Cork trans woman calls out devastating effects of global rise in 'gender critical' rhetoric

At a time when trans rights are under attack worldwide, one activist reminds all that "Politics can have murderous consequences".

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The far-right movement across the world is gaining momentum, bringing with it an increase in ‘gender critical’ rhetoric. In Cork, the consequences of this have been dangerous, with one local trans woman sharing her insights into the concerning developments.

Just over a month ago, Brianna Ghey was murdered in Warrington, Cheshire. Just over a month ago, a vigil was held in Cork’s Daunt Square – her picture being torn down twice. About a month ago, a local trans woman was attacked and misinformation ran rampant. Less than a month ago, far-right activists in Cork destroyed copies of This Book is Gay by trans author Juno Dawson. 

Less than a month ago, Eden Knight left this world. A week ago, the creator of the “adult human female” slogan, who continues to profit off its merchandise, held a rally in Melbourne supported and attended by Neo-nazis. 

One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to see the connections here – and indeed, for actual conspiracy-minded people, trans people tend to be at the centre of it. A barrage of frightening propaganda, much of it thinly veiled repackaging of anti-semitic tropes.

Brianna Ghey lived and died in a country many trans folk refer to as “TERF Island” due to it being the epicentre of a modern form of transphobia – the ‘Gender Critical’ movement. Unlike old-school TERFs who were at least coming from a legacy of radical feminism – Gendercrits are very often simply conservatives adopting loose feminist aesthetics.

Kellie Jay-Keen, aka Posey Parker, was a leading figure that spearheaded the movement to disenfranchise people like Brianna. She has appeared on white nationalist podcasts and was previously known for promoting Islamophobia. Eden Knight came from Saudi Arabia, and the fear of deportation was a big part of what allowed ‘Fixers’ connected to the Heritage Foundation to manipulate her – the US’s immigration laws in no small part shaped by Islamophobia and anti-Arab/South Asian racism. 

There are several social media pages set up in Cork that appear associated with various far-right parties – for example, ‘Stand Up Mahon’. The centre of much of this is fear-mongering about Ukrainian refugees, but this is merely a cudgel, and members post all manner of far-right propaganda. I checked one associate’s timeline – within two minutes, I found a post asking if Enoch Powell was really that bad. 

These same people constructed a narrative that the trans woman who was attacked in Cork was, in fact, a predatory man preying on children. A bathroom was even mentioned – a transphobic fever dream. The fact that there was no evidence to back this up didn’t matter. “Where did you hear it?” asked a friend of the victim. “We heard it in Mahon!” 

The page itself was called ‘Mahons peoples’, a call to the same faux-populism driving the right’s recruitment. Mahon’s PEOPLE, the common working men and women, are taking a stand against this sort of thing!

The attack is proof of the emotive power behind such demonisation. If you say, “Hold on a minute, do we really have any evidence this person harmed kids/women?” then all of a sudden, you’re an apologist, and you deserve to die also. The gender criticals and far-right politicians know how to engineer violence while keeping their own hands clean, no different from when they dog-whistle about violent minorities while voting for state-funded brutality. 

Perhaps you have a family member who fell down the gender critical, anti-vax, or anti-immigrant rabbit hole over the last few years – though it’s all largely one hellish mass now. If you hear them use the word “Groomer” to describe queer or trans people, do not let it sit. Push back.

We’re no longer in the realm of opinions, if we ever were. There is no more agreeing to disagree. We should know better than that after the last seven years. Politics can have murderous consequences. Those who live in a world privileged enough to see them as purely opinions have stood silently too long.

As a trans person, I wish I did not have to be the Main Character right now – or the main villain, rather. We are the modern-day Baphomet. But there’s a power in that. A chance to take back the narrative. Don’t let the real villains co-opt the idea of “The People”. We are being played against each other by people who need a distraction, or just plain want us gone.

But they have miscalculated. They do not have our resolve. We have always been here. We’ve been through things like this before. But will you stand with us this time?

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