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'They Do Not Speak For Us': Emma Thompson and Other Female Celebrities in UK Pen Letter Condemning Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists

By Petr Knava | News | March 4, 2019 |

By Petr Knava | News | March 4, 2019 |


Perennial Pajiba fave Emma Thompson continues to use her power and position for good. Just last week ago the beloved British actress released a statement outlining why she had pulled out of nascent animation studio Skydance’s production of its debut movie, Luck. Skydance had, of course, in the last year hired—and promoted to a lofty position—disgraced former Pixar man John Lasseter, who had left the company under a cloud of a pattern of sexual harassment. Left, not been fired, after which he was shortly picked up by Skydance and made head of animation. Thompson found this unacceptable, using her letter to highlight how warped a perspective a company must have so as to prioritise one man’s career over the well being of female employees. As per Thompson’s letter:

If John Lasseter started his own company, then every employee would have been given the opportunity to choose whether or not to give him a second chance. But any Skydance employees who don’t want to give him a second chance have to stay and be uncomfortable or lose their jobs. Shouldn’t it be John Lasseter who has to lose HIS job if the employees don’t want to give him a second chance?

Thompson has now joined over 70 UK women in the UK in writing an open letter in support of more inclusive gender recognition laws, in the process challenging a poisonous anti-transgender narrative that has taken root in some corners of the country’s discourse. A number of media outlets, commentators, and celebrities in the UK have been using their platform in recent years to argue that by advancing legislation that grants transgender people—specifically transgender women in this case—more of their human rights, governments are actually infringing upon the rights of non-transgender women. Proponents of this view have come to be known as trans-exclusionary radical feminists.

The letter Thompson has co-signed was started by SNP councillor Rhiannon Spear. Spear is also chairwoman of the Time for Inclusive Education campaign, a charity which aims to improve the inclusivity and visibility of LGBT education in Scotland. The Scottish government held a public consultation late last year on the Gender Recognition Act in which it asked whether people were in favour gender self-identification. Despite vocal opposition from many public figures, an overwhelming majority of the public agreed with the principle. The opposition has not gone away however, with some opponents of the idea becoming more and more venomous in their views. According to the Scottish paper The Herald, in which the open letter was published:

[The letter came] following a series of controversial tweets on Friday by SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, who has previously spoken out against self-identification in the context of the Scottish census.

McAlpine, who is the convener of the Scottish Parliament’s culture committee, argued that women are given “protections based on biological sex” and if transgender women, who still have male genitalia, were able to self identify as female it could impact the Equality act.

She said: “Sex exemptions in the Equality Act are vital for privacy & dignity in shared spaces also “occupation exemptions” for jobs supporting vulnerable females. This matters as more men self ID as women while retaining male bodies and male genitals.

“Lastly I am disappointed with the “official” women’s groups who have embraced concept of sex self ID, even though the GRA is unchanged and self ID has no legal weight.

“They will not listen to concerns of many ordinary women in Scotland who fear that the definition of female is being replaced with a concept of “gender identity” based on 1950s sexist stereotypes. This is not a feminism I recognise.”

Spear responded by echoing the views of many in favour of the proposed update to the GRA: ‘As a woman and a proud feminist, I know that advancing trans rights does not threaten my womanhood or my feminism.’

Indeed it seems that for every two steps forward society takes forward in becoming more inclusive there will be those who seek to drag us one step back, often using the language of progress in their quest for regression, or ‘freedom of speech’ to cloak their venom.

Trans rights are human rights. They do not threaten anyone else’s rights.

Here is the letter in full, along with its signatories:

We, the undersigned, are a large and diverse group of women who are committed to ensuring that trans people feel welcome and safe within our society.

Recently there has been a rise in ill-informed articles and commentary, where writers have continually insinuated that trans women are not women. These same pieces misrepresent current legal statutes, equalities policies, and public attitudes in Scotland.

Since 2004 the Gender Recognition Act has realised, in law, the rights of trans women as women and trans men as men. Since 1999, the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations and then the Equality Act (2010) have recognised, in law, the right of the trans community not to be discriminated against on the basis of their gender reassignment. The right of trans people to access gender specific services is an already settled legal matter.

Many national and regional news outlets routinely fail in their pages to recognise this legal reality. Instead, it is our perspective that some writers rely on recycling outdated arguments in an uncomfortable attempt to shoehorn trans identities into much needed conversations about gender-based discrimination and violence.

We believe that national conversations about gender-based discrimination and violence are necessary, however these conversations should not in any way attempt to roll back the rights that trans people already have in Scotland, nor spread misinformation.

In the Scottish Government’s recent public consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act (2004) a majority of respondents supported gender self declaration, as well as recognising non-binary people. As a collective of women, we urge that trans-exclusionary writers do not suggest that their narrow and archaic arguments are in any way representative of the women of Scotland. They do not speak for us.

This is not an issue of Freedom of Speech. Both sides have a plethora of platforms to outline their position. However, it is imperative that these platforms should not be used to spread misinformation or misrepresent the law or the facts in this area.

When this conversation is reduced to allegations of “shutting down debate” whenever misrepresentation or misinformation is challenged, the result is to purposefully discount the position of many women - like us - who support the trans community. We will be heard.

Trans people have played an integral role in every civil rights movement to date; from LGBT equality to women’s causes. Attempts to airbrush trans people from conversations regarding equality and human rights, or to exclude them from advancements for LGBT and women’s rights, have happened before. Such efforts may have re-energised, but they are nothing new, and we say as a collective of women: they are not representative of us. We support trans rights.

Outlets and commentators have an ethical responsibility to consider the impact of their reportage, analysis and commentary particularly on the mental health of trans young people. Recently, data from Stonewall Scotland revealed that over half of trans people considered ending their lives last year. Trans people continue to face unlawful discrimination and violence. Routine misinformation and sensationalism is contributing to a cultural climate where this is legitimised. This has to stop.

Journalists, commentators, and publishers have a central role to play in ensuring Scotland is a welcoming and inclusive place for trans people.

The conversation has to change.

Rhiannon Spear, Chair of Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) and Glasgow City Councillor for Greater Pollok

Tiffany Kane, Vice Chair of Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) and Operations Manager at Common Weal

Dame Emma Thompson, Double Academy Award Winner

Laura Waddell, Publisher and Writer

Dr Jennifer Jones, Independent

Rosa Zambonini, Communications Manager to Member of the Scottish Parliament

Cllr Jennifer Layden, SNP Councillor for Calton

Dr Claire Askew, University of Edinburgh

Angela Crawley, SNP MP, Lanark and Hamilton East

Laura Wylie, Sexual Violence Prevention Worker at the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (Dundee and Angus),

Sinead Daly, CEO of the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (Dundee and Angus)

Christina Neuwirth, Writer

Kate Adair, SQIFF

Eve Livingston, Freelance Journalist

Kelly Given, Equalities & Mental Health Advocate

Jennifer Constable, Journalist

Rachel Hamada, Journalist

Leona Jack, Gender Based Violence Practitioner

Angela Haggerty, Journalist

Lynne Davies, Foster Carer

Amanda Stanley, Freelance Podcast Producer

Kaite Welsh, Author & Journalist

Hannah Bardell, MP for Livingston

Miriam Brett, International Finance Project Manager

Sarah Masson, or Co-Artistic Director of Shift, Shift Theatre

Fi and Charlotte Duffy-Scott, Co-Owners, Category Is Books, Glasgow

Claire Biddles, Freelance Writer

Erin Hardee, Schools Outreach Organiser

School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee

Dr Pat Cullum BA (Hons) DPhil FRHistS, FHEA, School Co-Ordinator for Student Experience, School of Music, Humanities and Media, University of Huddersfield

Gail Ross MSP, SNP Member of Scottish Parliament for Caithness

Dr Eleanor Janega, Guest Teacher at the LSE

Cllr Kim Long, Green Councillor for Dennistoun

Cllr Eva Murray, Labour Councillor for Garscadden/ Scotstounhill

Cllr Christina Cannon, SNP Councillor for Springburn/Robroyston

Cllr Martha Wardrop, Green Councillor for Hillhead

Bailie Christy Mearns, Green Councillor for Anderston/ City & Yorkhill

Cara Spence, Head of Programmes, LGBT Youth Scotland

Amy Irons, Broadcaster

Hannah Pearson, Queer Feminist Campaigner

Rebecca Crowther, PHD Social Science Researcher

Susan Ross, Police Scotland

Jane Friffin, Head of Partnerships, LGBT Youth Scotland

Michelle Sodo, Head of Operations, LGBT Youth Scotland

Nicola Booth, Head of Youth Work, LGBT Youth Scotland

Bridget Bradley, Teaching Fellow, The University of Edinburgh School of Medical Anthropology

Naomi McAuliffe, Scotland Programme Director, Amnesty International

Gayle Telfer Stevens, Olivier Award Winning Actor

Jen Ang, Lawyer and Director, Just Right Scotland

Lisa Clark, Senior Communications Officer, Children in Scotland

Mhairi McMillan, Solicitor, Logans Solicitors, Cumnock

Margaret Logan, Women’s Aid, Support Worker

Dr Brandi Lee Lough Dennell, Research Associate

Rona Mackay, SNP MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden

Hazel Marzetti, PHD Student, University of Glasgow

Pam Currie, EIS FELA President (Personal Capacity)

Fiona Robertson, SNP’s National Women’s and Equalities Convenor

Katherine O’Donnell, Journalist

Christine Burns MBE, Equality Campaigner and Author

Lucy Spraggan, Musician

Leeze Lawrence, Producer, Editor, Filmmaker & Trans Advocate

Helen Nugent, Journalist and Editor of Northern Soul

Janet Coulson, Actor and Creative Director of Firebrand Theatre

Paris Lees, Writer and Broadcaster

Marlene Zwickler, Agent and Producer

Elena Soper, Feminist and Activist

Mhairi Black MP, Paisley and Renfrewshire South

Dr Lindsay Clark, Post-Doctoral researcher

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive, Children in Scotland

Joanna Murphy, Chair, National Parent Forum for Scotland

Louise Oliver, Actor and producer

Lady Mary Hope, Lady Hope of Craighead

Audrey Barnes, Campaigns & Programmes Coordinator at YWCA Scotland

Jemma Tracey, Senior Participation Officer, Children in Scotland

Laura McGlynn, University of Glasgow

Bailey McCormack, Event Coordinator and Freelance Performer

Emma Rogan, Senior Policy Officer at Children in Scotland

Róisín McKelvey, Feminist PhD Researcher

Janine Ewen, Queer Feminist, Violence Against Women Campaigner

Caitlin Logan, Freelance writer

Source: The Herald

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.

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