The trans debate

“Male bodied” people in women’s loos Shock! People with no diagnosis of gender dysphoria! Could they be a threat to women? I commented on the Guardian that I had gone, dressed female, into women’s loos and changing rooms before I committed to transition, before I had a diagnosis. Yet I have a diagnosis now, I am clearly a true trans woman. And someone asked, When you entered women’s spaces in the past, how confident are you that your presence didn’t cause distress or concern to those women who were also present?

I’m not, actually. I can’t be certain. I did get read. I still do. Somebody might be distressed or concerned any time I go into a loo. So, there, is the zero-sum game: do you support my right to be myself, or the right of women, oppressed by patriarchy or being transphobic, to avoid the distress of my presence in women’s space. We have been transitioning and treated as women for decades- should that now just stop? If there are around 20,000 trans women, what harm are we really doing?

There’s an endless harping on about prisons, because some of the trans women in prison have done horrible things. Yet if one allegedly hurts women prisoners, that is not a mark against trans women without a prison record, but against the unfunded, dystopian, drug-riddled prison system. In 2015 there were 89 suicides and eight homicides in prison, as well as a death of a prisoner restrained by officers. In 2016, there were 120 suicides. Trans women, showing fantastic bravery being transitioned in men’s prisons, kill themselves.

The government took nearly a year between announcing gender recognition reform- not any change to the Equality Act, which allows trans women to be excluded from women’s space- and starting the consultation, and in that year the Murdoch Press and others started a sustained campaign of vilification against trans women. Any story, however unimportant, showing a trans woman in a bad light might make The Times or Sunday Times. The Spectator magazine, increasingly the British Breitbart, chimes in.

Yet traditional transition may be dying out. In the Government’s LGBT survey, more people answering identified as non-binary than as trans. If we cannot gain acceptance by transition then living in stealth, as stealth is too difficult, other modes of self-expression become more attractive. The reform necessary is to outlaw discrimination on the ground of gender expression.

Most feminists against trans women, who are being amplified by The Times, would consider themselves on the Left. They are “gender critical”, they say, finding gender norms confused and Patriarchal. Some might admit to being “gender non-conforming”, but often they claim that is trite. No woman really conforms, they say. Yet some do. Feminists make progress, explaining women’s oppression so it changes from just what is, as imperceptible as the air, to things holding women back, a wind blowing against women and behind men. And some women are feminine.

So there are two groups of women, the gender non-conforming feminists and the non-binary AFAB, each transcending conventional femininity, in much the same way, often, but having very different ways of describing it or conceptions to understand it. Rupert Murdoch, upholding the Patriarchy, has set them at each others’ throats. A few of us try to find a way ahead, common cause for people alike oppressed by gender, and we are trampled. The possibility that I might upset a woman in a loo is proclaimed to be far more important. I find the debate utterly wearing and depressing. Rather than finding a way forward, a way to work together to challenge gender norms and make people more free, more caring, more collaborative, the GNC feminists are reduced to crying “No! Not That!”

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