Tomorrow, following a short but successful propaganda campaign, a UK Newspaper will publish an open letter asking Girl Guiding UK to suspend their policy of inclusion for All Girls, including those who are transgender. Guides has always, quietly, been inclusive of trans children. While there was a small amount of sensationalist and transphobic media reporting in 2015 when the current policy was formally adopted, until six weeks ago, there has been no organised attack on the organisation which my daughter is a part of. Why now? What has changed to make Girl Guides, Brownies and Rainbows a target of action from transphobic groups? This is not a random act, but follows concerted attempts by trans exclusionary groups to influence thinking within the UK Labour party on whether trans women should be included on All Women Shortlists.
It is part of the wider context of a small but vocal and increasingly organised loose coalition of groups made up of Evangelical lobbyists such as Christian Concern, radical feminist academics, misogynistic Men’s Rights Activists, reactionary conservative voices, and a growing grass roots anti transgender rights movement which has formed around the parenting forum ‘Mumsnet’. There, with few restrictions on content, under a banner of free speech, these groups have found one another, have radicalised and organised without challenge or moderation, united behind a single purpose – preventing advances to the rights of transgender people in the UK.
The campaign against inclusion of transgender women on Labour Party All Women Shortlists was the first active campaign to find an audience outside niche anti transgender corners of social media. This anti-trans equality campaign included a crowdfunding initiative calling for legal challenge to Labour Party policy, petitions to the Government, multiple linked websites promoting (mis)information, national public speaking tours by trans exclusionary activists. It provided easy media pieces for an already transphobic UK media, satisfying the UK Public’s seemingly unquenchable interest in stories written about (but not by) transgender people.
Girl Guiding are the next and latest focus of this anti trans rights coalition. Strategically, Girl Guides are seen as a soft target. Transgender children have little support, are regularly maligned by the mainstream press and importantly have no voice or right of reply.
The campaign built against Girl Guiding has been so rapid, so honed, that without knowledge of the context and the anti-trans equality groups involved, it could be misinterpreted as representing the concerns of the guiding movement. Instead of what it actually represents, the latest target of existing transphobic political lobbying by a small but active group of dedicated anti trans equality activists.
Here I present a 10 step guide to ‘how this campaign against trans girls and Girl Guides has played out’. And in response, rather than engage with their hate, I’ve simply listed 10 more productive activities that our daughter, a trans member of girl guiding, and the target of this campaign, has been engaged in during the same period.
Ten Steps to Raising Hate against Trans Children
Step 1: Take a committed transphobe with multiple anti-transgender websites.
Step 2: Get invited onto The BBC Victoria Derbyshire show (05/03/18) to discuss reform of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (Spoiler, this act and therefore this discussion has no relevance to trans children – trans inclusivity is already covered by the 2010 Equality Act).
Step 3. Veer off topic with a hypothetical story about a predatory 14 year old boy pretending to be a girl to assault 11 year old girls at guide camp. Use this to publicly criticise Girl Guides for having a long standing approach welcoming All Girls, including those, who happen to be transgender.
Step 4: Create a thread on Mumsnet (home of transphobic discussion) to stir up hate and radicalise a wider population against a vulnerable minority (trans girls).
Step 5: Set into action existing anti-trans children websites and social media platforms, spreading fear and hate.
Step 6: Launch new anti-trans-children Facebook groups specifically to campaign against trans girls being accepted in Girl Guiding.
Step 7: Reinforce inflammatory talking points to enable radicalisation of people against trans children: focus specific attention on ‘child on child sex abuse’
Step 8: Send Mumsnet thread to friendly transphobic Times journalist for yet another attack piece in a long running campaign against transgender children. Have anti-trans-children story picked up by multiple other national newspapers.
Step 9: Inundate Girl Guides HQ with letters and emails, in an attempt to pressure Guiding to change their trans inclusive approach, adding veiled threats of legal action.
Step 10: Get your friendly anti-trans newspaper to publish a letter demanding that Girl Guides review their Transgender Policy (This Sunday, according to Mumsnet, the oracle on all things transphobic).
How to respond?
How can a mum like me fight back against such organised hate? How can I keep my daughter safe?
I write an anonymous blog. I have no power, no influence. I can count upon a tiny handful of allies willing to stand up for trans girls like my daughter.
There is no ‘powerful transgender lobby’ to defend us. I wish there was. There are no trans newspaper editors, no trans judges, no trans MPs.
It is hard to deal with so much hate. It is hard not to feel afraid. To feel like my country is not a safe place for my child. But life carries on.
Girl Guiding has been strong in their refusal to bend before a building anti transgender media, and have reinforced their commitment to All Girls in public statements. I am confident they will not waver in their commitment despite the latest media onslaught.
While incessant transphobes devote days upon days to making my (transgender) daughter unsafe and unwelcome, she’s been getting on with her life. Whilst they spread lies, misinformation, and hate, let’s see what my trans daughter has been up to:
10 better ways to spend your time
1: Learning British Sign Language to be able to better communicate with a deaf friend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRYQayi9czM
2: Going to school, learning stuff, (same as every other child)
3: Enjoying a Guides celebration of Mardi Gras (dancing, eating, painting)
4: Practicing tent building skills (indoors as it was snowing!)
5: Going to the cinema, eating popcorn
6: Attending a talk by local police officer on women in policing
7: Building a fire in the garden – attempting to make smores – giant mess
8: Reading Harry Potter (again!)
9: Eating too many Easter eggs (trading white chocolate eggs with younger sibling)
10: Laughing, smiling, talking, sleeping, loving, dancing, dreaming, living.
It is easy to paint trans girls as a scary menace.
My child is not a risk. She is not a threat. She is not scary.
She loves camping with her friends, staying up late, eating marshmallows (& smores) and telling ghost stories.
Anyone who knows a trans child like my daughter, can see how ridiculous anti-trans girl fear-mongering is. She is just like any other girl.
Those inciting anti trans fear, prejudice and hate know that the public don’t know any trans people, much less trans girl guides, brownies, rainbows. They rely on this ignorance.
Inciting hate against trans girls is not balanced ‘debate’. This is hate against a defenceless and vulnerable group of children.
No wonder trans children are at breaking point and the UK has become a dangerous place to be transgender.
No wonder, according to Stonewall’s School Report, 84% of trans children in school have self-harmed.
Anyone reading this who is a parent or carer – how would you feel if a child you love was the target of a cruel hate campaign? If they were being targeted just for being different.
My child is not a risk. She is not a threat.
She loves painting, hiking in the country, climbing trees, camping with her friends. She loves dancing like no-one’s watching.
My daughter is wonderful, kind, sweet (brave, clever, strong, and funny) and she loves Guiding.
Girl Guiding’s motto is ‘For All Girls’. Girl Guides is inclusive of deaf girls, girls with disabilities, girls from different ethnic or religious groups, and yes, trans girls too. Diversity. Inclusion. Kindness.
That includes my daughter.
This morning the letter was published in The Sunday Times. Of the 100,000 volunteers in Guiding a paltry 220 people signed the letter who claimed to have some involvement in Guiding of whom a meagre 12 are current leaders. This demonstrates just how fringe these anti trans rights views are within Guiding, the wider British public and the UK Media led by the Times.
This last month and the last year or so has been a truly frightening time to be parents of a child who happens to be trans living in the UK. A week ago we were near to coming to the difficult decision to withdraw our child from Guiding as we were concerned her presence might not continue to be welcome. This would have been giving in to the bullies something we have raised our daughter, supported by Guiding to stand against.
We want to thank all those who have sent messages of support by email, Facebook, twitter from all corners of the world. Girl Guiding truly is a global movement and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positivity and solidarity in the face of these bullies. Thank you to Girl Guiding UK, Chief Guide Amanda Medler, and the UK media communications team. Thank you to the incredible leaders, both locally and throughout the UK who have helped us stand strong, either because they have a trans child, sibling or family member, have a trans child in their section, or who simply because they wanted to help spread the message that Guiding is for all girls.