This scenario is inspired by a dialogue I had yesterday evening with a gender-critical feminist just before I went to bed. Here is what I dreamed:
In the summer of 2021, the Conservative minister Liz Truss introduces legislation, making women-only spaces legally accessible only to those born female. This U.K. law includes a provision for funding alternative spaces for trans women. Sent out to bat by adviser Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces at the Despatch Box, 'Make women safe.' Labour's Keir Starmer responds with forensic precision: we don't dislike this legislation, but we don't necessarily like it either.
Reactions from the mainstream media are swift. Each of the UK's major newspapers, their editorials in alignment with gender-critical feminism, run it front-page, advocating the legislation. A swathe of columnists, from The Times' Janice Turner to The Scotsman's Gina Davidson, tweet 'Trans Rights Trussed Up' and 'P.C.: R.I.P.'
Pink News sees things differently. What are trans women supposed to do? Where are they supposed to go? Who will police this? What are the punishments for transgression when trans women refuse to adhere? How can we trust a government guided by a love of austerity to invest in facilities for trans people? Is this to be another of Boris's 350-million-pound pledges? And in different news, how can we destroy the careers of Rosie Duffield and others like her for using a sex-based discourse to define their reality as women?
One week after the government's announcement, Britain's major cities witness long lines of marches, protesting in support of trans rights. 'All we want to do is live,' one sign says simply. In a small, dark office up in Edinburgh, an officer of the Scottish Trans Alliance holds in his hands what seems some ancient papyrus, in fact a leaflet from 2015 advocating Self-ID and how liberation is just around the corner.
The weeks go by, as the guardians of hospital wards and women's shelters, changing rooms and sports departments, give workshops to colleagues on the implications of the new law and the alternative Third-Space arrangements for trans people. New jobs are made across Britain for trans people to administer their own spaces. A new office in Whitehall is added, and alongside the Women's Minister is the representative for the Ministry of Queer.
J.K. Rowling opens a new trans/non-binary person's shelter in Scotland, staffed by trans/non-binary care-workers. A crowd of Rowling-haters watch and are overwhelmed as a special kind of Hogwartsian magic takes effect, in which monsters turn back into women, and lost childhoods re-emerge.
More legislation passes. It is now a hate crime to deny women the right to organize, and a hate crime to deny women the right to a discourse based on sex-based rights. Rosie Duffield sues Pink News successfully, and Pink News goes out of business.
Maya Forstater returns to court and this time wins her case for the right to believe:
Sex is a material reality which should not be confused with gender or gender identity.
Being female, or male, is an immutable, biological fact, not a feeling or an identity.
It is important to be able to talk about sex in order to take action against the discrimination, violence, and oppression, that still affect women and girls because they were born female.
In an act of contrition, Keir Starmer and the Labour leadership team visit Woman's Place UK. 'No need to apologize, Sir Keir' says Ruth Serwotka with a friendly arm around Starmer's shoulder, but Starmer, with uncharacteristic emotion, does so anyway. Members of Woman's Place UK begin optimistically to talk about a Labour victory in the coming election and the need for socialism to protect vulnerable women and children. Starmer nods, his furrowed brow returning. He doesn't dislike what they're saying, but doesn't necessarily like it either.
The British General Election comes, and the Conservatives lose to a left-of-centre coalition. A transgender woman becomes the first to be elected as an MP, for Labour. She joins Starmer's cabinet, and will work with Rosie Duffield on plans for policing the Internet against misogyny, transphobia, and fake news. And so the government focuses on the small matter of fixing capitalism ...