Anti-trans nurses

Anti-trans campaigners are targeting nurses’ professional bodies with demands and misinformation. Are they a threat to trans people? How might we respond? The Nursing and Midwifery Council refused a demand that they disassociate themselves from Stonewall, but The Royal College of Nursing journal “Mental Health Practice” published propaganda to misrepresent and attack trans rights, and claim vulnerable [cis] women could find it “traumatic” to be with trans women.

First, let’s look at the misrepresentations of the article and the truth. Hundreds of nurses, it says called on the Nursing and Midwifery Council to withdraw from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme. Well, there are more than 690,000 nurses in the UK. The anonymous writer says she will consider the need for safeguarding abused, traumatised [cis] women.

The article attempts to appear even-handed. It says “I understand that the transgender community is also vulnerable to abuse”. However it is grotesquely misleading. It says, sex is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, Stonewall says access to single sex spaces is based on self-identification and gender identity, but that is not a “concept in law”. It does not mention the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

Stonewall is right. When a trans person decides to transition, they should be treated as belonging to the gender they present as. “Gender reassignment” protects all trans people who have decided to transition.

The article does not use the term “trans women”. There’s an infallible guide to bigotry. Any impartial account will refer to trans women. Anti-trans propaganda will use other phrases: “biological men”, “those who identify as women”, etc. If someone cannot bring themselves to call us “trans women”, the clearest term for us, which many of us choose for ourselves, then they are prejudiced or phobic.

The writer says, “Stonewall’s advocacy for access to single-sex spaces based on gender identity rather than sex has led to many NHS accommodation policies that undermine the ability of nurses to advocate for and safeguard women in our care.” Then comes the main argument: vulnerable [cis] women need single-sex spaces, but because of Stonewall these include “those identifying as women”, which the vulnerable [cis] women find traumatising.

If there is anyone coming fresh to the campaign of vilification, exclusion and hatred against trans people, they might find that shocking. But, shorn of all the circumlocution, the writer is saying because cis women can be offended or even traumatised when they see trans women in women’s spaces, trans women should be elsewhere. Where that might be is someone else’s problem, she wants to advocate for “[cis] women in our care”.

Many things might trigger a traumatised woman. If trans women, seen as male, might trigger them, male employees might trigger them too. I want not to trigger traumatised people, but don’t see what good removing trans women would do. I know anti-trans campaigners want not to see trans women in women’s spaces, and may get themselves worked up when they do, but that is not the same as being retraumatised.

The writer says she “fears seeming bigoted or being classed as judgemental”. Well, she is bigoted. She wants trans women excluded from women’s wards, where we are usually treated, because she and others do not like us there. She says the NMC should listen to bigots, but even if they have “experienced years of trauma and abuse”, saying all trans women should be excluded is a bigoted reaction. She is frightened for her name to appear, because her ability as a nurse would be questioned. Well, a nurse who says a specific group of her patients should be removed from her ward, for bigoted reasons, breaches the professional standards of practice and behaviour for nurses which state that nurses must “Treat people [even trans women] as individuals and uphold their dignity”, not judge us as a class and advocate that we be driven away.

I have no clear idea how I would answer the anti-trans campaigner’s article. The person who drew it to my attention wanted to find statistics of trans women attacking cis women, to show that most of us are not dangerous, but I would hope that should be assumed except by the most bigoted anti-trans campaigners. No minority should have collective responsibility for crimes committed by its members, and anyone who fears the whole group because of those crimes is a bigot.

I feel deeply uncomfortable to be reduced to pleading. Please don’t judge us! We’re not bad people! We can’t help it, we’re born this way! I could explain how self-ID is at the heart of the Equality Act, and why.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s response to an anti-trans campaign group demanding that it leave the Diversity Champions programme is a very different style. It is not a self-righteous harangue like the magazine article, but corporate-speak- we recognise your concerns, but have decided not to change anything.

They say equality, diversity, inclusion and human rights are at the heart of their professions, the codes of practice, and the NMC. The Diversity Champions programme helps them create a welcoming environment for LGBT staff, but provides no legal advice. Separately, Stonewall is one of the bodies consulted when they revise their regulatory standards, as part of wide ranging open consultations with many stakeholders, professionals and the pub-zzzzz.

I have tried to write about trans for cis people. Here’s an example. I am dissatisfied. It spends too much time answering the ranting of anti-trans campaigners, and so pays them more attention than they deserve. A Jew introducing and explaining Jewish culture and traditions could speak for a long time, and should not be expected to spend too much time on the rampant antisemitism in Britain- the vandalism to synagogues and graveyards, the casual prejudice. That is what I would like to write: a positive “This is who we are” article, paying no more attention to bigots and the trauma we face than those subjects deserve. Possibly, attempting it would show how my self-acceptance is developing, and how far it still has to go. But also, being in a society where bigotry is called reasonable opinion, I would have no alternative but to address it. And there is structural transphobia, which people are blind to- waking them up to it is difficult.

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