Transgender Equality

Now, I am protected by British discrimination law because I sought Gender Reassignment: being assigned male at birth, I decided permanently to transition to female. British MPs want to extend that protection to all gender identities and none.

Trans people are protected as soon as they make that decision, but it is the decision to change physiological or other attributes of sex. Generally, people think that means The Operation. The Women and Equalities Committee reporting on Transgender Equality say this is outdated and misleading, and the protected characteristic, the thing which makes bad people discriminate and the law protect us should be “gender identity”. This means that genderqueer people would be protected. This does not go as far as New York, where all variant gender expression is protected.

Don’t hold your breath. In 2011 the Government Equalities Office published Advancing Transgender equality: a plan for action. The committee finds this is “largely unimplemented”. “Within six months” it says the Government must draw up a balance sheet of the previous transgender action plan, confirm those actions which have been completed and agree a new strategy to tackle those issues which remain unaddressed. It must say who is responsible: but there is no time-scale for implementation, five years on. And there must be a wholesale review of issues facing non-binary and non-gendered people– a review, before any agreement on action.

The International Commission of Jurists Yogyakarta principles, and the Council of Europe resolution 2048, call for a universal human right to define your own gender- male, female or anything else, and to have this recognised. We should have access to medical treatment, no diagnosis of mental illness, and recognition with such surgery or hormone alteration, or none, as we deem appropriate.

Right now, what are those “other attributes of sex”? The committee says it is a misapprehension that you need to want genital surgery, and quote, from the explanatory notes to the Equality Act, the example of someone who transitions without any medical intervention claiming he is still protected. How you present is therefore an attribute.

Non-binary people are not protected. The committee obtained a legal opinion saying that some non-binary people would be protected, as the employer discriminates because it “perceives”, or imagines, that the person intends transition. However, if the person came out as non-binary rather than transsexual, they would no longer be protected as the employer would not have that erroneous belief. And, where employers are careful not to appear to discriminate, proof of an erroneous belief would be difficult.

Caroline Dinenage, the Minister for Women and Equalities, said that the case for non-binary people had been considered when the Equality Act was debated, only five years before, but that she would consider amendment “if a case were made”. And the changes would only affect those who chose a non-binary definition of their gender.

The committee seems to imagine it is considering a small number of people who transition and a smaller number who choose to express a non-binary gender identity; rather than everyone, for everyone is constrained by gendered expectations.

Degas, breakfast after the bath

41 thoughts on “Transgender Equality

    • Which battles?

      Legal provisions do not necessarily create equality, especially as the victim of discrimination has to enforce them, and the Government has made this much more difficult, abolishing the discrimination questionnaire, making costs applications against victims easier, and introducing charges for starting a case before the tribunal. Employers may begin to think they can just get away with discrimination, especially if they know what not to say. I have not yet seen a letter saying “We ffind your work wonderful but you’re transitioning, and that’s icky, so we’re sacking you for that”.

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      • Agree. Wholeheartedly. I had a colleague who was demoted twice while pregnant (two separate pregnancies not two demotions on the same one) despite Equal Ops leg. The second time she went for them and paid off her mortgage. Not everyone can do that.

        The real battles are the entenched views we all hold. You, me, the person down the street. And every step forward where you embrace your femininity and consider being a woman needs a certain image leaves me moving one step backwards. But so be it. We can agree to disagree.

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        • No, that is not how it is.

          I do not project a certain image because I imagine that is how a woman should look. I project it because it is me. If I were not ultrafeminine I might have stood presenting male. But- also- the physical changes, I wanted them.

          I DO NOT define what a woman is, for anyone, any more than you do. You are as you are, and that does not require any other woman to be like you- and nor do I. Patriarchy does, possibly, but that is being stretched; and I subvert patriarchy by rejecting Manliness, which is why the fundamentalists hate me.

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          • But you do damage us, you accept that or not? Your physical changes are your choice. But your desire for pretty clothes and make up? Next you will want to be a Little … OK maybe not. I disagree that you subvert patriarchy. By embracing what you think women should be, you perpetuate it.
            You want to be a woman? Fine by me. I accept you as who you are and how you define yourself.
            You aren’t rejecting manliness at all. You are buying into the same old story. But, suit yourself. Just know, you are damaging women. And if you want to be a women, think like a woman.

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            • OK. I see the expression of distress brought no empathy…

              Finger holes would be no good, as the problem was my fingers freezing.

              How do we support patriarchy? A few thousand trans women, and Caitlyn Jenner in a corset? Really? What about every other cover of every other woman’s glossy?

              I reject manliness by ceasing to pretend. I am not manly. I have no wish to be. I tried to make a man of myself, as we all do: eventually I could not any longer. I have no privilege, I am despised by any who think they know what a man or woman should be.

              How complex is this? It is not “How I think women should be”. It is who I am. I do not study women and mimic the ones I think are closest to the patriarchal ideal, I buy the stuff I like and behave as I want.

              Liked by 2 people

            • “But, suit yourself. Just know, you are damaging women. And if you want to be a women, think like a woman.”
              What an absolute pile of pish Roughseas. I don’t even know where to begin. Get over yourself. You aren’t “women”, you don’t own or define it just because you’ve been buried in feminist textbooks. Try and get your head back round the fact we are all people. I could equally, and with more truth on my side, say you are damaging women by sidetracking feminism with such petty, nasty drivel.

              Liked by 1 person

        • I cycled into W, and my fingers were freezing, so I bought really thick gloves. They are not pretty- but they have an embroidered detail on the back. I looked at them and the ones without and it had to be with the embroidery. I just like it. I WISH I DIDN’T BECAUSE I WANT TO BE NORMAL!!!!

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          • Our cyclng cloves are basic, with little finger holes. I’ve never seen any embroidered ones. In a cycling shop? Ah, maybe they weren’t cycling gloves.
            What’s normal? Not wanting embroidered gloves? Maybe. Don’t ask me.

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  1. Wp is bein what Wp is. So I can’t reply directly. Where did you not hear my call for empathy?

    On gloves, I found silk (very non veg) to be the warmest ever. Complete with holes. I have a photo somewhere.

    Every day you dress in pretty clothes, put on make-up and wear a corset, yeah, you support patriarchy and the view of what women should be. To suit men. As does every cover.

    Manly? Uh? Why is this even an issue? But, you DID have privilege. For many years.

    Whatever you buy and like and how you behave and dress damages us.

    If you don’t get that fair enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t get it? Are you calling me stupid?

      Whatever you buy and like and how you behave and dress damages us. No.

      Here we are in a culture. Some women are more feminine, some less- if you admit the word has any meaning: women have different tastes and modes of expression, and some of these are more accepted and reinforced by the culture, and some are not. So you have your tastes, and I have mine.

      The culture operates independently of me. I happen to think it a bad thing- I think diversity of expression is a good thing, and what reduces that, or reduces freedom, is a bad thing. Virago or pansy, harridan or wimp, are all good.

      Millions of women appear to accept that culture, presenting “feminine”. Do you imagine they are all oppressed? Do you think none of them like it, that only a few brave souls revolting against that are fulfilled? So, those millions, all reinforcing patriarchal understandings of femininity, when if they would rebel too they would make life so much easier for the rebels- and you choose to pick on a few thousand trans women, who clearly do prefer that style- not all of us, but certainly me- who are rebelling against upbringing.

      And no, I was never privileged, I was shoved into a box which did not fit, a mask like an iron maiden.

      Thank you for showing how necessary this committee report is.

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      • No. Of course not.

        You understand perfectly well what patriarchy and oppression are. I think.

        You choose to state your rebellion against it by conforming to gender required norms.

        Actually yes, millions of women are oppressed. Or rather three and a half billion more or less. Whether they choose to understand or acknowledge it is another matter.

        Does being in a minority make us wrong?

        You know ffine well what privilege is about. How you personally felt about being a men, and how you were treated are not the same thing

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        • Now, you are calling me a liar.

          I have said I do not dress to conform to gender norms. I choose the expression I like. A trans woman might decide to conform to gender norms in order to pass, but if I wanted to pass I would pay more attention to getting my voice right. I don’t pass, generally.

          Again. I do not dress like this because I understand it is a particular kind of femininity endorsed by the patriarchy; I dress like this because I happen to like it. It is hardly conformist for someone AMAB to dress female.

          Are you saying it did not matter how I felt? I saw a hijra on the telly, from a middle-class family. Career options as a man, solicitor, accountant, middle to upper management. Career options as a hijra, beggar and prostitute. She wanted to be a hijra. Does the rejection of privilege count for nothing?

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          • Clare. You are going down the road of mansplaining. Previously you asked if I was calling you stupid. Now you are telling me I am calling you a liar. I have said neither. Disagreement does not call for accusing the other person and putting your perspective onto them.

            This is a class issue about an oppressed minority group (women). And transgender men and women are also oppressed. But I don’t see trans women speaking up for feminists and women. Rather, I see people speaking for trans women and telling WAAB how to think.

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            • Oh, brilliant. Mansplaining. Because you think I’m a man.

              Me: It is who I am. I do not study women and mimic the ones I think are closest to the patriarchal ideal, I buy the stuff I like and behave as I want.

              You: You choose to state your rebellion against it by conforming to gender required norms.

              That is calling me a liar.

              Indeed, people speak for trans women. The woman who sought to exclude Germaine Greer from Cardiff University is cis. Lots of people are talking about us and over us and, they think, on our behalf. Have you never seen anything on this blog which you thought just might be me speaking up for WAAB?

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            • Clare, you are telling me what to think. What I am saying. I think that’s a fair definition of mansplaining towards a woman. Or maybe its transplaining? Or trans woman splaining? Doesn’t your good friend consider you a man? One rule for some?

              Whatever you think and buy, you are supporting patriarchal imagery. It may be what you want. It still supports the idea that the rest of us should do the same.

              No Clare. Nowhere have I called you a liar. And let’s get this clear, I refer to you as Clare, as she, as her. I respect your choice. Share a changing room or toilets. No issue.

              I do not think over you or on your behalf. So don’t do it on mine.

              WAAB. I honestly think you have no clue.

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            • You know, I was just thinking of how to tell my friend Jim how I don’t think the term “femsplaining” is appropriate? It’s to do with power imbalances, isn’t it?

              How on Earth does my dressing in a particular way support the idea that anyone else should dress in that way? I am no-one’s role model. Right now, in a Primark Basics t-shirt, roll-neck sweatshirt and ten year old thick woolly jersey I am dressed for warmth, not glamour. Size zero models are criticised because they are role models.

              I claim to dress to please myself, and not to do what is obvious I could try, to pass. You tell me that I don’t. If you are not claiming I am lying, then then you are claiming that I don’t know myself. That seems to be the essence of splaining to me.

              Being called a man does not make me instantly miserable any more, but it is wearing. I met her yesterday afternoon. I found her horror at the thought of F-M operations, so clearly expressed to me, wearing.

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            • Your responses are on WP showing hit and miss. Hence my slow responses. Sorry for that. WP does that.
              Yes, I agree, femsplaining is inappropriate. You can’t femsplain. It’s a contradiction.
              Your posts don’t say you want to dress in warmth and primark though, do they?
              How you pass is not the issue to me. But …
              I don’t splain, remember, I am a woman.
              And you, telling me what splaining is, just reeks of male arrogance.
              You don’t even see it.

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            • I am defending myself against your arrogance. I leave the thread to show your arrogance. You tell me I do not know myself or my own motives, and call me arrogant.

              Remember, there is not just mansplaining, but whitesplaining and cis-splaining. You make assertion without argument that we support patriarchy, and you use that to justify any insulting way to speak to me. We are talking about me, my clothes, my presentation, my life. How dare you. You will not change your actions for my benefit, yet you presume to tell me to change mine for yours?

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            • It does not feel like that from where I am sitting.

              I tell no-one how to present, or dress, or behave. After decades of desperately trying to fit in as a man, which made me suicidal, I transitioned. It was painful, expensive and terrifying. It was the only way I could see to survive. I dress to please myself, not to suit men. I am gynaephile!

              Don’t tell me how to live my life. I don’t harm you. The culture may, but I subvert it by rejecting it. Hence the right-wingers opposing transition- Texas Republicans creating a law fining trans women $5000 for using women’s toilets, for example.

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    • No. It is late.

      I see huge variations in feminism. The radical feminist idea, that the only differences between men and women are physical sex differences and patriarchy, has some attraction for me; but I read of feminist “care ethics” which appeared from the introduction I read to be valuing distinctively womanly ways of thinking. These two views are incompatible, and H expressed contempt for care ethics.

      So, no, I can’t define my views of feminism, or what it is, or what it isn’t. I am not going to deny any thought called by a cis woman “feminist” to be feminist.

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  2. Oh, that was horribly ugly. I haven’t read the post yet. Femsplaining makes perfect sense from a WAAB (just googled that) to a trans woman. Did Jim just coin that?

    I enjoy having a good argument with Roughseas, she definitely gets annoyed when she’s contradicted but usually bounces back to engage. Let’s see if we bounce back from this.

    I’ve read Roughseas say on many occasions (almost proudly) that she’s never been sucked into any religion, and yet she seems to be sucked into radical feminism hook, line and sinker. The problem with that is that there are sooooo many in that circle bashing trans people. Not as individuals, just as a concept (yes, they’re so gone, they think there’s a difference).

    I don’t want to get personal, but she’s just gone a whole heap of hurtful and personal insulting here on your blog. So, interesting points about Roughtseas…. She will go to great pains to to be horrified by any concept of femininity but we all saw her pretty and posed gravatar before the dog with hair in feminine style, we’ve all read her comments concerned about her appearance and being oddly interested in superficial feminine things. She’ll blame that on the patriarchy, but if it’s you suggesting anything feminine, you’re damaging women! Unbelievable.

    She lives in complete denial that men and women have any differences other than those imposed by evil patriarchy, and was appalled/disgusted/whothefuckknowswhatherproblemwas when I said I find hot young men attractive and identify it as equivalent objectification. Conclusion: lots of animal switches not on and (like Insanitybytes) taking her personal chemical situation and assuming it applies to every other female on the planet (or they’ve been affected by the patriarchy).

    It’s impossible to get through to someone like that. Don’t agree with her? You don’t understand the patriarchy!! Worse still, she does seem to get genuinely upset about blog things and will throw her upset in the face of people, and blame them, if she can, for attacking a woman disadvantaged by the patriarchy.

    I like her, she’s interesting and she generates excellent discussions. But, like everyone else here, including me, you don’t need to take her opinion too seriously.

    Oh, another thing, I really resent the idea that because you’re a woman you have to flash your feminist credentials to prove it. You’ve got eyes. And you have a more important dungheap of personal discrimination to wade through.

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    • The last post I noticed of hers before I unfollowed started something like “No-one born with a penis gets to tell me what to think.” No, I don’t; but people with open minds notice what others say, and sometimes see value in it.

      Here’s the thing, from my POV. There are a number of left-wing women obsessed with trans, some to the extent that they have no energy left for any feminist causes at all. We are a side issue, there are so few of us, but of tremendous symbolic importance to the hard right. I hate being a symbol.

      This page is what seemed to offend her.

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      • Clare, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t click. I can see the name and I’m unlikely to feel anything but discomfort seeing sexy pics of any of my blogging pals.

        I completely agree with you about this obsession some women have with trans people. What on earth do they think they are fighting for? It’s painfully petty and harmful.

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  3. Really enjoyed the post. As has been alluded to in the comments, having law protect equality is all well and good (I do actually mean that, even if it doesn’t sound it!) but changing people’s instinctive perception of a trait is another matter still.

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    • Welcome, Michael. Blogging since 2006? Wow.

      There is insane hatred about, people spewing vitriol like this: You do realize that transactivists support males raping lesbians because they are right up there with the right wingers on science denying and conformity to gender roles? It is completely out of proportion. We are ordinary people doing our best under difficult circumstances, like most people, and with a unique perspective on misogyny.

      The law makes a difference. Homophobia is decreased in England since the Sexual Offences Act 1967, the regulations on employment discrimination in 2004, the Equality Act 2010. Gender Identity is a protected characteristic all to itself in that Act. What would have been thought of as “instinctive” homophobia, natural and right, is dying away. There is a problem when a small number of obsessives hide away in an internet hugbox telling each other how awful trans women are- but they can’t do any real harm. The “instinctive” responses they rely on just aren’t there. Most people are fine about accepting me.

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  4. I read some trenchant feminist literature recently, and it left me feeling aggrieved, annoyed, upset, used and taken for granted.

    Meanwhile, my baffled, darling hubby – who can no more help being male than I can help being female, and who has as much reason to regret the resulting oppression as I do – who had done nothing wrong, nothing different, and who was being more understanding than usual, made me see that while the feminist cause has some core merit, if anything is to change for the better, blame really needs to leave the equation.

    Clare, your comments always seem to me to be a model of clarity and restraint.

    Thank you. ((xxx))

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