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The National Women’s Council and the controversy over discussing gender identity

NWCI, NGOs shrink from the glare of publicity

24 June 2022

In 2015, Ireland introduced some of the most liberal gender self-identity laws on the globe. The implementation of those laws has worked out through Irish society and institutions largely unimpeded.

In June 1922 Irish people finally found out about the implications of gender self-identity and a conversation began. The conversation did not go well for trans activists. The dispute began when the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) excluded a feminist group, The Countess, from their June AGM.

The Countess wanted to discuss proposed changes to the Maternity Act, including “the replacement of ‘woman’ with ‘person’, or “a word importing the feminine gender shall be read as also importing the masculine gender”, or “For the avoidance of doubt, ‘woman’ is being substituted for a gender-neutral term, such as ‘person’.

At a time when the new National Maternity Hospital has been handed over to a company linked to the church, removing the word woman from the discussion would clearly be harmful.

The justification for the bar;

"...NWC made the decision to refuse entry to the event for the people involved. NWC has a duty of care to ensure participants and speakers at our events feel safe... NWC welcomes discussion and information sharing in relation to transgender issues within the feminist movement and beyond. However, these discussions must respect the rights of trans people and cannot be used to question their rights or trans people’s legitimacy".
The claim from the council was:
"NWC advocates for inclusive language in legislation and policy. NWC recommended the use of women and people in the amendments to the maternity legislation".
This statement is disingenuous. NWCI reluctantly agreed to the inclusion of the word women amid a word salad of "people with cervixes" that would have effectively buried the term. The trans debate became public, for many for the first time, on the RTE Liveline daily radio chat show. The explanation of the issues extended over several days with different currents given air time.

It did not go well for the trans activists. No-one had questioned their rights but expressed concern that the rights of women as a sex were being injured. The response was a call for suppression of debate.

The programs were followed by an avalanche of complaints about RTE's transphobia.  What became clear right away was that the crime, the bigotry, lay in allowing questioning of gender ideology. The question was the crime, the cure was a total ban on freedom of speech.

There is nothing new about this. In 2020 many of the same organisations circulated an open letter calling for the outlawing of Gender Critical groups and a ban on publication of their views. However, on this occasion the demand was made in the glare of publicity and there was widespread rejection of the zealots.

Despite claims of endless victimhood, there is generally positive support for trans people. What is now being criticised is trans ideology. In this cult, an individual's belief about their gender trumps the biological reality of their sex. Any attempt to critique this position is bigotry and hatred and justifies forcing people out of work, barring them from social spaces and requires the suppression of free speech. Attempts by women to meet and discuss as a sex lead to hostile demonstrations and threats. The theoretical base of the cult is a mish-mash of intersectionality and queer theory, where ideas of class and solidarity are replaced by a passive and unquestioning "allyship."

As with all theoretical constructs, the movement has a material base. It is mostly not those with acute gender dysphoria who feel the need to demand a ban on discussion. The rancour comes in part from a large medical industry that mutilates prepubescent children and dispenses drugs that will eventually sterilise the victims. In this environment "affirmation" of the patient's belief without question is of central importance.

To an even greater extent the dogma emerges from the world of the NGOs, thousands of which dominate Irish society.  Bogus ideas of diversity, inclusion and equality, based on the defeat of struggles that aimed for a real society of equals, are used to lever promotion and attract grants.

The old saying is: "Join a union, Human resources is not your friend". The majority of NGOs are HR organisations run by the capitalist state. Unfortunately, the process of social partnership has left many union leaders in bed with the NGOs.

This layer has one major weakness. It is not fond of the light of day. Its environment is the committee room and the Dáil lobby. By conquering the upper reaches of government and society it was able to frame current legislation and much organisational practice while striking fear into anyone who questioned the ideology.

Three days of discussion on RTE's Liveline was a serious setback. And the trans activists made things worse through hysterical denunciation, through attempting to call RTE before their allies in the government and by withdrawing from Pride month coverage.
The current situation pits spontaneous public opinion against a highly organised cult. Once the immediate outrage dies down the background intimidation will be increased. It should be remembered that 100s of organisations, including Amnesty International, the National Council for Civil Liberties and the National Women’s Council already have as policy the demand for the outlawing of gender critical voices.

The response must be a new mobilisation of women. The Countess, the organisers of the initial protest, have grown greatly. The mobilisations must be active and on the streets. The handover of the National Maternity Hospital and the consequences for women's rights continue to be issues.

Alliances should be sought with working class organisations.  This was feature of the high point of feminism in the 70s. Today we see that restrictions on abortion are issues that largely effect working class women, as was the case throughout the history of church and state repression, The collapse of groups such as People before Profit and much of the trade union movement into unthinking adaption to trans ideology must be resisted.

Finally, we should not neglect theory. The rise of intersectionality and queer theory reflect a surrender of rights to NGOs and government committees. It's self-evident that these rights are not safe there.

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