WHEN a 60-year-old woman was punched in the face, it seemed that the debate around a proposed change to the law about transgender people could not get much nastier.
Then, one side of the argument took to Twitter to declare that the mum-of-two deserved the attack because bashing those on her side “is the same as punching Nazis”.
The campaign group continued: “We must be radically and transformatively violent.”
Now more moderate activists believe that the whole issue has become so fraught that any kind of sensible discussion is impossible.
Even academics say the question of whether the law should be updated to make it easier for people to change their gender legally is now so explosive they feel silenced.
And women’s rights campaigner Dr Julia Long told The Sun: “If you try to even raise a question about it, your event gets shut down.
“I was working in academia (until recently). If you tried to raise any questions or objections around transgenderism, you’d be ostracised.”
Dr Long, who works for a domestic violence charity, spoke at the gathering where the bust-up took place — ironically, at the hallowed home of free speech, Speaker’s Corner in London’s Hyde Park.
Humanist funeral celebrant Maria MacLachlan, 60, was pushed to the ground and punched in the face in the confrontation between the opposing sides of the debate.
She later recalled: “Studenty- looking types were turning up and some arguments started. Then suddenly someone tried to grab my camera. I ended up on the ground and it felt like a few of them were punching and kicking me.”
A video of the incident taken by another onlooker has been posted online. Police are investigating.
Maria, who describes herself as a “gender critical feminist”, was among around 50 people who had gathered for a talk about the transgender legal issues which are the focus of the proposed law update.
They were confronted by their enemies, members of the campaign group Action For Trans Health (ATH).
ATH members want the Government to adopt the proposed change to the law.
They say that anyone who self-identifies as a woman — without having undergone transition surgery or a diagnosis of gender dysphoria — should be considered a woman.
They say that means they should be allowed to use women-only spaces such as changing rooms and toilets.
THESE groups, including Action For Trans Health, want to see the law updated to make changing gender easier and quicker.
Currently people have to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and live for two years as their preferred gender before having it officially recognised.
The other side, which Maria belongs to, believes that some women-only spaces should not be opened to trans women who have not had gender reassignment surgery or been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
They are particularly worried about transgender women — 80 per cent of whom still have male genitalia — being put in with women in prisons and hospitals. Maria’s side is referred to by ATH enemies as “terfs” — “trans-exclusionary radical feminists”.
The morning after the assault, the Edinburgh branch of ATH tweeted: “Punching terfs is the same as punching Nazis. Fascism must be smashed with the greatest violence.”
Follow-up tweets added, “We must be radically and transformatively violent” and “Violence against terfs is always self-defence”.
Businesswoman Miranda Yardley, 49, transitioned from male to female ten years ago but believes there could be drawbacks about changing the law to reflect the ATH demands.
Miranda says she has received many threats herself over the years and said: “One of the fundamental problems we have is that disagreement is being framed as hate.”
Meanwhile, academic James Caspian has been told by Bath Spa University he is not allowed to write a thesis on the issue of “detransition”, which is the reversal of gender realignment surgery.
The psychotherapist was told: “Engaging in a potentially ‘politically incorrect’ piece of research carries a risk to the university”.
But anxiety about transgender issues is also causing trouble far from the worlds of activism and academia.
Cardiff’s Bishop of Llandaff Church-in-Wales high school recently upset some parents by introducing gender-neutral toilets — where boys and girls share the same bathrooms. And The Sun revealed how parents Nigel and Sally Rowe removed their six-year-old son from an Isle of Wight school after another boy was allowed to wear a dress.
A headmistress of a private girls’ school in South London, said last week she tries not to call her students “girls” to avoid offending teens querying their gender identity.
Sally-Anne Huang, who runs the James Allen Girls’ School in Dulwich, South London, says she uses the term “pupils” instead.
Feminist author Germaine Greer, who told the BBC in 2015 that in her opinion, transgender women are “not women”, believes the whole issue has spun out of control.
She told The Sun: “The whole thing is a kind of mad fantasy.
DERISORY term standing for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, used by pro-trans groups for those who believe relaxing the law may endanger women.
They are especially concerned about trans women who still have male genitalia being sent to women’s jails or hospitals.
“This particular issue, which as far as I’m concerned is a non-issue, is taking centre stage.
“I’ve been threatened with death, with forcible sex change, with having my underwear set on fire. You know what they can’t forgive me for? They can’t forgive me for the fact I’m not interested.
“They think they’re the most important issue. They’re not.”
The House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee put forward its proposals for the law change in July. A full consultation on the proposed update to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act is due to be published before winter.
The committee’s chair, Conservative MP Maria Miller, told The Sun: “Of course, there will be very heated views on both sides, but I think as a society we think that people should be able to live their life fairly and we need to support people, not discriminate.”
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