Why is a A Male Rapist In a Woman’s Prison?

Watching footage in the news this week of a male person running into a crowd to swing a punch at a sixty year old woman, you might be forgiven for assuming this was another example of male violence against women, and therefore proof that women sometimes need spaces of their own, in order to stay safe. You’d be wrong in this instance, because in fact this was apparently a trans-identified male doing the punching, so it’s not male violence at all: in fact the sixty year old woman is the one to blame because she wants to go to a feminist meeting about gender. It’s a neat trick: if you make sure women can’t go to feminist meetings about gender they will not be informed enough to criticise an ideology which transforms a fist-swinging male into the victim of a sixty year old woman who wants to go to a feminist meeting about gender.

It ties in with other issues raised recently by reports of a male rapist who got to be housed in a woman’s prison because he identified as trans. In both examples I’m interested to know how a man with a male body (sex) who has displayed the most extreme kind of toxic masculinity (gender) can get to be diagnosed as a woman. Where, in this man’s body or soul, is there even room for the tiniest chink of the female or the feminine? It’s surely already filled up with all the male and the masculine?

Many people seem to believe there is a process whereby, in settings like prisons, the men who pretend to be women are weeded out. People believe that only genuine gender- dysphoric men get to be acknowledged as women, and that therefore they must need this recognition and special treatment. Some common beliefs about male rapists in women’s prisons include:

She's a woman tweet

Josh jackman

Considering that Josh Jackman wrote an article in Pink News admonishing everyone for ‘misgendering’ this rapist, I thought he must have known something I didn’t.

So I decided to do some research on these ‘rigorous psychological tests’ that could prove that a man is indeed a woman, against all other evidence to the contrary. Some evidence about the Scottish prison system was sent to me. It states that ‘since 2011 prisoner healthcare has been the responsibility of the NHS’ and it gives a link to the NHS guidelines on gender reassignment for further information.

I duly read through the NHS Scotland Gender Reassignment Protocols. The treatment pathway for trans-identifying prisoners certainly takes considerable time (a whole year on hormones before assessment for surgery for example). But that’s ok: that is the one thing that the most serious of offenders have got in spades isn’t it…? Time…?

Diagnostically though, there is nothing rigorous or testing about it: it relies totally on the say-so of the presenting prisoner. Counselling or therapy are provided on the basis that the prisoner is telling the truth about his feelings, just as it is for non-prisoners. In fact, to do otherwise is now on the verge of being officially identified as conversion therapy.

A statement from UK organisations in January 2017 condemns the practice of conversion therapy and refers to a memorandum of understanding from 2015 which adds ‘gender identity’ to ‘sexual orientation’ as a characteristic which may no longer be challenged. They say:

Conversion Therapy is the term for therapy that assumes certain sexual orientations or gender identities are inferior to others, and seeks to change or suppress them on that basis.

What this means in practice is that a presenting gender identity must be taken as the truth. NHS Scotland are one of the signatories of this statement and there is pressure on NHS England to follow suit. Trans support groups such as Stonewall, Pink News, Mermaids, GIRES and Gendered Intelligence have promoted the notion of conversion therapy with regard to trans people, to the point where to question it is to be automatically labelled transphobic. At the same time they have insisted that only trans people can be consulted on trans issues. And trans groups certainly have been listened to. In England and Wales the prison service says this:

Policy guidelines

At the Trans Inquiry chaired by Maria Miller in 2015, written evidence from the British Association of Gender Identity Specialists said something more cautious:

The converse is the ever-increasing tide of referrals of patients in prison serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious sexual offences. These vastly outnumber the number of prisoners incarcerated for more ordinary, non-sexual, offences. It has been rather naïvely suggested that nobody would seek to pretend transsexual status in prison if this were not actually the case. There are, to those of us who actually interview the prisoners, in fact very many reasons why people might pretend this. These vary from the opportunity to have trips out of prison through to a desire for a transfer to the female estate (to the same prison as a co-defendant) through to the idea that a parole board will perceive somebody who is female as being less dangerous through to a [false] belief that hormone treatment will actually render one less dangerous through to wanting a special or protected status within the prison system and even (in one very well evidenced case that a highly concerned Prison Governor brought particularly to my attention) a plethora of prison intelligence information suggesting that the driving force was a desire to make subsequent sexual offending very much easier, females being generally perceived as low risk in this regard. I am sure that the Governor concerned would be happy to talk about this.

The Governor concerned was not asked to come in and talk about this. The groups invited in to give further evidence did not include any representatives from women’s groups either. Trans support group Action for Trans Health however were one of the trans representatives who were invited to give evidence. Action for Trans Health were coincidentally one of the main players stirring up protest against the feminist meeting on gender this week, mentioned above. They helped to instigate and organise the shutting down of the original venue through sustained online harassment, and they coordinated the search for the new secret meeting place so they could disrupt that as well. A lot of threats against ‘TERFs’ were shared on social media. They ‘loved’ this tweet on Twitter:

Action for trans health heart comment

After the event, when the stories of the violence had circulated, they posted this:

Action for trans health

The Trans Inquiry chose to listen to trans groups such as this one, actively engaged in fighting women and stirring up hatred, instead of women’s groups with genuine concerns over what changes to the Gender Recognition Act will mean to women’s rights and services. The result is that there can be no public discussion about competing rights. Public bodies continually have to refer to the same small group of unchallenged and often unqualified ‘experts’ who all reinforce one another. Once NHS England signs the new Memorandum of Understanding (which they probably will because they are actively ‘listening to trans people’) the door will effectively be closed, and sealed, against outside opinion. Health professionals including GPs, counsellors, therapists and all NHS staff will be constrained in their treatment of patients by a restrictive ideology which has no evidence base. Institutions such as the Prison Service, the courts and the government itself will look to the NHS for ‘expert’ opinion.

Certain things will become unsayable. For instance: ‘Young man at protest punches middle-aged woman’. Unsayable.

And men will have to be women when they say they are. There is no alternative. Even when, as recently reported, there are now eleven inmates in one prison alone seeking sex realignment surgery, all of them sex offenders. The Prison Governor mentioned above could have predicted that, but he’s not trans so his evidence was not called for.

In summary, these appear to be the new rules:

Demonise women as TERFs for wanting to have a say in legislation that affects them

Insist that only trans people should be consulted on gender legislation 

Persuade everyone that questioning a trans identity is always transphobic

Punch feminists who persist in questioning the trans narrative

Frighten everyone else into silence

Once all those rules are in place and are applied to all situations, including male on female assault in a public place and the housing of male sex offenders in a woman’s prison…job done.

And this is how a man with a male body (sex) who has displayed the most extreme kind of toxic masculinity (gender) can be diagnosed as a woman.

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

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.

Feminism is for Women

The thing about feminism, which really shouldn’t need to be said (but here goes), is that it was invented by women for women. It is intended to identify things from a woman’s perspective and to look after a woman’s needs – so by definition, whatever the current subject of discussion, as a feminist you centre the woman’s point of view: you always ask ‘what does this mean for the women?’ This is important because historically it has not really been done: in a patriarchal system, rules, regulations and social structures have traditionally been invented by, and implemented for, the benefit of men. Sometimes this has benefited women too, but too often it has not. Feminists exist to look after the concerns of women: somebody’s got to do it. Feminists are interested in equality of course, but when all’s said and done, it centres women. Unapologetically. That’s how we roll.

We live in a culture shaped by thousands of years of patriarchy, where men are automatically centred, so it can be difficult sometimes to notice when women as a class are being shoved to one side, ignored, unrecognised, overlooked… it’s just normal. We have all to some extent been socialised to think of men as representative of all of us. Even as a feminist it can sometimes feel unnatural, or even selfish, to ‘think of the women’ when we have been socialised to think of others before ourselves. Add to that the fact that many feminists are also socialists and therefore committed to the idea of equality in their politics, and it becomes even more complicated. If we want our feminism to be intersectional we have to take into account race and class and all other inequalities as part of the picture, because they all impact on women’s lives. Feminists as a rule abhor racism and homophobia as much as they do sexism, BUT, crucially, as feminists we put the women first. Some recent examples of where this approach has been lacking in the public sphere include the practice of FGM and the sex grooming scandals in Rotherham and other places. Left to the authorities, cultural and racial sensitivities have taken precedence over the safety of women and girls. This is normal, this is patriarchy in action, and this is why we need feminism: we need to point these things out to stop them from happening again. It’s not easy, but as feminists it is our duty to see issues first and foremost from the perspective of what it means for women, even at the risk of being labelled racist, which is one of the worst slurs most of us can imagine. It takes courage and belief and clear priorities, and it’s hard: practically everything we have become accustomed to needs correcting…

The subjugation of women has traditionally been based on biology. It is more complex than this, but just to sum it up in simple terms: women’s bodies have a nice place in which to put a penis, and they are capable of bearing and giving birth to children. As Janet Radcliffe Richards points out in her book ‘The Sceptical Feminist’: ‘…only the female has the ability to carry, give birth to, and nurse the child once it is conceived, and this is an ability corresponding to which men have nothing at all.’ In other words, women as a class have a biology that men as a class want and need. If you couple that with the fact of men’s largely greater physical strength, then the possibility of forcing women to comply with men’s needs through physical threats, strict laws and social constructs follows close behind. If women did not have this different biological reality to men then maybe the oppression would neither be necessary nor possible. Janet Radcliffe Richards again:

‘Presumably women must in some sense tend to be weaker than men, or men could never have reduced them to such a state of subjection in the first place, but the suggestion that a weak group can be protected by being abandoned to the total control of a stronger one involves as remarkable a piece of twisted reasoning as can ever have been devised. If women are weak and need protection, it should have been the men that were controlled. A similar argument shows that the pairing arrangement cannot be one into which both sexes enter automatically as a result of some deeply-rooted instinct. If women had acquiesced willingly, there would have been no need for a colossal superstructure of law and convention to keep them in their place. The existence of rules to keep women in the power of men shows that men must have wanted of women something which women could not be trusted to provide of their own accord.’

The general characteristics of what we refer to as ‘femininity’ then, were not innate in the female sex in the first place, but a response to the position in which women found themselves. To survive in a society in which most things were controlled by men and owned by men, women had to develop ways to please men in order to survive. Traits such as kindness and caring, modesty, submission and deference would have been popular, as well as good looks and a range of homemaking skills. That would have kept the men looked after. That became the blueprint for femininity.

It’s interesting to speculate on what the true nature of woman would look like, or would have looked like, without enforced femininity: just how strong, capable and clever could we all have been had we not had to be so NICE…?   Anyway:

The inequalities based on biology are still very much in force, despite the fact that culturally, socially, politically and intellectually we have moved a long way from our biologically-determined origins. Women’s bodies are still the focus of much of the unequal treatment women suffer, whether it’s through the sex trade, rape culture, abortion rights, childcare or even the tax on tampons. Much of the structure put in place to keep women under the control of men, such as the system of law, marriage, unequal pay and unequal opportunities, are still here to a greater or lesser extent, and therefore disadvantage women, whose needs they were not designed to meet. Especially not their different biological needs: the needs that differ the most from male needs.

I have hugely skimmed over the details but you get the picture: it is important to have an idea of how big a part biological reality plays in feminism. Feminist theory cannot help but be concerned with women’s biological, lived reality.

And that, essentially, is why some feminists are currently on a collision course with trans activists.

I would like to be a trans ally. From the point of view of discrimination, equal opportunities, mental health problems, domestic and male violence, trans people suffer many of the same problems as women, as well as the other groups within the LGBT community. Trans people have the right to live their lives without fear of violence or discrimination. Feminists should be natural allies, and indeed many feminists are, and see no conflict between their support for trans people and their feminism. That would be fine except for the fact that feminists who are gender critical and therefore believe that a transwoman is different from a woman, are now in big trouble. No matter that this does not equate to a lack of support for transwomen, or a wish to hurt them; just to have a critical analysis of gender is enough for the more extreme and vocal trans activists to label you as a TERF (Trans-exclusive Radical Feminist), a transphobe, or cis scum.

The problems arise when the needs of trans people conflict with the needs of women, and the stumbling block is biology. To be a *true* trans ally it is necessary to pretend biology doesn’t exist: a penis can be female for example, and it’s not only *women* who bear children! Traditionally, the penis has been a symbol of male power (witness all those phallic buildings and sculptures raised as monuments to this power). It also of course has  power quite apart from the symbolic level (witness the gendered crime of rape). The penis is biologically and symbolically male and it therefore  has a gendered meaning. For women who have been sexually abused the penis is a weapon. As a feminist, the biological reality of the penis, and its role in the oppression of women, both historically and in modern times, makes it impossible to see it as ‘female’, even if it is attached to a trans woman. It is hugely insulting as a woman to be told to give up what you know and experience to be the truth lest you get labelled a transphobe. It is a particularly intractable problem for lesbians, for obvious reasons, and so they bear the brunt of the name-calling.

As a feminist, however much I agree with trans rights, when those rights are in direct conflict with women’s rights, I will choose the women every time. That’s because I’m a feminist, not because I’m a transphobe.

I am embarrassed to watch so-called trans allies lying and lying and lying again to appease the most voiciferous and extreme trans women. I think it’s patronising and stupid and dangerous to say ‘yes, a penis can be female’, or ‘trans women are women’ just to save someone’s feelings: it reminds me of how people talk to children: ‘yes dear, you really are a flower fairy…’ It helps nobody. It makes trans people look stupid, it makes feminists look mean, and it erases women’s history. To be ‘trans-inclusive’ it is not possible to talk about biology anymore: to talk about periods, pregnancy, childbirth, rape – all ‘trans-exclusionary’ because it’s stuff that only affects women. Even talking about FGM is ‘cissexist’ because it contains the word ‘female’, which leaves out trans people. (And in the words of the song: If FGM is cissexist I don’t wanna be cis…). Why do so many trans women want to be part of feminist groups when almost everything feminists talk about contains some reference to biological reality and is therefore offensive? And why are all the attacks on feminists rather than, say, the homophobic heterosexual men who are their worst enemies?

There are many gender-critical trans people on social media who I consider to be friends and feminist allies: they are not afraid to tell the truth and they know that a trans woman is different from a woman. I have respect for them and they have respect for women, and feminist theory. We can be supportive of eachother and co-exist with understanding and to mutual benefit. I wouldn’t dream of insulting their intelligence by pretending they are what they are not. I accept them as they are! We have different, but parallel oppressions: we don’t need to invade eachother’s territory for validation. This is how it should be: we can come together but we can  separate when we need to. There is loads of stuff that trans women would want to discuss that is not relevant to other women, and they should be able to organise as they see fit. So should women. This is not transphobic, it is respecting boundaries.

I know that what I’ve written will be called hate speech by some people, and cleverly linked to the idea of a kind of homophobic right wing hysteria about gay men being paedophiles that is so abhorrent and now so discredited. Luckily though I’m not about to speak at a university femsoc and I don’t have a media career to lose or a book coming out, so I will take that risk… The tipping point for me has been seeing how the power of the trans lobby has effectively led, through mass blocking, to the policing of what feminists can and can’t say on Twitter (and yet it’s somehow feminist to support this). And also it has galvanised certain men who actually don’t like women very much (especially not feminists, and especially not lesbian feminists), into an enthusiastic support based on a sudden opportunity to take the moral high ground in the Oppression Olympics. Now, by vocally and loudly trumpeting their support for men who have transitioned, they can still effectively support men whilst looking as though they are more feminist than feminists. It’s a dirty trick, but it’s based on a lie. They know they are throwing lesbians to the wolves when they say a penis can be female, which is why, when you call them out on it, all they have to say back is ‘Bigot!’ They cannot defend their stance with argument because there is no rational argument that proves that a male sex organ is not a male sex organ.