The Bias of the BBC

Camoflage bears 001The BBC charter specifies that ‘we should do all we can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality’. I have written numerous complaints to the BBC of late due to the bias in programming regarding  trans issues. After the last complaint (here) I received another inadequate reply, which failed to answer any of the points I had raised, so now I want to look at the BBC’s output as a whole, in order to provide some context for my concern.

It is worth noting to start with what the BBC says about the sources used for its information about trans issues, as this is instructive. Many of the quotes used to defend its stance come from GIRES (Gender Identity Research and Education Society).  Apart from GIRES, the BBC’s view on transgender issues is lifted wholesale from transadvocacy sites such as Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids and Trans Media Watch. There is little awareness of the issues that affect women, and no quotes which suggest any research has been done into the subject from a feminist point of view.

This is strange because the BBC knows this is a controversial subject. It has reported on the no-platforming of Germaine Greer, the trashing of Peter Tatchel and Mary Beard and the apparently controversial opinion of Ian McKewan that the male sex organ is normally associated with men. In the BBC’s editorial guidelines on controversial subjects it says:

“When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’, we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.  Opinion should be clearly distinguished from fact.”

And yet, despite an awareness of the disagreement between feminists (not the fun kind) and transactivists, there has been very little attempt to look at the issue from the point of view of  women’s rights. Getting Sarah Ditum onto Newsnight one time doesn’t count as a ‘wide range’ of views and perspectives, however articulate she was.

There are several areas of concern where the expansion of trans rights will potentially adversely affect women:

  1. The pressure on parents to accept a trans diagnosis for a gender non-conforming child, based on gender stereotypes of clothing and toy preferences; or in the case of teenagers, to give in to the social media contagion to which they might be susceptible.
  2. The threat to current sex-based rights, which keep males and females segregated in public places where women and girls might be physically vulnerable. These include toilets, changing rooms, rape crisis centres, refuges, hospital wards and prisons.
  3. The inclusion of male-bodied, male-socialised people, into areas of success and achievement where women currently have their own space in order to make competition fair or to level the playing field. These include sports, prizes and awards, shortlists and quotas.
  4. The negative affect on the lesbian community of the pressure on young women to identify as trans rather than as lesbian. There is also pressure to accept male-bodied self-identified ‘lesbians’ as sexual partners.
  5. The skewing of national statistics regarding crime, due to the higher rate of offending by male transitioners as opposed to women, with possible knock-on effects on funding for women’s services.
  6. The effect on the ‘trans widows’ of men (and it mostly is men) who transition in middle age. There is nowhere for these women to turn: all the help and support is directed towards the ‘trans’ person.
  7. The changing of language pertinent to women and girls in order to make it more trans-inclusive, thereby making ‘women’s issues’ impossible to talk about. This includes the use of such terms as ‘pregnant people’ by health providers.

These are all legitimate concerns which the BBC has largely ignored.

Instead we get this:

Louis Theroux: Transgender Kids

CBBC: My Life: I am Leo

Victoria Derbyshire: Transgender Children

All these programmes are largely uncritical of the transing of children, despite the research which shows that around 80% of gender non-conforming children will grow out of it before puberty. All programmes rely heavily on gender stereotypes to prove that children are not really the sex that they were born. All programmes minimise the harms of transitioning, and repeatedly use the idea of ‘born in the wrong body’ which has no scientific basis, and is an idea, not a fact. The reality, including such downsides as double-mastectomies, a lifetime on medication and probable sterility, is minimised or left out completely.

The message to teenagers, on radio and online, is similarly on-script:

iPlayer radio Advice

Newsbeat: transgender terminology

BBC Taster: Transgender

These sites link to sites such as Mermaids and  GIRES to go to for more information and support, and in return Mermaids recommends BBC programmes such as ‘I am Leo’ to the young people consulting their site. It’s all very cosy and circular. Teenagers get enough encouragement and support for trans identities from social media today without having the BBC reinforcing it too. The BBC should be aware of the impact of social contagion.

As women are the class of people most adversely affected by trans ideology, you’d think that Woman’s Hour might tackle the implications. After all they do a good job of tackling the implications for women of every other subject under the sun. But no:

Woman’s Hour: Power List

Woman’s Hour: Kellie Maloney interview

Woman’s Hour: 2015: The year trans became mainstream?

Caitlyn Jenner’s inclusion on the Power List was accompanied by the accepted narrative of ‘always felt like a woman’, and, as an additional reprimand to the more sceptical amongst us, the only motivation suggested for challenging this was ignorance and intolerance. Kellie Maloney was allowed to get away with minimising the violence he had previously inflicted on his wife (brilliantly analysed here). Both these men had had a lifetime of male privilege and entitlement, and both had presented with toxic masculinity, Maloney by way of domestic violence and Jenner by dangerous driving resulting in the death of a woman. To celebrate either of them was understandably an insult to many women, not only because of the numbers of women who have suffered this kind of violence at the hands of a man, but also because of the number of unsung heroines who work to help victims of male violence but are never celebrated. One of these women could have been on the Woman’s Hour Power List and enjoyed some recognition, but her place was taken by a person who was male-born, male-socialised and male-entitled.

The news though: that’s fact, rather than opinion, right? Afraid not:

BBC News reports: Tara Hudson, Vikki Thompson, Joanne Latham, Davina Ayrton, Claire Derbyshire

BBC news programmes, on TV and radio, have consistently misrepresented trans offenders in a way which is sympathetic to the trans people in question. Tara Hudson for example, was talked of purely as a victim, who would not be able to survive in a male prison, rather than as a violent offender with previous convictions and a fully-functioning penis. No mention was ever made of the rights of female prisoners to be safe. The suicide of any prisoner is a tragedy but the reporting of trans prisoners’ suicides has been misleading, especially in the case of Joanne Latham whose only ‘transition’ had been a change of name a few months earlier. Again, the BBC reported this uncritically so that Joanne Latham was presented as a trans suicide statistic, whilst in contrast, Claire Derbyshire, a male transitioner, was presented as a female murderer, her trans status not mentioned on most radio news bulletins.

Finally, analysis…a chance for a more informed and critical exploration of the facts maybe? Er, no:

Radio 4 Today

Radio 4 Analysis: Beyond Binary

The Today programme is a serious news and affairs programme, and as it decided to tackle the subject of transgender on two consecutive mornings you might have expected some in-depth research to back it up. What happened was a re-hash of the usual story regarding children who ‘didn’t feel right’ and felt ‘better’ once they identified as trans, with a bit of added John Humphreys-style confusion over a subject in which he was clearly out of his depth. He treated his young transgender guest with a combination of a desperate attempt not to say the wrong thing, along with a patronising and almost jovial ‘what you kids get up to these days’ tone which made light of the implications of transing children. The (male) scientist who was consulted couldn’t see a problem with male transitioners using the women’s toilets. So that was informative.

Analysis promised more: a whole half hour on the subject of ‘non-binary’ gender identities, and, as non-binary comes under the trans umbrella these days, there was an opportunity here to look at what this means in terms of the conflict between protecting gender-identity rights and protecting sex-based rights. This didn’t happen. Instead, some common and glaring mistakes were made, such as the conflation of non-binary with intersex and the incorrect use of the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ which were used interchangeably throughout. There was no attempt to even define what ‘non-binary gender’ means (possibly because it’s actually meaningless: we are all non-binary in terms of gender). The only mention of the feminist argument led to a bit of a joke about a Star Trek episode in which there was no gender so people were a bit boring and everyone looked the same. In other words, there was no analysis.

The BBC has clearly done its research into transgender issues, but unfortunately has only consulted transadvocate sources and then failed to question any of the ideology found there. Much of the ideology does not stand up to scrutiny, but you would not know this if you relied on the BBC for your information. Despite knowing that feminist arguments exist, it has obviously not been considered necessary to explore these arguments or take them seriously. Woman’s Hour did look at the worrying rise in the rates of young girls referring to gender clinics, and touched on the subject of the influences girls face regarding social media and body image, but the dots were not joined up. The BBC, in its coverage of trans issues across the board, are adding to the ‘trend’ and not questioning it. As a public service broadcaster the intention to be inclusive of a minority should be balanced with the duty to be factual and well-researched so that another group does not suffer as a result.

If the downside of the transgender trend is left to feminists to analyse and challenge then it makes it easier for transactivists to villify and slur those feminists and bully them into silence. If the general public is not given a balanced view it makes it easier for them to discount a few women’s voices and to believe that they come from a place of bigotry and transphobia. The view presented by the BBC’s programming is of a brave struggle by children and teenagers to express their true identity, (with the support and love of courageous parents), followed by the brave struggle for justice by ‘women’ held unfairly in male prisons, and the brave struggle by rich and successful middle-aged men to achieve an authentic ‘gender identity’ through the spending of vast sums of money on cosmetic surgery.

With all that sympathy on show it can be very hard to go against the grain and criticise or ask questions, but a public service broadcaster needs to do just that.

It is not just feminists who are being silenced: there is also a backlash from the gay and lesbian community who see that the transing of children can sometimes be a homophobic response to a gender non-conforming child. And, as previously mentioned, lesbians are being pressured to accept male bodies in such vile ways it would be seen as rape culture if it wasn’t for the fact it is trans people doing it. Transsexuals, who have gone through a process of transition which takes time and hard work, are often not happy with the current assertion from transgender people and allies that you ‘are a woman if you say you are’ as this will potentially lead to a backlash against all transsexual people. Detransitioners are routinely rejected by the transgender community and do not have a voice, presumably because their experience contradicts the preferred narrative. Scientists and professionals who work with children and young people are shamed and slurred if they step out of line and can only voice their concerns anonymously, despite the fact that there are serious child protection issues at stake. Women dealing with the experience of a husband transitioning in middle age (often after years of cross-dressing) are not listened to because their own needs at this traumatic time are deemed transphobic. Even rape victims are castigated for expressing a desire for a woman-only space in which to recover, as this too is now considered transphobic.

The BBC, in its response to my complaint about the film ‘I am Leo’, was keen to assert that the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the programme were due to the necessity of simplifying the story so that children could understand it. I am not a fan of myths being presented as facts in order to help children understand anything, as it is not so different from just telling them lies, but there is a bigger problem here. In its presentation of all transgender stories, not just those directed at children, the BBC has simplified the issues and presented a sanitised version for public consumption, and this has resulted in serious misrepresentation. The whole of the general public is being treated like a child. Most people will have no idea that 80% of men who transition do not get rid of their penis for example, as this fact gets in the way of the simple story of the ‘poor woman trapped in a male prison’ which is so easy to tell and to understand. No moral ambiguity has been allowed, so that the public is kept ignorant of the facts they need in order to form an opinion. The BBC might be protecting transgender people with this approach, but they are completely neglecting women’s rights in order to do so.

The laws around sex-segregated spaces are currently under review as part of the trans inquiry, and the Women and Equalities Committee has already published some new guidelines for service providers, which give trans people more rights to use the facilities which match their gender identity. This is not an issue which affects men, as men do not generally fear the inclusion of women in their private spaces. For women however, the change in the law to allow ‘gender identity’ to take the place of ‘sex’ as a criteria means that we would no longer be allowed to challenge the presence of a male-bodied person in a toilet or changing room. It is not a slur on trans people to say that this provides a loophole for abusive men. Abusers, whether they are flashers, voyeurs or rapists, will go to great lengths to get access to women and girls in vulnerable situations and it is naive to believe that the new law will not be abused.

It has become impossible to talk about women’s safety without being accused of bigotry against trans people. To end all arguments about competing rights the common argument used is that ‘transwomen are women’. This has become a mantra from transactivists, and is an assertion which is unscientific and unprovable, much like any faith position. The great irony here is that existing hate crime laws include transgender people as a protected group, but not women. So if transwomen really are women they are no longer protected by UK hate crime legislation.

Women’s rights are about to take a backwards step and nobody knows about it. The BBC has not only seen fit to ignore the issue and fail to inform its viewers and listeners, but through its oversimplified and over sympathetic presentation of trans issues, it has actively helped to obscure the problems and made it more difficult to tell the truth about what is going on. The BBC is failing in its duty to inform and educate and to present a balanced and unbiased point of view, and the people who will ultimately pay the price for this will be women and children.

Bigoted or Brave? A Response to CBBC

Last month the BBC’s CBBC channel for children aired a documentary called ‘I am Leo’ which took the form of a video diary about the personal journey of a transgender child. In my view the programme was biased, misleading and even dangerous, in the sense that it presented an overwhelmingly positive view of the experience of being transgender, with little attempt to qualify this picture with correct information. Indeed, the parts of the programme which purported to give factual information were flawed to an alarming degree, not only in terms of biology, but also in a way which promoted outdated stereotypes of what boys and girls should be, and the way that it made the idea of being transgender look easy and fun. I sent in a complaint through the BBC’s website, and a week later I got a reply. The reply was patronising and insulting and compounded my view that the BBC had only listened to one side of the debate and was unwilling to take on board any criticism or do any further research into the subject. This (with the BBC’s comments in italics) is my response to the points made in the BBC’s reply:

“Thank you for taking the time to air your complaints about ‘I Am Leo’.

By the time of the first broadcast, Leo had lived as a boy for 8 years. The documentary is about his personal experience as a transgender boy and those of the other transgender young people he meets in the film, Kai and Natalie. Like Leo, Kai lives as a transgender boy and Natalie, who was born in a male body, identifies as a young transgender woman. Like Leo, Kai has been accepted by his family and received their wholehearted support. He speaks in the film about how important this acceptance has been to him. However, Natalie’s family has refused to accept her as a young transgender woman, which she feels has been damaging.

The meeting with Natalie shows the only negative experience of being transgender in the film, and the blame for this has been placed fairly and squarely on the family and their lack of acceptance. At this meeting Leo is 13 years old and has been on medication to delay puberty, whereas Natalie is 20 years old and very much more of an adult: the difference between the two in terms of maturity is stark. Natalie’s more negative view of her experience could be down to so many factors, including simply growing up, but the only narrative we are allowed to consider is the one of lack of acceptance from family members about the choice to transition. Leo’s other meeting, with 10 year old Kai, reinforces the message about positive acceptance from parents, as they talk about how lucky they are to have this. However, the rest of the conversation mainly consists of discussing how awful it would be to have to wear dresses or have long hair, which illustrates how immature their world-view is. I mean no disrespect by this: I would not expect a more sophisticated understanding from a 10 year old and a 13 year old with delayed puberty, but it does help to illustrate just how little children know when they still have such a lack of experience of life and are not yet sexually mature.

One very important reason for making the documentary is that some people still refuse to accept transgender people exist and as a result, those who present as transgender, as Leo has done, often aren’t accepted and are instead bullied. Unfortunately, this bullying is not just from other children, but also from adults who haven’t read or don’t accept the many peer reviewed and published scientific studies about gender.

Actually the question here is not whether trans people exist, but whether trans *children* exist, and the jury is still out on this. Gender non-conforming children certainly exist, but there is by no means a consensus amongst professionals that ‘transing’ kids is a proportionate response to gender non-conformity. You say that Leo ‘presents’ as transgender, but this acts as a fait accompli on your part: Leo actually presents as a girl who feels like a boy, as large numbers of girls have always done, and it is the adults who  give this the label of trans, which then Leo takes on as his new identity. All labels carry a certain degree of restriction, whether it is ‘girl’, ‘boy’ or ‘trans’. Leo simply has a new box to be trapped in, and to have some legitimate concerns about the implications of this does not equal bullying. When you correlate bullying behaviour with ‘adults who haven’t read or don’t accept the many peer reviewed…scientific studies’ it is quite insulting to those of us who have read these studies extensively and have still considered it important to keep questioning the dogma. It suggests to me that you haven’t read, or don’t accept, the opinions of professionals who have expressed concern about the treatment of GNC children, of which there are a growing number.

Statistics repeatedly show that because of this lack of understanding and education, transgender children experience more bullying than other children and as a result are more likely to self-harm and take their own lives. The documentary was made and first transmitted during anti-bullying week in 2014, for this reason. We hope the documentary promotes understanding of people like Leo who present as transgender, and will discourage children and adults from denying their chosen identity and exhibiting other bullying behaviour towards them.

I would like to see the statistics that show this. The threat of suicide is one that is constantly used to guilt-trip parents who are not 100% on board with the trans narrative, but there is speculation as to the cause of self-harm and suicidal behaviour, rather than hard stats: the rate varies according to age and social status for example, and is linked to outstanding mental health issues. Bullying obviously does not help, but there is no evidence of a causal link, and it is certainly not the only factor as your comment suggests. The other misconception is that the way to minimise any suicidal tendency is to go down the transition route, whereas in fact the suicide rate does not fall after transition: in this sense there is no benefit to transitioning. The blame which is exhibited towards parents in the film, and in your response to my complaint, serves largely to silence any dissent from the accepted narrative, and the curtailing of open discussion, the results of which cannot be good for children’s needs in the long term.

The British Government accepts transgender people – hence it being possible to get a passport in a different gender to the one on your birth certificate.

The government will issue a passport in the opposite SEX (M or F) to the one you were born as, if you have a Gender Recognition Certificate. The confusion between sex and gender is not helpful here, but again, nobody is saying transgender people don’t exist.

Factual accuracy is fundamental to our programme making. In the documentary Dr. Polly Carmichael explains that when taken before or during puberty, hormone blockers pause the body from developing into a man or woman. This medication has been prescribed for 30 years to treat premature puberty in children as well as various health conditions in adults. Long-term medical studies show that when this medication is no longer taken, the body’s production of hormones continues as it would have done prior to the drug being administered.

The term ‘hormone blockers’ is misleading, as there is no drug developed specifically for this purpose: the term is used to encompass a range of drugs developed for adult health complaints and effectively used off-label for the purpose of delaying puberty. Aside from the list of side effects, there is no long-term study of the effects on children when used in this way. Professionals admit they have no idea about long-term outcomes. I am not impressed with the standard of ‘factual accuracy’ in this part of the programme.

For Leo, using hormone blockers prevents the severe anxiety he began to experience when his body started to change during puberty. His own GP, as well as the team at the Tavistock and his parents believe hormone blockers are the right medication for him. However, we explain in the documentary that hormone blockers are considered controversial and were only prescribed for Leo after long medical consultation with his parents as well as with him. Leo also makes clear this is not the route everyone who is transgender, or thinks they may be transgender, would take, but he and his family think it is right for him. Leo does not take cross-sex hormones and this medication is not mentioned in the programme.

Very little attention is paid to the difficult questions surrounding blockers: what IS said hardly dents the overall message of good news that Leo is getting what is ‘right’ for him.

The programme had to explain complicated scientific information to young viewers. The graphic device was used to demonstrate in a child friendly way, the peer approved and published scientific studies, which illustrate how gender differences can be seen in the brain.

The complicated nature of scientific evidence is no excuse to present misleading and discredited information. So-called ‘brain sex’ is no longer considered to be accurate: the idea that pink brains are for girls and blue ones are for boys is wrong, we all have human brains, which vary more within the sexes than between them. The most recent ‘peer reviewed and published scientific studies’ also show that brains are plastic and develop according to what is fed into them: in other words our brains change and grow with experience, so that it is more likely we ‘learn’ gender than we are born with an innate sense of it, whatever our biological sex. Furthermore, the notion that we can be ‘born in the wrong body’ is hotly contested, partly of course because this notion relies heavily on the belief in ‘brain sex’ to be possible. And yet in the film the phrase ‘born in the wrong body’ or a near equivalent is used fifteen times in under half an hour.

In response to some concerns that girls and women are negatively portrayed in this documentary – we believe Leo’s mum Hayley is a fantastic role model, and Dr Polly Carmichael is an excellent role model for girls too, as a senior specialist doctor. Leo and Kai’s conversation about not wanting to wear dresses is clearly presented as their personal view, which is directly linked to them being transgender boys.

My complaint made no mention of the issue of how women are portrayed, but what I did find myself wondering as the film progressed was ‘Where are all the men?’ Leo’s father is not around: Leo lives with his mum and sister, and no other fathers are mentioned. Apart from the people in the film who are trans, every other character is female. Without saying it was intentional, I couldn’t help feeling uneasy about this aspect of the programme. Women of course are meant to be the ones with empathy, understanding and the ability/desire to accommodate other people’s needs, and the impression given was that the message was aimed primarily at women. I had the uncomfortable feeling that women were being targeted as a kind of ‘soft touch’, more likely to swallow the inaccuracies than men who might be tougher and more inclined to challenge the assumptions made in the film. I hope I am wrong about this.

I Am Leo is part of the 6th series of My Life films which have covered many different topics, including ‘What’s a Girl?’ about gender perceptions, featuring tomboys and looking at how children are pushed into behaving in certain ways from a very early age. It was presented by a young lesbian. This documentary however, is about one boy’s journey and how he feels. It’s not about sexuality, but identity – an issue that many children relate to because of our universal need to feel accepted, however individual we are.

Of course I know that transgender is about identity, not sexuality, but this is part of the problem with the message of the film. When research shows that around 80% of GNC children will grow up to accept the sex they were born, and the majority of these will identify as gay or lesbian, there is a real prospect that we are erasing homosexual identities in favour of trans ones. This film gave no other option to GNC children other than that they are probably trans. You don’t have to be transphobic to know that a lesbian or gay outcome would be better for most children than a path which leads to a lifetime of drug dependency, surgery and sterility. But for parents watching this film with their children the message is clear: you can either be ‘brave’ and support your child’s journey towards transition, or you can be a ‘bigot’ who blocks their true path. Bigotry leads to unhappiness, self-harm and possibly suicide, whereas bravery leads to a happy smiley trans kid who gets to be on television. For children watching the programme this must look quite exciting.

The message portrayed in the programme could have been lifted straight from a trans propaganda website: it follows the standard narrative so closely. Children now have access to reddit, Tumblr and Youtube sites which promote transgender as a lifestyle choice, and parents seeking information online will be directed towards sites such as Mermaids and Gendered Intelligence which are overwhelmingly in support of a child’s trans identity. Parents and their children are getting the same message reinforced wherever they look. Meanwhile, contrary opinions are being silenced through a combination of name calling, emotional blackmail, no-platforming and even personal threats.

In response to this there are now sites growing up where worried parents can express their concerns anonymously, such is the fear of backlash from trans advocates. Twitter, Facebook, Mumsnet forums and blogs are increasingly home to dissent over the current orthodoxy, because there is a common need to find out information and express opinions without being accused of transphobia. New websites Fourth Wave Now in the US and  Transgender Trend in the UK have been set up by parents with the intent of gathering information free from dogma, and there is a growing number of blogs written by trans people themselves who have detransitioned and regret the process they went through. In the last few weeks a website has been set up in the UK called Youth Trans Critical Professionals, to provide a forum for those who are working with children in various professional disciplines and have misgivings about the ideology they are increasingly expected to adopt uncritically.

There is no doubt that some children experience such extreme hatred and discomfort with their sexed bodies that medical intervention may be necessary, and I do not minimise the suffering of these children. Leo may well be one of them, judging by the tenacity of the symptoms in his case, and I wish him nothing but the best. However, as a public service broadcaster, the BBC has a duty to all the other children, whose distress with their sex may not be as severe but who may be encouraged to believe that they are trans when they are not. The programme did not adequately express the fact that it is only a tiny minority of children who will be affected by body dysphoria to this degree, and in trying to stress how ‘normal’ Leo is, the impression ended up being that his story is far more common than it actually is.

Children are suggestible, which is why they are so easy to abuse. They naturally believe what adults tell them: they have no context or framework in which to test new facts which would help them to think critically about what they are being shown. ‘Born in the wrong body’ is an idea, not a fact, and it’s an idea which requires a suspension of disbelief. Our bodies are part of us, we are all born in bodies, our bodies are not ‘wrong’. There is plenty wrong with enforcing a certain set of behaviours on people *because* of the body they are born in: maybe the BBC could look at different ways to present the idea of challenging these beliefs, rather than encourage the idea that it is feasible to change sex. The Wibbly Pig Guide to Gender is a perfect example of one way to make the idea of gender easier for children to understand. The campaign group Let Toys be Toys does great work looking at how children are ‘gendered’ according to their sex by toy industry marketing. Presenting bad science is not necessarily the answer, however ‘child-friendly’ the graphics are.

There is no doubt that the intention to tackle bullying and prejudice towards the trans community comes from a good place, but it has resulted in the fact that ANY dissent from the preferred narrative is now seen as transphobic and a contribution to inequality. The BBC owes its listeners a balanced view which is not overly informed by a current lobby, particularly where children’s programmes are concerned. It has a duty of care towards its younger listeners (and their parents) to be aware of all the facts and to present them responsibly. Showing ‘I am Leo’ to an audience of 6 – 12 year olds, with no balancing point of view or counter-argument, is in my view a dereliction of that duty. I hope that in response to this the BBC will take the concerns of parents seriously, do more research and make sure that future programming is more balanced.


Toys 001





An Argument for Excluding Men from the Prostitution Debate

I’m beginning to think that men shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion on the sex trade, let alone be in charge of deciding the legislation around it. In the last few weeks we have found out that Keith Vaz is a punter, that the Lib Dems are happy with the idea of prostitution being on the careers curriculum at school, and that Jeremy Corbyn just doesn’t care that much:


On top of that, any of us foolhardy enough to air our opinions about prostitution on social media can expect without fail an onslaught from mansplainers such as this one:


This man is talking to a prostitution survivor by the way.

So why do men have such difficulty understanding women on this subject?

Well, heterosexual sex is obviously different for men and women, partly due to physiology and partly due to social factors. Regarding the physiology of our sexual differences, the act of penetration for a man is not as intimate an experience as a woman’s experience of being penetrated; men usually orgasm from penetrative sex whereas the majority of women don’t. The way that women and men masturbate tells a story: men mimic the action of penetrative sex, women do something entirely different, involving the clitoris. Women can’t rely on sex with a man being any good, unless there is a certain amount of understanding from the man; men can usually come anyway.

Regarding social differences, women get all the bad sex words: slut, whore, hussy, slag, cock teaser, frigid bitch, prude, whereas men just get stud or player or the rather approving euphemisms Cassanova or Ladies Man. Men may get called impotent or worry about sexual performance, but they are not judged on the number of sexual partners they have in the same way that women are. Women get nearly all of the objectification and focus on body size and shape, whereas men don’t usually get this forensic examination of their ‘attributes’, and do not become public property for sexual appraisal as soon as they hit puberty. They therefore tend to have fewer body issues than women do.

Rape is a thing. Men commit 98% of sex crimes and around 96% of violent crime, and they tend to be generally bigger and stronger than women.

The cultural forces that shape men’s attitudes to sex are completely different to those that shape women’s. It’s not that women innately dislike sex, anymore than men do, but that the potential damage that heterosexual sex can do to women, both physically and mentally, is serious. A lot of men don’t get this: sex is good, therefore even if it’s coerced or forced or with someone you don’t fancy much, well, hey, it’s still sex – just not the *best* sex. Many men have a sneaking envy of women working in the sex trade: having sex all day for a living is a male fantasy: if you get to be a male porn star it’s an envy-inducing status to your mates. I believe that many men really don’t see that working in the sex trade can be such a bad thing for women. They think we’re making it up.

But if sex goes wrong for women, it’s not just disappointing – it can be painful, damaging and soul-destroying. Or even life-threatening.

Men create and consume a sexual culture antithetical to women but which they see as normal, and pretty pleasurable. Under these circumstances it is very difficult for them to see that it might not be the same for a woman: it can take a huge leap of imaginative empathy, and not all men are capable of that. If men are to make the laws which predominantly affect women, they need to have an understanding of exactly why the law needs making, and unfortunately when it comes to sex many men still think with their dicks.

Of course it wouldn’t be possible to ban men completely from the discussion, but you’d think that if the laws around being a punter are up for debate, the very least you should expect is that it won’t be a punter who’s making them.

The campaign group Nordic Model Now! has a template letter if you’d like to write to your MP:

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What My Mum Went Through

My mum was twenty eight when she had her first baby. That was quite late for a first baby in those days, especially as she had been married for a whole five years at that point, but she and my dad wanted to wait till they could afford a baby and had their own home to live in first. Finally they got a mortgage on a narrow two-up two-down terraced house with damp on the walls, silverfish in the fireplace and a toilet in the back yard, and then they started their family.

My sister took a whole day to be born, she was a big baby, and my mum had to have stitches after the birth. However, that didn’t prevent her from getting pregnant again within a few months. It has to be remembered that rape within marriage was not a crime in those days, and although I am not casting aspersions on my dad, I do think that those ideas, that a wife owed her husband regular sex whenever he wanted it, were strong enough at that time to ensure that most women would see sex as their duty (and most men would see it as their right). Even after a difficult and painful birth.

So: eleven months after the first baby, and worried about the extra costs of this new (unplanned) baby, my mum was ready to give birth again. Only this time it was twins. A full ten days before the due date, during a regular health check, it was discovered that there were two babies in there. There were no scans in those days so my mum had assumed by her size that she was just going to have another big baby. Although she’d had a previous home birth (because everybody did back then) she was rushed into hospital to prepare for the birth of twins. It was a Friday night and she was expecting to be looked after for at least a week before any chance of the birth happening. She therefore had little preparation for the two babies that arrived early, at about seven o’clock the following morning.

My parents had no phone and no car. They were poor, but my dad still went to the football every week, so on this particular Saturday morning he went off to Anfield to watch Liverpool as usual, completely unaware of what had happened in the hospital. He left my older sister with an aunt for the day. My mum doesn’t remember when he first met his new twin daughters, but she does remember being discharged from hospital a week later, only to find on her return home that my dad had contracted the flu and was bed-ridden, with my older sister beside him in the bed because he was too ill to look after her. My mum had a sick husband and three babies under the age of one to look after, a week after giving birth to twins.

Things were quite difficult. At five weeks old I was rushed into hospital with an abscess in my groin. The hospital was on the other side of town, a walk and a bus ride away, which was difficult to do with two babies and a big pram. My mum managed to visit the hospital a couple of times in the week that I was there, but at that time parents were not allowed to stay the night, so on both occasions she had the stress of first, arriving to see a crying baby, and second, leaving to the sound of a crying baby. At home the childcare was very definitely her job and her job alone. My dad worked five days a week and then expected a rest at the weekend, and his football on a Saturday.

My mum did her best, with little support. All her family still lived on the estate where she had grown up, too far away to visit easily with three young children. Her mother in law, my dad’s mum, would visit from time to time and criticise her housekeeping. Eventually she went to the doctor feeling stressed and anxious and the doctor prescribed her some medication for her nerves.

Then, one evening when she had just finished putting us all to bed and was walking back down the stairs, she began to feel very unwell with agonising stomach pains. She felt something leaking down below and she rushed into the kitchen to get outside to the toilet, but she didn’t make it. She had a miscarriage at the back door. She didn’t even know she was pregnant. My dad was out that evening, he was decorating his mum’s front room with the help of one of my uncles, so my mum cleared up the mess on the back step as best she could, packed herself up with as much padding as she could manage, and went and lay down on the settee for several hours on her own, in pain. She couldn’t go out to get help because she had three young children asleep in bed upstairs.

Finally my dad arrived home, in my uncle’s car, and finding my mum in that state, got my uncle to drive him to the nearest phone box to call for an ambulance. My mum was in hospital for a week, and the most upsetting part of the experience for her was hearing the nurses refer to what had happened to her as a ‘spontaneous abortion’. That was difficult for her to hear. Almost as difficult to take in were the numerous news stories that began to come to light shortly after that time, about the number of babies being born with unusual deformities. It took some time and investigation but eventually the blame was laid on the drug Thalidomide, which some women had been prescribed whilst they were pregnant. Thalidomide was the drug my mum had been taking for her anxiety.

I think she felt very guilty about her miscarriage. She didn’t know whether to be upset about losing a baby or relieved that she hadn’t had a baby with physical defects. She didn’t know whether the miscarriage was her fault or whether it had actually been caused by the Thalidomide. As time went by she found it more and more difficult to cope with her three pre-school children, effectively on her own. And then one morning it all came to a head. When she walked into our bedroom to get us all up for the day she realised with a shock that she was disappointed by the fact that we were all still alive. She hadn’t consciously wished us dead, but she noticed her disappointment and was scared. She was worried about what she might do. So she walked out and had a breakdown.

I still don’t know how long she was away for, but I know that she was offered a place in the local psychiatric hospital (which she refused) and that she endured two bouts of electric shock therapy, which, to this day, she regrets having agreed to. She was patched up enough to come back to us, but she always said that my dad never trusted her again: would never allow that she had competence in anything from that day forward.

So, did I appreciate all my mum had been through in order to raise me? Of course I didn’t! As a teenager I despised my mum for being ‘weak’ because my dad was always in charge and always had to have his own way. It took me a long, long time to see exactly how much strength it took for my mum to keep going, and how belittled and undermined she was by the attitudes of the time and the lack of understanding and support she had. Today I cannot imagine going through what she went through, and I can only see her strength in surviving it all.

I’m glad that in this country our view of maternal care has evolved since those days, and that the technology is better, and that some men are somewhat more enlightened as to how to support their partners when they are being pregnant and giving birth, and that it is no longer legal to rape your wife. I still wish there was more recognition of the labour women endure when they go through the process of bringing new life into the world (as much fuss as is given to the men who go and fight and take life away would be nice).

This is just my mum’s story. There are a million and one different stories about pregnancy and childbirth from all around the world which can be terrifying and inspiring in equal measure, including the stories of women unable or disinclined to get pregnant in the first place. The ability to get pregnant and give birth and nurture a baby does not define us as women but it does inform something of our psychology and our experience of life and our notion of ourselves. I like to think that Mother’s Day is not there to celebrate just the women who have actually given birth, but women as a class. After all, we all came into this world in the first place through the body of a woman.

And, thank you, Mum.

And, sorry, Mum.

Happy Mother’s Day.


We Are All Non-Binary Now

I was born a female baby. I was not ‘assigned female at birth’, I was born female and this fact was noted: an F rather than an M went on my notes. The word ‘female’ in humans means the same as it does in other animals, that is: the sex which has the capacity to carry young and give birth. When people insist on using the phrase ‘assigned female at birth’ they are suggesting there is a choice being made, and that choice is dependant on belief systems, but actually, except in the rare cases of people born intersex, there is no choice involved at all. Your sex simply is. The fact that it is ‘written down’ does not mean it has been ‘assigned’.

Now that’s been cleared up, let’s move on to gender. Gender is not sex: it is a set of characteristics commonly *associated* with your sex. Unlike sex, the meaning of gender is open to interpretation and its meaning can change, because it is a social construct rather than a biological fact, and social constructs are open to discussion and opinion. However, even if you mean gender and not sex when you are talking about being ‘assigned at birth’, this is still inaccurate. I was not ‘assigned a female gender’ at birth, I was simply born female, this was noted, and then I had gendered things thrown at me accordingly. It would be more accurate to say that I was ‘dressed in clothes which were assigned female’, and ‘given toys which were assigned female’, and ‘rewarded for exhibiting behaviours that were assigned female’. This is usually the way that gender is thrust upon you: it is done according to what is considered appropriate for the sex class you were born into.

Biological sex is dimorphic (the example of intersex is just the exception that proves the rule) but gender exists on a spectrum, which has exclusively masculine at one end and exclusively feminine at the other. Whatever your biological sex, you can feel more comfortable at one end of the spectrum or the other, or anywhere in between, depending on your personality. In this sense it is obvious that one big difference between sex and gender is that sex is binary and gender is non-binary. Men can have qualities which are ‘assigned female’ and women can have qualities that are ‘assigned male’. In fact I would go so far as to assert that even the most ‘masculine’ of men still have a tiny bit of ‘feminine’ in them, and even the most ‘feminine’ of women still have a tiny bit of ‘masculine’ in them. We are all in fact ‘non-binary’ as regards gender. It gets confusing when people use ‘non-binary’ to mean a mixture of the two sexes or no sex at all, as this is impossible (except, as previously mentioned, for the tiny percentage of people who are born intersex).

As a child I had a preference for toys and activities which at that time were assigned a masculine gender. I went through a phase of wanting to be a boy, and even pretended to be a boy, because all the boy stuff was so much more interesting to me than what was assigned for girls. I was genuinely ‘non-binary’, but in those days it was called ‘being a tomboy’. That was a possibility for girls at the time, although you were expected to grow out of it eventually. It was more difficult to remain gender-nonconforming as you got older. Suddenly it was labelled ‘being a feminist’ and that wasn’t quite as affectionately indulged as ‘being a tomboy’ was. Life can be made difficult for people whose gender identity does not match their biological sex: for women who present in a way that has been ‘assigned masculine’ or men who present in a way that has been ‘assigned feminine’ there is often resistance, or worse, from people more ‘matched’ in their sex and gender, who feel this non-conformity as a threat. One of the objections to the label ‘cis’ is the fact that it implies a conformity to gender that no individual in practice completely lives up to (or would want to).

Crucially, having a non-conforming gender identity does not mean you can change sex. You can present yourself as the opposite sex, usually by conforming to a different set of stereotypes from those associated with your own sex, but you cannot identify yourself out of the sex class into which you were born. Current transgender ideology has it that a combination of surgery and ‘identifying as’ makes you into the sex you want to be, but this is not the case: at best it can make it a possibility for you to ‘live as’ your preferred sex. You can change gender but you can’t change sex. It’s a nice idea, but when push comes to shove the truth will out. Maybe it’s a recognition of that truth which has led to a change from ‘transsexual’ to ‘transgender’ as a descriptor in the trans community.

When I was a student, the men who tried to rape me when I was hitch-hiking did not respect the rather masculine gender identity that I felt inside. They didn’t care that I had grown up preferring football and racing cars to dolls and make-up. They didn’t even care that I was wearing combat trousers and a donkey jacket! They just cared that I was female. Calling yourself ‘non-binary’ will not identify you out of that threat if you are a woman, and that is why we have sex-based rights for women: biological sex matters. When it comes to safety for women the way you ‘identify’ is a mere indulgence: it’s about as important as whether you consider yourself to be a Goth or a Punk for example, no more and no less. And, to be clear, people are not oppressed for being ‘non-binary’: they are oppressed by virtue of their female biology.

The current government inquiry on transgender rights is proposing to expand the rights of people in single-sex spaces, such as prisons, changing rooms, toilets and refuges, based on gender identity. At the same time, the definition of trans has been expanded to include ‘non-binary’ and ‘genderfluid’ people (which is great because that includes me!) (Hint: it includes everyone!). The recommendation is that gender identity should always be accepted as self-certified rather than proved by a medical opinion or a gender recognition certificate. In reality this means that women’s sex-based rights will disappear as gender-based rights will cancel them out: the two cannot co-exist. Male-bodied people (we used to call them ‘men’ when sex was the relevant criteria) will always be able to gain access to women-only spaces through the method of self-identifying as women. When you consider that women-only spaces have traditionally been fought for and implemented *because* of the threat of male violence, you can understand what a threat this is to women’s rights. Actually *being* a woman could be overridden by a man *claiming* to be a woman. What could possibly go wrong?

It is worrying that a government inquiry set up by the Women and Equalities committee can misunderstand so completely the connotations for women of the changes they are proposing. There were many submissions to the inquiry from women’s groups, which have clearly been ignored. We need to complain now, before the proposals become law, to try to get the message across before it’s too late. After all, we are all genderfluid, non-binary folk now and our voices deserve to be heard.


Another Bloody Feminist Campaign

There’s another bloody feminist campaign to get behind – it can seem like there’s always another feminist petition to sign. The latest one is about Feminism being removed from the A level politics syllabus. The petition was started by June Eric-Udorie and quickly reached over 40,000 signatures. It is an important campaign, but as usual it attracted a fair share of ‘whataboutery’ comments from people who think there are more important things out there on which to spend one’s time. This led me to think about two things:

  1. The reasons why this particular campaign is important, and how it ties in with other feminist campaigns.
  2. The reasons why we need so many bloody feminist campaigns in the first place.

If the lack of Feminism on the A-level Politics curriculum was a stand-alone instance of women being erased, marginalised, misrepresented, demeaned, underestimated or otherwise ignored, then it wouldn’t be so much of a big deal, obviously. We could look elsewhere for inspiration, self-respect, pride, role models and a sense of our place in the world. But a quick look at the feminist campaigns and petitions which have been necessary over the past couple of years tells a story which is fairly constant in its message about a woman’s place. From the absence of women on banknotes and passports, and mothers’ names on marriage certificates, to the objectifying images on Page 3, in lads’ mags and on ‘beach body’ advertising billboards, to the lack of women composers on the A-level Music syllabus and the lack of older women on BBC TV, to the opening of a Jack the Ripper Museum where a women’s history museum was meant to be, and to the highly stereotyped representation of girls in children’s toys, books and clothes: all of these separate elements combine to make a very consistent whole.

It is difficult to get away from the dominant narrative. For children growing up surrounded by this culture the same message is found again and again, whether it is in school or in music videos, magazines,books, television or the internet. Women are there for their sexiness or not at all. At school there is a chance to redress the balance by making sure that women and their achievements are represented as much as possible, but this is not happening. Women in history for example are largely there for the same reasons they exist in contemporary culture: they are either titillating, married to powerful men or being murdered (sometimes all three). There are some notable exceptions, but often they are used as the exceptions that prove the rule. Powerful women in history, like those now, tend to exist as stand-alone figures, with little trickle-down effect on other women. Exceptional women remain just that: exceptional.

Jung coined the term ‘collective unconscious’ to describe how ideas and beliefs are passed down through the generations and amongst contemporaries, almost like a kind of osmosis. The resulting belief systems are ones we are hardly aware of, let alone able to challenge, because they go in so early and so deep and are continually reinforced. It is a form of indoctrination which means that our beliefs become ingrained and take on the veneer of truth. In the case of beliefs about women, it means that restricting and damaging stereotypes are seen as normal and natural, to the point where it can seem more ‘unnatural’ to challenge them. As far as I know the ‘female of the species’ doesn’t have to mean ‘modest, passive and eager to please’ in any other animal on earth. There is no reason at all why it should do in the case of humans.

The representation of women, whether it’s the ubiquity of sexualised or pornographic imagery, the way women are referred to in stereotypical, old-fashioned and insulting ways in the media, or the way that women are left out when it comes to the ‘important’ stuff (particularly BME women, older women and women with disabilities) paints a broad picture which is more than the sum of its parts. It’s all linked: we can’t teach either boys or girls that women are human too if we consistently leave out all the evidence of women’s diversity, brilliance and achievement at all stages of the educational process.

All of this stuff matters because, as a complete picture, it is so bloody relentless. Each of the problems the above-mentioned campaigns were set up to address serve to reinforce all the others. And it all makes more work for women. It’s worth remembering that women work largely for free on these projects, campaigns and petitions (along with all the other unpaid work that still falls to women). Whilst the default sex (male) gets on with life, women have to challenge nearly every new idea that crops up, because the default decisions don’t usually don’t take them into consideration. It can feel like fighting to stand still. When there is criticism of a new feminist campaign, particularly if its subject is one I personally find slightly boring, I am always grateful to the woman/women who find it interesting enough to pursue. Somebody’s got to do it.

Men don’t generally have to spend their time campaigning just because they are men, so they have more time to spend campaigning on other issues that are important to them, or on getting most of the top jobs, or on doing most of the crime. The few men’s rights groups that do campaign on men’s issues tend to concentrate on feminist-bashing and complaining about the advances women have made, in terms of the impact they feel it has on their own sense of entitlement. They are not fighting to establish a level playing field, as women have to do, but rather to protect the beneficial injustices that have existed for so long in their favour.

It would be surprising if a man were to start a campaign such as June Eric-Udorie has done, even though men obviously sometimes have girl children and presumably wish them well. Even men who otherwise fight for equality issues tend to leave sexual equality well alone, even when it affects children in areas such as education. Without the work that women are doing the collective unconscious will keep absorbing the same old ideas and prejudices: boys will have less of a chance to learn to respect girls as equal human beings and girls will have less of a chance to see themselves as deserving of respect. Some of these boys will grow up to be men who perpetuate current sexist attitudes, and some of these girls will grow up to be women who start campaigns against their ill-informed decisions. They will probably be as dismayed as I am about the complete lack of understanding shown by many men regarding the common experiences of women, and wonder why something wasn’t done earlier about educating them.

This ignorance, coupled with a lack of empathy or respect, is part of what feeds into a culture of violence against women. Many more feminist campaigns deal with the serious issues around rape, abuse and men’s fatal violence against women, and again many of these are run voluntarily by women who are also trying to earn a living and/or bring up a family. June is running her campaign whilst also studying for her A-levels. You can understand why many women do not or cannot get involved – we’ve all got busy lives to lead. So thanks to June for taking this on, and thanks to all the other women who give their time for free or for little reward in order to make the world a better place for other women. The true purpose of feminism of course, is to smash the patriarchy, but in the meantime let’s all kick up a big stink every time we see women being erased or misrepresented in the public sphere, so that the generations of girls to come have a better chance than we did at knowing how brilliant, strong and inspirational women can be.

Have We Reached Peak Trans?

In recent months the issues around transgender equality have become more mainstream in the US and UK media. There have been TV programmes such as Louis Theroux’s documentary ‘Transgender Kids’ and Channel 4’s three-part series ‘Born in the Wrong Body’. Laverne Cox from ‘Orange is the New Black’ did a nude photoshoot for Allure magazine and Caitlin Jenner has appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, and been included in the Woman’s Hour Power List. Stonewall have publicly apologised for sidelining the T in LGBT and promised to do better in future, and Kelly Maloney has told us why Germaine Greer should be punished for her ‘transphobic hate speech’ after she was no-platformed for her ‘transphobic hate speech.’ Sky News did a special report on the increased demand for gender realignment surgery by children, trans teen Lila Perry made headlines in the US when there was a protest at her high school over her use of the girls’ locker room, and in the UK transwoman Tara Hudson was moved to a women’s prison after an online petition garnered over 150,000 signatures in favour of her being moved from the male estate.

In all these stories the mainstream media has been broadly supportive of transgender issues. In all the news reports on BBC TV and radio, and in the UK press, the emphasis has been on the discrimination experienced by transgender people, and their courage. (And, in the case of ‘transgender kids’, the courage of their parents for being so supportive). So, if you are an ordinary person going about your life, without being, say, a radical feminist or a gender-critical trans person, to whom these questions matter a lot, then you could be forgiven for thinking that the only problem here is from the nasty transphobic bigots causing all sorts of trouble for brave transgender people suffering discrimination and inequality. In fact the reporting has been so one-sided that I wonder if mainstream journalists have secretly noted what happens to feminists and gender-critical trans people on social media (Transphobe! TERF! Bigot! Cis scum! Die in a fire!) and decided to steer well clear. I wouldn’t blame them.

The trans lobby has done a good job of indoctrinating the media, as well as some feminists and the wider public, firstly by aligning with the larger LGB rights movement and putting transphobia on the same level as homophobia in the public consciousness, and secondly by expanding the trans umbrella to include a rather nebulous idea of ‘identity’ which is so vague as to be unchallengeable. Both these tactics seem about to backfire. Trans rights, as promoted by activists, tread on women’s and girls’ rights, (and, paradoxically, the rights of gay people) and so do not sit comfortably in the same bracket as gay rights. The challenging of trans rights by feminists is not a phobia, as it is based on the defending of the rights of women and girls, rather than on a hatred of trans people. Recently some members of the gay community have petitioned to have the T removed from LGBT as they see trans ideology as being inherently homophobic. Lesbians suffer particularly from the trans agenda, for the following reasons:

The majority of trans people (around 80%) are male to female, and within this group there is a proportion of autogynephiliac males, ie males who derive sexual pleasure from presenting as women. Most of these males keep the male sex organ: a minority have full genital reconstructive surgery. It follows that the majority of trans activists are biologically male, and have benefited from male socialisation, and it is the dogma of these activists which says that lesbians should accept transwomen as sexual partners, or be deemed transphobic. Many lesbians are understandably unhappy about this. Their sexual preferences are being policed and judged, and their boundaries violated: their rights are being trampled over for the sake of trans rights. It doesn’t come up as often, but the choice of gay men to have same-sex partners must also be transphobic for the same reason: desiring a partner with a penis rules out transmen. Logically then, straight people are also transphobic: desiring a partner with the opposite genitals to yourself rules out most trans people. It is beginning to look as though the only safe sexual preference these days is pansexuality, which effectively means no preference at all.

In the case of toilets, locker rooms and prisons, women and girls are being asked to quell their own instincts for safety in favour of believing the trans ideology which says that anyone is a woman who identifies as such. There are obvious safety implications in allowing men who ‘identify’ as women into women-only spaces, and in this case the trans lobby has shot itself in the foot by insisting on the definition of transgender being so wide: it is obviously open to ludicrous misinterpretation by any ill-intentioned male. The existing system in law, which requires a Gender Recognition Certificate (based on surgery, hormones and living as the chosen sex for two years) is criticised for being long-winded, difficult and like jumping through hoops for trans people. Tara Hudson for example did not have a GRC and was still male on her passport, despite identifying as a woman. This made her legally male (and some would say the addition of a fully-functioning penis made her sexually male as well). If these legal definitions are to be overridden, as they were in Tara’s case, then there is no longer any legal safeguarding in place for women and girls. Legislation to protect women has gone, just like that. With no public discussion.

The trans community needs to be more honest about the problems within its ranks, rather than calling names every time there is disagreement. One of the favourite put-downs towards feminists, regarding the bathroom issue, is that they are getting into bed with the religious right. This is intended as a slur but in reality the politics of feminism hasn’t moved to the right: the fact is that radical progressives AND reactionary conservatives can find fault with transgender ideology, which means that it is an equal-opportunities opposition, not just a minority protest group. This should be worrying for trans activists rather than cause for gloating: the ability to alienate both extremes of the political divide does not bode well for mainstream acceptance, and there will inevitably be a backlash. Trans activists’ position that it is unacceptable to question anyone’s gender identity lends itself to ridicule. The research we have so far on the subject tells us that male pattern violence does not change when males transition: the levels stay the same. (Just to remind you: 98% of sexual crime is committed by males). When the bathroom issue is being discussed trans allies will scream transphobia at the idea that transwomen are being portrayed as potentially violent and/or sexual offenders, but when an offence does occur they are quick to assert that this was not a true member of the trans community. We need a workable legal definition in order to protect trans people themselves as well as women and girls.

In the school case mentioned above the outrage from the trans community was partly based on the premise that Lila Perry was personally being accused of violent intent. In the Tara Hudson case the argument became about this one particular transwoman and the odds of her causing harm to female inmates. The individuals in both these cases are irrelevant to the bigger picture, and it is unfair on them that the discussion has been focussed on them. The truth is that #notallmen are a threat to women but all men are required to keep out of women’s private spaces because of the ones who are. The same is true of transwomen, and should be so as long as our knowledge of a born-male propensity for violence stays the same after transition. This fact does not constitute hatred towards any one particular transwoman, or transwomen in general. The position expressed by trans activists and their allies is essentially that ‘it’s not our problem if a few dodgy sex-offenders slip through the net because they’re enabled by the legislation we are demanding’. It is an outrageous position to take.

Recently the Women and Equalities Select Committee met for the first time to discuss transgender rights. In the part of the discussion I saw, and in the media reporting afterwards, there was not one mention of the potential conflict between transgender rights and women’s rights, just as there was no mention of the rights of women inmates in the reports on the Tara Hudson case. I hope this was merely an oversight and that someone somewhere has done their research and understands the issues, and that decisions are not rushed into too quickly in order to appease the trans community. I want transgender people to have the right to live free of (mostly male) violence and free from workplace discrimination and to be able to live with dignity and respect. Trans people are human beings, whether male or female, and of course they deserve to be treated equally.

But many of them would agree with me when I say this should not be at the expense of women and girls.