Excluding trans women without mentioning us

“We want to expel every last trans woman from every single women’s service, and guarantee that none will ever enter again. We want to control language, so that no-one can acknowledge that trans men are men, so oppose any and all language that refers to trans male obstetrics or reproductive health.”

If only the “gender-critical feminists” would say what they wanted clearly, there could be a debate. We could ask, who would this change in the law harm, and would it benefit anyone? Can we balance different people’s needs? Are there conflicting rights? Unfortunately, expressing their desires so clearly would show how paltry they are, how little conceivable benefit they would produce, what harm they would do.

So they often couch their demands for exclusion in terms of “belief”. No-one is sacked for “believing sex is real”. They are, rarely, sacked for demanding trans exclusion or being rude to trans people, but more often the trans employee or customer will be driven away. I don’t care about their beliefs, I care about their oppressive actions. Unfortunately they seem to have persuaded themselves that “trans woman” is a meaningless term, not distinguishing us from men. So they talk of mixed sex and single sex spaces, and women losing rights or access, as if women’s loos were full of men.

On Woman’s Hour, Emma Barnett interviewed Kishwer Falkner, the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The website said they would consider equal pay, a feminist issue, but the whole six minute interview covered “guidance for preserving single-sex spaces”. They did not mention trans women at all. Barnett, interviewing, was concerned that businesses would not be clear when they could discriminate against us, and so discriminate less than they might. Falkner hopes to report in January. It’s clearly about trans women, to a trans woman, simply because it paints a picture of no women’s loos being available in theatres, and businesses with customer toilets not knowing there can be “separate sex-based areas”.

The problem in businesses is that the women’s toilets often have the same floor area as men’s, so that women queue while men’s cubicles go unused, but they do not mention that. Of course there are women’s loos in business premises, it’s just that they accommodate trans women too.

Explaining this to someone who really does not see it is about trans exclusion, or is disingenuously denying that, is difficult. You have to translate. Falkner says the EHRC gets complaints from “experts in the field”- trans excluders- that “organisations’ websites”- Stonewall- misinterpret the exception.

It is a non-issue for most cis people. Trans women use women’s loos. So what. But they paint it as “relating to listeners’ lives”. It is true that there are fewer public toilets, but that is because of Tory public spending cuts, not because of trans issues. There is tugging on heart strings. Falkner says in one theatre “there was no single-sex space for women but for one toilet right in the rafters”. Theatres have bars, so they need toilets. Falkner craves sympathy for “an elderly woman climbing long flights of steps”. What if I were in the Gods, queued for the loo, then found it had a sign on the door saying it was a “single-sex toilet”. But no, this imagined elderly woman climbed from the stalls because the stalls loos admit trans women.

They want to exclude us from toilets. They want to upend our lives. They want not to mention us- we should be excluded, like any other “man”. Falkner says far more businesses could exclude trans women from women’s services than do, now- except she doesn’t, she says they could “use the exemptions that exist,” an abstract phrase in an attempt to sound dispassionate. She won’t anticipate the guidance, because that could cause legal problems, but she mentions the NHS, so we could be put on men’s wards, and retail, so we could be not allowed to try clothes on before buying. All without mentioning trans women once.

“All we need to do is point out what the law says,” says Falkner, and businesses will exclude trans women. I dread the guidance.

Framing it as a “women’s rights issue” and not mentioning trans women makes them terribly self-righteous. The Guardian had an article headed “My hope for a more open discussion of women’s and trans rights is fading”. Tell me about it, I thought. But again the complaint was about the powerful trans lobby oppressing women. Kathleen Stock! The writer complained of Stonewall, Edinburgh Rape Crisis, Keir Starmer, and Carla Denyer supporting trans rights, but did not ask herself “Are we the baddies?” Her views are being silenced, she complains.

She had hoped for a “more open discussion” because of Forstater’s Employment Appeal Tribunal case. All the EAT said was that Forstater’s beliefs were not as bad as fascism, so she should not be sacked merely for holding them. She is delighted that the UK Sports Council tells sporting bodies to exclude trans women. In an article which calls for balance and an end to polarisation, she claims that “the fear of male abusers who could take advantage of self-ID rules is rooted in fact”. Her idea of a “balanced discussion” differs from mine.

“Human bodies have limits,” she says. No trans surgery! Children are under threat! And then, “My own understanding is neither fixed or complete”. She claims an open mind, though her belief in her own righteousness is unassailable. And because she is merely “asserting her beliefs”, she does not notice the people she would hurt.

She does not feel her beliefs are recognised as valid, but that is the wrong question. Should trans women be expelled from our women’s spaces? What good, or harm, would that do? Meanwhile, if anyone advertises a “single sex space” I will take refuge in the Gender Recognition Act s9, which says that as I have a gender recognition certificate my sex is female. If they mean, “No Trans Women Allowed!!” they will have to say that.

Before Falkner, we had an Equality and Human Rights Commission. It was concerned for the rights of those who suffer unjust discrimination, and those whose human rights are breached, and worked to improve their rights. Now, Falkner says her organisation is for everyone in the country. So, she will tell businesses when they might be entitled to discriminate against trans women, and exclude us, because her organisation is for their benefit as well as for the trans women’s. It will not stop there. On the same principle, she would advise those who do not pay women equally how they can challenge the evidence of that.

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