The Monthly talks to Scottish Poet and Writer, Magi Gibson – Part 4 – Freedom of Expression

Part three of this interview is here

Do you think there is a general sense, at this point in time, of denying freedom of expression to certain thoughts and ideas?

Yes, I do. I’ve always been political, held political views, and been able to express them freely – until this past five or six years, when as a feminist speaking up for women’s rights – something I’ve done my whole life – attempts have been made to cancel and silence me within my arts sector. My own involvement with the trans-self-ID/women’s rights debate dates back to 2015. I’ve run all women workshops (as well as mixed and single sex male) since 1985, and fully understand why all-female spaces can be so important to women’s well-being and development, particularly women who’ve experienced violence and sexual abuse. And let’s face it, that’s a lot of women.

When I was first aware of the submission from Stonewall (to a government call-out for views) promoting self-identification of sex and proposing changes to women’s rights in the Equality Act, I was concerned. It was clear that such changes would affect women’s existing rights to all-female space, female intimate care – including after rape – and have multiple other impacts. I started to post relevant articles on my Facebook page to open up discussion as to what others felt the ramifications might be, what the impacts on women might be. I was seeking polite, sensitive, respectful discussion, and indeed many people did participate in that.

What happened when you stated those views?

Despite my exemplary record of working to increase access and participation, to work with people where arts provision was previously non-existent, out in housing schemes, in working class communities, in prisons, with people with severe disabilities, both psychological and physical; despite never having been exclusionary in any way, I was accused of bigotry and transphobia. Particularly once Stonewall were pushing the ‘No Debate’ mantra. Once they insisted on a “No Debate” policy simply wanting to talk about potential issues was deemed transphobic, even when there was absolutely nothing transphobic in the discussions.

In my opinion “No Debate” in itself was denying women rights – the right to talk about changes to the law that would impact their lives. There were then concerted (and these are on-going) efforts to silence me and take away my ability to work and make a living as a writer and workshop leader. Even my publisher was contacted to advise him to stop publishing my work.

t was very difficult to fight back against, not least because those agitating were mostly doing so from behind false names. I decided, partly due to serious health issues, and because of the psychological impact on me personally, to pretty much withdraw for a while.

You are back now though?

Yes, I am. Being a poet is essentially a solo enterprise, and despite ill-health I’ve continued to write. I had a new collection, “I Like Your Hat” out in 2020, and was delighted it sold out its initial print run in the first week. And my “Wild Women of a Certain Age”, first published in 2000, was republished last year in a 21st Anniversary Edition. My next step is to get out and about more, and promote these works. Which I fully intend to do!

See more of Magi Gibson’s work at the link below

Part one of this interview is here

artist forms link
New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.