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”.

Woman’s Place UK Manifesto

Woman’s Place UK has published their manifesto. There is a lot of good stuff in it, that I would support, except for the core demands, sneaked in in coded language. But we know what the code means, don’t we, ladies?

No trans women!

They start with barely a hint of transphobia:

We are united by our belief that women’s hard-won rights must be defended. We are against all forms of discrimination. We believe in the right of everyone to live their lives free from discrimination and harassment.

They don’t say here, or anywhere, that “woman” does not include trans woman. Or that excluding trans women from women’s space could ever be discrimination.

On economic status, they want caring work valued, and benefits restored. They want better enforcement of the Equality Act 2010. Careful what you wish for: that’s the Act that protects trans rights.

They oppose violence against women and girls. Here is the tragedy of their position: all their campaigning energy, and mine, is diverted onto their campaign

No trans women!

Implement the abolitionist model, criminalising those who exploit prostituted people (including pimps and sex buyers) and decriminalising the prostituted, providing practical and psychological exiting support.

That’s code too. Sex workers oppose it. They are “Sex worker excluding radical feminists” or SWERFs.

On health care, they demand Implement the NHS strategy of Elimination of Mixed Sex Accommodation in hospitals. Commit to uphold right to request a female clinician, carer or support worker and to have that request respected. But they don’t see me as female.

No trans women!

On education, they want An end to the provision of education by lobby groups and untrained or unregulated providers in all state schools and colleges. They really hate Mermaids, the charity supporting trans children and their families.

No Mermaids!

I entirely agree when they demand, Introduce a duty on schools and colleges to challenge harmful gender, sex and other stereotypes. That would benefit everyone. But Robust defence of the human right to freedom of speech in academia is because of students angry at ignorant and transphobic attitudes of some academics. Free Speech is not threatened when the media is relentlessly transphobic, and while students have campaigned, no academic career has been threatened for reasonable writing.

On Law, they say, Strengthen the Equality Act by restoring the statutory questionnaire; the duty to protect from third party harassment; and the power of tribunals to make wider recommendations. Enact Section 1 to compel action to reduce socio-economic disadvantage. As a former employment tribunal representative, I agree wholeheartedly. And with this: Enforce Public Sector Equality Duty and Equality Act, though they’d better watch out: the Equality duty was the reason their meeting in Leeds was cancelled. There are a lot of assorted demands, such as, Overhaul aggressive immigration laws and end the hostile environment policy. Many on the Left would agree.

Where women are housed in the prison estate, accommodation must be single-sex to protect their privacy, safety and dignity. So trans women, however long we have been transitioned, however harmless we are- me, perhaps, if I campaign too hard for Extinction Rebellion or pacifist causes- must rot on male vulnerable prisoner units with the paedophiles.

Participation in public life: Defend the use of sex-based mechanisms such as all-women shortlists.

“Sex-based” is of course code for you know what.

Here’s a radical demand: Action to end sexist, demeaning, objectifying, stereotypical images of women and girls throughout society and in particular in media, arts, advertising and the political sphere. Yet I agree: the campaign against “page 3” should only be the start. It would be a huge step towards abolishing the Patriarchy. It would however require them to devote their entire campaign to it. Many who support trans rights will not join them while they are anti-trans. Fully implemented it would mean censoring Shakespeare, but there is no suggestion here where they might start.

Support for sex-segregated sports. No-one seriously opposes having separate women’s competition, it’s just how you define “woman” on the margins. Caster Semenya is a woman who should be entitled to enter women’s competition. So are trans women compliant with the IOC rules.

Women should be supported to pursue their right to freedom of association. That is, hold feminist meetings excluding trans women. Weary sigh. If the debate were not so charged, trans women might leave them alone, and go to women’s groups only by invitation. I don’t want a feminist gathering suddenly to focus on me, where my presence is the only issue. But the WPUK campaign has done a great deal to inflame the debate.

So there’s a lot of good stuff here, but throughout there is the coded demand:

No trans women!

And the rest has not the slightest credibility, because they have not held one meeting, or posted one video, except to campaign against trans rights. They could put radical feminism on the national agenda, but instead they campaign against us. It is a tragedy. We should be allies.

I found the profusion of developing pine cones beautiful:

Quakers and trans people

All this century, Quakers in Britain have supported trans people. This support is based on our fundamental principles and ways of seeing reality and human beings, drawing on our support of gay people against the prejudice of the mainstream churches since the 1970s. Our position comes from the courage of gay and trans people and the enthusiastic support of cis straight people speaking up for what they know is right.

Added: Britain YM in 2021 minuted,

With glad hearts we acknowledge and affirm the trans and gender diverse Friends in our Quaker communities, and express appreciation for the contribution and gifts that they bring to our meetings, which are communities made up of people with a diverse range of gender expressions.

Quakers supported the original Gender Recognition Bill in 2003. As a religious body which has testified to equality for over 300 years, we are glad to support the main proposals in the Bill. “The Quaker understanding of Christianity includes the belief in the equality of all human beings  of whatever sex, race, class or age ……….The spirit of God includes and transcends our ideas of male and female.” Our issue with the Bill, the matter we did not support, was the idea that marriages where one partner sought a gender recognition certificate would have to be dissolved. We saw no need for that, and were lobbying for gay relationships to be recognised.

My own article in The Friend magazine on 26 September 2003 helped our increasing understanding.

The decision to support the Bill was taken by Meeting for Sufferings, by representatives of Quaker meetings all round the country, by people who knew trans people personally as friends, based on our testimony to the equality of all people. It followed in depth work by Quaker Life, the committee of Quakers supporting the pastoral care and vivacity of Quaker communities. Quaker Life asked the Yearly Meeting to support the Bill. Our committees restrict their approaches to government to those issues on which we speak from experience. Here, we had the experience of pastoral care.

Quaker Life wrote, We are challenged to develop our ability to handle uncomfortable questions…How can we build a community in the yearly meeting which is open to change and takes account of everyone’s true needs? Action often seems to stem from pressure, passion or even anger from section of the community, by which, as individuals, we can become transformed. We learn from experience.

Diversity is a treasure; inclusion is a spiritual discovery; difference is the truth at the heart of the human condition. If we live up to this we give ourselves the opportunity to change and grow. We need to reaffirm the testimony to equality as a firm foundation which lies at the heart of Quaker spirituality.

Because of these minutes, the official Quaker position is supporting gender recognition.

On 18 February 2017, North East Thames AM produced a minute in favour of trans and nonbinary inclusion.

Some Quaker meeting houses have hosted meetings organised by Woman’s Place UK, a transphobic organisation. Meeting houses are generally hired out to people who pay the fees, like other buildings with meeting rooms for hire. WPUK sought to conceal their true nature from the Quakers. They refused to publicise the venue of their meetings in order to prevent cis and trans campaigners for trans rights from explaining why the venue should not provide a room for the meeting.

When Brighton Quaker meeting found out the nature of the room hire, they cancelled the meeting before it was held. WPUK had to go to another venue in the city. As they said, WPUK events have resulted in acrimony and discord… We do not believe that a meeting of this kind will enhance the wider debate or a mutual understanding… We think it more likely to aggravate the situation.

Any organisation will have a number of transphobes, but the Quakers opposed to trans human rights as defined in international law tend to believe that people should be able to be gender diverse without needing to transition or alter their bodies. Not accepting trans people’s right to choose chest masculinisation or other surgery is clearly transphobic, but their aim is to allow greater gender diversity. They do not oppose our rights on some idea of the God-given differences between men and women. Trans people are welcome in Quaker meetings, and take positions of leadership among Quakers.

The Quaker Gender and Sexual Diversity Community supports trans rights. Here is their statement: We strongly challenge the misrepresentation, misinformation, disrespect and intrinsic antagonism towards trans people by Woman’s Place UK and others in pursuing their stated aims around gender identity legislation (including the GRA), and want to highlight the hugely negative effect this is having on trans people in Britain, including trans Friends.

We believe peace starts with us, and would be interested in seeking a peaceful way forward with those who are open to doing so. For dialogue to be fruitful each party has to commit to ending behaviour that is likely to kill, hurt or antagonise, and thereby clearly demonstrate a change in attitude. If it can be done in Northern Ireland and South Africa it can be done anywhere.

We don’t think Twitter, Facebook or any other social media is the place to do this work: it’s too easy for feelings to become heightened and for a situation to escalate very quickly, as demonstrated this week.

QGSDC continues to be a community of support and solidarity for trans people, and a resource for the wider Religious Society of Friends.

We believe that focusing on, and responding to, that of God (or good) in the other, however hidden, is key in all of this.

North Pacific YM, in the US, is ahead of Britain in expressing its support for trans people: North Pacific Yearly Meeting understands that the Divine Source is leading our Meeting to honor the gender identity and expression of each person, as understood by that person. We affirm that gender expression and identity may be fluid and changeable. We recognize that when we embrace the Light within the full spectrum of gender identities on our Meeting, our worship deepens and our community is enriched.

As part of our evolving struggle to live our testimony of equality, North Pacific Yearly Meeting minutes our commitment to becoming an affirming, safe, and nurturing place for everyone to live fully that which the Spirit is leading them to be.

We extend our loving care to people of all genders, including, but not limited to, transgender, genderqueer, cisgender, gender-fluid, agender, gender non-conforming, and intersex persons, their families and friends. We will continue to educate ourselves and our communities and take appropriate action to bring about a more equal world.

Young Friends General Meeting, for Quakers from 18-30ish, support trans and non-binary inclusion and rights.

Meeting for Sufferings wrote a minute in July 2019:

MfS/19/07/06 Gender Diversity We receive and note minute 2019.2.3 of Young Friends General Meeting and the initial statement regarding Trans and non-binary inclusion; and Quaker Life Central Committee’s initial statement ‘Quakers and Gender Diversity’. Friends are encouraged to reflect on the Quaker Life Central Committee (QLCC) initial statement and the Young Friends General Meeting (YFGM) minute, and to work together to explore the issues. We are aware that we need to listen to those people affected by discrimination of any sort (to listen deeply, with open hearts); and we want Quakers in Britain to be welcoming and affirming of all people. Each individual is a child of God and we all seek to know that Love which is eternal.

We uphold all Friends in this exploration. Working in small groups may make it easier for Friends to share more deeply. We encourage everyone to listen carefully to the Spirit through each other. We hope to return to this later in the year.

In their covering letter the clerk explained,

The key items are: 1) A consideration of the documents received from QLCC and YFGM and for us to try to understand the issues involved in the current debate around gender diversity. We heard that working in small groups to consider this may be a good way forward and that QLCC would like to receive further comments – please send your comments to gender@quaker.org.uk We hope that when we return to this we may be able to articulate more clearly what specific Quaker contribution there may be to this issue, remembering that the basis of our response is love and the recognition that each person is a child of God.

Unfortunately, MfS has not yet returned to the matter, partly because of Covid disruption.

Here is a record of some American minutes on trans rights. Baltimore YM supports trans rights.

Gender Recognition Act reform

What might the government do to change gender recognition in England and Wales? We don’t know, but can guess. We don’t even have the consultation yet but do have the Scottish consultation, the report of the Women and Equalities Committee, and Justine Greening’s announcement of the English consultation, made on 23 July 2017.

The announcement promised New measures to deliver greater equality for the LGBT community… ahead of the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. That’s accurate. The criminal offences were not completely expunged from the statute book until this century. Initially, there was a narrow defence to a charge of gross indecency or sodomy, which applied in restricted circumstances. Homophobia was still everywhere, and “normal”.

The new rights for gay men were underwhelming. Men who have had sex with men, even once, could not ever give blood, and that humiliates people who want to do a good thing for society. You can’t because you’re gay. Then a time limit was put in- they could give blood if they had not had sex with a man for a year, which is quite an intrusive question. The proposal was to reduce this to three months, but many people would find that an unbearable sex famine. Stonewall’s response was that there should be individualised risk assessment. Of course- what about faithful couples? The three month limit has now been implemented. These rules are in place to keep blood donors and the patients who receive their blood safe, said the press release.

Given the Women and Equalities Committee report, the new rights for trans people are underwhelming too. They are first described as Proposals to streamline and demedicalise the process for changing gender. It is not a consultation on trans rights, but on the Gender Recognition Act alone.

Proposals will include:

Removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before being able to apply for gender recognition. The current need to be assessed and diagnosed by clinicians is seen as an intrusive requirement by the trans community; and

Proposing options for reducing the length and intrusiveness of the gender recognition system.

The gender recognition system is intrusive because it requires documentary evidence of expressing our true selves for two years, as well as that medical evidence. And our promise to live in the acquired gender life long is not enough: the statutory declaration which we swear to that effect must be assessed by the gender recognition panel.

However while in Scotland the consultation proposed a simple statutory declaration, the English announcement is considerably more guarded. Many options would “reduce the length and intrusiveness” other than a simple stat dec, and we might even still have to wait two years before starting the process.

While the Committee proposed reforming the Equality Act, to restrict the circumstances in which we could be excluded from women’s spaces, the announcement refers specifically to the Gender Recognition Act and procedure under it. The Equality Act was never on the table.

Suzanna Hopwood of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group said “I am really pleased… the current system is demeaning and broken.” Indeed it is, and no nearer being fixed now than nearly a year ago.

So it is false for A Woman’s Place to claim that self-ID would mean becoming a woman simply because you sign a form. It is false for them to claim that anyone’s rights would be affected, apart from trans people’s. They are fear-mongering. Making such statements as they do, they have an obligation to establish the truth: if they are ignorant of it, that does not excuse their circulating falsehoods. People should ignore them.

Unfortunately, the Sunday Times is spreading the misrepresentations, fear and lies: “Men identifying as women [they mean trans women] were permitted to swim in the ladies’ pond on Hampstead Heath in North London and a woman with a fear of men was locked in an NHS women’s psychiatric ward with a burly 6ft-tall transgender patient.” They also wrote, “Ministers have vowed to defend women’s rights to exclude transgender people from female-only spaces such as changing rooms, lavatories and swimming sessions. In a significant victory for campaigners, the government has promised not to put the rights of those who identify as women ahead of those who are biologically female.” But there was never any intention of changing the Equality Act. The campaigners have been wasting their time, and won nothing.

That Sunday Times article quotes the government’s response to a petition from gender critical feminists. It adds nothing. “That does not necessarily mean we are proposing self-declaration of gender,” says the response, but they are having a consultation: why consult, if you have decided the outcome beforehand? The Guardian was initially cozened into publishing the same non-story, including an insulting comment from A Woman’s Place, but later added a comment from Stonewall putting the record straight. “The exemptions to this rule only apply to sensitive and complex services, for example refuges, where services can exclude trans people if they can demonstrate that is absolutely necessary, for example if inclusion would put that trans person at risk. However, these exemptions are rarely used and in almost all situations trans people are treated equally as is required by our equality laws.”

That Sunday Times article is a propaganda coup for the transphobes. There was no victory. There was no change proposed to the Equality Act. But they have spun this as them winning concessions pledging to retain the Equality Act exemptions, and their staunch press allies have gone along with it. Further, they have spun those exemptions as a right to exclude, which only applies in restricted circumstances. We need to point out how narrow the exemptions are.

There were a lot of good answers to the consultation, now published and summarised here.

In December 2019 the Scottish government published a draft bill and a further consultation.