The attempts of anti-democratic transactivists to (often violently) disrupt women’s rights organising is largely ignored by those sections of the left most prone to misogyny and authoritarianism in New Zealand. In Britain, however, scores of trade union and left activists added their names to a letter in July, defending women’s right to organise in opposition to the Tories’ Gender Recognition Act.
The letter was published in left-wing daily paper The Morning Star under the heading “Improving the climate of debate around proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act”. Signees made it clear that they have “a variety of positions” on the GRA but were calling for “action within our movement to allow debate to take place”. The signees included Len McCluskey, general secretary of the 1.2 million-strong Unite the Union; Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union; Fire Brigade Union official Paul Embery; and Kiri Tunks, vice-president of the National Union of Teachers. It was also signed by Lindsey German, a veteran left activist and a former central leader of the Socialist Workers Party who is now a leading member of Counterfire.
The letter states:
We, the undersigned, have a variety of positions about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act. Some of us have not yet fully formed our opinions.
We are calling for action within our movement to allow debate to take place over proposed changes to the Act.
You may be aware that on April 13 this year, an activist, Tara Wood was convicted of the assault by beating of Maria MacLachlan, a 60-year-old woman who had gathered with others in order to attend a meeting at which they could discuss the potential impact on women and girls of such a change to the law.
On March 8, an incident also occurred on a Bectu picket line in which trans activists, with no connection to the industrial dispute itself, mobbed and verbally attacked a female trade union member on the basis of having recognised her as an attendee at a similar meeting.
And in late April women in Bristol looking to meet and discuss changes to the Gender Recognition Act were met with masked activists blocking entrances to the venue, and deliberately intimidating those wishing to go inside.
More recently, a meeting organised by Woman’s Place UK was targeted with a bomb threat which Hastings Police are investigating as a serious incident.
These cases are part of systematic attempts to shut down meetings organised by women at which they can discuss potential legislative changes and the impact these may have on any sex-based rights already enshrined in law.
They draw the whole of our progressive movement into disrepute.
Some trans rights activists even continue to justify the use of violence, meaning that many women are simply too frightened to attend meetings that are both public and lawful in order that they may discuss their own rights.
Other women, including ordinary women concerned for their rights, as well as those active within the trade union movement and other political campaigns, are also now anxious and fearful that they will be subjected to such attacks when engaging in any political activity, meetings, or protests.
We are sure that, whatever your view regarding the issues around the Gender Recognition Act, you will agree that it is unacceptable for women to be made scared to engage in political life.
We, the undersigned, publicly and unequivocally condemn the use of violence or tactics of intimidation on this issue.
Karen Ingala Smith
Cllr Julie Davies
Kristina Jayne Harrison
Annette Mansell Green
Annie Gwilym Walker
Marion L Calder
Cllr Amy Brookes
Marta Garcia de la Vega
Cllr Bob Walsh