“Hero of the Marriage Equality Debate” was the honor bestowed on my stepfather, Lord (Patrick) Jenkin, by PinkNews upon his death in 2016. As a family, we were nominated for the Stonewall Politician Award of the year. in 2013. We have always supported gay rights and equality. My husband, Bernard, was one of a handful of Conservative MPs to support lowering the age of consent for gay men in 1994, as well as voting for civil partnerships and gay marriage.
Recently, however, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the doctrines of organizations such as Stonewall, with which I previously had a common cause. As I read and looked closer, I realized that the changes had crept in without scrutiny, because people like me had not questioned the progress on equality.
When the Conservative Party proposed changing the gender recognition law in 2015, I didn’t see it as a big problem. I support people with gender dysphoria who feel they need to identify with the opposite sex. Like most people, I understood that this was about reaching out to the relatively few people in society who had chosen to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
But the proposed legislation would actually mean that anyone who simply declares that they feel the opposite sex should be granted the rights of the sex they choose: no surgery, no hormones, no diagnosis of gender dysphoria. required. Stonewall claims that around 600,000 people in the UK identify as trans or non-binary. So now we have a conflict of rights, between those of trans women and those of women and girls.
Most of my professional life has revolved around advocating for women. As the co-founder of Women2Win, the promotion of women in Parliament and in public life is at the heart of what I defend. I also care deeply about the broader issues of women’s rights and equality.
Concerned voices are growing louder: the sudden and dramatic increase in the number of adolescent girls with rapid onset gender dysphoria; children taking puberty blockers and setting up a cascade of interventions that will leave them sterile and need lifelong medical treatment; the fundamental rights of women are abandoned.
Overwhelmingly, the #NoDebate stance and the cries of “bigot,” “’TERF” and “transphobic” ”that accompany any attempt to discuss the issues are of great concern. Countless women have been “quashed” for expressing dominant views on biological realism. In fact, this week alone JK Rowling, refusing to be intimidated, faced bomb threats on social media.
There is tremendous fear in many quarters about speaking out, but debate and dialogue are not only necessary but essential. This is not a “culture war” problem. The cancellation of the terms “woman” and “girl” in public order will have disastrous consequences. Where rights collide, there must be open discussion, investigation and compromise. Same-sex marriage, the right to abortion, and medical ethics have not been smuggled into the law book.
There is no doubt that I will now be vilified for calling myself “a gender critic”, but I not only defend the rights of tens of millions of women and girls, but I speak on behalf of the vast majority who either still ignore what has happened to our equality laws or are themselves too scared to say anything.