Melanie McDonagh

Aimee Challenor and the danger of transgender politics

Aimee Challenor and the danger of transgender politics
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Aimee Challenor – in case you haven’t heard – has just stepped down as equalities spokesperson for the Green Party. I say Aimee – he was, until the age of 16, Ashley, whereupon he decided to challenge his gender by going to the school prom in a dress. From this point his career took a dynamic turn, as he became a Green Party candidate (spurned, alas, by the electorate), a runner for deputy leadership of the party, a member of Stonewall’s Trans Advisory Group, leader of Coventry Pride and subject of upbeat pieces in the Guardian as the fresh face of transgenderism. 'Yes, I’m trans, but I’m a Green Party politician and proud of it', was the headline of one such profile.

That inexorable upward trajectory has come to an unfortunate halt with Aimee’s withdrawal from the deputy leadership contest because of his father’s conviction for the rape and torture of a 10 year old child in the family’s attic. Unfortunately, even after her father's arrest, Aimee made the baffling decision to nominate him as her election agent. Her father's previous record was such that not only his children but the family pets were removed from him at one point.

The details of the case are hideous – he abused the child, suspended from the beams of the attic of the family home, while dressed in a baby doll dress and nappies. Aimee released a statement in which he denied any knowledge of all this and declared:

'But I cannot be held responsible for the actions of my father. I am not to blame for his behaviour. Yes, he was my election agent. This was one of a number of ways I was seeking to reconcile my relationship with my father after coming out of care. On reflection, I can understand that it was unacceptable for me to appoint my dad as my election agent when he had been arrested.'

The statement is masterly as an exercise in contemporary exculpation – 'I am a trans woman and this is my personal journey' – and interestingly declares that, 'I did not go into the attic during my adult life – it was considered ‘dad’s space’'. Belatedly, the Guardian reported on the story.

The natural response to this house of horrors is to move rapidly on. But that would be a mistake. Because the case of Aimee Challenor tells us something about where transgender politics can lead, especially its insistence that if I say I am a woman, I jolly well am. For one thing, the Challenors, father and son, allegedly carried out an internet campaign against those who took exception to Aimee’s notion of self-assumed womanhood through something called Terfblocker. Terfblocker (terfs being trans-exclusionary radical feminists) allows Twitter users to automatically block all of those users deemed 'transphobic' (ironically, feminists on the receiving end of the tool adopt similar tactics when it suits them, as in the Irish abortion referendum).

But it also tells us much about contemporary politics, and the way transgenderism has established itself as the new embodiment of inclusion. Once Aimee had decided on the dress and female identity, his trajectory into the contemporary establishment – the Greens, Stonewall, the Pride movement and the embrace of the Guardian – was swift and unproblematic. The notion of scrutinising his behaviour towards actual women, let alone his background, was out of bounds. So, while the Greens have disciplined a party activist, Olivia Palmer, for allegedly heckling a trans woman on television, they’ve been oddly equivocal about Aimee.

It’s not just Aimee Challenor who has benefited from this unquestioning inclusivity. Jess Bradley, 29, who self identifies as a 'non-binary trans woman' has been suspended from his post as the National Union of Students’ official trans students officer – the first person to be paid for the job – after allegations that he posted explicit images on his online blog – flashing his bits in the NUS offices, apparently (so much for safe spaces).

And then there’s Liam/Lily Madigan, Labour’s women’s officer for Rochester and Strood, whose references to rape on a former social media account have led some to suggest he's a fan of rape jokes.

More seriously, there's also been cases of male prisoners self identifying as women being admitted to female prisons. That would, then, be the likes of Karen White, a trans woman, who’s been accused of groping women prisoners.

So it goes on. It’s tempting to laugh, and not in a nice way, at the way identity politics is tearing itself apart, with feminists pitched against the radical trans lobby. But beneath all this there’s an actual issue, viz, the Government’s consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act, which will look at allowing individuals to enjoy full legal recognition of their chosen gender (access to single-sex refuges or prisons, for example) without any formalities like a doctor’s certificate. At one meeting of a mainstream Tory think tank I was at a few weeks ago, a Cabinet minister you wouldn’t ever call a liberal declared their determination to advance the measure. In short, what you thought was the self-destructive politics of a Left that’s lost its purpose is now an establishment project.