I’ve followed the work of Kellie-Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker) for some time now. She got into the space of Gender Identity Fraud when she was involved in a mom’s group in the UK called MumsNet, only to discover that men pretending to be women were members of this group. Stating the obvious facts, “Men can’t be women, therefore can’t be mothers” resulted in her being kicked out of the group. The rest is history. I’ve admired her bravery and no nonsense talk so much that I sat down and interviewed her for our latest film, The Detransition Diaries. As the cameras were rolling, I immediately knew we’d be giving her the final word in the film when she said, “‘Woman,’ ‘women,’ ‘mother,’ ‘mum,’ ‘girl,’ ‘girls,’ ‘daughter,’ these are not your words to give away.”
Then I heard she was traveling across the U.S. in her “TERFing USA” tour to make her own documentary film. And when I heard the last stop of her tour was taking place in NYC, where I would be doing two screenings of The Detranstion Diaries, I knew I had to attend her #LetWomenSpeak event at NYC City Hall. I took the train down from Princeton, checked into my hotel in NYC and walked the 10 minutes to City Hall. From two blocks away, I could see the crowd gathered, the trans flag waving, and I could hear roar of the chants. When I approached the barricade, I saw women I recognized on the inside with many NY police officers and some security guards who had been hired. When the trans activists realized I was “with the women on the inside,” they surrounded me, screaming obscenities, and were pushing and shoving me. After several minutes, the police inside and outside the barricade were able to open it slightly so I could squeeze in with the others.
Once inside, I had feelings of worry like, “Oh great. Now how can we get out of here and walk back to where we all need to go?” The protesters only grew in numbers and were screaming and chanting misogynistic obscenities. More police came. And then more police came. At one point, one of the officers, speaking to one of the organizers, asked how much longer was this going to go on. She said we were just waiting for the speaker, Kellie-Jay to arrive. He mentioned that while all the necessary permits had been approved so #LetWomenSpeak could gather, but that this protest was “taking a lot of police resources.” No doubt it was! My rough count was around 60 NYPD were there when I finally got out. At one point, a bunch of protestors broke through that barricade and several were quickly arrested, handcuffed and ushered away. A NYPD van arrived, too, and was arresting people on the sidewalk who were breaking any laws, but for the most part, the protestors, while being vile and threatening, were not breaking any laws, so were allowed to keep beating the drums, blowing their horns, and screaming slurs at women.
Finally, it seemed to us on the inside that Kellie-Jay was not going to be able to get to the event due to security concerns, and an organizer started instructing us to get into small groups of 4-5 and have a member of their hired security walk us to a safe space, and that is when I left. We were walked a few blocks away to safety, where we could continue on our own to get to our destination.
I chatted with many on the inside. Those who came to support women’s rights to safe spaces, and to keep women’s prisons and sports for women and also those who came to speak out against blocking puberty and surgeries in young children. I also spoke to several police officers and security guards, thanking them for doing their job. I’m still processing it all, but I do grieve the loss of the civil public square.
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.