Julie Bindel

Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. She writes about sexual violence, sexuality, food, and popular culture. Julie’s latest book is The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth (Palgrave McMillan, 2017)


“I think my boobs are, well… pretty. They’re neat and round and because they’re so new and small, they don’t sag. I love how they feel, too, and the way I keep being reminded of their presence. I can’t see a flight of stairs, or an escalator on the Tube, without wanting to run up it two steps at a time. I like to come down fast, too. But it’s a very different experience when you suddenly have to clamp a hand across your chest to stop the jiggling.”

So writes the journalist David Thomas, who pens a weekly column in the Daily Telegraph charting his ongoing sex change, and which in his latest column involves telling readers all about the new breasts he has begun to grow as a result of taking female hormones. Thomas seems rather pleased with himself about the whole thing.

As a girl growing up my developing breasts caused me to feel self-conscious and embarrassed, purely as a result of the gawping, sexist males who made my life hell. This was an experience I shared with all the girls in my school, and indeed with girls everywhere. For Thomas, in contrast, flaunting his breasts is a thing of great joy and liberation.

The Telegraph writer’s views about womanhood have certainly evolved over the years. In 1992, Thomas, then a founder of the men’s rights movement, wrote Not Guilty: The Case in Defence of Men, a rant about how feminists have the brass neck to blame men for the terrible things they do to women, rather than themselves. To sum it up, his entire thesis seemed to be “Stop blaming men for the things that nasty women make us do to them!”

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In his hey-day as a men’s rights activist, Thomas suggested that one way for men to break out of the “prison of their gender” was to wear women’s clothing. This was at a time when feminists were critiquing the harmful beauty industry and arguing that femininity – the requirement to trot around in high heels, cake our faces with toxic chemicals and squeeze ourselves into restrictive and uncomfortable clothing – was a tool of our oppression, and an indication of our relative lack of freedom in comparison to that of men. But hey ho, each to their own.

In 1995, Thomas wrote an article in the Telegraph entitled: “If you can’t beat today’s women, then join them,” in which he argued that womanhood is filled with joys and privilege. As an example, he wrote: “A modern girl can play rugby, go to a strip joint, enter any profession and be applauded.” The piece was illustrated with a photograph of Thomas dressed in a flowery dress and holding a handbag.

This is the same man who complained in Not Guilty that “Western society is obsessed with women to the point of mass neurosis”. In the book, Thomas also stated: “The fact is, people are in pain. And right now, the ones who wear trousers and stand up to piss don’t seem to count for much when it comes to being healed.”

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Since he clearly thinks women have it far better than men, so perhaps his desire to live as a woman is his way of having it all; he has enjoyed a lifetime of male privilege and can now relax into womanhood. His columns tackle topics such as “facial feminisation”; how his sex change is going to leave him £100,000 short; who he will want to have sex with when he “becomes a woman”; and how to train his voice to be more ‘female’; and how women are very silly indeed to worry about ‘trans women’ in our public toilets. When I write about aspects of womanhood it tends to be about everyday issues facing the entire female sex, or large swathes of them, such as rape, sexual exploitation, domestic violence and murder, FGM, and forced marriage. Clearly I’m not prioritising the crucial issues that Thomas concerns himself with.

Ray Blanchard, the American-Canadian sexologist, best known for his research studies on transsexualism and sexual orientation, coined the term ‘autogynephilia’ in 1991 to mean “a male’s propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a female”. I reckon this term could apply to a man of 60 who seems thrilled when he looks down and sees breasts sprouting on his chest.

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Blanchard, who has been accused of transphobia and banned from Twitter (since reinstated) for arguing that transgenderism is a form of mental disorder, has written comprehensively on autogynephilia, and seems to confirm what many of us have suspected all along – that many heterosexual men who transition in later life often do so to satisfy a sexual urge.

At any rate it can hardly be said that men like Thomas really understand what it’s like to walk in our shoes. His case is similar to Bruce Jenner, who presented as a very masculine man, an Olympic athlete married to three different women with whom he had six children – before becoming Caitlyn Jenner. Jenner once declared that “The hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear,” which is certainly a unique perspective.

I really could not care less whether Thomas calls himself Davina or David; I consider it to be entirely up to him what he wears and how he presents himself. But he has no earthly idea what it means to be a woman, and has spent the past three decades demonstrating just that. While feminists fight for the right for women to break free of oppressive sex stereotypes, the likes of Thomas claim them for himself. It is high time we called out narcissistic autogynephiliacs. I am sick of the cowards who hide behind the few of us who speak out against this male appropriation of what it really means to be a woman, as opposed to a male fantasy of one.