All right let’s have it then! (That debate about gender)

Content warning: detailed discussion of transphobia, sexual violence and links to transphobic content.


None of these issues affect me directly; I can neither confirm nor contradict anyone else’s experiences, so why write about them? What I can do is counter some faulty arguments with the cold, hard reasoning that’s best applied by an old bastard without a dog in the fight. It’s also been a feature of this controversy that it has mainly been conducted over the heads of the workers it concerns, now it’s an issue for the Today Programme I might as well put my 5 eggs in. I’m acutely aware of the danger of unintentionally treading on sore toes, but this is a learning process, and you learn nothing by backing out. I welcome factual corrections – with sources please (not the daily mail).

Lastly, I am not an academic, I’m a factory worker, I haven’t got a degree and I’ve never been paid for a piece of writing, some of the folk on the other side do it for a living, keep that in mind.

Indirect effects:

There is no longer a London Anarchist Bookfair, comrades are bickering online and generally doing the cops’ work for them, otherwise pulling out of events because they don’t want the hassle. We’ve lost LDMG, AFed have split, though that seems more a question of emphasis as both groups have stated their opposition to transphobia.

Some comrades wish this would just go away, which is a mistake. Where a group of people is targeted for oppression, and the overwhelming bulk of them are Working Class, they become the frontline in the Class War we all fight. This applies to trans people now, just as much as to prisoners, asylum seekers or the homeless, and of course, these categories overlap.

“We might use our position at the bottom, however, to make a clear leap into revolutionary action. If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”

– ‘The Combahee River Collective Statement’ April 1977.

There are Black transwomen facing deportation to certain death, are they unworthy of your solidarity?

What’s going on?

A moral panic is being constructed along familiar lines that go right back to blood libel, through witch-hunting, yellow peril and reds under the bed. It’s the tried and tested strategy of ruling elites to confuse us when their mode of production is in crisis. The demon here is ‘trans ideology’ personified by the ‘trans (rights) activist’. I wasn’t familiar with either term until very recently, though TERFs have been around for a decade. I’d dismissed them as a gang of flat-earthers who would die a natural death, but never underestimate the marketability of reactionary ideas.

“… this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can, even if it’s only as far as last week”

– Gil Scott-Heron: ‘B Movie’

It’s framed in terms to make the authors sound unsophisticated, for the sake of appealing to the thoughtless reactionary populism we’re currently plagued with. Ideology and activism are both out of fashion and must be suspect, yet the TERF axis is itself rigidly ideological. I’ll stick to the term TERF although they don’t like it. Most of them define themselves as Radical Feminists, and Trans Exclusion is precisely what they do, so it seems perfectly apt.

Ideology is no more than a series of logical fallacies reinforced by cognitive bias; it confounds both morality and utility, and suppresses independent thought. The s*n reader would accept as ‘common sense’ that the majority of people are recognisably male or female, cis-sexual, with chromosomes and proclivities to match, but so what? Most people are right-handed. Anarchists do not accept a majority dictating terms to a minority however small, that road leads to the gas chamber.

The phrase “transwomen are women” sometimes with the corollary: “not for debate” is hotly contested. Of course, as it isn’t an objective statement but one of definition, there isn’t anything to debate. You either accept the definition or you don’t and it’s here the lines are drawn. Feminists have long drawn a distinction between sex and gender, now a small minority of them are muddying the water. To assert that “woman means adult female” only begs a definition of female. Prior to the (mostly disastrous) work of John Money, gender was only a grammatical term. It’s now used to refer to socially and internally constructed roles, preferences and behaviour patterns, colloquially described as masculine or feminine, which probably originated in the Palaeolithic. Sex is reserved for reproductive physiology*.

* In industry, catalogues of plugs and sockets, pneumatics and pipe fittings, still classify by gender, possibly because it sounds more polite than sex, or maybe it’s because the masculinity or femininity of a D-connector, like that of a French noun, is entirely unrelated to reproduction.

The word ‘woman’ is a derivation of the old English ‘wifman’ or ‘wife’ which clearly denoted a social relation rather than a physical state. The ‘man’ part, meaning person, like the German ‘mensch’, came from ‘mannen’ meaning to crew or staff, and although the dictionaries don’t say so, appears to be related to the Latin ‘manus’ or hand, crewmen and staff have always been called ‘hands’. This survives as ‘mano’, ‘main’ etc., the old English ‘main’ meaning right hand. Since English doesn’t have separate words for male/female adults comparable to ‘homme’, ‘hombre’, ‘herr’, ‘uomo’, ‘femme’, femmina, ‘frau’, ‘mujer’ and so on, the use of man and woman this way is probably accidental. Constructions like ‘chairman’, ‘spokesman’ and ‘Wichita lineman’, commonly assumed to be gendered do not have to be.

Why bring that up? Well, ideologues use language as a drunk uses lamp posts, for support rather than illumination, and to this end, the TERFs have created their own terminology. The acronym LGB has appeared, excluding the T of course, with Q, I and A as collateral damage, alongside the archaic ‘opposite sex’ and the weird ‘detransitioner’. In place of Assigned Male/Female at Birth, we get ‘Male/Female to Trans folk’, or ‘Trans Identifying Men/Women’, as if having turned their back on their sex, they must forfeit gender entirely. Phrases such as ‘biological women’ and ‘women-born-women’ are meaningless. The Dalai Lama is biological, so is a cauliflower, and we are all born infants.

It’s as if they had a theory of sex and gender that made some sort of sense forty years ago, but events have left them stranded, like fish up a tree. They were able to contain trans people as long as they were few and far between, and could be patronised as ‘freaks of nature’. Some unlucky people were ‘born in the wrong body’, and provided they jumped through enough hoops, and didn’t demand equality, they could be accommodated. In the last ten years or so, probably thanks to the Internet, trans people have become more visible and confident* and reactionary elements around the world are coming together to drive them underground again. This has led some of the more combative members of the community to take the fight to the enemy, as you might expect. The cat is out of the bag and it won’t be put back.

* Whether actually more numerous we cannot say; people mostly only perceive what they can conceive. The 20th Century was devoted to industrialised slaughter and primitive accumulation, and any cognitive dissonance was likely to be greeted with an instruction to “pull yourself together”. The phrase “ungrateful bastard” was bandied about a lot, along with the ever-popular “fuck off back to Russia”. It gladdens my stony old heart that youngsters now have these options.

I discovered Laurie Penny’s forlorn attempt to settle the rift in the feminist movement archived on Libcom, and although our politics don’t coincide often, I highly recommend it.

“This piece was completed in 2009 on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is offered in recognition of the ideological and (sometimes) physical violence that has been done to trans people by cis feminists, in the hope that all feminists can one day stand together to resist violence against women, and in memory of the hundreds of trans women who have been murdered at the hands of misogynists over the past decade, in particular the latest UK victims, Andrea Waddell and Destiny Lauren.”

Moving towards solidarity. Transphobic feminism makes no sense, argues Laurie Penny

The easing of state repression.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) allows people under some circumstances to have their gender changed on legal documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, that define their gendered relations with the government – mainly which prison they put you in. You can already have a passport and driving licence in your elective gender.

From Stonewall:

“The current process, under the GRA, means trans people have to go through a series of intrusive medical assessments and long, demeaning and bureaucratic interviews with psychiatrists in order to ‘prove’ their gender identity. It requires trans people to have a formal diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’, to live in their ‘acquired gender’ for two years, and hand over evidence supporting all of this to a gender recognition panel (composed of clinicians who have never met the applicant) who have the power to approve, or deny, an application. This recognition process is lengthy – and can take many years.”

From the British government:

“Since the Act came into force, 4,910 trans people have been issued a Gender Recognition Certificate. 12% of trans respondents to the National LGBT survey who had started or completed their transition had successfully obtained one”

Representatives of the liberal bourgeoisie, encompassing all the mainstream parties, have come to the conclusion that this no longer serves their purpose, and proposed leaving it to the individual, bringing howls of protest from the far right, god-botherers, and of course the TERFs, who at last have something to get their teeth into. Let’s be clear; the state is not proposing to withdraw any services (such as they are) from anyone, just slacken off its coercive practices.

The whole present debacle concerns the campaign against this relaxation of state coercion, which has already happened in Portugal, Ireland, Malta, Belgium, Norway and Denmark. On one side are the bourgeois politicians, most rank and file Trade Union organisers, the IWW, most anarchists, LGBT+ organisations. On the other is a weird coalition between some reactionary feminists and the right wing of the tory party, championed in the house of lords by Norman Tebbitt. TERFs have shared platforms with David Davies, contributed to right-wing tabloids and the U.S. white-supremacist blog the ‘Daily Caller’. This is why the free speech argument cuts no ice, if you’ve got access to the s*n, the mail and the fash, you’ve got no business at our Bookfair or any platform the Working Class can get a grip on.

I’ve singled out this polemic on ‘gender critical greens’ for critique as it’s such a sloppy piece of work it offended me as much for its lack of intellectual rigour as its fanaticism, and prompted me to finally put finger to keyboard. It’s typical of the genre, returning every question to a doctrinaire sex-essentialism that is self-referential and self-contradictory by turns, chucking in the word ‘biological’ now and again for emphasis. The author contends that gender is entirely imposed on the individual by social conditioning, and refutes any internal cognition of it.


by Green Goude

Well who said it was? People commonly refer to their gender, not their identity, in fact the term ‘identity politics’ is only ever used pejoratively these days, and opposing it to ‘class politics’ misses the point. As long as we labour under a market economy there can be no equality because identities, however they may be constructed, are commodities just like everything else and therefore must trade at different prices relative to the exchange-values of things. Wheelchair athletes, black actors and gay footballers, Scottish accents and posh ones, all have market values. In that capacity capitalism equates them with things.

It starts out all hippy-dippy:

“Men are fine, women are fine. Every body is fine, every body is perfect. If we believe this, then any sense of dissociation or negative feelings about our bodies must be distress, whether caused by trauma, abuse, societal pressure, injury, illness, sexism, racism or disableism.”

Claptrap, all bodies are not perfect; some people are born with holes in the heart, gaps in the spine and their organs on the outside. They require extensive surgery to survive, but survive they do, with increasing reliability. Humanity one, Ma Nature nil I’d say.

“Biologically humans come in two sexes i.e. we are sexually dimorphic.”


A cursory inspection of the science reveals that sex is also socially constructed. Wikipedia has it that:

Sexual dimorphism is the condition where the two sexes of the same species exhibit different characteristics beyond the differences in their sexual organs. The condition occurs in many animals and some plants.

My italics. In everyday experience, however you define physical characteristics as male or female you can see a continuum in each one. If you follow the sexes link you’ll find that sex is a technical term covering the production of gametes through the combination of chromosomes. I can’t tell you what proportion of the population is producing viable gametes at any one time, but colloquially sex is all about, ahem, getting it on and that’s pretty untidy. Arguably no species is 100% dimorphic and we’ve evolved from organisms that weren’t.

“A small number of people are born intersex, …”

– Green Goude (op. cit)

More than you might suppose: How common is intersex? If you’ve only ever seen two basic types of tackle you haven’t been around much, and those who fear your prejudice will likely keep to themselves.

“which does not negate the reality of two sexes, but rather confirms it. You can’t be a combination of two things if the two things don’t exist.”


Definition and objectivity are entirely interchangeable here. Because someone coined the term intersex for people who don’t fit the other two definitions, those two definitions are validated! It frankly beggars belief that anyone wasted their time to write that.

“Traditionally intersex people have had their bodies surgically altered at birth to conform to one or another sex …”


That isn’t true either; the practice was introduced in the 1950s by John Money, with tragic results. His clumsy attempt to impose female gender on David Reimer demonstrates if anything that (something we may call) gender resides in consciousness, not in physicality – and we still struggle to define consciousness. Alongside those persons with visually ambiguous genitalia there are numerous other conditions that can be called intersex. It’s possible to have XY chromosomes and lack testosterone receptors so you develop a functioning womb and all the rest, and it’s possible for an XX person to have testes. You also can have XXY, XYY or a mix of XX and XY in different cells.

The paragraph on biology closes with an exhortation to not to tinker with those “perfect bodies”. God is never mentioned, but there is metaphysics at work here, as if there was something sacred about the series of chance happenings that lead to each individual’s assemblage of bits and brains. Your different characteristics beyond the differences in their sexual organs” are physical, cognitive, and emotional. Woven together, in their individual and social contexts, they form the realm of gender and each individual will carry a different combination. The statement “we are sexually dimorphic” implies that anyone who doesn’t make the binary chop is somehow not fully human, which smacks of social Darwinism; these ideas are as pernicious as those of Malthus, or Locke.

“So we are oppressed, discriminated against, controlled and mistreated in this society, not because of how we identify, but through the reproductive system of our bodies, …”


Some workers are oppressed through their reproductive physiology; it isn’t transphobic to say so or to campaign on issues such as infanticide, F.G.M., access to abortion, contraception or sanitary products, flexible working hours, breastfeeding in public or any number of related topics. Other workers are oppressed for their departure from gender orthodoxy.

Both forms of oppression are props in the alienation of reproductive labour, which in turn is a component of the alienation of production. In pre-alienated societies*, gender was purely a division of labour, and since prehistory such societies have invariably recognised that not all members can be fitted into one or other category so made provision for extra genders. These might be intermediate or fluid ones, whereby an individual could change roles at will, often by simply changing attire.

* i.e. those that did not seek to regulate human activity through the exchange of tokens, the acquisition of property rights or accumulation of debt.

One charge often hurled at the Aunt Sally that is ‘transgenderism’ is that it reifies gender-essentialism, this is false. First off, I haven’t seen much evidence of essentialism in trans comrades, beyond the sort of precautions a trans person working two cleaning jobs might take to get home on the night bus in one piece.

“It is only natural for a person who strongly wishes to be identified according to her or his felt gender to attempt to provide cues to make the process easy for those who interact with her or him. That person cannot be blamed for the stereotypical nature of the cues that society uses, or if they can be blamed, then every cisgendered person who uses such cues is equally to blame.”

– Sally Outen

Binary gender is itself the reification of divisions of labour enforced by patriarchal modes of production. In Europe it became systematic in the late Mediaeval period and reached its zenith with the establishment of the nuclear family, the most efficient unit for the reproduction of wage-labourers on their own time, at their own expense. You could say it’s the reification of sex-essentialism, and exists to reproduce the power relations that created it. Transphobia then, is as much a tool of patriarchy as gender.

“Gender is what feminism has critiqued for decades, so the recent concept of gender identity as something to be chosen and celebrated is a strange one for feminists. The categories of non-binary, genderfluid, agender and a myriad of other identities seem to be expressions of dissatisfaction with “being a woman” or “being a man” in this society. Quite right too!”

– G.G. (op. cit)

What’s your problem then? If gender is the obstacle to progress shouldn’t we all be agender? Since gender is one of the pillars of the bourgeois military-industrial market society, subverting it ought to be an end in itself. Abolish it by all means, but if we are to replace it with a fundamentalist interpretation of sex, we’ll be back at square one (the Palaeolithic). In the absence of gendered relations of production, sex is simply irrelevant. Possession of a given set of reproductive apparatus with or without matching chromosomes is not the defining characteristic of a human, yet that is the author’s creed.

Here is an anarchist-communist perspective from Red and Black Leeds:

“Gender essentialist statements are for example “The doctor assigned me female on the basis of my vagina, but it turns out that deep down I’m actually male”. Sex essentialist statements are for example “I have a vagina which is what makes me a woman”. Both are problematic. The latter because having a vagina doesn’t make someone a woman, taking the role on (or accepting it as default, as with most vagina owners) does. The former is wrong because genders are roles and you can’t deep down actually be a role, you can only act a role. Our doctors didn’t assign our genders incorrectly, they just shouldn’t have been assigning us roles in the first place.”

Falling Star: Countering Gender Essentialism with Sex Essentialism

Essentialism is a belief system that requires certain assumptions to be accepted without challenge. I call it a logical fallacy, but it forms the basis of some major philosophical systems, like religion.

“Nobody wants to be limited by their biology, by what society imposes on us based on our biology, by socially-constructed gender roles. But to deny reality by trying to identify out of being male or female, not only won’t work, as sexism does not care how we might “identify”, but also unwittingly reinforces those gender roles.”

– G.G. (op. cit)

My italics.

This is the core of TERF ideology: the ever-increasing number of individuals whose gender does not match their physical appearance must be either faking it or deluded.

“Moving across borders of perceived gender does not reinforce existing gender-roles, any more than migration across borders of nation states reinforces the system of nation states.”

Workers’ Solidarity Movement Ireland: ‘Transgender Liberation, Class Politics & Anarchism’

Workers Solidarity #126, March 2012.

The idea of socially-constructed sex is forcefully expressed in this piece by Monique Wittig:

“By doing this, by admitting that there is a “natural” division between women and men, we naturalize history, we assume that “men” and “women” have always existed and will always exist. Not only do we naturalize history, but also consequently we naturalize the social phenomena which express our oppression, making change impossible. For example, instead of seeing giving birth as a forced production, we see it as a “natural,” “biological” process, forgetting that in our societies births are planned (demography), forgetting that we ourselves are programmed to produce children, while this is the only social activity “short of war” that presents such a great danger of death. Thus, as long as we will be “unable to abandon by will or impulse a lifelong and centuries-old commitment to childbearing as the female creative act,” gaining control of the production of children will mean much more than the mere control of the material means of this production: women will have to abstract themselves from the definition “woman” which is imposed upon them.”

One Is Not Born a Woman, by Monique Wittig (1981)

Wittig compares sex to race, which was created as a retrospective justification for the slave trade and wars of empire:

“But what we believe to be a physical and direct perception is only a sophisticated and mythic construction, an “imaginary formation,” which reinterprets physical features (in themselves as neutral as any others but marked by the social system) through the network of relationships in which they are perceived. (They are seen as black therefore they are black; they are seen as women, therefore, they are women. But before being seen that way, they first had to be made that way.)”


Since that was written of course, the mapping of the human genome has demolished the concept of ‘race’ as an objective category.

So sex isn’t definitive, but sex is all they have, is a woman to be defined by her reproductive capacity?

“There are cis women all over the world who lack breasts after mastectomy or a quirk of biology; women who are born without vaginas, or who are victims of FGM; women who are androgynously skinny, naturally or because of illness; women who are infertile or post-menopausal; or, significantly, the 0.2% of women who are intersex. Is the female identity of these cis women under question too? If it is, feminism has a long way to go.”

– Laurie Penny (op.cit)

Green Goude pursues the logical fallacy ‘appeal to nature’ with religious zeal:

“It is also very dangerous to deny our biology. Humans can’t actually change sex. We can take hormones, and embark on surgical alterations to our bodies. These can change our appearance, voice, body hair, breasts, genitals, but we will always be biologically what we were born as …”

– G.G. (op.cit.)

The use of the word ‘biologically’ is entirely arbitrary here. A materialist view of gender would have to root its internal cognition in biology, as much as any other aspect of personality. The author introduces the metaphysical idea that one’s destiny is fixed at the time of birth (why not conception or puberty?) We know that some time in the third month of foetal development a hormonal battle commences, instigated by X and Y chromosomes, over two initially neutral structures, the Wolffian and Mullerian ducts. That contest is completed at puberty – at least as far as the medical profession is concerned. You can find a more detailed but easy to read explanation here.

Again these are matters of definition. Sex and gender are no more than human rationalisations for complex and ill-understood phenomena, and we’re reduced to quibbling over semantics. Ideology, or dogma, relies on widespread acceptance of definitions of things we all experience differently. I regard this as part of the catastrophic philosophical legacy of Bolshevism – which the right have drawn on just as much as the left – and its reliance on half-digested science. Concepts get reified and start appearing as fucking great blocks of stone in the high street.

Here’s a law of nature if you want one: with growth comes differentiation. That’s the true lesson of biology, and there are more than twice as many humans alive as in the year I was born, the year one John F. Kennedy prepared to annihilate half of them in defence of his alleged moral superiority.

“Male To Trans people (MTTs) have been raised as male i.e. a member of the group accorded power and privilege over females. They have been conditioned to assume the privileges of that group, and indeed have benefited from those privileges.”


That’s pretty daft, Most transwomen say they felt that way long before puberty and were excluded from male society. If you are seen as male, you are more likely to be listened to, left alone, excused bad behaviour, given responsibility or offered opportunities to accumulate wealth. You are less likely to be interrupted, ridiculed, patronised or touched without asking. But all that doesn’t come bundled with a Y chromosome, it has to be competed for, and defended from, other men and putting on a skirt won’t help you with that. Not everyone can be arsed, which is why we’re not all managing directors, cabinet ministers or chiefs of staff.

‘It’s held against me that “you were raised with male privilege”, but I was beaten up all the time for being effeminate. What privilege is that?’ …

– Clara Barker.

To summarise: Ms Barker has exploited a social convention by defying it, and in the process reinforced it – make sense?

“Strangely it rarely manifests itself in a desire to do the housework or receive 14% less pay than they did as a man.”

– G.G. (op. cit)

From Anarchasteminist:

A 2015 EU report found that trans people in the EU were more likely than their cis peers to be in the bottom 25% of earners and that around a third of trans people reported experiencing workplace discrimination in the year leading up to the survey and a similar proportion had experienced discrimination while looking for housing. Unsurprisingly, given high levels of workplace discrimination and general social stigma, trans people are disproportionately more likely to experience unemployment.. Emma Rundall carried out a survey of trans people as part of her 2010 PhD thesis and found that 14% of respondents were unemployed, around two and a half times the then national unemployment rate (pp 139 of thesis), this is consistent with a general trend in the literature for higher rates of unemployment amongst trans people.”

‘Transphobia is a class issue’

Next the author lines up squarely on the head of the nail, then whacks their thumb.

“Feminism’s critique and challenge to gender roles had a large measure of success in the 70s and 80s, to everyone’s benefit. Early Learning Centres promoted the de-gendering of toys …

The backlash against feminism was deliberately fostered by a capitalist system which preferred to sell twice as many goods to parents, and with that backlash gender roles became tighter than ever. …

This was a deliberate reversal of many of the gains made by the women’s liberation movement, and detrimental to all of us.”

– G.G. (op. cit)

Capitalism has indeed done these things, for the reasons given, why blame trans people? Why not fight the bosses instead of trawling for easy targets among oppressed groups? Laurie Penny again:

“Indeed, the fact that socially accepted female identity is something that must be purchased is something that trans women understand better than anyone else. For socialist feminists like myself, who locate patriarchal oppression within the mechanisms of global capitalism, the experience of trans women, who can find themselves pressured to spend large amounts of money in order to ‘pass’ as female, is a more urgent and distressing version of the experience of cis women under patriarchal capitalism. In our society here in the UK, where shopping for clothes and makeup is a key coming-of-age ritual for cis women, all people wishing to express a female identity must grapple with the brutal dictats of the beauty, diet, advertising and fashion industries in order to ‘pass’ as female.

Not a single person on this planet is born a woman. Becoming a woman, for those who willingly or unwillingly undertake the process, is torturous, magical, bewildering – and intensely political.”

– Laurie Penny (op. cit.)

The next paragraph postulates that the flourishing of trans and non-binary expression is merely a reaction to this latest consumer blip, denying them any agency whatsoever. In my lifetime I’ve seen many flip-flops in the cultural expression of gender as its stock has waxed and waned on the market. When I was a kid, blokes had short hair and women had long hair, then everyone had long hair, then we all had short hair, now it’s turned full circle. In the yob-rock era tough guys wore make up and high heels to emphasise their masculinity – and annoy their parents, of course. “Are you a boy or a girl?” Was simply an invitation to have a row. With the end of full employment we had a fashion for 1950’s trousers followed by a fashion for 1950’s attitudes that never quite went away. We’ve had phases of environmentalism and militarism, retreats into mysticism, celebrations of easy violence, selfishness and greed. Meanwhile some feminists* have confined themselves to calling for seats on the board or in parliament, or front-line military service, as if any of those institutions could be other than detrimental to Working Class women.

* I’ll not express an opinion on what constitutes a feminist.

Trans people are subject to multiple catch-22: unless they express the gender stereotypes the author disdains, to the satisfaction of strangers, they will not succeed. If they don’t accept they’re ill, and get a diagnosis, they won’t get medical treatment, and if they do not medically transition, they’re going to scare the taxpayers. If they transition at the earliest opportunity they’re following a trend, and if they wait for maturity they’ve got privilege. Notwithstanding, only about a fifth of people who attend the gender clinics end up having surgery, and not all want it. I find it inconceivable that anyone would take this path unless it was mandatory for them. The G.R.A. doesn’t take non-binary people into account, so the tool of the patriarchy cannot in fact be dispensed with.

The following paragraph gets proper nasty, on the assumption that only the faithful would have read this far, but it finishes up lamenting the (elective) modification of sacred secondary sexual characteristics. Mind, I’ve known cis-women have work done so they could play their chosen sports without discomfort. Body modification has become mainstream, people are content to let others draw all over them, stick cotton-reels in their ears, have their features altered. If the technology allows them to change their private parts, what’s the difference? Here’s another point of view:

“I came out as lesbian aged 13 whilst struggling with my gender identity. I then came out as trans but went back to identifying as a butch woman when I became immersed in TERF theory and ‘detransitioning’. I nearly didn’t survive this far. I was filled with internalised transphobia and self-loathing which led to multiple suicide attempts. I believed that I must be a misogynist if I am trans. At 23 I admitted to myself that I was a trans guy. I realised that I had been trapped in gender and feminist theory that was either written by the patriarchy or by white feminists (a.k.a. not intersectional).

Trans people are not pillars of the patriarchy. We are not the oppressors. It is the dominant cisgender classist white patriarchy that systematically abuse us, who are the oppressors. Trans people subvert the societal gender norms and thus we are a threat to the hierarchies that control us simply by existing.”

– Jay Latarche (found at Freedom News)

Green Goude raises the issue of sterilisation, why is this important? Population is still increasing exponentially and there are plenty enough people who actually want to procreate. If someone declines the role ‘woman’, which may or may not involve bearing children, for reasons neither I nor anyone else needs to understand, only accept as an exercise of free will, I can’t think of anything more sexist than telling them they ought to preserve their fertility. To whom is this duty of reproductive labour owed in an alienated society? Not to the tribe, village, extended family, for these things are gone; not even to some hypothetical relationship, but to a mode of production – to the bourgeoisie! Reproduction is central to capitalism, rather than simply an inevitable consequence of group living, as it was for most of human history, because human beings are its raw material. Wage labourers are variable capital, and surplus-value is extracted at every stage of human life. From conception to burial, via caring for the infirm and the management of incapacity, the bourgeoisie takes its cut.

“How can one know what the opposite (sic) sex feels like?”

– G.G. (op. cit)

Is a truism, nobody knows what anyone else feels like:

“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone.”

– Aldous Huxley: ‘The Doors of Perception’.

Ms Goude then takes on responsibility for sorting everyone’s problems out, telling them what is and isn’t wrong with them and recommends:

“Feelings need discharging through our natural healing processes of crying, shaking, etc …

We all know how very much better we can feel after a good, long cry.”

– G.G. (op. cit)

Or a run, or a wank, or whatever, but I still want a social revolution.

“Why is Germaine Greer, one of the founding mothers of feminism, vilified in trans circles?”


Because she’s always slagging them off. By the way, there’s no absolute right for any embittered old Bolshevik or fascist, to address a student body, it’s entirely up to them whether they want to hear what you have to say, especially if they’ve heard it all before.

“Why have bathrooms become the site of such vexation?”


For whom?

“It is important that all people, including children, are able to use a public toilet or changing room in safety. This has traditionally been achieved by segregation on the basis of biological sex …”


There has never been any U.K. legislation to prevent a person entering a given changing room or toilet based on the daft logos they put on the door. It’s not clear how the TERFs would set about policing this, though they have been known to photograph people’s crotches and upload them to the Internet, which is reason enough to exclude them from anarchist spaces. The present controversy has led not only to trans people being maliciously ‘outed’ but inevitably to cis-gendered people being challenged in public conveniences on the basis of their appearance.

The idea of safety in single-sex spaces rests on the very old-fashioned assumption that everyone is heterosexual. If you were safe around anyone who shared your genital configuration there would be no sexual violence in prisons, the military, the church, sports clubs, boarding schools or anything run by nuns. Male violence is a problem but this is an odd place to look for it, as the author admits, it’s one of those gendered roles. Men do not need to transition to rape women, they could just get a job at Yarl’s Wood. The chief culprit for male violence against women and children is the nation-state, followed closely by the nuclear family. If there was documented evidence of cis-men pretending to be trans in order to get access to women we would know all about it, because TERFs would be shouting it from the rooftops.

“… a lesbian who says she would not consider a relationship with a person with male genitals could be labelled transphobic. It is barely believable to any rational-thinking person, but this is actually happening. It is called the “cotton ceiling” and used to criticise and abuse lesbians.”


Poppycock; even the state agrees no one is obliged to have sex they don’t want – unless there’s a war on. If you don’t want a partner with a penis, a hare lip or a glass eye, it’s your life and your choice. Apparently an organisation called Planned Parenthood Toronto put on a workshop, basically about transwomen being excluded from lesbian nightclubs, dating sites etc. Seven people attended. This was worked up into an urban myth that P.P.T. had hosted a workshop teaching transwomen to rape lesbians, and it went unsurprisingly, all over the internet.

“It [self-identification] results, for example, in the farcical but ultimately dangerous actions of the NHS sending out reminder notices of cervical smears to MTTs who have no cervix and not sending them to FTTs who do have a cervix.”


That’s an admin issue, and easily soluble by anyone who knows how to use a computer and draw up a form:

Q. Would you like to receive cervical smear reminders? Y / N.

“It matters in society’s gathering of statistics. If anyone can identify as a woman how can we gather information about the position of women in society e.g. with regard to rates of pay, health, crime or violence. If people’s identities, which are myriad and frequently change from one year to the next, are the definitions by which we gather statistics, then social policies based on those statistics will be useless.”


Anarchists are not too fussed about ‘society’ whatever that means (the ruling class, the executive, the advertising industry?) being inconvenienced, and I’m not sure the tabloid readership actually care about this. However, here the argument is de-bunked scientifically, if you want to check the maths.

The piece finishes up with the standard whinge about free speech. The thing is, speech has never been free – go and tell your boss to fuck off. If you’re using oppressive language about people you’ve never met, someone, somewhere is getting done as a result. Kids getting bullied, families split, workers condemned to crappier jobs than they deserve.

Trans 101 for Wobblies offers six different definitions of gender and comments:

“Not everyone agrees on these things; others would offer other explanations; it is unlikely that any description could apply to all people.”

And why should they agree? You can make it come out wherever you want – so I would now like to centre this argument on who is served or otherwise, by the actions of each side.

I’ve no interest in raking over the unseemly fracas at the last London Anarchist Bookfair, whilst the spectacle was playing out I was up the road at Belly Full café eating ackee and saltfish. Regarding the aftermath Cautiously Pessimistic got it about right for me. Comrades have been taking sides based on who they would least like to fall out with, and characterising the other’s position without really analysing either one. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind and others have said likewise, that there are state assets at work on both sides, much of the static on twitter could easily be computer generated. Coincidentally I’d just spent about a year reading the works of Frank Kitson and other counter-insurgency texts, which led naturally into a bit of research on the British state’s campaign of stirring up sectarian conflict in Ireland, and the US actions against the Black Panthers, among others. Kitson’s cold-war era logic cared neither about means nor ends, peace-keeping was not about keeping warring factions apart but keeping the government in charge of its territory and in control of the propaganda narrative. Crucially, he considered the latter was the task of the army, assisted by security services and Special Branch.

“There is frequently a sense of a “scarcity of liberation” within reformist social movements, the feeling that the possibilities for freedom are so limited that we must fight against other marginalized groups for a piece of the pie.”

‘Strengthening Anarchism’s Gender Analysis. Lessons from the Transfeminist Movement.’

By Rogue, Common Action/W.S.A. available from Zabalaza Books

We’re too busy defending our oppressed group to bother about your oppressed group. A good analogy to this is the Israel/Palestine conflict. Allowing displaced Palestinians to return to Israel-Palestine would deny the Israeli state a voting majority of Jews, without which it could not guarantee a right of citizenship to all Jewish people in perpetuity. To argue against this is to perpetuate their historical oppression. Not that all Jews are equal even in Israel-Palestine, some are bosses, some are bossed. Meanwhile anti-Semitism invariably falls on Working Class Jews who lack the protection of the Israeli state.

The only way any group could pull this off whilst claiming a social justice position with any conviction is to de-legitimise the other marginalised group, by ascribing to it a sinister hidden agenda. The latest truly bizarre twist is a TERF claim that trans advocacy is an International conspiracy by bankers and spooks to undermine feminism. Blow me down, I wonder if they had anything to do with nine eleven? Ask Alex Jones.

Stuff to appeal to daily mail readers: straight bananas and banning Christmas.

Serial killers in women’s prisons: It’s been widely reported and seized upon that the convicted murderer Ian Huntley is seeking transfer to a women’s prison – never let a good villain go to waste! The state exercises a very high level of control and surveillance over prisoners like Huntley; they don’t just go wandering around. Whilst the Soham one has been festering in their dungeon, numerous transwomen have been raped and committed suicide in men’s prisons. Meanwhile Rose West, who is a serial killer of women, remains in a women’s prison, where according to the IWW gender equality commission, sexual assault by inmates on inmates it three times that of male prisons.

Rapists in women’s refuges: The proposals have no bearing on the Equalities Act 2010, which already protects women-only spaces and governs the right of transwomen to access them. Women’s refuges reserve the right not to admit anyone on safety grounds, and have an exemption under the equalities act that allows them to accommodate transwomen – who are just as likely to be victims of domestic violence as anyone else – separately if it’s considered to be in the interests of other residents.

Someone is wrong on the Internet! As reported in the New Statesman, someone tweeted that Female Genital Mutilation was a cis-sexist term. They objected to specific genital structures such as the clitoris being labelled as female and would have preferred the applicable body parts to be specifically named. The thing is, F.G.M. refers to a range of damaging, non-medical procedures inflicted on people who are perceived to be female, precisely because they are perceived to be female. Removing the word female would miss the point. I think this clears that up.

Twitter is the electronic equivalent of scrawling on the bog wall, I wouldn’t bother if I were you.

What we should be having the sensible debate about.

How group identity is socially constructed when it relies not on personal affinity but perceived similarity, and what purpose it serves. A competitive society depends for its survival on every member being at odds with every other. Individuals are encouraged to compete for status within a group – most easily achieved by lowering someone else – and where there is little status to compete for, to compete for identity with their group, usually by being miserable to outsiders. Another way is to narrow the criteria for entry to the group, so having fewer members to compete with.

If you cannot appreciate what you are without reference to what someone else is, you’ve got more problems than enough, and it’s a pretty shaky theory that relies on the state stopping people from doing something.

Why are trans people commonly assumed by default to be middle class?

As if the real Working Class could not be doing with such things. This is a version of the logical fallacy often called ‘no true Scotsman’. It’s true that there are reactionary elements amongst us, and system-justification is strongest in groups that benefit least from the status quo, but the NUM’s support for Pride in the 1980s shows how a most traditional form of Working Class organisation can readily adapt to new social movements. A disproportionate number of trans people are engaged in sex work, you can’t get much more Working Class than that.

While we’re on the subject of class.

Taking a principled and reasoned position doesn’t oblige me to endorse the actions of any individual or group. Working Class people have been shutting down meetings of bigots and authoritarians for over a century but gate-crashing a picket by workers in dispute is out of order. This is because industrial disputes are the only weapon our class has against the bosses. Picket lines are an expression of Working Class strength and solidarity, so the only valid reason for approaching one is to support the workers in struggle – regardless of the politics of individuals. Anything else is scabbing. In the IWW we say “no politics in the Union”, we fight for all workers and we’ve picketed for the right of trans workers to choose which bog they use. The lesson of the Miners’ Strike is the necessity of total class solidarity in the face of a concerted attack, it doesn’t even matter what the fight appears to be about; the ruling class are hardly going to let you in on their long term plans. You will gain nothing by cross-class alliances because the bourgeoisie don’t care about you. They will be happy to sell you for a little more than they paid, which in this case is fuck all.

Helen Steel.

Buggered if I know, to be honest.

Anarchist principles.

I’m an anarchist, which means I accept no authority beyond my own conscience and I recommend you don’t either. Logically I’ve got three choices:

  • I allow everyone to define their own gender according to their perceptions and belief systems
  • I try and do it for them according to my perceptions and belief systems, or yours even.
  • I sub-contract the task to state-sponsored psychiatry, which no one I know has a shred of faith in. Meanwhile they are shoved around form pillar to post by every petty bureaucrat and jobsworth with an axe to grind.

“The demand that trans people conform to gender stereotypes in order to be considered ‘healthy’ or ‘a good treatment prospect’ is something that cis-women also experience in their dealings with the psychiatric profession. It is standard practice for women in some inpatient treatment facilities to be pressured to wear makeup and dresses as a sign of ‘psychological improvement’. The institutional misogyny of the global psychiatric establishment is something that radical feminists and trans activists can usefully oppose together.”

– Laurie Penny (op. cit.)

No-one’s perceptions or belief systems are more valid than anyone else’s, but there is no question that some belief systems are harmful to the collective, they must be tested empirically, not against dogma. I can see no moral or philosophical justification for constraining anyone against their will, provided they are not constraining others. I’ll fight for a world in which people do not need to apologise for or explain themselves.

We must not pander to artificial scarcity by competing for access to healthcare or public spaces; let’s push the economy until it breaks. Accept no less than common usufruct of all resources and the total product of social labour, according to need. We’re building the new world in the shell of the old, but we won’t be keeping the shell! We must destroy everything and start from first principles, the most noble of which is the absolute sovereignty of the individual, in the company of equals.

“To be free collectively means to live among free people and to be free by virtue of their freedom.”

– Mikhail Bakunin 1871.

I’ve tried to examine this issue from a utilitarian, materialist, class struggle anarchist perspective. Some in the movement regard it as a distraction, and having fallen behind the wider population, accuse us of liberalism, of flirting with single-issue ‘identity politics’ with all its potential for cross-class contamination. It could be this masks actual prejudice; there are fellow-travellers with anarchist leanings who have never quite let go of the idea of external authority, perhaps a subliminal hangover from religion. I’ll finish with a passage from one of our less liberal commentators, Alfredo Bonanno:

“Anarchism is not a political movement and never has been. It is a social movement, a carrier of social ideas, and so has always, right from its birth, dealt with the entirety of social problems. If one looks at anarchist papers of the last century, one can find not only the question of ecology addressed but also any other problem that concerns man. The anarchists were the first to talk about free love, eroticism, homosexuality, about all the aspects that concern daily life. This is one of the strengths of anarchism, and has led to the anarchist movement being considered, today as in the past, a great reservoir of ideas into which everyone can dip, and from which Capital itself has derived many concepts. But anarchists are aware of this. They have always put their ideas at the disposal of others, because, as Proudhon said, the worst kind of property is intellectual property. Anarchists have never been afraid that Capital might steal their ideas, because they have always known that they are capable of moving beyond them.”

– Alfredo M. Bonanno: ‘The Insurrectional Project’.

Mal C