It was a usual morning; someone on BBC Woman’s Hour was talking about Caribbean cookery but doing it in the new, to my ears, strange language of woke: ‘Cookery is a vehicle.’ Long important pause. ‘Cooking is about identity. It’s about learning your history.’
On Twitter I asked if anyone recognised the origins of this new- speak, which perhaps originates on social science courses. I got distracted, the joy of Twitter, by an Irish lady complaining about male violence and the risk posed by allowing transgendered men into women’s spaces such as lavatories, changing rooms, schools and prisons. She insisted that all men were violent. I quipped that perhaps putting on a dress doesn’t change that.
That wasn’t why my account was instantly banned. This has happened twice before, and the reason isn’t always obvious. The first time I was barred after I retweeted a tweet from Helen Belcher, trans-activist and former LibDem candidate who stood against the Tories in Chippenham in 2017. In it she wrote and I repeated, that if women don’t like transgendered men entering their private spaces, they can go to law about it. The second suspension came when I said dear Helen in her blonde wig, ‘still looked like a bloke’ to me.
This time my crime was to ask, ‘Did you protest against those vests emblazoned with: ‘I punch TERFS?’
‘TERF,’ ‘Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist’ is a term of abuse used by the ‘trans-community’ against women who want to maintain some spaces for women and children alone. Which bit of my tweet the algorithm objected to is not clear, but I was instantly warned that I was, ‘Violating our rules against abuse and harassment,’ and told I could, ‘not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. This includes wishing or hoping that someone experiences physical harm.’
That’s me gone, knocked off my platform. Asking if someone disapproved of violence, as I do, put me in league with bigoted activists and violent criminals, the type of men who go around in vests saying, ‘I Punch TERFS.’
As I pointed out in my appeal against the ban, my question was based on fact. In September 2017 at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, London, a sixty-one-year-old woman was punched in the face three times, knocked to the ground, kicked and her camera smashed, as she filmed a talk about gender recognition.
Video on social media showed a confrontation between two groups, feminists sceptical about the idea of sex and gender as mere ‘social constructs,’ and transgendered men some holding placards railing against misogyny and shouting, ‘When TERFs attack, we strike back.’
During the trial, which took place in April, 2018, the defendant, Tara Wolf, 26, a six-foot- tall Deliveroo driver, was surrounded by supporters who brought fighting dogs (Dobermans and Mastiffs), to stand outside the court, as well as a huge sound system blaring death metal. Strangely machismo for a group purporting to be women.
Despite what Belcher believes, going to law is not always useful for women. The judge made his feelings plain, telling the woman assaulted that if she referred to Wolf as anything but ‘she,’ she would be in contempt of court. Wolf said she was acting in self-defence, beating the elderly woman because the transgendered are ‘A target for the far-right.’ She also admitted posting on Facebook ahead of the event: ‘wanna f*** up some TERFs. They’re no better than fash (fascists).’
The judge refused the prosecution suggestion that this constituted prior intent to commit violence. Wolf’s defence lawyer argued that autism and ‘Oppositional defiant disorder,’ diagnosed aged six, were mitigating factors and asked to the court to consider Wolf’s desire to be a ‘role model for other trans people in the trans community,’ and work in the ‘transgender charity sector.’
Employing this strange new language with its buzz-words such as ‘autism,’ ‘role-model’ ‘trans,’ and ‘community,’ how could the judge not be persuaded. Perhaps he was also responding, in advance, to a proposed amendment to the 2010 Gender Recognition Act, introduced by Mrs May’s government, which aimed to make any criticism of transgender people another ‘hate crime.’ Mrs May fell before that bill could be passed but it seems now to be tacitly taken to be the law, by police, courts, teachers, university councils, publishers and social media.
The hefty young man who had conducted ‘targeted harassment’ and incited hatred on line, then beaten an elderly woman to the ground, walked away with a fine of £430. It’s a strange world out there and sometimes I’m glad that I no longer speak or understand its language.