In August, I was locked out of my Twitter account for the first time. I was told that I had “violated [Twitter’s] rules against hateful conduct” and that I had to delete four tweets in order to gain access to my account again. In this case, the tweets in question named Lisa Kreut, a trans-identified male, as the individual who targeted Feminist Current’s ad revenue and led efforts to have Vancouver Rape Relief blacklisted at the 2016 BCFED Convention.
I deleted the tweets in question, then publicly complained on Twitter, saying, “Hi @Twitter, I’m a journalist. Am I no longer permitted to report facts on your platform?” I was promptly locked out of my account again, told I had to delete the tweet in question, and suspended for 12 hours. I appealed the suspension, as it seemed clear to me that my tweets were not “hateful,” but simply stated the truth, but received no response from Twitter.
On November 15th, my account was locked again. This time, I was told I must delete a tweet from October, saying, “Women aren’t men,” and another, asking, “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?”
After dutifully deleting the tweets in question in order to gain access to my account again, I tweeted, angrily, “This is fucking bullshit, @twitter. I’m not allowed to say that men aren’t women or ask questions about the notion of transgenderism at all anymore? That a multi-billion dollar company is censoring basic facts and silencing people who ask questions about this dogma is insane.” This tweet went viral, racking up 20,000 likes before Twitter locked my account again on Monday morning, demanding I delete it. This time they offered no explanation at all — not even a vague accusation of “hateful conduct.”
To be fair, it’s not that insane. Multi-billion dollar companies are clearly primarily interested in profit, not free speech or women’s rights. But Twitter is a company that represents itself as a platform for communication, for debate, and for sharing ideas, news, and information. While of course, as a private company, Twitter has the right to limit who participates on the platform and what is said, we, the public, have become accustomed to understanding this social media platform as a relatively free space, wherein everyone from politicians, to celebrities, to pornographers, to activists, to students, to anonymous gamers, to feminists, to men’s rights activists may say what they wish.
Despite my disinterest in seeing graphic pornography on Twitter and in being called a “TERF cunt” who should “drink bleach,” I accept that this is something I am likely to be exposed to on Twitter, and choose to use the platform anyway. Cruel and graphic comments are things, for better or for worse, I am accustomed to and that, frankly, don’t bother me much at this point. If you are a public figure, you do just get used to this kind of thing.
What is insane to me, though, is that while Twitter knowingly permits graphic pornography and death threats on the platform (I have reported countless violent threats, the vast majority of which have gone unaddressed), they won’t allow me to state very basic facts, such as “men aren’t women.” This is hardly an abhorrent thing to say, nor should it be considered “hateful” to ask questions about the notion that people can change sex, or ask for explanations about transgender ideology. These are now, like it or not, public debates — debates that are impacting people’s lives, as legislation and policy are being imposed based on gender identity ideology (that is, the belief that a male person can “identify” as female or vice versa). That trans activists and their allies may find my questions about what “transgender” means or how a person can literally change sex uncomfortable, as they seem not to be able to respond to them, which I can imagine feels uncomfortably embarrassing, feeling uncomfortable is not a good enough reason to censor and silence people.
As a result of these attempts by Twitter to silence me, the right has leapt to support me, or at least engage with me, and criticize Twitter’s nonsensical, unwritten policies (nowhere in their Terms of Service does it say users may not differentiate between men and women or ask questions about transgender ideology). While the left continues to vilify me, and liberal and mainstream media continue to mostly ignore feminist analysis of gender identity, people like Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro (and hundreds of right wingers and free speech advocates online), and right wing media outlets like the Daily Wire and The Blaze have either attempted to speak with me and understand my perspective, expressed support, or covered this undeniably ridiculous decision on the part of Twitter.
Anger at Twitter’s now ongoing attempts to silence me (I remain locked out of my account, awaiting an appeal process that is likely to result in nothing, and received a second notice today that I have been locked out doubly, on account of a tweet posted in May, criticizing Lisa Kreut for participating in a smear campaign against a local feminist, anti-poverty activist. Kreut has publicly admitted to “knowing someone” at Twitter Safety, so this is unsurprising, perhaps, albeit disconcerting) is not limited to the right or to free speech advocates, of course. There are numerous feminists around the world and unaffiliated members of the general public who see transgender ideology as dangerous (or simply ridiculous), and are critical of the ongoing silencing and smearing of those who challenge it. But one thing that does seem undeniable to me — something that the left should consider carefully, in terms of their own political strategizing — is that while the left seems to have taken to ignoring or refusing to engage with detractors or those who have opinions they disagree with or don’t like, the right continues to be interested in and open to engaging. And I think this is a good thing.
In light of my years of negative experiences trying to engage progressives on issues like pornography, prostitution, male violence, and now gender identity, I’ve unfortunately come to see many of them as cowardly, hypocritical, lacking in political and intellectual integrity, and disingenuous. While of course there are leftists who are critical of the sex trade and trans activism, far too many of those who represent progressives (in North America, in particular) — politicians and leftist political parties, as well as activists and representatives of the labour movement — will not speak out about these issues nor will they defend the women being ripped to shreds for speaking out. Radical feminists are largely on their own on these issues, and don’t have the numbers or the access to media or platforms that liberals, leftists, or the right do. I have personally been able to create and build a large platform, and am grateful for this. But I am being punished harshly for having succeeded in doing so. Twitter and their trans activist insiders seem to be working force me off the platform entirely, the left has shunned me, and Canadian media has yet to engage with my arguments with regard to gender identity ideology and legislation at all. Members of the left here in Canada who agree with me are afraid to be associated with me, and anyone who fails to disassociate is vilified or bullied.
I have been thinking about all this a lot lately, not only due to the debate around transgenderism and consequent no-platforming of critics, but more broadly, in terms of political strategy and the general advancement of good ideas and policy. As such, I want to acknowledge some things I once believed, but have changed my mind about.
I no longer believe leftist positions are necessarily most right or most ethical. I no longer believe everyone on the right is wrong about everything. I do not believe all those on the right necessarily have ill intentions, and suspect that many, like those on the left, believe they are working towards a better world. I don’t believe that it’s productive to position everyone who disagrees with the left as “right wing,” and therefore an enemy. I regret refusing to engage with or trying to understand those who are called “right wing” or “free speechers,” flat out. I think this is the wrong approach. I think it is, in fact, very important that we engage with those we may disagree with on various issues, and don’t think it serves us to ignore, mock, or dismiss people because they don’t share our exact political ideology. I am genuinely interested in speaking with people I may disagree with on various issues and am open to the possibility that we may agree on some ideas and not others. I think we should, as leftists and feminists, challenge and question our own ideas and mantras, rather than become too comfortable in the echo chamber.
What this means is that I will speak to and engage with whomever I like — left, right, and centre. I do not wish to play the game of guilt by association. I am tired of limiting ourselves to those who already share our views, and think this approach is unproductive if we genuinely want to effect change and understand the world around us. I think we need to open up, rather than shut down. I think we should model the behaviour we are asking of others — that is, to hear us out, and to engage with integrity. Even when that means engaging with ideas we don’t like, that we may find abhorrent or wrong or insulting. I don’t want to write people off any more than I want to be written off. And I regret only coming to this conclusion and speaking out about it recently, though I am grateful for my ability to think critically about discourse and strategy, and change my mind accordingly, regardless of who I may anger in the process.
I think sometimes we are afraid to engage genuinely and fairly with new ideas because we are afraid we might agree or change our minds. I suspect that many of those who support trans activism fear just this. That engaging with radical feminist analysis and other critiques of gender identity might leave them forced to admit we have a point.
The truth is that if we want our ideas to be good and coherent and evidence-based and convincing, we need to challenge ourselves and question those ideas, and even be open to the possibility that we might be wrong or that we might change our minds as a result.
Michael Knowles at the Daily Wire says I now must choose to “ally with conservatives, who support free speech and insist that ‘facts don’t care about your feelings,’ or persist with a Left that would annihilate feminism altogether.”
But I don’t think I need to choose either. I choose to think independently and critically. I choose to make strategic and thoughtful decisions about who to ally with. I choose to support free speech and also to reject right wing positions on things like abortion and the free market. I choose to continue to support universal healthcare, social housing, reproductive justice, and a viable welfare system. I choose to continue to oppose exploitative labour practices, privatization, and war. I choose to continue to advocate against male violence against women, sexual exploitation, porn culture, and legislation I consider to be harmful to women and girls. I choose to consider facts and take what I consider to be ethical positions based on those facts, even if those facts and positions don’t fit whatever is considered to be politically correct.
There are people on the right who are bad and who are good, who are smart and who are stupid, who are wrong and who are right, and then there are a million combinations in between. The same can be said of the left. And to pretend things are any more simple than that is, in my opinion, a mistake. While we may not agree on much else, the right and I both agree that transgenderism is nonsense, which may be awkward, but is better than being wrong or dishonest. Speaking of which, I reserve the right to be wrong about all of this, and change my mind accordingly, though I suspect I am not.