Dear Jess Phillips
* Note: This letter was written on the 19th January, prior to Jess Phillips announcing that "transwomen are women". The post-script of this letter accounts for this development.
I can't remember the last time I was so excited about a politician. I'm a woman of the left who's felt completely isolated by Corbyn and Momentum and the tyranny of wokeness, which is elitist, to do with exclusivity, and weaponises privilege in a way that reduces us all, humiliates us all, and negates us as individuals. You seem to me to be cleverer than anyone in public life, more experienced, and appear to take no shit. In the last few years the Labour party I love has resembled one of the more shambolic episodes of the Thick of it. I've felt betrayed and embarrassed and ignored and people tell me I am hateful when I am not. People who are demonstrably anti-progressive keep telling me that is what I am... I am living in the Upsidedown. And then there was you: sane and smart and strong.
I want you to know, despite what I'm about to say, that I do still believe in you. I am not about to say horrible things about you on the internet; or tell my friends you're rubbish and don't care about us and not to vote for you; but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't beyond disappointed by the interview you gave recently to Pink News. Hurt, really, is what I am. And pretty angry. Because it feels like shit not to be able to back you unequivocally anymore.
Pink News is a misogynist rag at this stage. It used to care about gay people (specifically gay men, and now it only cares about men). Juno Dawson has said some truly disgusting things about women and by implication lesbians and gays. I don't know why you gave her the time of day. I don't know what SPAD or whatever convinced you it was a sensible thing to do... People who take Prick News seriously... they are not your people. You don't want them, trust me. The cost is way too high there.
I'm not going to pick the interview apart, but I was appalled. I was appalled that when Dawson spoke of the "few rights [she] has" you didn't politely but firmly ask her what the [fuck] she meant. What rights is it that she lacks? This successful wealthy person who uses her considerable power to accuse women like me; and working-class women; and lesbians; and women of colour; and various combinations of the above, of bigotry. I was so hurt that the organisation Women's Place - which harbours (as you well know, Jess!) zero hatred for trans people (wonderful transwomen such as Kristina Harrison have spoken, powerfully and beautifully, at WP events) - was deemed "unmentionable" by Dawson, and you saw fit not to take her up on it; you saw fit not to say: "look, hang on, I'm acquainted with that group, they are not about hatred. If we cannot go forward with a full understanding of what womanhood is and what, as it were, transwomanhood is, why it is fundamentally different although there maybe [as you said] an overlap in experience, we will fail to serve BOTH populations. You cannot hope to protect a group you cannot define: women are female: It cannot be hateful to talk about reality. Women have been told to shut up about what is real; what their bodies do and how society treats them for having those bodies forever: and I won't be a part of it, I'm afraid". You didn't do any of that Jess, you sat there and talked vaguely about intentions. You let her speak to you, a woman, about things she cannot know about. Did you try and lecture her about being trans? No. So why did you accept that stuff from her?
I understand you are trying to win. I want you to win. But not at all costs. Not at the cost to the people who need you in power the most. It cannot be worth winning that way.
There are so may trans people who are ignored and harassed in this discussion. All they are saying is what women everywhere are saying: sex is real. They know it is real because it has been central to their suffering, albeit in a different way. A way that, as a non-trans person I don't know much about, though I very much sympathise with.
I think you know the numbers about girls having mastectomies and rendering themselves infertile. I think you know the numbers about regret. I think you know that sex-segregated spaces exist for a reason and that transwomen should only have access to those spaces once a doctor has diagnosed gender dysphoria and confirmed they are no threat to women. I think you must know that red tape involved in procuring a GRC has never been a problem for an ethical or scrupulous transwomen - they view it as a necessary evil, they understand. I think you know the women who want this are not evil, or cruel; and do not have hatred or even suspicion towards transwomen. But that interview... it made me feel like you didn't; it made me feel like total shit.
Wishing you all the best, truly, still behind you, hoping you find your way,
Well Jess. You’ve fucked it. You’ve TWAWed, and so my passion for you has thawed. I do wish you all the best, and also believe - contrary to the fetters of identifarianism - that redemption is always possible, so I will be here for you if you apologise. You’ve done so much, so much for women until now; you’re so smart; so capable; I won’t forget it. Take it back: and I’ll be back. I would like it if politics was more like that: made room for people to make mistakes and course-correct in real-time. If that happens, I for one will be back on your team, but for now I’m out. But remember: it was you who left me: left us. You pretended womanhood was a thing it isn’t in order to score points with the woke, and when you did so, you gaslit me. If you think that’s hyperbolic, you’re not who I thought you were at all. You said “transwomen are women” and when you did you deranged the truth, the most central truth to who I am after being a human, which is that I am a female one. I have had too many experiences - wretched; glorious; terrible; tender; funny; horrendous - contingent on that single fact to allow myself to be represented by someone who thinks that fact is unimportant. I won’t be told by yet another person that the Emperor is wearing clothes, gleaming ones. I thought you knew, Jess, I thought you understood, that his cock is out.
19th January 2020