Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Ken, Julie, Shazia and a Tory Called Dave

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 30th January, 2010

There was a rowdy Question Time-style meeting (compered by DJ Stewart Who?) at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in Lambeth last night, at which the main sport for some was clearly Bindel-baiting. Columnist and radical feminist political activist Julie Bindel has upset the transgender community with several of her comments about gender dysphoria and related topics, and about 40 Trans-people and friends held a good-humoured demonstration outside the venue (corraled safely by police, well away from the entrance) chanting slogans criticising the RVT’s decision to ‘give a platform to bigotry’. Inside the pub was much noisier at times, as a few persistent hecklers shouted at her every time she said (or they thought she said) something that offended them, some even drawing parallels between her and Nick Griffin of the BNP. One person threw a plastic name-badge and lanyard at her. Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the out-gay Tory parliamentary candidate for Eltham, David Gold, and I therefore found ourselves having to speak up for freedom of speech, as well as defining our own varying lines on the LGBT issues that were being raised. Shazia Mirza, the Muslim comedian who, like Julie Bindel, has been receiving death threats, brought some welcome light relief with some well-judged satirical jokes. It was a shame, though, that the evening became rather dominated by the Bindel-bashing, as I would have liked to ask the personable David Gold what he is going to do to protest about his party leadership’s cuddling up to homophobes in Northern Ireland and the European Parliament. And also to explain the extraordinary boxed quote at the top of his website, from ‘a former Labour voter’, viz: “My purse was stolen in the supermarket. Immigration is out of control. We need a change.” That strikes me as pandering to xenophobia, even racism, which sits oddly with his commitment to LGBT rights.

31 Responses to “Ken, Julie, Shazia and a Tory Called Dave”

  1. Thierry said

    Julie Bindel has all freedom of speech she needs to provide transphobic and anti sex work comments.
    She is invited to speak as an expert on issues she doesnt know and writes in the Guardian on a regular basis. Trans’ people and sex workers don’t have freedom of speech. It’s too easy to present her as a victim when she is the one who hates others.
    She pretends to be an experts because she had interviewed 12 men and therefore she thinks she can say that all clients of sex workers are rapists-like. Sex workers fuck their clients on a daily basis but they are always silenced and deprived their status of expertise on the very issue that concern them first. Trans’ activists are not invited to speak in debates or to write in the Guardian.
    There is an obvious double standard about this supposed freedom of speech.

  2. Loz Pycock said

    40 Trans-people and friends demonstrated… chanting slogans comparing Julie to the BNP’s Nick Griffin.

    Hmmm, don’t remember that, and I was one of those 40!

  3. jonathanfryer said

    Obviously wasn’t you, then, Loz! But I heard on more than one occasion someone chanting — both inside and outside the venue — ‘No platform for Bindel! No platform for Griffin and the BNP!’

    • Roz Kaveney said

      I’m baffled then, Jonathan, because I was one of the stewards for the demonstration and we were paying particularly close attention to what was chanted by the demonstrators. The point of the demonstration was, very precisely, not to attack Julie Bindel because that is a waste of time and just leads to her claiming that trans people are a mob baying for her blood – it was to criticize QQT for giving her a platform in a venue where trans people normally feel comfortable.

      I can assure you that, whatever you think you heard, no slogan mentioning Bindel or Griffin was chanted by any demonstrator. I have checked this with other stewards.

    • I organised the demo. I was there. None of us shouted the words, “Bindel”, “Griffin” or “BNP” at any point.

      We have video of the demonstration. If JB tries to claim that we did shout these things in her inevitable Guardian piece, the video will be forwarded to the PCC in support of our complaint.

      Anyway, “No platform for Bindel! No platform for Griffin and the BNP!” is a rubbish chant – everything we shouted rhymed.

  4. gareth wyn said

    I too was taking part in the demo and didn’t hear any slogans comparing Bindel with Griffin.

    You also appear to be taking issue with the what you perceive to be a hijacking of the event by Bindel bashers was a bad thing. Do you think that the Question Time where Nick Griffin was a guest was diminished by the fact that much of the show was dominated by challenges to his odious views.

  5. Stuart Lorimer said

    I was outside from 6.30 until 9pm and recall no mention of either Bindel or Griffin. Bindel was the catalyst for the demo but not the focus.

    I’d point out also that (perhaps ironically) gender “dysphasia” would be an impairment of writing or comprehending written language relating to gender. You mean “dysphoria”.

  6. jonathanfryer said

    Roz — I am happy to accept your assurance that the organised demonstration did not use such chants, if you say so, but I cannot deny the evidence of my ears, which heard the very thing I have mentioned more than once, so either it was from people inside the pub (which will presumably come out on the film of the event) or else some other people who had positioned themselves somewhere else outside the pub, who were not part of your group but who were distinctly audible from the stage ‘green room’ and the men’s loos! Incidentally, for those of you who did not choose to come into the event, when the panel was asked what role transgender people have in society, I stressed the qualities of courage and determination wich not only the LGBT community as a whole should respect and learn from, but society as a whole.

    • Stuart Lorimer said

      You originally stated that you heard a particular chant “both inside and outside the venue”, but presumably you meant something like “audible from backstage and the mens’ loos” – which is somewhat different. Within the demo, there were no more than half a dozen chants, all of which rhymed and none of which mentioned Bindel, let alone Griffin or the BNP.

      Obviously your ears are your ears, and you hear what you hear, but I think it might be worthwhile seeking corroboration of their evidence before stating as fact that such-and-such was chanted outside the venue.

  7. jonathanfryer said

    Gareth — it was perfectly legititmate to challenge Julie Bindel’s views, many of which I disagree with strongly, but on several occasions last night, the proceedings had to be stopped because of the level of anti-Bindel heckling and chanting, and at one point someone threw a name-badge and its lanyard at her — which made her seem like the victim. If anything like that had happened during the filming of BBC Question Time, the people concerned would have been thrown out. But thank you for confirming how some people were/are comparing Julie Bindel with Nick Griffin.

    • Stuart Lorimer said

      That’s a little disingenuous. A comment comparing Bindel and Griffin on your blog does not = “someone chanting — both inside and outside the venue — ‘No platform for Bindel! No platform for Griffin and the BNP!’”

  8. jonathanfryer said

    Sorry, but I stand 100% by what I said and what I heard, not once, but several times. I don’t know who the people responsible were, and I quite understand why members of a well-disciplined demonstration which you say deliberately avoided such provocative comparisons should feel miffed that others have not been so careful.

  9. jonathanfryer said

    I am truly sorry if the chanting was unintentionally mis-attributed by me. Will the people responsible for it kindly come forward and explain why they did it?

    • Stuart Lorimer said

      No idea, but I appreciate your apology. I’d appreciate even more a retraction/rewording of your original claim that

      “about 40 Trans-people and friends demonstrated outside the venue … chanting slogans comparing Julie to the BNP’s Nick Griffin”

      given that you have subsequently clarified that you heard chanting audible from the loos/backstage, and

      “either it was from people inside the pub … or else some other people who had positioned themselves somewhere else outside the pub” and therefore NOT definitely the 40-odd of us who were “corraled safely by police”.

    • Martha said

      as another of the stewards of this protest I would have stopped anyone from chanting that, we had talked about this before the event and were all clear on this. We were in two places only, one area to the left of the RVT with several stewards, and two stewards at any one time handing out flyers outside the entrance. What went on inside we had no control over. Demands for answers here pre-suppose they are reading this.

  10. David Gray said

    I’m disappointed in you, Jonathan, and you are incorrect in your claim that we chanted those words. I arrived before the RVT doors opened at 7 and left just after the Question Time element kicked off at 9. Throughout that time there was periodic chanting by a good natured group of thirty or forty cheery individuals, between scoffing donuts and warming themselves with coffee. We were just outside the RVT gents’ toilets but you didn’t hear the people at the demo chanting those words. We did frequently chant the words “Hear us, RVT, No platform for bigotry”. Perhaps that sounded different through a wall or a window, backstage in the warmth of the club.
    I’m puzzled by the demonising of the chilly but cheery group protesting outside the venue that I’ve encountered around the internet today. We knew we wouldn’t give JB even a moment’s pause for thought but it wasn’t all about her. But we had to demonstrate our anger and dismay that the feelings and opinions of trans people were being yet again sidelined and dismissed in a cherished ‘queer’ space.

  11. Scallydandan said

    The chant wasn’t about the bnp the chant was ‘hear us now, rvt, no platform for bigotry’. Julie Bindel has written some of the most hateful venomous pieces of knee-jerk ‘I have an opinion on everything’ journalism. Ranging from not only transphobia, but about hating men, men not actively stopping the rape of women are as bad as the men doing it, vegetarians, gender stereotyping, comparing Barry George’s false imprisonment to a fictional work about a female prisoner, and on it goes…

    Everybody involved in that protest is in favour of freedom of speech, but with that freedom comes with it the right to have the speech challenged, and the responsibility upon the person exercising their freedom of speech, particularly if it is hate speech It is imperative that it is challenged as part of healthy checks and balances, otherwise there is the danger her mindset and ideologies can become normal and flourish in society. With the massive trend towards homophobia again, and rampant transphobia, intolerant journalists need to face criticism and protest. There was no mention and comparison to BNP or Nick Griffin at all during the demo, I was part of the demo. Whilst I do not agree at people heckling at Bindel, as I think it would have been the perfect opportunity to have her ignorance highlighted at an intellectual level, I do understand their frustration. She is a misandrist bigot operating under the label of a radical feminist and ‘political lesbian’ (her lesbian, apparrantly defined by her dislike of men rather than her attraction to women). If radical feminism assumes that roughly half the worlds population (men) are to be hated and marginalised, a recurrent theme in her simple rantings, should we not be defining radical feminism as a fundementalist hate crime?

    Please ammend your article, as you got it wrong.

    Also next time you hear of the death of a gay man or a trans-person, whether it be suicide or murder, please think about your support of Bindel. Either you’re part of the problem, or as we were trying to do, be part of the solution by challenging purveyors of hate and bigotry. Just to also make it clear the police congratulated us and shook all our hands for being a peaceful good humoured and well tempered demo.

    I’m particularly offended at the way the event is being redefined as an attack on freedom of speech, rather than on Julie Bindel’s words. Ignoring the content of what she writes is a bit like ignoring the elephant in the living room, but thats ok the elephant has a freedom to its view.

  12. jonathanfryer said

    Scallydanan — Though I don’t accept the premise that I was ‘supporting’ Julie Bindel by fulfiling my commitment to be on last night’s panel, in view of your polite request and comments from other participants in the demonstration, I have amended the blog item so it is clear that the comparisons to Nick Griffin were not made by the group of demonstrators outside, but by hecklers inside the club.

  13. jack said

    Just saw a video from inside the event, and all I can say, Mr Fryer, is that the panellists would have done better to come and talk to us demonstrators outside! You’d have had a less incoherent response, and would have had a chance at doughnuts too.

  14. jonathanfryer said

    Thanks, Jack — I can well believe that!

  15. Lucy said

    I know I’m likely confused by being thousands of miles away, but I don’t see how people complaining about the presence of Bindel necessitated a defence of freedom of speech. Surely the fact that people were heckling her shows that there was freedom of speech. Julie Bindel who is, as you note, a columnist has tons of freedom of speech. Her views are available in the Guardian for millons to read. The people in the audience, of course, do not have such a freedom of speech.

    Also, saying Bindel has upset some in the transgender community with several of her comments about gender dysphasia [sic] and related topics… is an understatement. It’s more like all of her comments on trans have upset people in the transgender community. A fact which she seems to quite relish. (And, as someone else pointed out, it’s “dysphoria” not “dysphasia”.)

    I do agree that it was a shame that the evening was dominated by Bindel-bashing, because if she had not been there the night would likely have been far more informative and probing, as you indicate. But, as long as people who are bigoted against those within the queer/LGBT community are invited to act as some sort of expert for the community, this is going to happen. The whole concept of Pride involves standing up to bigots, after all.

  16. jonathanfryer said

    ‘dysphoria’ it now is, thanks.

  17. jonathanfryer said

    There’s an interesting, very measured blogpost about the event at

  18. Stuart Lorimer said

    All Friday night’s chants are encapsulated in this clip. Viewers are invited to draw their own conclusions as to our “corraled safely by police” scariness.

  19. Technomist said

    Jonathan, on another point in your intresting piece about what looks like a fun night out, stating that immigration is out of control is not necessarily xenophobia. There is plenty of evidence to support such a propostition.

  20. jonathanfryer said

    Stewart — the ‘corraled safely by police’ was meant ironically, as you were a singularly unscary and unthreatening group;

    Julian — my point was not the mention of immigration itself, but the implication by its mention immediately after the purse-snatching that immigrants are responsible for crime.

  21. jonathanfryer said

    Stuart, not Stewart, sorry…

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