FRANCE: Criminal “Misgendering” Complaint Filed Against Women’s Rights Campaigner

A prominent advocate for women’s rights in France is being taken to criminal court over accusations of “misgendering” two transgender public figures. Dora Moutot, a best-selling author and social media influencer, is facing a legal complaint alleging insults on the basis of gender identity, and public incitement to hatred or violence towards a group of people on the basis of their gender identity.

Two LGBT associations, Mousse and SOS Homophobie are backing a complaint lodged against Moutot on February 15 on behalf of the mayor of Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes, a trans-identified male named Marie Cau, and Hanneli Escurier, a female journalist who identifies as a man.

One incident cited in the suit involves comments Moutot made last October during an episode of the popular talk show Quelle Époque!

Journalist Léa Salamé asked Moutot whether she regarded the mayor as a woman, to which Moutot replied, “To me, Marie Cau is a man.” A statement released by Mousse accused Moutot of “violently attacking” Cau by calling him both a man, and a “transfeminine man.”

Cau, whose given name is Nicolas, became well known in France after he was elected to political office in 2020 and was celebrated in media reports as the first transgender mayor in the nation. After he won the election in the small town of Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes, which has a population of approximately 500, Cau expressed an ambition to run for President.

Last year, Cau published an autobiography titled Madame Mayor (Madame le Maire) wherein he described his urge to wear women’s clothing, an activity which he says brings about the “height of happiness” for him.

“Once I was alone in the house, I put on my girl’s clothes. A feeling of happiness, of liberation. Dressed like this, I can talk about myself in feminine terms and I can breathe,” Cau wrote. “Finally. I am myself. Shortly after puberty, I would also wear make-up… It became a bit like a drug, an addiction, because it feels so good that I would try to find that pleasure again.”

In his autobiography, Cau also detailed his divorce from his wife, and railed against the justice system, which granted custody of their children to his former wife.

“The woman is always the victim, while the man is always the executioner, often accused of violence or alcoholism,” he wrote. The judge presiding over their divorce proceedings ordered him to leave the home and granted him limited visitation rights – a situation that Cau says “is one that the courts traditionally reserve for a failing or even violent father.”

In addition to “misgendering” Cau, Moutot has also been accused of “transphobia” for an Instagram post she made on August 25, 2022, where she referred to Hanneli Escurier as a “trans-identified woman.” Escurier, who uses the name Hali Bottom online, is female but identifies as a man and works as a journalist for France’s leading LGBT publication, Têtu. The magazine was advertised as being for “gays and lesbians” until 2007, when it rebranded as being targeted at gay men exclusively.

Speaking to Reduxx, Moutot stated that Escurier had encouraged violence against women who are labelled “TERFs,” as well as threatened to physically harm Moutot herself at a drag event in 2020 that was held at a club in Paris called La Mutinerie. TERF is an acronym which stands for “trans exclusionary radical feminist” and is frequently used as a slur to denounce the target or to invite harassment against individuals who question gender identity politics.

Moutot was unaware of the threats against her until 2022 when Escurier posted a video of her 2020 performance on Instagram. In the clip, Escurier is dressed like a boxer and can be seen holding up a sign which reads, “Dora Moutot and the other TERFs.” She then says, “Ça va saigner ce soir,” which roughly translates to, “There will be blood tonight.”

Moutot shared the video to her social media to highlight the abuse she was receiving, and referred to Escurier as a “trans-identified female.” One of the lawyers involved in the criminal complaint against Moutot, Etienne Deshoulières, said that calling Escurier a woman was a “discriminatory insult” on the basis that it “reminds [her] of the rejection of which [she] is the object within society.”

“The struggle of transgender people is therefore first and foremost a constant struggle to exist, to be recognized as transgender people. When Dora Moutot declares that Hanneli [Escurier] is ‘a trans-identified woman’ and that Marie Cau is ‘a trans-feminine man,’ she strikes precisely where it hurts. She denies their existence as transgender people in a still largely transphobic society,” Deshoulières continued.

Moutot is fundraising for her legal fees, and has highlighted the importance of the suit against her for “misgendering” in regards to freedom of speech. “By attacking Dora Moutot, these associations which defend two trans activists are trying to show that in France, soon we will no longer have the right to describe biological reality without exposing ourselves to legal proceedings. It is an attack on freedom of expression for all French people,” her crowdfunder page states.

Previously, prominent political figures in France have publicly condemned and even mocked Moutot on social media for her statements about biological sex. Following an interview published in Le Figaro last August, Senator Mélanie Vogel of The Greens (EELV) taunted Moutot on Twitter, commenting that “transphobes are not feminists.” The publication had shared a photo of Moutot alongside a quote: “A woman is an adult human female, this is a biological reality. Only women are able to give life. This is a privilege.”

Moutot explained to Reduxx that she has been hounded relentlessly by trans activists for several years, beginning in 2019.

“I’ve been harassed for almost four years now by trans activists for saying that a woman is a human female and not a feeling,” Moutot said. “They send me insults and threats, they put my address online, and they ruined my reputation by saying that I’m transphobic, and that I am a far right accomplice.” She also emphasized that sustained attempts have been made to deprive her of financial security by trans activists who pressure her sponsors to drop her.

The incident which sparked the harassment campaign against Moutot took place in 2019 when a trans-identified male denounced Moutot’s “transphobia” after she posted information on the clitoris. Moutot’s work focuses on female anatomy and sexuality, and she had organized a campaign to raise awareness about clitoral anatomy and sexual health.

“According to this individual, advocating for greater visibility, knowledge and education around the clitoris organ, as well as all the content of my account @tasjoui would be ‘essentializing, LGBTphobic, transphobic’ and ‘not inclusive,'” Moutot said in a blog post.

The harassment began to escalate and quickly moved from social media to the real world. In October 2021, Moutot’s second book, Mâle Baisées, was published. The text deals with various aspects of female sexuality, from the orgasm to objectification and female genital mutilation.

Trans activists have demanded that shops stop carrying Moutot’s book.

Following the publication, a trans activist attempted to have Mâle Baisées pulled from book shops and even went so far as to print warning labels condemning the content as transphobic. “To buy is to participate” in “discrimination,” read the warning, which incorporated a link to the trans activist’s social media account.

In an interview with Women’s Declaration International (WDI) last year, Moutot explained that after trans activists began deriding her as a “TERF” for discussing female anatomy, she started to question gender identity politics.

“I started as a liberal feminist like a lot of young women,” Moutot said. “I created this page called @tasjoui about female sexuality, and I kept talking about female organs. After two years, a trans activist spotted me and started teaching me how I should talk. They told me, ‘You’re not inclusive enough, and you need to talk about us, trans women.”

It was the experience of being labeled a “TERF” that led Moutot to develop her understanding of feminist criticisms of the pornography and prostitution industries. For her, the abuse has had the opposite of its intended effect and has motivated her to become more vocal in her criticism of gender identity ideology.

Recently, Moutot partnered with feminist activist Marguerite Stern, and at the beginning of the year, the pair launched a collaborative campaigning project called Femelliste, which “fights to maintain the sex-based rights of women.” Stern has had similar experiences to Moutot and became a target for trans activists for her work, which involves raising public awareness about male violence against women and girls.

“We are angry. We live in an absurd time when the answer to the question ‘What is it to be a woman?’ is no longer obvious to everyone. According to some media, academics, activists, political figures and institutions, being a woman is now a feeling and not a biological reality,” Moutot and Stern explain on the Femelliste website.

Tensions between women’s rights campaigners and trans activists have been mounting over the past few years. During a demonstration held in Paris to commemorate International Women’s Day 2021, women who oppose the sex industry were met with violent threats from trans activists who attended the protest prepared to assault them.

Many of the women were themselves survivors of the sex industry, and the two groups, the Collective to Abolish Pornography and Prostitution (CAPP) and feminist group L’Amazone, were supported by Stern, who was also present and held a sign reading “Long live the female sex!” Stern was pelted with eggs, and trans activists spray painted a death threat near where they had gathered.

Moutot shared with Reduxx more recent images of street graffiti spotted in Paris which call for the killing of “transphobes.” The messages read, “Are you a transphobe? Die.” She has also seen graffiti with her name, calling her a “danger” to society.

“A lot of women’s struggles are linked to the way we have been treated because we are females. In certain countries it’s because you are a female that you can’t do this or that. Even the pay gap is originally linked to the fact that we could get pregnant. Not recognizing this will lead us nowhere,” Moutot told Reduxx.

“I also think that we need a common sense of reality. Everyone can distinguish who is a male and who is a female just by looking at someone for a second. It’s a natural thing we all have in the brain, the capacity of distinguishing male and female,” Moutot said. “Trans activists are at war with reality, but it’s not because they don’t like it that we should all agree with them.”

Moutot tells Reduxx that if she is found guilty on the grounds of the complaint, she may face the possibility of a suspended jail sentence or fine. But she is not without support in her home country. On February 27, a collective letter was published in Marianne signed by over one dozen prominent intellectuals defending Moutot from the complaint.

Slamming the suit on the basis of freedom of expression, the signatories asserted that “trans-identity activists are trying to put into practice their mantra … ‘Transphobia is not an opinion, it is a crime.'”

The signatories included a sampling of internationally-recognized names in the fields of medicine, human rights, journalism, and more. Among them, British journalist Julie Bindel, former Charlie Hebdo writer Zineb El Rhazoui, and human rights advocate Fadila Maaroufi.

The letter challenges the readers to ask what direction France will be taking, and points out the deterioration of freedom of speech in other nations such as Canada due to gender ideology.

“In France, psychologists Caroline Eliacheff and Céline Masson, Marguerite Stern, Sophie Robert, and others have been perpetually harassed, threatened, defamed, insulted, physically abused because they denounce the excesses of transgenderism,” the letter states. “Will they soon be arrested by the police too? Do we want France to take the same path as the Anglo-Saxon world? In what kind of society do we want to live?”

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Genevieve Gluck

Genevieve is the Co-Founder of Reduxx, and the outlet's Chief Investigative Journalist with a focused interest in pornography, sexual predators, and fetish subcultures. She is the creator of the podcast Women's Voices, which features news commentary and interviews regarding women's rights.

Genevieve Gluck
Genevieve Gluck
Genevieve is the Co-Founder of Reduxx, and the outlet's Chief Investigative Journalist with a focused interest in pornography, sexual predators, and fetish subcultures. She is the creator of the podcast Women's Voices, which features news commentary and interviews regarding women's rights.