The trans debate can be a nasty one. And when women (and it usually is women) have the courage to speak out, they face being shamed and silenced. Their crime apparently is 'transphobia'. But all too often, this word no longer means the hatred or fear of trans people like me. Instead, it refers to the simple act of disagreeing with an ideology that insists men and women are defined, not by their biology, but by feelings. Dame Jenni Murray, Professor Kathleen Stock, Joanna Cherry MP, Julie Bindel, and many other women have been hauled before a kangaroo court and been found guilty.
But behind these high-profile cases, ordinary women face the same treatment. An army of (often anonymous) accounts police social media for wrong think. Two years ago, Margaret Nelson, a 76-year-old, fell foul of this mob. For her troubles, she was spoken to by the police over online posts she had written, including: 'Gender's fashionable nonsense. Sex is real.'
Nelson, of course, had done nothing wrong, and Suffolk police subsequently apologised to her for its handling of the incident. But now, Nelson has been targeted again, this time by someone called Andrew, a self-described 'Wallace and grommitt (sic) fanatic'. The account, with 12 followers, accused Nelson of being a 'clear transphobe', and demanded that Innocent Drinks, a smoothie company, explain why it followed such an unperson.
Nonentities on the internet make false accusations all the time; what's astonishing – at least where 'transphobia' is cited – is the way that corporations react. You might be forgiven for thinking Innocent ignored the allegation or maybe even challenged it. But you'd be wrong.
'Hello Andrew. We've sorted that out now so thanks a lot for giving us the heads up,' replied Innocent, implying that it had subsequently 'unfollowed' Nelson. This, it seems, is how the internet works. A false accusation of 'transphobia' is made. And a person – an ordinary pensioner, in this case – is condemned.
I should know; it happened to me. When The Spectator was accused of 'transphobia' last year, one of my articles was cited as evidence. Even being transgender is no defence against this mob. It was enough to condemn this publication in the eyes of the Co-op, which said it was considering no longer advertising with The Spectator.
Back then, the Co-op saw the error of its ways. Perhaps it's time for Innocent to do the same. It should apologise to Nelson, a pensioner from Suffolk, who has done nothing wrong other than hold mainstream views about sex and gender which many people – myself included – agree with.