De-TERFing Speaker’s Corner

[CW for violence; descriptions of trans misogyny; racism]

Over two and a half years have passed since a confrontation at Hyde Park Corner between trans protestors and a group of transphobes. The incident resulted in the persecution of Tara Wolf by both the state and the transphobes themselves. To this day, these bigots continue to harass and dox her, making long hateful rambling films and blog posts. In reality, Hyde Park corner was an insignificant scrap that was blown way out of proportion.

So, what *actually* happened at Hyde Park Corner that day? Some well-known TERFs held a meeting. They were opposed by trans people and allies. As is their way, the transphobes attempted to film the trans protestors to post video online and encourage transphobic abuse.

This has become a depressingly normalised part of being a trans person in the UK, especially if you dare to assert your right to exist. Being taunted and aggressively filmed in and of itself is distressing, particularly for those who are neurodivergent. On top of this, those present understood the clips of them would be circulated to their employers, as well as across the internet, to try to hurt them. Internet doxing has – and continues to have – a massively detrimental impact on many members of the trans community.

In case you were wondering: if you ask transphobes to stop filming you, they do not. (For so-called feminists they have very poor understandings of consent). Those present were left no alternative to trying to physically stop the phone being used to film. Unhappy with the attempts to stop her from filming, doxing and harassing, Maria MacLachlan attacked the group of trans protestors, putting one of them in a headlock and shaking them. It was here that Tara intervened to free the person being assaulted. The whole thing barely would have raised eyebrows at a Wetherspoons any Friday night. The whole sequence of events is broken down, frame by frame on twitter. A few key moments: 

By grossly exaggerating events the TERFs have used this incident to fuel their vitriolic campaign against trans women.  But it’s worth saying that if Tara had stood by, smiled, giggled and curtseyed (or whatever it is these people think makes someone an agreeable woman) or if she had knocked the whole lot of them out cold (as they would love you to believe), it would have made no difference: what Tara did (or didn’t do) is irrelevant in their aggressive campaign. You can’t “do the right thing” when the people attacking you see your mere existence as wrong.   

In the following weeks, the TERFs collaborated closely with the police to identify those trans women involved. Thus included placing “wanted” photographs in the Evening Standard.

Tara Wolf was the woman they identified and subsequently targeted. By way of comparison, when TERFs violently attacked and physically injured trans people and allies, that very same night, no one called the police. Even if they had, it is highly doubtful whether the same level of interest would be taken.

When Tara arrived at Westminster Magistrates to enter her plea, she was met with taunting from TERFs, who even brought their children along for the show. These TERFs tried hard to provoke the many people supporting Tara, waiting outside the courthouse. Tactics included trying to film up people’s clothes, to identify their genitals.

The trial itself was equally fraught. Transphobes attended to taunt and ridicule Tara and anyone they thought might support the existence of trans people. Throughout giving her evidence, MacLachlan misgendered Tara. After a two day trial, Judge Grant found Tara guilty of a minor assault. Tara was not even required to pay compensation to MacLachlan. This of course didn’t stop TERFS and the media alike from lying about events. Even the transphobic court system couldn’t claim it was serious assault, as the TERFs continue to do, across the web. Let us not forget the violence of people campaigning to send this  trans woman to a men’s prison, where statistically she would have been subject to immense violence, and possible death.

More than two years on they aren’t letting up. The total number of hours TERFs squander searching for Tara online, we will never know. One way or another, they found a facebook page of a martial arts club where Tara took up training a few months ago, to continue their doxing and harassment, egged on by MacLachlan who has recently made another hour-long video about Tara and the Speakers Corner incident.

Notably, MacLachlan has a history of abuse and stalking. In the past, she has also targeted alternative medicine provision. A veritable multi-tasker when it comes to abuse, Maclachlan’s resume includes heinous and racist attacks on Muslims, targeting in particular women who wear Hijab. She goes so far as to imply support for the EDL, whose texts and rhetoric are indistinguishable from the drivel she herself has written. Her aggressive, vindictive attacks have been going on too long. 

Clearly, for the TERFS, it wasn’t enough to secure a conviction for Tara through the British “Criminal” Punishment System. These people won’t be satisfied until all trans people are erased. You don’t have to delve too deep into their campaigns to identify the motives.

TERFs campaign for trans women to be excluded from women only spaces, like hostels or refuges. It’s working class, trans women of colour and black trans women who die because of this. Segregating trans women within women’s prisons particularly impacts black trans women, trans women of colour and sex workers as those most likely to be imprisoned. Even with legal recognition for their gender, these women are likely to end up in a men’s prison, due to new legislation that assigns trans people across the prison estate according to their “risk”, a highly racialised indicator.

Masked by academic double-speak and steeped in false “concern” for women (kind of like how Tommy Robinson cares about sexual violence and grooming gangs), these bigots collude with the state to eradicate trans people. Somehow, shouting at or shoving bigots is seen as more violent than preventing children from obtaining the medicine they need to transition or excluding trans women from resources they need with fatal consequences.  We need a more complex understanding of violence. The violence to which trans people are subjected is structural, it is embedded within society and it marks the lives of trans people every day, most sharply hurting those who experience oppression on multiple axes; trans sex workers, black trans women and trans women of colour, working class trans people, disabled and neurodivergent trans people.

How do we fight back against the immensity of this structural violence? We hear people – including those on our side – talking about the “optics” of addressing transphobia and trans misogyny; how it “looks bad” if trans people, and particularly trans women, defend themselves verbally or physically. This reproduces transphobic logics – revealing that, however supportive of the trans community people say they are, deep down, trans feminine people are really just men and trans masculine people are in actual fact women. This approach also silences, shames and polices responses to oppression.

Why would we try to appeal to people who want to erase and destroy us? Why would we want to look good in their eyes? Why should we have to present ourselves as some impossibly idealised, perfect victim, to be recognised as human beings by the capitalist, racist, homophobic mainstream media? Why try to appease our oppressors?

We need to have more self-respect than this. We can, and must, do better. Instead of answering to a hostile outside world about how best we should act, we need only be accountable to ourselves. This can – and does – take many forms. It doesn’t mean everyone must “take up arms”, nor is it intended to dismiss the very real fear experienced when we face our enemies, and the responses people have to this fear. But it must include backing up those of us who use physical force to defend ourselves and our loved ones. 

What happened at Hyde Park Corner has had a profoundly negative impact – on Tara and on the entire trans community. The blame for this lies with our trans misogynistic and transphobic society, encouraged by a few powerful bigots. After all, trying to free a trans person from the grips of a physically strong transphobe is not violence, its self defence. 

~ Helena Steal


Note from editor: MacLachlan’s video and numerous way too long posts about the Speaker’s Corner incident and the subsequent trial are availabe on her blog, PeakTrans.