Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy ‘won’t be silenced’ in Scotland

The woman at the centre of a growing debate over the impact on women’s rights of trans people’s self-identification, has admitted she expects protests when she speaks at two events in Scotland this week, including at the Scottish Parliament.
Meghan Murphy is a Canadian journalist and founder of Feminist Current, a radical blog and podcast.Meghan Murphy is a Canadian journalist and founder of Feminist Current, a radical blog and podcast.
Meghan Murphy is a Canadian journalist and founder of Feminist Current, a radical blog and podcast.

Meghan Murphy, a radical feminist from Canada, who was banned from Twitter after alleged “transphobic” comments, will address MSPs and other guests in Holyrood this Wednesday after being invited by SNP MSP Joan McAlpine. She is also due to speak at an event organised by women’s rights organisation ForWomenScot in Glasgow on Friday.

In an exclusive interview with Scotland on Sunday, Murphy told how her life has changed dramatically since she started to raise questions about law changes around trans issues, losing work and dividing her friends, and how she now fears for her personal safety.

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Murphy – a bête noir of the trans rights movement – says younger women have forgotten how hard previous generations of women fought for sex-based rights – an irony, she says, given the decision last week by Alabama to pass the US’s most restrictive abortion bill, banning it even when pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

“Women had to fight for decades just to get to vote and to access universities and get sex harassment laws passed… I mean, only very recently in Canada did female firefighters get their own locker rooms because they were being sexually harassed in shared ones… and you look at what’s happened in Alabama – yet all these laws and policies around trans- identifying people are being passed so quickly and with so little scrutiny,” she says.

“It’s all happening without looking at the impact on society and on women and girls in particular. I don’t know why this tiny minority of vocal trans activists have so much power – far more than women do. Women have been socialised for so long to put men’s feelings first – we had to fight so hard as women to say ‘No, I don’t have to put up with you’ – and that is all being reversed.

“I think young women don’t have much knowledge around the history of the women’s movement. I don’t think they realise how hard they had to fight and how long this fight lasted – and how it’s still going on. When women were fighting for the rights we have now – which so many take for granted – those women were dismissed as crazy and radical. Young people think of all of that as insignificant. And that is upsetting.”

Murphy, who has a degree in women’s studies and a masters in gender studies, had been writing on women’s issues for ten years. But it was only when Canada’s C16 Bill was being passed in 2017, that she began to look at trans issues and their potential impact on women.

“I’m not interested in stopping anyone having surgery or hormones if they feel that’s making their lives better, and certainly people should be able to wear what they want and express themselves in ways that make them feel fulfilled and living authentic lives,” she says. “But once it became about laws and legislation and gender replacing sex it became clear to me that this would have a real impact on women’s rights and spaces.

“The idea that if you have a male body but feel you are, or should be, female then you have every right to be in women’s spaces – be that changing rooms, or shelters, or prisons – to me that was obviously going to have huge impact on women and there was no public discussion or debate. Laws were being passed and nobody was being consulted about it and there was no argument in the media. You just had to accept it or, as I found out when I started asking questions, you were a right-wing bigot.”

The irony in being declared right-wing is not lost on Murphy, who grew up with a Marxist father. She describes herself as a “socialist feminist” but says being labelled right-wing is used by her detractors an “easy out” from engaging with her arguments. However, her views have been embraced by the farthest reaches of American conservatism, something which she says is “not comfortable” but at least shows “they are willing to engage” – while those on the left just want to silence her.

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Twitter has done just that. Tweets Murphy posted about “men not being women” got her suspended. Then when she tweeted “yes it’s him” in reference to a trans woman, who at the time was still going by the name Jonathan and who was suing female Canadian beauticians for refusing to give him a Brazilian wax, she was permanently excluded.

She is now suing them, with her legal fees raised by donations. “Twitter is letting men off the hook,” she says. “They allow all sorts of hateful speech against women, yet when women speak the truth about male violence for instance, they are banned. The threats, the smears, the libels... it’s insane, but to Twitter it’s all OK. But ask a question about biology and you’re banned.”

Murphy believes that social media has been used strategically by trans activists, allowing “trans ideology to be presented as mainstream”. She adds: “The vast majority of the population don’t believe it’s possible to change sex and certainly not through self-declaration.

“I feel trans rights activists are dishonest – I don’t say trans women per se are a threat, I say men are a threat. The threat to women is not from trans, it’s from men. I don’t think all men are a threat, but what changes between a man being a man and a man identifying as a woman?

“With self-identification we have all just got to believe a man is a woman because they say so – but what does identity mean, how is it defined? Without definition it makes being trans meaningless… just an empty word. To me a lot of this is about men once again wanting to remove women’s space and voices – it’s about male narcissism.”

As well as the Twitter ban, which has affected her income in terms of work, her forthright views have affected her life in other ways

She adds: “I think some people think I’m making a fortune out of all of this,” she says. “Nothing could be further from the truth. I have always been regarded as controversial as I don’t believe porn and prostitution are great for women unlike some third wave feminists. But this gender ID thing has blown things up. I find it odd because I never feel I’m saying anything crazy, just normal obvious things.

“Vancouver is a small place and I’ve friends who’ve been stuck in the middle on this – the bullying really gets to me, as they’re pressed by others to reject me. I do get threats, I do worry about violence. I’m still just a writer. It’s been difficult.”

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Her visit to Scotland this week is one of the speaking engagements that followed her Twitter ban. SNP MSP Joan McAlpine has recently been vocal about reviewing the process to change Scotland’s gender recognition act, and she too has received threats and abuse as a result – even from within her own party, especially among younger members.

Murphy says McAlpine is brave and says she’s grateful to have been invited to the Parliament. “I’m very much looking forward to meeting her and other women in Scotland fighting this issue. I wasn’t surprised to see how much backlash she got online though. I’m assuming that there’ll be protests as there are everywhere I go.

“If any of them actually came into the events there’s no way they could accuse me of saying anything hateful. What I do say is let kids be themselves, don’t put them on hormones, don’t put young people through surgery. But of course they never come in. They don’t engage.”

Canada, she says, is a lost cause in terms of re-asserting sex-based rights for women. The UK though she thinks, is different. “I’ve been so impressed by women’s organisations and campaigning in the UK,” she says.

“It didn’t happen in Canada. And the media is also writing about it ,which raises people’s awareness. I think the fact you have politicians like Joan pushing back then there’s a chance to stop it [self ID] and turn it around.”