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How Scotland’s elites embraced a regressive gender ideology

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Then came a series of what I suppose we must call ‘light bulb moments’ and I felt I had a moral responsibility to write about it. To ignore what I was witnessing in Scottish politics and in every stratum of civic governance would have made me complicit in a social contagion which I genuinely believe to have been touched by wickedness.

The declaration by the great American civil rights leader, Vernon Johns has always resonated with me: “When you see a good fight get in it.” And this is a good fight: perhaps the most important in Scotland’s 21st century story.

 Joanna CherryJoanna Cherry (Image: free)

My first moment of clarity came when Joanna Cherry, the SNP’s most able Westminster politician, was being subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation for her belief that sex is immutable and that gender self-ID was a threat to women’s private and safe spaces. Worse: this was being orchestrated by senior (mainly male) figures in her own party.

I then became aware that lesbians were being branded bigots by male activists for choosing not to sleep with men claiming to be women. Again, as with the attacks on Joanna Cherry, this was being endorsed on social media by individuals and organisations richly funded and supported by the Scottish Government. Somehow we had arrived at a point where women who had been on the front line of the battle for sexual equality were now being marginalised and defamed for seeking to defend the territory they’d gained.

What’s more; the institutions proclaiming to be progressive and liberal such as the SNP, the Labour Party and the Trade Unions had abandoned these women. At other times they chose the coward’s path of looking the other way.

The story of how Scotland’s political and civic elites have embraced gender ideology and sent the country into a regressive tailspin is told in The Women Who Wouldn’t Wheesht. It’s a vivid, eloquent and heart-breaking collection of essays written by 34 women who have experienced abuse and threats to their families and careers. Their crime has been to express concerns about the subjugation of their sex-based rights and the dismantling of what it means to be a woman.

During this period it’s become clear that the SNP was being used as a vehicle to advance this misogynistic and homophobic ideology at a time when its rank and file supporters thought it was dedicated to the cause of independence.

In seeking to convey how Scotland has regressed to this state some have drawn parallels with themes in George Orwell’s 1984 and Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. Perhaps though, a better illustrator is provided by the Communist witch-hunts conducted by Republican Senator Joe McCarthy, in 1950s America.

For a decade or so, a mass hysteria engulfed civic America, fanned by leading voices in Government, academia, the arts and the media. For ‘communists’ read ‘transphobes’, the favoured accusation of some trans activists and deployed for the sole purpose of shutting down debate.


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Merely to be accused by McCarthy and his acolytes of favouring mildly collectivist ideals meant your career and often your life was effectively over. Just as with the term ‘transphobe’ there didn’t need to be any evidence.

McCarthyism and the campaign to erode what it means to be a woman in 21st century Scotland differed in one key area. Whereas in the US it enjoyed popular support, in Scotland it relies on the public being kept ignorant about its consequences.

Underpinning this is the emergence of organisations like the TIE Campaign and LGBT Youth Scotland whose lavish funding entirely relies on them feeding propaganda to the innocent and the vulnerable.

The women whose testimonies are collected in this book represent the best of Scotland: fierce, smart, honest, loyal and motivated by a burning sense of injustice. All of them have been scarred – in their careers, their personal lives; their health and their reputation – by choosing to speak out rather than remain silent and complicit. Their oppressors are the worst of Scotland: cowardly, sexist, misogynistic, dishonest.

“What were you thinking,” asks Esther, whose young teenage daughters now think they were born in the wrong body. “Why would you impose an adult agenda on children? There is no such thing as a ‘trans brain’. Don’t you realise what you have done?” Her question is directed at Nicola Sturgeon.

“How have we, members of a liberal democracy, reached a point where the threat of violence is being used to discourage women from having meetings to talk about our rights,” asks Claire L Heuchen, the author and black radical feminist.

Rhona Hotchkiss, the respected prison governor writes: “Women prisoners must live in close – sometimes very close – proximity to whoever the prison service decides. They must say nothing while a man with an erection, visible through his tight leggings, enjoys their obvious discomfort.”

Nicola SturgeonNicola Sturgeon (Image: free)

The author JK Rowling has effectively sacrificed her reputation and risked endangering herself and her family by choosing to speak out. “I’d come to believe,” she writes, “that the socio-political movement insisting ‘trans women are women’ was neither kind nor tolerant, but in fact profoundly misogynistic, regressive, dangerous in some of its objectives and nakedly authoritarian in its tactics.”

In time, this shall pass. It’s already beginning to disintegrate with exposure to the light. I hope one day too there will be a reckoning for the academics, the politicians, the creatives, the police and the trade unions who were the authors of it.

I’ve been privileged to have spent a little time with some of these women. They don’t seek revenge; only justice and the triumph of truth. And an acknowledgment, perhaps of the great wrong that’s been done to them.

The Women Who Wouldn’t Wheesht (Voices From the Front-line of Scotland’s Battle for Women’s Rights), published by Constable. Edited by Susan Dalgety and Lucy Hunter Blackburn

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