The rights of women were never on the table

Helen Saxby on Garden Court Chambers and the monstering of Allison Bailey:

Two years ago, on Tuesday October 3rd 2017, I attended a meeting in central London entitled ‘Progress and Challenges in Advancing Equality for Trans People in the UK’. It was held at Garden Court Chambers, in association with the Human Rights Lawyers Association. The meeting took place just two weeks after a well-publicised assault on a middle-aged woman in Hyde Park by a young male protester, which resulted in a conviction for assault by beating. The conflict between increasing rights for trans people and the rolling back of women’s rights was in the news. The Hyde Park Corner incident illustrated the lengths to which trans allies were prepared to go in order to prevent women talking about their rights and organising to uphold them. I attended the meeting at Garden Court fully expecting the emphasis to be on securing rights for trans people, of course, but I also expected existing law to be respected and upheld. I thought that women’s rights were human rights and that this would not be forgotten. I assumed there might be discussion as to how to square the difficult circle of trans rights versus women’s rights, but that lawyers would be the very people with the knowledge and skills to be able to do this.

But, no. Of course not. She describes the talks given in interesting and depressing detail.

There was then a Q and A which was mostly used up by requests for Bex Stinson to talk about transitioning at the bar, and for Bernard and Terry from GIRES, who were in the audience, to stand up and speak about their work. My companion that evening, Julia Long, kept her composure long enough to ask a question about the changing meaning and definition of ‘gender identity’, and Michelle Brewer answered with an assertion that ‘what gender means to the individual’ is the best way forward for trans people to explain themselves, so this is the definition needed in legislation.

Let’s go back up the page a bit to learn who Michelle Brewer is:

Next up was Michelle Brewer of Garden Court Chambers and the Trans Equality Legal Initiative (TELI). Brewer started by pronouncing that chambers is a safe space: there would be NO DEBATE about trans rights existing.

And no doubt also NO DEBATE about how you can have laws protecting “gender identity” while defining it as “what gender means to the individual” without creating a legal system designed to be chaotic.

Think about it. Trans rights exist, and there will be NO DEBATE about it; also gender identity is whatever each person says it is to that person. To sum up: people who call themselves trans have an absolute and non-debatable right to have absolute and non-debatable rights, and there is no way to define  or question who is trans and who is not. Sounds like a recipe for ruthless exploitation and bullying, doesn’t it. Well guess what.

Saxby continues:

The rights of women were never on the table. Female prisoners expected to be housed with potentially violent males, female prison officers expected to intimately search male bodies, female asylum seekers expected to be housed with males, female litigants expected to refer to their male attackers as ‘she’, female crime statistics expected to incorporate male rapists, females in general expected to take a man’s word for it rather than believing what their own experience is telling them: none of these examples apparently merit a human rights approach when they are set against the perceived rights of trans people.

In other words human rights are for trans people. Women can have ones that are left over, provided they don’t conflict with the human rights of trans people, but that’s all – women can’t have specifically women’s rights because that would be discomfiting to trans people. Trans people come first and there will be NO DEBATE about it. Cue mobs baying at Meghan Murphy if you have any doubts about the NO DEBATE stipulation.

In April 2018, in a court of law, the victim of the Hyde Park assault, Maria MacLachlan, was forced by the judge to refer to her attacker as ‘she’. This removal of a woman’s right to speak the truth as she perceived it, whilst under oath, did not merit any public disapprobation.

A woman is assaulted by a much younger (thus physically advantaged) man, and the judge forces her to call the assaulting young man “she” – in other words forces her to pretend, in court, that her attacker was a woman. The assaulter has an absolute right to be called “she” because trans rights come first; the woman he assaulted has no right to call the man who assaulted her “he” because women’s rights come far far behind.

Two years on from the ‘Advancing Trans Equality’ meeting, and this week a barrister from Garden Court Chambers became the subject of a public shaming on social media for the sin of expressing her views on gender. Allison Bailey is a founding member of the new LGB Alliance, a group which has been formed to do the job which Stonewall once did, and look after the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. A lesbian herself, Bailey has publicly voiced her support for those who are same-sex orientated, in opposition to Stonewall’s new insistence on same-gender attraction. She compounded her transgression by chairing the Woman’s Place UK meeting in Oxford on Friday October 24th. The backlash has been instant and severe, including a Twitter pile-on instigated by Owen Jones, a call to arms from Gendered Intelligence (since deleted), and subsequent complaints to her employer, which Garden Court Chambers are ‘investigating’.

Any chance one of the investigators won’t be Michelle Brewer of Garden Court Chambers and the Trans Equality Legal Initiative (TELI)? My guess is no; my guess is she’ll be all over it like a bad rash.

Apart from their association with TELI, Garden Court is also home to other trans activists and allies. Alex Sharpe is a prominent trans activist on Twitter, unafraid to use offensive slurs against women. Sharpe submitted written evidence to the Trans Inquiry in 2015, as did Claire McCann. Both pieces of written evidence ignore women’s existing sex-based rights. Despite this, Garden Court members know they can wear their trans-allyship with pride, and they are duly celebrated on social media for doing so. The same pride cannot be assumed by those standing up for women, or for same-sex attraction. On the contrary, to be seen as an ally to women is often to invite condemnation. There is little support out there for the supporters of women. A law firm, especially one which has signed up as a ‘Stonewall Diversity Champion’, can promote the rights of one group of people at the expense of another and be applauded for it, as long as the group they are overlooking is women.

Well you see it turns out that that whole feminism thing was a big mistake: women are actually the top oppressors, and need to be ground down and kept down.

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