Haringey ReSisters: Protest against 'anti-transgender' Hornsey Rise meeting that was barred from Crouch End school
PUBLISHED: 15:00 13 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:47 15 February 2019
Dozens of people picketed a controversial "anti-transgender" meeting on Tuesday night, billed as a discussion on "keeping women and children safe" from trans people.
A reported 100 people piled into St Mary’s Church in Hornsey Rise for a meeting by Haringey ReSisters. A school in Crouch End is understood to have cancelled the booking after learning of the topic.
Speakers included sculptor-turned-gender-expert Stephanie Davies-Arai, and academics Dr Julia Long and Heather Brunskell-Evans.
Outside the hall in Ashley Road, the Sister Not Cister campaign group shouted: “Believe trans kids.”
According to a video filmed by the meeting’s chair, anti-transgender activist Venice Allan, campaigners called her a “fascist” after she attended an event criticising the US Equality Act run by American right-wing group the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC.
The meeting focused on presentations by Ms Davies-Aria about her teacher toolkit, which “counters the advice from [leading LGBTQ+ charity] Stonewall” on transgender issues in schools.
Teacher Jason Waters complained to St Mary’s Church about the meeting being given space. He said he was “enraged” and “stunned”.
He said: “As an LGBTQ man and a teacher, I was appalled by this. They are handing out a tookit with these views to schools. Schools should be an inclusive place for children, rather than accepting hate speech.
“Events like this isolate the transgender community, which is already marginalised by society. It’s hate speech. The sole feeling that you’re in the wrong body but also as someone who is a young person is awful.
“I wonder what it would be like for one of their children who might be questioning their gender identity.”
This newspaper understands the ReSisters group has been targeting schools in Haringey in a leafleting campaign.
Speaking to us after the event, Ms Allan said she realised the meetings may be “upsetting” for transgender people. She said she felt the meeting was important because of a need to keep women and children “safe from transgender ideology”.
The activist said she believed children were able to identify as trans too early, and that she did not agree with trans people having gender reassignment surgery. She alleged schools are forced to accept a child’s identity if they come out as trans, and aren’t allowed to speak to parents about it.
“They’re making these choices very young,” she said. “They should be offered really good psychotherapy to be allowed to be happy with their healthy bodies.
“It’s my personal belief that healthy bodies shouldn’t be operated on, although as adults they have that choice.”
She also claimed 80 per cent “grow out” of being transgender.
Spokesperson for Sister Not Cister Jay Latarche said the meeting was useful, and the protesters hadn’t wanted to stop it going ahead.
“Some members of Haringey ReSisters didn’t want to engage with us at all, but some attendees, including parents, came over afterwards and spoke to us and took our leaflets,” they said. “It’s about making sure the information these people are getting isn’t one-sided.”
According to the Trans Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Study, an estimated 48pc of trans people in Britain had attempted suicide as of 2012, and 84pc had thought of it.
Trans rights activist Dani Singer said the treatment of transgender people and meetings to warn about their “danger” were equivalent to the treatment of gay and lesbian people during the early equality movement.
“It’s very much the same, in how trans people are being talked about as perverts, or threats to children or rapists,” they said. “Meetings and rhetoric like this affects you directly, especially on days when it can be difficult for people to even get out of bed in the morning.”
Vicar of the church Tamsin Merchant said: “St Mary Hornsey Rise frequently serves as a venue for community events. Whilst the church was not involved in the planning of this event, we accepted the booking because we believe in free speech and the respectful exchange of ideas. We certainly understand that this a sensitive topic, but felt compelled to treat the venue booking request as we would any other. The content of the meeting is a matter for the organisers, and we therefore cannot comment any further on it.”
A Stonewall spokesperson said: “At a time when two in five trans people have had a hate crime committed against them, and one in eight trans employees have been physically attacked at work, it’s crucial more people and organisations stand up as visible, active allies to improve life for trans people from all walks of life.”