Free Speech GRA Reform

The difficulties of questioning the transgender dogma

As a transgender woman myself, I worry that the backlash won’t be limited to the activists who try to force their views on everyone else – but against the entire transgender community.

While Westminster understandably has its mind on other things, the transgender debate – which you might have expected to calm down after last year’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) – rumbles on with its trademark ferocity. And as two stories have this week have shown, its proponents continue to take no prisoners.

It started with a motion at Gateshead Council, put forward by Leigh Kirton – a Labour councillor – stating that ‘marginalised groups’ should be ‘fully protected in ways which ensure freedom of self-expression and protection from harassment’. The underlying issue, once again, was the GRA debate, and the concern that women’s groups were being targeted for expressing their views (including by having their meeting venues cancelled). The motion affirmed that groups affected by GRA reform had the right to discuss the issue and that ‘any request for use of public buildings for such purposes will be allowed.’

Quite right! That should not even be controversial in our democratic society. I suspect the average Gateshead resident would wonder why a statement so prosaic even needed to be debated in the first place. Although, if they’d witnessed the response from the transgender thought police, they’d have realised exactly why that was so.

Joining the resulting outcry were LGBT Labour who issued a statement condemning the motion, which they insisted was ‘damaging to the trans community’. ‘We have written to the Councillors who have proposed the motion asking them to withdraw it and meet with us’, they clarified in a tweet.

In the second case of activists seeking to silence women, the rector of Edinburgh University, Ann Henderson, faced calls for her sacking after she dared to retweet a message from the feminist group Woman’s Place UK – a grassroots body which campaigns to protect single sex spacesNow LGBT Labour is calling for Henderson’s election to be ‘reconsidered’.

How has it happened that transgender rights have been elevated to such a position that they cannot be debated for fear of upsetting transgender people? And that women expressing concerns over perfectly sensible issues – like whether any natal male prisoner should have the right to be rehoused in a women’s prison – should be automatically denounced as bigots and transphobes?    

The truth is that what should be a legitimate public debate around how we understand gender, and how we support transgender people to live the most fulfilling lives possible, has instead become dominated by ideology: one which seeks to minimise the opportunity for women to investigate, analyse, and think for themselves.

Take the events in Gateshead, for example. For all the bluster on Twitter, all Councillor Kirton’s motion sought to do was to ask the government to do four things:

(i) to conduct a more expansive public consultation on how self-identification would impact upon women-only services, sports and spaces;

(ii) to defer changes to the GRA until a review is conducted on the resulting impact on the Equality Act (which, amongst other things, governs the rules around single-sex spaces);

(iii) to research the impact of self-ID upon data gathering (for example, data on the gendered impact of crime, or in relevant public health statistics); and

(iv) to oppose the principle of self-identification unless satisfied that there are adequate checks and balances to protect women’s safety, privacy, participation in public life, and political representation.

Rather than engage with these questions, the activists behind LGBT Labour demanded the motion was scrapped – and then tweeted triumphantly when the councillors deferred the motion. A democratically-elected council was therefore giving way to an external body in order to avoid being accused of bigotry.  This, whatever your politics, is nothing to be celebrated.

My main concern is how the wider public will see these events, and that their patience will inevitably wear thin with transgender activists (that is, if it hasn’t already). As a transgender woman myself, I worry that the backlash won’t be limited to the activists who try to force their views on everyone else – but against the entire transgender community. Hence why I am adamant in speaking out that many of us share the concerns of groups like A Woman’s Place.

We must move transgender politics from the emotional back to the rational. And unless we can debate these questions in council chambers and university campuses, how can that possibly happen?

Debbie Hayton

* This article was first published by The Spectator on 25 January: The difficulties of questioning the transgender dogma

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

17 replies on “The difficulties of questioning the transgender dogma”

You wrote this for the Spectator? What good does it do anyone to forward the hard-Right agenda against trans women? You, obviously, because you get paid; but who else?

The reason WPUK should not get public space for its meetings is that its campaign is based on lies and hate. Trans rights are based on self-ID: a diagnosis is based on the patient’s belief that s/he is of the true sex, or desire to be of the true sex. Equality Act rights are based on self-ID, the decision to transition. Yet WPUK claims that self-ID is a proposal, which will result in a flood of men in women’s spaces. They do this because they can’t explain why, given that we have self-ID, the sky hasn’t fallen in yet.

You know that’s a lie, don’t you? So why do you support them?


What substance is there in your argument? How could anyone engage? Lying about a minority with the intent of creating fear, anger and hate is not “free speech”, it is hate speech. No-one should have a right to do that in publicly owned space. Don’t local authorities have an equality duty? Hate speech does not empower free speech. Rather, it freezes it.

I offered to do a simple explanation of hate speech for a website called Spiked, which printed similar drivel to your ramblings in the Spectator. They haven’t got back to me. Funny, that.


When you work with the hard-Right to increase hate and fear of trans women, it is hard not to get personal. What ends do you think the Spectator management have in mind? Read Joan Hatchet on taking money from the hard-Right.

I can’t see any accommodation possible with the left-wing transphobes either. You must have seen the way they abuse you, personally, on line. How dare you use a women’s loo? they ask. Their leadership is wedded to falsehoods. They say self-ID is new, rather than embedded in diagnosis and the Equality Act, because they are unable to explain why self-ID has not caused any of the dreadful consequences they predict. It is hate-mongering. I would be fully behind you, trying to engage, if they would only tell the truth.


The substance of your article? A “more expansive consultation”? The consultation was delayed nearly a year, and a terf boasted to me that she had been the cause of the delay, getting more questions in. It specifically asked about sports, though anyone who wished could have mentioned sport in the Scottish consultation, without a specific question, and the Scots consultation came out after three months.

Effect on statistics. 30m cis women and girls. 20,000 trans women and girls. Not even a rounding error.

If you cared a whit about trans rights you would not be parroting such rubbish unchallenged- but then, the Spectator would not publish your writing. Why do you write for these people? Is it just personal gain, or do you think somehow truth and justice benefit from you rehashing such clearly worthless points?

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You shouldn’t expect a reply to your hate-filled speeches when you refer to women as “cis” and “terfs.” Go rant in your tra bubble where you sound like every other homophobic and misogynist man.


You’re not a deliberate self-parody, are you? You are getting a reply to point out the ridiculousness of your hate filled speeches referring to women as “tra”, or “homophobic and misogynist man”. Go rant in your- what?- bubble where you sound like every other [insert description here].

Or, alternatively, stop doing what the hard right wants and find some real feminist issue- the gender pay gap, say- to campaign about, rather than a non-issue confected by The Times, The Spectator, and other Right-wingers.

David TC Davies and The Heritage Foundation are not your friends.

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Do as you wish. I note you don’t rebuke zoermt for insulting me. I don’t know that I have anything more to say to you anyway. You continue giving aid and comfort to people who hate you- in The Spectator, that is, who treat you like a “useful idiot”. It is a shame. Meaningful dialogue with the gender critical feminists is not achieved by going along with what they say. If self-ID would unleash a torrent of men in women’s spaces, it would have by now, as Equality Act rights are based on self-ID. But you know that. And you carry on supporting the hard-Right.

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“Cis” isn’t a slur, though. I merely means your gender matches what you were assigned at birth. No one is arguing, “how dare you be cisgender,” or anything like that. It’s not used as a bad word. It’s only used as a description. “Terf” is kind of a slur but not really. Explaining that one would necessitate an article all on its own, though.

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Interesting to use the word “description”. I’ve been making a distinction between “describe” and “define”, but I’ve been finding it more difficult to argue than I imagined.


A good read Debbie, I am not so sure about all the points, but my basic understanding is that not every voice is being heard, which is not acceptable. I agree with Clare’s point on the stats, I am not sure there are enough actual transitioned trans people to skew figures with any significance but I do hate all the no platforming that seems to come along with the trans debate at the moment. Whether I agree with the differing views are not it is important they are heard, as long they are expressed in a civil way and are based on actual facts.

It is a simplistic argument, and maybe a little ‘finger pointing’ or generalists, but from what I have seen many of the more extreme trans activists are quite young and maybe have not had the life experiences to understand that an objection, or different view, is not a personal attack, just a different way of thinking to them. And I do say that with the utmost respect to anyone that is passionate about any subject. I know how my views have matured as I get older. It does seem there is a stark difference between older trans folk and younger ones in the way they think about the broader world. But I fully appreciate this point is simplistic and is more an observation than a real belief of mine.

It would be great to see some of the moderates from both sides in the thick of it have their say, I seem to only ever read extreme feminist arguments or extreme trans arguments. I am sure there are plenty out there with a more centred view between the two, maybe we should concentrate on their voices to start actually finding solutions for everyone to be safe and catered for.

Either way, thank you for putting your thoughts forward and allowing me another view to ponder on. It is always good to widen ones horizon with others views.

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Thank you for your comments.

Clare and I disagree on some issues but I suspect we agree on many others. I am happy to leave her comments up because without considering each other’s views, how do we – as a society – proceed to a reasoned conclusion?

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