Category Archives: Demonstrations

Does Brighton Have a Woman Problem?

The following opinion piece was published in Brighton & Hove News on 30 January 2023.

The other day I attended a screening in Brighton of the critically acclaimed film “Adult Human Female”. It explores the challenges posed to women’s rights by sexist trans activism, including the way that gender ‘self-identification’ can be used by abusive males to target women and children. 

It’s an inspiring though depressing film, made from a left wing perspective and therefore likely to be irritating to Conservatives. Nonetheless, I would recommend anyone who is interested in gender ideology, and doesn’t buy into the absurd “no debate” mantra, to watch and discuss it, whatever their political background.

I missed a family event to watch it, even though I was told it could be viewed on YouTube. I felt strongly that I should be able to attend a film of this kind in person and without hindrance. Women in this city, as elsewhere in the UK, have for several years been unable to freely discuss this issue without fear of sanction, harassment and threats. Elsewhere in the country, screenings of this film have regularly been sabotaged.

I did attend, but not without hindrance, because of the security measures in place. Every person who booked tickets had to be checked and the secret venue was only revealed an hour or so before the event, in order to prevent attempts by misogynist trans activists to close it down. There were ID checks and people gathered a good hour before the film began. The police had been alerted. The film went ahead and trans activists, who gathered elsewhere, never discovered where it was. However, there was an unacceptable cost in terms of time, expense and anxiety.

The Brighton Women’s Liberation Collective which organised the viewing, arranges regular discussion meetings it calls “Sisters Salon”, all with tight security. The women involved have been in the forefront of defending women’s services in this city, some of them for decades. At least one of them was  central to the city’s struggle against Section 28. These brave women have spoken out about the real risks posed by misogynist gender ideology. In so doing they have faced threats and intimidation.

Many have experienced male violence and are distressed at the loss of the city’s female-only support services and spaces, which were once some of the best in the country. Others are parents who, having spent years challenging sex role stereotypes, now confront schools teaching their children that if they are uncomfortable with traditional sex roles they may be in the “wrong body” and not “really” a boy or girl at all. Some are lesbians, outraged at being accused of transphobia when they assert their right to same-sex attraction and to reject sexual advances by abusive trans-identified males.

These women have become used to having meetings cancelled at the last moment, opponents kicking at doors, shouting sexist insults, punching glass windows and attempting to drown out debate, in some cases with police standing by. The women are not violent and have threatened nobody. Yet all too often they have been treated as aggressors by local police, who have explained their shameful failure to protect them from hate-fuelled attacks by describing their role as to “keep the sides apart”, cynically suggesting equality of violence and threatening behaviour. 

The film reminds us that the majority of people who identify as transwomen remain fully intact males, who are heavier, larger and stronger than the average woman. Many are autogynephiliacs with an ongoing sexual attraction to females. As local women wearily point out, men who challenge ‘gender ideology’ are rarely attacked or threatened. Women are the target.

A couple of days before the film, I met with a friend who, to my surprise, asked me if I knew anything about the film. His work is based in a building occasionally used for meetings unrelated to these issues. He knew nothing about the film but had received an anonymous letter and was very disturbed by it, saying: “I don’t like being threatened”. 

The letter, apparently widely distributed to possible venues across the city to try to prevent the screening, alleges that the film is “transphobic” (it isn’t), names the Brighton Women’s Liberation Collective, then accuses groups showing the film of “calling for violence against the trans community” (something of which I saw no evidence). It states that any venue showing the film will be “complicit in this violence”, which it says is “real and widespread”, against “trans-women especially” (the film offers evidence to challenge this emotive and often-repeated assertion).

The letter concludes: “Should you choose to go ahead with the screening, be assured that we will make it known far and wide that your venue has knowingly helped to promote transphobic ideas and therefore been complicit in violence against the LGBT community. In a place like Brighton I’m sure you can imagine this will not go down well. We hope that you take this strongly into account and that no further action is required” (my emphasis).

It was this final threat which so incensed my friend. Though he was angry and not personally at risk, even he had to pause and consider the viability and safety of his workplace. All too often threats have been effective. Community venues which should provide a haven for debate have been closed to dissenting female voices, grants have been withdrawn from women’s charities and individuals have stayed silent in order to safeguard funding, jobs and promotions. Worst of all, girls and women have been forced out of charities set up to support them. 

‘Sarah’, a survivor of sexual abuse, is currently mounting a legal challenge to local charity, Brighton’s Survivors’ Network, because of its refusal to provide female-only support. The charity was set up as a female-only service, but is now open to anyone who self-identifies as a woman. It refused Sarah’s request to provide a female-only group, despite running a trans group and a ‘women’s group’ which included transwomen.

Shamefully, our local council, which over the years has allowed gender self-identification (which does not have the force of law) to burgeon while women’s and girls’ sex-based services have slowly withered and died, and which sat on its hands when Professor Kathleen Stock was bullied out of her job at Sussex University, has done nothing to support ‘Jane’ in her legal battle. 

In the last few days, Conservative M.P. Miriam Cates and Labour’s Rosie Duffield and Karin Smyth have spoken out in Parliament against the Scottish Nationalist and Green Party’s controversial proposals to legally mandate self-identification in Scotland. This would have removed women’s right to female-only spaces, such as toilets, refuges and hospital wards. Unlike male colleagues making similar objections, they alone were met by barracking and aggression, in particular from Brighton Kemptown’s enraged Labour MP Lloyd Russell Moyle, who shouted them down, jabbing his finger and actually crossing the floor to glare at and physically intimidate Miriam Cates. Both she and Rosie Duffield are survivors of abuse.

Despite general outrage and the expressed unease of Labour women, such as M.P. Jess Phillips, Russell Moyle has faced no censure from Kier Starmer and has not apologised, explaining his actions by reference to a “failure to control” his “passion”.  Since then, Rosie Duffield has published an article “The Labour Party Has a Woman Problem” which has been widely praised and discussed. Regrettably, there has been no comment at all from our local politicians.

This conspiracy of silence cannot be allowed to continue. Women and girls make up half the population and, however much Brighton & Hove chooses to forget it, Sex remains a protected characteristic enshrined in equalities legislation. Despite the city’s overwhelming focus on gender self-identification, I know there are councillors, particularly in the Labour and Conservative parties, health professionals and police officers, who sincerely wish to uphold the hard-won rights of women and girls, not least to freely gather, express our views and defend safe same-sex spaces.

I urge politicians and officials, along with all people of good will, to overcome their fears and to speak out in defence of women.