By Joanna WILLIAMS
Slowly, over several decades, woke values have come to shape ever more of the institutions we interact with daily. As I explore in my new book, How Woke Won, views that carry high status among a graduate, professional class now dominate our schools, universities, policing, health care provision, mainstream and social media, and big business.
Take the woke belief that sex is irrelevant and self-declared gender identity is all-important. Not that long ago, this was a fringe view held by a tiny number of gender studies professors and activists. Today, this belief is not only widely accepted by those running our public institutions but, when put into practice, leaves women at risk in prisons, changing rooms, refuges, and public bathrooms. It jeopardizes girls’ sports and, worse still, makes some vulnerable to the idea that they need life-altering medication and surgery in order to bring their bodies in line with their perceived gender. Yet woke thinking dictates we put up with all this in order to ‘be kind.’
Whereas the Biden administration is committed to promoting gender ideology “in the classroom, on the playing field, at work, in our military, in our housing and healthcare systems—everywhere, simply everywhere,” Liz Truss, Britain’s newly appointed prime minister, has said: “I will make sure that single-sex spaces are protected. We can’t have a situation where…there are hospital wards which claim to be single-sex that simply aren’t, or we have domestic violence shelters where that’s under question.”
Sadly, these divergent approaches are already having a very different impact on children.
Earlier this summer, President Biden promised to end conversion therapy for the surging numbers of American children who identify as transgender. But to many, talking therapies are an essential means for minors to consider all the options available to them before committing to invasive medical procedures. In the U.K., a similar ban on transgender conversion therapy was proposed but, after much discussion, subsequently scrapped.
Previously, the health care systems in the U.S. and the U.K. were equally likely to promote ‘gender-affirming care,’ including puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgery. But while the U.K.’s national clinic for children struggling with their gender identity was closed down last month after a scathing report declared the practice to be “not safe,” the American Academy of Pediatrics is doubling down on gender affirmation despite serious questions now being raised about this approach.
In the U.S., men who identify as women can still be incarcerated with female inmates, leading to shocking cases such as that of Demi Minor, who impregnated two women while behind bars. In the U.K., women’s jails are to be restricted to biological women under new policies proposed by the U.K.’s justice secretary.
One key factor in the progress we have seen in the U.K. in recent months has been the opening up of debate. Time and again, women have shone the disinfectant of sunlight on threats to their sex-based rights. This has often meant gender-critical feminists have had to make the case for free speech in order to get a platform for their views. In the U.S., ironically the land of the First Amendment liberties, the Academy of Pediatrics is trying to stifle debate by dismissing critics of its approach as “anti-transgender activists.”
Despite the persistence, bravery, and sheer bloody-mindedness of a great many British women, there is still much further to go. Concern is growing about what children are taught in schools, and every day brings news of businesses expecting staff to wear pronoun badges or turning women’s changing rooms into ‘gender neutral’ spaces. Gains that have been made rarely feel secure.
Make no mistake: getting this far in the U.K. has been a hard slog. Campaigners for women’s sex based rights have received death threats, lost their livelihoods, been arrested and taken to court charged with having committed hate crimes, and have been banned from social media. But it looks like, in the U.K. at least, common sense may finally be winning out against a once-dominant transgender ideology.