The Evening Standard asked me to kick off their series on free speech....
I left my job at The Guardian because I was no longer allowed to say what I wanted to say
The other night the familiar whispering started. I was at a prestigious private view in a famous gallery and woman after woman came up to me and whispered that they supported my views on gender ideology. “Fight the good fight,” they said. Often men say this too and more commonly younger and younger people on the street, bus or Tube.
My views, put simply, are that biology is real, that single-sex spaces for women should be maintained, that children should not be medicalised via hormones and surgery, and that trans people should be treated with respect and dignity. These everyday views are considered “transphobic” by my own tribe, the nebulous blob that we might call the Left, hence the whispering, the private messages, endless DMs and emails from those too afraid to say these things in public.
They have reason to be fearful. Women who have challenged this orthodoxy have lost their jobs, their income, their reputations and have in some cases, including mine, been subject to death and rape threats for several years. My experience has pushed me to see that something I took for granted — free speech — is something that has to be fought for by each generation. Everyone is theoretically “for” free speech… until suddenly they are not. Until suddenly they find themselves mouthing something they are afraid to say out loud and are afraid to put in writing.
I do not want to be melodramatic. Free speech in law is a qualified, not absolute right. “This right shall include freedom to hold and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities and regardless of frontiers”.
Essentially, freedom of speech allows the testing of ideas and the possibility is always that some ideas might make some people uncomfortable. I do not see it as a Left or Right issue. We know all over the world that freedom of expression is under attack and pride ourselves that in this country it isn’t. But I am here to tell you otherwise and to mourn that this highest of values is not being passed onto younger generations.
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