Story of suffragette Magdalen Berns – whose work inspired the activism of JK Rowling

While Westminster put the brakes on the Scottish Parliament’s plans for gender self-identification, opponents of the bill recalled an icon of their movement who inspired thousands of women to rise up.

Magdalen Berns was a co-founder of For Women Scotland – the group which led an attempt at a judicial review to challenge Nicola Sturgeon’s gender recognition reform bill and which protested for days outside Holyrood as the bill was debated.

She was also an influential YouTuber whose “precise” logic and deadpan portrayal earned her trans lobby enemies and admirers from feminists and gay rights groups.

Berns died of glioblastoma in September 2019 at the age of 36, but her words and videos are still quoted by activists, including JK Rowling, who hailed her as “an immensely brave young feminist and lesbian”. in her 2020 Twitter essay.

Magdalen Berns, who died in 2019 at the age of 36, was a co-founder of For Women Scotland and an influential YouTuber whose videos have inspired thousands of women's and gay rights activists

Magdalen Berns, who died in 2019 at the age of 36, was a co-founder of For Women Scotland and an influential YouTuber whose videos have inspired thousands of women’s and gay rights activists

Supporters of For Women Scotland and the Scottish Feminist Network take part in a demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

Supporters of For Women Scotland and the Scottish Feminist Network take part in a demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh

One of Berns’ most famous phrases, “It’s not hate to tell the truth,” was widely shared. Another joke, “I’d rather be rude than a bloody liar,” also turned out to be a rallying cry, according to Berns’ friend and fellow activist Venice Allan.

“I was a member of Momentum and a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn,” Ms Allan said. “I watched Magdalen’s videos and they spoke to me so much. Here someone said what I was thinking before I found the words.’

In her videos, Berns typically dissects the claims of gender ideologues whose views she contradicts, insisting in one: “There are no lesbians with penises.

“Trying to shame lesbians for being lesbians is inherently homophobic and misogynistic.”

Elsewhere, she could show a human side, imploring an opponent, “It’s okay to be uncomfortable with masculinity. Do you think I’m comfortable with femininity? Your personality doesn’t make you feminine.”

Nicole Jones (dressed as a suffragette) joined scores of others protesting outside Scotland's Parliament building on Wednesday

Nicole Jones (dressed as a suffragette) joined scores of others protesting outside Scotland’s Parliament building on Wednesday

Speaking to Holyrood after a three-day rally with For Women Scotland, Berns was remembered by her partner Nicole Jones.

Ms Jones said: “Magdalen would have been disappointed [by the Scottish Parliament’s vote]although it’s no surprise.

“She was a deeply kind person, full of compassion, and she cared about women’s and disabled people’s rights long before this gender debate.

“It’s time to plan our next move and of course we wish she were here to help us.”

Born in London, Berns spent her early years protesting against animal testing and furs and distributing leaflets for the Socialist Labor Party, while her mother Deborah Lavin was a founder of the British Communist Party.

After working as a sound engineer in North London clubs, Berns moved to Edinburgh in the mid-2010s where she studied physics.

Demonstrators hold a banner in the Scottish Parliament's spectator stand

Demonstrators hold a banner in the Scottish Parliament’s spectator stand

In 2015, while still a student, Berns began making her videos, sending Stonewall and a host of new vloggers to their destinationswhose claims she saw as a threat to lesbian and women’s rights.

“There was definitely a change in the air,” said Marion Calder, who later co-founded Berns For Women Scotland. “Up until this point, there was almost a gentlemen’s agreement between feminists and trans people — those who had medically switched and had the support of a doctor.

“There was this new generation of trans activists walking on our doorstep and saying, ‘We’re female in every way,’ with no medical or social change.

“There have been other women who have spoken out about this, but Magdalen has been way ahead of the curve in using video.”

According to Berns’ friend Robbie Travers, then a student in Edinburgh, the shift in transgender policy was accompanied by belligerent activism on campus.

He said: “I couldn’t believe my ears. There were male students who self-identified as lesbians and said women who wouldn’t have sex with men were “C*** scum” and should be “destroyed”.

“I sat there thinking this wasn’t satire, but it was real.

‘Magdalen was investigated by the student union and repeatedly implicated in interrogations. They were fishing for a crime. I was asked by them about her opinion, whether she had been radicalized.

“It seemed to me that their opinions were under scrutiny. She was a committed left-wing feminist, but she became disillusioned with the modern left.’

In her videos, Berns regularly dissected the claims of gender ideologues whose views she contradicted, insisting in one:

In her videos, Berns regularly dissected the claims of gender ideologues whose views she contradicted, insisting in one: “There is no such thing as a lesbian with a penis.”

Critics of Berns often cite a June 2018 tweet calling trans women “fucking blackface actresses” with “perversions” and who “get sexual kicks from being treated like women” as evidence of transphobia.

Berns later deleted the infamous tweet made during an online spat. But according to those who knew her, while she regretted her choice of words, she was unrepentant about her point of view.

In a video on the subject, activist Maria MacLachlan said: “I’m not going to defend the language Magdalen is using here, it was harsh and maybe that’s why she had to delete the tweet.

“But let’s not get too hypocritical about Magdalen’s angry expression… If you seem to think it’s okay for men to disregard women’s feelings, dignity and privacy based on some subjective feeling they pretend to have, and yet you are tempted to portray Magdalen here as a villain.

“While some trans men are obviously sexually motivated and others are obviously quite ill, by no means all are, and indeed Magdalena knew that.”

Protesters are seen during a candlelight vigil over what they believe is a loss of women's rights in Scotland

Protesters are seen during a candlelight vigil over what they believe is a loss of women’s rights in Scotland

WHAT JK ROWLING WROTE ABOUT MAGDALEN BERNS

In her June 2020 essay, Rowling wrote, “When I first became interested in gender identity and transgender issues, I started taking screenshots of comments that interested me to remind myself of what I might want to research later .

“One time I absentmindedly “liked” instead of taking screenshots. That single “like” was taken as evidence of wrong thinking, and a sustained low level of harassment began.

“Months later, I amplified my accidental like crime by following Magdalen Berns on Twitter. Magdalen was an immensely brave young feminist and lesbian who died from an aggressive brain tumor. I followed her because I wanted to contact her directly, which I managed to do.

“However, because Magdalen was a firm believer in the importance of biological sex and didn’t believe that lesbians should be labeled fanatics for not having trans women with penises, dots connected in the minds of Twitter trans activists and the social level media abuse did.” increased.”

To those around her, the experience of being kicked out of half a dozen student groups had shaken Berns’ activism, and she pursued the production of her YouTube videos with renewed vigour.

Berns was the first to interview Wiltshire mother-of-four Kellie-Jay Keen and then used the nickname Posie Parker after being questioned by police over complaints about tweets by Susie Green, former CEO of trans children’s charity Mermaids had been

She also took part in demonstrations and quickly gained recognition among women’s rights activists around the world.

In 2018, Berns co-founded For Women Scotland with Nicole Jones, Trina Brudge, Susan Smith and Marion Calder.

Recalling their first meeting years ago, Ms Calder said: “I had just watched her videos and was expecting this 6ft 5in Amazon to walk in.

“But this tiny woman walked in, people don’t know how petite she was. Her personality was huge, she had the guts of a 6’5 Amazon.’

Unfortunately, Bern’s commitment to For Women Scotland was hampered when her health began to deteriorate. In the summer of 2019, she was diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma.

“It’s hard to say you have something that can’t be cured, but I’m not going to let that define me,” Berns is said to have said while adopting a stoic stance.

After moving to a hospice in Edinburgh, Berns was told that JK Rowling had been following her on Twitter and had been in touch with her. According to Ms. Calder, Berns’ reaction was simple: “That’s cool.”

“Magdalen wasn’t one to be struck by celebrity, but even she knew it would make an impact,” Ms. Calder added.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11568569/Tragic-story-feminist-campaigner-work-inspired-JK-Rowlings-activism.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Story of suffragette Magdalen Berns – whose work inspired the activism of JK Rowling

Bradford Betz

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