Police in England have apologized after asking a 74-year-old woman to remove a blog post in which she did nothing more than say what she thought was obvious: Gender is biological, not a psychological construct.
According to The Times of London (subscription required), Margaret Nelson, a former teacher and journalist, was contacted by Suffolk Police. Her crime? Saying that “gender is fashionable nonsense.”
Nelson made the remarks in a blog post discussing her decision to donate her body to science after she dies, noting that “pathologists and medics” would only see her biological sex, not her gender identity.
“So no, in life or in death, trans women are not women, no matter how many times you say it’s so,” Nelson wrote, according to the U.K. Daily Mail. “It’s simply impossible to change your sex.”
She’s also made similar comments on her blog and social media, like a tweet that said “Gender is BS. Pass it on.”
Even if you don’t believe those things, most people believe you have a right to say them. In the United Kingdom — land of the super-injunction, where a mere hashtag can get you charged with a crime — it’s enough to invite the intervention of the bobbies.
The Ipswich Star reported Nelson “said she received a phone call on Monday morning from police, warning that her comments, and some of her Tweets, had caused offense.”
According to a blogger for the U.K. Spectator, Nelson described the conversation like this:
“The officer said she wanted to talk to me about some of the things I’d written on Twitter and my blog. She said that some of the things that I’d written could have upset or offended transgender people. So could I please stop writing things like that and perhaps I could remove those posts and tweets?”
It didn’t take long for Nelson’s defenders to decry the police action. Among those were rapper and podcaster Zuby, who tweeted, “This is not a comedy sketch. This is appalling.”
The police legitimately investigated a 74 year old woman for tweeting what 99% of people consider basic facts.
This is not a comedy sketch. This is appalling.
People think Im exaggerating when I say free speech is under threat. https://t.co/cc9VKebfCZ
— ZUBY: (@ZubyMusic) February 9, 2019
Police asked blogger Margaret Nelson to remove transgender posts. I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of the police but this kind of conduct is not just embarrassing, it’s sinister. #ukemplaw https://t.co/N7YmIZ5HWz
— Simon Robinson (@simonajrobinson) February 6, 2019
Police requests for censorship are wrong. We must be able to debate ideas even if they offend. https://t.co/xhYLWM19Hy
— Tom Tugendhat (@TomTugendhat) February 7, 2019
After the incident went viral, Suffolk police were quick to apologize.
“We accept we made a misjudgment in following up a complaint regarding the blog,” a statement read, according to the Ipswich Star.
“As a result of this we will be reviewing our procedures for dealing with such matters. We are sorry for any distress we may have caused in the way this issue was dealt with, and have been in contact with the woman who wrote the blog to apologize.”
In an interview with ITV, Nelson told the broadcaster that it was disturbing that the police were brought into it at all.
“I think it’s unfortunate they’re being asked, because they’ve had training along these lines, to police free speech,” she said.
Police have apologised for their handling of a complaint about a blogger’s comments which offended some members of the transgender community.
Margaret Nelson was asked to tone down her posts.
Watch our report from Natalie Gray and an interview with trans rights campaigners pic.twitter.com/7UfwJZi9Nd
— ITV News Anglia (@itvanglia) February 7, 2019
When asked if she thought her comments might be offensive to many in the transgender community, she said that didn’t trump her right to state what she believed to be the truth.
“I accept that people might find them offensive and hurtful because of their mindset, but I’m entitled to an opinion about whatever it is they believe in,” she said. “And if they state something that is totally untrue, then, you know, I will challenge it.”
That should be one’s right. Unfortunately, free speech is heavily qualified in the U.K., qualified to the point where police seem to think it’s part of their mission to urge a pensioner to take down her post regarding transgenderism.
Yes, they apologized. They shouldn’t be in the business of policing politically incorrect speech in the first place.
Apologies are one thing, but safeguards to prevent this from happening again are quite another.