This is the text of a speech given by Lucy Masoud, at our meeting co-hosted by Portsmouth University on Thursday 16th September 2021, A Woman’s Place is asking big questions.
The event is part of the ‘Big Questions’ seminar series and seeks to create space for ongoing conversations about feminism, sex, gender and sexuality in the 21st century by inviting speakers and organisations who seek to shape public policy from a range of different – and sometimes diametrically opposed – perspectives.
The University did not allow the event to be filmed.
Woman’s Place UK Portsmouth: Lucy Masoud
Firstly, a massive thank you to all those people who have help organise this event, thank you to the speakers and you all for attending WPUK’s first in person event in almost two years. A very special thank you to Natalya, who without her persistence and dedication to academic freedom, this meeting would have been impossible.
Lastly, a thank you to WPUK for allowing us to hold this event in Portsmouth. This meeting is something Shonagh and I have wanted to arrange in Portsmouth for a long time, as not only it is our hometown, but we felt it was so important to bring this debate to working class communities.
Single-sex changing facilities in the fire service
As some of you may know, I have spoken at several WPUK events in the past, where I spoke about how important single-sex spaces were to me as a female firefighter from a Muslim background and how, right up until shortly before I joined the fire service in 2006, many fire stations in London and across the country did not offer single sex spaces at all. Many female firefighters were forced to get changed in with male firefighters, or instead change in their cars simply to avoid the indignity of having to change in front of male colleagues. And it was only when female fighters (with the backing of their union) fought for, and finally won their demands, that all fire stations in London become able to accommodate females and offer them single sex spaces.
Today, I thank those women who waged that battle, for it was their actions and their fight that made serving in the London fire brigade accessible for all females of all backgrounds, allowing us the privacy and dignity that had been denied to us for so long.
Trade Unions sacrificing safety of women members
And shame on the Fire Brigades Union and other unions who in the last couple of years have sacrificed the safety of their female members by abandoning their support for same sex facilities, and shame on those unions who have sacrificed women’s sex-based rights simply to indulge the gender identity mafia and tick a few boxes on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.
Although I am no longer a firefighter, I believe that single sex spaces are more important now than ever before. As the ever-expanding trans experience now includes everything from transsexuals, to drag queens, to straight men with beards presenting as, well, straight men with beards. So the need for single sex spaces has never been more required.
Women’s refuges under attack
I now work with victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults, and I see first-hand how many of these women only survived their ordeal because they were able to flee to safety in a women’s refuge; they were able to rebuild their lives, in a safe space that protected them from their abusers.
I see how women’s lives have been saved as a direct result of these women’s refuges. It sickens me to see so many once great organisations whose sole purpose had been to protect women from domestic violence, now turn from women-only refuges into mixed-sex ones; knowing full well that this will result in women no longer feeling safe in these spaces and eventually turning away from them
The need for services for trans people
Of course, transwomen are also victims of domestic violence and sexual violence, and of course their rights must be protected in society. They should have the right, just like every other person in this country, to be safe from harm and violence
For years, those in the VAWG sector have long offered their experience to the trans community to assist and advise how they can open refuges themselves; services specifically for the trans community. Yet despite our offers of help, it is the trans activists, who have for a long time corrupted the trans movement, who tell us they don’t want our help, they don’t want to know how to set up facilities for trans people, because to accept our help in setting up separate refuges for transwomen and giving them their own facilities would not feed into the mantra that ‘trans women are women‘.
Women’s lives at risk
What we are left with is trans activists putting women’s lives at risk by demanding that males be allowed into female refuges. We are also left with transwomen being put at risk because they are not given the appropriate support and facilities they require and desperately need.
If the trans activists really cared about trans people as they claim, if they really gave a damn about trans women’s safety, they would, like us, be focussing their attention and directing their rage at the lack of proper health care provisions for trans women and trans men; the lack of mental health services available to them; the high unemployment and homelessness trans people suffer; and the excessive level of eating disorders and self-harm within the trans community. But no, instead the trans activists direct their efforts obsessively at demanding that men be allowed to compete in women’s sports, that their cartoon pronouns be respected and that male rapists who self-ID as woman be placed in female prisons.
Old fashioned hatred of women
What these transactivist demands show us is something we have known for a long time, and that’s that trans ideology has absolutely nothing to with representing and preserving the rights and dignity for trans men and women, and has everything to do with old fashioned hatred of women.
This is nothing new to us in the feminist movement. Every woman in this room will be familiar with this type of misogyny. We have dealt with it our whole lives. But now this misogyny is dressed up as being progressive and woke.
The misogyny is trumpeted by Guardian columnists and mediocre YouTubers, who use the trans debate simply to advance their sexist views and contempt for females; misogynists in plain sight but with a blue tick next to their name and a rainbow emoji in their twitter bio.
But we see them.
We are not transphobic or hateful
It is those same blue-tick woke misogynists, who scream that we are TERFs and bigots, simply because we believe that although our trans brothers and sisters must be respected and protected in society, that sometimes, in some circumstances, women need their own space, free from biological men. Such a belief doesn’t make us bigots, nor are we wishing to erase anyone’s existence. We are not transphobic. We are not hateful. We are just the daughters, the mothers and the grandmothers of centuries’ worth of male violence.
And I say to those people who wish to deny women single sex spaces, “Why do you think that a biological male’s need to ‘feel’ like a woman, is more important than my need to be safe?”
Religious and minority groups and single-sex spaces
As someone from a Muslim background, who has many Muslim friends and family members, I know how important single-sex spaces are to religious and minority groups.
A Muslim friend of mine who takes female-only swimming lessons every week, tells me she now fears she will soon have to stop attending because she cannot be certain that biological men will not be permitted to attend. She further explained that something as normal as having her hair cut is now hugely problematic for her, because by her asking for a female hairdresser to cut her hair, she could be accused of discriminating against a trans woman. Yet it is not deemed discriminatory for her to be denied the right to have her hair cut by a female.
Muslim women like my friend, are told to speak up and challenge oppression. They are told to assimilate into British society. Yet when they do, they are expected to sacrifice their faith in order to protect the feelings of others. On the few occasions when she has spoken up about her concerns of self-ID and losing single sex spaces, her religion is always used as a tool to attack her. She is told that Islam is an oppressive religion and Muslims throw gays off buildings. Therefore any concerns she has as a female, are based on her own bigotry caused by her religious beliefs. So my friend feels she must stay silent and keep her concerns to herself.
Do Black lives only matter when those Black women are being compliant?
When we talk about Black Lives Matter, what about the black Muslim women who can no longer access female only spaces?
What about the Jewish women who can no longer swim at Hampstead ladies’ swimming pond for fear of male bodied individuals occupying the female only changing area.
What about the Asian women who are forced against their will to wax the genitals of men?
What about those women?
When we talk of the era of #Times Up and the #Metoo movement:
What about the women being raped in prison by biological men?
What about the women being beaten to a pulp by men in the boxing ring?
What about the female MPs being sent death threats as their party leaders stand by and say nothing?
Or do Black lives only matter when those Black women are being compliant and are not asking for their own spaces?
Is #MeToo and #TimesUp only aimed at male perpetrators who do not self ID as women?
It is this kind of hypocrisy that needs to be challenged. Because if it isn’t we know that it will be our sex-based rights and our single sex spaces that will be sacrificed and lost forever.
We women are not going anywhere
But know this: we WILL challenge any attempts to remove our hard earned rights. Our recent legal victories have shown the rest of the world that we will not be silenced, we will not just #BeKind and that feminists in this country actually know what it means to be a woman.
Defending single-sex spaces for women isn’t hateful or transphobic, just like fighting for the rights of a male child rapist to be placed in a female prison isn’t feminism.
And finally, before I go, let me just say this, we have been trolled and doxed. We have lost friends; risked our jobs, our reputations and been arrested but we will continue to fight relentlessly for single sex-spaces.
We women are not going anywhere. We are mothers. We are black women. We are Muslims. We are working class women.
We are Kiera Bell.
We are Allison Bailey.
We are Maya Forstater.
We are Rosie Duffield.
We are STILL JK Rowling.
And we will be braver.
We will be louder.
And you can be damn sure WE ARE on the right side of history
Read the other speeches from the meeting in Portsmouth
We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.