Was Grace Lavery silenced by her own community?
She pulled out of an UnHerd event after pressure from fellow trans activists
Grace Lavery is a prominent trans activist and professor of Gender Studies at UC Berkeley in California. As part of the promotion of her new book, Please Miss: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Penis, about living as a transwoman since 2018, she had been offering to debate a “gender critical feminist”. She specifically invited The Economist’s Helen Joyce, author of Trans, to do so. Joyce agreed in theory — but nobody would host the event. It was considered too fraught and too much of a risk that Grace would pull out.
At UnHerd we believe it is important to talk about difficult topics — amazingly, this would seem to have been the first in-person discussion between a gender-critical feminist and a trans activist. So we agreed to host the potentially difficult conversation. We managed to find a date, venue, format and title that both Helen and Grace were happy with. I would moderate, as someone who has no corner to fight in this discussion — Grace’s team found me to be “a great, steady moderating presence” in my YouTube interviews.
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Behind the scenes, the emails remained extremely civil, and Grace was at pains to emphasise how she was “utterly committed” to the event going ahead. But things soon started getting a little odd on her Twitter feed.
Earlier in the process, she had shared screengrabs on Twitter of a private email saying that Helen couldn’t do certain dates, apparently to show that it wasn’t Grace being difficult. Then, after the event had been announced, she posted an extraordinary Twitter thread:
Grace, it seemed, had been coming under pressure and was getting nervous: the most generous explanation for this outburst was that by calling the person she had invited to debate a “fascist” and implying that her host was a “fascist enabler” she signalling her bona fides to the more jittery elements of her community. It was starting to feel very unpleasant, but we felt it was still worth trying to make the discussion happen.
Grace herself explained what happened next. She has been getting “a few” messages from trans people in the UK asking her to reconsider doing the event. She invited them to a private zoom call to share their concerns. Her tone on Twitter was already different, and she sounded notably more fearful:
And then, one day later, she pulled out. Her team emailed to explain how her community had persuaded her to stand down:
Even Grace Lavery, it would seem, who is a standard-bearer for her community, can be intimidated into silence by them. She was so insistent that she wouldn’t cancel that she had offered £100 to each person who bet that she would — which she is now paying up. One can only imagine the pressure applied on that “difficult” zoom call.
Perhaps naively, I had hoped that, once there in person, we would be able to find some common humanity and maybe even have a civil and productive conversation. Instead it seems that voices within the trans community are so powerful that they are forbidding any discussion from taking place — and the result will surely be to increase alienation and lack of understanding. Grace’s original instinct to reach out and talk was the right one; it’s a loss for both communities that she was talked out of it.
So here is our offer. We have a beautiful venue, an engaged audience, Helen Joyce has generously agreed to still take part. We would like the event to go ahead. Will any prominent figure from the trans community step forward and take part in a good faith discussion?
Don’t blame Grace Lavery. She knows, as do all the trans activists, that they are talking nonsense (e.g. ‘men who say they are women are actually women’ and so forth with the whole gender identity b***s**t). If they were actually to try to argue in support of it, the cognitive dissonance they would suffer would burst their brain. Screaming ‘transphobic’ at any opposition is much safer for them.
This is spot on. These people have to live in a very tight echo chamber because exposure to reality would destroy the structure of their personalities.
We all know it is rubbish reasoning like mind over matter or wish over bodily facts. The biggest crime though is being made by the government who is joining in with this stuff. They write the laws so everyone has to pretend it’s legitimate. It is a fact that it exists but it is not a fact of nature. One has to gently counsel a patient who believes in unreality but one should never go along with that unreality and encourage it.
It’s like those socialists many moons ago who daren’t get into a debate about how it would actually work; and definitely avoided any discussion about their heroes in Russia.
I was really looking forward to an actual debate on this crucial issue for women (female sex). I don’t know whether Grace Lavery knows that this is a protected characteristic in the UK (Equality Act 2010). It is fascists who take rights away from people, as in the ongoing attempts to replace sex with gender identity, not people trying to protect hard won rights.
Not being willing to debate shows an authoritarian mindset as well as a lack of faith in how your own arguments will stack up. This cannot be a good position for many trans people as it does nothing to further understanding.
‘Will any prominent figure from the trans community step forward and take part in a good faith discussion?’
Don’t hold your breath. However well-intentioned, this pathetic episode just goes to show that you can’t reason with unreason.
Ungraceful has just dealt another blow to her cause. I would have listened with an open mind and empathy to a reasoned debate.
I am personally not anti-trans, but anti trans people demanding their rights at the expense of the rights of others. Now I am feeling angry too.
I am personally not anti-trans, just anti the headbangers and the pseudo-academic charlatans pretending to speak for trans people.
“Grace Lavery is a prominent trans activist and professor of Gender Studies at UC Berkeley in California.”
! Just imagine what her class must be like…. I cannot, my mind boggles….
I can think of several prominent figures from the trans community who could take part in a good faith discussion. The problem for Stonewall, which goes a long way towards explaining its “no debate” polilcy, is that the prominent figures in question generally share the common sense beliefs of the silent majority, Debbie Hayton of this parish being perhaps the classic example.
Yes, Debbie doesn’t believe 2 + 2 = 5 and up = down, so obviously she’s ruled out. The only person acceptable to Stonewall etc would be someone prepared to argue for irrationality, and I’m not surprised they’ve chickened out.
Agree, Debbie Hayton is a beacon of hope in this increasingly fraught debate. She is brave in the current climate.
When someone refuses to discuss their views, the immediate suspicion is that they know that their position is weak and won’t stand up in a fair debate.
Recently, though, it has become seen as quite legitimate and even a strength to refuse all debate.
I’m terrified about how it will go if this is our future.
This is pure post-structuralism, in this view there can be no debate because all discussion/debate is merely an assertion of power bythe one who wields power (i.e. in the “woke narrative this is the critical feminists, white men etc) over the less powerful (i.e. the trans and ethnic communities etc).
It goes back to Frankfurt School, Critical Theory, where nothing can actually be known of reality as it is only known through uncertain perception – thus all which can be known is discussion and self identity, thus all discussion is to convince the other of ones perception and identity, and thus all discussion is a struggle of Oppressor/oppressed.
ie, Dialectic, and thus this discussion must be Oppression….postmodernism… it is not a useful philosophy for discovering the truth.
It’s surprising (or… perhaps not) that genuine debate is sabotaged by people with agendas that they are not willing to compromise over. Very similar with the earlier debates between Creationists and Evolutionary Scientists.
Today’s lesson: You cannot have a reasoned debate with people who fear reasoned debate.
The funny thing is that many New Atheists who gleefully took on the Intelligent Design creationists who attempted to gild their nonsense with some ‘science’ are now the most impassioned advocates of a similarly gilded new gender ideology
But scientists still can’t prove god doesn’t exist. I’m an atheist, but still respect those who believe in a god since this can’t be disproven.
Same here. The only argument we have for our atheism is an Occamite methodological argument from ontological parsimony. That’s good enough for me, but I completely understand a theist thinking that there must be more to life than this.
what’s so special about parsimony? If it was THE principal the universe would be a grain of sand, or not even that.
No, stick with the ontological argument – Anselm’s (of Canterbury, 11th century, and still being argued about) is the very example of parsimony
“being than which no greater can be conceived.”
is his proof of God’s existence. Or Descartes 180 degree triangle (edited to say that is Descartes proof that god exists)…. great deals of parsimony in all of them…
The Parsimony Principle (PP) comes into play when we consider the relationship between
(i) the explanandum, i.e. the phenomenon/data we want to explain, and
(ii) the explanans, i.e. the explanatory hypothesis.
In this context, there is nothing particularly special about PP. It merely enjoins us not to appeal to more ontology on behalf of (ii) than is necessary to explain (i).
As such, PP is best seen as a methodological or epistemological principle telling us how to go about our reasoning from (i) to (ii), rather than as an element in a deductive argument for or against the existence of some entity. This is why PP-based atheists like Ian Stewart* and I can’t disprove God’s existence. We have to respect religious faith albeit without sharing it.
The Ontological Argument (OA), as proposed by St Anselm, Descartes et al is a completely different topic from the normative methodology which is the concern of PP. The confusion is over the recurrence of the word “ontological” or its cognate in both PP and OA. But that is the full extent of the resemblance.
OA purports to be a conventional deductive argument from premises to a conclusion, something like
p1. God’s conceivability & p2. God’s perfection
c. God’s necessary existence.
OA is a very interesting subject in its own right. It’s just that it’s a completely different topic from normative methodology, as I say.
For the record, I answer the question from the perspective of the philosophy of modality, with its standard possible world architecture.
As such, I accept p2 but deny p1.
My denial of p1 is based on the fact that we can conceive of a world – this might very well be one – at which there is no God. Whereas surely as I accept per p2, if God exists as a perfect being, then he must exist in every world. But now the existence of the God-less world implies that God lacks the perfection of necessary existence. Hence, to conceive of God as perfect is to make him inconceivable. QED.
*I trust Ian doesn’t mind me saying this on his behalf. If I’m wrong, please put me right.
Jeez guys you’ve gone over my head here, I’m going to have to study this stuff. I think I follow your logic and it looks like it aligns with my rather more mundanely thought out reasoning!
Googling this stuff now…..
Just wow. Explains why my first Philosophy module was my last.
Thank you for this comment. I learned from it.
Separately, anyone interested in Helen Joyce’s views might enjoy listening to her sound analysis here:
Aside from everything else, Lavery’s command of English resembles that of a particularly dim but arrogant 15 year old having a rant on facebook.
Isn’t that just a style Prof Lavery adopts for effect? Someone with a First in English from Oxford who has acheived a tenured professorship before the age of 40 is unlikely to be inarticulate all the time.
I am starting to wonder if she got these things on merit or because she scores high on the most important thing: intersectionality. What an abject disappointment she is.
Agree! And the title of her book oy vey.
I was wondering about this too and supposedly she is an Associate Professor at the English Department of Berkeley. Just read her Berkeley website and didn’t understand a word of her “Professional Statement”. No wonder she pulled out of a debate. Wonder why she agreed to do it in the first place.
Because they’re realising that as this nonsense gets more into the public domain the ” no debate” strategy isn’t working. They’re running scared in good ole TERF island
I had a glance at it, and, to be fair, the writing looks little different from that of many who are in the humanities faculties. It appears that there is a concerted effort to make things as obtuse as possible using the old false argument – “profound ideas are difficult to understand. This is difficult to understand therefore it is profound”.
When I was doing my MA I remember one chap asking our supervisor what language should be used in the final dissertation, when she looked confused he elucidated “do we use English or Academ-ise?” The supervisor said that she preferred English, but if any of use wanted to enter academia we would need to learn the language.
Always the way with these people.
Certainly the stand-out feature as far as I was concerned.
If Helen Joyce is a ‘fascist’ then Freddie Sayers is the anti-christ. This is such a disappointment! I was really looking forward to this debate and I held out some degree of respect and admiration for Grace Lavery for having the guts to take part. Obviously it was all too good to be true.
I’ve almost finished ‘Trans’ by Helen Joyce and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her chats with Helen Pluckrose on YouTube. Helen comes across as a very fair, intelligent lady. The insults being levelled at her are vile and totally abhorrent.
- Helen on paper and in real life is a delightful and highly intelligent human being. No wonder the TRAs wouldn’t want a debate!
I have no doubt that Helen Joyce is a lovely person. She doesn’t warrant hatred and that’s for damn sure.
So here in my neighborhood we just had the Ivy League WOMEN’s swimming championships. What an exciting finish! A man wearing a woman’s bathing suit just barely beat a woman who is transitioning to a man (which presumably means she is taking male hormones). Didn’t that kind of doping get a bunch of Russian female behemoths kicked out of the Olympics in the good old days? But as Barack said, the arc of history moves ever upward towards the heavens.
Given Americans will do anything for cash ( sorry but it’s true), I am looking forward to women’s sports in the USA being swamped by male sportsmen, supposedly transitioning, who couldn’t win competitions for men.
What if Freddie wore a frock instead could the debate still take place?
Oo-er missus – for those who remember Frankie Howard
I’ll take 2 front row tickets to that please
…… a titter ran round the court ……
Under self id, I don’t see any enforceable reason why not.
Freddie would still look far more attractive than Lavery who actually spends a bomb on designer clothes and drive Lavery to despair.
Great idea – temporary transition like the bloke at the bank. Freddie must have some of the cliched finer feelings that apparently define the feminine condition. Can he tell what colours match?
On men in drag, I’ve always found it odd that society finds it unacceptable for people to don black face in mockery of black people, but finds it great entertainment for men to don women’s clothes in mockery of women. In 20 years will people look on Ru Paul as being offensive to women?
I would hope that many already see the offensiveness of “woman-face” it’s taking too long though!
It depends though doesn’t it? The sexualised stuff is creepy (David Walliams creeped me out) but panto dames are funny, Les Dawson, Lily Savage and Dame Edna? Mrs Br0wn in the same tradition. I don’t find any of them insulting, am I wrong?
I find Grayson Perry doing the little girl shtick a bit nauseating.
I never understood why he does that.
He did a documentary, very honest to be fair, about a trans convention (in England). He discussed his/their motivation and was the only one of them who was prepared to admit there was an auto erotic thing going on.
And makes it clear that he is not trying to be a woman. From what I’ve read and seen he is an extremely decent human being. He’s not trying to shut other people up or claim access to women only spaces.
It’s your view Jane, but as a man I can see that it’s laughing at extreme versions of women.
I find the Python ‘women’ very funny, but are we laughing at women as we laugh at the brilliant jokes?
You do have to worry about the future of comedy though? I find Python women funny, but the male characters are equally funny, and no less ridiculous. I personally find deliberately comical cross-dressing completely acceptable but sexualised drag less so. Bit ironic if Dame Edna gets cancelled but a bloke presenting in a similar fashion and actually claiming to be a woman is no laughing matter?
I’m just not sure on this – as I find it quite funny when other racial and national stereotypes are mocked, but it’s all banned these days.
He’d look better in a mini kilt.
You don’t have to win the argument, you don’t have to convert – all you need to do is terrorise.
And she took the name ‘Grace’.
Verb: Bring honour and credit to by one’s attendance or participation.
I notice how she gracefully fired off a barrage of bile and profanity when feeling slightly threatened. What a rank coward.
I for one looked forward (with grace and an open mind) to what she was going to say.
Or “she.” Call ‘em she but put the word in quotes. Like gay “marriage.”
It’s because he would have lost the debate, and he knows it. There just is no refutation of the unassailable truth that gender transwomen’s rights are incompatible with real women’s rights in the areas of sports, changing rooms, toilets, prisons etc.
I have just noticed it was scheduled to take place on April 1st…
Honestly, that was because it was the only date both could make a sheer coincidence!
I think trans people, a tiny minority of the whole, have had more than their fair share of attention. Let them retreat back to the shadows from whence they came and let’s get back to the lives and concerns of ordinary people.
The trans people aren’t the big problem. It’s the woke activists that obsess about representing their interests that are the problem – the same, usually white, woke activists that bullied society about BLM and defunding the police (the vast majority of black people are against this).
Their tactic of labeling those with whom they disagree as “fascist” is itself fascism.
Also a surprising and pathetic response from a grown up and academic.
That’s ok if you’re male but for females it’s the fight of our lives. We’re being erased in sports prisons everywhere.
The trans activists are the Chihuahua tail wagging the Newfoundland dog.
I wish I was shocked by this, but the further to the left you go, the closer you get to the absence of reason.
The reality is that even after comprehensive transformative surgery and chemical intervention, a man wishing to become a woman fails. They are, at best, a feminine transsexual, a non-binary other.
Accordingly, the demand that women must cede to the fantasy of men becoming women is one without reason and thus, without merit.
In the absence of reason, the lunacy can only be maintained by the creation of echo chambers of unqualified, unquestionable feelings.
I applaud UnHerd for trying to bring this into an adult forum, but I cannot see an adult transsexual debating the idea that women must cede to male fantasists.
“comprehensive transformative surgery and chemical intervention”.
I tend to believe that, if ‘transwomen’ were (or intended to be) surgically and hormonally ‘transformed’, things would not have become so fraught.
In fact, the vast majority of transwomen are fully intact heterosexual men who often avoid taking female hormones (because these interfere with sexual function).
Transwomen are intensely focused on, and sexually aroused by, every aspect of femaleness and they seek to create that which they desire. Perhaps unfortunately, they also desire, and wish to attract, female sexual partners.
Predictably, a majority of heterosexual and lesbian women are not attracted to (and may be repulsed by) transwomen. I suspect this is why so much anger is directed towards women (other than ‘trans allies’) by some trans activists.
I fully agree. If a man fully transitions I have no problem with this, I would share a changing room, lavatory facilities, mixed bathing, whatever with her.. Sport would still be a problem if the person had undergone puberty, though. If a man wishes to dress as a woman (they used to be called transvestites, if I remember correctly), that’s up to him, again I have no problem with this – provided he is not pretending to be a woman.
It seems a lot of prominent trans campaigners are a tad unhinged and totally blinded by their narcissism. The trans women I know generally just want to keep a low profile.
Based on a few years observing Lavery’s behavior, I would have been far more surprised had the event actually gone forward.
A pox on both their houses! Has the trans debate completely sucked in UnHerd and even Freddie?
I understand that this is part of the culture wars, perhaps an important part (emphasis on perhaps) that tyranny must be resisted, but is it worthy of so much of UnHerd’s attention? I suggest not. If this must be covered, how about the trans swimmers in America, who seem to be setting records left and right? Is it an accident that these “female” swimmers have gone through male puberty (Gee, does that confer an advantage in certain sports? I wonder.), and who remain “intact,” (a truly horrific image) were say 592 in the men’s world, but world class as women? This seems to be generating some justifiable outrage in the US, and I suggest is worth UnHerd’s attention, if this must be covered at all.
To use a WW II analogy, isn’t this a bit like UnHerd using its platform to incessantly discuss some random shelling in Sicily while the Battle of the Bulge rages on?
Unherd has a global audience – here in Australia we very recently had a huge fuss (all night sitting of Parliament, conservatives try to wedge progressives but strategy blows up in their faces, all just before an election) over the trans issue. It sort of came down to trans kids in single-sex schools. So it is a very live issue in some places.
Perhaps Unherd can do the event with an empty chair. Freddie can read out selected quotes from Lavery’s oeuvre and Helen can respond.
I like this idea Russell. Graceful dropped out after all.
My eyesight must be going, I misread “tyranny” as ‘tranny’, then again, maybe there’s an ‘ unintentional’ reason (spoonerism) as to why the words are so similar.
Easy mistake to make these days.
A “tranny” used to be a transistor radio. The first portable radio, I believe. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. State of the art in the 1960s.
The ‘trans community’ believes debate will cause ‘more harm than good’…to their own cause. They know their ideas don’t hold up to scrutiny and they don’t dare risk it.
What a bunch of cowards
Apparently, this professor has been banned from Twitter: https://medium.com/@notCursedE/transphobes-get-grace-lavery-banned-from-twitter-8d2d2f8d2a5d
Not sure if this article is true or not.
It was a deliberate act of self-sabotage. Lavery tweeted that he would like to see the Queen dead and tagged the Home Office. Got a temporary suspension for this antic. The clown then got a friend to deliver his message about running away from the debate. So much melodrama that you would not believe. CursedE is a serial abuser of women.
Ffs does anyone care about these people anymore?
you have over-played your hand.
Perhaps Unheard can find a substitute who is open to discussion/debate, or is Grace the sole spokesperson?
I’m wondering that, too.
How prominent does said speaker need to be?
As Grace is from the US, I’m guessing that another spokesperson/activist from across the Pond would be ok.
I’m thinking of Phyllis Frye in Houston. She is an attorney and may be a judge by now.
She is well-known and respected in the GLBT community.
Just to update this piece for future readers, you can see the latest announcement from the kook Grace Lavery, where she vents her spleen in a wild rant at Unherd and Helen Joyce, amongst others.
I didn’t know I was reading at Unherd a fascist website that supports Nazis! What was I thinking?
Could Unherd sue her for libel, slander – I can never remember the difference?
Why should I read anything from Grace Lavery?
Has anyone come forward yet?
I have just joined Unherd because I have been told that they strive to be impartial and are intelligent and have integrity. That is why the discussion below is so disappointing. All I am reading is bile and prejudice from the Unherd followers.
I am a cis gender white woman who would generally call myself a feminist. I do not blame Grace Lavery from backing out of facing the crowd below who are baying for her blood – and these are supposedly the thinking people who are going to be open minded. What a sad state of affairs.
Oh good. We’ve stopped talking about boring stuff, like the (probable) impending violent destruction of a European country, and have got back to the important issue of the day.
I hear you, but we little people can’t influence Putin, we hope to influence the trans debate. If no one pays attention and makes reasoned argument, the consequences could be dire.
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