Justin Webb

If the BBC were defunded, as the Conservative government seeks to do, broadcasting and newsgathering in Britain would be irreparably damaged. But it is institutionally transphobic, and makes complaints against them phenomenally difficult. Complain enough, and they suggest you write to the Executive Complaints Unit.

Here is my complaint against Justin Webb, explained for the Executive Complaints Unit in full. Continue reading

Lesbian and Gay News

If you are lesbian or gay, is “Lesbian and Gay News” for you? Well, what news does it cover? I looked at its 24 November front page- archive link.

On the original site, the header image scrolls between articles. The first article is on the chief executive of Stonewall, Nancy Kelley’s interview on Woman’s Hour, and Stonewall’s support of trans rights. You might think that lesbian and gay people at the BBC would be concerned that their employer was leaving Stonewall’s diversity champions scheme, and their union, BECTU, confirms they are. But “Lesbian and Gay News” is exultant. For the writer, Stonewall supports trans, so the BBC was right to leave Diversity Champions.

Conversion therapy is in the news, and any lesbian and gay publication would take notice. LGN does. Under the header, twelve articles are featured, and the first two are on conversion therapy. Both argue that gender transition is “conversion” of cis lesbian and gay people.

“The mother of a lesbian teenager” claims her “daughter” is being converted by his school. As they give a false, female name, I will give a male one: Luke came out to his parents as lesbian aged 12, and they were supportive, but when he came out as a trans boy shortly afterwards, his mother became vehemently opposed.

Such articles often give good news. The MP has not supported the mother, and nor has the local authority or the school. I dare to hope this is a case I heard about in 2017, and if so the boy shows phenomenal courage standing up against the onslaught of his mother’s campaigning. The GP’s comments are skewed as supportive of the mother, but the GP made the appropriate referral.

There is nothing about religious groups preaching that gay sex is wrong, only about trans. A 12 minute read and a 9 minute read- I read this rubbish so you won’t have to- are only about trans recognition. Gary Powell writes that Luke, by having his gender identity accepted, has suffered “homophobic conversion therapy”. He argues that because no-one is “the soul of one sex in the body of another”, trans people cannot suffer conversion therapy. I beg to differ.

Kat Howard writes about being assaulted by a trans woman from her university LGBT society when a student, saying the trans woman walked her home, pushed her into sex, and messaged continually for three weeks. When Howard blocked her, she told the LGBT society that Howard was a transphobe and a terf. Howard claims she raped two other lesbians.

Howard is a teacher. Arguably she should not be, as she is an anti-trans campaigner. She seeks to undermine the school’s relationships and sex education (RSE).

An allegation of three rapes is serious. It is no less credible than other #metoo allegations. However trans women generally, just like any other social group, are not defined by the actions of our worst. So the allegation is problematic if it is used to slur trans women in general.

What else? An article about turning liberal people into anti-trans campaigners, by using the lie of autogynephilia and the lie of rapid onset gender dysphoria.

Then there’s a review of a historical novel in which a woman passes as a man, for freedom, but is called lesbian. The review has a pretty large spoiler. There’s a video of a speech by anti-trans campaigner Allison Bailey, saying anti-trans campaigners should be able to attend the global conference on LGBT rights. There’s a claim that newspapers call anti-trans campaigning racist- well, the Guardian doesn’t, leave alone the Times. There’s an interview with the straight anti-trans campaigner Graham Linehan, and an article by a poor deluded trans woman exhorting “post-operative transsexuals” like herself to use men’s toilets, claiming otherwise male abusers will pretend to be trans.

Apart from the book review, might any of this site be interesting to a lesbian who was not passionately opposed to trans rights? Well, on 28 September there was an article about the lesbian relationship in the TV drama Vigil. It repeats a number of common opinions about lesbian drama- I too am ambivalent about TV and film representations- but then gets to the nonbinary character in Sex Education season 3, which it finds boring. Pink News does entertainment reviews so much better.

On 23 August, the site promoted a demonstration against Stonewall Diversity Champions. They do not want Stonewall to advise employers about discrimination against lesbian and gay people, because Stonewall also supports trans people. But this directly harms lesbian and gay people, as BECTU confirmed.

If you are lesbian and gay, would you be interested in Lesbian and Gay News? Yes, if you want attacks on Stonewall, the premier lesbian and gay charity in the UK, hatred condemnation mockery and denial of trans people’s existence, or adulation of straight anti-trans campaigners. Otherwise, probably not.

Trans women and sex offending

Are trans women more likely to be sex offenders than cis women?

The first item on the menu of anti-trans campaigning site “fair play for women” is Prisons, and it starts by saying male prisoners can ask to transfer to a woman’s prison. “All they need to do is self-identify as a woman”- without a gender recognition certificate or a psychiatric diagnosis. This is true. They can ask. But their request will not usually be granted. There are rules. The anti-trans site says, breathlessly, many are housed in sex offender institutions. “These are the prisoners who could become eligible for transfer to women’s prisons under a regime of sex self-ID.”

“Fair play for women” seeks to conflate self-ID, which is allowed under British law already, with the human right of prisoners to be housed according to our gender identity, which is constrained. They try to create a myth that self-ID is a new proposal, and a threat. This is untrue.

Trans woman prisoners may be housed in women’s prisons if they produce evidence of transition before charge. In March 2019, there were 163 transgender prisoners. 81 had been convicted of one or more sexual offences. There were no details of whether those prisoners were currently serving sentences for sexual offences. 129 were in men’s prisons, of whom 74 had been convicted of a sexual offence. There were just 34 trans women in women’s prisons.

So it is clear that though they are perfectly entitled to ask to be housed in women’s prisons, offenders will usually be refused.

Anti-trans campaigning site Women are Human produced “research” comparing the number of trans sex offenders in prison with the number of female sex offenders. 81 trans offenders, 126 female offenders, though there are far more cis women than trans people. They then argued that this showed a greater propensity to offend by trans women than cis women, so trans women are dangerous and should not be in women’s prisons.

Very few sexual offences are prosecuted. Most victims do not report crimes. In 2017 there were around a million sexual offences in England and Wales, but only 6960 offenders were found guilty of sexual offences.

Trans women may be more likely to be prosecuted for a sexual offence. A 17 year old trans woman fellates a 15 year old boy. His mates tell him she’s trans, and suddenly he’s angry. His parents go to the police. A cis woman in the same circumstances would be most unlikely to be prosecuted.

The site says trans women are 35-90 times more likely to commit sexual offences than cis women, based on the proportion of the population in prison convicted of sexual offences. However, this does not mention that most of these sex offenders are in men’s prisons.

In freedom, sexual predators do not pretend to be trans to access women’s spaces. That is a myth. They just push the door open. However in prison prisoners may have motivation to claim to be trans, and particularly sex offenders, already the lowest of the low in the prisoner hierarchy. They get to wear their own clothes. They might even make the claim to cause disruption.

So the site’s conclusion does not follow. They argue that trans women are more likely to be sexual offenders, therefore trans women should not be housed in women’s prisons. But they ignore the fact that most of these sex offenders may not be trans women at all.

And, I am not a sex offender. If I were imprisoned for environmental campaigning (so far I have barely risked arrest) I should be imprisoned as a woman, because that is what I am. And the law agrees.

Because sex offenders might lie that they are trans women, trans women in prison might not be believed. Trans women die in men’s prison.

A Complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Will trans women be excluded from women’s toilets in Britain?

Kishwer Falkner, Chair of the EHRC, has announced that they will issue new guidance claiming that businesses and organisations can exclude trans women from services including toilets and changing rooms. Before such guidance is issued, it is worthwhile complaining to them about Falkner’s comments, referring to the Code of Practice and existing Guidance. Continue reading

What the EHRC says now about trans exclusion

Getting Equality enacted was not an end in itself. What matters is that businesses and public services should act and plan more thoughtfully and responsibly, that people will be treated fairly as they go about their everyday lives. The EHRC would advise and model this fairness, and enforce the law where necessary. Continue reading

A potential anti-trans campaigner

Dear Bob,

You asked what the hoo-ha was about Dave Chapelle, and later said he’s a comedian, comedians say provocative things, what’s all the fuss about? You said you wanted to be inclusive, so you wanted to include “those who have needs around bodies with penises etc”. You thought I would take a different view of those trans women with penises “after what you’ve had done”, outing me to anyone watching who did not know my operation status. You say you are merely curious, and want to honour and respect everyone’s needs, but I see you at the edge of a rabbit hole and wonder how I might nudge you away from it. If I do this badly I might just push you in.

I don’t have Netflix. Trans people say Chapelle’s show is vile. I trust their judgment.

I know you do not see yourself as a bad person. You see yourself as having curiosity, and a wish to include everyone, including those cis women who speak so winsomely about their fear and hurt around bodies with penises, and their need for private spaces. These are good traits. I fear if I hint they could lead to trans exclusion I will push you down the rabbit hole. Affronted, you would say, “These trans people are totally unreasonable”, and listen more to those winsome voices.

If I said I enjoyed Jim Davidson in the 1990s, ignoring or not seeing how vile his racism was, you might say it is not like that at all. Davidson was last regularly on the BBC in 2002.

“What I’ve had done” doesn’t make a difference to who I was in 1999- in denial but knowing really that I had to transition and terrified of it, going out with a trans friend dressed female from a boat on the Norfolk Broads to country pubs and using the women’s loos. Someone in that situation, not having made a definite commitment to transition, would not be protected by the Equality Act now. But, in the situation I was in in 2003, having transitioned but not yet been cut, they would be protected. Those are the “bodies with penises”- “genuine” trans women who would be equally traumatised and terrified as the most recent rape victim, if their genitals were seen. You can’t tell the difference without taking our knickers down, because any penises will probably be tucked. Most of them want the operation.

It’s tempting to divide people up in this way. “Bodies with penises”- that’s what they are really, right? Take away the veil. No. I am a human being. I want to be seen as a whole human being. There are transphobes- I read what they say, and I see the transphobia. One said she could not use a women’s loo because of the possibility there might be a trans woman in there. That’s a phobic reaction. There are hardly any of us and it is unlikely there will be a trans woman. And it would not really matter if there were. You don’t see someone’s genitals in a public loo, and the trans woman seeks privacy just as any other user does.

“Bodies with penises”- oh, right. So they’re not frightened of me, they’re frightened of someone who looks exactly like me and can only be distinguished by a crotch inspection.

When you asked why people could not just live as feminine men, I heard a challenge. Well, my father managed it, why couldn’t I? Perhaps certain experiences or life circumstances made me do this. That’s what I said. I did not say that I paid a psychiatrist and psychologist for aversion therapy. I asked a clergyman, whose church I went to weekly, to lay hands on me hand pray over me to heal me. I joined the territorial army and went to the gym to make a man of myself. I am a huge fan of Abigail Thorn, who is 28, who says she went to the gym to bulk up and- make a man of herself. It’s what we do. I still feel ashamed of failing. I still wished I was not trans, even after I realised that would mean I did not exist and there would be someone else in my place.

I value knowing you (to the extent that I do). I call you a potential anti-trans campaigner and you might think that ridiculous and offensive, you’re just asking questions. Someone might not be an anti-vaxxer but just curious about what they have to say. What they say can sound persuasive, and does persuade people- apparently including Kishwer Falkner, chair of the EHRC. There are still “ex-gays” about, proclaiming their liberation from the homosexual yoke- see the Restored Hope Network. They persuade people too. So do anti-vaxxers. I know the disbelief of friends when someone becomes a covid-denier. The clue is in the word “winsome”.

Please, see me.

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.

Falsehoods told by anti-trans campaigners

Trans rights matter to anyone who takes human rights seriously, to anyone who knows that they are not free if anyone is unfree, to anyone who knows they flourish better as more are enabled to flourish. But trans rights affect only a tiny minority of people personally: there are very few trans people, between 0.1 and 1% of the population.

Trans rights also affect transphobes. If a woman feels unable to use public toilets because there might be a trans woman in there, then she is a transphobe. Society should take care of people who feel phobias, but not alter the world so that they will not face the thing they fear. Transphobes have a disproportionate view of the effect of trans people on them, and pay us disproportionate, fearful attention.

If anyone is scared seeing a trans woman in a women’s service, my heart goes out to them. They are not served at all by the anti-trans campaigners, and that trans woman is as unlikely to be dangerous as any other woman.

Anti-trans campaigners use falsehoods to pretend that trans rights harm others, or that others are affected, or that trans rights are more important than they are. They may convince themselves of these things- either because they are transphobes, or because they are radicalised by social media echo chambers, or because they make a profit from the billions of dollars available for anti-trans campaigning, or because they use culture war to distract from rightwing economic failure. So it is useful to know the kind of falsehoods they tell themselves and others.

I say “falsehood” rather than lie, because many may be deluded, not taking sufficient care to check whether what they say is true.

One falsehood is around what AMAB (Assigned male at birth) people might be seen in women’s services. Almost all will be entitled under law to be there, that is, to have a claim for discrimination under the Equality Act if excluded. They are referred to in the Act as “transsexual persons”, which means, those who have decided to transition from one sex to the other.

Some other groups might be there. There are trans women, transsexual in ordinary language but not in the meaning of the Act, who are considering transitioning but have not yet made a committed decision to do so, or who have decided they cannot at the moment. Transition, with the level of hatred and prejudice against trans people, is terrifying. These women may be among the most vulnerable trans women.

It is highly unlikely they will be cross-dressers, people who have no desire or intention to transition. Most cross-dressers do it in private, or underneath men’s clothes. However if they are cross-dressers, they are probably as harmless as women.

Anti-trans campaigners say they may be “predators”, violent men “self-id”ing as trans in order to enter women’s spaces. This is highly unlikely. When violent men go in women’s services, all they need do is push the door open.

A violent man would be very stupid to try to get a gender recognition certificate in order to enter women’s spaces. He would have demonstrated that he had planned his offence, increasing the penalties.

Some trans women are violent. And some cis women are violent: if you would not judge all cis women by Myra Hindley and Rose West, do not judge all trans women by violent trans women. We are not “all alike”, and the belief that we are is a strong indicator of prejudice against us, as it is with any minority group.

Anti-trans campaigners claim that being trans is caused by sexual perversion. This is not true. The main suggestion how is repeatedly proved wrong, and no more likely than that bad parenting or sexual abuse in childhood can make someone gay. However, even if something had turned someone trans, they are trans now.

Anti-trans campaigners tell falsehoods about the Equality Act, which allows trans women into women’s services from the moment they decide to transition. They even falsely claim to be in favour of trans rights while working against us.

The anti-trans campaigners attempt gaslighting when they don’t mention the word “trans”. They have various phraseology for this- “sex-based rights”, “single sex services” (which, unfortunately for them, in the Equality Act means including trans women) and the repeated suggestion that sex is different from gender. Arguably it is, but that is of no use at all in deciding the moral question of whether trans women should be allowed to use women’s services.

Some factual issues shade over into linguistic ones. Trans women prefer to be called “trans women”. Calling us “male bodied biological men” is an attempt to claim that our differences from men, and similarities to women, do not matter. Biology does not make us men, and it is politer to describe us with the words we choose. On that principle I no longer use the word “terf”.

The truth is that because there are so few trans women few people will notice much difference if trans women were kicked out of the women’s services we have been in for years. They rarely see us in real life anyway. So their main falsehood is that trans rights matter to you, unless you are trans, or in favour of human rights.

No, there is no such thing as “trans ideology” saying sex does not matter. All we need is that people accept trans people exist and are worthy of respect as human beings. This is not science denying: it is accepting the evidence of your own eyes. We exist. Of course sex matters, and allowing trans people to transition does not affect that. The term “gender identity” helps people understand what trans people are, unless they are deliberately failing to, but it is no part of an ideology and we could stop using it tomorrow.

Anti-trans campaigners go into all sorts of detail about all sorts of different issues. The detail is a way for them to distract themselves from their real lives. They can spend endless hours memorising details and honing their phraseology in their echo-chambers, rather than go into the real world and meet some trans people.

I shared this post, and people commented that it does not mention asexuals, or intersex people. This is a post about falsehoods told by anti-trans campaigners about trans people, and it does not mention lots of things. While some intersex people express as nonbinary, there is not such a campaign against intersex people as there is against trans people, though those intersex people assigned to one gender at birth and later changing to another suffer the same opposition as trans people do.

I did not mention sports, and immediately there started a huge thread on sports, with lots of detail. I am not qualified to comment on the effects of “a male puberty,” testosterone suppression or oestrogen on trans women. I have the anecdotal evidence from trans women that we experience a loss of strength and athleticism on transition, which echoes my own experience, and I was never strong or athletic.

Separate from moral issues of fairness, the facts that matter are that there is little research on how testosterone suppression and oestrogen affect athleticism; that no man would pretend to be trans in order to compete against women when that involves reduced testosterone levels; that all athletes have natural advantages as well as the results of hard work and training; and that some cis women are taller and stronger than some trans women.

I have not here particularly addressed the moral issue, but that issue is simply stated: the rights and needs of trans people have the same importance as anyone else’s, and fairness means fairness to trans women as well as to cis women.