Rod Liddle

What took you so long, Seb Coe?

What took you so long, Seb Coe?
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There’s a left-wing internet advocacy group called 38 Degrees which suggests to its followers that all they have to do is click a button and all the bad things in the world will be outlawed. It is a pleasant conceit. Its name derives from the angle at which snowflakes come together to form an avalanche, which is nicely self-deprecating of it. The problem is that so few people believe in its drivel that the closest it gets is about six degrees, which is the angle at which snowflakes remain exactly where they are until it thaws and they melt.

Still, it is a useful simile and I think we may be in a 38 Degrees moment with transgenderism. The avalanche seems to be happening. I am on this issue, mind, an unreliable narrator, too suffused with a natural optimism to be properly objective – and I have been wrong before. Three or four years ago I suggested that, with regards to the culture war, we were at ‘peak wank’ – a delicate phrase I hoped would be popularised. It wasn’t and we were nowhere near the peak – hell, BLM hadn’t even happened.

So that’s the caveat. But to switch geological similes for a moment, the tectonic plates within our benighted elites seem to be shifting with transgenderism. First we had the transgender cyclist Emily Bridges booted out of an important women’s race when cycling’s governing body decided to toughen up the rules regarding testosterone. Next, swimming’s world governing body, Fina, banned transgender swimmers from competing in women’s races. Then rugby league got in on the act, banning transgender players from taking part in international competitions for the foreseeable future – including the women’s rugby league world cup – while they take further ‘consultation’ on the matter. And then, most recently, there has been the interesting case of Sebastian Coe.

Cue Chariots of Fire theme music. Yes, I know the film wasn’t about him, but it came out at around about the time Seb was winning gold medals at the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games, and it tapped into the same sense of national pride we all felt watching him run slightly quicker than foreigners (and sometimes Steve Ovett) around a track. Later Seb went into politics where he distinguished himself by being The Man Who Never Said Anything – it is hard to think of a politician possessed of less charisma or ideology. His most recent posting has been as president of World Athletics and it was in this role that he expressed his support for Fina’s decision to ban transgender swimmers from competing against women and intimated that World Athletics would be very likely to follow suit quite soon.

For Coe, biology trumps gender and he added: ‘If one of my colleagues here in my team suddenly becomes transgender, it doesn’t make a difference to me. They will continue to do the same job with skill and aplomb in exactly the way they were before they made that transition. This is not possible in sport. It is fundamental to performance and integrity and that, for me, is the big, big difference.’ Aah, yes, quite. That would be about right. But what kept you?

And this is the thing. I will bet my most valuable possession – a certificate from the Avenue Junior School in Nunthorpe for coming second in the sack race on sports day, 1969 – that Coe, along with the great and good from all those other aforementioned sporting bodies, has long been of the opinion that having transgender women (or, to give them a simpler title, ‘men’) take part in women’s sport is an absurdity and risks destroying it. But they all kept their gobs shut while brave campaigners such as the former swimmer Sharron Davies (not to mention J.K. Rowling) attracted odium and death threats simply for articulating a number of indisputable truths. They doubtless feared they’d be vilified and presented as being on the ‘wrong side of history’, even if they were on the right side of reality. So they effectively connived with the wokies and, for far too long, did their bidding, gaining brownie points from the progressives all the while.

So what has changed now? How have we suddenly reached this 38 Degrees? Is it the case that these authorities, and ol’ Seb, have suddenly realised that most of the British population (and around 99 per cent of the world population) think it ludicrous that transgender women should compete against women, or be allowed to stay in women’s prisons or all-girls schools? Perhaps – even if the precise opposite opinion is still held by all the parties who will form a singularly unpleasant coalition after the next general election (Labour, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Greens), as well as one or two Conservatives. That they at last realise that almost nobody buys into this arrant rubbish?

It is partly true that of all the deranged denials of reality issuing from wokedom, the transgender issue is the one which is most easily provable as being ridiculous. It is also true that at least on transgenderism, a hefty proportion of one of our many victim groups, the feminists, side – however briefly – with common sense and reality. We have also seen a certain belated and still insufficient pushback by the state against transgenderism, with the sidelining of organisations such as Stonewall, which dispense radical pro-trans propaganda. In a sense, then, transphobia (as Stonewall would call it) has become the hate that dares to speak its name. And so we have a very welcome avalanche.

We are still not at the peak, though, I fear. There is still a way to go before we can erect statues to Cecil Rhodes in our town centres.

Swim competitively
‘If you wish to swim competitively it’ll have to be in a separate category.’