by UnHerd Staff
Thursday, 4
November 2021

How trans activists reacted to Kathleen Stock’s resignation

Various outlets expressed horror, and even a sense of growing danger
by UnHerd Staff

The past month has seen a significant shift in media coverage of the trans issue, with several major outlets appearing to legitimise a more gender-critical viewpoint.

BBC Sounds released Nolan Investigates: Stonewall, a ten-part series revealing the cultural sway of the LGBTQ+ lobbying group, while the news arm of the same broadcaster published an article addressing lesbian critiques of trans activism. That was before Professor Kathleen Stock’s resignation from Sussex University, which led to a full half-hour interview on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour ahead of her more in-depth interview the same day at UnHerd.

To those on the more gender-critical side, this no doubt will feel like a breakout of common sense in a mainstream media that has hitherto been reluctant to pose difficult questions.

But how has this shift been received among trans activists?

We spent some time reading their reactions in their favourite media outlets, and the answer is: with horror, and even a sense of growing danger.

In an essay called ‘We need to talk about Britain’s transphobia problem’ in The Canary, Jacob Stokoe characterises this trend as part of a sinister growing threat to their own safety:

We have a transphobia problem, and it’s getting worse. Not just because of the frequency with which it’s happening, or the form it’s taking, but because of the legitimacy it’s being given by large scale bodies, including – most recently – by the BBC.
- Jacob Stokoe, The Canary

Describing it as a “growing movement of hate”, Stokoe adds:

What’s so scary about this new transphobic trend is just how much it’s growing. We, as trans people, have been fighting tooth and nail for basic rights. And with every tiny movement forward our efforts are met with such fury that we dared step out of line that we are pushed even further back. 
- Jacob Stokoe, The Canary

Pink News, meanwhile, has been quick to invert the apparent victimisation of Kathleen Stock by her university. The real victims are actually the activists who forced her out, writes Vic Parsons — they now “face harassment and discrimination.”

Specifically, according to Parsons, the discrimination is coming from faculty staff and lecturers, referring to a 2017 Stonewall report in which more than one-third of trans university students say they have experienced negative comments from staff.

An opinion piece published this week by Chrissy Stroop at OpenDemocracy went even further. She writes that, as an American transgender women, she would now feel frightened to visit the UK because of its growing reputation as “TERF Island” (TERF stands for trans exclusionary reactionary feminists).

In it she claims that the BBC’s podcast about Stonewall was more like a conspiracy theory from Alex Jones, and a transparent attempt to make queer people more vulnerable:

Divide and conquer is a classic authoritarian strategy, and right-wingers hope to weaken the LGBTQ community by scapegoating trans individuals in order to turn cisgender lesbians, gay men and bisexual people against us. Unfortunately, some supposed leftists, many of them queer, are willing to play this game.
- Chrissy Stroop, OpenDemocracy

The reactions to the past month of stories are totally opposed. Instead of coming closer together, the two sides of this ongoing controversy only seem to be growing further apart.

Join the discussion

  • Politicians, Trades Unions, Universities, Publishers, etc. are all now just as terrified of being accused of transphobia as they are of accusations of racism. In the immediate future, their terror will dominate how their decision-making.
    Superficially, a lot of the heat generated by this issue concerns identifying the boundary line between what constitutes a “reasonable” expressions of opinions and hate. But the confected outrage of some of the activists suggests that, actually, they are not interested in winning hearts and minds. Rather, they see their expression of outrage as an effective way of keeping in thrall the leaders of Civic UK.

  • For marginalised groups to campaign for equal rights is a noble cause. To demand that their rights should trump the rights of other groups is narcissism. To claim that those who merely question their arguments are committing acts of violence against them is paranoia. To demand that others change their fundamental beliefs to accommodate their demands is coercion. To force those who do not conform to their belief system out of their jobs is McCarthyism.
    If the trans lobby were just campaigning for equal treatment where they feel it doesn’t exist, I would listen to and consider their arguments. But we should not give any time to the narcissistic, paranoid, coercive and McCarthyite mob that is currently dominating the trans debate.

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