Posie Parker in Australia: TERFs, Nazis and the fight for trans liberation

Huge protests confronted Parker in Auckland. After being booed, heckled and doused in tomato juice, she left the country! Photo by RNZ.
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UK trans-hater Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, also known as Posie Parker, recently graced Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand with her Let Women Speak tour. With sponsorship from the far-right Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and a wardrobe of brightly coloured pantsuits emblazoned with “Woman” across the chest, she came to make a splash. She did, except that the splash was on her — finished off with a litre tomato juice at Auckland’s protest, where a couple of thousand trans rights protesters forced her to go back home.

Keen emerged as a public figure in the United Kingdom alongside transphobia in the feminist movement, which has become increasingly virulent. She founded Standing for Women, whose website states that “woman” must be defined strictly as “adult human female,” because “without this word all of our rights and protections are lost.” “Our rights,” it claims, “were never created for our ‘gender’ but our sex.” Keen opposes any legal recognition of trans people as their identified gender. This covers everything from access to public bathrooms, participation in sports and performing in drag to the use of puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for transgender children. She’s a prominent figure in a movement to revoke the UK’s Gender Recognition Act. And the list of Keen’s public abuse and harassment of trans individuals is long.

But Keen is not just a TERF (Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist). She’s firmly aligned with the far right. Besides CPAC, she has received financial backing from the U.S. rightwing think-tank, Heritage Foundation, and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a global “religious freedom” organisation campaigning against abortion and LGBTIQA+ rights. The ADF is now also notorious for bringing the Texas federal court case against the abortion pill, in which their handpicked, rightwing judge recently suspended its approval by the Federal Drug Administration. Keen belongs to the Hands Across the Aisle Coalition, whose mission is to connect anti-trans radical feminists with homophobic Christian groups. She has done interviews with YouTuber and white ethno-state advocate Jean-François Gariépy, the (self-explanatory) Soldiers of Christ Online and rightwing Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson. Her associations with the hard right extend to open fascists, such as her selfie post with Norwegian neo-Nazi Hans Jørgen Lysglimt and her praise for English fascist Tommy Robinson.

“Year of the TERF.” Keen’s Standing for Women website declared 2023 as “the year of the TERF,” announcing her plan for tours “spanning several continents.” In the context of intensified TERF harassment alongside a full-on rightwing assault against women, queers, trans and nonbinary people, Keen’s mission is to link these two camps.

In the months prior to Keen’s Australian tour, fascists were targeting drag and young queer events. This is the rightwing’s new crusade, having moved on from its vicious no-holds-barred campaign against marriage equality, which the queer community was forced to endure for years. On losing this battle, the same religious and political forces tried to push through a federal “religious freedom” bill that would legalise bigotry on all fronts. So far, trans and queer-led resistance has staved this off. But across the world, assaults on bodily autonomy are unrelenting — from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decimation of abortion protection to endless legislations and restrictions designed to repress reproductive rights and gender diversity in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere. All this is why, across Australia and Aeotearoa, Keen’s small turnouts were overpowered by large counter-actions.

Transgender Day of Visibility Rally 31 March 2023. Photo: Debbie Brennan.

People understand the danger that Keen represents. Her speaking tours are intended to drive a wedge into the feminist movement, which is globally growing more militant as it reaches across borders and connects struggles. The pivotal Women Life Freedom movement of Iran, which embraces those most maligned and persecuted, demonstrates this. In the United States, the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice, initiated by Radical Women, calls for the defence of queer and trans families and the guarantee of gender-affirming care. At mobilisations on many fronts, placards are expressing the indivisible nature of our fights, such as “No women’s liberation without trans equality” and “Trans rights are women’s/workers’/human rights.”

The far right recruits by appealing to people’s prejudices and anger, and Keen is using transphobia to bring anti-trans feminists over to the far right.

TERF and far-right ideas intersect. TERFs are reacting angrily to the rise of a trans movement that is elevating public consciousness about gender diversity. Anti-trans feminists believe that women’s oppression comes from men rather than an economic system that survives by repressing and exploiting women. This biological determinist logic leads to the bizarre notion that trans women are predatory men obsessed with getting into women’s spaces, from bathrooms to sports and even prisons. It extends to children, and the pedophile trope, used against gay men, is having a comeback.

Meanwhile the global economy is disintegrating. For capitalism to prosper, it has always needed the male-ruled family. And for this, a rigidly binary gender regime must be enforced. Women in the role of wife and mother — reproducing workers, caring for them and keeping them fit for work — oils the wheels of profit. There’s no place in this arrangement for queer and trans people. Homophobia, transphobia and male/female-only genders are inextricably tied to the sexist underpinning of the economy. Because capitalism’s other buttress is racism, the penalties are even harsher for people of colour.

Capitalism is the breeding ground for the far right and fascism. The system needs both to enforce its status quo. Feminism is its nemesis, because women’s struggle for liberation from the patriarchal, white supremacist order means its destruction.

But radical feminism’s blinkered and flawed ideology leaves its adherents open to far-right and fascist opportunism. This was on full display at Keen’s Melbourne event. Outside Victoria’s Parliament House, feminist flag-waving demonstrators held up placards with violent anti-trans messages. Nazis — members of the National Socialist Network — gave sieg heil salutes and carried a banner saying “Destroy paedo freaks.” The counter-demonstrators’ chant, “Posie Parker, you can’t hide. You have Nazis on your side,” perfectly summed up the situation.

True to form, the Victorian Police gave the trans-haters and goose-steppers free rein while forcibly holding back the much larger side of trans defenders. Nazis openly parading, under full cop protection, shocked a lot of people, including mainstream commentators. Premier Dan Andrews was compelled to issue a statement that hatred against trans people won’t be tolerated by his government. But the scene at Parliament House laid bare a fact as old as capitalism: police exist to protect the status quo and protect its defenders, no matter how violent they are.

Stand up, fight back! Melbourne’s Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV) was trans defenders’ answer to what happened two weeks earlier. Thousands came out on this cold, rainy Friday night in a show of solidarity. From the stage, trans speakers — women, men and genderqueer, workers, unionists and First Nations — articulated with defiance and clarity that trans people’s fight for liberation is for everyone, and feminism that excludes them is not feminism. First Nations speakers talked about transgenderism in their cultures many thousands of years old. They thanked the hundreds of cis people who came out to defend the trans community against the Nazi-supported TERF show. Then we marched to Parliament House and took over the steps.

Nazis and transphobes are not welcome! Standing strong against Parker at the Melbourne counter-rally on 18 March 2023. Photo: Debbie Brennan.

If sexism and racism are the critical stumps holding up the house of capitalism, then this kind of multi-issue resistance, if sustained, will cause deep cracks. TDOV in Melbourne was a glimpse of what is achievable and needed right now: everyone suffering under the status quo (that’s most working class and oppressed people!) uniting around trans liberation. This fight would free us all. A united front is the coming together of people and groups to organise around agreed principles. We come with different experiences and perspectives, so democracy and accountability are crucial to this unity. And there can be no compromise when fighting against opposing interests: a united front is working class-led.

Victorian Trades Hall co-hosted TDOV, and the involvement of several unions added to the power felt that night. This is important, because trade unions are where workers organise, and they have the power to stop all work. They are gender-diverse and come from every oppressed section of society. This makes unions crucial to every fight, and they are essential for the united front. The task for unionists now is to shift the movement from showing occasional support to taking its place in every fight.

Trans liberation, nothing less! Power to the gender-diverse people!

Want to talk about a united front? Contact Freedom Socialist Party or Radical Women. We’d love to hear from you!

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