by Enrico Petrucci

In the debate around the proposed Zan Bill, one of the dangers most insisted on was the inherent vagueness of certain definitions, sometimes even understood in seemingly contradictory ways, such as gender and gender identity. A dangerous vagueness, as we wrote in 2020, in that it would "thus effectively hand over to the judiciary the delicate task of determining what constitutes discrimination based on sex, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.".

That vagueness represented the premise of dangerous legislation that would easily allow the creation of opinion crimes totally disconnected from the factual reality and objectivity of biology itself. Situations that increasingly are being created in the jurisdictions where these legislations have been implemented. Which moreover in fact, instead of protecting any minorities, go on to persecute the very categories they were supposed to defend.

From Britain to Norway, the criminalization of dissent

This is what is happening in Norway where, as of January 1, 2021, an update to the criminal code has been introduced with regard to hate speech and "hate crimes" based on gender identity and expression (note how, if the Zan Bill was limited to sex, gender, and gender identity, yet another case appears in the Norwegian code: gender "expression"). New law that has begun to claim prominent victims among feminists who stand in open opposition to a certain trans narrative.

We are talking about the pre-eminence of biological sex and genital preferences. Elements that in the UK have already become the subject of contention in the courts between non-aligned LGB associations and T(trans) associations, and by feminist groups against the Scottish government's very "broad" interpretations of what constitutes a woman.

A heated debate that, while in the United Kingdom is still legitimate, albeit already bound for courtrooms, in countries more "advanced" on that slope becomes itself a "thought (and biology) crime." This is evidenced by two cases coming precisely from Norway, where its more restrictive legislation makes giving preeminence to biological sex over "one's feelings" a crime. As two feminists (one of them a lesbian) have discovered in the past months.

The Ellingsen affair

The first case was that of Christina Ellingsen, a feminist with Women’s Declaration International. WDI is an association established in 2018 for the recognition of women's rights according to the "sex based rights" formula, that is, based on biological sex. An association therefore in line with the vision of the LGB Alliance and the Scottish feminists we have already covered. But association that, precisely because it recognizes the pre-eminence of biological sex, has been called transphobic and labeled with the disparaging acronym TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). The same by which is generally referred to J. K. Rowling, who, for her old-fashioned feminist stances, placing herself extremely critically against the rights of "new women" born biologically male, is always in the crosshairs.

WDI is seen as smoke and mirrors by British and Scandinavian trans activists. So much so that it has been called by academic (of course on "gender studies") and activist Elisabeth Lund Engebretsen, in an essay also echoed by Wikipedia, "a complex threat to democracy" that "constitutes a populist backlash against basic human rights principles" and seeks to "demonize the very basis of transgender people's existence."

It was in the context of this debate that trans activist Christine Jentoft (trans MtF, male to female), a member of FRI - foreningen for kjønns- og seksualitetsmangfold (Norwegian Organization for Sexual and Gender Diversity) denounced Christina Ellingsen and the WDI. Christine Jentoft's complaint was based on a series of tweets by Ellingsen (and WDI) made over a period of several months. And in which they reiterated what used to be truisms while now are hate speech and hate crimes. That is, tweets like:

("A Woman is an adult human female. It is physically impossible to change sex. Gender identity refers to a persons subjective convictions, and to persecute women for refusing to accept subjective convictions they do not agree to, is a human rights violation")

Noteworthy is the comment WDI makes about the subjectivity of gender identity in one of its tweets, namely that by creating a law based on subjective belief, it actually sets legislation back a few centuries: "Gender identity is per definition a specific kind of subjective belief. The introduction of subjective beliefs in criminal law, is essentially a reontroduction of blasphemy-laws."

For these tweets Christina Ellingsen was facing up to three years in prison. Fortunately for Ellingsen, police dropped the case in December.

'Thoughtcrime' arrives, and Ireland leads the way in Europe
The Gjevon affair

One might think that common sense eventually triumphed. Wrong: around the same time another feminist activist, Tonje Gjevjon (a declared lesbian) ended up in the meat grinder of the new Norwegian legislation. And this time the police allegedly moved on their own to prosecute Gjevjon after an intentionally critical and polemical Facebook post about Christine Jentoft. There would have been no complaint from Christine Jentoft, as the trans activist stated in a lengthy and polemical Dec. 15 Facebook post in Norwegian and English, where she clarified that the police would be moving on their own initiative.

Although law enforcement moved in autonomy, the situation is the same as in the Christina Ellingsen case, and Tonje Gjevjon also faces three years for a Facebook post. Certainly a deliberately polemical post, where by targeting Christine Jentoft specifically, she branded trans men who call themselves lesbian women as "perverse fetishists."

Emphasizing how Christine Jentoft had self-described herself as a "lesbian and mother" in the past. Provocative action that for Gjevjon stands as an artistic and performative action to bring attention against new hate speech and hate crimes legislation.

Gjevjon's case shows how it can now become irrelevant or not that a complaint by an opposing activist can be used to move law enforcement where these mechanisms are now in place.

And this should also be an additional wake-up call for those who would want to dismiss these complaints in a "promotional" context. Of course, when all is said and done, one might consider that Ellingsen, Gjevjon and Jentoft, NGOs figures or artists, taken individually could also have benefited from these legal cases, either as accusers or as victims. Clearly, this clarification appears irrelevant if the police move independently in prosecuting these "hate speech" cases.

Ideology to the extreme: Jessica Yaniv

It is thus largely past the stage of Canadian "activist" Jessica Yaniv, another trans who identifies as a woman, who starting in 2018, taking advantage of Canada's new anti-discrimination legislation, racked up a series of lawsuits against various women-only beauty salons that refused to perform full hair removal of her private parts (Yaniv still has all male sex organs). Some of these beauticians were forced out of business, although eventually the courts began to rule against Jessica Yaniv. Then again, Yaniv went on to forge a series of increasingly paradoxical lawsuits where she had gone so far as to sue a gynecologist for refusing to examine her!

The utterly borderline Yaniv character was eventually dumped even by the same trans associations that had initially given him publicity. Also because of a series of initiatives that alienated any form of sympathy for him. Such as the infamous "inclusive pool swim" for ages 12 and up to which young girls were invited who could - given the ... inclusive environment - be "topless" at their discretion. An event so inclusive that it would have prevented parents and caregivers from attending! The event bordering on pedophilia was soon "postponed to an indefinite date" and Jessica Yaniv's star began to eclipse.

The risk of laws anchored in subjectivity

But while Jessica Yaniv was eventually deemed counterproductive by trans activists themselves, her course of action was nonetheless "counterproductive" on the other front as well. The lawsuits against beauticians instead of being taken as a wake-up call of the freakish and paradoxical effects of such legislation, were eventually dismissed as the excesses of a deranged person. As if, in the absence of "mindsets" like Jessica Yaniv's, this theater of the absurd would never have occurred.

But the very Norwegian case of the activists who ended up in the crosshairs of the judiciary for emphasizing the fundamental role of biological sex shows how, once jurisprudence is untethered from material and objective reality and hooked onto subjective perception, there is no longer a guarantee of a limit to legal action. This thus presents a new opportunity to reflect on the inherent risk of certain legislation.

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Essayist and popularizer, among his publications Alessandro Blasetti. Il padre dimenticato del cinema italiano (Idrovolante, 2023). With Emanuele Mastrangelo Wikipedia. L’Enciclopedia libera e l’egemonia dell’in­formazione (Bietti, 2013) and Iconoclastia. La pazzia contagiosa della cancel culture che sta distruggendo la nostra storia (Eclettica, 2020).