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.