Facebook and transphobia

Can Facebook’s community standards be used to drive transphobic content away? The rules are promising. Anything transphobic may fit under prohibited hate speech, defined as “a direct attack against people on the basis of what we [and British law] call protected characteristics” including gender identity. “We define attacks as violent or dehumanising speech, harmful stereotypes, statements of inferiority, expressions of contempt, disgust or dismissal, cursing and calls for exclusion or segregation.”

The heart of the anti-trans campaign is calls for exclusion of trans women from women’s spaces.

There are long lists of what is dehumanising, including generalisations or comparisons to insects, animals, filth, sexual predators, subhumans or criminals.

“Statements denying existence” are forbidden, which arguably includes suggestions that people transition on a whim, such as, “he wakes up one morning and declares he’s a woman”. Referring to trans or nonbinary people as “it” is specifically forbidden.

Calling us mentally ill is forbidden. Alleging “Moral deficiency” is forbidden, including calling us perverts, so mentioning “autogynephilia” should be forbidden. Statements of our inferiority, such as calling us freaks, abnormal, or worthless. Expressions of contempt, or admission of intolerance, is forbidden. Denying that the protected characteristic should exist. Expressions of contempt, hatred or disgust. Cursing and profane terms are forbidden.

Demands that we be segregated or excluded are forbidden. Facebook does not specify that excluding trans women from women’s spaces counts, but arguably it should. Advocating political, economic or social exclusion is forbidden, including “denying access to spaces (physical and online) and social services”. Slurs, “defined as words that are inherently offensive and used as insulting labels for the above-listed characteristics”, are forbidden.

Heading 16, “Cruel and insensitive”, may also be relevant. It forbids mocking “victims of serious physical and emotional harm”, which could include transphobia, internalised or external.

Facebook refers us on to this essay on hate speech by Richard Allan. It is a balance. They want to encourage self-expression, but have rules against bullying. Attacks on social groups, including trans people, are hate speech. Context matters.

Facebook profits from “language designed to provoke strong feelings, making the discussion more heated” because it drives engagement. They believe in “harmless use cases”. In the context of immigration, Allan writes “we don’t want to stifle important policy conversations”, and that could be a defence for transphobes, arguing that trans woman access to woman’s space is a policy debate. So the hatred has to be something more than that.

Trans people can quote hate speech in order to argue against it, and reclaim slurs: I can call myself a tranny but no-one else can. There is a thin line between expressive opinion and unacceptable hate speech, and AI can’t define it, so users should report it to moderators.

Facebook is an American company with American cultural values, including commitment to free speech: “The goal of our Community Standards has always been to create a place for expression and give people a voice.” However on the same page they say they want content to be “authentic”- “we don’t want people using Facebook to misrepresent who they are or what they’re doing”. So, anti-trans campaigners often pretend to be women’s rights campaigners, or lesbian rights campaigners, when what they seek is trans exclusion. This is not authentic. Hate speech fits under their principle of Dignity: “We expect that people will respect the dignity of others and not harass or degrade others.”

So what happens when the anti-trans campaigners breach the community standards? Trans people and allies have to complain. And while groups and pages breach the community standards, complaints are restricted to particular content on groups. You can, however, report a page.

I want to see how this works. I see a hateful picture: it has the words “human beings cannot change sex and the law should not pretend that they can”. I click the three dots, then “find support or report photo”. I click “Hate speech”, then “Sex or gender identity”, then “Next”.

It asks, “Does the post go against our Community Standards on hate speech?” I click Yes, then Next. Unfortunately, it does not allow me to explain how it does that.

On the page itself, I click the three dots, then, again, “Hate speech”, “Next”, “Report page”, “Done”. Again, I cannot give reasons. It suggests I can block the page, so stop seeing it, but I don’t want to: instead, I want to prevent other people from seeing it: trans people, who might be hurt by it, and potential haters, who might be radicalised by it, or confirmed haters, who might share its rubbish.

Facebook claimed to have “taken action” on 22.1m pieces of hate speech content in three months, which means removing it, covering it with a warning, disabling accounts, or reporting it to agencies. They say that out of every 10,000 content views, 10-11 included hate speech.

After an hour, I got a message to say that the page did not go against any specific community standard, so would not be removed, but suggesting I block it. So far, so useless, and no opportunity to put the case that it is transphobic hate. Possibly the most extreme hate might occasionally be deleted, but not this, which campaigns to take away trans rights and pretends trans people do not exist.

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Unfortunately, the implementation does not live up to this promise. I reported an image, and have not heard back. Then I reported a comment- transphobia whited out on my site, not all text-readers will- “‘Trans women’ can be males with gender dysphoria but a huge majority are males with autogynephilia, which is a male sexual fetish based on being validated as their idea of woman.” This is a lie, and also a “derogatory term related to sexual activity”, so banned. But the response is,

we reviewed the comment that you reported and found that it doesn’t go against any of our Community Standards… we understand that you don’t like it. We recommend that you hide the comment or unfollow, unfriend or block the person who posted it.

This is completely useless. Hate and lies about trans people spread across facebook uncontrolled.

“Fair Play for Women” and transphobia

Fair Play for Women presents itself as a website campaigning for women’s rights: on 1 January 2021 its main page called it “A resource for policy-makers, journalists and the general public: We provide expert legal and scientific input to help make good policy which maintains fairness and safety for women and girls.” Its speakers have been interviewed on the BBC. Should it be trusted?

It raises large sums for court actions: it sought £70,000 to sue the Office for National Statistics to change the guidance on sex, (captured 20 February 2021) after raising action against the Ministry of Justice to exclude trans women from women’s prisons.

It uses emotive language to drum up support. To men, it says “Fair play for women is there to speak up for you, your mum and your daughters.” This makes men feel they are acting protectively when harassing trans women. Protecting from what? “If you are told your mother is in a female-only hospital ward you need to be sure she won’t find someone born male in the bed next to her.” Well, hospitals have individual rooms in wards, to protect privacy.

But FPFW figures are incorrect. It asserts, “only 2.8% of the transgender community is undergoing any gender-affirming treatment with the vast majority 97.2% simply self-identity with no modifications to their sexed body whatsoever.” It trivialises transition, claiming we do not seek treatment, while the waiting lists grow past two years. That is based on this study. However, the study says,

the current communication should not be viewed as an attempt to obtain an average measure of transgender prevalence. Rather our analyses aimed to explore patterns of the reported estimates, and to perform an assessment of the extent and sources of agreement and disagreement across studies.

It is not able to provide a comparison between figures. It had 95% confidence that between five and fourteen people in 100,000 sought surgery or hormones because they were transgender, a huge variation. The larger figure identifying as trans was too high: as the meta-analysis says, “there is a good reason to suspect that reliance on a single survey item (‘I wish I was the opposite sex’) may have resulted in an inflated estimate.” It does not indicate what these alleged trans people do- perhaps few or none cross-dress in public, or would want a ward for the other sex in hospital. Yet FPFW concluded, “the overwhelming majority of male-born transgender people retain their penis and are fully male-bodied.”

This is propaganda. It should not be used to inform policy.

On the action against the Ministry of Justice, it says, “Of the 125 transgender prisoners in prison in 2017, 60 (48%) had convictions for sexual offences. Of those, 27 (45%) had been convicted of rape.”

27 is 22% of 125. Does that indicate how dangerous trans people sent to prison are? No, because most sentences of imprisonment are for less serious crimes. The number of rapists is high because rapists usually get long sentences, and FPFW do not state whether they are in men’s or women’s prisons- generally, they are in men’s. There were seven deaths of trans prisoners in men’s or women’s prisons between 2008 and December 2017.

Vikki Thompson was in prison for shoplifting when she died in a men’s prison.

The prison service does not take prisoners’ word that they are trans. Trans women need to show evidence that they live as women outside to get into women’s prison, and a gender recognition certificate may not be enough.

Fair Play for Women is not a resource for good policy, and provides neither legal or scientific expertise. It is a propaganda machine to justify excluding and even attacking trans people.

Woman’s Place UK and Transphobia

Is Woman’s Place UK a feminist organisation, or an anti-trans campaign group? They want the law changed, so that trans rights are reduced, and trans lives made significantly more difficult, especially those of trans women. They misrepresent trans rights and try to make people afraid of trans people, particularly trans women.

The law allows trans women in women’s spaces, but WPUK want us driven out. This is the Equality Act, schedule 3. Paragraphs 26 and 27 allow single sex spaces, for various reasons. Then paragraph 28 allows trans women to be excluded from women’s spaces if that is necessary- “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. There would be no need for a different provision if trans women were not generally allowed in women’s spaces.

This has been the case for decades. A judge in 1970 noted that the state treated trans women like other women, apart from in marriage. I got my passport and driving licence indicating I am female in 2002.

Around 25,000 women protected by the Act, that is trans women who have decided to change their gender from male to female, use women’s toilets and changing rooms now, mostly harmlessly. You may think you have seen one. If we cannot use these facilities, our lives would be greatly restricted. I only want to pee, or to try on clothes before buying them. In both places there are cubicles with doors and partitions too high to see over, and often no gap at all.

WPUK demands “single-sex” spaces for women, which they define to mean without trans women. “The law must be strengthened”, they say, so they admit the law is against them. A cis (that is, not trans) woman must be able to use these services without “extraordinary measures”, so any trans women must have been expelled by employees or security before she goes in.

The law must be strengthened to ensure that all women who want or need single sex spaces (including toilets, health provision accommodation, prisons, sports, sexual and domestic violence services) are able to access them without resorting to extraordinary measures. Service providers should be supported in offering such services through legal and financial means and clear guidance must be issued on the exercising of such rights.

You may think you have seen a trans woman in a women’s loo, and this campaigning is resulting in cis women using women’s facilities being harassed, and policed for how “feminine” they are. In her Turner Prize winning video, Charlotte Prodger described being misgendered in loos.

WPUK started a letter-writing campaign harassing Marks and Spencer to exclude all trans women. The Daily Mail reported on it on 23 May 2020. Baroness Emma Nicholson claimed M&S had given in. Fortunately M&S have resisted, and on 8 December gave this statement:

“in line with most other retailers we will generally allow people to use the fitting room which they prefer, with our colleagues exercising discretion and common sense.”

Because of WPUK’s campaigns, harassment of trans women is increasing, and cis women are harassed if they are seen as not “feminine” enough. If the law was changed as WPUK demand, trans women’s lives would be significantly more difficult, and the harassment would increase.

See also: What’s wrong with Woman’s Place?
What is Transphobia?
How WPUK wind up an audience to oppose trans rights.
Woman’s Place manifesto.
Kiri Tunks’ speech in Norwich.

Header photo from Wikimedia Commons.

For more details, here is a debate in the House of Lords, where Baroness Elizabeth Barker responded to WPUK. WPUK had sent a document they called “Sex and the Census” to members of that House, and Baroness Barker eviscerated this “dodgy dossier”. The persecution of trans people now, she says, is exactly like the persecution of lesbians last century, and some of the same people are involved. “Today, trans people are under sustained, unwarranted attack”.

Will the SNP act against transphobia?

The SNP’s transphobia definition allows it to claim it opposes transphobia, but not to act against dangerous transphobia. Should the SNP discipline Joanna Cherry MP for transphobia? Yes. Does the SNP’s new definition of transphobia allow it to?

Cherry wrote a transphobic article for The National. I don’t know if the subs were deliberately satirising it with the headline “Joanna Cherry: How it’s possible to support rights of trans people AND women”. I don’t know if anyone is fooled by her claim to be a trans ally who has never said or done anything against equal rights for trans people, or thinks that such words allow her to be transphobic elsewhere.

Cherry is slippery. She is an advocate. She can be transphobic and leave herself a weasel denial. Cherry has received rape threats, and she implies though does not state straight out that these are from trans women. Her phrase is “young men who seek to deny biology”. She could, I suppose, claim that she is referring to cis men attempting to be trans allies, though I repudiate the allyship of any man who tweets a rape threat. But I infer she means trans women.

I have no problem condemning trans women who make rape threats, or any threats of violence. We are not a club, and I am not responsible for their wrongdoing- as the SNP definition states. “Accusing wider trans people [I think they mean the wider trans community, not fat trans] of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single trans person or group” is transphobia.

The definition gives eight examples of transphobia, though it says transphobia is not limited to these examples. Also it does not say what should be done about transphobia. For that, you need to consider the SNP conduct standards, which I found in this document. It’s not an official SNP site.

Anent discrimination, the standards say,

5. No member may make racist statements in any context.
6. Every member has a responsibility not to discriminate in his or her conduct on the ground of race, colour, gender, religious belief or non-belief or sexual orientation.

The disciplinary committee can admonish, suspend or expel a member found to have breached the rules. It is up to them to decide what penalty is appropriate. There are no sentencing guidelines, as these are political decisions.

So, racist statements are specifically barred, which appears to indicate that sexist or homophobic statements are absolutely fine. Discrimination is barred, though is not defined. The Equality Act 2010 takes hundreds of sections and 28 schedules to define unlawful discrimination, and provide excuse for acts which would otherwise be discrimination, such as excluding a trans woman from women’s space in particular circumstances.

The first six examples are acts against an individual rather than acts against trans people as a group. They include assault, discrimination, bullying, outing, misgendering and deadnaming. I hear this is a step forward: trans people in the party report that the party did not challenge members who were publicly degrading, harassing and misgendering trans members. Probably, under the rule on gender discrimination, the Party could have acted against bullying of a trans individual in these ways. Everyone knows these things are transphobic, even if they deny it.

The seventh is transphobia against the community:

“Using dehumanising language about trans people or expecting trans people to participate in “debates” about their right to exist.”

There are two parts to this: first, dehumanising language about trans people. It should cover Cherry’s use of the term “male-bodied individuals” because of the purpose of that phrase, to instil fear of trans women and opposition to trans women in women’s spaces.

The second part concerns “debates about [our] right to exist”. It does not cover assertions about “sex-based rights”, or argument that trans women should all be excluded from women’s spaces. Such argument is clearly transphobic, because it intends to foment fear of and anger against trans people, as well as lesbophobic because it encourages misgendering of lesbians, hostility to them in women’s loos, and policing their feminine expression. It is not included in the definition. And if Cherry does not invite trans people to respond to her debating points, then her wild assertions are not included because of that.

What about falsehoods about erasing women’s experience? In the National article, Cherry wrote, “Recently advice was issued to midwives in Brighton that they must refer to “chestfeeding” rather than “breastfeeding”.

That is misleading. Brighton has “gender inclusion midwives” trained to support trans men and nonbinary people, but also gives information on breastfeeding. Chestfeeding only refers to trans men and nonbinary people.

Taking Cherry’s article at face value, you would think cis nursing mothers would be told about chestfeeding. That was never going to happen. She misleads in order to create the false impression that women are under threat, and that the reader is directly affected.

Cherry’s article is objectionable throughout. Trans people and our allies object to transphobia and for Cherry this is an “out of control” “backlash” against “scientific reality”. Cherry angrily rants against people opposing transphobia or seeking reasonable treatment for trans people.

I hope trans people and allies are combing Cherry’s tweets and articles to build a case that she is transphobic, and should be disciplined under SNP rules. But the rules themselves, and this new definition, do not make that easy. Perhaps that is the point of it. Sara Ahmed points out many diversity policies are written to claim the organisation is doing something, rather than to achieve change.

Why should the SNP discipline one of its MPs? Because she is a raging transphobe, spreading hate. But, she’s an MP, and disciplining her would make them look bad. These decisions are political, not moral.

 

The privileged trans woman

Diana Thomas is a privileged trans woman, even though that’s normally a contradiction in terms. She wrote an article for the Daily Mail, headed “Ex-Cambridge University rower and married dad DIANA THOMAS spent six decades as a man… So why does she say trans militants are only stoking intolerance?”

She spent £40,000 on hormones, laser, electrolysis, and coaching to feminise her face, hair, body and voice. She will have genital surgery as soon as she can. Most trans women don’t have £40,000 to spend in that way. She was privileged because she got into Cambridge University. She says she went to all-boys schools, which probably though not certainly means fee-paying schools rather than public schools.

She attacks trans folk who don’t have £40,000 because we make ones who do, like her, look bad. “It would be transphobic to deny my legally female gender,” she writes, but she claims “trans activists” “insist that all a person should have to do to change sex is wake up one morning, say, ‘I’m a woman,’ or, ‘I’m a man’,” as if anyone actually does that.

She criticises how we “look, sound, talk or behave,” not accepting that we do our best to fit in, because we have internalised transphobia too.

She’s not entirely privileged. She suffers dreadfully from internalised transphobia. “I was filled with shame, self-disgust, bursting with pent-up anger and unhappiness. And yet, ironically, I thought I was protecting my family and my marriage by trying so hard to be a real man,” she writes. Now she is 62 and divorced. She feels some need to bare all in the Mail, and tolerate their use of a pre-transition photograph. That shows self-hatred. She does not realise she deserves better.

We all deserve better. In “It’s a Sin”, the men dying of AIDS think they deserve it because of their internalised homophobia, because homophobia was instilled in them like everyone else. Diana is still enforcing her transphobia on other trans folk.

In the article, she seeks to portray herself as a reasonable trans woman, when really she is refusing to stand up for trans people whose trans problems she does not think she will face. “I mean, just how lunatic do you have to be to transfer a male sex-offender — convicted of raping women — to a women’s prison, just because he has suddenly decided that he’s female, too?” I don’t know if anyone “suddenly decides” they are female, but while prisoners may lie I want trans women treated as women, even by prisons. I don’t think that’s a matter of “public institutions, so terrified of defying the latest woke diktats that they have entirely lost the faintest vestige of common sense”. It shouldn’t mean risking people’s safety.

She is not a trans man, so she does not care about trans men, either. She thinks inclusive language for trans men menstruating, having a cervical smear or giving birth is ridiculous, and that female columnists calling this “yet another assault on women’s rights” have a point. Here’s a sample of the inclusive language, about pregnant women and people, she so objects to.

If she did not have internalised transphobia, she would have more dignity than to write about her private prostate surgery in the Daily Mail. She might have got beyond “We’re born this way”. Yes we are; but we do not need that as an excuse.

She writes of her delight at a few words exchanged with other walkers in the country, which she thinks indicate her being treated as a woman. Yes, it’s lovely, and it’s also perfectly normal. “Old friends have rallied round,” she says, sounding slightly surprised, as if they would ghost her just because she transitioned. That’s the internalised transphobia again.

I would have hoped the press would have got beyond such stories. Some details are straight from the 1960s: “I was born male,” she writes. Now she is “true to who I am”, which makes her calmer and happier. Her life of achievement is mostly behind her. Write about our achievements, not the same old prurient rubbish.

Why does she say trans militants are stoking intolerance? Because of internalised transphobia, and because she does not care about problems trans people have, which she does not think she personally will face.

Trans on facebook

Should I debate trans issues on facebook?

There are arguments for coming off it completely. I have given it data which show a detailed account of my personality and desires, and is used to manipulate me. There are trans support groups, but they often share things to be miserable about, which are followed by a dozen comments railing in misery. Yawn. Transphobe says something transphobic.

There’s a group discussing BBC radio. It can be fun. Recently, though, it’s infested with anti-trans campaigners. Should I disengage?

There was a programme where a self-described TERF talked to trans people. A post on that exploded to 775 comments, where few posts get more than a hundred. Word of Mouth, devoted to LGBT language, began with Michael Rosen’s moving confession and repentance of homophobia. These programmes are worth listening to, and I heard about them on that group. The thread’s at 240 comments and going strong.

There I am, trying to find agreement. I can find it in unexpected places. An anti-trans campaigner writes, “I’m a gender abolitionist; I think we’d all be better off if we were more free to behave in less stereotypical ways”.

I agree. “So the question is, how to get there when much of the anti-trans sentiment is conservative support of gender stereotypes and hatred of trans people for subverting them. The answer is to support everyone who is opposing assigned gender stereotypes, by whatever means they do it.”

I think she is too far gone for that to make a particular impression, but it might do some good.

I might hone my arguments. I now can state clearly and simply why the Equality Act assumes trans women will be in women’s spaces, despite passionate denial: “[The Act} doesn’t say that someone with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment must be treated as if they were the opposite sex and require them to be given access to facilities designated for the opposite sex. There is a lot of misinformation in circulation unfortunately.”

Easily answered. “Schedule 3. Paras 26-27 allow men to be excluded from women’s spaces. Para 28 allows trans women to be excluded. There would be no need for different provisions if it was as you say.” Well, that’s technical, and most people’s, even many trans people’s, eyes would glaze over long before that point- but I know what to say when that comes up.

Then there are the swivel-eyed obsessives. “Transwoman used to mean transsexual – a man with the distressing psychological condition of gender dysphoria. That has now exploded to include even part-time cross dressers and men who get their kicks dressing as women or being treated as women. Only those undergoing gender reassignment are covered by equality laws and even then there are exceptions where women need single-sex spaces. Stop with the power grab – women are aware of your tactics and we are standing up to them.”

Oh dear. Reading that is merely depressing, and I hope that anyone not wholly invested in the debate would be put off by it. I can answer it. Should I bother? Given that there are 36 replies to my original comment, no-one not obsessed would read the whole thread, and I could just leave it.

If I enjoy commenting, I should. I got in a top comment, 15 likes or loves, which may persuade some people. The poster objected to the phrase “gender assigned at birth” in Word of Mouth, so I commented, “Gender is assigned at birth. If you’re in a pink babygro, people goo-goo at you differently than if you’re in a blue one. Big strong boy! What a pretty girl! If your gender can’t be told from your clothes, people will want to know your name so they can assign you. The stereotypes are enforced from birth. I am amazed that “gender critical” people deny this. Surely they’ve noticed!”

Commenting like that, I might encourage a trans ally, discourage a hater, make someone think, but should not overestimate the effect I will have. Out of hundreds of comments, all having their incremental effect, mine will make little difference. If I drop out, there are plenty of others to argue in the same way. If anti-trans campaigners take over, their effort is not proportionate to any gain of persuading the unpersuaded.

Then one pulls one of the nastiest tricks in the transphobe armoury. You know they are filled with hate for every trans person when they do this. “Self-ID provides an obvious incentive for male sex offenders to identify as female. Some examples here:” and she gives a link.

So I said we’re not all sex offenders, and we have self declaration already. That’s enough, in her eyes, to make me an apologist for sex offenders at best. “We know that some men pose a risk to women… your cavalier dismissal of it… is very telling”. In the ellipses was even nastier stuff. Accusations of my selfishness and misogyny follow. There is nothing I could say to such people.

facebook is addictive. The system is designed to keep you coming back by getting you riled up. The notifications bell is a ping of dopamine. The hurt and frustration I feel from others’ anger is not worth it. I enjoy writing a well-crafted comment, but I would be better writing something less ephemeral.

Personality disorders in trans people

Are trans people more prone to personality disorders than the general population, and if so, so what?

This research, published in March 2020, is trans friendly. It introduced me to the term “medicalised trans people”, that is, trans people who seek out diagnosis, hormones, or surgery, as trans people may simply be, without seeking these things. It finds a cause for personality disorders: as it says, we suffer stressful reactions from others because of our gender nonconformity, and that stress, and internalised transphobia, may cause anxiety or substance misuse.

It recommends that mental health professionals should affirm not pathologize our identity, but take account of these associated mental health disorders and personality disorders when establishing treatment plans. That will help us navigate the transition process, improve our quality of life, and reduce gender dysphoria.

We show a higher rate of anxiety and depression, and other psychiatric disorders, than the general population. They use the Minority Stress theory to suggest that exposure to minority stress may cause personality disorders, and ways of being with other people that mimic personality disorders. Hit me enough, and you make me expect to be hit. Repeated messages that our identity and core selves are unacceptable, which we receive from discrimination, may cause maladaptive personality traits.

Personality disorders might make it difficult to adapt to transition, and reduce our well-being and satisfaction after. They might influence how our gender dysphoria is demonstrated to others.

The researchers found that trans women’s personality profile was closer to that of cis women than cis men, and trans men’s resembled cis men’s.

The DSM V Alternative model for personality disorders (AMPD) diagnoses by moderate or severe impairment in personality functioning, and one or more pathological personality traits- negative affect, detachment, antagonism, disinhibition, and psychoticism. Well, if I have to fight for my rights I may come across as antagonistic. I have been seen as detached: I don’t show appropriate sadness at bad things happening, because it’s just one more thing on top of all the rest.

This could be seen as an adaptive strategy to reduce the effect of stigma on my health, produce resilience, and improve my social adjustment.

And then, I am afraid I do not understand the study. It says,

First, the AMPD dimensional assessment of personality traits indicated that the transgender sample presented, overall, a healthier and less maladaptive personality profile than their cisgender counterparts matched by gender identity. Second, the categorical approach to PDs diagnoses by means of structured clinical interviewing pointed out a considerable prevalence of PDs in our sample: almost half of the included transgender clients exhibited at least one PD diagnosis.

I don’t know if that says we are more disordered, or less. However, the study says the trans sample they assessed 50% had PDs, and that fits previous research. In the general population, large epidemiological studies show a prevalence of 15%. That might show we are more likely to develop PDs.

They suggest we develop personality disorders as a maladaptive way of coping with dysphoria. We develop social isolation, self harm, anger outbursts, and envy of others. Other minorities also have higher rates of PDs.

They found that we showed lower rates of PDs when assessed by questionnaire than when assessed by interview. They consider this shows that we still distrust the treatment process, treating doctors as gatekeepers even if they intend an affirming model of trans care. We want the hormones sooner than they will give them.

The research is here: Personality Disorders and Personality Profiles in a Sample of Transgender Individuals Requesting Gender-Affirming Treatments, by Annalisa Anzani and others.

Academics counting trans people

Researchers have tried to count trans people, but not proved particularly good at it.

In 2015, researchers analysed 27 previous studies on how many people are trans. They found there were 9.2 people per 100,000 population who sought surgery or hormones, but the 95% confidence interval was that this figure was between 4.9 and 13.6. It could be as little as half of the headline figure. The headline figure is 0.01% of the population, which is about what I estimated.

The figure that sought hormones or surgery was greater than the figure with a trans-related diagnosis (transsexualism, gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria): that figure was 6.8 (4.6-9.1) per 100,000.

How many people self-report a transgender identity? 355 (144-566) per 100,000. I got this meta-analysis from an anti-trans hate site, which used it to scaremonger about trans women in women’s spaces with those oh-so-scary penises. 2.6% seek surgery. However, that does not indicate what the others do. Not all of us transition. Many of those who report a transgender identity might be firmly closeted, without any intention to present in their true gender except when alone or with one or two trusted friends. Possibly the only trans women in women’s spaces are those who have had, or are seeking, hormones and surgery.

However, the study shows that in order to count trans people you need a specific definition of what a trans person is, because the results for different definitions may range by orders of magnitude.

Six studies only considered people who sought or received genital surgery, and were published between 1968 and 2014, on subjects from the US, Europe and Singapore. A 1968 study estimated one in 100,000 MTFs, one in 400,000 FTMs, sought surgery, but then the concept of trans people was not widely known. There has been a continual increase in the number of people seeking medical transition, by a factor of ten or more since 2000.

A Belgian study asked plastic surgeons how many people had undergone surgery from 1985 to 2003, and found 7.74 trans women per 100,000 women. That is, in 2003 the Belgian figure of those who had had surgery was already approaching the 9.2 figure the meta-analysis gave in 2016 for the number who had had surgery or hormones, or were seeking it. To me, that indicates the 9.2 figure is a substantial underestimate. An Italian study in 2008 found 424 M-F surgeries since 1992, 1.5/100,000, and thought the figure being lower than in other countries could be explained either by missing data or cultural factors. Yet this figure, too, was used to calculate the 9.2 figure.

In 1986, a Singapore study reported 35.2/100,000 M-F. They reported cultural acceptance and established surgical procedures as reasons for the higher figure.

In Iran, between 4,000 and 6,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed for homosexuality since 1979. The Ayatollah Khomeini, however, gave a judgment that some people were transsexual, and between 2002 and 2009 a study identified 281 people having genital surgery. I have heard it suggested that gay people in Iran would transition to avoid execution, but that is not confirmed by the prevalence figure, 0.7/100,000, which is much less than the prevalence elsewhere. The Supreme Leader might have said it’s OK to transition, but that does not mean society will accept it.

Assessing prevalence of transgender identity, it depends what you mean by transgender identity. In 2007-2009 a study in Massachusetts asked, “Some people describe themselves as transgender when the experience a different gender identity from their sex at birth. For example, a person born into a male body, but who feels female or lives as a woman. Do you consider yourself to be transgender?” That gave 500/100,000. “A person born into a male body but who feels female” might never cross-dress at all. The words “For example” make the definition stretchier, and the number larger.

A 2010 survey considered US young adults, asking about sex assigned at birth then gender identity. 26 identified as the other gender, transgender, or other, which is 0.33% (330/100,000).

In 1991, a German study estimated 2.1/100,000 trans people had changed their name to one of the other sex. That would be the number who had socially transitioned, so the number seeking surgery is much the same as the number out and about as trans.

In New Zealand, you can change your passport between M, F and X. By 2008 there had been 385 X. My passport says F, and I would not want an X designation.

The authors write, “With these considerations in mind, the current communication should not be viewed as an attempt to obtain an average measure of transgender prevalence. Rather our analyses aimed to explore patterns of the reported estimates, and to perform an assessment of the extent and sources of agreement and disagreement across studies.” That is, the meta-analysis does not tell us how many trans people there are, or how many seek surgery, but are a comment on the quality of the data. So the hate site is debunked: the authors specifically say that their data should not be used to make such assertions.

The highest figure was 700/100,000 self-reporting transgender identity. This is less than 1%, and does not justify the rage and energy of anti-trans campaigners such as Liz Truss. At the same time it is probably much greater than the number of trans women who ever enter women’s spaces.

I hope the British census will do better.

The meta-analysis is here. The study has been peer-reviewed and published, but I could only access this, which is a pre-print. I did not know what a pre-print was before Covid. I have a new page on various attempts to count trans people.

Counting trans people

In 2021, the British census will count trans and nonbinary people. In England and Wales, these are the questions people will see:

What is your sex?
A question about gender identity will follow later on in the questionnaire
[ ] Female
[ ] Male

Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?
This question is voluntary
[ ] Yes
[ ] No
(Enter gender identity)

The census put “female” first in 2011. Before, the standard was to put male first, and other forms asking sex or gender usually do; but in other census questions the answers were either alphabetical, or the largest group first, both of which would put female first. So the order was changed.

Possible questions were tested to see how well people understood them, as well as whether they objected. The researchers timed how long it took to pick a response. The second question took five seconds, compared to “What do you consider your gender to be?” which took fourteen. People objected strongly to the word “consider”. I say my gender is female. If I say “I consider my gender is female” that includes the possibility others might disagree.

Gender and sex are synonyms in English, and this introduces a distinction. The report on question development assumes we know what it is. Under definitions, it says “The sex question is binary: female and male”, so DSD people have a sex.

“The gender identity question is about a person’s personal internal perception of themselves.”

I don’t think it helpful to distinguish my “personal internal perception” and reality in this case. I am female. I would not say so if I weren’t. Those who are habitually disbelieved, such as prisoners, might lie, but people generally are truthful about such things.

However we dropped the word “transsexual” for “trans”, for various reasons: “transsexual” sounds impersonal and scientific, sounds like a sexual orientation, when it is different; and puts pressure on people to have genital surgery. “Transgender” is an acceptable word.

The annex says, “the gender category with which a person identifies may not match the sex they were registered at birth”. Most of the readers of this document, and the people answering the questions, are cis, and the writers are explaining to them as well as to us.

They explain trans includes binary and nonbinary trans, and non-gendered identities, and identity may be fixed or variable.

It’s not spelled out that sex means genes, gonads and genitals, and I will answer that my sex is female. Gender has to be wider, to include nonbinary people. When the question asked some variant on “Are you trans?” nonbinary people did not consistently include themselves.

To the cis, the document explains that the sex “question wording and response options are unchanged from the 2011 Census. We will continue to collect this data in a way that is consistent with previous censuses.” Well, I said my sex was female then, too. There are so few of us, that statistics are barely affected.

“The gender identity question is voluntary. It will only be asked to respondents aged 16 years and over.”

The trans question comes at the end of the sociocultural questions. It affects fewer people than race or religion.

In Scotland, the trans question is different. The census will take place in 2022, because of Covid.
3. What is your sex?
[] Female [] Male
4. Do you consider yourself to be trans, or have a trans history?
This question is voluntary
Answer only if you are aged 16 or over
Trans is a term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were registered at birth
Tick one box only
[] No
[] Yes, please describe your trans status (for example, non-binary, trans man, trans woman):
[Space to write in answer]

The National Records of Scotland explained their question testing. They tested a nonbinary sex question- male, female, Other- write in. The Scottish Parliament rejected the “Other” option for sex, though the NRS research showed that the questions, including the “other” sex option, were publicly acceptable, and would produce good data. Stakeholders preferred a nonbinary sex question, which produced fewer non-responses. Their aim was “to allow inclusive questions which all respondents can answer with ease”. They found putting the sex and trans status questions together made respondents understand better.

In Northern Ireland, the census will only include a binary sex question, and none on gender identity.

In England, the guidance on how to answer the sex question will read,

If you are considering how to answer, use the sex recorded on one of your legal documents such as a birth certificate, Gender Recognition Certificate, or passport.

That’s fine for me, but I would resent it if I had no GRC. I would ignore it, and tick F anyway. The ONS explains their reasons for the guidance here.

Estimates of the results will be published in March 2022 and the full data set in March 2023.

How many trans people?

Are 3% of Belgians really trans or nonbinary?

Eva Van Caenegem, Katrien Wierckx and others asked about 4600 people from Flanders whether they agreed with the statements “I feel like a woman” and “I feel like a man”. 1832 answered on a five point scale from 1, totally agree, to 5, totally disagree. They considered a person gender ambivalent if they gave equal responses to both, and gender incongruent if they gave a higher score for the opposite sex. They found 2.2% of men to be gender ambivalent and 0.9% gender incongruent, and 1.9% of women ambivalent, 0.6% incongruent.

The research team tried to find LGB people who did not identify as lesbian, gay or bi, by asking who people had sex with, and about whom they fantasised.

When 2472 lesbian, gay and bisexual people answered the same questions, 1.8% of men were ambivalent, 0.9% incongruent, and 4.1% of women ambivalent, 2.1% incongruent.

Unfortunately the question can mean totally different things to different people. If you think gender stereotypes are merely oppressive, you might totally agree that you feel like your assigned sex, because you belong to that sex, even though you don’t fit the stereotypes. Alternatively you might totally disagree, asserting that you simply are of one sex or the other, and feelings are irrelevant. If you do not fit stereotypes at all, you might transition, or you might assert your sex and campaign against stereotypes- or you might pretend to conform, try to fit in, because the challenge was too difficult.

Some who are gender incongruent might be in denial. Many trans women have fought to make men of ourselves before accepting we are trans, and transitioning. When in the Army, my friend might have claimed to completely agree that she felt like a man. Now transitioned, she would say the opposite.

I want the question to find out how many people have a trans or gender nonconforming nature. Finding those in denial, or who conform because of social pressure, is difficult. They are the most oppressed by the stereotypes.

The figures for gay and lesbian people seem low. In my experience they fit the stereotypes less than straight people do, but fewer gay men presented as ambivalent than straight men. This could be the gay men feeling more oppressed, and less willing to admit to ambivalence.

I wonder why more than twice as many queer women as queer men were ambivalent or incongruent. It could be different effects on men and women of the stereotypes. Male privilege is desirable. You lose it if you present as unmasculine. In Britain, gay men who were camp had precarious acceptance, in times of worse homophobia. Amused contempt is a better reaction from your community than widely condoned violence. Some feminists find feminine gender stereotypes merely oppressive and don’t believe anyone fits them comfortably.

A small minority of those incongruent people might transition. It is a great effort, and takes courage. I found the social rejection terribly painful, and my own internalised transphobia made it far worse. Others might cross-dress. Some might find partners and social groups where they could be gender nonconforming.