Interview with Julie Bindel

Christine Burns interviewed Julie Bindle this week, in a long-planned interview – very topical given recent controversy. The initial chat wasn’t about the Stonewall nomination controversy, but it hints at it – at about seven and a half minutes in she says that she doesn’t set out to be controversial only to start debate and doesn’t necessarily stand by things she’s said in the past.

At eveven minutes, half way though, the conversation turns to recent events and she explains her position – classic 1960s and 1970s “Second wave feminism“. In her own words, she’d like to see an “end to gender” and it’s this key point that means second wave feminism and the transsexual movement are never going to see eye-to-eye. Second-waveists believe gender is socially constructed but we’re rude enough to disprove their argument by our mere existence. She also still believes that psychiatrists from the 1950s until very recently used a diagnosis of transsexualism to offer a surgical solution to anything that was seen as gender-inappropriate, thus defending gender. Amusingly, she later tries to claim that she wasn’t misinformed but just holding a different opinion when Christine challenged her with a quote from Stuart Lorimer, a psychiatrist at London’s Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic, that she was “spectacularly misinformed”. I would suggest that if she thinks one might accidentally get a diagnosis of GID when going to the GPs, that she has a look at what most people have to go through to get the diagnosis, hormones and surgery in the first place. If you’re not desperate and already know what’s wrong, you’re not going to get anywhere!

According to Press For Change, Julie said a “very clear sorry for things she agrees she had got wrong”. I didn’t hear that apology myself – she chose her words carefully and apologised for the tone in which she said things that might have caused offence and promoted more discrimination but I didn’t get any more from it than that. Whilst I agree with PFC that she has opened the door for more dialogue I’m not sure this is really that positive as she claims to just be misunderstood and wants to clarify and defend her position, which she’ll do in writing soon. She’d like a “heated debate” but not a “heated argument” but I get the impression she will pick her adversaries very carefully – it’s clear the recent controversy has gotten to her and she attacked those that had “closed the door in her face” while saying that others such as Christine and Stephen Whittle had engaged with her. I don’t believe she understands the position we feel we’re in, as she’s a columnist for the Guardian and we’re… well, not. She even goes so far as to acknowledge herself that writing a column like that gives her immense power. Given that she is on one extreme, it would seem reasonable for her to openly engage with the other “extreme” – the bloggers and others who are angry about her nomination – rather than the more “moderate” and conservative old-guard of the trans activism community such as Stephen and Christine.

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