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In England's GREEN and pleasant land

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Beatrix CampbellUK
In England's GREEN and pleasant land
The Challenor case is an arrow to the heart of Britain’s twisted sexual politics.

Somewhere in England there is a girl who was raped, tortured and electrocuted by a well-known local Green Party figure in Coventry, David Challenor. During the criminal trial his victim described his rituals in which he dressed as a little girl or a baby in a nappy, at a house used as an official Green Party address, in 2015. For anyone, this case is cruel and cautionary – for Greens it is a huge political crisis.

We know that nothing is more important than community respect and validation for the survivors of sexual crime. This girl didn’t get it. Her lonely journey to the criminal court was vindicated – at the end of August the perpetrator, David Challenor, received a 22-year-sentence.

But the child was unsupported by the people who mattered most, her intimate community, the Challenors - David, his wife Tina and Aimee Challenor. All three were well-known Green Party activists. It was the abuser they supported, not his accuser.

The police interviewed members of the family in October 2015, including Aimee Challenor, then a teenager about to transition from a boy, Ashton, to a girl, who was about to become an ambitious young trans activist. By 2017 Aimee Challenor was Green Party equalities spokesperson and a party candidate, and this year pitched into the party’s recent deputy leadership election.

The sins of the father are not the sins of the son or daughter. Yet Aimee Challenor’s trajectory as a political trans activist and synchronises with the police investigation into David Challenor. Twice she appointed her father to be as election agent - there are no criteria regulating agents, according to the Electoral Commission – and she insists that despite the criminal charges she was ‘building bridges’ and attempting reconciliation with her father.

The party leadership was not informed until David Challenor was sentenced in August. A couple of senior individuals in the Green Party knew, however, but didn’t pass it on. David Challenor was a volunteer for Coventry Pride, who took swift action when he was charged in 2016 and barred him . Members are now asking whether there was anything else Aimee Challenor didn’t disclose.

The scandal has scalded Green Party leaders. An inquiry has been launched, David Challenor has been expelled. When mutiny among party members forced Aimee’s suspension in early September, she quit, accused the party of transphobia and blocked Caroline Lucas on Twitter as a trans exclusionary radical feminist.

But the Greens need to do more than lament the guile and cruelty of David Challenor and the party’s misfortune in being gulled by the Challenors. The party’s initial official statements about the scandal pathetically paid more attention to Aimee Challenor’s need for support than the vindicated – but traduced – child.

Conducive context

The party should ask itself whether the party’s hard-line pro-trans policies and associated bullying provided what sexual violence scholar Prof Liz Kelly calls a ‘conducive context’ that shielded the Challenors from scrutiny.

It might also ask itself whether it lost its marbles about gender and sexual politics, so much so that this proudly open and democratic party sometimes behaved like the Inquisition, hunting and harassing trans heretics and feminists.

Lesbian activist Olivia Palmer has been expelled for opposing the mantra ‘trans women are women’. The Green Party has forced luminaries Rupert Read and Jenny Jones to publically recant their scepticism.  Aimee Challenor tried take legal action to silence Green Party activist Any Healey, and members are wondering who in the leadership supported Aimee Challenor’s legal action to silence him – he launched Gender Critical Greens, a feminist resource, and insisted on identifying Challenor as a man. The legal action against Healey is still unresolved. Healey was not allowed to address the party conference, whilst David Challenor was given a platform to propose motions despite his impending trial on the most serious child sexual abuse charges.

Aimee and David Challenor mobilised Twitter widgets to block ‘trans exclusionary radical feminists’ - last year Aimee Challenor proclaimed the campaign’s success in blocking 50,000 people deemed ‘terfs’ and bigots, and getting one vocal feminist transsexual, Miranda Yardley, being bannedfrom Twitter for life.

When Miranda Yardley was invited to address North Surrey Green Party, they were forced to disinvite Yardley and then became the subject of a ‘transphobia’ complaint themselves. The Green Party executive didn’t come out against against ‘terfblocking’. The party’s universally-respected leader Caroline Lucas hated it, but described herself as powerless to resist it. I myself complained to a senior Green about terf-blockingand others did, too. Apparently no action was taken. Now, following the Challenor debacle, Lucas herself has been ‘terf-blocked’.

Other organisations – from the Girl Guides to the Lib-dems and the Trades Union Congress - should not be smug about the Greens’ crisis: they’ve tolerated a trans modus operandi and ideology that is bulwarked by claims that to debate its hypotheses – including the mantra ‘a transwoman is a woman…is a woman’ - is to eliminate trans people. Apparently debate is death.

The Working Class Movement Library in Manchester was aghast to find itself targeted by a trans campaign to attack its funding. Gay organisations, too, have been blasted by trans harassment: Manchester’s Queer Up North Festival Organiser, Jonathan Best, chronicles his grim experience.

A closed Facebook group was promoted to name and shame academics deemed transphobic, by Goldsmiths University trans researcher Natacha Kennedy. Kennedy is also Goldsmiths’ Mark Hellen – they are one person, two personas. They appeared as ‘joint’ authors of a paper on ‘transgender children’:

Sussex University philosophy professor Kathleen Stock became a cause celebre when she was pilloried for urging philosophers to engage in the gender debates swirling in social media. She was condemned as transphobic by the students union but in July the university’s vice chancellor Adam Tickell ventured where the Green Party would not tread by affirming both trans people’s human rights and academic freedom, ‘I hold a deep rooted concern,’ he wrote, ‘about the future of our democratic society if we silence the views of people we don’t agree with.’

Girl Guide leaders who opposed the Guides’ imposition of policy declaring that boys transitioning to girlhood can be Girl Guides have been ‘sacked’ and their groups disbanded.

Nothing is real

The Challenor case is an arrow to the heart of Britain’s twisted sexual politics. Already gay activists are joining feminists in saying they are sickof the narcissism and misogyny of some trans activists, and gay people are increasingly alienated by the seemingly endless expansion of categories attached to ‘gay and lesbian’ that have nothing to do with sexual orientation.

The Liberal-Democrats, the Tories and Labour, unions, gay organisations and mass media commentators across the political spectrum should all start asking how they fell for a folly that is not sustained by science, that isn’t inscribed in human rights law and doesn’t enjoy consensus among trans women and trans-sexuals, and certainly not among maybe most women.

The dogma has been promoted as a new civil rights frontier; it is fortified by cultish religiosity, by no-platforming, bullying, what can only be called blacklisting of dissenting voices deemed ‘terfs’ and ‘bigots’ on the wrong side of history, and by the resort to complaints procedures and ‘administrative methods’ to quell debate.

The mantra ‘There is no debate – a transwoman is a woman!’ is recited not only in the Green Party but across the political firmament.

It is as though nothing is real, there is only ‘gender fluidity’ and freedom of choice that synchronises marvellously with neo-liberal erasure of oppression, exploitation and power, not to mention material reality. The notion that anyone can be anything, that a man is a woman if he says he is, empties ‘woman’ of meaning. Some Greens refer to ‘non-men’ to satisfy trans sensitivities. The Green Party’s crisis is, therefore, more important than the Green Party itself.

Unsafeguarded

Although the party has vigorously promoted an extreme trans policy and practice, you have to dig deep, and know where to look, to find its child safeguarding policy - despite massive public concern in the wake of the Savile scandal in 2012, despite the work of Caroline Lucas and her Parliamentary colleagues in securing the launch of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and its public reports on institutional complicity in child abuse.

Aimee Challenor was a teenager undergoing transition with the support of Mermaids, an organisation chided by the High Court, and criticised by some for advocating medical interventions at puberty that, they claim, amount to child abuse.

The Challenor family had been subject to its own High Court proceedings because of the parenting the children in the family received. Many children who exit the care system do so with dignity, independence, qualifications and readiness to enter the adult world. After leaving care, however, Ashton/Aimee apparently turned to the parents for reconciliation.

If any Green Party members recognised the consequential vulnerabilities - which the leadership were at pains to stress when offering support for her in the wake of David Challenor’s trial - then they were muted by the aura around Aimee Challenor, an equalities spokesperson who specialised in bullying and silencing feminist critics.

If there were to be a Serious Case Review - a local authority review in the event of serious harm to a child - it would undoubtedly be interested in the context and culture of the child’s family and her abuser, and his activity in other contexts and other institutions.

It might want to know whether the party’s early, strident rush to endorse an extreme trans position, and Aimee Challenor’s resort to ‘terf-blocking’ and intimidation, obscured child safeguarding responsibilities.

It's personal

On a personal note, I should say that I am a Green Party member. I’ve stood as a candidate in local and parliamentary elections. My own journey into the debates was provoked nearly a decade ago by no-platforming and censorship.

This forced me to address the issue itself. I have benefited from feminist writing, obviously, the eloquent essay on gender, race, class and identity politics in the Jenner and Dolezal cases by US political scientist Adolph Reed Jnr, and the intelligence of many transgender women and trans-sexuals. They are profoundly dismayed by the authoritarianism and speciousness of trans policy in the Green Party and elsewhere, and the spectacular nastiness of some extreme trans advocates: Sarah Brown, a Liberal Democrats candidate in Cambridge, notoriously rebuked a fellow councillor Richard Taylor with ‘suck my formaldehyde balls’.

I support Gender Critical Greens and Woman’s Place_UK and their campaign for women’s places and safe spaces, I have chaired two of their public meetings. Trans activists have harassed the organisers and the venues, frequently obliging the organisers to change venues. In Newcastle this summer Northumbria University agreed to a last-minute booking of their out-of-town campus after another venue cancelled. A local trans activist put out an alert warning trans people that they’d not be safe in the city: watch out there’s terfs about.

Many heart-sick Green Party members are coming out, voicing their worries and urging a full review that goes beyond the Challenor debacle and reassesses policies on trans, gender and sexual politics generally, and the safeguarding of children specifically.

Some of us will send submissions to the consultation on the Gender  Recognition Act. Given the fate of others, and aside from my own decisions about whether I remain in the Green Party, we need to know whether this will this result in disciplinary action, and whether the Green Party is prepared to forfeit seasoned and intelligent activists because of misogyny and cultish trans dogma.

Members of other organisations should be asking themselves the same questions.

##Green Party, ##Caroline Lucas, ##trans, ##feminism, ##Challenor, ##child sexual abuse, ##free speech, ##Lib-Dems

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Alison Brumfitt

12 days ago

This is a confusing article. It infers that misplaced concerns around transphobia may have led to abuse not being properly responded to-and tries to suggest some kind of inappropriate protection being offered to Trans people, and yet moves forward with an equally inappropriate attempt to somehow link trans activism with child abuse.


It is difficult to see how the author can claim to be interested in 'debate' when she clearly has views as entrenched and unshifting as those she opposes. In the past similar arguments have been made towards supporting 'debate' about the existence/moral acceptability of lesbians, gays, bisexuals.... at some point a party takes a position on these issues and members therefore know where they stand. The Green Party has taken the position trans women and women. That is pretty clear. Those who disagree can do so, but it is a clear position and not up for debate. Some issues aren't. We no longer tolerate debates on the right of gay people to have relationships either. It seems there is a fundamental reluctance to discuss any concerns about the proposed legal changes in a framework that a) properly represents what the impact of the changes will be b) does not persist in engaging in debate about the legitimacy of trans women as women c) is respectful (on all sides)


This article, sadly, does nothing to increase the likelihood of the possibility of any discussion on this basis and is yet another attempt to cloud the situation. What is tragic is that a lot of women have been diverted from focusing on the overarching structures that enable the persistence of rape culture and violence against women and instead focused their attention on a small group of women, who are more victim than threat. Horizontal violence at its most sinister. I feel there are people who genuinely need to talk, but they have been hijacked by anger, scaremongering and a small group of people with their own agenda.

Beatrix Campbell

3 days ago

you are confusing having a position with being up for a debate - I'm both...yu say the Green Party has a position and its not up for debate: Why not? If you were at the Green Party's autumn conference you would ha ve seen that the majority - yes the majorty - of attendees supported the opportunity for a debate.

Elise Benjamin

16 days ago

Flora Fairfield and anyone else questioning their vote, please understand that this is not the entire Green Party by any stretch. As a party we champion equality for everyone - sadly it's a vocal minority that don't want a debate and don't seem to want to understand that by their actions they are discriminating. I have no doubt that a big part of why this has escalated is because of the social media blocking which means that many of us national activists were unaware until very recently of how bad the bullying etc is. Two national elected figures (all our national people except the leaders are volunteers) were aware of the situation with the Challennors but chose not to share it with others - neither of those two hold national roles any more. The climate of fear that has been created by some is unacceptable and un-Green. Our newly elected national party chair wants to change this - she was accused of being transphobic simply for asking a question on Facebook (all she was trying to do was understand some of the detail of this issue) - she is a very fair and balanced person and, unlike our extremely busy leaders, she is in a better position to try to work on this (and many other issues). It is unfair to blame Caroline Lucas for not doing enough. She stood down as leader because the demands on her time as a lone MP were making it difficult to fit on the work of a co-leader.

Beatrix Campbell

3 days ago

I agree - the difficulty many eople find themselves in is that censoring and blocking not only silences writers/speakers, it silences and infantilises their audience, who are then denied the right to listen, learn, challenge

Helena Wojtczak

16 days ago

THANK YOU Bea Campbell. I loved your speech at AWPUK and I love this article. Spot on.

A couple of typos: It's Andy Healey, not Any. And Brown wrote "my formaldehyde-pickled balls."

Jane Carnall

17 days ago

Worth noting here:

David Challenor was convicted of a horrible crime. He's guilty, and in prison.

Beatrix Campbell is blaming Aimee Challoner for the crimes of her father. (Once, I remember, I knew Beatrix Campbell as a feminist. But as blaming a daughter for her father's crimes is no feminist act, clearly Ms Campbell has ceased to be a feminist.)

Aimee Challoner is guilty of not believing her father's guilt until she heard the evidence against him in court: she ought not have named him as an electoral agent given the crimes she knew he was accused of, but - Beatrix Campbell's attitude towards a teenage daughter who seems to have assumed her father's innocence until it was proven otherwise would be astonishingly hateful and vicious if we didn't know that Ms Campbell is transphobic.

Beatrix Campbell

3 days ago

Child safeguarding should be a priority in all circumstances. I am not blaming Aimee Challenor for anything to do with her father's crimes at all. I am criticising her judgement, her apparent lack of solidarity with the child, and her scurrilous 'terf-blocking' and authoritarianism.

Jane Carnall

16 days ago

I fail to see why it should make any difference to my comment whether I am a cis woman or a trans woman, Helena.

Try pretending I'm a cis woman, and responding on that basis.

Unless you are an intimate friend of Aimee Challoner - and I very, very much doubt that you can be! - I cannot see how you could have any private information as to whether or not she believed her father to be innocent.

Aimee was born (as I gather from the Internet) in 1998. Therefore, until this year, she certainly was David Challoner's teenage daughter: a 19-year-old is legally adult, but still a teenager.

Helena Wojtczak

16 days ago

This comment, made by a transwoman, is nothing but gaslighting and a fake appeal to emotional blackmail. "Aimee" isn't a "teenage daughter". Both words are incorrect. And "Aimee" most definitely knew back in 2015 that David committed the crimes. I cannot say more owing to privacy issues.

Your attempt to portray "Aimee" as a naive, innocent "little girl" fails and is laughable. Many of us have followed AC's posts and tweets for a long time and AC comes across as aggressive, sneering, arrogant, bolshy, entitled, domineering, woman-hating, scheming and fully conscious of what he is doing, with his eye firmly on the target of what he wants to achieve, by hook or crook. And he doesn't even care what party he uses as a vehicle to get his way.

Flora Fairford

17 days ago

Wonderful article. Having always voted Green at local elections, I will never do so again. So disappointed in Caroline Lucas, who claims to have opposed the Terfblocker app, yet did nothing about it.

The Trans Rights movement has been hijacked by misogynists and abusers, and is now working against the interests of women, gay people, and - incredibly - even trans people themselves, Miranda Yardley being a case in point.

Helena Wojtczak

16 days ago

Fiona, I spotted the word 'transjacked' the other day and thought I would share it with you.

Steve Moses

18 days ago

Thank you Beatrix, I am a Green Party local election candidate and I can find very little in your excellent piece to disagree with.

Beatrix Campbell

3 days ago

Thanks Steve. Now we've got some work to do to sort out this mess

Gill Kirkup

19 days ago

A well expressed piece of journalism. I too am a worried Green Party member and feel that Bea's piece helps give me ground for what I say at the Autumn conference next weekend.