Backing Helen Steel

Letter by Cath Bann, Rikki Blue, Beatrix Campbell, Kate Evans, Simon Fairlie, Peter Le Mare, Rebecca Lush, Dave Morris, Diana Shelley, Theo Simon, Jo Wilding and 363 others

ImageLast weekend [10–13 May], Helen Steel was forced off a protest walk across moors at a camp organised by the Land Justice Network. This happened not because of anything that Helen had done or said at the actual camp, but because individuals objected to views she had previously expressed regarding the impact of gender identity theory on women’s rights. She was told that a decision had been made prior to the camp starting that she would not be welcome.

Although Helen had been at the camp from the first day, she was only told she wasn’t welcome after the ‘action’ ramble had left the camp – leaving her to walk back across the moor alone. Fortunately two comrades walked in solidarity with her, one of them (like Helen) a founder member of the Land Justice Network.

Whether calculated or not, the impact of this treatment was to give a very public and demeaning punishment to someone who has voiced opinions which differ from those of the activists who inflicted it.

None of the small subset of the organisers who were involved in making this decision were prepared to either publicly explain themselves or to give Helen a right of response.

There were others on the site who shared opinions similar to Helen’s who were not asked to leave.

The claimed justification for treating Helen so shabbily was that she is a hateful transphobic bigot. We do not believe that Helen is a bigot.

Helen is a feminist who holds beliefs based on basic biology, that humans are a dimorphic species and it is not possible to biologically change sex. Her view prioritises objective facts above personal subjective feelings when looking at how we should try to change society and dismantle oppressive social constructs such as gender stereotypes.

This was the third time that Helen has been threatened or evicted from political events in this way and others have received similar treatment.

The idea that questioning gender identity theory amounts to bigotry and ‘hatred’ of trans people is justifying the exclusion of people from the movement. The effect of this is that many are afraid to express an opinion on the issue or even to ask any questions about it, and the end result is that most do not understand different perspectives on the issue.

Progressive movements are supposed to work on the basis of mass participation; it is only through the honest exchange of views and varied life experiences that we are able to understand the implications of power dynamics, policies and laws and able to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected.

It is out of order to single out one individual to be excommunicated, hounded, physically assaulted and humiliated for views which many other progressive people in our radical networks share. No comrade deserves to be treated so shabbily, much less comrades whose commitment to social justice is undoubted and who have suffered so many attacks from both corporate and state power.

This has to stop. It is time to make up your mind. Do you really think Helen Steel is a bigot?

Even if we disagree with some of her views, wouldn’t you agree that her motivation is not hatred, but her experiences of sexism and wanting to dismantle it?

Maybe you need to look into the issues and do some reading and thinking before you can decide. Fair enough. But now is the time to do this.

As we’ve said many times before – an attack on one is an attack on all.

If you don’t think Helen is a bigot then you must acknowledge that the way she is being treated by people in our movement is wrong.

We need to talk about this. It is time to speak up.

Editor response:

PN did ask the Land Justice Network for a response, but none had been received by the time of going to press.