Asserting our rights

Trans women should be calm and careful in asserting our rights, and possibly even circumspect; but we should not back down from asserting them. Some people need wheelchairs. Conceivably, some people might be boorish in a wheelchair, banging it against others, or deliberately blocking space making it difficult to pass. That is not a reason to deny anyone a wheelchair, and this is a good metaphor for gender recognition as we are equally unlikely to be boorish. Getting recognition might make us more relaxed and confident, so able to listen and respond courteously when challenged, rather than lashing out because frightened and hurt.

Debbie Hayton, writing in the noted transphobe publication The Times, argued against Lily Madigan, a trans woman taking a place in the Jo Cox Leadership Programme, which is aimed at women. I don’t know what that programme is like, but imagine it will draw out talents of self-expression, and aid in building confidence to use those talents. Those of us socialised as boys need to think carefully before taking places in schemes designed to compensate the rather different formative experience of girls, she says: as if the training will not be appropriate.

The bargain we have with society is that we are treated as women: honorary women, or asylum seekers. That means we enter women’s spaces. If we don’t, we are more marginalised. There is no place for us.

Debbie also wrote for The Morning Star, which has a smaller circulation and Marxist heritage. It has published trans-excluding feminism based on a class analysis of the class of men oppressing the class of women, not seeing the possibility of moving between those classes. Under self-declaration, how do women distinguish between a trans woman and an opportunistic man? asked Debbie. Well, self-declaration is irrelevant. I don’t carry my GRC around with me. I usually carry a credit card with a feminine name. That is, if challenged I could show evidence that I am generally treated as female, if my clothes, hair and actions are insufficient for anyone.

My psychiatrist said I was not psychotic- not suffering from delusions- but the diagnosis of transsexualism was based on my own determination and self-understanding. That determination is equally shown by my change of name and change of documents. If for gender recognition I give the additional guarantee that I intend to live in the acquired gender life-long, I don’t see what a specialist’s diagnosis adds to it.

Debbie Hayton argues that being a woman means having a woman’s reproductive organs, generally, or some disorder of sexual development which women have. She is associating with people, a strange coalition of conservatives like Rupert Murdoch and gender-critical feminists, who assert that only cis women should be treated as women, and not trans women. However the fabric of our lives depends on being treated as women. We could never reach an accommodation with the conservatives, whose world view requires that we do not exist and who will enforce that world view on us given any chance.

We might reach an accommodation with the feminists. How can the restrictions gender places on people be broken down, as both groups desire? We can’t do that by abrogating our rights.

4 thoughts on “Asserting our rights

    • Please do not collaborate. Murdoch’s minions use radical feminists towards the hard right end of stamping out trans rights. The Morning Star’s feminists use a class analysis saying you are a man therefore you are an oppressor of women- the first part is arguable, the second part not. Finding discussion partners among feminists uncomfortable with trans people is constructive. Agreeing with the most exclusionary is not.


  1. Thank you for your critique of Debbie Hayton’s latest piece anti trans rubbish. You have analysed and critiqued it far more eloquently than I can. Hayton is playing a very dangerous name by going around writing, speaking and allying herself with some of these radical femeinists. Furthermore she does this with an attitide of self styled importance that she (and a handful of others) somehow represent the rest of us. She DOES NOT!
    I heard her speak at a union meeting once on trans rights. I had not heard of her before. She seemed reasonable enougth then. Now almost everyone has heard of her and I cant believe its the same person!


    • Welcome, Kate. Thank you for commenting. I see some value in Debbie’s position. Most radical feminists are gender non-conforming in some way, or conforming in other ways because it is too much trouble not to. That is, they feel the repression of gender. Ideally we would be working together to loosen gender norms- but not by writing in the increasingly alt-right Spectator, as one of the Women’s Place lot did recently. Finding a way of reconciliation is a worthy goal. I think Debbie goes too far.


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