ANTI‑TRANS CAMPAIGNERS SENT PACKING IN DUNDEE

An article by an Anonymous Heckle reporter.

 

Anti-trans campaigners who threatened to bankrupt Dundee Women’s Festival with lawfare tactics were drowned out at their own event yesterday afternoon by a much larger crowd of queer people and allies, who danced, sang and chanted slogans in the City Square until the rather sad-looking gathering dissipated.

Women Won’t Wheesht (WWW), one of the newest formations in Scotland’s nexus of anti-trans organisations, was established last year by supporters of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, also known as ‘Posie Parker’, a prominent English anti-trans activist linked to far-right organisations and individuals and even disowned by other anti-trans groups because of her history of racist and Islamophobic comments.

Parker made international headlines in March 2023 after a group of neo-Nazis supporting her rally in Melbourne, Australia were pictured performing Nazi salutes next to a banner reading ‘Destroy Paedo Freaks’. The incident led to such a serious backlash that new legislation was enacted to criminalise Nazi salutes, first in Victoria and then in Australia as a whole.

A month later, Parker brought her speaking tour to Belfast, where it was met with a large protest by queer people and anti-fascists. According to WWW’s website, a group of Scottish women who travelled to Ireland to attend this rally in support of Parker “decided in Belfast that we were going to take the proverbial bull by the horns, and organise [similar events] all over Scotland”. This was the context in which WWW decided to come to Dundee.

Lawfare

In January, the organisers of Dundee Women’s Festival — a community-based festival organised by volunteers in the weeks surrounding International Women’s Day for more than two decades running — received and subsequently rejected an application by WWW to include its City Square rally in the 2024 festival programme. The rejection letter made clear that WWW as an organisation was seen as “not aligning with our festival values”, and the decision not to accept the application was “a unanimous decision made by our board”.

In response, WWW threatened to sue the festival organisers on the basis that the decision represented unlawful discrimination against their supposed protected beliefs. This ludicrous argument is tantamount to a Tory threatening to sue for not being allowed to speak at a Labour conference. It rejects the right of organisers of a women’s event to exclude anti-woman voices.

Facing an existential threat, festival organisers reached a legal settlement with WWW which provided for the rally’s inclusion in the festival programme. By bullying unpaid women and abusing the law to intimidate those who can’t rely on billionaire backing, WWW forced its way in.

Protest

Despite the publicity created by the saga, which was extensively reported in the local press, and despite the rally’s inclusion in the widely-circulated festival programme, only around 40 people turned up for the WWW event. The overwhelming majority of them appeared to be pensioners.

Some were identifiable members of the Alba Party; one carried a ‘Wings Over Scotland’ flag, in support of a blogger who condemned feminism as “the most intolerant ideology currently operating in the UK” and whipped up an online mob against the women who accused former first minister Alex Salmond of sexual misconduct. Hardly the vanguard of feminism!

Just a few metres away, a crowd of over 150 people staged a demonstration that could not have looked more different: colourful, joyous, overwhelmingly but not exclusively young, and including many women, queer people and seasoned local campaigners. Activists approached passers-by to hand out slices of vegan traybakes from woven baskets labelled ‘Say No to Transphobia in Dundee’. A wireless speaker blasted pop anthems — except when playing traditional Scottish music so demonstrators could do Gay Gordons in the middle of the City Square.

Protesters chanted “hey hey, ho ho, transphobia has got to go”, “trans rights are human rights” (and sometimes “trans rights are women’s rights”), and the City Square rang out with a familiar call-back: “When trans rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”. A hand-made banner declared “no TERFs on our turf”. Whistles were distributed and blown to drown out the WWW speaker system — a highly effective action which meant that none of their dire speeches could be heard by shoppers on the other side of the square.

Just over an hour after it started, the WWW event ended and its participants gradually slinked away — mostly in the direction of the train station. Many of the remaining queer protesters joined the Palestine solidarity demonstration taking place in the city centre shortly afterwards.

Queer people under attack

Saturday’s events, while uplifting, come against the backdrop of serious assaults on LGBT+ rights internationally and in the UK. Earlier in the week came the news that NHS England will no longer prescribe puberty blockers to young trans people, despite research linking this type of gender-affirming care to reduced suicidality and better mental health outcomes for young people. Right-wing Scottish journalists are already demanding Scotland follows suit.

There is a looming battle over so-called conversion therapy, with a proposed legislative ban being opposed by campaigners linked to evangelical Christians. The Christian Institute has obtained a legal opinion claiming a ban is beyond the Scottish Parliament’s powers, setting the scene for another assault on devolution led by the dominant culture-war faction of the Tories, echoing the undemocratic veto of Scotland’s progressive gender recognition reforms.

There is a clear need for a militant, grassroots queer movement in Scotland. The Radical Independence Campaign has declared its intention to form independence blocs on Pride marches across the country this summer, which are likely to be among the largest street demonstrations anywhere in Scotland. The key challenge for socialists is bringing these vibrant forces into a sharp political struggle against the Tory government — and the equally conservative Labour government seemingly set to follow it.

Source >> Heckle


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