Two feminist rallies in Belfast illustrate split in movement over transgenderism

Hundreds of demonstrators took to Belfast’s streets at the weekend in anticipation of International Women’s Day tomorrow (Tuesday).
Belfast City Hall - Protest at the loss of single sex spaces in NIBelfast City Hall - Protest at the loss of single sex spaces in NI
Belfast City Hall - Protest at the loss of single sex spaces in NI

However, the tension within the wider feminist movement over transgender matters was quietly on display.

On Saturday there was a gathering of perhaps 200 or so people, complete with musicians and several feminist speakers, in Writers’ Square at the northern end of the city centre.

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It was supported by individuals from groups including The Belfast Feminist Network, the Rainbow Project, and Transgender NI.

International Women's Day annual march and rally, Writers' Square, BelfastInternational Women's Day annual march and rally, Writers' Square, Belfast
International Women's Day annual march and rally, Writers' Square, Belfast

However on the same day a group of protestors, albeit much smaller in number, congregated at Belfast City Hall for another feminist protest.

The difference was this:

The first rally was attended by a number of people who accept the core doctrine of transgender campaigners – namely that if a man “feels like” a woman, then they really are a woman (and vice versa), because gender is not determined by genes and anatomy.

The second, smaller rally involved feminist campaigners who fundamentally reject that idea.

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Specifically they were opposed to the removal of female-only facilities such as women’s hostels, women’s toilets, women’s changing rooms and separate sports teams for biological women – something which transgender activists have campaigned for in recent years.

The City Hall protestors bore placards reading: “Woman: adult human female” – a phrase often used by those who back the idea of maleness and femaleness being fundamentally biological in nature.


Meanwhile a rally in Dublin on Saturday called “No Woman Left Behind” drew hundreds of people to a spot just outside Leinster House.

The rally was organised by the National Women’s Council (NWC), and the crowd heard calls for decisive action to tackle violence against women, as well as demands for more to be done to improve provision of childcare and and access to abortion services.

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Particular challenges faced by one-parent families and traveller, migrant, trans and disabled women were also highlighted.

Access to state housing was also cited as a major problem.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald told the event: “We demand the right to decent work, to fair pay, to equal pay, we demand the right to live and raise our families without constant choices to be made between heating the room and feeding a hungry mouth, the right to learn and grow, to explore every horizon, to reach for very dream, we demand the right to be free, to be ourselves, without fear, without apology and without humiliation – the right to live a full and free life together.

“The political system can choose to listen or not, they may choose to look the other way but be very clear sisters – the old Ireland is gone and change is coming.”

More from this reporter:

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