The Revolution Eats One Of Its Own Midwives

Transphobia is the unforgivable sin du jour of anyone with the temerity to suggest that a man who thinks he is a woman is not necessarily so.

When Tatchell talks of Enlightenment values and human rights, he is on very slippery ground, and that made slippery by the very philosophies of sexuality and identity to which he has committed his life. This is ironic, perhaps even a little tragic, for a man who has given himself so passionately to the cause of human rights.


I do not often find myself in sympathy with gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. Indeed, I still remember as a teenager being delighted and relieved at his defeat in the 1983 Bermondsey by-election. It symbolized so well how the new Left, with its preoccupation with gay rights, was of marginal interest to the poor and the working class. Still, it is hard not to have some sneaking admiration for a man who has tried to arrest Robert Mugabe not once but twice.

Yet this veteran human rights campaigner now finds himself on the receiving end of the latest campus malice and silliness. Scheduled to speak at an LGBT event, he has found that another speaker, Fran Cowling, the L.G.B.T.+ officer of the National Union of Students, is refusing to share a platform with him because of alleged transphobia and racism.

As I said, I am no fan of Tatchell, but the idea of him being racist is about as plausible as a claim that Adolf Hitler is alive and well and working as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago. And as Germaine Greer can attest, transphobia is the unforgivable sin du jour of anyone with the temerity to suggest that a man who thinks he is a woman is not necessarily so and has no automatic rights to the narrative of female victimhood. In fact, the claims against Tatchell are groundless, the only evidence of his bigotry being his signature on a letter to The Observer last year, supporting free speech.

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