An open letter to Nicola Sturgeon
A young feminist expresses her righteous anger about gender ideology
Nina (not her real name) posted this powerful letter on Twitter, and she has gracefully allowed me to share it on my Substack.
This is what JK Rowling had to say about it.
Thanks for reading This Woman Won't Wheesht! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Dear Ms Sturgeon,
I should probably begin by apologising for my anonymity. If several years ago someone had told me I’d be forced, for the sake of my livelihood and online safety, to hide behind a picture of Lisa Simpson in order to advocate for the realities of biology, evolutionary psychology, freedom of thought (never mind speech), women’s rights and child safeguarding, I’d have laughed until I cried. Or maybe vice versa. Nonetheless, it is the state of affairs we find ourselves in.
I’m under few illusions you are likely to read this but as a citizen of this country who happens to born in the time of what my friend once called ‘the great equaliser’ (meaning social media), I feel as though I had to at least humour myself, and try to heighten my scream within the Twitter void. With the GRA vote fast-approaching, time is running out.
I’m not, by the way, what you might expect and nor is this letter. You’re probably assuming I’m a middle-aged Mum or perhaps bored grandmother, relatively politically ignorant, bound up in this so-called trans ‘debate’ (or as I like to see it, women’s rights/material reality debate) because I’ve nothing better to do and can’t keep pace with the wonderful, progressive new world your government is heralding us into. I’m likely out-of-touch, right? Too stupid and detached from the modern world to even know I’m transphobic (and possibly a bit homophobic and racist because why not, who needs evidence to back up slander in this brave new world?). In short, you’ll see me as someone you can easily dismiss, leave me to my knitting and alleged bigotry, my little purple, green and white stickering campaign.
Waking up to the dangers of gender ideology
You’re wrong. While a great deal of the intelligent, witty, astute and astoundingly resilient women I have met and interacted with since becoming part of this fight do happen to be middle-aged or elderly or, heaven forbid, Mums, my demographic is a little more niche. I’m in my late twenties, the daughter of immigrants, my career background has been heavily based in the world of academia/universities, I studied and, indeed, wrote a thesis on gender ideology and throughout my early twenties, was an impassioned advocate of what has been so deceptively labelled ‘trans rights’. I am amongst a growing number of young women who are waking up to dangers of gender ideology and self ID and slowly finding the courage to speak out, even if it puts us at odds with a lot of others in our generation. Just a warning though: there are a hell of a lot more of us than you think.
As for the purpose of this letter, it’s not going to be a regurgitation of the statistics, legal analysis, cold hard facts and testimonies from any number of women, children and, indeed, transsexuals, who think the GRA reform is a horrific idea because I know you’ve already been presented with these - or your aides have, at least, and given you the highlights. I’m not going to waste my time retelling you what you already, respectfully, have no excuse not knowing. I have no interest in doing the online equivalent of attempting yet again in vain to convince HAL 2000 to abort the mission to Jupiter only to be told in an ominously robotic voice that “I’m sorry, I can’t do that Dave” (or as you might put it: that my concerns are “not valid”).
One more disclaimer before I get stuck into the meat of what I want to say. Although I suspect there will be many who support the sentiments in my letter, I can’t claim to speak for anyone but myself. And who I am, first and foremost, is a person who to the very best of their ability, tries to live life with an equal balance of compassion, honesty and reason. On Twitter, I’ve referred to myself as ‘Gender Critical’ for the sake of connecting with people but in honestly, I don’t like the label. (I daresay you understand, probably having a similarly complicated relationship with the word ‘nationalist’ in that you’ll embrace it in some circles and spurn it in others). Anyway, the main reason I dislike the term is because, generally speaking, what it encompasses - advocating for material reality and the implications of safeguarding when ‘gender’ replaces sex as a protected characteristic - needs no label. It’s what only a handful of years ago would be have been known as ‘common sense’. I’m not even sure if ‘feminist’ sits comfortably with me now given how commodified and territorial that word has become. If I have to identify as something, I would say woman’s rights advocate, realist or (if I’m being cheeky) Clownworld Skeptic. I proudly stand with women who are happy with the term ‘gender critical’. Whatever we call or don’t call ourselves, we are united in our fight to preserve material reality and safeguarding. To come back to my point though, I am writing this letter not as a spokesperson for the gender critical movement but as deeply concerned and frankly incensed young woman who is disgusted by the wilful ignorance espoused by your government and, at times, you yourself.
The wrong kind of feminist
I don’t like looking at this mess in terms of ‘sides’. It’s often framed as a battle between radical feminists and transgender people, or ‘gender criticals’ versus TRAs when in reality, the binary would be better divided into ‘People who are capable of having tricky, nuanced conversations about gender ideology and its impact on society as a whole’ and ‘People who will go to any and all lengths to shut down discussion that threatens gender ideology’ (with plenty of trans people in the former camp). I think, frankly, you’ve encouraged the view that this is a debate between ‘the wrong kind of feminist’ (us) and the ‘right kind of feminist’ (you) as this both plays into the hands of identity politics which is an extremely effective political tool, and also because it keeps the debate looking like something that only affects a subset of people, rather than every single one of us.
Taking this then, as the ‘side’ you have chosen, a lot of women I meet are baffled by your decision. Nearly always when I meet up with a members of my alleged coven, the conversation inevitably turns to “What the hell is wrong with Nicola Sturgeon?”. For the record, very few are angry that you won’t explicitly come out for ‘our’ side, it’s simply your refusal to show ANY real engagement with our - I’m afraid extremely valid - concerns and fears for what your government is about to do to women’s rights, child safeguarding and, indeed, language. Many theories have been batted about: it’s because your husband’s allegedly very good friends with Patrick Harvie, it’s because of allegiances to TRA organisations funnelling money into your campaigns, it’s because you’ll do anything to make yourself seem more ‘progressive’ that Westminster, it’s because you’re a monster, a charlatan, a female misogynist...fundamentally, no one knows.
But I do.
I don’t believe, Ms Sturgeon, that you are not fully aware you have backed the wrong horse here. I don’t believe that when you see a newspaper story in which a male rapist with no history of being trans has decided to identify himself as ‘she’ to the police, forcing his victim in court to claim ‘she was raped by a woman’, your blood doesn’t run a little cold. I don’t believe that in light of Roe vs Wade being overturned, pro-choice campaigners tiptoeing around even daring to suggest abortion is a ‘women’s issue’ doesn’t strike you as a bit unsettling. I don’t believe you don’t feel at least a little guilt for your deafening silence on the plethora of rape and death threats decent, hardworking, and often incredibly inspiring women (and some men) receive who have dared to question self ID and its implications - amongst them your own Joanna Cherry. I don’t believe, should you ever listen to detransitioner testimonies, and look at images of the scarred chests of girls who had their breasts removed before they even finished developing, you wouldn’t feel a twinge of deep unease. So why don’t you put the brakes on this catastrophic reform? Why don’t you hold your hands up and admit - like many - you might have ben duped by the Stonewall/Mermaids line of thinking. Why don’t you do what a truly noble leader would?
Courage calls to courage everywhere
Well, I’m a big fan of Ockham’s razor, the simplest solution is often the right one, and I’m almost certain I’ve figured it out:
That’s it. You’re not a secret misogynist. You’re not bound up in some big pharma conspiracy. You’re not a bad or unkind person. You are just a coward.
I mean this genuinely, I have a great deal of sympathy for you here. I can’t imagine the stress of being First Minister, as well as what it’s like dealing with the abuse and harassment you yourself face as a woman of leadership in the public eye. And I do appreciate you will be under terrible pressure from all those you have effectively promised this reform to. It’s a terrible corner to have backed yourself into. But courage calls to courage everywhere and in writing you this letter I am not trying to humiliate or vilify you but extend an olive branch, albeit a slightly jagged one.
I am furious, Ms Sturgeon, there have been dreadful repercussions due to your government’s incompetency and arrogance here: women hounded out of livelihoods, children confused and parental rights undermined. Universities in Scotland are becoming as farcical and censorious as it is in America. Orwellian training sessions operating under the EDI tag are now commonplace in work forces. Women have been arrested and questioned for tweets and stickers. Stickers. The country that was the hub of the enlightenment, that produced thinkers like Adam Smith and David Hume...has a government now afraid to say there are two sexes. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.
There is still time though to halt this. To stand up and say you made a mistake. To look beyond the sycophantic organisations whispering in your cabinet’s ear and actively encourage an environment where opponents to this legislation can speak candidly and freely, without having to cloak their language in platitudes and gender newspeak. The crux of the problem here, being very frank, isn’t spoilsport TERFS trying to prevent progress/inclusion/diversity or all the other lovely words authoritarianism often uses as a shield now. It’s your government’s ineptitude with social legislation (see: the hate crime bill). Did it not seriously occur to you that trying to put ‘gender identity’, a concept that has no clear definition (depending on who you ask it’s something between a social construct, an innate feeling akin to a soul, something that doesn’t really exist and yet is supposedly immutable once declared.) Anyway, did it not occur to anyone, that trying to enshrine such a fluid, grey, personal concept into black and white legislation might not be a practical idea? That ideology has no place in law? That material reality (not individual reality), with all its admitted limitations, is how any decent government decides its policies, as opposed to theory that made its way into the public lexicon largely via Tumblr and Twitter?
My suspicion is it very much did occur to many in your party, a handful who have been brave enough to challenge it (most notably the amazing Joanna Cherry) but your government pushed ahead with it anyway. It’s...disgraceful.
I’m not asking you to paint your face purple, green and white. I’m not asking you to do a photo op with Julie Bindel or Posie Parker. All I and all countless women, men and transsexuals want you to do is recognise this GRA reform as it stands is not fit for purpose. I don’t doubt changes are needed but there are any number of solutions that would ensure the dignity and safety of those transitioning that do not infringe on women’s rights, safeguarding or freedom of expression. If this discussion around trans rights had been about providing third spaces alongside female-only spaces and a new zero tolerance on harassment and bullying for trans people, I and pretty much every women I’ve met in the ‘GC’ community would have been out in the streets in a heartbeat in solidarity with them. Instead, it was an overnight assault on the equalities act, language, and safeguarding wrapped in a package labelled ‘NO DEBATE’. The worst thing is, it wasn’t done maliciously, your government just couldn’t be arsed thinking up practical solutions so went straight for policing language and doing away with boundaries. Self ID as a solution to the current problems with the transition process isn’t just dangerous, it’s downright lazy.
If you were to do the right thing here and even dare suggest this needs to be greatly re-thought, I appreciate the fallout would be hideous for you. I’ll even admit it will likely be more hideous for you if/when the GRA does pass. You are surrounded by or rather, have chosen to surround yourself with ideologues and sycophants who do not look kindly on those who stray from the party line. Any retraction will be met with a lot of abuse, slanderous accusations, cold-shouldering and possibly mutiny amongst your party. Patrick Harvie will kick off, it won’t be pleasant. I get why it’s easier to stick your head in the sand. But, in the words written by another Scottish icon, ‘it takes a great deal of courage to stand up to our enemies but a great deal more to stand up to our friends’. Maybe I’m screaming into the void but in the event you do hear me, all I’m asking First Minister, is that you do what is right and admit you were wrong. That you lead.
My kindest regards.
Thanks for reading This Woman Won't Wheesht! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Superb! Get it published in the Scotsman asap.
This is amazing. I thought it was about money but I think she's right, plain old cowardice over doing the hard but right thing. I hope the newspapers pick this up, it should be shouted from the rooftops "Sturgeon's a coward".