You might not be aware of this, but the anti-trans stance of English (and more recently, Scottish) newspapers is greeted with bafflement in the rest of the world. The New York Times tries to explain English anti-trans activism for its readers.
If the idea that transphobic harassment could be “feminist” bewilders you, you are not alone. In the United States, my adoptive home, the most visible contemporary opponents of transgender rights are right-wing evangelicals, who have little good to say about feminism. In Britain, where I used to live, the situation is different.
There, the most vocal trans-exclusionary voices are, ostensibly, “feminist” ones, and anti-trans lobbying is a mainstream activity.
This is peculiar to mainland Britain. When anti-trans bigots tried to export their bile to Ireland, huge numbers of Irish feminists told them to piss off.
So why is England so different? Edie Miller suggests that “the answer lies in part to the coalescence of a certain set of ideas in a very specific circle of voices in the early 21st century — voices that later went on to hold high profile positions in much of the U.K.’s print and broadcast media.” Between those voices and the anti-trans obsessives of Mumsnet – “Mumsnet is to British transphobia more like what 4Chan is to American fascism”, Miller writes – a moral panic has ensued.
But why England? Back to the NYT.
In other parts of the world, including America, mass movements in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s around the effects of globalization and police brutality have produced long overdue dialogue on race, gender and class, and how they all interact. In Britain, however, the space for this sort of dialogue has been much more limited. As a result, middle- and upper-class white feminists have not received the pummeling from black and indigenous feminists that their American counterparts have.
Many of these people believe they are doing God’s work. But they’re working for the other guy.