In times of very serious crisis, we need to form unusual alliances, including with people who may have convictions and values that are profoundly different from our own – outside the focus of our common cause. The campaign for women’s, children’s and LGB rights against the onslaught of extreme gender ideology is one such crisis, where the threat to basic human rights is so serious and urgent that a big-tent approach is clearly the best way forward.
The active gender-critical (GC) movement in the UK is overwhelmingly, but not exclusively, left-wing, having emerged from Britain’s powerful and well-established radical feminist movement. Many of us involved in the GC movement now find ourselves working shoulder-to-shoulder with people who have very different political views from our own. That has certainly been my experience as a member of the Conservative Party and a former Conservative councillor. Many people are crossing the political floor from both sides to produce a synergy of potent political action.
On 3 July, the barrister and human rights activist, Allison Bailey, a stalwart of the gender-critical movement, expressed her frustration at the colonisation of political parties by extreme gender ideology in a Tweet that said:
“Okay, who here knows how to go about forming a new political party? I’m deadly serious. If Labour & the Tories are not going to offer women & LGB people an alternative, it’s time we made this outrageous state of affairs matter — at the ballot box.”
At the time of writing, Allison’s post has received over 2500 “likes” and many replies in agreement, confirming the resonance of this proposal in the GC community. This was followed up by a further tweet on 4 July, in which she stated:
“Keep it coming. Political parties take note: If you don’t act now to protect women & LGB sex-based rights, we’re going to start voting you out of office, any way we can.”
The oscilloscope of my astonishment and alarm at how almost all the UK’s main political parties have fallen to extreme gender ideology launches into a steep spike when my attention turns to the ongoing ideological capture of the Conservative Party. Indeed, I would expect any party with the word “conservative” in its name to be actively and unequivocally opposed to extreme identity politics that seek to sow social division and inequality and to endanger and vilify vulnerable demographic groups. The dismay I feel about the current Conservative Government – the few brave ministerial exceptions notwithstanding, whose positive actions are clearly being constrained by their seniors – is compounded every time a new, creeping concession is made to the extreme gender movement, such as Stonewall UK’s invitation to the Prime Minister’s Pride Reception in Downing Street, and the warm words of commendation for Stonewall spoken by the UK’s new “Special Envoy on LGBT+ Rights”, Lord Herbert.
My fear, as a longstanding political activist and a Conservative Party member, is that the extreme gender ideology colonisation in my party will only get worse. For the time being, I am hanging in there as a party member in solidarity with other GC Conservatives who have not yet lost hope; though a rainbow-coloured Sword of Damocles hangs over me by a thread, and there could soon come a point when I decamp. What then?
I take absolutely no pleasure in left-wing colleagues feeling forced to vote Conservative simply because their otherwise preferred party has bought into misogyny, homophobia, compelled speech and the betrayal of child safeguarding.
At the present time, indeed, the Conservative Party is the only barrier standing between us and the wholesale colonisation of Britain by extreme gender ideology; just as the Republican Party provided such a barrier in the USA, until that barrier came crashing down with the election of President Biden. Many GC people on the left are now pledging to lend their votes to the Conservative Party as the best hope of blocking such measures as transgender self-identification and the inflicting of medical transgender pathways on children – many of whom will be lesbian, gay, autistic or gender-non-conforming. I take absolutely no pleasure in left-wing colleagues feeling forced to vote Conservative simply because their otherwise preferred party has bought into misogyny, homophobia, compelled speech and the betrayal of child safeguarding.
My caveat is that the Conservative Party’s direction of travel on extreme gender issues seems to be anything but reassuring, and one day fairly soon it could fall completely, as organisations such as Stonewall UK continue to convert their considerable private and public funding into a dehumanising and ever-colonising propaganda machine that sustains itself by getting its sycophants and collaborators to instil fear. At the same time, new generations will leave school and university, their brains bearing the indelible imprint of several years of Stonewallification and media inculcation. These generations will one day provide the new Conservative Party members, councillors, MPs and Prime Ministers. It is going to take a lot to put the brakes on.
The silence and appeasement evident among so many Conservative MPs and councillors with regard to extreme gender ideology is, however, anything but representative of the whole Party membership, or of Conservative voters as a whole. The Conservative Party has a serious problem with a lack of democratic accountability to its grassroots members. In the USA, whose sell-out liberal feminists – the predominant category there – have enthusiastically adopted the extreme identity politics of the LGBT+ lobby, it is the conservatives who constitute the main opposition to gender extremism. The UK seems to have the most powerful and developed GC movement in the world, and this has emerged from the solid basis of a developed radical feminist community. The result of this is that, currently, the vast majority of active GC campaigners in the UK are on the political left. There is, however, a massive pool of potential support in the UK among grassroots Conservative voters. The problem is that the Conservative Party is seriously flawed in terms of its democratic structures, and members have very little say in the formation of policies. Furthermore, my impression is that many Conservative local councillors and MPs have become frightened to speak out on issues relating to identity politics in the current climate of cancel culture. However, if those councillors and MPs knew that their constituents would not vote for them unless they spoke out in defence of women’s, children’s and LGB rights, this would encourage the creation of a completely different mindset among elected representatives.
As a member of the Conservative Party, I want it to succeed as a conservative (small “c”) party, but I do not want it to succeed as a new colony of Wokeism. If it continues down the route of identity politics appeasement, then the Party will risk a rerun of the Brexit phenomenon. Just as a significant majority of grassroots Conservative Party members and voters supported Brexit, I am quite sure that a significant majority oppose extreme gender ideology – or else would do, when the reality of this ideology and its impacts was clearly explained to them: so far, the LGBT+ lobby has been working surreptitiously and largely under the radar, outside the view of public accountability. Bearing in mind that many people are unaware of the detail and arguments underpinning the civil rights war going on in the domain of gender ideology, if simple questions were asked about children’s capacity to give medical consent, male-bodied men in women’s and girls’ spaces and sport, sexual coercion, sexual disclosure, freedom of speech, and the definitions of heterosexuality and homosexuality, then an overwhelming majority of Conservative voters would demonstrate very solid GC credentials. As would very many voters for other parties in the UK electorate.
The potential GC support among grassroots Conservatives is colossal, and it remains a largely untapped resource for the time being. The reason why the Conservative Party hierarchy is providing nothing better than wobbly and fainthearted leadership on the GC issue is explained by a combination of woke capture by younger Conservatives – especially those identifying as LGBT+; a lack of backbone among too many elected officials, where re-election and political career are seen as more important than protecting our community, freedoms and values; and the lack of adequate democratic mechanisms in the Conservative Party, meaning that the grassroots members find it very hard to influence policy. Our current Prime Minister is also proving to be a disappointment with regard to LGBT+ lobby colonisation and needs to be listening to people who have not themselves been captured by extreme gender ideology, and to start behaving like a conservative in the area of sex-based rights and child safeguarding: after all, the primary responsibility of any government is to keep its citizens safe – especially those who are vulnerable.
The issue of women’s and children’s rights, and of freedom of speech, in the face of an onslaught by extreme gender ideology, is one that has the potential to cause extreme discontent in the Conservative Party similar to that caused previously by the Brexit issue.
My hunch is that the Conservative Government could well eventually experience another “Brexit moment” in relation to extreme gender ideology. The general point I am making is simply a parallel, and it stands regardless of how any of us voted in the referendum. A very large number of Conservative members and voters wanted to leave the EU and eventually lost patience with the Conservative hierarchy for blocking this. UKIP and its predecessors responded by occupying the pro-Brexit territory from which the Conservative hierarchy had retreated, and there was a deluge of voter defections as a result. This, in turn, forced the Conservatives to go into an election offering a referendum. Excising much detail here, the rest is history; though the later emergence of the Brexit Party represented another point where mass voter defections from the Conservative Party happened yet again, this time in relation to frustrations concerning the implementation of the referendum decision and departure from the single market and customs union. Yet again, the Conservative Party hierarchy was forced to shift its position or else risk electoral defeat. This shifting was all motivated by self-interest, and both UKIP and the Brexit Party, with their dynamic and aggressive campaigning, were the agents that effected this change. External agents.
The issue of women’s and children’s rights, and of freedom of speech, in the face of an onslaught by extreme gender ideology, is one that has the potential to cause extreme discontent in the Conservative Party similar to that caused previously by the Brexit issue. At the current time, despite a growing sense of free speech being removed and compelled speech imposed, most of the population will not yet see the extreme gender issue as a serious concern on their radar. However, if the Government continues on its path of appeasement and weasel-words, the gender-extremist colonisation will reach a point where many individuals and families will be badly affected by it; and at that point there will be a large section of the population that has become increasingly angry. Yet again, there is the potential for a new party to move into the vacuum created by the retreat of the Conservative Party and the other parties on the extreme gender issue. It is at this point that the Conservative Party would start to get worried about haemorrhaging votes, just as happened with the Brexit campaign – and, as we saw previously, this is when the policy changes could start to happen.
The legal protections that are currently relied on by the GC community in litigation are, however, hanging by a thread. The single-sex exemptions in the Equality Act 2010 could easily be brushed away by a future, ideologically-captured Conservative administration; and we can be sure that the LGBT+ lobby will continue to pressure whatever government is in power to introduce transgender self-identification, criminalise anything but the “affirmative model” in psychotherapeutic support of children with gender dysphoria and gender identity problems, and legalise the administration of puberty-blockers, cross-sex hormones and even – God forbid! – amputations for gender-confused children and young people. Just as we cannot assume the Conservative Party hierarchy will remain steadfast on these crucial issues forever, we also cannot assume that the Conservative Party will remain in power indefinitely. A Labour Government, or a Labour-Lib Dem-SNP-Green Coalition Government, would immediately raise the portcullis for extreme gender ideology legislation. Furthermore, there would be a risk of new Hate Crime legislation, of the kind being introduced in Scotland – or worse – which would seriously curtail the GC campaign and any attempts we wanted to make in order to influence public opinion to reverse the invidious legislation. Lowering the voting age to 16 would also probably help to lock woke governments in power and to encourage the Conservative Party to become even more servile to Stonewall in order to attract the support of these new younger voters.
In my view, the current Zeitgeist in the Western world is developing a distinct texture of totalitarianism: and I offer this observation without any hint of hyperbole. There is a danger of reaching a point of no return. The example of Iran alone, which has been an oppressive theocratic state since 1979, should serve to remind us how difficult it can be to remove a totalitarian system once its mechanisms of terror have been put in place. Given how rapidly extreme gender ideology has taken hold in the West, we cannot know how long a window we will have to rescue and protect our civil rights and freedoms before it is too late. What I am sure about is that the culture that is treating women’s, children’s and LGB rights with such contempt, is a culture that is riddled with misogyny, pathological hatred, extreme emotional immaturity, intellectual infantilism, shocking dishonesty, and a disturbing lack of the capacity for empathy. That movement is pushing Western societies in a perilous direction, especially given the recent Orwellian collusion of Big Tech.
What can we do? This brings us back to Allison Bailey’s call to set up a new political party. As a member of the Conservative Party, I want my Party to pull back from the brink, and I haven’t yet given up all hope. However, if it caves in to the gender extremists, my support for it will end, and I will be looking to see what emerges in the vacuum and offering my support where appropriate.
In local and national elections, GC candidates might have little hope of being elected to councils or to Parliament under our current electoral system, but they would be able to inform voters about the attitudes of local main-party candidates to GC issues: including where candidates have failed to provide clarity regarding their position.
As for the possibility of a new party, it would seem to me that the most important function of any such party would be to educate the public about extreme gender ideology and to expose and put under pressure all electoral candidates from the main parties who either support or appease gender extremism. A GC party, funded by the growing GC community, would be able to put leaflets through doors about the crucial issues: and in my view, these political leaflets would be read with great interest and engagement in many households, and the public would learn a lot from them, given the captured media’s current embargo on presenting any information that the LGBT+ lobby doesn’t like. Local branches could organise meetings and demonstrations with an active local parent support network and carry out town-centre public information campaigns.
In local and national elections, GC candidates might have little hope of being elected to councils or to Parliament under our current electoral system, but they would be able to inform voters about the attitudes of local main-party candidates to GC issues: including where candidates have failed to provide clarity regarding their position. In marginal seats, the activism of a GC candidate could potentially swing the balance. During my time as a Conservative councillor, I developed the distinct impression that the Party is extremely reluctant to campaign on the issue of gender identity politics, and that its paradigm was both not to talk about it, and not to talk about not talking about it: even where, or so it was clear to me, the electoral prospects of opposition candidates would have been severely damaged if their gender extremist views, or those of their party, had been made a campaign focus. A GC Party could break the deadlock and put an end to this conspiracy of silence, which could have a significant impact in terms of educating the public and calling out gender-extremist candidates in elections.
The Brexit Party was a single-issue party, and given the political diversity of the GC community, it seems to me that a successful GC Party would also need to be a single-issue party, with the primary purpose of educating the public on gender extremism rather than of getting candidates elected: though the latter would be a particular triumph if it happened. This would mean that, in elections, individual GC Party candidates would, to all intents and purposes, have a similar status to standard independent candidates on non-GC issues, and would need to let voters know their views on other issues in electoral communications. All GC Party candidates, however, would share a commitment to GC values, and commit to centring these values in their campaign. Selection of candidates would need to be tolerant of political diversity, to eschew tribalism and purity politics, and to weed out extremists and loose cannons.
If we keep allowing our party-political or ideological tribalism to encourage the election of gender extremism enablers and activists, then we will remain our own worst enemies – and gender-extremist candidates will know they can take GC votes for granted, which is hardly an incentive for change.
Regardless of whether a GC Party is ever formed, it is my view that we have reached a situation of such grave crisis that members of the GC community should not vote for, offer any support for, or congratulate any candidate who is known to support gender extremism, or who fails to clarify himself or herself as an opponent of it when asked. If we keep allowing our party-political or ideological tribalism to encourage the election of gender extremism enablers and activists, then we will remain our own worst enemies – and gender-extremist candidates will know they can take GC votes for granted, which is hardly an incentive for change. If there is no GC candidate on the ballot paper, then we should spoil it. I believe there are some nice stickers around that might enhance a disappointing ballot slip. Perhaps some GC activists might even one day choose to stand as independent candidates – without any party affiliation – and promote the defence of women, children and LGB people in their campaign.
We need to look back at the history of coming out in the 70s, 80s and 90s and learn from the experiences of our community at that time. There are very clear parallels between that time and today. People were vilified for coming out as gay or lesbian then and could lose their jobs: yet coming out was affirming and liberating for the people who did it, and it emboldened others to do the same, signalling that reality was not as the establishment claimed it to be, and unlocking people from their isolation and the social perception of non-existence perpetuated by the media. Despite the risks and the fear involved, it is, in my view, immensely important for GC people to try to speak out under our real identities against gender extremism, and to openly support other GC people who do so. The more names and faces associated with GC opinions that are currently expressed on social media and elsewhere, the more others will be emboldened to come out as GC as well.
We need to move much more from Twitter into the real world: whether by organising GC solidarity groups in our towns, putting public information leaflets through doors, liaising with established local community groups, or offering radio interviews.
On the subject of social media, Twitter has been of great value in enabling the GC community to connect with one another, share information, and offer support. It has helped to build the GC community in the UK: and the work that is being carried out in the UK, spearheaded by women, is of enormous global significance, given that the UK is the world’s ideological GC powerhouse with the potential to inspire resistance in other parts of the West where no significant GC opposition has yet developed. However, most of us will probably agree that Twitter has its limitations and drawbacks – not least the censorship to which GC people are subjected by Twitter, and the coercion of our language and policing of our opinions.
Furthermore, Twitter can be a sewer, and it is a primary medium, as if we could ever forget, by which gender extremists spread their lies and organise their pile-ons. Twitter can also be a vampire of one’s time and energy. It can become addictive, it can escalate our anxiety and anger, and it can deprive us of sleep. Twitter spats and pitched battles – and I know this from personal experience – can take up hours of one’s time and result in outcomes of limited benefit. So, in my view, while certainly continuing to use Twitter as a helpful resource, we need to move much more from Twitter into the real world: whether by organising GC solidarity groups in our towns, putting public information leaflets through doors, liaising with established local community groups, or offering radio interviews. All this is scary: much scarier than posting and replying to Tweets, especially under anonymity. But it feels to me like a useful next step – and we also need to recognise that, for much of our time on Twitter, we will be largely preaching to the choir.
We should not forget the potential impact of direct action in the service of publicity where the culture tries to deprive our views of visibility. In the late 1980s, there were two particularly impactful direct-action events in the service of lesbian and gay rights. In the first, the BBC Six O’Clock Newsroom was invaded by LGB activists, who handcuffed themselves to the newsdesk shouting slogans, while the newsreader, Sue Lawley, struggled on with the live broadcast. In the second, ten women abseiled down into the House of Lords to protest against Section 28, legislation that would prohibit the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools. Given what is happening to our culture, I would imagine a time could come when direct action of this kind would be classed as “terrorism”. However, if, in a worst-case scenario, cancel-culture effectively closes down debate and the free exchange of information, then democracy will have become a sham; and if democracy becomes a sham, then peaceful, non-violent protest that is respectful of property and the environment, might eventually become the only option left to restore authentic democracy, to defend fundamental civil liberties, and to inspire others to say, “No more of this!”.
The potential exists for the GC movement to ratchet up our campaign: but it will involve taking time away from Twitter and instead investing that time in community action with the intention of educational outreach and building new local and national alliances. Most of the main political parties might find their attention becoming particularly focused, and their candidates becoming twitchy, should the public’s sense of betrayal eventually lead to the establishment of a new national GC Party: perhaps something along the lines of an Alliance of Gender-Critical Independents. Twitter-induced insomnia, nervousness and frustration would find a helpful antidote in a new community focus to GC work, which would be likely to result in the support of many new, committed GC activists – including a number who spend little or no time on social media. The GC campaign has become well-charged on the Twitter launchpad, and perhaps now is the time to propel ourselves into our communities and muster support on the doorsteps that will be crucial for the ultimate success of our campaign.
Gary Powell is a gay man and has been active in gay politics since 1980. He is the Research Fellow for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity at the Bow Group and the European Special Consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.