Plenty of others have written about events at the 2017 London anarchist bookfair and the disagreements since. We recognise that some of the harm caused is ongoing, which is why we wanted to respond even though some time has passed.
While it is uncomfortable, and often deeply painful, to find ourselves disagreeing with people we’ve regarded as friends and comrades, trans people have been facing discomfort and hostility in our movements for a lot longer. Ignoring this conflict is not an option.
We don’t think transphobia should be tolerated in anarchist spaces and events.
As underlying attitudes come to the surface, it’s become clear that some people in our movements think such bigotry should be given credibility (sometimes on the basis of ‘free speech’) as one viewpoint among many, to be debated calmly as if it were not something doing real damage to real human beings.
We disagree. To us, ideas which try to turn disempowered groups against one another should be opposed vigorously with all the tools available to us, including, where appropriate, physical force and no-platforming.
We’re also concerned at yet another case of someone’s social capital within the movement being used to excuse their behaviour. We all need to find ways to challenge the gaps in each others’ awareness, not ignore them – and to do this in a way that doesn’t pretend we are perfect ourselves.
Some have suggested that doing so is divisive, that we should focus on state or institutional oppressions; this ignores the fact that these divisions are already there, but some of us have the luxury of being oblivious to them.
We realise that a huge amount of work has gone into the bookfair over the years, and that even among the small group of organisers, attitudes will vary. Still, we wish it had been possible for advice, contacts and resources to be passed on before the event was abandoned, and hope it will continue in some form.
In the long run, we want to build a feminism which attacks the common enemy instead of reinforcing oppression.