Say No To Transphobia Brighton! A report on protest against WPUK

On Monday 23rd September 2019 the transphobic hate group WPUK (“Woman’s” Place UK) returned to Brighton to attempt to host another meeting under the cover of being a fringe event for the Labour Party Conference.

WPUK claim to be a “feminist” group for the furthering of “women’s” rights. Their views are essentialist, discriminatory, and hateful. They travel the UK hosting meetings to attract young women under the guise of feminism and then propagate violent anti-transgender rhetoric. The group has been opposed by queer (LGBTIA+), feminist and antifascist groups across the country. They even keep their own glory wall on their website, documenting the counter actions that have taken place against them. WPUK then use the media as a tool to wrongly distort these protests as acts of intimidation or violence against cis women. This is a political strategy that has been used by fascists and abusive people since the dawn of time, it is the act of distortion, of projection and of gas lighting. As with the early British feminist movements, who did not recognise the struggles of women of colour or the needs of women in the lower classes, these women at WPUK now intend to exclude, or worse still target, transgender women. Despite what WPUK and its members would have you believe, there is nothing radical nor feminist about their views nor actions. They are antiquated, ignorant and incite structural, societal and medical violence upon our trans community. Transgender identity is protected under hate crime legislation and is defined as hostile behaviours towards the victim, therefore, there can be no doubt to WPUK’s status as a hate group.

Whilst transgender humans may be the main target of WPUK’s hateful propaganda they are not the only people discriminated against by these bigots. Sex workers are also targeted by WPUK, as happened in Brighton over the Labour Conference weekend. Members of WPUK distributed thousands of leaflets both inside the conference buildings and to the public outside of Labour Conference and The World Transformed conference venues. These leaflets specifically targeted women who participate in sex work. There is nothing feminist about whorephobia, sex work is work. WPUK have also had multiple complaints lodged against them for their racist indiscretions during meetings, bringing us back to the fact that these women need to get some education on the evolution of the feminist movement and stop consulting transphobic University of Sussex lecturer, Kathleen Stock.

This is not the first time Brighton has had the misfortune of witnessing WPUK’s propaganda tactics. In July 2018, WPUK came to further their political mission opposing the Gender Recognition Act, in an attempt to stop the legal, administrative and societal recognition of transgender and gender non-conforming people. Local trans and queer people came together as a community to protest the group at the Jury’s Inn (Waterfront), after WPUK’s first venue, Friends’ Meeting House, cancelled the booking as a rejection of WPUK’s views:

“We strongly challenge the misrepresentation, misinformation, disrespect and intrinsic antagonism towards trans people by Women’s Place UK and others in pursuing their stated aims around gender identity legislation (including the Gender Recognition Act), and want to highlight the hugely negative effect this is having on trans people in Britain, including trans friends.”

The Gender Recognition Act is especially relevant to WPUK’s essentialist definition of “women”, and what they wrongfully consider single-sex spaces. It is demeaning and harmful to all women, not just trans women as it perpetuates misogynistic views of womanhood, including cis people being targeted for presenting in a non-conforming way in these spaces.

Queer AF Brighton called this year’s counter-demonstration against the WPUK meeting, whose venue was being kept secret from both the local community and ticket holders. WPUK used the Labour Conference as a cover for their anti-transgender and anti-sex worker propaganda, encouraging labour members and delegates to attend their meeting under the false pretenses of bettering “women’s rights”. Queer AF and local volunteers attempted to combat WPUK’s hateful rhetoric by advertising the protest planned against them, on social media and by leafleting outside Labour Conference and The World Transformed events.

On Monday at 5pm, the Old Steine was used as a meeting point for the Say No To Transphobia Brighton protest. Over 200 protesters gathered which included trans and queer activists, Labour Party members, trade union members, feminist groups and antifascists. Whilst the protesters waited for the official announcement of the venue site, they made speeches, handed out leaflets and enjoyed music together. At 6pm the notice went out that the BMECP (Black & Minority Ethnic Community Partnership), would be the venue hosting the WPUK meeting. The protesters marched through town, waving flags, singing and chanting. Some protesters who did not march, also went to the BMECP to counter flyer attendees waiting in line. When the march arrived at the venue, protesters gathered near the entrance which was already guarded by private security and police officers. An archway was made with a transgender banner which read “transgender rights are human rights” above the entrance steps, this meant whilst attendees were still able to enter the building they were also unable to remain ignorant to this fact.

The protesters successfully split into two groups for the noise demo, covering the front entrance and at the back of the building outside the room where WPUK held their meeting. For the next three hours of the protest, activists made impassioned and informative speeches about the rise of transgender hate crime, the violence against trans children, and the need for solidarity with non-binary people. Our trans siblings in attendance gave personal accounts of the transphobia against them, but also of their own powerful community building and togetherness to hold each other in these turbulent times. It’s important to remember that hate crimes against members of our trans community have risen by 81% in the past year. WPUK’s hate speech against transgender people incites the public to further attacks online and beyond, this in turn contributes to the loss of transgender lives.

There were sung performances such as “I am what I am, and what I am is trans”, “singing in the rain” (when buckets were poured on protesters) and “under my gender umbrella-ella-ella”. Chants included:

  • WPUK, are a hate group!
  • You stop the hate group, we’ll stop the protest!
  • You’re not real feminists, we are! We are! (Yankee doodle tune)
  • Hey, hey, ho, ho, Transphobia has got to go!
  • Sex work is work, decrim now!
  • Who protects the transphobes? POLICE protect the transphobes!
  • Trans women are women, trans men are men, non-binary is valid!
  • Keep the L with the T, transphobes do not speak for me!
  • Please know your history, black trans women fought for me!

Eventually, the WPUK meeting concluded and members left sad and frustrated that their meeting had been disrupted, leaving as aggressively as they entered. This aggression has continued since the meeting, by way of false and malicious media allegations against activists, community protesters, and transgender people. They have also promoted the erasure of the initiation and escalation of violence inflicted by police and private security at their event, towards queer women, young people, people of colour and other marginalised people.

Queer AF has made a request to the TWT to get Jeremy Corbyn to stand by the Labour Party’s explicit approach to transphobia and denounce WPUK. The Labour party’s shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler has already taken a hardline stance. Queer AF is now circulating an Open Letter being signed by activist groups across the country. To show your solidarity please sign the letter here.

The erasure of and violence against the trans community will not be tolerated. Trans rights are human rights, the real feminists and activists will continue to fight for them.

Queer AF Brighton