The Anarchist Book Fair
As a feminist I believe that the proposed amendments to the Gender Recognition Act poses serious questions and will potentially put women and children in direct danger. My gender critical friends and I have been trying to draw attention to this fact and allow our opinions to be heard. I am used to coming up against differing opinions in my years of campaigning for human, environmental and animal rights. However, my campaign against amending the GRA has led me to experience and witness more vicious and targeted attacks than ever before. Crucially, these are not institutions but individual Trans Rights Activists who are openly acting outside of the law whilst academics and politicians turn a blind eye. At no point in recent history have women, especially lesbians, been so actively silenced and no-platformed. I have witnessed violent threats online and violent actions in person. These are clearly used in an attempt to silence us.
Historically anarchists have championed free speech especially views which have been supressed by the state and powerful institutions. The Anarchist Book Fair seemed like a good place to get our opinions across and try to target women who might be sympathetic. In the end only two of us turned up to leaflet. We didn’t have a stall or banners we just wanted to distribute our leaflets in a non-confrontational, low-key way.
Initially women seemed interested in our leaflets and thanked us for the information. We were handing out leaflets for nearly an hour before anyone objected. Firstly, a man objected by suggesting that our leaflets were transphobic. Whilst we have encountered this viewpoint before, I am convinced that this is not true. Many trans people agree with gender critical viewpoints and even more realise the potential dangers (to women and genuinely dysphoric individuals) of allowing anyone to choose their gender with no proof or checks.
After a while more people objected to our leaflets, screwing them up and throwing them at us or tearing them up angrily. I didn’t feel particularly threatened at this point. The situation escalated and groups of people started shouting at us and tearing the leaflets out of our hands. I also saw them snatching them off women that we’d handed them too. Their behaviour became more aggressive: they were pushing and shoving us as well as shouting at us. My sunglasses were broken and I could see they were being even more aggressive to my friend. We were pushed up against the wall with 30 or so people shouting get out and calling us TERFs. We did not fight back at all, initially my friend tried to get her leaflets back but we are just two smallish women against an angry mob of dozens. We managed to escape through a corridor away from the crowds. Some women made their way back and thanked us for standing up for women’s rights despite the violent backlash. Helen Steele, who was at the bookfair for other reasons, helped us find a back route around the building and slip out the front gate.
We went to meet another friend down the road. I was contacted a while later and told that Helen had been attacked for defending us and helping us escape. I felt so angry and upset that she’d gone through that purely for being a decent human being to us. We met our other friend who was armed with more literature we put our hoods up and quietly slipped back into the bookfair to check on Helen. We weren’t able to get to her but did manage to stick some flyers in the toilets.
Following the events I’ve received a torrent of abuse online ranging from slanderous comments suggesting I had hit someone to videos and tweets inciting violence against us. This abuse has been outweighed by messages of support from women who believe in our cause but are too scared to speak out. This is a pattern that we see every time we talk about these issues. This is what keeps me going. I will not stop until women are allowed to openly discuss issues that affect them without fear of intimidation.