As the conversation around transgender people's human rights continues to generate heat, many have speculated on the extent to which anti-trans "gender critical" (GC) activists who often claim to be either feminists or otherwise motivated mostly by concern for women's safety and human rights are aligned with openly conservative and right wing interests. In an unfortunate development, in the last few months we have seen a rapid increase in the rate at which practical crossovers are happening between so-called "Gender Critical" feminist groups (which seek to abolish transition healthcare and trans civil rights) and the traditional far right.
We will try to follow this piece up with further analysis of how we got here, but for now, here are things that have happened within the last few months.
Julie Burchill and Stirling Press
Scottish publishing company Stirling Press has been revealed to have ties to the far right, according to investigative work by the Glasgow Anti-Fascist Alliance1 in conjunction with work by Eye on Anti-Semitism2 Stirling Press is run by Tabatha Stirling, otherwise known under her white-supremacist blogger pseudonym "Miss Britannia". In the leaked voice note, she talks about the "JQ"—an acronym code for the "Jewish Question", common among the neo-nazi movement—and offers to prove her loyalty and that she isn't Jewish despite her "big nose". As "Miss Britannia" Stirling claimed allegiance to the anti-trans hate group LGB Alliance and appears to consider herself part of the GC movement.
Perhaps because of this connection, Julie Burchill, a noted anti-trans journalist with close connections to the "Gender Critical" feminist movement was picked up to have her previously-dropped book published by by Stirling Press3. However, once Stirling's neo-nazi connections were brought to Burchill's attention on social media, she immediately cut ties4. While it is extremely unlikely that Burchill was aware of the publishers' antisemitism, it is concerning that a publication company controlled by a far right extremist was able to secure the rights' to her work and serves as an indicator of just how deep elements of the far right are embedded within the GC movement.
#SuperStraight, the far right and the hate meme economy
On messaging service Telegram, used by many far right figures after they have been banned from more conventional social networks, far right groups and individuals such as EDL founder Tommy Robinson and more obscure far right groups such as Smash Cultural Marxism and Patriotic Alliance have increasingly leaned towards sharing content related to the GC movement, pushing a narrative in particular that trans people (particularly trans women) are a violent threat to women and children. Terms such as "psychopathy" and "abuse" are commonplace in this space, creating an atmosphere in which it becomes easier and easier to concieve of trans people as an enemy that must be defeated.
This has been happening on and off for several years now, with the far right transphobic arsonist Lee Harrison5 having recently been revealed to have shared content from Gender Critical personality Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (better known by her pseudonym "Posie Parker")6. Keen-Minshull is a perennially notorious figure, most recently for calling to her American Youtube viewers for "men who carry [guns]" to enter women's toilets and target women they think are transgender in them7.
However within the last few months the rate at which far right figures have been forwarding on transphobic hate content popularised by the Gender Critical online world rapidly increasing.
A significant example of this has been the #SuperStraight hashtag. This started out as a meme by a 16 year old boy on TikTok, making claims that trans women are trying to force heterosexual men to have sex with them, and inventing a new "sexual orientation", Super Straight, which is heterosexuality directed towards cisgender women only. Shortly after this was picked up by the Gender Critical online community8. Within a couple of days, Posie Parker had a t-shirt up online9, and a few days later, Stephen Yaxley Lennon (better known as far right personality Tommy Robinson) was advertising the meme on his Telegram feed while expressing his disgust for LGBT inclusive sex education.
Jennifer Bilek's continuing escalations in antisemitic conspiracy theories
Jennifer Bilek has been a popular figure in the transphobic feminist movement for several years now. Before the rise of the gender critical movement, she was a long time member of the transphobic eco-terrorism promoting organisation Deep Green Resistance10, who played a key role in producing the Hands Across The Aisle alliance between self-defined "Radical Feminists" and the United States Christian Conservative/Fundamentalist movement, in the form of Women's Liberation Front. DGR have also been heavily criticised for their intentions to provoke (through attacks on civilian targets they euphemistically describe as "infrastructure") what they admit will likely result in a race war.11
Bilek has been criticised by journalists covering trans hate12 as well as widely by trans activists13 for quite some time as a source of growing anti-semitic conspiracy theories in the gender critical movement.
However recent research presented by Christa Peterson revealed that the scale of this fixation for Bilek, a significant intellectual in the American GC scene, is much bigger than many previously thought, with a complexly developed conspiracy theory of a secret plan by Jewish billionaires to use "transgenderism" as a plot to bring about a transhumanist immortality project and enslave humanity through technocapital14. In further exposition on Twitter15 Peterson showed how theories almost identical to Bilek's fixated on wealthy Jewish trans woman Martine Rothblatt have subsequently featured heavily in in the form of a report by British Gender Critical intellectual Jane Clare Jones. Subsequent research by members of Trans Safety Network turned up evidence that despite Jane Clare Jones having now scrubbed her own timeline of most evidence of her engagement with Bilek's work, she was both familiar and supportive of Bilek's work as early as 2018.16
It's notable that Bilek's work has been heavily plagiarised by neo-nazis.17 It was also cited extensively in a notorious anti-semitic trans conspiracy book released last year on transgender day of remembrance last November by a Neo-Nazi press, and advertised by former BNP boss Nick Griffin.
These alliances are not merely in the form of hateful rhetoric or shared memes. A recent submission to the UN by WoLF in collaboration with the Christian Right anti-LGBT rights organisation "United Families International" showed the breadth of trans-atlantic collaboration between religious fundamentalists and feminist activists (and the aforementioned Deep Green Resistance).18
On the GC side, the signatories list for this document is practically a "Who's Who" of anti-trans feminist activists and their parliamentary allies, including
- Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (see above)
- Graham Linehan - recently invited to speak on online harms to the House of Lords, where he spouted conspiracy theories that "trans identified employees" were controlling online platforms)19.
- Harry Miller for "We Are Fair Cop" - who joined far right organisation "Hearts of Oak" last year and presented a short lived web show for them.
- Heather Brunskell-Evans - cofounder of the Women's Human Rights Campaign, who's submission to the GRA inquiry this year called for the elimination of "transgenderism" as a form of objectification of women.
On the evangelical and fundamentalist group the signatories include:
- Heritage Foundation - who were profiled by Southern Poverty Law Centre's HateWatch for their anti-LGBT lobbying and close ties to the Trump Administration.20
- American College of Pediatricians - a notorious Christian lobby group which produces pseudo-medical "research" papers claiming that education about LGBT people and families with LGBT parents are harmful to children.21 ACPeds are particularly notable in terms of Gender Critical-Right Wing crossover as they played a key feature in secularising and spreading the "Gender Ideology" conspiracy meme from previously mainly Catholic conservative, alt-right and evangelical right wing spheres into the burgeoning "Gender Critical" feminist blogosphere.22
- Partners for Ethical Care - a recently created trans-atlantic organisation which is connected to an online mapping project marking trans gender clinics for targetted harrassment. This has already inspired a number of anti-trans activists to mount protests outside of, mainly, sexual health clinics, including one incident where activist Christopher Elston (a.k.a. "Billboard Chris" followed a clinic worker on her way home from the clinic while filming her.
WHRC - a key point of convergence
One key point of crossover is the primarily UK based but internationally active Women's Human Rights Campaign (WHRC). WHRC are an extreme anti-trans group, having made a submission to a UK parliamentary consultation calling for the elimination of "transgenderism", including any legal recognition or protection for trans people and the provision of trans healthcare23. WHRC founder Shiela Jeffreys has appeared at a meeting held at parliament where she referred to trans women as "parasites"24 and has previously recorded a video livestream where she openly calls for closer collaboration between feminists and the right 25. In the US, WHRC's links to the right are even clearer, with figures such as joint member of WHRC, WoLF and DGR Kara Dansky; a regular guest on the ultraconservative Fox News talk show Tucker Carlson Tonight26.
Guardian: Julie Burchill fires new publisher identified as a white nationalist, 17th of March 2020
BBC News, Sheffield man jailed over transphobic arson attack, 18th of Febuary 2020
Twitter: Christa Peterson March 1, 2021
Archive.today: Jane Clare Jones praising Bilek's research on Twitter. Original tweet dated July 22, 2018.
Twitter: @thatweirdolee — showing Bilek's article with minor adjustments having been adapted for reposting on a neo-nazi site.
Mallory Moore, Gender Ideology? Up Yours!, 23rd of January 2019.
Archive.Today: Danksy discussing her most recent appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight and spreading the #SuperStraight meme. Tweet originally posted 9th of March 2021