Rosa Freedman

Rosa Freedman had her door soaked with urine, saw graffiti telling her to leave her job, and had phone calls throughout the night saying she should be raped and killed. She hid behind a tree because she was frightened of people following her.

Pause for a moment, and think of the horror of these experiences. Imagine this happening to you, or someone you love. Trans people, who receive such abuse all the time, should feel particular sympathy. She was abused because of what she says, which is trans-excluding. She wants to make a rigorous legal distinction between sex and gender, and enforce single sex spaces. My gender would be recognised as female, and I would be excluded from women’s space because my sex would still be male, unalterable.

Differentiating sex and gender does not make such an exclusion, by itself. At the moment both the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act use the words- if not interchangeably, or as if to confuse the two, certainly in a way it is difficult to distinguish them. But for trans women in women’s space, there is a two stage test. A service can be for women only if it is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” (PaMALA). Then it can exclude trans women, again if that is PaMALA. For law to permit what is “legitimate” may seem circular, but from such mysteries lawyers make their dosh.

If sex and gender are legally distinct, the service would have to justify being a single-sex service. Why a single-sex service, rather than single-gender? The law might say, again, the service is single-sex if that is “legitimate”. Or it might just assume that services are single-sex, and exclude trans women from where we have been for decades. I hope it would not choose the latter course, because that would be against international human rights law, but Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Rosa is willing to try. For her, services should be single sex, not considering gender. She would “reconcile the concerns of those who identify as trans and those who are women” by excluding trans women from women’s spaces.

Rosa made a twitter thread describing the abuse, and the Daily Mail published it, with sympathetic commentary and her own words justifying her views. A much-upvoted comment said that if trans people were being harassed in this way the police would soon be arresting the perpetrators, which is not my experience. The police told me they could do nothing.

Rosa claims she has been “reasonable and respectful” in her expression of her views. I am not sure that is enough to avoid being objectionable. When she demands that I be excluded from where I am safe, when she claims I am a threat, it is worse that she uses apparently passion-free language, because that shows that she is cold and premeditated in her hatred.

I am glad Diva magazine is on my side. Their publisher was on Woman’s Hour, making a courteous, straightforward argument for inclusion, shouted down by a woman who said our rights were incompatible. When people fly-post stickers saying “Women’s rights are not for penises” they dehumanise us. I was so much more than a penis, even when I had one. That is a standard tactic for getting people to persecute a group, mockery and dehumanisation.

14 thoughts on “Rosa Freedman

  1. Very interesting. Does the moderate expression of views which cause offence, make those views unobjectionable? No, since words are often used as cover for peculiar opinions in the same way as science has been misused – and still is, I am sure – to justify sexist and eugenicist views.

    But everyone has the right to express a view, do they not? And we deplore violence in anyone who resorts to it.

    So, is it just the language of these views then, that makes them objectionable? Have I repeated myself? I can hardly work that out. Who is the oppressed and the oppressor? Sometimes, the best way to reveal cant and double standards is to be silent. 🙂 xxx


      • Naturally, since any pre-judiced statement makes assumptions about people, who are so often arbitrarily grouped together by other people’s assumptions. It is unfair to be targetted as a group, an activity which postulates both an objectionable singularity – “You are an XYZ” – and an objectionable generality – “You are all XYZ”.


        • Here’s an argument that we should state our passionate reasons, so that we can see each other. If you want to persuade, use arguments that the other might find persuasive, but if you want to see the other as a person, and be seen, use the arguments that really speak to you, disclose your passion. Prof Freedman hides her will in legalese. Even after there is a clear legal distinction between immutable sex and declarable gender there would still either be a decision whether services should be single sex or single-gender, or alternatively a legal rule recognising single-sex services on much the same criteria as now, excluding trans women, whose sex would still be male. Saying we should distinguish sex from gender does not make that decision. She obscures her final goal, and welcoming gender recognition if only sex is immutable is no concession to us at all.


  2. I used to have a large print of the Bruegel work here. In my younger days, I was moving so often that it eventually became too ratty to put up on a wall again. I have to ask you if this one has been “photo-shopped.” I distinctly remember the musician on the right having what appeared to be an erect penis. Bruegel never hesitated to show men’s bulges emerging from their tight leggings, but this guy really stood out (so to speak). Are artists’ rights not for penises now, either? 🙂


  3. In British Columbia, Canada, Kimberly Nixon subjected a women’s rape shelter to 12 years of litigation, forcing them to spend thousands of dollars on the case rather than women in desperate need, all because Nixon refused to accept that female victims of male violence do not want and should not have to accept a male counselling them. VRR offered Nixon an opportunity to participate in the organization in any capacity that would not involve interaction with survivors, but that wasn’t good enough.

    Clearly Nixon’s goal wasn’t to help. It was to be validated as a woman by other women – at their most vulnerable. Only a deluded woman-hating narcissist could think they can get away with that. The court saw through the stunt and ruled in favour of VRR because females are a distinct class of people, are vulnerable to male violence and pregnancy, and have a legally-enshrined right to sex-based protections.

    Women are adult human females. Women have rights and we will defend them.


    • Welcome, Lavender. Thank you for commenting.

      We have support from women’s rights organisations including Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland, whose joint statement says, We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to be in competition or contradiction with each other. We support the Equal Recognition campaign and welcome the reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

      Possibly a court action involving one trans woman more than ten years ago in another continent is not particularly relevant to trans rights over here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Clare. The organizations you cite are liberal feminist outfits that no longer distinguish between males and females because doing so would jeopardize their funding, and they don’t want to anger LGBTQ+ organizations, which are overwhelmingly run by white males and have been active in having women fired and pilloried in the media. Thanks to feminine socialization, you’re more likely to come across women who think it’s their job to be compliant and kind rather than stand up for their own rights. You can’t possibly think that a male person has comparable experiences to those of females under patriarchy. Even those trans-identified males who do pass have no idea what it’s like to navigate the world in a female body. Biology matters.

        If a man can self-identify into the female sex class, then sex-based protections disappear. This is the effect of replacing sex with gender identity, and it’s been allowed to happen because most people are tuned out, and the rest don’t respect female boundaries. I can cite another example from the UK, where a convicted male rapist was transferred to a female prison and subsequently assaulted several women there. Any law that allows this to happen is not a law that supports women. And finally, the goal of feminism isn’t equality; it’s female liberation. I can support laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a person who professes a trans identity in terms of housing, employment, etc. But to prioritize individual feelings over material reality is madness, and it’s hurting women. Plus ca change…


        • That prisoner. Do you mean Karen White? I absolutely support you in wanting to keep sex criminals like White out of women’s spaces; but not trans women generally. You don’t protect women by demonising a group. Treat us as individuals.

          “Sex-based protections disappear.” I disagree. There are about one in a thousand people transitioning. That is not a significant threat to women’s rights- indeed, if we worked together some of that male privilege speaking up might aid them. Transition subverts patriarchy, by attacking gender norms.

          Possibly more, especially among the young, identify as non-binary rather than trans. That’s an individual way of evading gender norms, and achieving freedom. You might think it an unnecessary ideology, but it works for some.

          I say this not because I think I will persuade you, but to assert what I believe to be true. If you work with trans people, we will all benefit. If you work against us, your energies are directed in the interests of the Patriarchy, for almost nobody cares about the differences between your position on trans people and David TC Davies’. I am so sad that all this wonderful feminist energy and organisation is going to waste. Every so often I write a blog about how we might work together.

          Liked by 2 people

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