“Single-sex spaces” and transphobia

Transphobes express their transphobia in apocalyptic terms. “Gender ideology poses a threat to all of us” said one male transphobe eejit, and this is quoted as an inducement to get a transphobe book. “Reality matters for feminism” says a transphobe, obsessed with her transphobia, in the title of her book railing against trans people. “A regressive men’s rights movement is posing a massive threat to the human rights of women and children” says the blurb of another book entirely obsessed with trans people, by a Quaker transphobe. “We were constantly triggered,” said Amy Dyess.

They also express it in absolutist terms. The remote possibility that a trans woman might enter a space such as a toilet or changing room, because the owners and organisers of that space have not adopted rigorous policies to ensure that never happens, is enough to make trans-exclusionists call it “mixed sex”.

Consider what’s happening here. A lot of women would be uncomfortable with “mixed sex” toilets. The haters say women need “single-sex spaces” and most women would agree. The difference is portrayed as between going to pee where there are only women, and going to pee in a mixed group.

Now consider what these women gain, if the trans-exclusionists have their way. Rather than having a tiny chance of seeing a trans woman in a women’s loo, say, one in a hundred, she might have a lesser chance: those trans women might try to go where they are forbidden. It does not mean that there would be no crime in toilets, because some cis women are criminals. It does not mean that there will be no “predatory men” there, because a small sign on a door is no deterrent to violent men. It just means that the chance of seeing trans women is even less.

It also could mean considerable difficulty for the owners of the space. The law says that it is discrimination on the basis of gender reassignment to exclude trans women from it, unless that is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. That legitimate aim has to be additional to the aim which made it lawful to exclude men. Trans women are protected as soon as we decide to transition.

Fortunately, the Equality Act gives no-one a legal right to challenge the decision if the owners of women’s space decide to admit trans women, but gives trans women the right to challenge those owners if they do not. It is up to the owners and managers to exclude a trans woman if they wish, knowing that if they do they may be subject to a legal challenge. This balances the relative powerlessness of trans women, who may not have the money or the spare resilience to start such a challenge.

Turning to the Ann Sinnott case (Authentic Equity Alliance, indeed. Such silly, portentous names, proclaiming their righteousness, triggering their dupes. I think they mean, anti-trans hate group.) Sinnott wanted to redefine single-sex women’s spaces as excluding trans women. That would have meant paragraph 28 of schedule 3 of the Equality Act, to get technical for a bit, was meaningless and superfluous. Acts do not have superfluous paragraphs.

The judgment is here. Mr Justice Henshaw says, (para 25) “it is in my view clear beyond argument that Parliament has chosen, in the 2010 Act, to place transsexual persons in a different position from the generality of persons of their birth sex”. And at para 5 the judge says the claimant put the same argument in three different ways, none of which was valid.

Robin Moira White, author of the legal textbook on transgender law, has written a useful commentary.

One commentary claims it is “not phobic” in some circumstances to exclude trans women. But it is based on fear: the fear service users may feel on seeing a trans woman and perceiving her as a man. Unless there is fear, there is no need to exclude. Is it justified to refuse the trans woman service, or to require that she is served in some “separate but equal” way? Could there be another approach?

I object to Legal Feminist’s phraseology. They write of “refusing access to a person of the opposite sex” where they mean trans women. That is, they use the hate-group’s language, and continue the hate-group’s deliberate confusion between excluding men and excluding trans women. We are an anomaly, not a comprehensive redefinition of what it means to be a woman. Including us is an exception for particular vulnerable people, not an assault on the concept of single-sex spaces.

Legal Feminist says “women who have stopped using a service need to make this known”. There is a huge barrage of anti-trans hate against services which might include trans people, and intense lobbying fomented by hate groups. It’s not clear that they cease to use services, though.

I agree when they say this is a sad outcome. Women’s services have better things to do than fight legal cases from well-funded hate groups.

Excluding trans women from women’s spaces does little good to anyone, and great harm to trans people. There will be more litigation, and more triggering. Feminist energy is diverted from women’s needs to a myth.

Here is another commentary.

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