Julie Bindel’s transphobia is a constant source of trauma

Following Annette Pryce’s article on Julie Bindel’s controversial LGBT History Month appearance, guest writer Sam Hope gives a trans perspective on the matter.

I’m in an abusive relationship with Julie Bindel and I can’t escape. An abusive relationship in the multi-media world of the 21st Century does not need to have romantic or sexual connotations.

I come from an abusive family, I’ve worked for years with abuse survivors, I have an MA in Trauma Studies that focused on the consequences of abuse. I know what abuse looks like and feels like. It looks like this.

The cycle is familiar by now. It begins with Bindel and her enablers organising a talk that they know will have a negative impact on a minority – often that minority is trans people, as this seems to be her special interest, and I will focus on this, although her attitudes to sex work, bisexuality, mental health and Islam are equally questionable.

Her stated aim is to cast doubt on the validity of trans identities, which is appalling in itself, especially given the weight of scientific evidence and historical record that supports our identities. But her covert but equally apparent aim is even more pernicious – to whip up a storm that she can then claim to be a victim of, through which she achieves personal gain.

It is a sad fact that one abuse tactic is to make yourself look like your victim’s victim. Bindel excels at this. In her latest escapade, we find Bindel imposing herself on a space that should be inclusive of bi and trans people, as she is scheduled to give an LGBT History Month talk. It’s not enough for her to bring her afab lesbian separatism to afab lesbian separatist spaces, she has to push herself on LGBTQ+ spaces she doesn’t believe should even exist.

I know what abuse looks like and feels like. It looks like this.

Of course, this is pure provocation and of course, she knows it. Naturally, people will be frightened, upset. This will embolden biphobic and transphobic people and lend power to their discourse.

My Facebook feed is full of trans friends hurt and agonising over what to do. Ignoring her feels like being assaulted and pretending it isn’t happening, although my policy has long been to try and ignore people like Bindel and not be a pawn in their nasty game. I wrote about this when she came to my town two years ago and my position has not changed. Fighting back will bring the focus onto us and we as a community will be on trial for what any one of us does and says next. And with this much hurt and anger, somebody somewhere is bound to misfire.

This is another abuser trick – torment someone until they snap and then calmly tell the world “look how mad and bad this person is”.

Yes, we are traumatised

Bindel says we cannot be traumatised by her, but we can and we are. I have seen it and felt it. My heart rate goes up when Bindel’s name is mentioned. My body tenses. I lose sleep. I have intrusive thoughts about the verbal abuse I’ve experienced from her friends and enablers in relation to previous events. I have internalised Bindel’s own cruel words and they continue to taunt me even in her absence. Most of all, I feel something is being forced onto me and that I am powerless and voiceless.

I can speak out through a blog but I know my words will be drowned out because her audience is so much bigger and we are such a tiny community. Her lies have greater reach than our truth, and have the ring of veracity to people who know little about us and haven’t done their reading.

Fortunately, the law now recognises the existence of emotional abuse, and I hope it’s only a matter of time until we recognise that the internet is not some magical place where words don’t hurt. Emotional abuse is real. Bullying is real. Harassment is real. Harassment is coming into a space that has ‘T’ in it whilst being a very persistent and prolific campaigner against trans civil rights and the very idea of ‘LGBT’.

I have internalised Bindel’s own cruel words and they continue to taunt me even in her absence.

Another abuser trick is to spin what’s happening with a manipulative rhetoric. It’s easy to choose your words carefully and be charming when you’re not really the one under fire, of course. Abusers talk about people ‘taking offence’ as some very cerebral and quite academic response to their abusive words. This sanitises the process and denies its real impact. MRAs will say this about survivors who are traumatised by rape jokes, that they are needlessly offended. When someone is emboldened to say something they absolutely know will chip away at another person’s safety or social inclusion, or their very sense of self, spinning their trauma-related reactions as ‘offence’ is just so much newspeak.

6 thoughts on “Julie Bindel’s transphobia is a constant source of trauma

  1. A lot of extremely conservative/religious/etc. people have these feelings of suffering abuse at the hands of liberals. It’s what brings some of them to self righteously talk about “white genocide” and “gay agenda” and such. (Though some others may throw around these catchphrases with malicious intent rather than a sincere feeling of persecution.)

    The fact that you and your community feel personally extremely frustrated over strongly opposing opinions gaining acceptance is not in any way proof that those opinions are wrong or materially harmful to anyone, beyond the harm caused by those feelings of anguish.

    Note that I’m not saying said feelings of anguish aren’t real or aren’t materially harmful. (Psychological harm is also materially real.) I’m quite explicitly agreeing they are. But the same harm is done by liberal policies to deeply conservative people. If we formed our political opinions based on whether or not they cause a group of people serious mental anguish, we would have to stop believing, say, that Trump is a horrible person. Because to many, he’s sincerely their savior, and any insult on him causes the reactions you describe: heart racing, feelings of powerlessness (when within a group of liberals), etc. It’s especially how many Trump supporters felt before he got PEOTUS. They had waning hope, and felt anguish every time the media run another story about how terrible Trump is… I’m not making this shit up. My brother (whose political opinions I have near zero respect for by now) is fond of Trump, while he has a liberal family and friends. On a personal level he’s a rather kind person and if you pay attention you can feel his deep frustration. Places like 4chan and reddit literally serve as the “safe spaces” of these guys. I’m not saying they’re right in any way. None of this makes them right, just like what you describe in this article doesn’t make you automatically right.

    (I also don’t mean to compare your political opinions to the “alt-right” i.e. white/male supremacists. [Although a certain someone on roughly your side on this topic did exactly that to separatist lesbians a few days ago, and I’m still angry about that…] I’m just using the alt-right as an example because we can all agree here that they’re wrong.)

    In the end, I have to conclude that your article is one big instance of begging the question. Your whole logic rests on the assumption that you’re right to begin with: that it’s true that Bindel is causing real harm to minorities, that she really is bigoted against transgender people rather than her disagreements with them being rooted in a genuine interest in the liberation of female people as a class from male supremacy. Therefore you feel justified painting her as an abuser. Nearly(?) nothing in the article actually argues for the truth of your viewpoints; it merely paints her as evil for having strongly differing politics. Just like white supremacists do to black liberationists. Just like fundamentalist Catholics do to gay and lesbian rights activists. Only this time, according to you, you’re on the right side. Well, not according to people who follow Bindel. And believe me, they are hurting too. What is it, did you think, that makes the women you derisively call “TERF” so angry at the transgender movement? They have the exact same feelings of suffering abuse: the transgender movement is materially harming women (they “know” this — and I agree with them, but the important thing here is it’s *aside* the point who is right) and when they speak up then they’re painted as the bigoted, transphobic abusers. They feel the exact same way you do!

    There is only one thing to do here: sit down and discuss the matter rationally. Either find a middle point to form a coalition, or part ways knowing that you’re political enemies. But for the love of whatever you worship, stop trying to paint the mere public appearance of your political opposition as something comparable to domestic violence. Doing so is further down the line than coming to the conclusion that you’re political enemies: it’s a dirty fighting tactic, and it’s only going to strengthen the enmity felt in turn towards your side by people agreeing with Bindel.

    I hope this was constructive.


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