For “being trans,” a note for Ruth Serwotka, and others

The PinkNews headline earlier this year shouted, “Powerlifter Mary Gregory, who broke world records, disqualified for being trans.”

Is that what happened? What does “being trans” mean here? Mary Gregory is a man, who broke records in a women’s powerlifting competition, which he entered under the false pretenses of being a woman, when he isn’t. He was apparently observed as being male when giving a urine sample, so he also probably exposed himself to a woman unexpectedly. 

If he did, we hope police have investigated the incident as a potential crime of indecent exposure.

Similarly, the argument of the ACLU in the Harris Funeral Homes case is that Aimee Stephens was fired for “being transgender.” Stephens said that on the basis of his internal identification, his feeling that he was a woman, he wanted to follow the women’s dress code at work.

Sex-based dress codes are presently legal in the United States, so an employer who has one is not, prima facie, breaking the law, or going against the Price Waterhouse precedent barring discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes. WoLF doesn’t agree with sex-based dress codes in most circumstances, and we wish there were a full and fair debate about this. Would an end to them mean an end to laws against women going topless in public, or would people want to say that men could no longer go topless in public? Would we finally be able to end the scourge of women forced to wear punishing, high-heeled shoes to jobs where they have to be on their feet all day? 

These are interesting and important questions, but they weren’t the basis on which Stephens sued his former employers. It is important, when you try to run your country on the basis of laws, to try and find out what the law says, and what it means. People who live in the UK, and want to weigh in on the intricacies of U.S. civil rights law, should try it sometime.

The Harris Case Was Not About The Legality Of Sex-Based Dress Codes

This is a link to the ACLU brief on behalf of Aimee Stephens before the Supreme Court in this case, where Harris Funeral Homes is asking the court to overturn a ruling against them by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and here is what they say on page 25 of that brief, emphasis ours:

The Court of Appeals expressly did not address the lawfulness of sex-specific dress codes. … Ms. Stephens had no personal objection to the dress code and planned to comply with it as a woman. … As the district  court noted, “the dress  code is only being injected  because the Funeral Home is using its dress code as a defense to the  Title VII sex-stereotyping claim.” Id. at 112a. And as the Sixth  Circuit repeatedly emphasized, “[W]e  are not considering, in this case, whether the Funeral Home violated Title VII by requiring men to wear pant  suits and women to wear skirt suits.” ...” 

Once more, for the people in the back, the Harris case was not intended to be about determining the legal merit of sex-based dress codes. It could have been, and in that event WoLF would have made a thoughtful and careful decision about how, if at all, to weigh in on that question. For mysterious reasons, a lot of commentators, inside and outside of the U.S., who may or may not be experts in U.S. civil rights law, are flat-out misrepresenting WoLF’s position in the actual case that Aimee Stephens brought before the federal judiciary.

This case is about whether or not “being transgender” is synonymous with the right of a man to say he’s a woman, or a woman to say she’s a man, and forcing others to act and speak as though this were true.

No one usually listens to women, obviously, but you don’t have to! You could just read what the very sharp, anti-feminist lawyers at the porn-loving, prostitution-loving, actual-Nazi-defending, ACLU said about this case.

The Court of Appeals expressly did not address the lawfulness of sex-specific dress codes.

WoLF did not write that sentence. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF,) which represented Harris Funeral Homes, did not write that sentence. The ACLU did. We are a little concerned that many people may need to read that sentence again, so please scroll back up if that’s you, and read it again. We’re moving on.

What was the Sixth Circuit’s holding, in favor of the idea that Aimee Stephens was impermissibly fired? The following is from page 19 of the ACLU’s brief, describing this finding, on which basis they want the Supreme Court to reject Harris Funeral Homes’ appeal:

The Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits agree with the Sixth Circuit’s alternative holding for Respondents that when a decision maker discriminates against someone for being transgender, that discrimination is inherently based on sex.

There’s that “being transgender,” again. What does this mean? The ACLU says that it means this, from a footnote on the first page of their brief, “To be transgender is to have a gender identity different from one’s assigned sex at birth.”

According to Aimee Stephens’ representation to his employers and coworkers in a letter, presented in Exhibit A of the brief, he wrote, “I had felt imprisoned in a body that does not match my mind.” 

Being “imprisoned in a body” sounds more or less like being alive … unless the law is meant to recognize something like a spirit, soul, ghost, or other intangible essence of consciousness, over and above the physical body? Even if U.S. law grants that such an essence exists (it doesn’t, yet), it strains the objective understanding of anyone with a brain that such an essence is what is intended to be protected by the writ of habeas corpus (“that you have the body,” in Latin).

In multiple places in the ACLU brief, reference is made to Stephens being “assigned male at birth.” This phrase, improperly taken from the medical terminology used to discuss differences or disorders of sex development, is used here to recognize that Stephens is male. Stephens’ description of having a body that “does not match” his mind indicates that he knows very well that he is male, as a point of material fact.

What did the Sixth Circuit decision say about this, that Stephens and the ACLU want to preserve? From page 15 of the Sixth Circuit’s decision (where they expressly refrain from deciding whether or not sex-based dress codes are allowed), emphasis ours:

“Here, we ask whether Stephens would have been fired if Stephens had been a woman who sought to comply with the women’s dress code. The answer quite obviously is no. This, in and of itself, confirms that Stephens’s sex impermissibly affected Rost’s decision to fire Stephens.

“The court’s analysis in Schroer v. Billington, 577 F. Supp. 2d 293 (D.D.C. 2008), provides another useful way of framing the inquiry. There, the court noted that an employer who fires an employee because the employee converted from Christianity to Judaism has discriminated against the employee “because of religion,” regardless of whether the employer feels any animus against either Christianity or Judaism, because “[d]iscrimination ‘because of religion’ easily encompasses discrimination because of a change of religion.’” Id. at 306 (emphasis in original). By the same token, discrimination “because of sex” inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.

It’s okay to have a women’s dress code, therefore, so long as men who say they’re women have the “right” to wear the same clothing their female colleagues are forced to wear. Put differently, in the view of the Sixth Circuit, it’s okay to have gender so long as men can benefit from it.

Because the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals apparently believes that it is possible for a human being to change their sex.

In other words, it isn’t discrimination as a general rule to tell men they can’t “dress like women,” unless the man claims to have a womanly “gender identity.”  What on earth would women have to say in order to insist that we don’t want to dress “like women” either, whatever that means? Apparently, to escape that particular form of sex-stereotyping we have to say that we’re men.

This is some nonsense.

Human beings can’t change sex. 

This would have been universally agreed upon to be a preposterous result not ten years ago. Nonetheless, the idea of the “sex change” has shifted from our pop culture and pop cosmetic surgery discourse, now to be advanced as a federally guaranteed civil right. What started as a patchwork of state laws meant mainly to alleviate the social discomfort of feminine-presenting, usually gay, men, for whom many people feel sympathy, has turned into a systematic denial of reality that mainly favors straight men who like to call themselves “lesbians.”

The following is from the oral arguments in the Harris case, from the opening statements of ACLU counsel, David D. Cole:

MR. COLE: … Second, Harris Homes fired her for identifying as a woman only because she was assigned a male sex at birth. In doing so, it fired her for contravening a sex-specific expectation that applies only to people assigned male sex at birth; namely, that they live and identify as a man for their entire lives. That is disparate treatment on the basis of sex. Third, Harris Homes fired her for, in its owner’s words, changing her sex. That’s discrimination in the same way that firing someone for changing their religion would be religious discrimination.

So, Stephens is a male, who has changed sex, “her sex,” according to the ACLU.

Our country’s premier human rights and social justice legal advocacy group appears to believe that it’s within the power of any human being to change sex, and that they should be able to force their employers and the government, and everyone else, to act as if this were not just a polite social fiction, but a human right backed up by the majesty of the law.

Mr. Cole spent a lot of time claiming that he wanted the court to construe sex narrowly, to mean physical sex …

MR. COLE: Two — two — two answers to that, Your Honor. First, on the question of judicial interpretation, we are not asking you to apply any meaning of sex other than the one that everybody agrees on as of 1964, which is sex assigned at birth or, as — as they put it, biological sex. We’re not asking you to rewrite it.

… and then almost immediately arguing the exact opposite thing.

MR. COLE: So, first of all, federal courts of appeals have been recognizing that discrimination against transgender people is sex discrimination for 20 years. There’s been no upheaval. As I was saying, there are transgender male lawyers in this courtroom following the male dress code and going to the men’s room and the — the — the — the Court’s dress code and sex-segregated restrooms have not fallen. So the notion that somehow this is going to be a huge upheaval, we haven’t seen that upheaval for 20 years, there’s no reason you — you would see that upheaval. Transgender people follow the rule that’s associated with their gender identity. It’s not disruptive.

It’s obviously true that trans-identified people can also face sex discrimination. They’re people, they have a sex, sex discrimination protections apply. But to their physical sex, or to their self-concept based in gender identity?

Note that Cole is arguing here that there are female lawyers with a male gender identity in the courtroom, following the male dress code and going to the men’s room, blending in. Creating no upheaval, and following “the rule that’s associated with their gender identity.”

In other words, no one will even notice trans-identified people because they look and act exactly as you might expect people of the opposite sex to act. Sounds suspiciously like… prohibited sex-stereotyping.

Yet this is the argument that many, many people have asserted is all about overturning sex-based dress codes and sex stereotyping in the workplace? It explicitly leaves all those things in place, unless you say you’re transgender, and then you get to have the opposite set of rules apply. Under such a scenario, gender wins. Is this the outcome that the people criticizing WoLF want?

And The Westboro Baptist Church Showed Up

The funny thing about the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is that movement conservatives loathe them, and want nothing to do with them. They don’t want the same things. 

Though it seems that the left spends a lot of time reacting to the WBC as if they were the real voice of the 60-70 million conservative voters who show up at election time, or the real voice of movement conservatives. They’re about two dozen people who have no real constituency, who have been denounced by the American Baptist Churches, and by the Southern Baptists, but they get more weight in a lot of left-leaning or mainstream news coverage than everyone else, as if they were representative.

Want an example? Here’s a passage from the introduction to Vice’s photo coverage of the rallies at the Supreme Court for the Harris case last week, emphasis ours:

“During their hearings, all three urged the court to rule that discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Trump administration has already come out against Stephens, Bostock, and Zarda, arguing that LGBTQ discrimination does not count as sex discrimination, which is already illegal under the Civil Rights Act. And several conservative groups, including the Westboro Baptist Church, showed up to the Supreme Court on Tuesday with hateful signs to back that argument.

“But they were outnumbered: The scene was overwhelmingly in support of the three LGBTQ plaintiffs. Masses of people showed up to voice their support for the three cases, including faith groups, human rights organizations, and unaffiliated individuals.”

The WBC protesters were nowhere near the rally we cosponsored with Concerned Women for America (knowledgeable readers will note that WoLF has been completely transparent about this cosponsorship). The signs brought by CWA and ADF carried only messages of support for women’s rights, and were not hateful towards any group of people.

You can see pictures of what they brought to say in the footage from the rally:

The only person pictured in Vice’s photo coverage from the area where we were standing is a person who took a bullhorn and shouted into the faces of the rally speakers, shouting down Linda Bellos, [1 – see below for Ms. Bellos’ full, prepared remarks, which she was unable to finish,] with chants of “go home, homophobe!” Those specific chants were started by someone whose participation in these events Ruth Serwotka of Woman’s Place UK described as, “radical feminists… involved in counter protests making trenchant criticism of WOLF’s position.”

Earlier, the same charming person put a bullhorn quite near our ears and repeatedly shouted, roughly, “The fundies are over there … go be with them,” indicating that WoLF members should go stand with the WBC people across the street. She shouted these same types of things with her bullhorn very near the ears of WoLF members who are childhood abuse survivors, formerly trans-identified, and bisexual or  lesbian. 

This manner of criticism is less trenchant and persuasive than some people seem to think.

When that was happening, the women from Concerned Women for America, who weren’t sure at first what was going on, came over to stand with us while we were being shouted at and called out by name through a bullhorn that was blaring in all of our ears. They didn’t have to stand directly in front of that with us, but they did.

Nobody Asked You, Ruth Serwotka

So, enter Ruth Serwotka, a UK Labour loyalist, who seems to have read nothing substantive on this topic besides the ravings of a couple of Baltimore lawyers who hate WoLF, because they hate Julia Beck, and, apparently, progress. 

What does this have to do with Ruth Serwotka? We have no idea. But she decided to suggest that we’re cozying up to fascists over it, anyhow, on the say-so of a woman who posted a video of herself burning our logo in her fireplace like a … totally normal person. Maybe the UK is simply a paradise, entirely devoid of its own problems, such that everyone wants to know how to run our own countries to be like theirs? No? Well. 

Serwotka also doesn’t seem to know the difference between actual fascists and the kinds of ordinarily conservative Christians who would have been an absolute majority of both of our countries’ populations when we defeated the fascists together, not fully 80 years ago.

Though in the US, as much as 84 percent of the population is religious to this day. That’s quite a bit more than in the UK, where over half state that they have no religion. Maybe it makes sense in the UK to react to people who are conservative Christians as if they are movie monsters of some kind, given that Serwotka talks as though she’s perhaps never seen a conservative Christian in real life. In the US, they’re just our neighbors. Some of us have Christmas with them.

It’s hard to imagine someone so paranoid about any contact with conservative religious people being able to organize anything useful in a far more religious country than the US, of which there are many around the world. Not that Serwotka’s narrow concern for the opinions of the male leftists, who incidentally support Labour having male women’s officers, is uncommon in activist circles in the US, either. It just makes even less sense here.

And what’s going on here in the US? This is a country where some of our doctors are giving mastectomies and menopause to 14-year-old girls. Yet when stickers appear bearing what we can only guess might have included the dictionary definition of the word woman, a major paper like the Chicago Tribune can’t even bring itself to print an oblique description of the content, let alone delve into the deeper concerns of the women who may have left those stickers. In the UK, an article about a similar incident featured in the Telegraph includes a picture of the stickers in question, right below the headline, allowing the public to decide for themselves if they think it’s hate speech to say that a woman is an “adult human female.”

There’s a blog here in the US that’s featured the voices of detransitioners, parents, and doctors, for years. The media here will not print the name of the site, though Ruth Serwotka surely knows it. (And we won’t print it either, in this post, because apparently, it hurts their cause of nobody knowing who they are for them to have any contact with people who speak to movement conservatives. Good luck with that!) 

The Atlantic did one cover story last year that expressed very mild concern that a 13-year-old girl might not be sufficiently mature to make life-altering decisions about her fertility, along with extensive quotes favoring child transition from pediatric gender clinicians, and an online pornographer who routinely posts evidence to the internet that he is not a woman. The magazine then did several glowing, obsequious profiles of trans issues in apology, and slunk off to hide. Their editorial peers have mainly not equaled their initial bravery, until Andrew Sullivan finally covered the issue of transing gay kids in New York Magazine, after WoLF members presented parent stories and concerns on a panel at the Heritage Foundation this January.

In the UK, multiple publications cover gender critical and radical feminist concerns, or professionals’ concerns about children’s welfare, on a weekly basis now. Nothing like that applies to the US, where Madeleine Kearns at the National Review, a movement conservative publication, may be the only journalist in the US who has this as a regular beat.

The main point is that our media here, except for the conservative press, and now, Andrew Sullivan, will largely not address the urgent and growing medical experimentation scandal that is child transition. Even when they do, unlike journalists in the UK, they don’t always credit WoLF for our work and our ideas that led to their coverage. We have over 50 pediatric gender clinics in the US, and we don’t have any centralized information on what they’re doing, such as one might be able to request from the NHS. 

We know from UK whistleblowers that at least some of them were worried that they were just sterilizing same-sex attracted children, abuse victims, and autistic kids. No such whistleblowers have come forward in the US, where if you lose your job, you often lose your healthcare. We just hear from 19-year-olds that they regret getting their breasts cut off as teens, and then losing all their friends when they detransitioned, but now they don’t know what to do and they signed away all their rights anyhow.

These detransitioned young women have also been told they mustn’t ever talk to the ‘scary’ conservatives at the Alliance Defending Freedom, who would actually help them. Having lost their “transgender” friends, they now must fear to lose their left-loyalist friends if they speak with probably the only lawyers in the country who will not be frightened away from working on their behalf.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign, which has the backing of the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, is going to be swimming in pro bono assistance from six of the US’ top law firms to (no doubt in part) make sure that our 50+ pediatric gender clinics are full of patients to experiment on, destroy privacy rights for every schoolgirl, and ensure that the severest reprisals will be taken against anyone who tries to fight it.

The difference between movement conservatives and movement liberals with regard to the sorts of fringe extremists who might support eugenic sterilization of same-sex attracted children, is that the movement conservatives don’t want anything to do with them, while the liberals put them in charge of multimillion dollar advocacy orgs. 

This is a massive child safeguarding violation, and the people who will not stand up against it shouldn’t be surprised if they’re counted as having been complicit someday.

Westboro Baptist Church wants God to punish LGB people in the afterlife, whereas HRC and friends want to remove their reproductive organs and destroy their endocrine systems before they’re old enough to drink. One of those groups of activists had white people with bullhorns shout down a black, Jewish lesbian at our rally, and one of them stayed on their own side of the street, which is sadly emblematic of how very low the bar has gotten on civil discourse.

Shall we spend another few years arguing in obscurity about who’s more problematic, or can we get a little help doing something to stop this barbaric assault on the bodies of children, and the sorts of political speech rights that are necessary to stand against it? It seems to us that it’s someday going to look cowardly and parochial to have done nothing to stop this because one was squeamish about standing next to Christians. It also seems that it would confirm all of conservatives’ worst stereotypes about us if we were not moved by conscience to take action in line with our own description of the gravity of the situation.

Maybe people who don’t care about this issue very much should go do something more pleasant with their lives? It’s not a fun pastime, like jawing on social media with your friends about who got off the sickest burn on that numpty pudding, Owen Jones. 

At every level of concern or criticism feminists raise over the many problems caused by the belief in human sex change, (and I’ve been told it’s like this in the UK too,) at the mildest pushback, a woman can be thrown out as a “TERF,” as a fascist, as a dangerous, murderous, evil person, and a stain on all who won’t stand well back from her. Mainly, this will happen at the hands of good, leftist men, who are delighted at the idea of legalizing the sex trade, and telling women to shut up and stay home.

We switch now to live footage of what must be going through the minds of all the women who are terrified that they’ll be revealed as “fascists” for knowing that women don’t have penises, like all the other girls:

Also, this has nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Trump, or, as you say, Ms. Serwotka, “Trumpism,” not that you have any idea what that made-up word suggests. Mr. Trump does not write or amend U.S. statutes. WoLF’s fight is not with particular politicians. It’s for women. Even the ones we don’t agree with very much.

As Alice Paul said, “I think if we get freedom for women, then they are probably going to do a lot of things that I wish they wouldn’t do. But it seems to me that it isn’t our business to say what they should do with it. It is our business to see that they get it.”

So, Ms. Serwotka, you can lick the tops of these men’s boots all day, if you want to, but if you refuse to also lick the soles, they’ll call you a fascist. That’s just the way it is. WoLF did not create this situation, and there is precious little that WoLF can do about it. We’re only women, after all.

Passing the insult along to other women isn’t going to stop the nasty men calling you any of these terrible names. It’ll just teach them that they can get you to absolutely panic, abandon all solidarity with other women, and cause you to make strident public statements about a system of laws and politics of which you are ignorant. How embarrassing for you, and how entirely avoidable.

In closing, Ms. Serwotka, we would not dream of trying to tell you how to run your campaign in your country. We would, however, encourage you to stand up to the men who call you nasty names. It’s quite liberating. 


[1] – Linda Bellos’ prepared remarks for the Harris rally, October 8th, 2019: “There was a culture in the field of theatre/pantomime that white men put on black make up on their faces and entertained the ‘public’, that usually was and means a white public. At the same time there was a culture that laughed at men dressing up as women. It is/was called Drag and were it not for the new politics of Trans l might not have reconsidered Drag. But when l look critically at Drag, l see the connection between pretending to be members of an oppressed group by ridiculing them. The clothes/faces of Drag are an exaggeration of the oppressed group

There’s days in the UK we no longer celebrate the”Black and White minstrel show”, popular on British TV until the mid 1970’s and here we are in 2019 ridiculing women with the re-emergence of Drag in the public domain, but more so. This time it is on national TV (RuPaul’s Drag Race UK). l do not think this is a mere coincidence. Neither do l think that it is intended to be offensive to women, especially feminists. 

But the politics of Drag and Trans are now having the effect of being offensive to women who, over the decades, have fought for the equality of women and hence we do not enjoy being ridiculed as “ladies”.

As a girl, growing up in the UK in the 1950’s and 1960’s, l was socialised to believe l was inferior because of the colour of my skin and because of my sex. And in the 1960’s, African Liberation was on the political agenda in USA, South Africa and Great Britain. I’m apologise if l omit other movements because the racist media did not consider coverage of Black women unless they were jazz singers.

The 2nd wave of feminism in the 1960’s was started by African American women who were soon elbowed out of the picture and the movement that l now am part of throughout the world. We demand to see the liberation of all women, and as the #MeToo movement has advanced, so apparently has a growing movement of men and boys who think they are women.

I am a mother and a grandmother who wears the comfortable and practical clothes designed for men. I would happily see end of gender but that can only occur with equality for all, not by reinforcing the very differences designed by men to enhance their power.”