I’ve had a busy couple of days dealing with various forms of abuse on Twitter as a result of a meme I made. Referencing a Cillit Bang advert, the meme was made to reflect on my belief that Joanna Cherry, MP for Edinburgh South West, is a trans exclusionary radical feminist – as well as support for her Labour opponent in the coming election.
This meme was shared by the Labour candidate, after a mutual friend passed it on to her, and this is where the abuse started. Admittedly, by owning up to creating the meme I should have been prepared for the extent of this abuse – but I really wasn’t. Cherry’s supporters (as well as readers of the popular nationalist blog, Wings Over Scotland) trawled through all of my social media – including LinkedIn, from which they made threats to contact my university and former employers – as well as this very website where they made threats regarding the tours I offer in Edinburgh and future projects I have related to feminism in Palestine and Lebanon.
Unsurprisingly, this also evolved into homophobic abuse as well as accusations that I want to harass women. Whilst the latter is a fairly obvious paradox of the former, I don’t feel under any pressure to address these claims as they are designed to be ridiculous and inflammatory.
As a cisgender man, albeit a member of the LGBTQI+ community, I understand that my role in this conversation is limited. I generally spend more time tackling the instances of transphobia that gay men are guilty of rather than tackling trans exclusionary radical feminism. Nevertheless, in an election campaign I am more than entitled to express my preference for candidates based on the unsavory views of the incumbent. I am also allowed to defend myself against exaggerated claims against my character and online abuse.
As a gay man, I personally feel disgusted that some people out there continue to repeat the mantra that trans exclusionary radical feminist (shortened to terf) is a slur. I’ve been called f****t on the streets far too many times to take this seriously. You are excluding trans people, you self identify as a radical feminist, and you are co-opting an equal rights movement to further your own bigotry. It’s an accurate term, not a slur.
You discredited my work, you told me I looked like a sex offender, you attempted to continue your abuse with my friends who interact with me on Twitter. Whenever you are called out on this you claim you are a victim. This is an age old tactic, more recently popularised by the alt-right, and I’m glad we live in a world where more and more people can see through it.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of fantastic feminist organisations (Engender, Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, Close the Gap, Zero Tolerance, Equate Scotland) who have spoke up against your ideology and methods of disseminating it. There’s a certain hypocrisy to your claims that I am silencing women whilst you simultaneously aim to silence major women’s organisations in Scotland, as well as trans women and their cisgender supporters.
I am glad these organisations exist to prove that you are not what feminism is about. I certainly won’t be taking lectures on feminism from Wings Over Scotland, who has notably made misogynistic, transphobic and homophobic statements in the past – and even took a lesbian MSP to court for defamation after he was called out on his homophobia.
I supported independence. I have voted for the SNP in every Westminster, Scottish Parliament and EU election I have been eligible to vote in. I was even a member of the party for a little while. Whilst I am only one voter with an essentially non-existent platform, it is with a truly heavy heart that I have to state that I can no longer bring myself to vote for a party that enables this kind of toxic rhetoric to continue.
So congratulations, trans exclusionary radical feminists. Not only have you solidified my belief that Joanna Cherry should be unseated in this election, but given I live in Edinburgh East you’ve also lost Tommy Sheppard a vote. I know many of my LGBTQI+ friends and acquaintances feel the same way. Perhaps rather than demonising the Scottish Green Party for contesting, you should spend more time ensuring you have a better political message.
I have considered, given the attempts made by online abusers to find out my current employer, the impact this post may have on my future prospects. The fact is, I have a strong enough moral code that I don’t have any desire to work with anyone that agrees with transphobic discourse. I am also aware enough of my privilege to know that I’ll probably be fine, and am certainly better placed to spread this message than other more vulnerable people within the LGBTQI+ community.
Trans exclusionary radical feminists do not speak for women, they are bigoted against trans people and their discourse is toxic. Many of their arguments are drawn from similar attacks against gay men and lesbians from the 80s and 90s, and I therefore cannot simply watch it happen without saying something about it.
If, like me, you believe in trans rights and want to ensure policies in Scotland better serve their needs, I suggest checking out the Equality Network. A dedicated website about their trans rights work is available here. To donate to them, you can do so here.
As it was pointed out to me that I should be engaging in discourse directly with Cherry rather than making memes, I will also be sending a copy of this post directly to her. I don’t believe she will listen, so I will also be sending it to all MPs and candidates seeking election in Edinburgh, SNP MSPs elected within the Lothian region, as well as the SNP Women’s and Equalities Conveners and the Office of the First Minister.