This program is advertised as "Women's voices, women's lives" but today we spent more than a
third of the program listening to Grace Lavery, a man who has changed his name and is taking oestrogen, talking about his life and what he believes women are. It really wasn’t an edifying experience. Mostly because he was talking complete nonsense. Helen Joyce would have made mincemeat of him – no wonder he didn’t want to debate her on 1st April.
So, what did Grace Lavery have to say about the big questions in the gender debate? Let’s have a look.
Can a woman have a penis?
A straightforward enough question for most people, but not for Labour politicians. And not, it seems, for Professors of English, Critical Theory, and Gender and Women’s Studies either. Lavery managed to not answer this question in a number of ways:
He claims that the question is grammatically misleading because it can mean “is a woman allowed to have a penis?” Even though nobody ever meant that when they asked it. But it gives him a chance to show off.
Credit where it’s due, in his second attempt he recognises that the question is designed to establish if we think woman designates a particular class of biological being? Or do we think woman is a political category that changes over time? While the rest of us are shouting at the radio “of course a woman is a particular class of biological being – duh” it seems he doesn’t know and says the terms are “a little confusing to me”.
Mate, you’re a professor! How embarrassing.
Apparently that question is also “a deliberately misleading construction” that is intended to ask, “do you think that the class women can contain people who have penises?” How about just having a crack at answering, Grace? After all, you’re the bloke who is claiming to be a woman, so surely you have some definition. But no. It’s just “a bizarre and pointless question”.
What is it like to transition?
He says it was a spiritual “out of body” experience. Having decided that he no longer wanted to be a man, Lavery, in a cart-before-the-horse kind of way, made some attempts to find out what that meant on Google. This was in 2018. Frankly, a professor at Berkeley really should have been better informed than this.
Anyway – it’s all rather transformative and wonderful we’re told. And in an amazing coincidence, his partner also turned out to be trans. What are the chances of that, eh?
A bit dull, though, to end up as just another straight couple.
Do you believe it’s possible to change sex?
This is a walk in the park compared to those tricksy questions about penises. Sex is real and terribly important and that’s why trans people put so much effort into changing it.
Obviously, “one is not changing chromosomes or sexual organs”, just the secondary sexual characteristics.
Anyway, it’s not a belief, it’s a view. So, that’s clear then.
Do you think there’s such a thing as a female body?
Another very easy one for Lavery: yes, there is a thing called a female body.
Oh wait, no there isn’t, it’s just the patriarchy that tells us there is such a thing as a naturally occurring organic type.
I’m going to be honest – I have no idea what he means when he says, “I do not think it makes sense to refer to entire organisms as though they always and inevitably possess the sexual characteristics of a single organism”. I suspect he’s been reading Judith Butler again.
Lavery then talks at length about "scholarship" which "proves"
that people can change sex (it doesn't),
that demonstrates that "the notion of woman as a naturally occurring type" is false (it doesn't),
that claims that the idea of a woman as a biological category "is a profound historical novelty" (it isn't).
He even claims that "historically the notion that woman is a natural type deserving of specific and enumerated sex-based rights is precisely what feminism was created to oppose" which couldn't be more wrong if he’d tried.
And in a flight of fancy, Lavery goes on to say, "the notion of sex-based rights is a very recent phenomenon that hasn’t existed for more than a few years". Even though he’s just claimed that feminism was historically set up to oppose sex-based rights. And even though we have countless examples, such as suffrage which was a sex-based right (for men) until 1928. Which is rather more than a few years ago.
Emma Barnett failed to challenge any of this. Lavery clearly hasn’t a clue, but if the presenter of Woman's Hour doesn't know what feminism is or that women do indeed occur naturally, she has no business presenting that program. She doesn't have to agree with feminism or Darwinism, but she should at least understand them.
Why did you get thrown off Twitter?
OK – this isn’t such a big question for anyone who has a life, but it’s a pretty shocking answer: “I said I hoped the queen died and they kicked me off”.
Yes, that’s right. Lavery hoped a 96-year-old woman with Covid would die because “I’m a republican. In the French Revolution regicide was common” and worse “I don’t regret saying that I hope the queen died”.
So much for #BeKind, then. But it’s been clear for quite some time that this ideology expects the kindness to flow only one way.
Grace Lavery is an Associate Professor of English, Critical Theory, and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and on 7th April 2022 he was invited on to the BBCs “Woman’s Hour” to talk about his memoir.
The interview is from approx. 20 minutes in - you can listen to it here.