Transphobia in parliament

In the International Women’s Day debate, two MPs fomented hate and fear against trans women with a series of transphobic myths. The myths need refuted. I quote some vile hatred in this post, but also the truth against it.

Jackie Doyle-Price, Conservative, said the debate on gender dysphoria and trans issues has become rather ugly in recent weeks, then made it uglier. Our rights have been pitted against the rights of women– by her. She wants a set of rules and principles that protect the rights of transsexuals to find a way of living their lives and do not discriminate against women at the same time– we have it. It’s called the Equality Act. We have found a way of living our lives. We use women’s spaces like other women. And some “transsexuals” are trans men, whom she ignores.

Those of us who want to see women-only safe spaces are not guilty of hate crime against trans people. Not all, because hate crime is intimidation, harassment, property damage and violence. Women-only should admit trans women- that is why her acceptable trans are called “transsexuals” rather than trans women or trans men.

Then she produces the “Good trans” myth. The good transsexual supports her, lives quietly, and possibly she could not identify one of them. I think people who are trans want to quietly get on with their lives. It does not help any of them that they are pitted against women in this terrible, horrible toxic debate. She drones on about toxicity while inflaming it.

She contrasts this with the bad trans- anyone who disagrees with her. The typical bad trans she names is a rapist, whom she would imply is typical of us bad trans women, who are going into women’s spaces. The only people who are winning through this debate are those men who use their power to oppress women, and see the opportunity to claim the right to self-identify as a weapon. None of us in this room should collude with that. We have already seen the case of Karen White, who self-identified as a woman, went into prison and committed crimes against fellow inmates.

She wants law to further restrict trans women: We must be able to devise a law that stops that happening. Actually the law is robust: trans women can be excluded from women’s space where there is good reason- specifically trans women, though I hope anyone might be excluded where there is good reason. The prison rules are robust, and if a mistake was made putting White into women’s prison it was a local mistake by the board making the decision, not a fault in the rules.

She goes on to trans children. We have allowed treatments to develop at the Tavistock really unsupervised. This is no criticism of the medical professionals there, who clearly are doing their work with the best of intentions, but we need to look at the ethics of some of this and the practicalities of it. So she accuses the psychiatrists of faulty ethics, and their supervisors of not supervising. She says puberty blockers are irreversible- not true- and that she as a tomboy might have been referred: I carried on climbing trees and so on, and playing at being “CHiPs” rather than “Charlie’s Angels”, but now I would be on my iPad and I would suddenly find lots of other people who thought like me and then—guess what?—all those people are going to the Tavistock. There are more than two thousand tomboys among the 11.5m children in Britain. Very few people are referred to the GIDS.

Of course it is a natural response to pretend to be a different gender. I don’t know what she means by that, but if she means teenagers imagine things, they are not all being swept up and sent for chest surgery.

Joanna Cherry, SNP, was as bad. She spoke long and eloquently on violence against women, then used that to attack trans women. For all these reasons, women must be allowed to organise themselves to campaign against their oppression. Sometimes, this means excluding the group that has historically been responsible for the oppression of women, and that group is men.

Trans women exist. We have for thousands of years. We are not oppressors of women, but a strange anomaly: we desire to transition, so we do. We can be accommodated in ordinary society as women. But Cherry alleges we are at the heart of women’s oppression: gender is imposed on women in order to uphold their oppression. By gender, feminists mean presentation, modes of dress and the falsehood of masculine and feminine personality traits, about which we heard earlier. So if we say that gender is somehow innate, and that it supersedes sex, the logical conclusion is that women can somehow identify out of our oppression.

I oppose gender stereotypes, and trans women subvert them- which is why conservatives hate us. No “logical conclusion” can be drawn: trans rights are not a wholesale reinvention or redefinition of all of humanity, but a loophole to allow trans people to live our lives in peace. The battle for women’s equality and freedom from violence continues, ideally with trans women allies of cis women- but Cherry’s feminist energy is diverted into fighting a monster that does not exist, that wholesale redefinition. If the fight against gender stereotypes is perverted and distracted into a fight against trans inclusion, gender stereotypes are consolidated. Conservatives, loving the condemnation of trans women, use it to reinforce those stereotypes.

Then she positions herself as a martyr at risk: disagreeing with gender ideology has become a dangerous thing to do. If she is threatened, violence against us is justified- see the vile threats and hatred of a commenter here recently. She opposes no-platforming and the attempted silencing of well-respected feminist academics and others simply for asserting women’s rights, and names Selina Todd. Well, public bodies have the public equality duty, so should not platform trans-excluders. They have powerful platforms, such as The Times, the Houses of Parliament, the Universities….

Then she goes on to the “good trans” myth again. Many trans women I speak to are angry that their quiet and dignified lives are being disrupted by malevolent individuals pushing identity politics in a way that is anti-democratic and abusive. The malevolent individual here is Cherry herself. I want to go into women’s changing rooms to try on clothes. If I have to speak out to defend my rights, Cherry would call me names.

Some feminists have legitimate concerns about changing the law on gender recognition to allow self-identification. The Equality Act and the diagnostic criteria are based on self-identification: trans women know we are women, or want to be women, and tell a psychiatrist or decide to transition, and are then protected. That is self-declaration. Yet Cherry still spreads this myth uncorrected.

Then Cherry generalises us as the threat from violent men. Even if one does not care about this issue, if we allow bullies to triumph over free speech in one area of public discourse, we are giving them free rein to triumph over free speech in other areas of public discourse. I use the word “bullies” advisedly, because men—and it is mostly men—who want to silence women and prevent them from organising as a sex class are bullies and human rights deniers. She wants the right to compare me to a rapist, to throw me out of women’s spaces where I have been harmlessly for years, and to foment violence against me, and she calls me the bully.

Last year at the International Women’s Day debate trans rights were not mentioned. Other women brought up real women’s issues- among others, violence against women, with Jess Phillips reading out the names of women killed by men; poverty from Government cuts; and the plight of immigrant women who have “no recourse to public funds”. Cherry and Doyle-Price made speeches promoting hatred. They should be ashamed.

Several MPs talked of harassment and vilification on line. Caroline Nokes, the new chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, spoke of FGM, and said, the “mute” and “block” buttons are your friends, and by being here you achieve more every single day than your fiercest keyboard warrior critic ever will. Cherry and Doyle-Price indeed achieved a lot in the debate: they made innocent trans women out to be monsters, and encouraged violence against us. Because of them, lesbians with male-stereotype haircuts or clothes will be more likely to be challenged in women’s toilets.

The debate is here.

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