In response to Laura Miles ‘The war on trans’ (Jan 2019)

This is the full, unedited letter that Sybil Cock sent to Socialist Review. They published an edited version followed by an editorial. We requested a right of reply but was told it would be considered for the letters page in the next edition to be published some three weeks later.

We have therefore published a full rebuttal ourselves here.

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“Clearly, attacks from the right on LGBT rights must be resisted, as Laura says.

However, the potential erasure of ‘women’ and ‘lesbian’ as categories are real issues which are worthy of discussion.  There are far reaching medical and social issues associated with self-ID, especially for children.

Laura suggests that a Woman’s Place UK is transphobic; it is not.  It was set up on a clear platform of respectful discussion, and to ensure that women’s voices are heard in the debate; ‘nothing about us without us’ and ‘sex matters’ are two of the principles.  A glance at the website will confirm this.

It is indeed unfortunate that it has been largely the right wing press that has enabled the debate and the views of gender critical socialists to be heard.

WPUK has been targeted by activists – the accusations are very well documented and include a bomb threat and the targeting of venues where WPUK holds its meetings across the country.  Several meetings have had to move at very short notice.

In February last year I was barracked and yelled at by very aggressive masked activists who then tried to drown out the whole WPUK meeting.  It was frightening as I emerged into a snowy street.

No-platforming of speakers is a tactic and objective which I hope all readers of SR would agree should be reserved for Nazis and the far right.  The attempt to conflate socialist feminists with the far right is shocking and has had a polarising effect.

There is a great deal of unpleasantness out there on the internet, including some extremely vile and violent attacks on lesbians and their right to define who they will have sex with.  I am still waiting for this material, which is not hard to find, to be called out and censured by socialists who support self-ID.  (if you don’t believe me, google ‘cotton ceiling’ and prepare to be sick).

The move towards the use of absurd neologisms such as ‘uterus owner’ and ‘menstruator’ has serious implications for public health.

Finally, on gender: There is a very clear distinction between sexual orientation (who you find attractive) and gender, which is socially constructed (as Laura says, expectations and material circumstances) and is in many cases coincident with sex.

None of this is to argue that the oppressed cannot ‘express their … gender identity’ – far from it.   But labelling socialists and feminists ‘transphobic’ for wanting to talk is, in my view, deeply reactionary.