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You might have thought it was the most innocuous item someone could wear: a simple black T-shirt bearing the dictionary definition of woman as ‘human female’.
But a young mother has been barred from her local pub after a complaint that the words discriminated against transgender people.
The unlikely new front line of the ongoing war between feminists and transgender campaigners is the snug Five Clouds Tap and Bottle in the historic market town of Macclesfield.
Rebekah Wershbale said she was ‘stunned’ when a barwoman at the pub informed her she was banned because of the definition.
Ms Wershbale said: ‘She told me that the T-shirt I was wearing was upsetting people because it was transphobic and not inclusive so I was barred. What she meant was that I was somehow offending men who say they are women because my T-shirt did not include them in the definition of a woman. There aren’t even any transgender staff or patrons at the pub. It’s crackers.’
Ms Wershbale is a supporter of feminist group Fair Play For Women, which opposed a Government’s consultation to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).
This proposed legal change would allow people to self-identify as the gender they believe they are without any medical diagnosis. Feminists and transgender campaigners have been locked in an increasingly heated battle with leading feminists fearing the change will harm the safety and privacy of women.
Ms Wershbale, a mother-of-one, had gone last Sunday with her girlfriend to play board games at the pub where she has been a regular for three years.
But the 34-year-old was surprised to be approached by a member of staff with a complaint. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened that evening, except when she spoke to another drinker at the pub, a gay man called Mika Johnson.
‘I sat down next to him and asked him how he was,’ Ms Wershbale said. ‘He said, “I don’t want to talk to you to be honest – please leave me alone.” ‘So I said OK and left it.’
Thirty minutes later a member of the bar staff named Heather came to Ms Wershbale’s table to tell her she was no longer welcome at the pub. ‘Heather said I’d been upsetting people and Mika was crying,’ Ms Wershbale said.
‘She told me that the way I talk about radical feminism was a problem and said: “The T-shirt you’re wearing is upsetting and not inclusive.” I replied that it simply said the dictionary definition of being a woman – how can it be offensive?
‘She mumbled a bit about it being transphobic and that I had been transphobic previously. She then said I was barred and that she had been nominated by the other bar staff to come to tell me that.
‘I asked if she thought it was troubling that I was being removed from my own local because I was wearing a feminist T-shirt that had upset a gay man. But she just repeated I wasn’t being inclusive.’
On the same day Mr Johnson – the pub goer Ms Wershbale had offended – took to Twitter to talk about his distress. He wrote: ‘When you’re trying to relax in your fave pub and there is a TERF [trans exclusionary radical feminist] wearing an anti-trans T-shirt… it’s disgusting and I’m so upset by it.’
The owner of Five Clouds Tap and Bottle Brewery Tom Lewis confirmed Ms Wershbale had been ordered to leave after the complaint. But he said there had been a series of incidents where she had upset staff and customers by challenging them about their views on men identifying as female.
The manager of Five Clouds Tom Lewis said Ms Wershbale is not permanently barred but she must ‘have a discussion with staff so she understands the situation’ before she is allowed back in.
Ms Wershbale said the claims were ‘untrue’ and an attempt to smear her. She admitted that while at the Five Clouds she had promoted a feminist campaign by Fair Play For Women.
However, she insisted she was not transphobic and is only against the reform of the law because she believes it could put women’s safety at risk by allowing men who say they are female access to women-only spaces.
Tory MP David Davies said: ‘Terrifyingly this insidious creep of open debate no longer being tolerated and freedom of speech being suppressed is now spreading from our university campuses to the streets of our historic market towns. It is a very sad day when a woman is barred from her pub for wearing a T-shirt that states the obvious because it might offend transgender people.’