Choose carefully

Via Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans History Month UK on Facebook:

Message from LGBT History Month:

Julie Bindel

Schools OUT UK wishes to make a statement concerning the proposed appearance of Julie Bindel at The Working Class Movement Library in Manchester on the 4th of February, which is promoted on the LGBT History Month Calendar.

It’s not a “proposed” appearance, by the way – it’s a scheduled appearance. It’s on the calendar.

As the creators of LGBT History Month and the owners of the website and associated social media, we wish to make clear that the only events for which we are responsible are OUTing the Past: The National LGBT History Festivals taking place in fifteen venues around the country throughout the month of February. These are run locally and we provide much of the wherewithal, rather than taking responsibility for their overall management. We have no responsibility for the organisation of any other events during the month, whether or not they are promoted on our calendar; including this one.

That said, we recognise that this event is on our calendar and we have the editorial power to remove it. We have chosen not to and we wish to explain why.

Let’s consider Julie Bindel herself. As the blurb in the calendar says, “Julie has been active in the global campaign to end violence towards women and children since 1979, and has written extensively on topics such as rape, domestic violence, prostitution and trafficking”. This is hardly stuff that should cause objections. We gather she will be discussing what it was like to be a working class feminist lesbian in the 1970s, about which, as a middle class gay teenager in the 70s, I for one would like to know more. Her views are valuable and need to be heard. She made the comments that questioned the existence of trans women in 2004 and has said she would phrase things differently now. But when the event went up on the calendar we were bombarded with demands that it be removed and threats to ‘withdraw support’ from LGBT History Month. Now a protest is being organised and petitions have been presented on social media to ban her from the event and to attempt to remove funding from the Working Class Museum; as if shutting down the only museum of its kind in the country would be to anyone’s benefit. The struggle for equality is everyone’s struggle and the working classes need more visibility; not less.

Emphasis added. Julie herself is more concerned about that than she is about the attempt to shut her down.

There’s no denying that Julie Bindel will say things people don’t want to hear and that she will upset people. I was disappointed at an article she wrote challenging medical intervention to forestall puberty in trans children; especially as the organ that published it was that enemy of equality and human rights The Daily Mail. She has a right to speak just as we have a right to challenge what she says. That is the nature of debate and it allows us to make change happen in society.

Lots of people will say things we don’t want to hear, every day and everywhere. It’s a good idea to learn to choose one’s battles carefully. It’s a good idea to learn to distinguish between real enemies and phantom ones. It’s a good idea to have a sense of proportion.

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