Julie Bindel’s transphobia is a constant source of trauma

Power always has accomplices

This cycle will continue as long as people give Bindel a platform, give her power. Once that happens, she has already won because both ignoring or attacking from the trans community will enable her. Cancel the event, she gets to play the victim and she gains more support and more power. Let her speak and she gains an audience (one inclined to be on her side) – more power again. There is no winning here.

Two years ago, I made a commitment to myself I try (and sometimes fail) to keep. Recognising I was becoming increasingly traumatised by Bindel and her ilk, I started to ignore them as much as possible, and bring people together to do positive work. From that decision, a huge amount of supportive community organising has come about. But I’m by no means over the profound negative psychological impact that gender critical feminism has had on me, and it’s impossible to protect myself fully from it. Their tendrils are everywhere, influencing my cis friends, influencing policy, weighting the media discussion about us and generally making life miserable for trans people in multiple ways. I blogged about how much I had internalised their hateful doctrine here.

We are powerless and we are vulnerable; perhaps a natural state that should be embraced more by human beings, but never more true than if you are an outlier on the bell curve of humanity.

This cycle will continue as long as people give Bindel a platform, give her power. Once that happens, she has already won because both ignoring or attacking from the trans community will enable her.

As long as people give power to bullies, they will have power. And a platform is power. It’s not a right, to be elevated over others. It’s not an entitlement, although some seem to act like it is, a sense of entitlement that is once again the characteristic of an abuser. It’s not free speech to have a newspaper column or a speaking engagement. It’s power. And using it to subjugate a minority and advocate the removal of their rights is abuse of that power.

Like Trump and Yiannopoulos, Bindel finds in these frightening days an opportunity to become powerful and wealthy and be surrounded by enablers. That she is representing a notion of ‘working class’ at this latest event is the ultimate irony. Whatever her origins, Bindel is elite, dangerous and bad for the health of working class LGBTQ+ folk everywhere; particularly trans people, bi people, PoC and sex workers, but her ideas are calamitous to all of us as they render us powerless to say ‘stop’ when we are being abused, because ‘stop’ and ‘no’ are apparently censorship of her freedom to come at us relentlessly.

As long as people give power to bullies, they will have power. And a platform is power.

And, to be clear, I want to holler ‘Stop!’ and ‘No!’. I want to beg and plead – ‘just leave me and my friends alone and find another special interest, please Julie. Your behaviour is intolerable and real people are profoundly affected by it, people who matter every bit as much as you’.

But if I holler, just watch how many people will clap their hands over my mouth and tell me I ‘won’t help my cause’ that way. These silencers – they’re enablers too, telling me if I just acted the right way, the abuse would stop. That’s a lie, too.

I know that as long as hurting me gives her power and wealth, she will never stop, so ultimately, it’s her enablers who need to look at what they’ve created. Just as rape is enabled by rape culture, so this relentless abuse is enabled by our obsession with seeing gladiator-style opinion-fests based on ignorance and entitlement.

Whatever her origins, Bindel is elite, dangerous and bad for the health of working class LGBTQ+ folk everywhere.

There is no solution to abuse as long as people are creating a culture that enables it. In the face of this abuse, we must stay safe as best we can and look after the inevitable impact events like this have on the mental health of our community. My love goes to all my trans siblings who are in pain right now from this. My respect to you however you are dealing with it, whether you’re keeping your head down or struggling to make your voice heard. I know you are doing your best and this is not in any way your fault.

Meanwhile, we must do all we can to raise up the voices of people who empower and support others rather than clawing their own way to personal power and wealth through the propagation of hate and division.

Follow Sam on Twitter (@Sam_R_Hope)

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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