Last week, it emerged that Linda Bellos, veteran feminist of the Old Left, faces legal action for having said the wrong thing about transgender people who hit women. This week’s transgender thought-criminal is Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party. Someone who might well be considered impeccably on-message on gender issues is accused of being that most terrible thing, a Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist, and is being punished accordingly.
Lucas leads a party that is deeply devoted to the orthodoxy of transgenderism and the unquestionable mantra that “transwomen are women”. So keen are Greens to embrace the right of people born male to be considered women if they say they are women that they sometimes seem to want to remove the word “women” from their vocabulary: “non-men” is the term some Greens use.
Yet Lucas is now on the pyre, facing online chastisement for crimes against transgenderism. She’s a Terf! Burn her!
Or rather, Block Her! For this is a story partly about Twitter, where too much of the political conversation around gender takes place. It’s also about some truly horrible sexual offences and the Greens’ woeful mishandling of the questions that arise from them. And it’s a story that says a great deal, none of it good, about the politics of the transgender “debate”.
Aimee Challenor was a prominent Green activist. She was the party’s spokesperson on equalities issues and a candidate for the party’s deputy leadership. Aimee Challenor was a Green candidate in the 2017 general election and the 2018 local government elections. In both elections, her election agent was her father, David “Baloo” Challenor.
David Challenor was last month convicted of torturing and raping a ten-year old girl in the attic of the family home. He was charged with those crimes in 2016. So Aimee Challenor was nominated for public office for the Green Party by a man awaiting trial for the most serious sexual offences against a child. (Read more about this here, if you want to.) Aimee Challenor was aware of her father’s arrest at the time she accepted his nomination; at least some Green Party officials knew too.
This has raised all sorts of questions for the Green Party. An independent inquiry has been promised, ahead of which lots of Green types seem to be busily deleting tweets and other online records referring to Aimee Challenor.
Aimee Challenor was an active Green campaigner on transgender issues. As the party’s equalities spokesperson, she was an enthusiastic participant in the debate about changing the law on legal gender, arguing in favour of rules where a person can legally chose their own gender (and gain the relevant legal rights) without external check or verification.
Critics of such a “self-ID” policy say that among the issues it raises are worries about safeguarding and access to girls or vulnerable women. They fear that allowing any man who says “I am a woman” to be treated as a woman could allow unscrupulous men to declare themselves female in order to gain privileged access to female-only spaces or to supervise girls through organisations such as Girl Guides.
To summarise, then, a politician stood for public office knowing her election agent was awaiting trial for 22 offences, the majority of which were sexual offences. The politician also advocated a policy that some people fear could make it easier for sexual predators to get access to girls.
How did the politician’s party respond when these things came to light? The Greens defended her, largely, it seems, because Aimee Challenor was born male and now describes herself as a transwoman. Here is Lucas in the Guardian last week:
“That Aimee Challenor is a trans woman should not be relevant here yet others have tried to make a connection. While we can all agree that what her father did was monstrous, the transphobia unleashed against her on social media is absolutely unacceptable.”
Now, some people might feel that trying to suggest some level of moral equivalence between the rape-torture of a ten-year-old child and being nasty to someone online is a pretty grotesque thing for anyone to do, let alone the leader of a supposedly national political party.
I make no comment on that, instead inviting readers to reflect on the extent to which Lucas was prepared to defend Aimee Challenor in the midst of this godawful horror show. The Green Party machine too went to some lengths to be nice to Aimee Challenor, stressing that while she was suspended, it was on a “no-fault” basis and generally trying to avoid even the suggestion of criticism.
All of this focussed some attention, in the Green Party and elsewhere, on those safeguarding questions some people raise about the gender policy Aimee Challenor so enthusiastically promoted.
Some Green Party members suggested that Lucas should listen to the people who asked those questions. Some suggested she should meet A Women’s Place UK (WPUK) a group of (mostly) left-wing women who organise public meetings to discuss gender law. To some transgender activists, WPUK are a hate-group spewing out bigotry. To people with a slightly firmer grip on reality, WPUK are a bunch of ordinary women who talk earnestly about equality law and can’t quite believe that the politicians who are supposed to represent them aren’t doing their jobs and debating this stuff themselves. Sometimes they have biscuits too.
So, credit to Lucas for saying that she would indeed meet WPUK and listen to what they have to say:
But of course, in the looking-glass world of transgender politics, this is not OK to talk to people who might take a different view of the world to your own. It is bad, and must be punished.
Never mind that Lucas had been an outspoken advocate of trans rights in general, and of Aimee Challenor in particular. Never mind that all she said she would do is meet some people and listen to them. None of that could mitigate her sins against transgenderism. The online mob quickly gathered to ensure Lucas was suitably chastised: she said she’d talk to witches, so she must be a witch! Burn her!
(As is common here, lots of the abuse directed at Lucas came from men keen to tell women what to do, say and think. My favourite reprimand was this one: “Sincere word of warning Caroline: the people you’re agreeing to have dialogue w/ may appear to be reasonable & well-meaning individuals - couldn’t be more untrue. #WPUK and its associates spread hateful rhetoric, & seek to deny #trans people their existing legal rights. Avoid.” That came from a person using the name Adrian Harrop and claiming to be an NHS doctor; I assume it’s a parody account because the alternative explanation – that an actual real person is so comically stupid and awful – is too troubling to contemplate.)
Fittingly enough for this topsy-turvy world, the final sentence on Lucas was passed by none other than Aimee Challenor. In a statement on Twitter (of course) she announced she was resigning from the Green Party, saying that Lucas’ proposed meeting with WPUK was proof the Greens have a “significant transphobia problem”.
At around the same time, it emerged that Lucas had been added to Terfblocker (she has since been removed). Terfblocker is an online widget that allows someone to ensure that they are never exposed to the hateful words of people who fail to follow trans orthodoxy, by automatically blocking them on Twitter. According to Lucas’ own account, Aimee Challoner helped run Terfblocker, helping to ensure the voices of thousands of women (and a few men) are kept quiet online.
At the last count, the list blocks more than 10,000 usernames – mine included – belonging to people who are, by implication, accused of wickedness and cast into the electronic darkness. Now Lucas’ name is there too. So it’s official: Caroline Lucas, Green leader and champion of transgender rights, is a Terf whose words must not be heard. That’ll teach her to watch her mouth, eh lads?
And that, dear reader, brings us to the end of this very (post)modern tale of political spite, a story that offers another glimpse into the curious world of transgender politics where no-one – or at least, no woman – is safe from the mob. Remember to mind your opinions, ladies: you could be next!