Transphobia at the London Anarchist Bookfair 2017

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Craftwork's picture
Craftwork
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Oct 29 2017 17:32

Again, I was in the CWO meeting, (main building, first floor) so didn't see any of it, but we all heard the loud chanting - "shame on you! shame on you! ...".

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Rob Ray
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Oct 29 2017 17:35
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That's pretty standard now

Never seen any myself but I'll take your word for it - have they ever been functionally set up for an event catering to really large numbers of people (as in thousands) on that broader political scope where it's basically the national gathering for the entire anarchist movement? Cos if so, might be worth seeing whether the people who want to see it are prepared to do it.

Mike Harman
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Oct 29 2017 18:02

Rob Ray: see Ramona's blog post on the NYC anarchist bookfair for an example from 2012 of someone being excluded, and the shit, credulous response ('stalinist' 'kafkaesque') it got on here until people finally realised they'd excluded someone for a very serious reason. Can find non-anarcho examples a bit later maybe.

https://libcom.org/blog/safer-spaces-false-allegations-nyc-anarchist-bookfair-26042012

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Oct 29 2017 18:21

I don’t see the difference between handing out TERF stuff and distributing anti-immigrant or racist literature at a leftist event. It’s reactionary trash and will spark a confrontation that could spiral out of control if organizers are unprepared.

Mike Harman
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Oct 29 2017 19:34

as a libcom admin
Fall Back you don't need to call someone a cunt for asking a question. I had no idea Helen Steel was actively organising with terfs (I think I'd seen a couple of dodgy tweets maybe) or similar until this weekend, so other people out of the loop are going to be surprised and have questions.

eyewitness: if you've registered on here for the purpose of supporting transphobes you'll be banned.

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Fall Back
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Oct 29 2017 20:38

I called him a cunt for using my name, tbf.

But obv don't want to derail important thread and know it's a violation of posting guidelines etc etc.

Mike Harman
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Oct 29 2017 20:41

Here's an account of the confrontation(s) so far the only write up I've seen: http://uncommon-scents.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/reports-of-rad-fem-violently-attacking.html?m=1

Mike Harman
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Oct 29 2017 20:43

Another eyewitness account of some of it: https://twitter.com/yalndei/status/924710623316979712

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Fall Back
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Oct 29 2017 20:44

Probably didn't need saying, but the post by "eyewitness" is largely fiction.

Getting permission from a comrade who wrote a much better account and will post as soon as I do.

But in short:

The only physical violence on the day was (cis male) TERF supporter punching a woman opposing the TERFs (I didn't witness this but several comrades did)

The first person to shout fascist that I saw was in the initial blow up at approx 3.30 (about half an hour before the main kick off), when a small group of women confronted a TERF (Not HS), who kept screaming they were fascists for denying her freedom of speech.

petey
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Oct 29 2017 20:53

i was not present and take no side on the events, but:

Mike Harman wrote:
person who registered just 54 minutes ago?

we all register sometime, usually because we have something to say.

radicalgraffiti
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Oct 29 2017 21:37
eyewitness wrote:
The rightwing UK Conservative government proposes to change the law on how someone's gender is defined. Here's an article in favour of the law from the rightwing newspaper "The Telegraph"

Changing gender set to become easier as 'demeaning' medical checks are reviewed

and here is the daily mail taking your side https://www.pressreader.com/uk/daily-mail/20170726/281809988963494

Fleur
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Oct 29 2017 21:48

You know the only people who are more unhealthily obsessed with genitalia than MRAs? Terfs. Seriously, I love my identity as a woman (I am cis btw) being reduced to my reproductive organs and tits. Thanks shortshanks.

Fleur
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Oct 29 2017 23:17

Honestly, if terfs really mean trans people no harm, why don't they just leave them alone instead of carrying on with their obsessional, spiteful, petty, paranoid vendetta? As for dictating what women - cis or trans- should do with their bodies, that's a pretty crap version of feminism. Any kind of feminism which is exclusive of our trans sisters is a pretty sorry excuse of a sisterhood.

Edited for autocorrect substitution on my stupid phone.

shortshanks red...
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Oct 29 2017 22:10
Fleur wrote:
Honestly, if terfs really mean trans people no harm, why don't they just leave them alone instead of carrying on with their obsessional, spiteful, petty, paranoid vendetta? As for dictating what women - via or trans- should do with their bodies, that's a pretty crap version of feminism. Any kind of feminism which is exclusive of our trans sisters is a pretty sorry excuse of a sisterhood.

Is bullying another woman in such a cowardly way a great example of sisterhood?

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Oct 29 2017 22:16
eyewitness wrote:
The attitude of the mob, and their supporters here, is that Helen be excluded from the bookfair because she holds a different opinion from them, an opinion which they accept as Feminist (hence terF).

Just a couple of comments on this, TERF Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist*, was coined by a couple of radical feminists (cis women if it matters) to refer to Radical Feminists who try to exclude trans people. http://transadvocate.com/terf-what-it-means-and-where-it-came-from_n_13066.htm

It was deliberately chosen to be a neutral comment on their anti trans stance. So no it isn't calling Transphobia a Feminist position, at its most charitable its saying a TERF is a feminist who also excludes Trans people.

Also a general comment, your framing is rather rubbish. Its the standard defence for bigotry, "they just have an opinion" well yes, but its an opinion that is inherently dehumanising and motivates hostile activism. I don't know who this Helen Smith person is, but she from this thread she's been supporting anti Trans activism so its a bit more than an opinion. And also you know things don't happen in vacuums, currently we're seeing an upsurge in anti Trans bigotry including violence so it seems a bit disingenuous the way this is all being presented.

I mean I could easily see the same thing happening to someone publicly known for anti refugee views, or homophobia etc and I doubt the response would be the same. Well given how cliquey some users here are, maybe it would.

*I've come across a few saying they're actually Testicle Exclusionary Radical Feminists instead, which even as a joke is rather telling.

eyewitness
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Oct 29 2017 22:17
eyewitness wrote:
Personally I am not that interested in that debate.
radicalgraffiti wrote:
and here is the daily mail taking your side

Sorry did I use too many syllables for you to understand?

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Reddebrek
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Oct 29 2017 22:20

If your not interested in a debate you can stop replying.

eyewitness
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Oct 29 2017 22:34
Reddebrek wrote:
I mean I could easily see the same thing happening to someone publicly known for anti refugee views, or homophobia etc and I doubt the response would be the same.

Yes I doubt the response would not be the same too. Because its a different situation.

Reddebrek wrote:
I don't know who this Helen Smith person is

Me neither. Try googling "Helen Steel". She's best known as a defendant in the McLibel trial, and a victim/activist in the ongoing Spycops scandal.

shortshanks red...
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Oct 29 2017 22:38
Fleur wrote:
why don't they just leave them alone instead of carrying on with their obsessional, spiteful, petty, paranoid vendetta?

We only have your word for it that so-called TERF's (who may not actually be 'TERFs', because it's so easy to be labelled one) are obsessional, spiteful, petty and paranoid. I'm sure some can, just as some trans-women can also be what you described, just as some women can be misogynstic and supportive of patriarchal things such as porn.

eyewitness
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Oct 29 2017 22:39
Fall Back wrote:
Probably didn't need saying, but the post by "eyewitness" is largely fiction.

You can't just contradict me, you have to demonise me by calling me a TERF or a transphobe or something. Get with the programme.

syndicalist
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Oct 29 2017 22:41

Well, another successful show I see.

past tense
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Oct 29 2017 22:42

I was present for all of the confrontation of trans activists with Helen though not for earlier interaction with the two women who handed out leaflets.

This is a brief account of what I know or saw.

Two women came & handed out a leaflet questioning transgender politics, mainly re Gender Deregulation legislation being discussed now.

They were apparently involved in tussle with some transgender activists who tore leaflets and shouted and pushed them. I didn't see this.

Helen Steel was on the bookfair info stall nearby & got up to argue against them being attacked. The two women left. Helen spoke to them outside and came back in.

I do want to emphasise that Helen DID NOT distribute the leaflet as some people are stating above and elsewhere. She may share some views expressed in it, but she was attacked for suggesting it wan't ok to attack the women handing it out.

As she came back in she observed someone who was involved in Hyde park incident few weeks ago, a trans activist she involved in physical attack on a feminist attending a meeting. She wandered over to see what this person was doing, and was then surrounded by large group, of 20+ trans activists shouting at her, calling her fascist, ugly terf, terf cunt, demanding she leave bookfair. She was repeatedly accused of handing out the leaflet (she wasn't), that she filmed Hyde park incident & gave footage to cops, also not true. Anyone who knows Helen at all knows how laughable that accusation is.

A lot of folk got very upset and some were scared. Helen was accused of assault on someone who put their hand in her face which she then pushed away. It was right up in her face.

Several of us including most of the bookfair organisers and others went to prevent her being mobbed and stood in front of the group. There was some pushing, shoving, lots of abuse. Reasoned attempts by us and notably by bookfair collective to calm it down were rejected, asks to move outside rejected: the group would not stop hounding Helen unless Helen left the event.

This standoff went on for an hour & a half, she moved 3 times to different places, shielded by us, & the group attacking her followed. Several attempts were made to rush her or individual launches towards her. Several stalls were disturbed or blocked in the fracas. Including Disabled peoples Action against Cuts stall where people got hurt and freaked out. We asked if the group would move away from this stall and they refused.

Many arguments, lots of chants of Out Out, terfs out etc. If we prevented physical attacks on her we were accused of violence & assault. I see someone says above that 'a cis man punched a transwoman'. i did not see this. However I was accused of hitting someone who I blocked, with my back to them, to prevent them from physically getting to Helen. I didn't hit anyone.

Suggestions were made to force the trans group out physically, by some people. This was rejected by bookfair collective and others of us, who attempted to see if a dialogue could be had. Trans group refused to talk unless she left. Someone set off fire alarm, Helen went outside one way and her attackers were unable to follow as a door got locked. She later came back in when the fire alarm scare was over, & wasn't targeted again, though other people who had defended her did get into some rows later. I saw this happening across room but not how they started as I was trying to either monitor any threat to Helen or go back to the stall I had somewhat neglected in the meantime (thanks to friends who looked after it).

The trans group say H's views are violence against them. That she is as good as a fascist.

The Bookfair collective position was to suggest discussion but trans activists (mostly, 1 or 2 exceptions) said it's not up for debate.

I don't think the original leaflets were helpful myself. But I stand against mass violence against 1 woman whose views do not equate to fascism. I was accused of assault for blocking their path to get in her face. Happy and proud to have stood in their way, really.

There's a real debate to be had around trans rights and feminism, although i am told that there isn't any debate to be had and that any feminists or otherwise who don't accept transwomen as women are not feminists, and should be silenced if they speak.

Attacking one person in this way unlikely to advance any progress on this question, in my view. Neither is attacks & silencing of anyone who questions assertions or doesn't immediately fall into line behind them.

Not a pacifist and happy with/have done no platforming of nazis. Helen Steel is not a nazi. I for one am proud to stand in solidarity with Helen and the London Anarchist Bookfair collective, who are now also being attacked for not kicking Helen out of the event. Trans rights yes. Violence against women, feminists, no.

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Oct 29 2017 23:00
eyewitness wrote:
Yes I doubt the response would not be the same too. Because its a different situation.

By your own admission it isn't though. You think its different because in that scenario you'd be the one doing the agitating against the gays and the refugees, and you don't like the association.

You don't have an argument here, if you ok with confrontation in one situation but not the other(s) your tacitly admitting you think some people (feel free to pick) aren't deserving of the same protections.

Reddebrek wrote:
I don't know who this Helen Smith person is

Me neither. Try googling "Helen Steel". She's best known as a defendant in the McLibel trial, and a victim/activist in the ongoing Spycops scandal.

Dyslexia shaming too hey, your quite the charmer, aintcha.

By the by, you need actually demonstrate the connections between her activism in other areas to this in order for that to have a point. Otherwise its trivia.

Fleur
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Oct 29 2017 23:13

I am 50 years old. I remember when all this started to gain traction. The arguments I hear from terfs is eerily similar to the sort of homophobic arguments I heard in the 80s, things that justified Clause 28. Right down to the weird obsession with toilets. Also, the arguments terfs spew are mostly predicated on the sort of biological essentialism I've pretty much spent my whole life fighting against. No thank you very much, I do not want to be part of a world where we are defined by our reproductive capabilities, or hormones, our appearances. It's the same sort of bullshit which has been used to oppress cis women for eons, to be a feminist and to lay out your ideology along such lines is pretty dim

Tbh, I know where it's coming from. For my sins, I used to read Spare Rib and such stuff in my teens, and this stuff was obsessed with women's biology, articles about womb power, how PMS is a social construct, how periods are actually empowering (fuck that one.) I get it, it was a response to a long history of talking about women's reproductive health being taboo and used against us but ffs, it's 2017, get over this shit now. My identity is not tied up in my lady bits, they're just a part of my biology, like my cardiac system or my eyes. Nothing magic, mystical or defining there.

Quote:
Is bullying another woman in such a cowardly way a great example of sisterhood?

If you push people so far they will fight back and good for them. Trans people have been intimidated, doxxed, assaulted, terfs have even taken it upon themselves to put the safety of children at risk. However, if one even as much as raises a voice back they are accused of bullying, of expressing "male violence." Giving someone the finger is apparently a rape threat. I bet all those shit drivers I regularly flip off are terrified of my rape threats. People showed up at a place where it would be reasonable to expect a lot of trans people and their allies to be present, started distributing vile leaflets - if that's not provocation I don't know what is - and even prevented people from using the toilets, something to do with terfs weird obsession with pissing, I suppose. You provoke, people respond. And true to form, victimhood abounds. Kind of pathetic really.

I suppose people have a point when they suggest we try to talk to them but I've spent years trying to discuss and it is always the same junk science, bigotry and spitefulness. I'm a bit conflicted between sticking up for my trans comrades, who are some of the most marginalized and oppressed people in society and just throwing my hands up in the air and saying there's just no fucking talking to these people. The only optimism I have is that most of the terfs I have ever come across are my age and we're not going to be here forever. Younger people seem to have far better gender politics that Gen Xers.

Just fucking do better, it's not that hard. Try not to be an ignorant bigot and stop picking on people with less power than yourselves.

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Oct 29 2017 23:17

What is the difference between arguing for free speech for TERFs at an anarchist book fair and arguing for free speech for the alt-right or anti-immigrant arguments from people like Paul Mason at an anarchist book fair?

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Oct 29 2017 23:31

I should add that when I was walking to CWO meeting (i.e. a few minutes before 5pm), past the brewing controversy, I heard 2 people (sounded like man and woman) shouting at each other, and the masculine voice referred to the woman as a "fucking bitch" and a "snitch". Not sure if any others also witnessed this, but there was definitely some deeply vile personal abuse.

I left that bookfair simultaneously glad (at the few decent communists I met and the literature I picked up) but also fed up, or demoralised.

past tense
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Oct 29 2017 23:43

Fleur: Factual question: can you tell me your source for the idea that people were prevented from going to the toilet? i have seen one claim on twitter from someone about this, the person claiming it I can only describe as not having a real clue about any of the real issues at all involved in this confrontation. I have yet to hear anything else about it.

If by this people mean, when Helen S went to the toilet an hour into the confrontation, and was subsequently cornered with those of us preventing her being mobbed, in a corridor where some toilets were... there was no deliberate prevention of anyone going to the toilet. Trans activists attempting to attack Helen were prevented from entering the corridor to attack her. There are many other toilets in the venue. No-one came up and said can I get through to use the toilet in my hearing during that time. Not personally obsessed with toilets or pissing.

I can't swear 'deliberate prevention of people going to the toilet' didn't happen elsewhere but would like to hear someone produce something more than wild claims on twitter.

shortshanks red...
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Oct 29 2017 23:44
Fleur wrote:
I am 50 years old. I remember when all this started to gain traction. The arguments I hear from terfs is eerily similar to the sort of homophobic arguments I heard in the 80s, things that justified Clause 28. Right down to the weird obsession with toilets. Also, the arguments terfs spew are mostly predicated on the sort of biological essentialism I've pretty much spent my whole life fighting against. No thank you very much, I do not want to be part of a world where we are defined by our reproductive capabilities, or hormones, our appearances. It's the same sort of bullshit which has been used to oppress cis women for eons, to be a feminist and to lay out your ideology along such lines is pretty dim

Tbh, I know where it's coming from. For my sins, I used to read Spare Rib and such stuff in my teens, and this stuff was obsessed with women's biology, articles about womb power, how PMS is a social construct, how periods are actually empowering (fuck that one.) I get it, it was a response to a long history of talking about women's reproductive health being taboo and used against us but ffs, it's 2017, get over this shit now. My identity is not tied up in my lady bits, they're just a part of my biology, like my cardiac system or my eyes. Nothing magic, mystical or defining there.

Quote:
Is bullying another woman in such a cowardly way a great example of sisterhood?

If you push people so far they will fight back and good for them. Trans people have been intimidated, doxxed, assaulted, terfs have even taken it upon themselves to put the safety of children at risk. However, if one even as much as raises a voice back they are accused of bullying, of expressing "male violence." Giving someone the finger is apparently a rape threat. I bet all those shit drivers I regularly flip off are terrified of my rape threats. People showed up at a place where it would be reasonable to expect a lot of trans people and their allies to be present, started distributing vile leaflets - if that's not provocation I don't know what is - and even prevented people from using the toilets, something to do with terfs weird obsession with pissing, I suppose. You provoke, people respond. And true to form, victimhood abounds. Kind of pathetic really.

I suppose people have a point when they suggest we try to talk to them but I've spent years trying to discuss and it is always the same junk science, bigotry and spitefulness. I'm a bit conflicted between sticking up for my trans comrades, who are some of the most marginalized and oppressed people in society and just throwing my hands up in the air and saying there's just no fucking talking to these people. The only optimism I have is that most of the terfs I have ever come across are my age and we're not going to be here forever. Younger people seem to have far better gender politics that Gen Xers.

Just fucking do better, it's not that hard. Try not to be an ignorant bigot and stop picking on people with less power than yourselves.

So Helen Steel is 'dim' and a 'TERF'. You could do with some improvement yourself Fleur- such as not supporting cowardly misogynist violence against a survivor from behind a keyboard, a survivor who has contributed a great deal to the world. You could do better aswell, you could stop being a church goer who supports more than one form of patriarchal oppression from where I'm standing (porn and the violent silencing of female anti-capitalists).

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Oct 29 2017 23:47
Juan Conatz wrote:
What is the difference between arguing for free speech for TERFs at an anarchist book fair and arguing for free speech for the alt-right or anti-immigrant arguments from people like Paul Mason at an anarchist book fair?

Nobody was arguing free speech for terfs (at least not until the idiotic shortshanks and eyewitness set up their accounts here). Though that is the kind of stuff that is being chucked around here. If you criticise how some bullying bunch of divs act at the bookfair, then you get labelled terf supporters or anti-trans. Playground stuff.

Juan, if you cannot see the difference between Helen Steel's mistaken views and some alt-right anti-immigration bollocks, then you're seriously losing your critical faculties.

potrokin
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Oct 29 2017 23:55
shortshanks redemption wrote:
Fleur wrote:
I am 50 years old. I remember when all this started to gain traction. The arguments I hear from terfs is eerily similar to the sort of homophobic arguments I heard in the 80s, things that justified Clause 28. Right down to the weird obsession with toilets. Also, the arguments terfs spew are mostly predicated on the sort of biological essentialism I've pretty much spent my whole life fighting against. No thank you very much, I do not want to be part of a world where we are defined by our reproductive capabilities, or hormones, our appearances. It's the same sort of bullshit which has been used to oppress cis women for eons, to be a feminist and to lay out your ideology along such lines is pretty dim

Tbh, I know where it's coming from. For my sins, I used to read Spare Rib and such stuff in my teens, and this stuff was obsessed with women's biology, articles about womb power, how PMS is a social construct, how periods are actually empowering (fuck that one.) I get it, it was a response to a long history of talking about women's reproductive health being taboo and used against us but ffs, it's 2017, get over this shit now. My identity is not tied up in my lady bits, they're just a part of my biology, like my cardiac system or my eyes. Nothing magic, mystical or defining there.

Quote:
Is bullying another woman in such a cowardly way a great example of sisterhood?

If you push people so far they will fight back and good for them. Trans people have been intimidated, doxxed, assaulted, terfs have even taken it upon themselves to put the safety of children at risk. However, if one even as much as raises a voice back they are accused of bullying, of expressing "male violence." Giving someone the finger is apparently a rape threat. I bet all those shit drivers I regularly flip off are terrified of my rape threats. People showed up at a place where it would be reasonable to expect a lot of trans people and their allies to be present, started distributing vile leaflets - if that's not provocation I don't know what is - and even prevented people from using the toilets, something to do with terfs weird obsession with pissing, I suppose. You provoke, people respond. And true to form, victimhood abounds. Kind of pathetic really.

I suppose people have a point when they suggest we try to talk to them but I've spent years trying to discuss and it is always the same junk science, bigotry and spitefulness. I'm a bit conflicted between sticking up for my trans comrades, who are some of the most marginalized and oppressed people in society and just throwing my hands up in the air and saying there's just no fucking talking to these people. The only optimism I have is that most of the terfs I have ever come across are my age and we're not going to be here forever. Younger people seem to have far better gender politics that Gen Xers.

Just fucking do better, it's not that hard. Try not to be an ignorant bigot and stop picking on people with less power than yourselves.

So Helen Steel is 'dim' and a 'TERF'. You could do with some improvement yourself Fleur- such as not supporting cowardly misogynist violence against a survivor from behind a keyboard, a survivor who has contributed a great deal to the world. You could do better aswell, you could stop being a church goer who supports more than one form of patriarchal oppression from where I'm standing (porn and the violent silencing of female anti-capitalists). And incidentally I have no obsession with genitailia, I can merely see elements of patriarchial oppression that you don't wish to go into.