We need to talk about gender-recognition

For too long, the fear of causing offence has stifled debate over transgender issues.

Rebecca Lowe and Victoria Hewson

During election periods, it is easy to feel as if democracy is back in town. But it is important to remember that voting is just one crucial part of the ongoing democratic process. Democracy is a process of constant deliberation, involving different kinds of engagement between different citizens, in spaces far from the ballot box.

Another crucial part of the democratic process is campaigning: by politicians doing the rounds; by local activists supporting their representatives; and by anyone, anywhere, who simply cares strongly and vocally about one issue or many. Campaigning is central to the battle of ideas that gives life to a vibrant, vital democracy.

Democracy, then, depends on debate and disagreement. Lately, however, it often feels as if these activities have come to be frowned upon – except in certain prescribed formats. Too many people want to shut the debate down, whenever it suits them, whenever it becomes too awkward. Yet consensus means nothing if we’re not allowed to disagree.

Democratic deliberation is premised on the equal right of every citizen to contribute to the self-government of their nation. And this is damaged when important topics are deemed beyond the remit of civil discussion. When voices are quashed. When ‘consensus’ means the forced triumph of acceptable ideas, and ‘tolerance’ is only extended to those with whom one already agrees.

Three weeks ago, we launched a campaign called Radical. Its topic is increasingly familiar: the gender-recognition debate. Discussion of this topic is not only often deemed unacceptable – it is also regularly silenced with threats of physical violence. Those, especially women, who seek to discuss it rigorously regularly find themselves facing sexual jibes, online menace and rape threats.

We were aware of the risk, therefore, of launching a campaign that is explicitly on the side of rigour: a freedom-focused campaign, committed to searching out truth and fighting for it.

Crucial to our campaign is our belief that respect and toleration are central to a good society. People who want to conduct themselves as members of the opposite sex should be entitled to do so. And they should be treated just as respectfully as anyone else. But we also believe that male and female are distinct biological categories. And women are adult female human beings. And that law should not mandate that biological men must be treated as women, or vice versa. And that it is wrong for children to undergo medical interventions intended to make them resemble children of the opposite sex.

These are dangerous views to state today. Thankfully, however, we have not, as yet, faced any threats. Rather, we are grateful for all the messages of support we have received: from seasoned campaigners we have admired from afar, and from concerned people who just want to speak out, and who are relieved to see others able to do so.

These messages have also come from across the political spectrum. The two of us are on the classically liberal side of UK politics – most people would see us as centre-right. But our unfunded campaign is non-party-political and non-partisan.

We hope that the support we have received will help us spread the message – that it is possible to work together and talk about gender recognition rigorously. That this has not already been happening – in our think tanks, in our universities, in our political institutions – is a cause for national embarrassment. The power of suppression and the fear of repercussion are real and strong, but without disagreement, our society is not free.

Brexit may have divided many of us, but arguing about it is perfectly acceptable. Yet, arguing about other important matters, like gender recognition, is seemingly not acceptable. And it urgently needs to be.

The judgement handed down this week in Maya Forstater’s employment tribunal – a judgment stating that Forstater’s belief that sex is biological and immutable is ‘incompatible with human dignity’ – brutally illustrates the real-life consequences of one side of the debate becoming so dominant.

During the election campaign, the only politicians who spoke out on gender recognition, which was embarrassingly off the agenda for the most part, seemed to be those parroting the acceptable line. This is not just cowardly. It also eats away at our democracy.

Ex-Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson was justly criticised for her confused views on gender recognition. But she did perform a great service by showing the quagmire we enter when policy thinking is grounded only by attempts to avoid causing offence. This has gone on for far too long. It is time for a commitment to searching out truth – not just on the easy topics, but also on those that are most difficult.

Rebecca Lowe and Victoria Hewson run the campaign, Radical. Follow it on Twitter: @WeAreRadical_

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Ven Oods

24th December 2019 at 3:47 pm

“Brexit may have divided many of us, but arguing about it is perfectly acceptable.”

Yet, rarely witnessed as anything other than a shouting match…

Hugh Oxford

23rd December 2019 at 7:13 pm

To preserve our freedoms, to promote equality, to fight patriarchy and misogyny and to protect the most vulnerable women in society a raft of anti-gender legislation is urgently needed, and the UK government should proudly pioneer it.

This anti-gender legislation must:

1: Enshrine in law the definition of a woman as a person of the female biological sex, the only exception being those individuals with defined, demonstrable objective chromosomal or physiological abnormalities who do not clearly fit into either sex (as determined by a panel of impartial medical practitioners).

2: Make it illegal to provide a service, run an organisation, organise a sporting event or run a facility for both sexes where it is advertised as being for women or girls.

3: Make it illegal to masquerade as a member of the opposite sex for the purposes of entering a single-sex environment or participating in a single-sex activity.

4: Reinforce the inalienable right to refer to another person using scientifically correct nouns and pronouns (man/woman/boy/girl/he/she) according to their objective biological sex.

5: Abolish the use of the term “gender” in government documents, reports, forms, censuses or surveys, replacing it with “sex”, where the word “gender” has been misapplied.

6: Make it a requirement for organisations to provide facilities such as toilets (where provided) for both sexes.

In summary, the UK government must act now against “gender”: a baseless, transgressive, patriarchal and misogynistic ideology with damaging ramifications for the whole of society, but especially for young, poor and vulnerable women who require single sex environments the most, and all women who face the threat of legal and practical eradication.

Laura D

21st December 2019 at 4:02 pm

I am in the US and I am trying to lobby for the repeal of the IOC’s transgender policies along with other laws that allow trans women to participate in and compete in biological women’s sports. That is the only place where TG participation should be banned. I am all for TG in sports in co-ed competitions or in competitions of chosen TG. I am all for TG’s being treated like every human being should be in society.

margaret robinson

20th December 2019 at 5:49 pm

Radical should be turned into a real public movement. Publicity, speakers , and supporters broadcasting it the length and breadth of the country


20th December 2019 at 1:00 pm

CLAIRE D — ‘a serious social problem’ lol.

So where are all these cases of tg people attacking women in this country? There are a few activist nutters but the same can be said of any group of people, and that ‘Karen White’ case was shameful, mostly down to the authorities lack of common sense. Nevertheless, where are all these cases of tg people attacking or sexually assaulting women? Most of the tg people I’ve met are just quietly getting on with their lives, as well as trying to avoid people who are trying to limit their fundamental freedoms out of ignorance, fear and spite.

Claire D

20th December 2019 at 1:30 pm


Transgender Ideology as a serious social problem:

1. Transgenderism as social contagion.

2. Troubled, distressed children being given hormone blockers and encouraged by health professionals within the NHS to look forward to having a surgical sex change as soon as possible.

3. Meetings planned by women/feminists to discuss the issue threatened with violent action.

4. People losing their jobs and careers for voicing concern or disagreement on these matters.

5. Conferences, lectures on this subject cancelled repeatedly due to threats of violent disruption.

6. Individuals bullied online (see JK Rowling article).

John Brown

23rd December 2019 at 6:56 am

“Transgender Ideology as a serious social problem:

1. Transgenderism as social contagion.”

So far, you show you have nothing valid to say

“2. Troubled, distressed children being given hormone blockers and encouraged by health professionals within the NHS to look forward to having a surgical sex change as soon as possible.”

Children can only be given puberty blockers when they reach puberty, and only after long time therapy by a psychiatric profession who is satisfied that the child is Transgender. Puberty blockers last until the age of 15, where they are re evaluated before going on the hormone replacement therapy. Only as adults, over the age of 18 can they have a sex reassignment surgery

“3. Meetings planned by women/feminists to discuss the issue threatened with violent action.”

From who? Not Transgender people, maybe regressive leftist like Antifa, still has fuckall to do with Transgender issues

“4. People losing their jobs and careers for voicing concern or disagreement on these matters.”

If it’s a government job where the government is about equality and inclusiveness, then yeah. Especially when Transgenderism is proved medical science

“5. Conferences, lectures on this subject cancelled repeatedly due to threats of violent disruption.”

Citation needed

“6. Individuals bullied online (see JK Rowling article).”

not that she deserves it, but again, we’re talking about the regressive left, not liberals or Centre leftist.

I’m going to add, that while they can not change their biological sex, there is more to biology than just XY and XX, there is also XXY, XYY XXXY and just X. Also, medical science has long known that men and women have physically different brains in terms of volume of grey and white brain matter, and that they function in completely different ways, even doing the same tasks

Transgender individuals have brains that do not match their natal sex, meaning, their brains are more closely matched to the opposite sex to what they were born with. It’s proven science, both in MRI and autopsy

Claire D

27th December 2019 at 1:31 pm

@ JOHN BROWN, only just caught up with your response.

” Transgenderism as social contagion “; the majority of cases of transgenderism amongst children in the UK are from the South East, predominantly London and Brighton, far fewer elsewhere. This suggests an element of social contagion to me, and others.

Transgenderism has not been proved by ” medical science “( I could say ” citation needed ” but I won’t). Transgenderism has been given authentication by Stonewall, a group of political activists, who have successfully lobbied Parliament, also by mermaids and gids and ultimately by the Equality Act 2010. It is a direct result of Feminist Ideology (in my opinion) insisting men and women are identical and any difference is as a result of the ‘ oppressive patriarchy ‘ that has lasted thousands of years apparently, and is purely ‘ a social construct ‘.

” Citation needed ” ? ! This is a comments page, my comment is not an academic essay, “citation” off.

Take it or leave it.

Claire D

27th December 2019 at 1:39 pm

As for chromosomes, as I have already explained elsewhere, there are only two sexes, Male XY and Female XX. Even when there are anomalies, a few in every 1000, whenever a Y is present testicular development of some kind will occur, Testes = Male; whenever no Y is present ovarian development occurs, Ovaries = Female.
Suggest anyone who disagrees with this picks up a Evolutionary Biological textbook and reads the relevant section.

Claire D

27th December 2019 at 2:00 pm

I have an extra response regarding your chromosomes ‘ idea ‘ (to put it kindly) but it is being moderated, however, I have said something similar on the JK Rowling article thread, you can read it there if you want to.

margaret robinson

20th December 2019 at 5:46 pm

The attacks rarely come from Transgender people. By that I mean men who have with great fortitude taken on the attributes and personas of a woman, refining voice, hair styles and clothing, and for some ultimately surgery. Respect and rights. For the fantasists that according to how they feel, think they are entitled to the same respect by frequently swopping roles or maintaining their physical male appearance while demanding to be called a woman. These are absolute frauds
The violent, threats, and harrassment is frequently driven ny non trans people who use it to drive their far left marxist agenda

Claire D

27th December 2019 at 1:53 pm

I expect you are right Margaret and as I have said elsewhere I have no problem with people living their lives as the opposite sex. So called transgenderism only becomes a problem when it is used as a weapon by activists and ‘ the state ‘ to silence dissent, to encroach on other people’s rights and potentially to cynically make a profit out of the vulnerable, eg,pharmaceuticals and law firms.

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