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She has been likened to Marmite: you either love what she writes or hate it.

Outspoken Guardian columnist and radical lesbian feminist Julie Bindel is widely praised by some for the campaigning she has done on the issues of violence against women, and on the way that our legal system responds to women who defend themselves. She is treasured by others for the particular way she reveals her lesbian and feminist influences as a broadsheet columnist.

Yet, on the day when I had long arranged to meet for lunch and talk about these things, Julie was also embroiled in a controversy that had arisen over what she had written and said in the past about transsexual people. This issue was suddenly brought to the boil because she had been nominated for an award as “Journalist of the Year” by the leading British Lesbian and Gay charity Stonewall.

We discussed all these things and hopefully opened doors to dialogue with her detractors over a meal -- though I hasten to add that Marmite wasn't on the menu.

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  • Andrea James

    Thanks for this timely interview! I believe this is an excellent example of why it’s important for protestors to make themselves known, so these kinds of questions can be addressed by others whose activism is often more diplomatic in nature.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 12:06 am
  • Krissie Pearse

    Opening “doors to dialogue with her detractors” is an irrelevance. In the current issue with her, nothing she says is relevant. She is entitled to her views, even if they are negative with regards to trans people (and she’s had the chance to change them thorugh previous personal dialogue with trans people, though she’s apparently very charming to talk to but not so charming with a pen in her hand)

    Julie herself, through her writings and various media appearances, upsets many trans people… the real issue at the moment though is that Stonewall has nominated her for an award for her journalism. Even including only the articles she’s written this year, there’s at least one trans negative article that nomination is based upon.

    The only thing that will put an end to this stonewall issue… the thing that’s of particular relevance to current events, would be Stonewall withdrawing the nomination to the award, and preferably issuing an apology too.

    Most trans people would agree that she can say what she likes, and she can be ignored for the privilege. Giving her an award nominationfor what she says and has said, however, is plainly an affront to trans people… especially when an organisation by the name of “Stonewall” offers it.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 12:42 am
  • Andrea James

    We are in agreement on the course Stonewall needs to take, Krissy. I have already posted my letter of objection to them and their form letter response elsewhere.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 1:37 am
  • Abi Christopher

    I feel some in the trans community just want a demo for the sake of a demo and sod the consequences. Well I am not one of them you do not start a campaign with the nuclear option. We must exhaust all avenues of dialogue first. What will be gained by turning one of stonewalls premier events of the year into a farce. Are stonewall and Bindel really the biggest concern for trans people? While we are still being murdered and asulted and discrimination is a daily fact of life for all of us.

    But what do we do pick a fight with the LGB community!

    Oct 18, 2008 at 2:17 am
  • Krissie Pearse

    Of course. I emailed my letter to them, and subsequently spoke at some length with their Chief Executive about the issue (quite diplomatically!), as I understand a few others have done. They are making an effort, and have at least begun to understand the perspective of those they’ve so seriously offended with the nomination. They also know what to do about it - it’s really just a question of whther they have the courage to come straight out with it in an honest non-facesaving fashion and just do it. Only time will tell there.

    Getting to the issue of Julie Bindel herself (she’s not really the most relevant thing in the current situation, but the piece is about her after all!) I do note that she only actually apologised for a single article she wrote in 2004, which incidentally the Guardian themselves had to apologise for. Considering all she’s said and done since, that’s not really all that credible an apology. What she DIDN’T say actually appeared quite telling to me to be honest.

    The problem is, there are a few things she doesn’t see about transsexual people… and it really doesn’t help matters when trans campaigners refer to transsexual people in terms of gender and conflate who they are with the idea of a “trans or transgender identity”. She complains of gender roles, and would like to see a world without them. Oddly enough, I am a transsexual person (male to female) and I would like to see an end to a gender roles too! The word “transSEXual” is somewhat different from the word “transGENDER”. Gender roles actually need not be involved in transsexualism, whereas, as Julie so clearly defies the proscribed gender roles in at least some ways, she could be accurately be described as transgender!

    The fact is, in a world without gender roles, the only thing that matters is the sense of oneself as being male or female… that same sense of self that causes Julie to be offended when someone claims that she isn’t a woman because she’s lesbian. It’s immutable. The surgery involved in transsexualism doesn’t change gender, and transition doesn’t change gender… gender is that sense of oneself as a man or as a woman when there are no other natural factors to judge it by. Physical sex is not such a factor, because it’s widely known by those that have studied it that gender identity and physical sex are very different. Even if there were no gender roles and tules, there would still be transsexual people… people who experience great pain by the fact that thier experience of themselves is as female, but their body and the assumptions people make about them are male. Surgery is the only solution to that. What Julie Bindel doesn’t realise is that SOME transsexual people feel that the disadvantage inherant in their physical form causes them to need to conform to societies gender rules and roles to a more extreme degree - just as many other non-transsexual women feel. If the gender roles didn’t exist, there would still be transsexual people, and they would still need treatment, but they wouldn’t feel a need to subscribe so strongly to any stereotypes at all. It’s actually the very same oppression from societies gender roles she speaks of that transsexual people experience - in many cases all the more strongly for the “norms” they contravene.

    With regards to her views on “talking therapies” and that surgery shouldn’t be available, the only talking therapies that would be available would be ones that try to help a transsexual person live as something they don’t experience themselves as, and for plainly obvious reasons, such talking therapies simply don’t work. They are, in fact closely related to aversion therapy for homosexual people.

    This is the other thing that irks many transsexual’s about Julie Bindel’s writing… both as a woman and as a lesbian, the grand majority of the issues she writes about transsexual people as “solutions”, etymology, or reasoning that they aren’t real women are no less oppressive and pejorative for transsexual people as thy are when applied to lesbian or gay people… they are in fact often the very same oppressive conditions which she herself would find offensive when applied to her… and yet she continues to pass on that prejudice and oppression to transsexual people, applying to them the same arguments as those that have been used to discriminate against, oppress, and generally attempt to invalidate the existance of LGB people.

    She’s had many an informal discussion with transsexual people, and has had all of this pointed out to her. She’s even been given examples. In spite of this, she continues to write about transsexual people in a negative way, and worse, in this interview, actually claims that it’s perfectly reasonable.

    Most people who discriminate and/or speak badly of LGB people believe that what they say and do as a result of their thinking makes perfect sense. What they think seems perfectly rational and reasonable to them. It does not however mean that they are right, and it does not exuse it.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 2:43 am
  • Krissie Pearse

    @ Abi - The things that Julie is famous for writing (and saying) with regards to trans people are the very sorts of thing that contribute to attitudes causing the murder, assault, and discrimination that trans people experience.

    Stonewall is named after a riot that, believe it or not, was started by trans people, in which trans people fought side by side with gay people, and which is the very cornerstone and foundation of the whole LGB rights movement.

    FYI, avenues of dialogue have indeed been explored (in a rather civil and diplomatic non-nuclear fashion, including by myself), and should the nomination of Julie Bindel not be withdrawn, then all avenues will have been exhausted, and peaceful protest outside of the building becomes the only option left.

    Trans people have never picked a fight with the LGB community, but historically, and repeatedly, they have picked fights with trans people. Including in this instance. Trans people however haven’t gone for the nuclear approach… the discussion and diplomacy has largely been done, and the ball is in Stonewall’s court. What Stonewall does or doesn’t do dictates where it goes from here.

    It has to be said though, there’s significant irony in your words with regards to going “nuclear” in consideration of the fact that the offence was named after a group called “Stonewall” after a riot, without which, there would be no LGB or T rights.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 2:54 am
  • Natacha

    Maybe one way she could prove her apology is genuine would be to withdraw from the awards ceremony…

    I am encouraged by her offer of a discussion; I would very much like to have that calm exchange of views, she suggests as I think this is long overdue, it is in the interests of neither transgendered people nor radical lesbian feminists for us to carry on like this.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 3:56 am
  • Abi Christopher

    What about the offence we are causing around the country? On public forum like facebook questioning Bindels sexuality and even her gender. This is having an impact at the local level where the LGB are seeing homophobic statement coming from the T. And are thinking we wont help them why should we. Today I got a sorry can not help when I requested the the transgender day of remembrance be advertised on a local LGBT website. This drama will cost us dearly all around he country when it comes to dealing with the LGB and especially the L. Already a counter demo is being organised by the lesbian community. Add into that mix whatever Christian extremists that crawl out the woodwork for the stonewall awards. And we could very well have our own riot.

    We need to allow Stonewall a dignified way out of this mess so they can save some face. Both sides will need to make some concessions to the other.

    Stonewall was a bar run by the mob especially to exploit homosexuals via an extortion racket it turned into a riot when the bar was raided!

    Oct 18, 2008 at 4:09 am
  • Charlie Kiss

    It is welcome to hear an unreserved apology! (even though it was prompted)

    It seems she would like more transsexuals to talk to her. However there have been a number of transsexuals who have talked to Julie Bindel. Why can’t she just pick up a book? Other journalists, instead of writing what comes into their heads, tend to read a bit first. I’d be happier speaking in a feminist forum with other feminists about transsexualism and this has started to happen with many events including transsexuals such as the Lady Fest and a Feminist Gathering earlier this year.

    In answer to specific points:

    What is frustrating is that Transsexuals who tend to see the stupidity and restrictiveness of gender stereotypes more than most people are not the gender conformists, Bindel believes us to be. I think that rigid gender roles are detrimental to both men and women but I do think there are essential differences between men and women. And Julie must also believe this.

    Why does she think that transsexualism was invented by 1950s psychiatrists? Again that’s total ignorance. Transsexuals sought gender reassignment after developments in medical assistance. (twas the other way round)

    If she thinks psychiatrists still police gender, she obviously hasn’t heard of female to male transsexuals who have been approved for gender reassignment who wear make up! (yes, they’re rare but they exist)

    Why does she think that sexuality has to be either innate or socialised? And she decides that she was socialised as a lesbian? But how? Just because she didn’t want to cook for a man?

    She says that women earn 50% less than men? Again – completely untrue! Women earn just over 80% of what men earn in the UK. Yes it’s not good enough, but another example of exaggeration.

    The surprise for me in this interview was the revelation that she realises that there are female clients in the sex industry! Shame she doesn’t do some more research in this area.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 4:45 am
  • Krissie Pearse

    Stonewall, regardless of who it was run by, was a bar where LGBT folk WANTED to congregate because they only had such places to do so. It was raided not for the people who ran it, but because it was a congregation of LGBT people, much like most other such raids. The riot started when a trans person got sick of putting up with the opression and discrimination, and said “enough is enough”.

    Stonewall has a dignified way out - withdrawl of a nomination is not undignified, and if it is now, it’s only because they have made it so. Besides… Stonewall has offended the dignity of many trans people, and I rather think it good of trans people to give them that dignified way out.

    Any Christian extremeists in attendance would be arrested, for whatever they could possibly say, it would be illegal - they’d be the ones loosing face and they know it.

    The protest, involving standing around in the cold with placards and handing out leaflets, is peaceful… unlike the counter demo (which has very few supporters) which is stated to be all about shouting down trans people on grounds that trans people aren’t even protesting about. Further it has supportersfrom all sorts of quarters - including lesbians, both trans and cisgender.

    There is no homophobic statement coming from trans people - indeed, part of the problem is that many trans people are LGB, but Stonewall is offering an award for the journalism of a woman who claims within it that they are not LGB owing to them not being who they really believe/say they are. One of the large points trans people are making is that even if an LGB organisation doesn’t support T, it cannot jut ignore the fact that they exist as many of them are indeed LGB. There has however, historically and currently, been a lot of transphobia coming from LGB people and organisations. Usually trans people let it pass, but this is felt to be an insult to great to do so.

    I’m on that facebook group, and I’ve read every post. Nobody questioned Bindel’s sexuality, though she did claim so, and threatened to set her lawyer (her partner, presumably) on someone for it.

    If anybody of an LGB persuasion is in any way offended by trans people excercising their right to stand up for themselves, then they have the wrong end of the stick. It’s not about them, and indeed, LGB people are included in the number who are taking issue and protesting. Trans people have used all lines of communication in a reasonable way, and continue to do so. If those avenues prove exhausted come the night of the award ceremony, then trans people will stand up for themselves in the only way left available to them. If Stonewall does the right thing before then, there will be no protest.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 4:57 am
  • Abi Christopher

    The comments I mentioned where on the facebook page that’s why Bindel started posting about suing people! Somebody wisely deleted them.

    You want total capitulation from Stonewall and that just will not happen Bindel will stay on the list stonewall are under pressure from both the L and the T.

    Except the apology and move on to more important issues we face. Lets stop looking for a fight we do not need.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 5:32 am
  • Sophia Siedlberg

    Oh she apologised?

    Perhaps if she looked at the way some psyciatrists act today (Bailey) or how other groups like intersex people are subjected to horrific abuse (DSD-Dreger) she may learn the real issues.

    I would be prepared to talk to her myself, if she would talk, but I doubt that will happen.

    Prove me wrong Christine.


    Oct 18, 2008 at 5:51 am
  • Autumn Sandeen

    My personal difficulty with Julie Bindel is that she didn’t start a reasoned discussion with her venomous statements in her 2004 article. Her 2004 piece truly poisoned her chances for reasonable discussion with many that she now wishes to have reasoned discussions with. That she’s apologized for the tone of what she said back then, but has said she’s not changed her beliefs about trans people and what surgeries should be available to trans people…well, I know at least I’m sure are not sure what she said in her 2004 article that she still stands behind and what she said in that article that she doesn’t stand behind.

    But, I think that’s somewhat besides the point. The difficulty we’re really discussing is not directly with Bindel, but with Stonewall honoring Bindel while she still has and still expresses her opinions on trans people and surgeries for trans people. Stonewall is a civil rights organization, and has chosen to honor a woman with a nomination for a journalism award is that Stonewall is giving a nod to an woman who — by Stonewall’s own definition of transphobia found in their web pamphlet “Transgender” — to this day is still making transphobic comments. Plainly, clearly — Stonewall should be considering Bindel’s nomination for their journalism award to be a condoning of an evil they shouldn’t be condoning. A quote of Martin Luther King Jr. makes the big point succinctly:”One who condones evils is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it.”

    And yes, I know my opinion and my rhetoric is rather strong on this subject. But, it’s not because I don’t think Bindel shouldn’t be able to have or express her opinions regarding trans people and what surgeries should be available to trans people; instead it’s that she shouldn’t be nominated for an award by an LGB civil rights organization while she continues to have and express those opinions.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 5:57 am
  • Krissie Pearse

    She apologised for one article in 2004… and even thn, she apologised for the way she said it, not what she said. She’s said many things since then too.

    I saw the comments you mention on Facebook, and they did not say what you claim - context was the key.

    Stonewall are under pressure from trans people. trns people also have the support of some lesbian people in this. ncidentally, a great many trans people are themselves lesbian on top of that fact. Stonewall haven’t even deighned themselves to apologise for the offence they have caused… that says more of them than it does of trans people simply standing up for themselves. Futher, if someone is caught stealing £20, the solution is not to give £10 back - it doesn’t right the wrong.

    No apology from Julie Bindel (severely restricted though it is) is a solution to the issue. Julie can’t answer for Stonewalls wrong. Only Stonewall can do that, and so only Stonewall can set right it’s own wrongs. Julie Bindel herself as a person has precious little to do with the issue apart from the fact that she was nominated.

    Further, why do you insist on calling peaceful protest a fight? And what do you think gives you the right to tell people what they need and what they don’t? Trans people are standing up for themselves, and will continue to stand up for themselves as long as they feel the need to… and they do need to, as they know. If they didn’t feel the need to, they wouldn’t be protesting. Much like many various organisations, this is something on which you do not speak for everybody. The anger and the need to stand up for oneself in this is very much a grass-roots issue. I actually think it’s a shame and that it looks badly on those organisations that claim to represent trans people that they haven’t picked up on that fact and have attempted to represent people in a way that they do not agree with. Assuming that some trans people agree, and some don’t, the best any of these organisations could have done would have been to stay out of it and let trans people speak for themselves.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 6:08 am
  • Anonymous

    If Bindel wanted to educate herself, she could have picked up one of, I don’t know, HUNDREDS of books written by trans people, and actually learned about how trans people experience themselves, before writing bigoted articles? She’s not going to stop saying transphobic things in her admittedly privileged position, either.

    Leave it to a transphobic radfem to use the word ‘woman’ about 900 times in 10 minutes, mention how hurtful it is to have her womanhood denied by others, while essentially saying the problem with transsexuals is that women, like, don’t really exist.

    When I am sexually harassed on the street, “explained to” by men, denied opportunities by those who do not even know my trans status.. I think it’s pretty apt to call myself a woman and it has nothing to do with how I experienced childhood.

    But you know what? Some trans people have written about our often complicated childhoods, as well. I would suggest this, for starters: http://takesupspace.wordpress.com/beyond-inclusion/

    But I’m SO glad for Christine that she enjoyed her lovely lunch and wine!

    I mean, the hatemonger was just so charming!

    P.S. - Abi, you know what, some of us ARE lesbian, gay, and bisexual. In my case, I was an LGB person before transition, and have remained an LGB person. Imagine that.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 11:56 am
  • Jo Harris

    No it’s not enough. I wanted it to be good enough, but it isn’t.

    An apology, of sorts, for the TONE of one horrendously offensive article she wrote in 2004. No apology for the content, which she stands by, and has returned to in subsequent pieces.

    The difficulty here is that Bindel is locked into a feminist gender landscape which identifies gender as (a) simply a role and (b) created and manipulated by society - with men at the helm to ensure they get a disproportionate advantage. Transwomen are dangerous to her world view, deeply, because we seem to endorse and support this con trick (perpetrated by men) by wishing to ‘become’ women. We thus reinforce the lie, support the inequality.

    For Bindel the state of femaleness is simply a constructed label which amounts to living a life of discrimination and lack of opportunity. It has no other meaning. So for her, I’d imagine, somewhere, our experience makes us Quislings to the Ruling Male Elite, crazy, or fantasists.

    And the fantasist angle is where she has been stuck for a while - the 2004 article says it loud and clear.

    For me femaleness is not a social construct, nor a plot, nor a consequence of socialisation. It simply is. And I simple am, female. She seems unable to see that the state of femaleness has any objective meaning at all.

    Equally baffling is her response to the comment from a CHX psychiatrist (who? Lorimer?) that she is “spectacularly misinformed”. She defers to his “much greater knowledge” on the issue and then reasserts her right to an opinion. Surely, if he has much greater knowledge then his opinion - which is very different from hers - might carry some weight, and suggest she might change her view? Apparently not. She gives herself away when she says she’s very ready to change her view when confronted with ‘facts’. So presumably CHX, and the other professionals working in this field, and all of us who feel our own truths, are not in possession of ‘facts’ at all?

    What IS driving us then, as trans people? Well underneath all this is her understanding of this as treatment for a set of ‘behaviours’ that psychiatrists identify and offer GRS to ’solve’. So, in essence, you seem to be ‘acting a bit girly’…why not have an operation?! And that’s part of the conspiracy - her view is that if you want to act different why don’t you just act different…you don’t need a sex change.

    Because I don’t want to simply ‘act different’. I want to BE me. I want a body that reflects how I know myself to be inside. I wasn’t socially constructed, I didn’t sign up for the male plot, I just turned out how I did, and I am who I am. Female. The term may have no meaning for her, but it does for me. And I didn’t decide I am female (in fact, I didn’t ‘decide’ I am female at all) because I noticed that I liked dresses, or pink, or kittens. I just AM.

    I don’t know you Christine. You asked her is she thought you were female. She hedged, and again denied the meaning of the term.

    Perhaps you were happy with that answer. I wouldn’t have been.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 12:04 pm
  • Lisa Harney

    I’m disappointed with Abi’s belief that protesting Julie Bindel’s nomination is somehow the only thing the trans community is concerned about. It’s one of many things, it happens to be one of the more immediate topics at the moment, but it’s by far not the only concern.

    I’m also disappointed that Abi’s distorting how Bindel’s legal threats were delivered (before anyone questioned her sexuality, and not aimed at the person who did that). I’m further disappointed that one person’s anger at Bindel is somehow being misapplied to all trans people, as if we’re all somehow responsible for what one of us says.

    I’m further disappointed that Abi believes that the demo is being organized just because people want a demo, and not because, for example, anyone sincerely feels that by nominating Bindel for this award, that Stonewall is declaring that trans people are irrelevant to them.

    I’m finally disappointed that Abi believes that no one took any measures before organizing the protest - I’ve been directly involved with multiple people who have written letters to Stonewall protesting this matter, they were universally brushed off with a form letter. Numerous people attempted to contact Stonewall before being told that Stonewall didn’t feel that by offering Julie Bindel an award that they were endorsing her views, and that’s when they decided to protest.

    And seriously, this information is publicly readable with a little help from google or wikipedia.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 12:14 pm
  • Helen G

    Abi, we have nothing left to lose.

    Trans people have been ejected from the LGB movement, from feminism, from almost any mainstream movement and organisation for social change and inclusion you care to mention, for years on end.

    We already offend people just by existing. But why should we compromise our existence? Nobody else does.

    There will be no dialog because those who oppress us are not interested in dialog. They are not going to change their privileged world view to accommodate us, and it is naive to think they would.

    We are pariahs, that is not going to change any time soon and I for one am not interested in jumping through hoops like a performing dog just so that some kyriarch can give me a cookie.

    *You* may be happy to live under a softer supremacy, *I* am not.

    I’m *angry* about this.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 1:02 pm
  • Virtual Supply

    Well, I sat and listened and smiled. It is so obvious an unfair fight, Ms Bindell fair tore the feathers from Christine. Christine was played with, like a large angry cat plays with a wounded fledgling sparrow.

    Sure, Julie wants a chance to talk in public to transsexuals, so she can further elevate her lofty position of recognised supremecy at generating flame mail to the newspaper that yanks her chain.

    Please don’t rise the the bait and feel all offended, the more you type, the more ammunition she gains. She is doing a job and is paid well for it. It is not Ms Bindel you should cast your benom too, but her paymasters, for without them, she is just a lonely sad little voice in an out dated ideas factory that should have been allowed to die in the 1970’s

    If you disagree with Stonewalls proposal, write to their supporters and diversity champions.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 2:04 pm
  • Christina Alley

    Hi Christine.

    Thanks for another professional podcast, with the same high production values as the earlier ‘hormone blocker’ conference podcast. As with Zucker, Bindel’s evasiveness was telling. Yes, she is a charming person (as is Zucker) but it does not change the bias and insensitivity which underpins her work.

    On your Facebook profile you say, “Christine Burns feels utterly horrified by the outpouring of hatred which the Stonewall/Bindel controversy has morphed into. For heaven’s sake friends, look in the mirror.”

    Are you truly surprised at the level of hurt expressed by some members of the trans community? There is nothing more sacred than one’s identity. Bindel patronises and insults us because our existence confounds her essentialist view of the world. Trans people have a right to be understood - she sows misunderstanding and reinforces insulting, negative stereotypes of trans people. Not a champion of diversity at all. She seeks to elevate her own radical viewpoint by standing on the heads of trans people. Well, trans people are hurt by that and are responding in the ways they now how. Some responses are more heartfelt than politik, but then not everyone has the campaigning skills that you do.

    C x

    Oct 18, 2008 at 3:07 pm
  • Christine Burns

    Friends, I can thoroughly understand how this controversy has become such a convenient symbol for pouring out acumulated anger about every bit of discrimination you’ve ever experienced. However, I am starting to conclude that a line has crossed.

    Julie’s ‘crime’ really boils down to a monumental failure to engage brain before opening mouth — but incompetence (and, yep, a touch of intellectual arrogance) is not the same as hatred, no matter how much damage the mistake inflicts.

    It takes a hell of a lot for someone in her position to say on a world stage that she has made mistakes and is sorry. (This Podcast has already been heard on every continent — and by her journalist colleagues too). If you continue to greet that with anger and the demand for her blood and Stonewall’s then that too qualifies as a rather more premeditated form of hate. From where I’m sitting none of it looks very pretty.

    I’ve been immensely generous to Julie - knowing that it would cost me the kind of press which I see I’m now getting from some quarters. Generosity is what builds understanding and better futures. All that prolonged hostilities create is rubble.

    Which result was best? - punishing Germany after World War I (creating the basis for WW2), or working to build a new relationship which meant no more wars in that part of Europe?

    Generosity is about treating others as you say you would wish them to treat you. It applies to Julie (who’s got the whole world now aware that she’s been monumentally ill-informed) and it applies to Stonewall now too.

    Time to back off and employ diplomacy. I realise that I stand to be savaged too for heresy — but if that’s the case then you’re not the kind of trans people I’ve spent all these years thinking I was representing.

    When you listen to Julie’s interview and my tone of approach to her it’s worth you bearing in mind that you’re hearing just 20 minutes out of a 90 minute conversation. Not a conversation in the aftermath of an incredibly adversarial radio programme — but a conversation between people who have spent a LOT of time talking and listening to one-another before AND during our meeting. Yes the meal was good. Diplomacy is often done over good food.

    I think that people have to recognise when they’ve won the moral highground and that to press on further can only be destructive and risk surrendering it back.

    Have people really thought through to the endgame they desire beyond baying for Stonewall to do something that everyone already knows would be a hollow act?

    With Stonewall the point is made already. Rubbing their noses in it doesn’t exploit the opportunity. The opportunity is to talk about change - about a new relationship if people really want that. But pinning them to the wall is no setting in which to have that conversation.

    What do you want? A rift between trans and LGB people — who share so much experience of discrimination? You can have that. You’re working up to it.

    Or is it true (as some have expressed on Facebook) that you want Stonewall to take more of an active interest in the T? — a role they’ve mainly avoided because that’s what they thought organisations like PFC and GT were wanting? If you want that then go and talk about it.

    Thoughtfully yours, Christine Burns

    Oct 18, 2008 at 3:39 pm
  • Stephanie Butterfield

    Julie Bindel’s views on transsexuals have not changed at all, she glossed over the radio four show in 2007 convieniently as she lost that discussion big time, for those who cannot remember, she argued that transsexual surgery is unnecesary bodily mutilation.


    Oct 18, 2008 at 4:06 pm
  • Sarah Brown

    I am the woman that Julie Bindel threatened a libel action over things I hadn’t actually said on Facebook. Contrary to suggestions above, I haven’t deleted anything. I’d also question whether threats of High Court legal action to silence dissent sits comfortably with a radical feminism ethos.

    The PFC News article advertising this podcast says that the interview “enabled Julie to say a very clear ’sorry’”. I don’t hear that at all in this podcast. She has apologised for the *tone* of a singe article 4 years ago, but essentially says her actual position on subjects about whether we should be “allowed” access to surgery, the access of trans women to sexual abuse resources, etc. is unchanged. She hasn’t apologised for, e.g. what she said in “Hecklers”, maintains her rather ignorant, yet outspoken opinion on our history, and so on.

    She says she wants a “debate” about the “so-called” condition and our access to surgery. How very entitled of you, Julie! You, who are not transsexual, assuming our participation in a debate about our core identity and whether we should even be “allowed” to exist. What about those of us who are sick and tired of finding ourselves having to defend our right to exist all the time, and would rather people like you just left us alone? Do we get any say in this “debate” you want to have about who we are and whether we should even exist?

    Oct 18, 2008 at 4:13 pm
  • Zoe O'Connell


    I think the problem is that the likes of Julie and Ben at Stonewall are willing to engage with the “establishment” and presumably conversations have happened behind closed doors - as you mention yourself, this was a 20 minute except from a 90 minute conversation. However, we - the masses - are not hearing those conversations. All we’re seeing is someone who is regarded as a notorious and unrepentant transphobe - and incompetance and ignorance is no excuse if she’s writing on behalf of a repressed minority, just as it would not be if she was being racist - being nominated for an award we feel is unjustified and then organisation after organisation capitulating after they’ve spoken to Julie and/or Ben. We just want our voice to be heard and none of the established groups seem willing to do this for fear of upsetting larger groups such as Stonewall. That’s the problem with the current “diplomacy”, the masses are not seeing any outcome from that except one vague and wooly statement on Stonewall’s website.

    There have been two other protests recently - the small Bitch protest and more recently the Zucker protest. Both achieved their aims - the people in charge were embarassed by their actions in a way that could not have happened if the protest did not take place or was called off because of some vague hand-waving. One hopes that next time they will think harder about inviting those who are notorious within the community to completely inappropriate events (In those cases, the Queer Up North festival and an RSM conference) and that - the “oh shit, if we piss off the trannies there might be *shock* repercussions *horror*” effect will continue - in effect getting our voice heard by those in power. *That* is the aim, not to vilify Julie but to cut off her oxygen supply in the form of awards etc. Most of us do not have the contacts for that level of dialog - talking to these people just gets one ignored as a nutjob - nor a soap box to stand on in the form of the national press, so we make our voices heard in whatever way we can.


    I don’t think a peaceful protest is the “Nuclear option” at all. We’ve tried dialog, all we get is a brush off. As I said to Christine above, most of us do not have the power to change things in any way such as this. There is no one person organising this protest, such was the feeling that multiple groups spontaneously decided that they should do something about this, such was the strength of feeling.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 4:38 pm
  • Zoe O'Connell

    Oh, forgot to add:


    The CXH psych in question was Stuart Lorimer, who has actually come to talk to Trans London and came with us to the bar afterwards. I like him, he’s definitely a change from the “old guard” and seems genuinely interested in the community. (Even if he did admit that some bits of “Whipping Girl” made him “uncomfortable”!)

    Oct 18, 2008 at 4:42 pm
  • Sarah Brown

    To add to my previous comment, I don’t want to seem ungracious, and do want to thank you, Christine, for adding to the body of evidence and discussion around this topic by conducting this interview. It does show that there are people who have tried to be reasonable with Julie Bindel, and yet she still remains unrepentant on the substance of her position. That’s useful.

    You say you risk vitriol from the sections of the community who are enraged over this, and I think there’s a very important point to be made here. Press For Change has kept very quiet on this issue in public. The Gender Trust has put out a newsletter saying it would be “churlish” to continue to apply pressure to Stonewall. As a result, the many grass-roots trans people who are genuinely upset and angry over this feel like nobody in a “leadership” position is representing our views, leaving the only avenues for release being the sort of anger we are seeing on places like Facebook.

    Asking people to just calm down and saying things like, “you’re not the kind of trans people I’ve spent all these years thinking I was representing.” are not, I feel, very helpful. It just lends more weight to the perception that vetran campaigners and organisations like PFC and the GT have indeed lost touch, and are increasingly irrelevant, and I think that is tragic.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 6:12 pm
  • Suusi Malcolm-Brown

    Christine this just makes you look like you have egg on your face.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 6:16 pm
  • Krissie Pearse

    “It takes a hell of a lot for someone in her position to say on a world stage that she has made mistakes and is sorry. (This Podcast has already been heard on every continent — and by her journalist colleagues too).”

    The thing is, Christine, she only apologised for the tone of a 2004 article that the newspaper she had it published in already had to apologise for. If she failed to say that she was sorry about that, she would have looked quited silly really. She didn’t exactly have much of a choice in that matter. However, she’s not apologised for any of what she’s said (only it’s tone), nor for any of the many horrid things she’s said since.

    “If you continue to greet that with anger and the demand for her blood and Stonewall’s then that too qualifies as a rather more premeditated form of hate.”

    Well, ignoring the fact that the “apology” isn’t worth the mp3 it’s encoded in for the above mentioned reasons, it rather seems that you’ve missed the point. Whether Julie apologises or not, it doesn’t matter. She is not the one that nominated herself to the award. Stonewall nominated her, and it should never have done so. Only Stonewall can do anything about that, not Julie, not you, and not anybody else. Only Stonewall can set right their own wrong. Julie herself, as a person, is by and large irrelevant to the issue other than the fact she was nominated. The only reasons people are speaking so much of her are that people such as yourselves are clearly getting the wrong end of the stick as to what this protest is about which is provoking discussion on sideline issues, and because the nomination has dragged up her previous “journalism” (journalism is informed - on this issue she is not) and it’s an old hurt that continues hurting to this day… And it isn’t beying for blood, it’s beying for a nomination withdrawl, which is quite different.

    Incidentally, apology or not - even were an apology from Julie relevant to Stonewall’s actions, it hadn’t happened when Stonewall’s wrong occured, and as such, their wrong still needs to be righted.

    “Have people really thought through to the endgame they desire beyond baying for Stonewall to do something that everyone already knows would be a hollow act?

    With Stonewall the point is made already. Rubbing their noses in it doesn’t exploit the opportunity. The opportunity is to talk about change - about a new relationship if people really want that. But pinning them to the wall is no setting in which to have that conversation.”

    Stonewall have done wrong in this. As I said earlier, if someone were caught stealing £20, then getting them to pay back £10 would not set it right. Call that £20 a nomination however, and call that £10 an apology for the offence caused - Stonewall won’t even go half way to providing a remedy for their wrongdoing. I know - I asked, on the phone, whith their Chief Exectutive.

    I’ve heared the “hollow act” argument From Ben, which he is of course entitled to. However, whether or not it would be a hollow act rather depends on the perspective from which the act is performed. If it was only to placate trans people and make the issue dissapear, then yes, it would be entirely hollow. However, if it were because Stonewall deeply understands that her nomination isn’t on, and offends and hurts a lot of people in serious ways - even people who come under their remit by means of being LGB - regardless of T… if Stonewall truly felt that what she has said (including an article falling within the nomination criteria) was so wrong that they couldn’t offer a hint of endorsement… well, from that perspective it could hardly be an empty gesture. It would be a statement through deed - and a powerful one at that.

    With regards to the reasoning behind the hollow act argument being “the voting has already concluded”… Should it be that there’s a situation where Julie Bindel has won the award, then if Stonewall would be equally willing to withdraw the nomination under those circumstances, withdrawing the nomination where she hasn’t won it wouldn’t be empty either. They could honestly say “We weren’t going to have that, whether she won or not”.

    “What do you want? A rift between trans and LGB people — who share so much experience of discrimination? You can have that. You’re working up to it.”

    We are working up to no such thing. We are defending and standing up for ourselves against the actions of an LGB organisation. Nothing more, and nothing less. If some LGB people or organisations choose to declare that us lowly trans people have no right to be offended or upset byt their transphobic actions, and have no right to stand up for themselves in the face of them, then I’m afraid any such rift is driven by them and their transphobia - in the form of discrimination and the denial of our rights. If they faced the same thing from the General Public, they’d have no quarms about their rights.

    “Or is it true (as some have expressed on Facebook) that you want Stonewall to take more of an active interest in the T? — a role they’ve mainly avoided because that’s what they thought organisations like PFC and GT were wanting?”

    They MUST take a more active interest. They don’t have to add T to LGB, but they must at least realise that T people are around - that the campaign they fight was started by T people and T people continue to fight it, and that many of th LGB people they represent happen to be T too.

    Further, what’s this business about thinking that organisations like PfC and GT wanted to represent trans people? Where do trans people have a choice in how they are represented and by whom? Therein lies a problem with PfC and probably with the GT as well… there’s no communication. Using PfC as an example, nobody really knows what PfC’s precise goals are, what PfC is working on, or how they are doing… nobody has any obvious input into what PfC says or does, or even into it’s agenda. Nobody knows how anything thay are doing is progressing. There appears to be very little openess or transparency or accountability - an awful lot of people don’t even know what PfC is about exactly these days - and for the priviledge, PfC assumes it has a right to speak for and on behalf of all trans people. that quite possible goes a long way to accounting for funding issues, as who in their right mind would throw money at something if they can’t see what their throwing it at and where it’s going? If they can’t see that the people whom that organisation claims to represent has at least a hand in setting the agenda?

    You are not to be lambasted for your efforts Christine, and should recieve no vitriol - you are to be lauded for them. However, your efforts on this one appear to be somewhat misguided by nature of the fact that they miss the point, and I’m afraid organisations such as PfC and the GT seem to have lost touch with the people they claim to serve. Julie Bindel can say what she likes - it’s her perogative to do so, and previous meetings of the type you describe in the interview have occured to no effect. The problem, is that Stonewall have nominated her to an award for it.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 7:11 pm
  • Kate P

    Thank you Christine for a clear recording. However, this interview makes it even clearer why people object to Stonewall rewarding Ms Bindell’s journalism.

    @13:35 when you ask Ms Bindell whether she now disagrees with the views in her 2004 Guardian article, she specifically said “No.”

    @16:39 she goes further and explicitly repeats that she absolutely stands by the core premise of the 2004 article that a trans woman should not be trained as a rape counsellor. That is offensive because she denies trans women are complete women like other women, but it is also very hurtful for those of us with trans women friends who have themselves been victims of rape. Does Ms Bindell not recognise that trans people can be victims of rape?

    @17:45 she develops a the theme on what makes somebody a woman and she insists that a vital component of that is the socialisation of being raised as a girl. Contrast that with material on the Stonewall site which says, “Transphobic attitudes and beliefs include the belief that trans women are not “real women” because they have been raised and socialised as men”

    The only apology she gives is for making jokes in the 2004 article, not for any of the points of substance.

    I have indicated placemarks for my comments so that people may listen to the material themselves and make up their own minds.


    Oct 18, 2008 at 9:29 pm
  • Jo Harris

    It boils down to this.

    Would Stonewall have nominated a writer who was a self confessed racist? This award has nothing to do with race related matters, but the idea is inconceivable. Stonewall would never endorse such a person by association.

    And as for US rubbing STONEWALL’S face in it…well I hardly think so. The trans community contains some of the most oppressed, discriminated against, silenced people in this country. We lose our homes, our careers, our families, our money, our friends. We are asked to almost beg for healthcare for which we have paid taxes like all others, and sometimes we don’t get it. We see offensive media representations of ourselves, watch prurient and sensationalist portrayals, turn the other cheek at so called ‘humour’ at our expense. We are insulted in the street, laughed at, spat at sometimes. Abused physically, sometimes even raped, sometimes even killed. Sometimes we can take it no more, and we kill ourselves - statistically quite often actually.

    Speaking as someone who has hitherto not been involved in trans politics, I am only surprised that some outpouring like this didn’t come sooner. A journalist who has done a great deal to add to our pain, and who stands by the substance of all the things she has written still, is recognised by an organisation to which we had previously looked for at least tacit support?! And there are howls of outrage?! About bloody time.

    In fact, it is the thought process that led up to this nomination more than the act itself which, to me, speaks loud. Did Stonewall not anticipate this much anger before they did this?

    No, they didn’t, I suspect.

    Once again, our views were of no consequence. We were fair game.

    The case against them rests I think.

    Oct 18, 2008 at 10:38 pm
  • Christine Burns


    Can I ask you all just one favour please? And I mean this in the best possible spirit. The length of some of the posts in this thread means that the overall size of the page is beginning to impact on the load time for some people who are coming first to hear the Podcast.

    I don’t wish to stifle debate and this plea is not a comment on any of the sentiments expressed; however this comment section is not really the proper place for the big debate to go. A better platform is either the Facebook protest group or your own Blog / Forum.

    If the load time degrades much more then I may have to turn on moderation and start rejecting posts that are too long or off topic as far as the Podcast itself is concerned. I don’t want to do that — not least because it’s work for me and people are bound to complain — but my first concern is that newcomers should still be able to load this page on all kinds of connections.

    Kindest regards


    Oct 18, 2008 at 11:08 pm
  • Suusi Malcolm-Brown

    Sorry Christine Burns

    When you make an error of Judgement this bad at a time like this, what do you expect?

    We do not expect what ammounts to treason from people like you and by implication PFC

    Oct 18, 2008 at 11:40 pm
  • Christine Burns

    Can I make it clear please that I moved on from PFC in November 2007. What they or GT have done or not done since then is not up to me. I can understand people questionning their position though.

    It seems some people have the impression it was my job to interrogate Julie in this interview in a Paxmanesque style. However that is not the style of this Podcast channel. It’s not a campaign tool. It’s here to inform as objectively as I can manage.

    I gave Julie an opportunity to reply to the kind of things people have been saying. That doesn’t mean incidentally that I don’t know that the centre of debate has moved on. But the interview opportunity was with Julie; not with Stonewall.

    I too would like her to have given better answers in places — but the aim was to let her refresh where she stands and display a movement if she wished. If I had challenged hard on any one point then the others would simply not have been heard.

    To take the interviewer role in a situation like this means putting your own opinion on one side and trying to adopt a neutral position. Actually I stepped beyond that more than I wish I had — in both directions.

    I could have used the interview for its’ original purpose and not mentioned trans at all. I certainly considered that but thought that people would definitely think that odd. Instead, it’s clear from other comments that the interview served the intended purpose — since much of today’s debate is about what Julie said and how she said it — a development that would not have occurred if her views on these issues were not available to hear in these ways.

    However I mean what I say. This page is now even taking ME ten seconds to download each time. That’s why I’d like you all to either be brief now or I’ll have to take more direct steps. I’ve hosted a huge amount of debate already. Everyone is free to take the discussion elsewhere. I’ll even make sure that place is signposted. But I’m not going to have a situation where people give up loading the page. That would simply mean that NONE of your comments are heard.

    Christine Burns

    Oct 19, 2008 at 12:05 am
  • Krissie Pearse

    Todays debate, Christine, is not about either what Julie said OR how she said it. What she said and how she said it is in evidence by reading and listening to it. There may have been some question as to how closely she holds to what she’s said in the past, but then, given the tone of her atricles after the one she apologised for, and given that she categorically stated that she hasn’t changed her position on anything she’s said, it can be fairly stated that things haven’t moved much there either. That really wasn’t much of a debate to be honest - it never was.

    It’s moved well past Julie herself now. People know who she is, and what she stands for. Having had the opportunity to talk to pople and change, she’s proved immovable. Julie just IS… the debate has moved on to supporting her transphobia by nominating her for an award.

    Oct 19, 2008 at 12:16 am
  • Abi Christopher

    I can not believe some of your reactions especially towards Christine you should be ashamed of yourself. How can you condemn Bindel when your language and dogma is just as bad. It just make you all hypocrites and bigots.

    You do not represent me in any way I am no victim.


    Oct 19, 2008 at 1:37 am
  • Krissie Pearse

    Nobody said they did represent you Abi… and there’s only really one comment of thirtyfive perhaps a bit vitriolic towards Christine. Even I said that she should be lauded for her effort. You don’t seem to be reading the same page as everybody else.

    Oct 19, 2008 at 1:58 am
  • Grace

    Re: Comment 21

    Really? It comes down to “accept awarding transphobes, because by golly they’ve done so damn much for the community” or “you transpeople will be put in the corner all by yourselves, and have only yourselves to blame”?

    How does this not equate to “I’m X, so discrimination against Y people doesn’t bother me?” Moreover, how is this *not* victim blaming? Julie Bindel has been an outspoken transphobe — why is it not okay to request that, y’know, she *not get an award for it*, exactly?

    Seriously, why is it not okay?

    Oct 19, 2008 at 4:19 am
  • Sophia Siedlberg

    Hello Christine

    I just want to say that in many ways the problem with Bindel, and certainly not those who feel hostile towards her, is Bindel’s fatalism and apparent double standards. She says that she is trying to undermine the “Gender binary” but at the same time says transsexual folk should not have surgery but “Remain the sex they were born into”. That is, regardless of what is said in this debate, a glaring contradiction.

    Another glaring contradiction would be her stance on the medical profession, she is clearly opposed to adults seeking surgery, and paying for that surgery, and she then blames the Medical profession for “Brainwashing” such adults into obtaining surgery. And yet she says absolutely nothing about the non consented to, non sought (in fact imposed) surgery on intersex kids, which is unquestionably motivated by heteronormative stupidity, and not somthing sought by the individual concerned.

    Her silence on this implies her agreement with it. Now there are two logical points (Among many I could mention) which cause me to believe that Julie Bindel simply does not understand or does not want to understand the issues being discussed. And yes those transsexual folks who see all this are going to veer towards the opinion that rather than being someone who stands for self determination, she is a heteronormative bigot.

    I mean do you not think it would be better if Julie Bindel was confronted with real questions rather than all this cucumber sandwiches and tea on the lawn routine that in truth addresses nothing.

    I am writing this here in the hope that you do not ignore these two fundmental points of contention but approach her with them, I think it will make a lot more sense if she answers questions about those things that really concern her critics (I am sure they have a lot of valid questions as well).

    The message I get from Stonewall is a simple one, they are all about breaking down “Social gender roles” but are incredibly fatalistic about anatomy etc. That is an untenable posiion to hold and Stonewall know that.

    Please consider this Christine, it may prove more helpful than the way things are happening now.

    Oct 19, 2008 at 4:32 am
  • Jane

    — Kate P said ———————————— she goes further and explicitly repeats that she absolutely stands by the core premise of the 2004 article that a trans woman should not be trained as a rape counsellor. That is offensive because she denies trans women are complete women like other women, but it is also very hurtful for those of us with trans women friends who have themselves been victims of rape. Does Ms Bindell not recognise that trans people can be victims of rape? —————————————————–

    I’m a woman with a trans history, and whilst I do not agree with many of Bindels views, this is one which I do agree with her. Why does it have to be about the transwomen Kate P? In a rape counselling situation, the most important woman is the one who has been raped, surely??. Is this not just typical male privilege to make it ‘all about teh transwoman’??? In such a sensitive situation, how will she feel about a transwoman trying to counsel her, especially if that transwoman does not even pass, or has no experience of being raped, being born and raised as a female.

    — Helen G said ——————————— Trans people have been ejected from the LGB movement, from feminism, from almost any mainstream movement and organisation for social change and inclusion you care to mention, for years on end. —————————————————–

    What utter nonsense Helen G! Both LGB(T) and Feminism movements are broad, you don’t really expect them to always be agreeable of inclusive of trans surely? I’ve met a lot of transpeople over the years that are equally homophobic and some are mysogynist - so I don’t get the point here? And, Feminism is a movement that women have had to create themselves, to break down the patriarchy and the abuse that has been laid to them by men, yet, transpeople think they can just storm right in and force Feminists and women to just accept them and not challenge how trans issues affect them?? Sounds like male privilege again as its mostly vocal transwomen doing this!


    Oct 19, 2008 at 3:16 pm