Aimee Knight, previously known as Aimee Challenor, has been sacked by Reddit. But while Challenor has now gone, her reappearance in the headlines — and the way in which Reddit mishandled this story — is a revealing and disturbing insight into the transgender debate.
It all began with an article I wrote for these pages on Green party gender madness in which I briefly mentioned Challenor’s suspension from the party in 2018. It was a scandal that Challenor did not wish to see dragged up. When a moderator of the popular UK politics community on Reddit shared that article, mentioning Challenor by name, the post was removed and the moderator banned. Had Challenor persuaded the powers that be at Reddit to prevent users from discussing her past?
Whether Challenor did or not, the fallout quickly became hard for Reddit to ignore: users bombarded the site with links to articles detailing Challenor's somewhat chequered past. Hundreds of forums — including the 27 million-member r/Music group — set their statuses to private in protest.
Soon, Reddit was forced to break its silence:
“As of today, the employee in question is no longer employed by Reddit. We built a relationship with her first as a mod and then through her contractor work on RPAN. We did not adequately vet her background before formally hiring her.
The dismissal of Challenor has served to shine a light on yet another embarrassing example of how the issue of ‘trans rights’ can be used as a smokescreen against McCarthyite silencing of any dissent from the ‘trans women are women’ diktat.
So who is Challenor? In 2015, David Challenor, Aimee’s father was reported to the police for the rape and torture of a ten-year-old. In 2018, he was tried, convicted and jailed for 22 years for what the judge called his 'depraved' catalogue of crimes. Warwick crown court heard that David Challenor dressed as a little girl called Lucy while he strung the child from a beam, electrocuted and raped her in the small Coventry home in which Aimee also lived.
An independent investigation into the Green party handling of the scandal found a number of failings in terms of safeguarding. Aimee Challenor was suspended for not clearly telling colleagues that David Challenor had been charged with serious sex crimes against a child before appointing him as her election agent — a role in which he remained for 18 months after being charged with child rape.
Aimee Challenor was no lowly figure in the party: Challenor had been the Green party’s equality spokesperson, had stood for parliament and was in the running to be the party’s deputy leader before David Challenor was jailed.
During her time in the Greens, Challenor campaigned for the party to adopt the policy of gender self-identification, silencing dissenting voices along the way. Andy Healey, a fellow member of the Greens, was one of those targeted by Challenor. Healey sought to speak out at the party's conference in 2017 on the policy of self-ID. But Challenor took exception. As Healey tells me:
“I joined the party specifically to root out this stuff so I could justify continuing to vote Green. The leadership is untenable and their inaction and complicity over the Challenor scandal speaks for itself.
Following the suspension, Challenor resigned, citing transphobia.
A few months later, Challenor was back, joining the Liberal Democrats on a ‘trans rights’ ticket. Trouble was never far away though: in November 2019, Challenor was suspended by the party after child sex fantasies were posted on her fiancé’s Twitter account. 'I fantasise about children having sex, sometimes with adults, sometimes with other children, sometimes kidnapped and forced into bad situations', read one particularly disturbing post.
These various stories might make it hard to see why a series of prominent political parties — and now Reddit — have indulged Challenor over the years. Yet so-called ‘trans allies’ have bent over backwards to defend Challenor, despite evidence of Challenor's behaviour. Take what happened to Sheffield Green activist Andy Healey. When he tried to highlight posts by an account with the name Aimee Challenor, in which he was labelled a 'vile Terf', Sian Berry, currently co-leader of the party, responded: 'I have blocked this individual previously. Sounds like it was a wise decision'.
Challenor's emergence once again in the headlines is a chance for those who have defended Challenor to reflect on their actions. Sadly, it seems, that is unlikely to happen.