Can we agree to disagree?

Battle of Ideas festival 2023, Sunday 29 October, Church House, London


Today’s cultural climate means identity issues such as sex and gender, race and ethnicity, are especially toxic topics. Is it possible to disagree about these issues civilly without opposing views reduced to ad hominem attacks or labelling people as bigots?

In the Channel 4 documentary Gender Wars, many viewers were surprised to see (some inspired; some sceptical) that iconic radical feminist and gay-rights activist Linda Bellos is firm friends with Katy Jon Went, a prominent transgender public figure. Despite holding seemingly incompatible opinions about whether trans women and trans men should be considered women and men, they claim that they both engage with each other to try and understand each other’s viewpoints. And beyond politics, the two regularly put their differences aside and socialise as neighbours.

Linda and Katy discuss how they avoid political differences becoming personal, whether identity issues are too often viewed as binary, and the one issue they both agree on – that a ‘no debate’ approach helps no one.

Linda Bellos OBE
equality, radical feminist and gay rights activist; diversity and human rights practitioner

Katy Jon Went
diversity and inclusion facilitator and educator, Human Library, Pick My Brain, GenderAgenda, Fifty Shades of Gender

Dr Shirley Lawes
researcher; consultant and university teacher, specialising in teacher education and modern foreign languages; Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques awarded