra ‘There is no debate’ is recited not only in the Green Party but across the political firmament.

It is as though nothing is real, there is only ‘gender fluidity’ and freedom of choice that synchronises marvellously with neo-liberal erasure of oppression and exploitation. The notion that anyone can be anything they want to be, that a man is a woman if he says he is, empties ‘woman’ of meaning  – some Greens refer to non-women to satisfy trans sensitivities.

The Challenor case is an arrow to the heart of Britain’s twisted sexual politics. Already gay activists are joining feminists and saying they are sick of the narcissism, misogyny of some trans activists:

The Green Party’s inquiry is, therefore, more important than the Green Party itself – it should open a window on the degradation of political culture.

The inquiry should also review the Green Party’s child safeguarding policy and processes. Although the party has vigorously promoted an extreme trans policy and practice, I have trawled through GP policy and can’t find a specific policy or protocol on child abuse and safeguarding, despite massive public concern in the wake of the Savile scandal in 2012, despite the work of Caroline Lucas and her Parliamentary colleagues in securing the launch of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and its public reports on institutional complicity in child abuse.

 

Aimee Challenor was a teenager undergoing transition with the support of Mermaids, an organisation chided by the High Court, and criticised by some for advocating medical interventions at puberty  that amount to child abuse:

The Challenor family had been subject to its own High Court proceedings because of the parenting the children in the family received. Whilst many children who exit the care system do so with dignity, independence, qualifications and readiness to enter the adult world, Aimee Challenor appears to have been in a family who fought against children’s services’ support and yet, by her own account, turned to the parents for support and reconciliation after leaving the care system.

The inquiry must ask: Did no one in the Green Party at the time recognise the consequential vulnerabilities which the leadership are at now at pains to stress? Did the executive consider duties of care towards a teenager going through profound personal changes, with an extreme trans ideology, being propelled into a leadership position?

Is the Green Party preparing for a possible Serious Case Review into the Challenor case, which would undoubtedly be interested in the context and culture of the child’s family and her abuser, his activity in other contexts and other institutions?

Did the leadership and executive’s support for Aimee Challenor’s trans agenda, and the party’s early, strident rush to endorse an extreme trans position, obscure child safeguarding responsibilities?

On a personal note, I should say that I am a Green Party member. I’ve stood as a candidate in local and parliamentary elections. My own journey into these debates was provoked more a decade ago by no-platforming and censorship of debate:

This forced me to address the issue itself.  I have benefited from feminist writing, obviously, the eloquent essay on gender, race, class and identity politics in the Jenner  and Dolezal cases in the US by political scientist Adolph Reed Jnr, and the intelligence of many transgender women and trans-sexuals. They are profoundly dismayed by the authoritarianism and speciousness of trans policy in the Green Party and the spectacular nastiness of some extreme trans advocates: Sarah Brown, a Liberal Democrats candidate in Cambridge, notoriously rebuked a fellow councillor Richard Taylor with ‘suck my formaldehyde balls’.

I support Gender Critical Greens and Woman’s Place_UK and their campaign for women’s places and safe spaces, I have chaired two of their public meetings. Trans activists have harassed the organisers and the venues, frequently obliging the organisers to change venues. In Newcastle this summer Northumbria University agreed to a last-minute booking of their out-of-town campus. A local trans activist put out an alert warning trans people that they’d not be safe in the city: watch out there’s terfs about

Many heart-sick Green Party members are now voicing their worries and urging a full review that goes beyond the Challenor debacle and reassesses policies on trans, gender and sexual politics generally, and the safeguarding of children specifically.

Some of us will give evidence to the Parliamentary committee on the Gender Recognition Act. Given the fate of others, and aside from my own decisions about whether I remain in the Green Party, we need to know whether this will this result in disciplinary action, and whether the party is prepared to forfeit seasoned and intelligent activists over bullying, misogyny and cultish trans dogma?

Members of other organisations should be asking themselves the same questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRANS/formations

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, transgender debates have got — if not worse exactly, then — nastier.

The description ’transphobic’ has been thrown at the Morning Star newspaper for running debates on transgender themes.

Actually, the paper is with the zeitgeist, consistently publishing positive reports on transgender people’s rights — as well as trans and feminist debates and differences. It is hard to imagine a ‘straight’ paper less deserving of the slur.

It is an index of just how hot this is that a mighty 300 people have signed a letter supporting the paper and repudiating the ‘phobe’ attack.

Transgender campaigns for recognition have been stunningly successful. Laws have been changed, minds and bodies and cultures are being changed; characters appear in successful TV series, from Coronation Street to Orange is the New Black….and transwomen have become stars:

Bruce Jenner’s re-incarnation as Caitlyn Jenner gets a Vanity Fair cover and an American Glamour Women of the Year award.

I’m not talking to you

And yet, and yet…. amidst these triumphs there is a wave of bullying that, in the name of of sympathy for trans people’s suffering and struggles out of marginalisation, seeks to whip, so to say, public debate into submission.

In this context, Miranda Yardley is a rare voice: a regular contributor to the great convo, including in the Morning Star, and a robust and rigorous advocate of feminism and the specifics of transsexualism, with much to say about the state of transgender politics.

She has exposed how the no-platforming of feminists alleged to be ‘transphobic’ and ‘whorephobic’ is bleeding into the transgender community itself.

Paris Lees has one of the highest profiles in the transgender pantheon. Here are some of Paris Lees’ contributions to these great debates.

Murder, mayhem and minding your words

Prof. Sarah Ahmed is an exponent of the ‘you are killing me/us…’ discourse.

And here is her passionate no platforming piece.

Trouble and Strife, a radical feminist journal, has published powerful critiques by Jane Clare Jones and Deborah Cameron.

In May the New Statesman and the London Review of Books published two long, wide and deeply thoughtful pieces on transgender themes by two smart public intellectuals and writers on gender, Sarah Ditum and Jacqueline Rose:

Sarah Ditum, the Staggers’ witty, always reflective columnist.

Jacqueline Rose, an LRB regular, Professor of Humanities at Birkbeck, a questing, often elegantly ambivalent writer.

My own participation is concerned with censorship, no platforming and the silencing of debate and dissent.

No to no-platforming

This is my response to comments on no platforming in the otherwise subtle essay by Jacqueline Rose:

‘I am pretty sure that, were I transsexual, I wouldn’t want [Germaine] Greer on any platform of mine,’ Jacqueline Rose writes (LRB, 5 May). But she isn’t transsexual and public platforms don’t belong to her, or to transsexuals or to anyone else: they belong to the collective we – the public. Public platforms aren’t places for chats between pals. They exist in a forum where we, the public, get to hear people, be in their presence, listen, learn, call them to account; a forum where we get to join in public conversation, where we do politics.

Rose understands that of course, and she states her position: ‘I tend to be opposed to no-platforming.’ But she sets Greer up as the demonic person who goes too far, who breaches Rose’s own tendency and warrants banishment. Greer is an easy target. Her opinions on transgender issues are described as ‘hateful’. ‘Hate’ and ‘phobia’ are part of the hyperbolic lexicon of trans debates. Another pioneering feminist activist, Julie Bindel, has been declared ‘vile’ and no-platformed in resolutions affirming trans rights passed by conferences of the National Union of Students. Bindel is cheeky, irreverent and occasionally offensive. She is also an adroit campaigner for justice for the most marginalised and maligned women. But the NUS does not allow students to hear her in person, or to be heard by her.

That is why the no-platforming of feminists in the name of trans sensibilities is so toxic: it not only silences some feminist voices and purges legitimate feminist discourse from some public platforms, it excludes students themselves from active participation, from challenging and changing their own and other people’s minds. I once invited an NUS women’s officer to debate that ban in public. No, she said. So, a feminist is consigned to the NUS proscribed list, along with neo-fascists.

More recently I suggested that one of Britain’s leading gay journals – I won’t name and shame – host a round-table. No, they said. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Are you frightened?’ Yes, they said. I suggested the same thing to an Oxbridge political journal. No, they didn’t think they would or could, they said, because university must be a safe space, like home. As if every home is safe! As if debate is dangerous.

I should declare an interest: Jacqueline and I are old friends, we have enjoyed agreeing and disagreeing with each other for years. But I find myself foxed: why in 15,000 words is Greer’s purported hatefulness flagged, but not the bullying that flays feminism? The sexual revolution wrought by feminist and gay activism has, of course, changed the political landscape in which trans lives can be lived. It co-exists with the commodification of gender archetypes and the reinstatement of seemingly polarised and parodic masculinities and femininities. All of this can be aired in feminist forums and, say, Mumsnet, but not in trans/feminist discourse in the NUS.

As I write, up pops the following notification from ‘youngradfems’:

Unfortunately we’ve had to take down the post ‘how I became a cis-privileged shitlord’ because the author was scared of being outed as a DISGUSTING TERF [trans-exclusionary radical feminist] BITCH if her fellow students found out about her radical feminist views. Yet another example of radical feminist young women being bullied into silence.

The NUS impulse to no-platform feminists who problematise transsexualism or prostitution, who attract the abusive designation ‘transphobic’ and ‘whorephobic’ (they often go together), has migrated to other venues and organisations.

In February 2015 Deborah Cameron and I gathered more than 130 signatures to a letter published in the Observer opposing no-platforming and the stifling of debate. Rose was not one of them. It was provoked by the Bindel ban, new purges, and threats to feminist students and to the comedian Kate Smurthwaite at Goldsmiths (she has expressed support for the ‘Nordic model’ – criminalising the purchase of sex); it also referred to the Germaine Greer kerfuffle, and the ugly harassment of the philosophy lecturer Rupert Read. He’d written a philosophical essay on transgender and feminist issues in 2013 but two years later he was subjected to a public thrashing. People threatened to picket his election appearances as a Green Party candidate. ‘There are few things more conservative,’ Sarah Brown, a transgender former LibDem councillor in Cambridge, wrote about Read, ‘than the view that trans people are dirty perverts who shouldn’t be indulged in our supposed delusion, that sex workers are wanton harlots who are certainly to be discouraged, and that masturbation is some kind of social ill that needs eradicating.’

Read, of course, held no such opinions. But that didn’t matter. Following relentless attacks on social media, including death threats, and with the Green Party itself thoroughly spooked, Read had to ‘retract’ things that he had never said in the first place. Brown, a leading trans activist, had form, a talent for spite. In a public riposte to a fellow Cambridge councillor, she wrote: ‘I invite you to suck my formaldehyde pickled balls.’ This field is bloodied with ‘hatefulness’.

Our ‘no to no-platforming’ Observer letter said: ‘You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics illiberal and undemocratic. Universities have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of bullying. We call on universities and other organisations to stand up to attempts at intimidation and affirm their support for the basic principles of democratic political exchange.’ The signatories included scholars and activists, transsexuals, people for and against prostitution united by commitment to democratic debate and opposition to no-platforming.

One of the signatories was Mary Beard. She – like Deborah and I – didn’t know what all the signatories thought about the contested issues, but the day after the letter appeared she wrote on her blog that they included ‘many I am proud to be next to: Nimko Ali, Peter Tatchell, Lisa Appignanesi, Melissa Benn, Caroline Criado-Perez, Catherine Hall, Gia Milinovich, Sophie Scott, Francesca Stavrakopoulou, and loads more. Hardly the forces of gender darkness, unless you are a real reactionary.’ Yet, she continued,

since the letter was posted on the Guardian website … I have been bombard[ed] by tweets … I got sixty tweets in the space of about an hour from one person alone … Last night I went to bed wanting to weep … It wasn’t the force of any remark, it was the relentless pummelling of attack on the basis of extraordinary loaded, sometimes quite wrong, readings of the letter … You can see why a lot of women (and there is a gender issue here) might choose not to put their heads above the parapet.

Peter Tatchell was also bombarded – all the more galling for him because he is a strong advocate of trans people and sex workers. Many responses, he wrote, ‘were hateful and abusive: homo, foreigner, misogynist, paedophile, nutter and so on. Others were threatening: “I would like to tweet about your murder you f*cking parasite.”’ The pioneering trans campaigner Stephen Whittle blogged: ‘I was astonished to discover that those social justice campaigners, Peter Tatchell and Mary Beard, among others, had become the latest attack of the twittering trans-sirens.’ Was this ‘vicious streak’, he wondered, the ‘death of the inclusive, tolerant trans community’? The answer seems to be yes.

Sara Ahmed, professor in race and cultural studies at Goldsmiths, is adamant: ‘There cannot be a dialogue when some at the table are in effect or intent arguing for the elimination of others at the table.’ But speaking is not the same as pointing a gun, as Whittle reminds us. Ahmed organised a group response to our Observer letter, published in the paper a week later: ‘We do not agree that freedom of speech is freedom to speak unaccountably.’ But NUS no-platforming does, precisely, prevent speaking accountably: it not only proscribes speech but students’ active participation – in hearing and, crucially, being heard.

Feminism is nothing if not a politics that problematises gender and the construction of masculinities and femininities; it is bound to get into ‘gender trouble’. Who knows whether ‘What is a woman?’ is a feminist question or a patriarchal conundrum? Transsexuals, including Kate Bornstein and Miranda Yardley, for example, have put these questions on the trans agenda.

If feminism can’t make gender trouble then it can’t talk about anything, indeed it is silenced by Ahmed’s authoritarian notion of ‘dialogue’: language loses meaning and politics is shot.

Beatrix Campbell
Beverley, East Riding