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The Thought Police are on everyone’s case


HOW long before it becomes a crime to use the word ‘trans’? A hate crime, that is. When will describing somebody as a trans woman or a trans man be enough to get your collar felt by someone at Humberside Police? Or some other force schooled by the College of Policing? By all accounts, not long. In no time at all, the transgender movement has shifted its priority from trans people being able simply to get on with and live their lives in their chosen gender to insisting that we all, slowly and carefully, repeat after their spokespersons the words: ‘A trans woman is a woman. She is a real woman. She is no different at all from a cis-woman.’ The prefix ‘cis’, of course, meaning to have one’s gender identity and biology aligned.

Who knows, maybe it is already a hate crime to make the assumption that gender and sex are matched in someone, and to make the assumption that others make that assumption too. In other words, not even to bother with that ‘cis’ tweaking and just to say `man’ or `woman’. Rather than in the manner of an LGBT spokesperson signalling the full range of her understanding of anatomy with the words: ‘Speaking as a cis-woman . . .’ OK, a real woman then, is what most listeners will think. Yup, that’s right, you’ve committed another crime. Thought crime.

Because that too, as well as use of language crime, is something else that the Orwellian-inclined will want to roll up their sleeves for. Certainly, they do at Humberside Police. There it looks as if it’s always Hate Week. Harry Miller, an ex-officer with the force, was visited at his workplace a year ago after a complaint about allegedly transphobic tweets. He said an officer told him: ‘I’m here to check your thinking.’ He was informed he had not committed a crime, but his tweets would nevertheless be recorded as a ‘non-crime hate incident’. The impression was apparently given that if he continued to tweet, then he might well be prosecuted. After Friday’s High Court ruling that the police response was unlawful and a ‘disproportionate interference’ with his right to freedom of expression, a relieved Mr Miller spoke of the ‘watershed moment for liberty’. He said the police were ‘wrong to visit my workplace, wrong to “check my thinking”.’

Now they certainly are the kind of menacing words worth reading carefully and slowly: ‘check my thinking’. If that doesn’t make us all stop and think, nothing will. No wonder Humberside has the happiest police officers in the country: instead of bothering themselves with the 15 per cent jump in knife crime in the county in the year to June 2019, they can sign up for a spot of Thought Policing. They can go after a man who tweeted: ‘I was assigned mammal at birth, but my orientation is fish. Don’t mis-species me.’ No, you really couldn’t make it up.

Thankfully, in this case the law saw sense and there was a victory for freedom of speech. Mr Justice Julian Knowles said the effect of police turning up at Mr Miller’s place of work ‘because of his political opinions must not be underestimated’, adding that to do so would be to ‘undervalue a cardinal democratic freedom’. The judge went on to invoke the realm of dystopian jackboot: ‘In this country, we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.’ 

Give it time. It is 70 years since the death of the writer whose most chilling work gave us ‘War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength.’ Are we not already down the rabbit hole of ‘Men are Women; Women are Men; Sex is Non-Binary; and Biology? Well, Biology is Bunk’. For sure, we are in the territory of ‘Ignorance is Strength’ because all you need to do to stay strong and ignorant is silence the opinions of those with whom you disagree, or failing that just put your fingers in your ears. And you can keep making up whatever other little slogans please you. Maybe ‘Truth is a Lie’, ‘Feelings are Facts’ and ‘I am whatever I say I am’.          

Because, to be clear, feelings are where it’s all at nowadays. If you feel as if you are a woman, then you are one. Don’t let anyone tell you are not; don’t even let anyone get away with looking as if they are dubious about it. If they do, get on to the police station. You don’t have to undergo any medical inconvenience, you just need to self-identify and then you can go into whatever previously exclusive women’s places you want. Never mind about all that hard-fought Women’s Rights stuff and nonsense about women having their own changing rooms at the pool. We’ve got an expression for that and it’s ‘trans-exclusionist hate’.  

It’s the focus of a 12-point pledge card by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights (LCTR) to which leadership contenders Rebecca Long Bailey and Lisa Nandy have signed up. The latter was on board with it because she wished to disown and exclude from Labour those ‘who willingly go out to hurt and offend other people’. She spoke of the need to `use care and compassion’ in language describing other people. Unless one is the omniscient chief constable of the Thought Police, however, how does one get inside an alleged offender’s psyche and discern the intention: what was `willing’ as regards the resulting hurt and offence? Perhaps Nandy will expand on the matter. In fact, how are we to measure and assess `hurt and offence’ to feelings? We don’t even need to nowadays. If someone says they’ve been hurt and offended, that’s enough. Get a car down there. Get them in for questioning. 

The nettle that needs to be grasped is the definition of transphobia. The rights of trans people are simply human rights. But freedom of speech is a human right too. Why must we all toe the line now that sex is only a construct, is alterable and to say otherwise is a hate crime, is transphobic? It may not be what a trans woman or trans man wants to hear, but someone has to be able to voice their sincerely held view, rooted in scientific fact, that a biological man cannot become a biological woman, nor vice versa. That view may be upsetting, irritating or offensive. But as Mr Justice Julian Knowles put it, quoting from a previous judgement, ‘Freedom to speak only inoffensively is not worth having’. 

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Julie Lynn
Julie Lynn
Julie Lynn, a former journalist, teacher and full time mother, currently tutors teenagers in English and French.

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