Find your courage and speak up

Millicent Garrett Fawcett statue

@campervanwoman urges women to take the first step and reach out to friends and colleagues to discuss sex and gender

Some time ago, a colleague in my office came and sat at the empty desk next to me because it was quieter than her usual spot. Over the course of the day, we chatted, and at one point the conversation got close to questions of sex and gender.

She clammed up. And I thought “to hell with it“. “Go on, say it,” I said, “I bet I agree with you.”

She looked a bit doubtful. In for a penny, in for a pound.

“Trans women aren’t women and women deserve single-sex services,” I said, my heart pounding. The relief on her face was mirrored on my own and we dissolved into laughter. It was quite a moment.

Afterwards, we both got a little braver. I got our recruitment equalities monitoring form changed so it reflected the Equality Act’s protected characteristics, and she challenged a toilet policy that had been brought in with no consultation.

Most people share the GC view

I think about that day quite a lot because it taught me two things: that little acts of bravery can make you braver, and also it’s not really that brave to express these views because most people share them.

It’s not the only time it’s happened either. One old friend, about whose views I’d been a little unsure, was really surprised at how relieved I was when I learned she agreed with me: “Of course,” she said, “every woman our age agrees.”

Another, though not appalled at my views, clearly thought I was exaggerating about the extent to which institutions had been captured and women had been demonised. But she went off and did some research and came back horrified. She’s now peaking her other friends.

Speaking from experience

I asked a few other women about their experiences. Lots of us have connected on social media, often anonymously, and a common theme was being anxious and fearful coming out into the open in real life. But the results were overwhelmingly positive:

I came out as gender critical in my local pub, which is one of only two LGBTQIA2S+ pubs in the town. To be fair, everyone said ‘aye, you’re right’ then moved on with their night.”

“I felt really brave going to my first For Women Scotland public meeting. I took my husband along to watch me enter the hotel, though, for fear TRAs would be there. That was actually the first time I did anything outwith Twitter, but it led to more activism in real life.”

“Someone from another organisation questioned my work’s twitter account (which I manage) retweeting a prominent woman because of her views on the Gender Recognition Act. The tweet in question had nothing at all to do with sex and gender. I responded that our organisation had no view on the GRA but agreed with her on this issue, and we were comfortable with our approach. But I was nervous about it, in case they took it any further, so I spoke to my line manager, which also made me nervous, but she agreed with me! We’ve been discussing these issues ever since.”

“Going to the meeting at Edinburgh Uni – the one where Julie Bindel was attacked. That was the first big brave one for me. I’ve not looked back since though!”

“I spoke up in my work, which is a big public sector organisation and a member of Stonewall’s diversity champions scheme. It was during an event, and I said not everyone agrees with the Stonewall position and I know LGB and T people are raising concerns about the implications. I said it was important to hear the different viewpoints. The speaker’s response was essentially the ‘no debate’ line. My stomach was churning. Some people commenting disagreed, but one colleague I didn’t know got in touch to say she shares my concerns and supported me raising them in a reasonable way.”

Make the connection

Each of these women acted alone but, from one small act of personal bravery, connected with others.

Despite what some lobbyists will have you believe, it’s not hateful to believe sex is real and can’t be changed.

Or that single-sex services and spaces are important and necessary. It’s what most people believe. And since the decision in Maya Forstater’s appeal, it is clear these are legally protected beliefs.

You are not alone. Speak to someone today. Take the first step.

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