Content warning: transphobia. A woman patient asked for a female nurse to perform her cervical smear test. A trans woman called her, and she was distressed and embarrassed. She thought the nurse was clearly a man, with beard stubble, a large number of tattoos and close cropped hair. She complained, and the NHS trust apologised, saying there had been a recording error and that the nurse should have made her feel heard. The woman said that “people who are not comfortable with this are presented as bigots”. Well, few bigots recognise they are bigoted.
The Sunday Times, a bigoted transphobic publication, reported that the nurse had not been employed as a trans woman. Rentaquote transphobe James Caspian said similar embarrassing situations would become more common with self certification, and “Politicians have not thought through the implications of allowing self-certification”. However people transition before seeing a specialist: you do not need a diagnosis, and are protected from discrimination as soon as you decide to transition. The paper does not report whether the NHS seeks an exemption, and trans women do not perform certain tasks. Employers can argue that it is an occupational requirement to be cis if that is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim (Equality Act 2010 sch 9 para 1).
The reports don’t make it clear, but it seems what happened was this. The nurse had not transitioned yet, but a clerical error sent the nurse, presenting male, to see that patient. The patient said she wanted a female nurse. Even had I not transitioned at work, after deciding to do so I might not want to deny that I am a woman. The clerical error placed the nurse in a difficult position, and she said she was trans. Yet a trans woman before transition would normally be seen as a man, outside the trans community. The employer would not send her to take a smear of someone who had requested a female practitioner, unless there was a mistake. I would not blame the nurse for reacting as she did, but she got someone else to take the smear, and personally apologised.
Caspian’s comment is irrelevant. This is an Equality Act issue not a Gender Recognition issue. People transition without gender recognition, and are protected as soon as we decide to. That the Sunday Times don’t recognise this shows their transphobia. Once the nurse had started to express herself female at work, she would have been appropriate to take the smear.
The Mirror reported this at less length. The Sun’s initial headline referred to the nurse being “pre-op”, as if that were relevant to anything, just prurient titillation, but changed that to “YOU’RE CLEARLY A MAN! Woman complains after being assigned transgender nurse with stubble for her smear test”.
The Sun added the following detail: Trust policy for all services is to consider seriously all requests for clinicians of a particular gender; it allows patients to feel more supported; we will deny a request if we believe it to be sexually motivated or where there might be a risk to a member of staff, but we will always explain ourselves. When they say “particular gender” they do not specify whether one could request a cis woman rather than a trans woman.
Some women are happy for men to take their smears. The nurse, treated by the employer as a man, was doing smears. They would not consider a request for a particular race.
In other transphobia news, some women have complained that the women’s swimming pond on Hampstead Heath is open to “men undergoing sex changes” also described by the Mirror as “men transitioning to be women” and “men who identify as women and wore female bathing clothes”. It wheeled out rentaquote transphobe Julie Bindel: The last thing they want is to look behind them and see a male-bodied person pretending to be a woman in order to gawp at them. Then, how discreet would a lesbian have to be? And, can’t they just go there to swim?
The Mirror article helpfully links to other relevant stories: Ridiculous! This Morning viewers slam former mental health tsar who insists that teachers should stop using gendered terms; and ‘I spend half my week as a woman and the other half as a man’: Gender fluid Tabitha has boyfriend and a girlfriend. The mental health tsar is right, and radical feminists like Julie Bindel should realise that is the gender oppression they should be fighting; and the fact that someone is gender fluid and poly should be unremarkable.
Tabitha or Tate says Each morning, it takes me a few minutes to grasp whether I am Tabitha or Tate. It really depends on how I am feeling, and I can switch from one gender to the other throughout the course of the day. Some might find this hard to understand but why should a person be defined by what is between their legs? That seems utterly sane to me; yet the paper reports on “shocked glances from passers-by” when they express as Tate. Her father is a trans woman. Tate even wears a fake penis reports the Mirror breathlessly.