The following is Ceri Black’s speech delivered at the ‘Come out Of Stonewall’ protest in Belfast today.
I’m here to stand against the protection racket that is the diversity champion’s scheme, and to call for employers to join the flood of others who have left it.
But I hope you don’t mind if I take this opportunity to speak about what’s been happening to me over the last 48 hours instead of the speech I originally prepared.
You may know this already, but a man has managed to persuade the police to invite me to an interview, under caution, regarding my Twitter account, @femmeloves.
So what kind of offensive, criminal content can you expect to see on my account?
I speak from my heart about love and boundaries. I talk about recovering from childhood sexual abuse. I speak about child protection, and how to safeguard children from the kind of monsters who put their hands on me when I was still a little girl, when I was vulnerable and lost and frightened and alone.
Before I found my voice, and the courage to raise it. Before I lifted up my bowed head, looked straight in the face of what happened to me, and healed my broken heart.
Before my wife put her strong arms around me, and kissed me, and in the perfect, secret circle of her arms, a sacred circle that no shame can enter, I found myself safe in the only home I have ever known. I talk about that too, about the love between women. I say that men should leave lesbians alone.
I talk about the erosion of boundaries which is inherent in the form of queer theory. I say that women deserve our own sports. I argue that vulnerable women, in shelters and prisons, should not be housed with males. I say with passion that dysphoric people like my beautiful wife should not be rushed down the affirmation route, and that wrong sex hormones and cosmetic surgeries should be an absolute last resort for the treatment of what is, at its root, a mental health condition. I argue that if you are swinging your penis about in the women’s changing room, you are not a dysphoric trans person. You are a predator.
If it were not prohibited by the Twitter terms of service, I would tweet out the plain fact that men cannot be women.
Perhaps naively, when I first joined this fight, I thought that the police would protect everyday working families like mine, talking on topics like these. So when I faced a wall of death threats, rape threats, threats of sectarian violence, violent pornographic photographs and videos, homophobic abuse, and calls to “go back where you came from,” on my Twitter account, I reported them to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
They took no action.
But one phone call from a man who has a history of using the police service as his own personal enforcement arm against women he disagrees with, and the PSNI have threatened me with arrest if I don’t attend voluntarily to be interviewed under caution.
I have excellent legal representation. My solicitor is confident that there is no case to answer. That I won’t ever go near a courtroom, although he does think I will have to be interviewed one way or the other.
Don’t worry about me. This isn’t about me.
This is about the dirty tactics of a movement which delights in intimidating and bullying their opponents into silence, using fair means or foul.
This has gone far enough now.
The complainant cannot be allowed to continue to weaponize police forces across the country, to silence voices he disagrees with, whilst he capers and gloats and feigns terror because he’s triggered by tweets.
He is a bully. I do not pander to bullies. I do not cower before bullies. I put them on notice, and I employ all legal means to have them stopped.
My solicitor informs me that there are various channels open to me, so the complainant can expect to hear from me in due course.
But it isn’t just the complainant I’m putting on notice. It is the police service of Northern Ireland, it’s Stonewall, and it’s the massive fraud they call the Diversity Champions Scheme.
The police have questions for me? Good. I have questions for them.
Questions like, “What influence does being a member of the Stonewall diversity champions scheme have on the way you police this issue?”
Questions like, “When I reported death and rape threats to you, you told me to withdraw from the debate and stop tweeting, so did you offer the same advice to the man who complained against me?”
Questions like “what underpinned your decision to interview me under caution for tweets about child protection, whilst you completely ignored direct threats on my life.”
I have a long list of other questions for the PSNI, and they can expect to hear them from me in the form of Freedom of information requests in the coming days.
My solicitor is helping me explore other possible actions, including a complaint to the ombudsman.
In the meantime, I have a message for the PSNI.
I’m politely declining your invitation to be interviewed voluntarily under caution at the station.
Come and arrest me if you want to ask me your questions. Here I am.
Come and arrest a lesbian woman, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, a campaigner for women and children, for the crime of tweeting about how to protect children from grooming and sexual predation. Put this survivor in handcuffs and put me in a room. Go ahead. Ask your questions. Make yourselves the tools of a man who, with his army of vindictive and spiteful followers, has terrorised women across the nation, all the while making claims about his own victimhood.
But before you come to arrest me for offences under the malicious communications act, for homophobic and transphobic hate crime, I ask you to read my tweets. Read the thread that has caused such offence to that man, not a single word of which has violated the Twitter terms of service, or mentioned him by name. Go ahead and read my pinned tweet as well. Scroll through all my tweets. They are all there for you to see. See if you can find a single word of hatred that I have written. You will not.
In the meantime, I’m going to save you a job.
I’m going to plead guilty ahead of time.
If it’s bigoted to say that there is a sacred duty on adults to safeguard children from paedophiles, predators and perverts, then I’m guilty.
If it’s transphobic to call people out for saying “it’s a women’s penis” to excuse a male predator exposing his genitals to children in the women’s changing room room at a spa, then I’m guilty.
If it’s malicious communications to raise my voice and stand, fierce and unafraid, in defence of women and girls, then I’m guilty.
If it is a crime to write from my heart about love and boundaries, in Northern Ireland, in 2021, then it is a crime I’m very proud to be guilty of.
If those are imprisonable offences, then off to prison I will go.
But this isn’t about sending me to prison. It won’t get that far. This is an attempt to intimidate me, to bully me into silence, to shut me up. I’m here to tell you now, if you haven’t worked it out already, it isn’t going to work. I’m not going to be cowed. I’m not going to be trodden down. I’m not going to be beaten. I’m not going to appease bullies, cowards and misogynists, and I’m definitely not going to shut up.
And I’ll finish with this. A message from me to the complainant, to the PSNI and to Stonewall.
You have picked a fight with the wrong woman.
Police Service of Northern Ireland, you may have questions for me, but I have questions for you too.
1. What actions did you take when I reported receiving death threats on Twitter?
2. What actions did you take when I reported receiving rape threats on Twitter?
3. What actions did you take when I reported xenophobic taunts to “go back where you came from” and worse on Twitter?
4. What actions did you take when I reported homophobic abuse against my wife and I on Twitter, including people telling her to just transition already, and calling me homophobic slurs?
Those are rhetorical questions; I already know the answer to them. You told me to stop tweeting and get off social media. You blamed the victim. You told me that unless somebody said “here is your address and I’m coming to your house right now to do you harm” they could do nothing. You told me on the phone they were recording a “hate incident” and took no further action.
5. Are you aware that none of my tweets has ever violated the Twitter terms of service and I have never had a complaint upheld against me by Twitter?
6. Are you aware that the complainant in this case has made spurious complaints to other forces about other women and that this is part of a pattern of harassment on his part?
7. Are you aware that the complainant has been engaging in behaviours online towards me and other women which often cross the line to harassment? For example, stalking the tweets of people who have him blocked and making vexatious police complaints?
8. Are you aware that I have never engaged in behaviour like this towards him, and have had him blocked for months?
9. Have you advised him to maybe stop tweeting and engaging in politics if he doesn’t like being offended (incidentally the same advice you gave me when I co-founded the LGB Alliance Ireland and received a wall of online hate?)
Regarding your links to other organisations:
10. From which organisations have you received training regarding LGB issues?
11. From which organisations have you received training regarding Trans issues?
12. With which organisations do you have ties regarding LGB issues?
13. With which organisations do you have ties regarding Trans issues?
14. Do you receive any funding from any organisations on these issues?
15. Do you give any money to any organisations regarding these issues?
16. Are you a member of the Stonewall Champions scheme?
17. Have you received any advice from Stonewall about the complaint I made to you of death and rape threats, and how you dealt with it?
18. Have you received any advice from Stonewall regarding your decision to interview me under caution?
19. Were any officers with ties to Stonewall involved in either of those decisions?
Regarding best use of your resources:
20. How much does it cost the Lurgan police to arrest somebody and interview them under caution?
21. On what grounds have you decided that arresting me over tweets would be the best use of these funds?
22. On what grounds do you decide which tweets you are going to police and which you are not?
23. Regarding what percentage of the nearly 400 incidents of antisocial behaviour committed in Lurgan last month was an individual interviewed under caution?
24. Regarding what percentage of the 300+ violent and sexual offences committed in Lurgan last month was an individual interviewed under caution?
25. Regarding what percentage of the nearly 100 incidents of arson and criminal damage committed in Lurgan last month was an individual interviewed under caution?
Some of these questions can be formulated as carefully crafted FoIs, and you will be hearing from me more formally in the coming days.