COMPROMISE is a funny thing – an agreement in principle to accept less than desired to ensure that all sides are equally unhappy. It’s a rather liberal idea, isn’t it?

That the path to fairness leads only to outcomes nobody truly wants but everyone has to live with. Such a philosophy might be the expedient route to resolution, but to me it overlooks a key part of any conflict – the legitimacy of the claims made.

For example, there’s a world of difference between navigating the needs, wants and quirks of a loving relationship and for example, the coalition-era Liberal Democrats backing brutal welfare sanctions in exchange for a 5p plastic bag charge.

On the topic of human rights, there can be no compromise – which is why Stephen Fry’s contribution last week to the so-called trans debate has left a lot of people angry and frustrated.

To be fair, Fry did seem reluctant to discuss the topic on Roger Bolton’s Beeb Watch podcast but as with every other celebrity press-ganged into talking about this topic that they don’t fully understand, an answer is demanded nonetheless – but failed to criticise his friend JK Rowling, even if he did say he has many trans and intersex friends who are “deeply upset” by her.

The National: Stephen Fry who has urged calm in the debate over transgender issues, but said he has many trans and intersex friends who are deeply upset by JK RowlingStephen Fry who has urged calm in the debate over transgender issues, but said he has many trans and intersex friends who are deeply upset by JK Rowling (Image: PA)

“I’m aware you’re talking about an issue where two sides are very sore and very anxious about their enemies,” he said, before wishing “both to retreat and to consider that it is possible for trans people to live full, accepted lives, according to their terms, in society, and for women to have all the rights and dignities that they demand.”

On the surface, this idea of “retreating” and cooling down might seem to some outwith the onslaught like a reasonable position – and the surface is as deep as this kind of halfway-house rhetoric will ever get.

Despite Fry’s well wishing, the transgender community does not have the option to retreat. Not while it remains the target of relentless misinformation, abuse and political attacks on a daily basis.

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In 2013, Fry met Uganda’s minister for ethics and integrity, Simon Lokodo, as part of a documentary on the lives of LGBTQ+ people around the globe. Fry said the interview was so foul that he attempted suicide in his hotel room afterwards.

How would he have responded, I wonder, had he been told that the man behind Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill and the country’s LGBT population both needed to retreat and reconsider?

The rhetoric around transgender people in the UK clearly isn’t so openly violent as Uganda’s but there is a deep vein of eliminationism embedded in most gender-critical communities and platforms that cannot be ignored.

Prominent gender-critical activist Helen Joyce, in conversation with Helen Staniland, another well-kent face to the anti-trans community, stated in June that transgender people were “a huge problem to a sane world” and that decision-makers needed to be “keeping down the number of people who transition”.

Likewise, in 2020, the self-defined Women’s Human Rights Campaign, now known as Women’s Declaration International defined “transgenderism” – a phrase that comes with a bigger red flag than a marching socialist – as a practice that needed to be “eliminated”, and functionally backed a full removal of legal rights for transgender people living in the United Kingdom.

Author Julie Bindel, on hearing Stephen Fry’s “both sides” statement, tweeted: “It’s a pity Stephen Fry is doing the ‘six of one and half a dozen of the other’ over the gender war. Coppers often say this about domestic violence. He’s put her through years of hell, beaten her to a pulp, raped and staked her. She shouted back at him, hoping he would stop.”

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What would a “compromise” with such naked hatred and hardline opposition to the existence of trans people even look like? Maybe we could only use public bathrooms Wednesday to Friday and on alternate weekends.

Or maybe getting a Gender Recognition Certificate could be a lottery-driven system, where only a small number of people are accepted seemingly at random. Actually, hold on, that’s how that already works ...

Before the question of compromise should even be raised, first we must ask – is the legitimacy of their positions in question?

Far-reaching evidence gathered ahead of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill beginning its journey through the Scottish Parliament would suggest that there is no legitimacy to minority opposition to the proposals.

Despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth that “gender-critical” groups have been sidelined and ignored by the Parliament, they were in fact invited to present evidence to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee … and were utterly incapable of doing so.

Were the committee members meant to declare “well they might not have any evidence, but heck, it’s only fair to restrict the rights of trans people anyway”?

Last week, prominent gender-critical organisation For Women Scotland teamed up with other groups to run a conference against, in the words of an organiser, a cancel culture “where any discussion or disagreement about issues like race and gender are silenced”.

READ MORE: Transgender Scots slam 'broken' and 'demoralising' healthcare system

Forget that last red flag. This one is big enough to blot out the sun.

Gender-critical connections to the far right are increasingly clear. Fry’s friend Rowling previously sent “big love” to ultraconservative campaigner Caroline Farrow and praised a film called “What is a Woman?”made by self-described theocratic fascist Matt Walsh.

There’s a reason anti-fascist organisers are increasingly showing up to protest gender-critical events, and it has nothing to do with “just hating women”.

Fry falls for a basic rhetorical flourish that has been constantly deployed when discussing trans issues – an us vs them mentality that pits trans people against women.

In reality, it’s a group of trans people (many of them women) and their allies (many of them women) against a loud minority (some of whom are women) backed by the right-wing press and extremist organisations.

To step back and retreat now would be to say that standing up for human rights amid a global resurgence of fascism is less important than protecting the hurt feelings of a small group of privileged, conspiracy-driven campaigners. That’s a compromise nobody should be making.