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.

Jim Lawrie

20th December 2019 at 12:06 pm

One result of all this that is not commented on is that there are heterosexual women using it to give vent and violence to their hatred of lesbians. And they are being lauded for it.

Jim Lawrie

20th December 2019 at 12:05 pm

Female Penis as soon as you concede that what he looks like is relevant then you lose because it is not possible to win an argument based on subjectivity. No amount of dressing up in women’s clothes or cutting up in an operating theatre will change the fact that Greg Murray is a man and always will be.

Female Penis

20th December 2019 at 12:11 pm

The appearance mattered in the Maya case as it was easy to see how she misgendered.
But I see what you mean.

Jim Lawrie

20th December 2019 at 11:09 am

The term gender comes from linguistics, where it has masculine, feminine and neuter forms. That 3rd option is the basis for so called “gender flexibility”. Allied with the equally spurious identity, the whole thing becomes subjective. Sex does the job. Man. Woman.

Feminism and feminist are a pretentious back formation from feminine. They might sound better than The Women’s Movement, and flatter with an -ism, but their conflation with femininity gives weight to subjective behavioural choices as evidence of sex, which they are not.

We need to have a lot of legislation repealed so as to be allowed freedom of association in all spheres of life, and not be controlled in these matters by the state and its apogees.
The obfuscation created by the terms gender and feminism have led to The Women’s Movement’s accomodation with and then succumbence to the Trannie’s Trojan Horse.

Gender does not exist. The Women’s Movement does.
That movement has to consider where they went wrong, and correct their mistakes.

Drop guff and proclamatory openers like “Speaking as a woman, …” We know what you are. It does not have to be pointed out. It does not lend weight. It is not a qualification or an achievement. What else could you be speaking as? A rhinoceros?

Titus Groan

20th December 2019 at 8:31 pm

Quite Jim. Daft “movement” spawned both the idioch of “gender” and the invitation for the state to make the “private” political. Sit back and enjoy the schadenfreude, as if you have xy you’re plain toxic. Might as well leave the girls to it.

Ed Turnbull

20th December 2019 at 10:39 am

As I pointed out on the thread about ‘Based Amy’ being given a custodial sentence for ‘insulting’ Anna Soubry, we seem to have entered an age where enunciating certain truths will land you in the courts. (On that thread I demonstrated that Soubry’s behaviour satisfies the definition of the word ‘traitor’ and that to label her thus is nothing but stating the truth).

The Maya Forstater case is even worse: the idiot (and that’s not too strong a word) sitting in judge has just declared that stating a fact – an *incontrovertible fact* – is “incompatible with human dignity”. Where does one even begin with such monumental lunacy? As I’ve often opined, I feel I’ve fallen through the looking glass and I’m now in a world where words mean exactly what Humpty want them to mean (no more, no less). And where I’m commended to emulate the Red Queen and believe in many impossible things before breakfast. Either that or far too many have read “1984” as a blueprint for a ‘fair and just society’, rather than a cautionary tale. Whichever it is I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore Toto. Bring me the ruby slippers – I wanna go home! (Apologies for the over indulgence in cultural references 😉 ).

Female Penis

20th December 2019 at 10:21 am

*Greg Murray goes by *they* not she,as I stated earlier, the point still stands

Female Penis

20th December 2019 at 10:00 am

This post mentions ‘radical’ but there is nowhere for people to get involved, the link doesn’t provide much info, how can the wider public air their views?


20th December 2019 at 9:41 am

The irony is that both Ireland and Denmark changed the law to allow tg people to self-identify. There was no hysteria and barely any public comment. Nor have there subsequently been dozens of cases in those countries of tg people attacking women as a result. Why are the English acting in such a hysterical and exaggerated manner?

Female Penis

20th December 2019 at 9:59 am

Because it was hidden in with marriage equality/gay rights, the public of those countries were not consulted, besides makes no odds in terms of our rights to have the debate.
The more open the debate the less hassle in the long term, as a consensus will be reached, unlike in those aforementioned countries.

Jim Lawrie

20th December 2019 at 11:33 am

Access to women’s places is not a matter of self identifying.

Lesbians should be allowed to set up lesbian only bars and decide who is allowed in. Ditto heterosexual men, gay men, straight women etc …

Female Penis

20th December 2019 at 3:00 pm

Lesbians have been encouraged to feel the texture of a penis of someone taking HRT, we are informed that the ‘mouthfeel’ is really quite different…yer I’m a lesbian, you lost me at penis. The irony is, I would considered insensitive or intolerant, for saying I wouldn’t consider it, ignoring the fact of course the question of ‘why am I even being asked this?

Willie Penwright

20th December 2019 at 8:42 am

This is a sensible article and a sensible campaign and the fact that it is necessary shows just how much we have allowed public discourse to be silenced.
There is one thing in this article that confuses me: “women, who seek to discuss it rigorously regularly find themselves facing sexual jibes, online menace and rape threats”. Who is making these rape threats? Surely not men who have “transgendered” into women.


20th December 2019 at 9:47 am

There are unfortunately some nutters out there. However, it’s a bit rich for feminists to attack tg people on the grounds of biological essentialism when they have been undermining traditional gender roles for over a century now.

Ellen Whitaker

20th December 2019 at 12:47 pm

“Biological essentialism” — that’s a good one. Most women want gender roles relaxed. Trans-women want them reified – that’s a conflict. Gender – if by that you mean sex roles and sex stereotypes – is fluid. Sex is not.


20th December 2019 at 12:57 pm

ELLEN WHITAKER – ‘Most women want gender roles relaxed. Trans-women want them reified’ —

It’s patently clear that ‘most women’ do NOT want gender roles relaxed if they’re attacking tg people for attempting to change their gender role! You can’t advance your own right to do something for yourself and then prevent others from doing exactly the same!

Cedar Grove

20th December 2019 at 11:52 pm

As usual, your remarks are as confused as they are hostile.

It’s perfectly possible to recognise the scientific categories of sex (what you call essentialism) while pointing out that roles in the home or the workplace (performative gender) ought to be taken on the basis of ability & personal choice, not genital arrangement.

Many women have made that point throughout the ages. In its most recent incarnation, it was the basis of 1970s feminism. Do try to keep up a little.

Mark Houghton

20th December 2019 at 7:57 am

We’re going down a dangerous road if anyone can shut down anyone else simply by claiming that they’re offended. I disagree with the idea that people can switch gender but i certainly don’t want anyone who is confused about their gender to be on the receiving end of violence.


20th December 2019 at 9:44 am

You’ve been shutting down transexuals for centuries!

Mark Houghton

20th December 2019 at 12:29 pm

Me personally? I’m only 55 so I’ve not been around for centures. That’s my first point. Second point what exactly have it done to ‘shut down’ trannies? Your post is illogical and hysterical.

Dominic Straiton

20th December 2019 at 6:38 am

Adult human female.


20th December 2019 at 9:43 am

Yes, and? And now what are you going to do practically with someone who presents as gender dysphoric?

Claire D

20th December 2019 at 11:12 am


They should be treated in the same way as society treats anyone with a mental health problem; with kindness and whatever medical/psychological help is appropriate to their circumstances, but NOT by legitimizing their fantasy as being a biological reality.


20th December 2019 at 1:03 pm

CLAIRE D — ‘their fantasy’

I doubt whether you would use that kind of language in relation to people with schizophrenia, people experiencing hallucinations, extreme forms of depression or anxiety, people with autism, people with OCD. I thought you said tg people should be treated with ‘compassion’. Where is yours?

Claire D

20th December 2019 at 1:46 pm

Fair enough Zenobia, perhaps ‘ fantasy ‘ was not ideal, though it was not meant vindictively. Is anyone certain that an element of fantasy is not involved in Gender Dysphoria ?

You are a brave champion for the TGs that you know and I respect that, but the difficulty lies not with those peaceful minded people but with Transgender activists, the law as it stands, and Transgender policies being so enthusiastically adopted by politicians and promoted in the NHS.

Claire D

20th December 2019 at 1:51 pm

. . .and in schools.

Jane 70

20th December 2019 at 5:07 am

Please let’s accept the biological truths: females and males, equal but different.

Please let’s accept that most of us in the female population wish to retain our own identity, our own loos and changing rooms and , just as importantly, prisons and refuges for women and girls.

The same criteria should apply to men and boys, who are just as entitled as we are to privacy.

Finally, allow a discussion of this topic without the threats and acrimony which achieved such rapid dominance in so short a time.

Identity should not be claimed, nor changed, on little more than a whim : society must have recourse to verifiable fact and criteria if it is to survive as a reasonablly stable democratic enterprise.

Claire D

20th December 2019 at 7:54 am

I second all that you say there Jane.

I wish Rebecca and Victoria all the best with their campaign, and my sympathy to Maya Forstater at the injustice she has been served.

The Equality Act 2010 should be reviewed if not repealed.

Jane 70

20th December 2019 at 8:00 am

Thanks Claire, and I note that JK Rowling has just injected a note of good common sense on twitter.

Perhaps Maya Forstater might appeal, in which case a much deserved crowd funder?

Claire D

20th December 2019 at 8:56 am

Yes, if her legal team think there’s a reasonable chance of winning an appeal, but it seems to me the law is all on the side of the fantasists, it’s ominous.

Female Penis

20th December 2019 at 10:09 am

Have you seen who it was that Maya ‘misgendered’? Her name is Greg Murray, born male presents male, self Identifies as she, goes by the name of Greg, and Maya referred to her *greg* as he.
Greg also celebrated the death of a (cis) woman on his Twitter, the double standards and misogyny is breath taking.
This new phenomenon of straight males self Identifying as female needs to be called out for what it is, it’s a fetish it is nothing to do with being trans.

L Strange

20th December 2019 at 3:12 am

That sex is biological and cannot be changed isn’t a belief, it’s a scientific fact. This says nothing about transgenderism or trans-folk’s right not to be harassed, bullied or otherwise discriminated against. Ideological hysterics, on the other hand, claim that the statement is a call for ‘annihilation’.

How can there be ‘debate’ with such maniacs?

Claire D

20th December 2019 at 9:08 am

I agree with you L Strange. The fundamental mistake was when Transgenderism was enshrined in law, alongside other ‘ characteristics ‘, as needing special protection. This validates a state of mind. We need to return to real equality, which would mean everyone is protected equally under the law, and each case of discrimination would be judged on it’s individual merits.


20th December 2019 at 9:42 am

Gender dysphoria is also a ‘fact’ – a constant of human behaviour over millenia. The issue is how you deal with it.

Female Penis

20th December 2019 at 10:12 am

You don’t deal with it by allowing a bunch of straight males with a fetish to co-OP your movement and go around being blatantly misogynistic, you call them out, and state they don’t speak for you

L Strange

20th December 2019 at 10:46 am

I’m not contesting the existence of gender dysphoria, nor the right of transgender people to be free of harassment. But people are losing their jobs now for stating that sex exists because it upsets some people’s fantasies of metamorphosis. That cannot be how it’s to be dealt with.

Claire D

20th December 2019 at 10:47 am


Gender Dysphoria is NOT a fact, it is a condition like Anorexia, D epression and phobias. Medical facts are involved in the diagnosis of these conditions but they are not facts in themselves, they are the names we use to describe collections or groups of symptoms, which we can then put under a certain heading.
To have validated it and enshrined it in law was a stupid mistake, which we are now having to deal with as a serious social problem.

Ed Turnbull

20th December 2019 at 1:33 pm

Yes ZP, gender dysphoria *is* a fact. And it’s a mental illness. Believing you’re something you’re not is most definitely delusional behaviour, This is acceptable in young children, but in adults it’s a problem. Particularly when those adults insist you validate their delusions. Or they’ll have the rozzers on you.

In a sane world you do not treat mental illnesses by offering surgery and drugs to reinforce the sufferers’ delusions, you employ psychiatry to talk them out of it. What about those who suffer other dysphorias, like believing they should be blind? Or crippled? Do we pluck out their eyes because their eyes offend them? Do we break out the bone saws and hack off limbs? Mutilation of healthy bodies to satisfy the vain fantasies of a bunch of narcissistic fetishists (most TGs *aren’t* suffering gender dysphoria) is a violation of the Hippocratic oath (I wonder just how few doctors actually swear it these days).

Of course,

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to comment. Log in or Register now.