Hadley Freeman

Currently, anyone who wants to change gender needs to have lived in their chosen gender for two years and been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. If the changes go through, anyone will be able to declare they are a man or woman, regardless of whether they have made any actual changes to their lifestyle or body. This is known as “self-identification” … a lot of women have argued that predatory men could now come into female-only spaces unchallenged.

“A lot of women have argued.” That is like “People are saying”, the phrase Trump uses with his most outrageous lies. Possibly no-one will swallow it, and he will roll back from it. A journalist, even a columnist, ought to know the truth of the matter, which in this case is that self-ID will make no difference at all.

“A lot of women” claim that all trans women are “predatory men”. That does not make it true. Hadley Freeman’s article does not make it clear what she thinks, though men pretending to be trans women and dressing as women to get into women’s spaces are unlikely, as there are so many other easier options for predatory men. And men with beards pretending to “self-identify” enter women’s spaces only in diseased imaginations. Hadley Freeman praised the “feminists” who went to a men’s swimming session claiming to self-identify as men, but their stunt shows that self-id in law will make no difference. What matters is what people do.

So it seems that the “predatory men” Freeman fears are actually trans women, who are often terrified of being confronted. Before I went full time I had to investigate whether I could make a go of transition. That involved going out dressed female and using women’s facilities, before I made definitive changes to my lifestyle or body. I never asked permission of women as a class- I just did it, as other trans women always have. I had the support of women friends, then and now.

A feminist might argue that not asking women, just encroaching and presuming, was typical male behaviour. I don’t see an option. I was never challenged. I now feel that women learning to challenge encroachment is a good thing. Kasia Urbaniak, a former dominatrix interviewed in the Guardian, said women go speechless and self-conscious of how they are coming across, then acquiesce, shut down, minimise themselves and their concerns. Rather they should change the power dynamic by turning the attention back outwards, on the encroaching man. What are you doing here? What right do you think you have to come here? This involves breaking hardened social conventions where the “deck is stacked against her”- Patriarchy, in other words. Urbaniak observes men relaxing and deferring when they find she is the one with authority.

Justine Greening, then the Minister for Women and Equalities, announced a consultation on self-ID on 23 July, to be published “in the autumn”. Theresa May plugged it at the Pink News awards on 18 October. Since then a lot of women have argued that self-ID is the end of feminism and the ultimate triumph of Patriarchy. They seek to enflame hatred and fear against me, and people like me. When people pretend I am a threat, they licence themselves to attack me. I fear the Tory delay actively seeks to inflame tensions.

The refusal to make it clear whether the “predatory men” are men pretending to be trans women, or actual trans women, makes the anger and fear seem slightly more reasonable. It opens the door for hatred which can then be directed at us.

Freeman writes that “women and trans women” will have to work out a solution. Sometimes we will share space, sometimes not. This will be difficult, especially for my lot, if trans women in women’s space are the first lesson women have in confronting ~male~ encroachment. I went to see my friend Marysia, who pointed out a male among the females. She said it was malnourished and underdeveloped, and proposed a cull. It was a deer, she was working on the Balmoral estate, and still the story runs in my mind…

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