Note: GNC is an abbreviation for gender non-conforming.
On the evening of Saturday, February 17, Charlie Montague and I jumped the fence at Auckland Pride to lead the parade and conduct the first televised interview of the event. We – proudly – held a two metre banner reading STOP GIVING KIDS SEX HORMONES – PROTECT LESBIAN YOUTH: a statement that, however boldly made, should surely not be controversial. Other than the accidentally live streamed interview, the action was largely ignored by media: only Scoop published the press release. The main response has been on social media.
The social media response has included plenty of trashing, much of it amusing. I’ve been compared to Milo Yiannopoulos (though I collaborated, on this action, with a lesbian “ecofascist”). Anne Russell, who has previously published fabrications about me being an ‘abuser’, went so far as to coin the term “Genital Witch”. Threats have been made on my job, even though I’ve already lost it due to transactivist lobbying, and the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective community liaison Ahi Wi-Hongi suggested he wants my arm broken. People Against Prisons Spokesperson Emmy Rakete said he would “let” me “take part in this conversation” if I would “post a photo with your whole hand inside a woman” (though presumably this could mean simply sending a picture of my hand in an oven mitt, since Rakete cannot define what a woman is). In support of Rakete, someone called @drakegurl420 tweeted that “renee gerlich is such a piece of trash that needs 2 be eradicated !!!! trash !!!!!!!!!”. Twitter found that this tweet did not breach community standards.
However appalling, and however ridiculous this backlash is – all the worse for being sanctioned by online hosts like Twitter – it has been absolutely peanuts compared to the flood of gratitude and support that Montague and I have received since Saturday evening. I have had to go looking for the backlash (I do this for my own record and safety), but support for Montague and I has been flooding our Twitter notifications second by second and throughout each night for a week. And this is not robots – these are people, people with stories to tell and perspectives to share who have been palpably relieved to see their concerns represented on broadcast media through feminist action.
The purpose of this blog post is to honour the support Montague and I have received, demonstrate how much of it is out there for feminist action, and show the honesty, heart and urgency behind it. These are only some of the people who supported Charlie and I – thank you to everyone mentioned. To those who have engaged in the debate just to undermine and dismiss the concerns Montague and I have expressed – like several New Zealand Green Party representatives have – know that along with us, you are dismissing all the voices below, too.
One of the best questions asked in the face of the backlash to Montague and my action was just what all the controversy was about in the first place. “How is the message *protect lesbian youth* shocking or even controversial?” tweeted Gaye Chapman. Paul Litterick, a writer for the Spinoff – an outlet that is overall hostile to gender critical perspectives – also observed the aggression we have been subjected to. “I think your action has changed the debate. The anger coming your way, and the lies, only confirm that”, Litterick tweeted.
People who had been preyed on, or at risk of predation through gender medicalisation wrote to us in thanks. Jade Praerie sent “Solidarity from San Francisco. I was transed as a young adult. Now I’m disfigured and a permanent medical patient. I’d like my body back, please.
#desist #detrans“. From France, Niki tweeted “Thank you, thank you, thank you! Its so much more likely that GNC in kids is a indicator of homosexual or bisexual than transsexual. It’s my story, deeply dysphoric till puberty, now a happy bisexual adult. If I was a kid now I would be trans-ed and missed out on my true life.”
Many parents were grateful for our action for the same reasons as Jade and Niki. Skeptical Mom tweeted “Parents like me have been begging *anyone* *anywhere* to listen to our concerns, but we are shut down immediately. We say “here’s the evidence, what do you think?” and we are told we are bigots who should have our kids taken away.” Gender Critical Dad sent “I so want my daughter to see this next time she goes on a pride parade, but not 2 brave lesbians, but 100 or 1,000”. From the United States, Penny White wrote: “My daughter, who is almost 19, is not at risk of cancer, liver damage, bone damage, or infertility. Why? Because my daughter outgrew the gender dysphoria she experienced from ages 12-16, & has had no unnecessary medical intervention. She is healthy, happy, Lesbian, & whole.”
Lisa Marchiano, a clinical social worker and Jungian analyst who has produced an excellent podcast for Feminist Current on The trouble with transing kids, tweeted: “Many therapists are also worried about this trend to medicalize gender nonconformity, especially as we know that GNC behavior in childhood correlates highly with adult same sex sexual orientation. Many know this but are afraid to speak out. Thank you.”
Some tweeters objected that the numbers of children being medicated was negligible. When Henry Wimbush sent someone statistics discussing two hundred children medicated in Scotland, only to receive a response stating that this wasn’t exactly “epidemic”, he said: “Agreed! That’s *only* 200 kids being given chemotherapy drugs off-label in order to “treat” a condition with no objective diagnosis, though the drugs are known to have deleterious effects including lowering IQ. And the numbers are quadrupling every 3 years.”
As an intersex person, Nicky K.D Chaleunphone (who blogs here and is interviewed here), is sick of intersex concerns being conflated with transgenderism. Nicky tweeted “You’ve got my fullest backing… I’m an intersex / DSD person and I’m sick & tired of the Trans crap & trans pressuring intersex people to SRS,” meaning Sex Reassignment Surgery. “My take on SRS is that SRS is harmful, toxic and very dangerous. It’s why Intersex people like myself fight against SRS on Intersex kids & for that matter intersex adults,” wrote Nicky. “It’s why many Intersex people are fighting back against trans invading Intersex community.”
Debbie Hayton, a male who identifies as transgender, wrote in support. “Trans woman sending you best wishes from the UK. We need to talk about these issues. Sorry if you are drawing in negative responses from those who fear talking about them.” Hayton has written about gender politics for the Morning Star Online, in a piece I certainly take issue with – but his support demonstrates that trans-identifying males, too, want to have a critical conversation, and are embarrassed by the ire levelled directed at feminists on their behalf.
The biggest response we received came from lesbian women, with support from gay men. Carbon, from California, asked “Do you believe that exclusive same sex attraction is a legitimate orientation?” since the whole notion of “gender identity” undermines sex, and thus same-sex attraction. Montague herself has faced horrors because of this homophobia. Then, when someone asked why “you lot” were “so obssessive” about this topic – a woman with the phenomenal twitter handle @giganticlesbian wrote, “But ‘you lot’ do you mean us lesbians? Us lesbians who are sick of hearing that males can be lesbians? Us lesbians who are sick of being called transphobic because we are same sex attracted? Us lesbians seeing young lesbians being coerced to trans?” “What strikes me is these people in this thread couldnt care less about lesbians,” wrote Riverstreet, another lesbian with a stake in the debate. “How many lesbians are you going to talk over?” asked Chapman, also a lesbian.
“Maybe … just maybe,” wrote Carlin XX from New Zealand, “if you are so ignorant about what women are facing you shouldn’t be jumping in boots and all to police their response? Are you one of those guys who “never see sexual harassment happen” too?”
Feminists like Lise Meitner responded to continued insistence that gender is a matter of subjective identity (an idea that justifies medical experimentation on children and the bullying of lesbians), by insisting on evidence-based debate. Meitner wrote: “Words mean things and if someone uses a word improperly then I will correct them. If men could become women there would be no need to force women to accept them as such. Telling people to ignore their own senses & value patriarchal dogma over material reality is zealotry.”
Put another way, “Gotta love the men telling us women we don’t exist as a class: so we cannot protest the patriarchy” tweeted Kristina Vasaätten, in response to Young Greens convenor Max Tweedie’s insistence that there is no solid definition of what a woman is. “TRANSACTIVISM = FEMALE ERASURE”, she said.
Joseph J. Jackson, a U.S. based lawyer, tweeted: “Yup. The entirety of genderist dogma is turtles all the way down.”
In the tweet below, Meitner challenged the idea that any young people benefit from medical and surgical conversion therapy. When another commentator suggested that maybe “some” would, @thehomoarchy asked: “So how many sterilized, castrated, & mastectomy scarred gay/lesbian youth are acceptable collateral damage for trans healthcare?”
Jackson, and Sahila Changebringer – a New Zealander – weighed in to challenge those suggesting that the banner carried by Montague and I at Pride was “disrespectful” and even “violent”. They drew attention to the silencing of women who have critical views on gender, as did Skeptical Mom. They also pointed out the danger involved for women who engage in the discussion critically, by showing how many transactivists endorse, employ and fetishise violence, intimidation and aggressive posturing. JS Mill wrote “FACT: Women, especially lesbians, who stand up to “trans” extremism regularly receive death threats, rape threats, suicide wishes, arson threats, etc. If you’re not on their side, then speak out against them when they engage in this behavior. Call them out.” She linked to the website terfisaslur.com to demonstrate the extent of online harrassment. Jackson and Changebringer posted photos of transactivists with custom-designed knives and axes.
“Who is being disrespectful?” asked gay rights advocate @historyman2006. “These women are trying to save lives! You’re arguing for the destruction of lives.” Elaborating, he tweeted “Have you considered that many of us simply have had enough of trying to be civil when the other side is rarely civil in return? And so taking a drastic step like this was necessary.” He pointed out how “even now, the “discussion” isn’t about the main issue (medicalization of GNC kids), but rather about the appropriateness of these women taken the action they did! Unbelievable!” Echoing this, #FreeCyntoiaBrown! wrote: “Ye Olde Sexist Man tactic: Women must *smile & be nice* about everything from sexual coercion to experimental use of cancer drugs on kids, or MrManners here will haughtily refuse to care.” Amen.
In any case, wrote @homoarchy, “If you think trans activists will allow even a respectful conversation about drugging & sterilizing gender nonconforming children you have not been paying attention to this issue, you have no idea what is going on, and YOU need to start dealing with reality.” @homoarchy writes the blog homoarchy.com and is the author of the article Do Youth Transgender Diagnoses Put Would Be Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Adults at Risk for Unnecessary Medical Intervention?
“The action was meant as a bit of the shock to the uncritical,” wrote diva ex machina, “but the message itself is not shocking in any sense. Kids need to grow up physically and mentally. There’s already a ton of evidence that the current medicalizaion of GNC kids is causing long term harm.”
Two tweeters made heartening connections showing that the intervention in Auckland was nothing more than an action true to the spirit and history of feminist and Pride protest. A New Zealand based second waver wrote, heartened: “Thank you for doing this. As an old 2nd waver I thought all was lost. Over the last few weeks I had been reading up on what was happening in the Uk – and then you two came along – Brilliant – proud of you both.” Then there was Kevin (@ToKnowIsToDo), tweeting: “Protecting our youth, especially girls, from harm is a moral responsibility. I applaud you for taking an undaunted stand, in the courageous spirit of Stormé DeLarverie, to implore the public to act by breaking the wall of media silence suppressing unpopular opinions and voices.”
Many thanks for the support – long live the resistance!