This Is What Solidarity Looks Like                                                               
15th May 2019

 

Last weekend, Helen Steel was forced off a protest walk across moors at a camp organised by the Land Justice Network. This happened not because of anything that Helen had done or said at the actual camp, but because individuals objected to views she had previously expressed regarding the impact of gender identity theory on women’s rights. She was told that a decision had been made prior to the camp starting that she would not be welcome. Although Helen had been at the camp from the first day, she was only told she wasn’t welcome after the ‘action’ ramble had left the camp – leaving her to walk back across the moor alone. Fortunately two comrades walked in solidarity with her, one of them (like Helen) a founder member of the Land Justice Network.

 

Whether calculated or not, the impact of this treatment was to give a very public and demeaning punishment to someone who has voiced opinions which differ from those of the activists who inflicted it. None of the small subset of the organisers who were involved in making this decision were prepared to either publicly explain themselves or to give Helen a right of response. There were others on the site who shared opinions similar to Helen’s who were not asked to leave. The claimed justification for treating Helen so shabbily was that she is a hateful transphobic bigot. We do not believe that Helen is a bigot.

 

Helen is a feminist who holds beliefs based on basic biology, that humans are a dimorphic species and it is not possible to biologically change sex. Her view prioritises objective facts above personal subjective feelings when looking at how we should try to change society and dismantle oppressive social constructs such as gender stereotypes.

 

This was the third time that Helen has been threatened or evicted from political events in this way and others have received similar treatment. The idea that questioning gender identity theory amounts to bigotry and ‘hatred’ of trans people is justifying the exclusion of people from the movement. The effect of this is that many are afraid to express an opinion on the issue or even to ask any questions about it, and the end result is that most do not understand different perspectives on the issue. Progressive movements are supposed to work on the basis of mass participation; it is only through the honest exchange of views and varied life experiences that we are able to understand the implications of power dynamics, policies and laws and able to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected.

 

It is out of order to single out one individual to be excommunicated, hounded, physically assaulted and humiliated for views which many other progressive people in our radical networks share. No comrade deserves to be treated so shabbily, much less comrades whose commitment to social justice is undoubted and who have suffered so many attacks from both Corporate and State power.

 

This has to stop. It is time to make up your mind. Do you really think Helen Steel is a bigot?

 

Even if we disagree with some of her views, wouldn't you agree that her motivation is not hatred, but her experiences of sexism and wanting to dismantle it?

Maybe you need to look into the issues and do some reading and thinking before you can decide. Fair enough. But now is the time to do this. [Suggestions and a brief description of a gender-critical perspective on this issue are in the Appendix]

 

As we’ve said many times before – an attack on one is an attack on all.

 

If you don’t think Helen is a bigot then you must acknowledge that the way she is being treated by people in our movement is wrong.

We need to talk about this.

It is time to speak up.

Signed:

 

Cath Bann

& in alphabetical order...

Abigail Elizabeth Rowland

Adele Green

Aida Akmar Kaman

Ailsa Holland
Albert Beale

Alessandra Asteriti

Alexandra Ireland

Alex Hodson

Alice Bondi

Alice Dawnay

Alice Sullivan

Alison Butler

Alison Simmons

Alison Wren

Alix Goldring

Allison Downing

Ally Rogers

Amanda Maclean

Amber Ravenscroft

Amelia ap Ellis

Amy Atkins

Andrea Smith

Andrew Hitchcock

Andrew Willgoss

Andy Healey

Angela Garrigan

Anne Webster

Annie Gwillym Walker

Anne Gray

Ann McTaggart

Arthur healey

B Dahl

Barbara Hughes

Bea Jaspert

Beatrix Campbell

Becky Winstanley

Beverley Dale

Bev Jackson

Bob Lockhart

Brandon Spivey

Brian Morris

Brigitte Lechner

Bronwen Davies

Caitlin Roberts

Cambridge Radical Feminist Network

Carmel Reynolds-Knowles

Carol Ackroyd
Carol Fenwomyn

Caroline Boreham

Caroline Horne

Caroline Kerr

Caroline McCready

Caroline Spry

Caroline Wilson

Cassidy Quinn

Catherine Cavanagh

Catherine Cross

Cathoel Jorss

Cath Picken

Cathie Lee

Cathy Boardman

Ceri Williams

Charlotte Crouch

Cheryl Mckenzie

Cherry Austin

Chinzia Ogilvie

Chloe Wilson

Chris Dickens

Chris Earth

Chris Holt 

Chris Moore

Christian Garland

Christina Forte

Christine Camilleri

Christine Clarke

Christine McLaughlin

Claire Calverley

Claire Davies

Claire Hildreth

Claire Graham

Claire Jones

Clare B Dimyon

Clare Dougherty

Clare Eddison

Clare Farren

Clarissa Payne

Claudia Figueira

Claudia Kaplan

Claudia Taudte

Clifford Harper

Cllr Andrew Cooper

Cllr Imogen Makepeace

Cllr Shane Collins

Colin Chalmers

Cristina Gastaldi

Da Choong

Daisy Lee

Dani Ahrens

Daniel James

Darina Roche Kiang

Darren Guy

Dave Lyons

Dave Morris

Dave Smith

Dave King

David King

David Hainsworth

Dawn Laker

Dean Holdsworth

Debbie Epstein
Debbie Hayton

Deb Bradley

Deborah Holland

Dee Searle

Delyth Rennie

Denise Prideaux

Denise Sumpter

Dermot Morrow

Devin Ashwood

Diana Shelley

Diana Toynbee

Diane Brewster

Diane Jones

Dianne Vine

Dinah Stubbs

Donna McLean

Dr Lesley Semmens

Elizabeth Carola

Elizabeth Pitt

Ellie Stradders

Emel Kahraman

Emily Johns

Emily Newman

Emma Bateman

Emma Gibson

Emma Grover

Emma Hynes

Emma Johnson

Emma Long

Emma Wilkes

Esther Giles

Faye McCardle

Fern Eyles

Fiona English

Fiona Tresidder
Fionne Orlander

Fodo Higginson

Frances Connolley

Frances Davidson

Frances McMillan

Frances Wright

Frankie Lawrence

Gab Sinclair

Georgina Toye

Geraldine Halpin

Gerald Miles

Gerry Davies

Gill Barron

Gillian Dunn

Ginny Brown

Glyn Harries

Graham Linehan

Gringo Ben

Gwenan Richards

Harry Backhouse

Hattie Morgan

Hayley Mullen

Hazel Turner-Lyons
Heather Graham

Helen Beynon

Helen Haigh

Helen Roberts

Helen Rogers

Helena Coates

Helena Earnshaw

Helena Wotjczak

Helen Saxby

Helen Thompson

Helen Watts
Hilary Adams

Hilda Palmer

Holly Smith

Ian Fillingham

Ian Mills

Jacob Secker

Jacky Girling

Jacky Gruhn

Jacky Holyoake

Jacqueline Sheedy

Jane Ayres

Jane Clare Jones

Jane Harris

Janet Lallysmith

Janine Pyke

Jay Williams

Jean Cross

Jean Vidler

Jennifer Walsh

Jenny Jones

Jenny Randles

Jenny Ross

Jen Parker

Jerome Baker

Jess Baum

Jessica Goldfinch

Jessie Fenn

Jess Skelton

Jill Gardner

Jill Raymond

Josephine Bartosch

Jo Gaylor

Jo Hamilton

Joanna Bornat

Jocelyn Gaskell

Johanna Lambert

Josie Samways
John Cawthorne

John Child

John Healey

Jo O'Shea

Jo Wilding

Judith Green

Judith Suissa

Julie Davies

Julie Furlong

Julie Lunn
Julie Moss

Julie Scott

Julie Timbrell

Julie Wood

Juliette Fioretta

Kara Newsome

Karen Ingala Smith

Karen Kennedy

Karen Kruzycka

Katarina Visnar

Kate Baxter

Kate Evans

Kate Moore

Kate Styles

Kate Tyler

Kate Wilson

Kaye McIntosh

Keith Dobie

Ken Marshall

Kevin Ovenden

Kiri Tunks

Kris McKenna

Kris Rhodes

Kristina Dickson

Laura Connett

Laura Gale

Laura Tennant

Lawrence Meeran
Lee Nurse

Leonie Nimmo

Le Panayi

Letitia Harrison

Lisa Bishop

Lisa Mackenzie

Lisa-Marie Taylor

Lisa Randall

Liz Panton

Liz Vickers

Lolly Willowes

Loppy Oubridge

Lori Saxe

Lorraine Roberts

Lotus White

Lou Crisfield

Louise Sheridan

Louise Somerville

Lucy Prout

Lucy Winters

Luke Devlin

Lynn Finnegan

Lynton North

Mandy Vere

Marc Hudson

Marcus Grant

Maria Maclachlan

Mariette Labelle

Marina Pepper

Mark Briers

Mark Daniel

Mark Ramsden

Martha James

Martina Koepcke

Martyn Everett

Martyn Lowe

Mary Buttolph

Mary Dallas

Matt Smith

Matt Wilson

Maureen K Doll

Maya Forstater

May Mundt-Leach

Meg Edgoose Clubley

Mhairi Macalpine

Michael Biggs

Michael Conroy

Michael Gribben

Michael Hirsch

Michele Moore

Mick Gallagher

Milda Yadegar

Miguel Orgel

Mike Hannis

Mike Keeling

Mike Tarnoky

Mike Watmore

Miranda Yardley

Mo Hitchcock

M Parker

Nancy Thompson

Naomi Rosenberg

Natasha Perry

Nathan Jackson

Natja Thorbjornsen

Nichola Goff
Nicola Benge

Nicola Kerry

Nicola Watson

Nicola Williams

Nicki Wilkinson

Nikki Clark

Noel Cass

Noel Douglas

Nona Getty

Norma Hurley

Obi - Raymundo Obedencio
OBJECT

Olaf Bayer

Olivia Palmer

Orla Ní Chomhraí

Ornella Saibene

Owen Adams
Paddy Wagon

Past Tense

Patricia Golding

Pat Smith

Paula Hermes

Paula Lamont

Pauline McGuigan

Paul Loader

Penny Kemp

Peter Arkell

Peter Barnett

Peter Good

Peter Le Mare

Peter Lux

Phil McLeish

Pilgrim Tucker

Pippa Booth

Rabya Imaan

RAchel Devine

Rachel Masey

Rachel O'Brien

Raquel Rosario Sanchez

Rebecca Arthur

Rebecca Craddock

Rebecca Durand

Rebecca Gibbs

Rebecca Lush

Rebecca Pennington

Richard Hawkins

Richard Lawson

Rikki Blue

Robbie Pennington

Robert Banbury

Roger Talbot

Ronan Stenson

Rona Stewart

Ronnie Wright

Rosanne Rabinowitz

Rose Reeve

Rose Sanders

Roy Wilkes

Ruth Bennett

Ruth Conlock

Ruth Jacobs

Ruth Sinclair

Ruth Sullivan

Sally Jackson

Sally Woods

Sam Atkins

Sam Williams

Sanja Pitchkarevich

Sara Ettis

Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Bambridge

Sarah Galloway

Sarah Giles

Sarah Honeychurch

Sarah Miller

Sarah Mower

Sarah Pearson

Sarah Sharkey

Sarah Sheppard

Sarah Tanburn

Shaun Firkser

Sheila Freeman

Shelley Williams

Shereen Benjamin

Shernaz Dinshaw

Sian Sullivan

Sibyl Grundberg

Simon Baddeley

Simon Bramwell

Simon Fairlie

Simon Smith

S J Smith

Sofie Corfield

Sophie Allan

Sophie Cowgill

Soreh Levy

Stacey Charlesworth

Stephen Low

Stephen Medeema

Steve Bradbury

Steve Etherington

Steven Durrant

Sue Quinn Aziz

Suki Mason

Susan Flindt

Susan Ford

Susan Green

Susan Moffat
Terri Bell-Halliwell

Theo Simon

Tina Johnston

Tim Allman

Tish Naughton

Toby Hopkins

Tom Benson

Toni Meredew

Tony Smetham

Tracey Smith

Victoria Hood

Victoria Whitworth

Vivienne Boardman

Wendy Davis

Wendy Knight

Women's Voices Matter

Yvonne Manly

Yvonne Say

Ziggy Melamed


(448 names 10/6/19. To be added email solidarityisstrength@gmx.co.uk))

 

 

Appendix
 

NB - This is an outline of gender critical views such as those held by Helen Steel, given here to clarify where she is coming from on this issue, and not all signatories to the letter necessarily agree. This can be a complex issue and there isn't space to fully explore this, please do look into it further.

 

Gender and its associated stereotypes is damaging to all of society and especially to women and must be challenged, but as women's oppression is based on biological sex, biology is important. Trans people should absolutely be accorded every human right, and these rights must be defended. Their struggle should be recognised, they should be treated with respect and dignity and without prejudice. A compassionate society should treat trans people as if they were their preferred sex up to the point at which this brushes up against the rights of another oppressed group. The point at which these rights conflict with each other is the space in which we need sensitive but thorough debates to occur, if sensible solutions and compromises are to be reached.

However, if we are forced to believe, at the threat of exclusion or accusation of bigotry, that trans people actually are the opposite sex because they believe themselves to be so, not only are we being asked to deny material reality but the logical conclusion of this view leads society down some regressive paths.

Examples of such would be that if transwomen are actually female, then they can also be lesbians (as many claim to be), and female lesbians are subsequently pressured into accepting male bodied people into their communities and their sexualities (if you don't think this is a thing look up 'lady-dick', 'man-pussy' or the 'cotton-ceiling'. Many lesbians are very worried and gay men are also starting to recognise the pressure to be attracted to people with vaginas as an attack on homosexual rights).

 

Another example would be the societal pressure which may lead gender non-conforming children down trans pathways which may result in lifelong medicalisation, sexual disappointment and irreversible bodily alterations. A final example being the opprobrium directed by some in the transgender movement at trans people who acknowledge their biological sex, labelling them with the slur 'truscum'.

If it is gender and not sex that is to be the yardstick, then sex segregated spaces or sports (for which our foremothers fought) become meaningless. All of society will be impacted, but the burden inevitably falls heaviest on women.

 

For further reading on this see:

 

http://notthenewsinbriefs.wordpress.com/ – for an intro to the issue.

http://womansplaceuk.org/ (a campaigning group established by left-wing feminists, socialists, anarchists and trade unionists)

www.janeclarejones.com – for a funny and frank take on trans issues from a feminist philosopher – especially good on picking apart the academic Judith Butler-esque intellectual scaffolding holding up trans issues, with an illuminating  article on the difference between gay rights and trans rights.

Mrkhvoice.com – for how intersex issues are entirely distinct from trans.

 

fairplayforwomen.com (particularly on the sports issue)

Rebecca Reilly Cooper -https://aeon.co/essays/the-idea-that-gender-is-a-spectrum-is-a-new-gender-prison

transgendertrend.com (particularly on the impact on children and young people)

 

Helen's own words on her views https://helensteel12.wordpress.com/2017/12/26/my-speech-to-a-womens-place-public-meeting-in-cambridge-on-23rd-nov-2017/

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Appendix B

More about Helen Steel
 

Since leaving school at 17, Helen has worrked as a  minibus driver, bar worker, trainee electrician, and council gardener.

She has been a dedicated and lifelong unpaid activist in the following movements and campaigns (sometimes playing a pivotal but 'behind-the-scenes' role in some of the core groups involved): environmental, anti-nuclear, animal rights, housing, anti-fascist / anti-racist, prisoner-solidarity, feminist, labour movement (including being a shop steward for many years), anti-poll tax, anarchist, freedom to protest,land rights, family justice campaigns, anti-blacklisting, Earth First!, anti-capitalist, opposing multinational corporations (including being one of the 2 'McLibel' defendants successfully defending campaigners' rights to challenge censorship), local community issues (eg via residents groupsnd Friends of Parks), and most recently anti-spycops campaigning (exposing and challenging the police infiltration of campaign groups, especially the deceitful and abusive intimate relationship formed with women by officers while undercover - Helen was one fo the women affected).

Helen's unstinting opposition to oppression, bullying and censorship, and unwavering solidarity with others up against the rich and powerful or facing the legal system has been an inspiration to many of us
.
 

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