There’s a war raging at the moment in respect to sex (as in the biological kind, not the nooky kind!). On the one hand are the Transgender community, who argue that sex can be changed and are lobbying for gender self-identification (eg the right for biological men to self-declare as women without hormonal intervention or surgery and to use women only spaces such as public toilets and compete in female sports), and on the other hand Feminists who argue that sex is innate for the vast majority of people (intersex people aside) and gender self-identification is damaging to women (eg allowing biologically male prisoners to be housed in female prisons, and equally for biologically female prisoners to be housed in male prisons the consequences of which don’t bare thinking about). I hasten to add here that sex and gender are two different things – sex is dependent upon biology and gender identity is not, and the fact society uses the two words interchangeably may be one of the reasons we’re currently on the battlefield. However I digress.
It’s taken courage for the trans community to fight for their gender rights after years of oppression, and they are fiercely protective. It has also taken courage for women to assert their sex rights, having been oppressed by the opposite sex for millennia, and they are equally fiercely protective.
The point of this post is not to discuss the debate (Kathleen Stock’s book ‘Material Girls‘ does this far better than I ever could) but that it made me think about courage. The courage of campaigners, activists, whistleblowers and those who stand up for their version of what is “right” and fair. It’s particularly courageous to stand up for one’s convictions if those convictions aren’t shared by the vast majority of society. I’m fairly sure, for example, that when Darwin first proposed his theory of evolution the dominant Christian church was less than impressed. And although it’s a myth that Christopher Columbus was the first person to discover that the earth was round and not flat, it still took courage to explore parts of our planet never before visited. I’d like to bet that early space explorers were both excited and utterly petrified in equal measure.
My own experiences of being courageous have been slightly more modest, but took no less inner strength or conviction.
Standing up for what you feel is “right” takes a mental and emotional toll. It can lose you relationships, careers and even your life. After 4 years of horrific abuse from the trans community, including rape and death threats, for stating that biological sex matters University lecturer Kathleen Stock last week resigned from her job. She couldn’t take it any more. The ‘Harry Potter’ author JK Rowling has also suffered two years of abuse for stating the same thing. To most of society, the fact that our gametes and chromosomes cannot be altered seems like logical common sense and the thought that one would be classed as transphobic and arrested for stating the blindingly obvious, as was the case for Marion Millar, has us baffled.
The venom with which the debate rages also has us sickened. Legendary activists such as Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King showed courage beyond most of our comprehension in the face of unimaginable oppression, yet did so peacefully and with respect. One cannot expunge violence and oppression by inflicting violence and oppression. We have to have the courage to choose another way.