On Saturday 1st February I attended the WPUK meeting at UCL in London. The day began early; at 6am myself and my girlfriend (Queen Bitch aka QB) got up, had coffee, and made our way to Brighton Station. There we met friends, and caught the train up together, chatting along the way.
At Euston we made our way to the venue by guesswork and Google maps, until we came close enough to hear the cries of the protesters outside the venue. The adrenaline began to flow, but spirits remained high. I was curious to see the angry mob for myself, and wondered how they would react to seeing me, a man with brown skin, attending a meeting of women who are routinely branded as nazis, manhaters, and white supremacists. Would I be labelled, in the lunatic words of Kerry-Anne Mendoza, a ‘turncoat of colour’? I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt no fear. I was with friends, and whatever happened, we would keep each other safe.
When we arrived at the venue, I was disappointed. There were perhaps thirty protesters, chanting. ‘Be nice, trans rights!’ I think they were saying. I agreed with them.
A few other attendees were hanging about outside, smoking and chatting. There was no sense of fear or threat. I scanned the faces of the protesters; to me they looked mostly like young women; perhaps a few identified as non-binary, but it was hard to tell. Upon closer inspection, I saw that behind them were a few people who looked male — perhaps men or non-binary folks, or even transwomen.
At first I wondered why the male-looking people were hiding behind the female ones, but then it occurred to me that some of those women likely had cis-privilege, or cis-passing privilege, and had therefore been strategically placed to protect the more marginalised male individuals in the group from potential attack from imaginary nazis.
The bravery of these young women was impressive, for not ten feet away, small groups of women continued to greet one another with hugs, smiles and laughter. I looked again at the protesters; I discerned no fear in their faces, and little sign of determination. I felt no hostility toward them, only love. I was happy they were standing up for their beliefs, even though I think those beliefs are silly.
Smiling, I tried to make eye contact. I am not certain, but I think a few smiled back. They seem nice, I thought; perhaps later I’ll talk to them. But for now, it was time to go in.
Near the entrance was the welcoming committee, which included a small woman with kind face and a big smile. Her name was Jo, and I took her to be a lesbian. After exchanging introductions, she gave QB a big hug and shook my hand. We showed our tickets and entered the venue. Milling about in the foyer, QB spotted Linda Bellos and ran up to fangirl at her. ‘Linda Bellos!’ she cried. ‘You’re a star! Can I hug you?’
‘Oh, no, no,’ said Linda. ‘That makes me very uncomfortable. I’m not a star. I really don’t like that stuff, it feeds into the ego and you have to be very careful about that sort of thing. But I can hug you as a sister.’
Hugs were duly exchanged. Linda spotted me nearby, clocked me as a man, and approached. ‘What I would really like,’ she said, ‘is for men to get together, as men, and talk about masculinity. I think that’s very important.’
‘I agree completely,’ I replied. It was the truth. She nodded, apparently satisfied. For me, the theme of the day was now set.
We made our way downstairs where we found an abundance of tea, coffee and pastries, and a large crowd of friendly women.
‘That vibe,’ said QB. ‘Female!’
‘Yep,’ I said. ‘It’s great.’
‘This is what they’re jealous of,’ she said. ‘This vibe.’
‘Transwomen? Maybe, yeah.’
‘The crazy thing is, they could have it,’ I said. ‘Sort of. Partake of it, I mean. But… not by force.’
’They don’t get it,’ she said. ‘Cos they’re men.’
‘Yeah,’ I shrugged. ‘It’s very sad. I wish those protestors could come in and feel this; the women, at least. Imagine! Maybe they’ve never experienced it.’
‘Aaargh! It’s all so silly!’
I’m lucky, I thought. I’ve spent a lot of time in female spaces, where there are far more women than men, and have always felt comfortable. There’s something about the energy, whatever that means — the vibe. What causes this vibe, I don’t know; the sound of women’s voices, perhaps, or some subconscious smell that has to do with pheromones; the smell of mothers and sisters and nans, of friends, and of every woman I’ve loved, or even just met.
I don’t know what the cause is. But mixed spaces feel very different to me; as the proportion of men increases, the energy quickly becomes male-dominated. The female vibe is swamped by the male, and I no longer feel comfortable; instead, I get a sense of threat. It’s hard to explain why this is; perhaps pheromones, again? But if I as a man can feel that, how could women not feel it too, and more intensely?
But how could men understand this — especially those who’ve never felt that female vibe, or who are not comfortable with it? Perhaps they sense something amiss, and seek to change that vibe to suit themselves? Perhaps it never occurs to them to make themselves small, to refrain from broadcasting their own male energy, to relax and let the femaleness wash over them? Will men understand these things, if I talk about them? Will they look at me strangely, and make foolish remarks about rationality? Could I explain my feelings to them? Perhaps not. But women will understand.
We had the chance to sign up for various panels and workshops, but we felt overwhelmed by the choices available, and in the end decided not to. After all, we had come mainly to hear the speeches and to hang out and talk with women. I am quiet, shy, introverted, depressive, and feel awkward in social situations. I rarely approach people; I don’t want to bother them, particularly women, who surely have more interesting people to talk to than me. QB is more smiley and outgoing, so she takes the lead in such things. I couldn’t stop her if I tried.
So we milled about, spotting familiar faces and saying hello, until it was time to enter the auditorium, where we met up with our friend Diane and settled in to listen to the opening speeches. These were inspiring, and have been written about by others.
My favourite speaker was Pragna Patel, founder of Southall Black Sisters, who spoke of the women’s movement of the seventies and eighties — my childhood, in the days of apartheid South Africa. I am a child of apartheid; both my parents grew up in that country — a white English woman and a Natal Indian man. They came to the UK to study, where they met at a foreign students’ society and fell in love. As a mixed-race couple, their relationship would have been illegal in South Africa at that time, so they made a life together in England. My father became a barrister, specialising in cases of racial and sexual discrimination. These issues, as well as goings on in South Africa, were part of the scenery of my childhood, and much of what Pragna said struck a chord in me. I felt a deep sense of resurgence, of belonging. I was with my sisters, but I was not one of them. I was a brother.
I surveyed the audience, trying to spot other men. There were only a few — out of some nine-hundred people, perhaps fifty were men, but I doubt it. I’d say it was more like twenty. I was a little disappointed. Do men not care? How can they not care? But this was a women’s conference. If there were too many men there, we’d fuck up the vibe. And perhaps more men had bought tickets, and chosen to pass them on to women. I hope so.
But I was there. And I had been tasked by Linda Bellos herself to discuss masculinity with men. It’s an important task, but I have no idea how to proceed. What the fuck do I know about masculinity? How can I possibly talk about such a thing — with men, of all people? I am not good with men.
Shortly after I was ‘terfed’ I became so enraged about the idea of ‘gender identity’ that I wrote a satirical thread on Twitter in which I ‘realised’ that I was a woman after all.
Apparently this was pretty convincing; I received messages of support, and QB received a text from her mum, who was a bit concerned. I was taking the piss, but (almost) everything I said about myself was true. I have as much claim to womanhood as any other man — zero. But if I spin things a certain way, many people could be persuaded otherwise — and they would lie to my face and call it kindness. They would lie to themselves. I find it hard to believe, but it’s true.
I cannot be a woman, and I do not ‘identify’ as trans. But given my history, perhaps I too am a ‘refugee from masculinity’? Perhaps I too have found masculinity restrictive, and tried to escape from it? But I have not succeeded. I’m not convinced escape is even possible, for anyone. At least not yet.
After the speeches, we went outside for a bit. I wanted to vape, and also to see how the protesters were doing. I wondered if by now their numbers had swelled, and their rage ignited. If not, I hoped they would be friendly enough that I could strike up a conversation. I wondered if they could be offered tea, and maybe biscuits? Was this a golden opportunity to strike up a productive dialogue between the two ’sides’?
No, it was not. The protesters had left already. Now just a few women were standing outside, some smoking. I vaped for a bit, then went back in to get tea.
There were feminist icons everywhere! We spotted Julie Bindel, our friend Jane Clare Jones, Rosa Freedman, and numerous familiar faces whose names we could not remember. There were women of all ages and colours, all shapes and sizes and hairstyles. They wore all different kinds of shoes. Around the edges of the room were a variety of stalls run by women’s groups, selling merch and handing out flyers about different feminist issues. There were women from FiLiA, Nordic Model Now!, Object!, and many more. We wandered around, picking up brochures, making purchases, and enjoying friendly banter. Conscious of my maleness, I tried not to get in the way, and nobody complained. I think I was smiling, because people smiled at me. I felt no hostility, no hatred. There was no sense of threat there, only love.
“I feel safe here,” said QB.
“Sure,” I replied. “Why wouldn’t you?”
“Completely safe. In a room full of strangers.” She shook her head. “That’s not normal for me.”
“Huh,” I said. “Because it’s women?”
“I think so, yeah.”
“I’ve never really felt safe before, with this many people. Not in the same way.”
“There’s no threat of male violence,” I said. “Men, here and there. But no threat.”
“It’s the threat, isn’t it? It doesn’t take actual violence, just that sense of threat.”
“Yeah, like it could kick off any moment.”
“Even if actually it doesn’t. I know what you mean.”
“Women need this.”
“I know,” I said. “Maybe men need it too. But… if there were more of us here… it wouldn’t be like this.”
“Sometimes I feel bad for men. They’re — we’re missing out.”
“Well, tough shit.”
“I know.” I sighed. “I just wish… I dunno. I wish they could understand. How can I make them understand?”
“You can’t. They don’t want to.”
“Hm. Bunch of weirdos, if you ask me.”
We spotted Hibo Wardere, and QB ran over to fangirl and chat with this warm, humorous, and very chilled out legend. While we were hanging out with Hibo, we bumped into our friend Jen, who told us of her recent adventure travelling to Bristol to retrieve a misplaced box of flyers for the Institute of Feminist Thought. Jen went for a smoke, and returned shortly with another woman, with whom myself and QB fell out badly some time ago. It was briefly awkward; I sensed no real hostility, but we didn’t speak. I hope that didn’t ruin her day; it certainly didn’t ruin ours. Our differences may be irreconcilable, but they are of no real consequence. She may no longer be a friend. But she remains a sister.
Soon it was lunchtime, and sandwiches appeared. We ate a few, and then I did a strange thing — I walked around searching for signs of bigotry. Anything would do — white supremacy, homophobia, hatred of men, venomous lies about trans people, women plotting mass murder — anything! Surely, in such a large gathering, there must be some detectable sign of the hatred commonly ascribed to WPUK and similar groups? Here I was, walking among them with a quizzical expression on my face, and no-one so much as looked at me funny. All I saw was ordinary women eating sandwiches, drinking juice, and talking. There was nothing remotely scary about any of it. I was surrounded, and vastly outnumbered by women commonly smeared as far-right religious fundamentalist man-hating nazi scum who deserve The Wall, and I felt completely safe. It was hard to believe these people could possibly pose a threat to anyone. Men often underestimate women, it’s true — but the fearmongering was clearly bullshit.
So what, exactly, were the kiddiwinks protesting against? It’s obvious, isn’t it? They were protesting against this: Women gathering to discuss issues of importance to women, in a room infused with female energy. Women who are not concerned with the needs of men, who simply do not care what men think about them. It sounds glorious to me, but apparently it’s terrifying.
‘Transphobia!’ cry the queer activists and their porn-positive wokebro allies. ‘They want to kill us all!’
No, they don’t. They don’t want to kill anyone. They want to gather together to fight for women’s rights, that’s all. So why would queer activists be against that?
‘Transwomen are women! Sex work is work! Our identities are valid!’
What the fuck is going on? What is the actual problem? Why can’t we talk to each other, and try to work things out? Why the smears, the bomb-threats, the no-platforming, the endless bullshit about nazis and clownfish and the feminine penis? Have these people gone completely insane?
No. They’re not insane. They’re not stupid. They’ve been inducted into what amounts to something like a psychotherapeutic cult. The lack of general knowledge about how cults really work has made us vulnerable to social infection, which has taken hold at every level of society. Those who are not yet infected are too terrified to speak out against the disease.
In order to spread, this disease — this cult-like social infection — takes advantage of vulnerabilities in our society. One such vulnerability is generated by the way masculinity operates on certain kinds of men; men not so different from myself — a minority, perhaps.
Imagine a young man, introverted, socially awkward, and low in confidence. He is seen as ‘unmanly’, or even ‘effeminate’. He finds it hard to fit in with other men. They ridicule him and call him a ‘cuck’. They may physically attack him in the hope he will ‘man up’ and stop being such a ‘pussy’.
But the cuck does not ‘man up’; he bursts into tears and runs away. The other men call him ‘gay’, but they are wrong — for this man is heterosexual. And he has a potential advantage over other men: due to his gentle nature, women do not perceive him as a threat. They take pity on this man and invite him into their social circle. Here, he is seen for what he is — a sweet and gentle soul. His association with women may even protect him somewhat from male bullying. He may grow in confidence, and feel able, for the first time, to express his personality.
This man comes to appreciate the energy of female spaces. He feels safe there, while male spaces continue to cause him anxiety. He discusses this with his female friends, who can relate to it very well. They come to trust him; they may confide in the man, who learns much about women. In a sense, the man has become an ‘honorary woman’ among his female friends. They may even tell him this.
Sooner or later, this man will develop sexual or romantic feelings towards one or more of his friends. Eventually he may act on those feelings. If he is rejected, he will be flooded with difficult emotions — embarrassment, shame, and even anger. He may react by making a complete dick of himself.
Now, his female friends will begin to treat him differently. The differences are subtle, but the man is sensitive, perhaps paranoid — and cannot help noticing. And now he feels betrayed. For years, he has been friends with these women! He has watched, helpless, as they are hurt by relationships with men he regards as dickheads and sexists. For years, he has provided a friendly shoulder to cry on. And now, after all he’s done, they dare to reject him? How could they?
Oh, of course they have the right to reject him sexually. But to reject him as a friend, too? To treat him as they would one of those awful sexist men? Those bitches! How they lie! They say they want men to be kind, but they always go for the arseholes! It’s a cliche, but it’s true! Oh, the injustice!
Something like this has happened to me. It’s normal. But those emotions can be hard to deal with, especially without the support of friends. It took me a while to get over it, but some men never do — instead they develop a deep hatred of women. They might keep that hatred hidden, or instead become incels, and wear it as a badge of pride.
After lunch we bumped into Dr Em and had a quick chat. Then people went to attend their workshops, and QB and I went for a walk to a local bookshop to browse. We returned in time for tea, biscuits and the closing plenary. After that were the regional meetings, and then drinks! We got chatting to various women (sorry but I didn’t get your names). I expressed some of my thoughts about men, and how we too are harmed by the idea that we can identify as women. We talked about the female vibe. I think I complained at one point about men who just parrot the thoughts of women. That seems pointless to me — since men can’t be feminists, we might as well think for ourselves. Our experience is different from that of women, so why not draw on it? Can we discuss our own experiences, and come to better understand masculinity? I guess we can try.
The story of the ‘cuck’ can go another way. I haven’t experienced this myself, but I can imagine it: suppose this man becomes sexually fixated on the female vibe itself. Now he is aroused by his mere presence within female circles, and relieves himself privately. That female energy comes to play a major role in his sexual fantasies. He feels guilty, for he knows this is a betrayal of trust — but that sense of transgression turns him on even more.
Soon, the status of ‘honorary woman’ is not enough for him; for sexual reasons, he wants more; he wants to drown in that female vibe. He wants to be accepted as a woman not only by his female friends, but by everyone else as well.
This man has developed interpersonal autogynephilia — or something like it. And when he learns all about trans identities, he convinces himself he has ‘gender dysphoria’, and declares himself a woman.
If his female friends reject this, or give any hint that they don’t see him as a real woman — not just an honorary one — he will become enraged. After all he’s done for them, why won’t they participate in his sexual fantasies? It’s not as though he’s asking them to actually do anything! He’s not asking them for sex, just acceptance! They said he was a woman, but they were lying all along! In truth, they see him as a man — a pervert, even! He thought they were his friends, but it turns out they’re evil terfs who want him dead! Oh, the injustice!
If his friends reject his newfound womanhood, this man will leave them, and look for a new group of women who can ‘validate his identity’. When he finds some who are prepared to play along, he will make ever-increasing demands. Soon, these ’trans-positive’ women will be working for him full-time to spread the gospel that transwomen are women. They will point to their friend — a once kind and gentle man — as an example of a harmless transwoman, unfairly oppressed by bigots. They will lie to his face, and call it kindness.
He knows they are lying, and hates them for it. These women have no self-respect, he thinks; they’re just dickpandering! But this also turns him on. At last, his transition is complete: a once decent man has transformed into an arsehole. And if he ever realises what he’s become, he can blame it on those nasty women. He has betrayed his female friends completely — and they have betrayed him.
When it really matters, a real friend will call you out on your bullshit. Real friendship is rare, particularly between people of different sexes. What is rare is also valuable. For men to ignore the possibility of finding real friendship with women is foolish in the extreme.
If an increasing number of men take this path through life and end up identifying as ‘women’ (perhaps due to our ‘new understanding’ of gender) it will increase the proportion of male people entering female spaces. This will cause the female energy to be swamped by the male — and the space itself will feel different.
It may be that many young women have simply never experienced that female vibe. They don’t know it, they don’t miss it, and they do not understand its importance to women — and of not allowing its disruption by males.
Perhaps in the past, transwomen could enter women’s spaces with only minor effects on the energy — due to their tiny numbers. But as the numbers increase, so do the disruptive effects — the tipping point is reached quickly, and the energy becomes masculine. Something important has been lost, and the women do not feel safe. When they object, they are expected to explain the problem logically. But what if it goes deeper than logic; what if it’s something animal — like pheromones? What if it’s just how nature works, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it? What if female-dominated spaces are key to a healthy society? Is it bigotry to defend them, or just wisdom? And do men also need single-sex spaces, where they can discuss masculinity — free from judgement, and free from the distractions of women? Is this something men want? Maybe not. The idea of it scares me. I am not good with men. I suspect a lot of us feel the same way. We don’t want to talk about masculinity — and certainly not with men! Men are weird. I fear they would not understand.
Some fears seem too hard to face. Perhaps facing them is necessary.
By eight o’clock, after a few drinks and plenty of conversation, we were exhausted. It had been a long day, full of emotions, and despite the wonderful vibes we were in need of escape from the crowd, and a return to introversion. There were many more people I could (and perhaps should) have spoken to, but I was burned out on social contact, and getting twitchy. I’m no good when I’m twitchy. Filled with love for women, and determined to keep fighting for their rights, we said our goodbyes and left to catch the train.
Since that meeting, several Labour leadership candidates have repeatedly endorsed the idea that WPUK is a hate group, dedicated to harming the rights of trans people. Nothing could be further from the truth. WPUK campaigns for the rights of women and girls. Where there is tension between those rights and the rights of trans people, WPUK seeks dialogue with a view to resolving the difficulties. By opposing women’s rights, the Party undermines the very principles it claims to uphold, and ensures its own destruction. They are making a terrible, stupid mistake. I will never forgive them.