Liz Truss and Anna Akhmatova

The world is changed utterly, since December, but one thing that continues is conservatives seeking out vulnerable minorities to hate, so as to spread division. Trans people, especially trans women and children, have been targeted by Liz Truss, “Minister for” (actually against) “Women and Equalities”. I will write to my MP.

Truss says she wants “Protection of single sex spaces”. She is lying. Gender Recognition has no effect on single sex spaces, which are governed by the Equality Act.

She wants us “Free to live our lives as we wish”- as long as we behave in increasingly constrained acceptable ways, restricted for the good of others. “Checks and balances,” she says. Oh, totally reasonable rules for the good of everyone. Ha.

And she says she wants to “protect” children and young people. Truss claims she is better qualified than specialist gender psychiatrists and endocrinologists to determine what is good for under 18s, and that is to make sure none of them have treatment to aid transition. She produces the Tory bugbear, the ordinary child hoodwinked by trans ideology rushing heedless into “irreversible decisions” to prevent trans children getting the care they need.

Meanwhile I went out for my daily exercise, and also wanted to take some photos of the eerie silent world we are now in. This out of town shopping centre would have been hoaching, but for covid 19.



And it was odd to see a Police Community Support Officer walking along this unmetalled road. We are allowed to be there for exercise, and I want to be there for time in nature, too, time with the birds and the lakes, to preserve my mental health. It is a lone young woman, I don’t think she’ll be arresting anyone, but she might be seeing if there were breaches of rules for a more heavy handed presence later. I saw her twice, both times studying a phone.

I am frightened, by a conservative government which handles the crisis badly, with more people dying of slow suffocation here than elsewhere in Europe, and with the deaths not accurately counted, but which still finds time to promote hate- quietly, subtly at first, with this new target. I am fearful for my vulnerable friends. And the world is beautiful. Never has the contrast been so sharp for me: it is always there, but it is so much stronger now.

Fear and loss.
Wonder and beauty.
Death and God.

Anna Akhmatova puts it beautifully:

Everything is plundered, betrayed, sold,
Death’s great black wing scrapes the air,
Misery gnaws to the bone.
Why then do we not despair?

By day, from the surrounding woods,
cherries blow summer into town;
at night the deep transparent skies
glitter with new galaxies.

And the miraculous comes so close
to the ruined, dirty houses
something not known to any one at all,
but wild in our breast for centuries.

I am afraid. I read a piece in the New York Times about how covid suffocates people so they don’t realise it, and immediately ordered an oxymeter. It is predicted to arrive in June. There is a small risk of my dying in the most hideous way, and a much greater risk for all the people I know who are over 70 or with certain conditions. Liz Truss chooses this moment to announce her campaign against trans people. Trans children must not be treated, as a political decision. Single sex spaces- No Transwomen!- must be maintained or extended. This is couched in terms of “protection”- protecting vulnerable women and children from the Trans Threat. I am more afraid than ever, and today the sunshine is beautiful.

---

I wrote that, and then thought, possibly I should give the minister the benefit of the doubt, until I hear more. In Scotland, the government offers a good reform, but still talks about single sex spaces. It is reassurance for the phobes rather than a serious threat to our rights. I am fearful and unknowing at the moment and it reduces my ability to trust. Then I remember she wants to stop treatment for children, and that is unequivocal. She trusts Daily Mail editorials over doctors. She trusts herself over specialist psychiatrists.

How gender recognition could change society

Gender recognition may cost people. An increase in the numbers of people obtaining legal gender recognition might increase the likelihood that a business would encounter a transitioned or transitioning employee or customer. This may require such organisations to incur costs in formulating policies. Or indeed costs in training staff.

I was black affronted at that. No-one should profit from blighted lives. If gender recognition encourages people to transition and live as ourselves, we will flourish and live better. So we will contribute more to the economy, incidentally. And if businesses encounter more transitioned people, we become familiar. People realise our eccentricity does not really matter. We might buy more from them.

This was from the business regulatory impact assessment for the Scottish Government’s gender recognition consultation. Yes, these things are dull, and occasionally they show us how others see us, as a potential problem. What if an employee says something rude? I might be liable to a court case! Oh, mercy-me…

The impact assessment on the Registrar General for Scotland, which would take over from the English-funded Gender Recognition Panel, suggests set-up costs of £300,000-£350,000, running costs of £150,000, and annual applicant numbers of around 250, extrapolated from Irish and Danish numbers. Scotland has around a twelfth of the UK population. In Great Britain there were about 2,500 applicants last year, a huge increase: in 2016 it was about 250, and there were only 4910 GRCs issued from 2004-2018. So even though we have to pay high fees and get medical certificates, and even though there was a promise of a simpler system, and even though it is purely symbolic and entitles us to nothing at all in itself, we are still seeking GRCs, and have reached the levels the Scottish government expects on a self-declaration system: this means the numbers expected all have specialist psychiatrist’s diagnoses. The idea that anyone seeking a GRC would not be a “real transsexual” is a myth.

The Scottish government is willing to spend £1000 per applicant for three years (factoring in the set-up costs) falling to £600 per applicant after that.

Under the current scheme there have been two appeals against a refusal to grant a gender recognition certificate, one in the High Court in England, which was successful. I have not found the Court of Session appeal.

Widows and widowers can get a pension from their deceased spouse’s pension scheme. When civil partnerships started in 2005, this right only applied to pension contributions made after 2005. Similarly with equal marriage: a gay marriage survivor of a deceased partner would only get a pension based on contributions since 2005. Less money if you’re gay.

However the Supreme Court reversed that in 2017. Pensions for surviving spouses are equalised.

Trans people are disadvantaged, but the Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment cannot state how many more of us are homeless or jobless than the general population. They do say that 53% of trans people, and 42% of cis people in Scotland, have an annual income less than £20,000. And among 35-44 year olds, 6% of cis people are not in education or employment, but 21% of trans people.

National Records of Scotland are proposing to include a trans status question in the 2021 census. TERF Joan McAlpine, MSP, intervened to ensure the question did not “conflate sex with gender identity” when the Bill was introduced in June, and TERFs are still huffing away about it now. The question is apparently not yet drafted, though “A binary sex question with self-identification guidance therefore supports participation for all people with the census and clarifies to data providers and data users the basis of the question.”

Having different fees for a GRC, for people with different income, could cost more in administration than the higher bands raised. If the Registrar decides to charge fees there will be yet another consultation.

There’s a Data Protection Impact Assessment on how data on gender recognition will be stored, at which point I finally glazed over.

Gender Recognition Reform in Scotland

The new draft law on gender recognition in Scotland has been published. There’s another consultation on it, which shows how far the hate campaign against trans women has come. The proposal is good enough, but the commentary and blog posts talk incessantly of “women’s rights”- the commentary says there is no threat to women’s rights, of course, because that is simply true, but raising the matter will encourage anti-trans campaigners to complain. Continue reading

Maria Miller

Maria Miller MP spoke out for trans people last week. She is the kind of Tory who might not do too much damage to the country, if she were in opposition: she was a Remainer, but last month spoke out for the Prime Minister’s Brexit arrangements. She overclaimed expenses, and the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner recommended she repay £45,000, and she wanted to reduce the abortion time limit to twenty weeks, but she also wanted to extend abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland. As far as possible, she is a moderate Tory.

She said the government was doing nothing for us, almost as clearly as she could. The government had focused its work for trans people on GRA reform, while “many trans people don’t have access to basic healthcare”. And on GRA reform little has been actually done.

Well, yes. GRA reform affects whether we can get a different gender marker on birth and marriage certificates, and that is it. The hatefest which has followed, with confected arguments about what it means and the obsession with trans people in certain media- only to make us an Out-group, whom it is acceptable to hate- has been exacerbated by the government’s delay.

The transphobe Helen Lewis attacked Maria Miller. She misrepresented the case from the start.

The heart of the fake feminist case against trans recognition is that there is some imagined threat to single sex services. Helen Lewis continues to claim that: in her latest article she linked to an earlier one, claiming that GRA reform means men in women’s spaces. That’s governed by the Equality Act, but Lewis continues to express concerns about self-ID and its impact on single-sex spaces.

Lewis claims she has been abused as a TERF, and as transphobic, though she believes trans women are women and trans men are men. Well. Is she a transphobe? She claimed a law reform which gives a right to an extract birth certificate threatened women’s spaces. That’s spreading falsehoods and fear against us.

I’ve just checked marriage certificates. There is no gender indicator on the current marriage certificate. My GRC stops me forming a civil partnership with a man, but allows me to form a civil partnership with a woman (if I could find one). GRC reform affects no-one, hardly even trans people. I haven’t shown my new birth certificate to anyone. Though it was expensive to get it, and once it was possible to get a birth certificate marked F I wanted it.

Lewis’ transphobia lies in her insistence on surgery. What used to be called “sex change surgery”, she writes, as if other names are beyond her. She distinguishes between “transsexuals” (good) and “transgender people” (bad). If you don’t hate your genitals and desire surgery, you are not proper trans. However the DSM and ICD do not require a desire for surgery for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

If trans women are women, and trans men are men, trans women should be in women’s spaces. Stop fearmongering about us.

Debbie Hayton wrote in the Morning Star that The government’s handling of transgender rights has been mismanaged from the start- delays in access to healthcare are harming trans people’s quality of life. I find this unobjectionable; but trans women who hate her because she supports the terfs and transphobes objected to her even saying this. It’s tragic. That anyone calls for more funding for trans health is a good thing, whatever their views on anything else.

To cleanse your palette after all this: a summary of human needs from Radio 4. Apparently we need autonomy, competence and relatedness: we need freedom of choice, we need to feel we are quite good at doing something and we need to have social bonds with people. Yup.

Gender recognition consultation: questions and answers

The consultation on Gender recognition closed on Monday 22 October at noon, extended from Friday 19 October at 11pm because the servers could not cope with demand. This is what I wrote, and I would love to hear what you think. How can an individual give evidence strengthening the case for gender recognition?

The first questions are about the process. What should you have to do to prove you are serious, or to prove you are trans, before you can get a GRC? They go step-by-step through the process.

1. If you are a trans person, have you previously applied, or are you currently applying, for a Gender Recognition Certificate? If yes, please tell us about your experience of the process. If you have applied, were you successful in obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate?

I got my GRC in January 2006, more than three years after transitioning. I found it extremely expensive and intrusive. I had to pay for further medical reports. Proof of living as a woman was easy for me, as my employer had been supportive and I kept my job from before, so I had monthly wage slips. If I had not had a job, or my job had been more precarious, I would not have got the evidence so easily. Someone might change their name and presentation but have difficulty getting their bank or the passport office to recognise that: the passport office demanded a letter from my GP.

I had no difficulty understanding the requirements, but I had a degree and a professional job. I had a friend who was a solicitor who could hear me affirm the statutory declaration.

I received a GRC without further correspondence, but I had to wait for a response. I knew I was trans. I should not have to have someone judging that.

2. If you are a trans person, please tell us what having Gender Recognition Certificate means, or would mean, to you.

I have not shown it to anyone. I have not felt the need to tell anyone that I have one, except when discussing gender recognition and what it means. It has not affected my right to marry or get a pension earlier. But it means that my womanhood is affirmed by the law, and when my womanhood- my right to be me, my right to express myself as I truly am- is challenged thoughtlessly in the press, in the street and throughout the culture, that means a lot to me. The law is on my side.

3. Do you think there should be a requirement in the future for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria?

No. There are different terms, including “Gender identity disorder”, and other terms may be coined in the future. The draft ICD says that gender incongruence is not a mental illness, and says The individual experiences a strong desire to be treated (to live and be accepted) as a person of the experienced gender. That is, the diagnostician is judging on the basis of what the patient wants. But I know what I want. I should not need a psychiatrist to validate that.

Gender dysphoria should not be medicalised. Some people will want to see a doctor, to discuss how they feel and what they want to do, and to have medical treatment. Others don’t, and should not need to.

4. Do you also think there should be a requirement for a report detailing treatment received?

Ew! No! You’re asking what’s between my legs. Gross! How dare you!

That is a dehumanising question. People would be sitting in judgment on me, as if transition was an inherently suspicious activity and I had to prove I was genuine. But trans is part of ordinary human diversity. Some people are trans- “Get over it!” as Stonewall says. I should be believed I am trans unless there is evidence otherwise.

The New Zealand parliament is considering its Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. The NZ Human Rights Commission provided useful evidence to the select committee, recommending that no diagnosis or evidence of medical treatment should be necessary.

5. Under the current gender recognition system, an applicant has to provide evidence to show that they have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years.
(A) Do you agree that an applicant should have to provide evidence that they have lived in their acquired gender for a period of time before applying?

No. Transition is not something anyone undertakes lightly. We have wanted to for a long time before we do it. We might spend a long time planning and preparing: I spent eighteen months after deciding I would do it. It is a risk and a challenge. We learn who our friends are.

Now, some people who have transitioned are validated by the law, and some are not. We are all committed to transition. The time I needed that validation was shortly after transition. I was being insulted in the street, and losing friends. The moment I changed my expression at work, or changing my name, was proof of my commitment.

(B) If you answered yes to (A), do you think the current evidential options are appropriate, or could they be amended?
(C) If you answered yes to (A), what length of time should an applicant have to provide evidence for?
(D) If you answered no to (A), should there be a period of reflection between making the application and being awarded a Gender Recognition Certificate?

No. For all the uses a GRC could have, either as evidence or as psychological reassurance, its greatest need is just after transition.

6. Currently applicants for a gender recognition certificate must make a statutory declaration as part of the process.
(A) Do you think this requirement should be retained, regardless of what other changes are made to the gender recognition system?

Yes. Anyone can make a statutory declaration in front of a magistrate. If the required terms are freely available on line, so that a draft could be downloaded and changed to fit the applicant, it should be simple enough. The statutory declaration gives solemnity to the occasion. It protects by criminal sanctions against frivolous or fraudulent applications.

(B) If you answered yes to (A), do you think that the statutory declaration should state that the applicant intends to ‘live permanently in the acquired gender until death’?

No. I am clearly trans. I have the diagnosis, and I have been transitioned for sixteen years. When I transitioned, I had heard of people reverting, and thought I might find myself reverting- but even if in five years’ time I was trying to live male again, I knew that I had to transition, to try it, before I could be reconciled to that. Seeking a GRC, with a statutory declaration, is sufficient proof of serious intent.

(C) If you answered no to (A), do you think there should be any other type of safeguard to show seriousness of intent?

I can’t think what that would be. If you have a suggestion, please comment below. Possibly, just wanting to apply is sufficient proof of seriousness of intent. What cis person wants to declare themselves trans?

8. Currently, applicants must pay £140 to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate.
(A) Do you think the fee should be removed from the process of applying for legal gender recognition?
(B) If you answered no to (A), do you think the fee should be reduced?

Possibly, the Stat dec should just go to the registry where your birth certificate is, then they could issue the GRC and the revised birth certificate. Why should there be a central body dealing with gender recognition, or a register of GRCs? This should not be complex. People are trans. So there should be no fee beyond that for the additional birth certificate.

The Government is keen to understand more about the financial cost of achieving legal gender recognition, beyond the £140 application fee.
(C) What other financial costs do trans individuals face when applying for a gender recognition certificate and what is the impact of these costs?

Costs of getting medical evidence might double the fee. Solicitors may charge for drafting and swearing the Stat dec. Clearly, something is putting people off. I have been unemployed, and when unemployed would not have been able to afford a GRC.

 ♥♥♥

The consultation asks about the effects of gender recognition on other people. Of course there aren’t any, not that should prevent gender recognition; but the consultation gives a space for gender critical feminists to claim the end of women’s rights or autonomy. I hope the government does not use their ravings as an excuse to ignore our international human rights.

7. The Government is keen to understand more about the spousal consent provisions for married persons in the Gender Recognition Act. Do you agree with the current provisions?

No. Now, a married person can apply for a GRC with a statutory declaration from the spouse consenting to recognition. If the spouse does not consent, the person applies for an “interim” GRC which either party can use to apply for the marriage to be annulled. After annulment, the person can get a full GRC. There have been 196 interim GRCs, and 130 of them have been converted to full GRCs.

Marriage should not give rights of control over the spouse. Anyone should be able to get their gender recognised. Either party might want a divorce after the gender was recognised, and existing law would allow either to claim it.

9. Do you think the privacy and disclosure of information provisions in section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act are adequate?

It’s a criminal offence to out someone in particular circumstances, but no-one has ever been prosecuted for it. It should be a crime to out someone with the intention of causing them harm, and a crime recklessly to out someone where harm has resulted. More here.

10. If you are someone who either has, or would want to undergo legal gender transition, and you have one or more of the protected characteristics [grounds for protection against discrimination], which protected characteristics apply to you? You may tick more than one box. Please give us more information about how your protected characteristic has affected your views on the GRC application process.

Well. White people are protected against race discrimination, and men against most sex discrimination. Cis people are not protected: anyone can lawfully discriminate in favour of trans people. Anyone is protected against discrimination on grounds of age. Sexual orientation means orientation towards the same sex, the opposite sex, or either sex: so if you change gender, you change orientation too unless you are Bi. But perception matters too: if I am perceived as gay, and discriminated against because of that, even though I am not perceived as trans, I would have a claim even if I am straight. Proof of motivation can be difficult.

If I were to claim equal pay for work of equal value, the person I compared myself to would have to be male. Men are likely to be paid more, but these claims are difficult.

11. Is there anything you want to tell us about how the current process of applying for a GRC affects those who have a protected characteristic?

There is nothing in the consultation about young people. At the moment, you cannot apply for a GRC before the age of 18, and might not have the evidence then. The Scottish consultation proposed allowing 16 year olds to apply, and various ways parents could affirm for younger children. Mermaids, the charity for trans youth, has a statement on this.

This is also the space for the gender critical feminists to do their stuff. All accusations that gender recognition means the death of feminism, the end of women’s rights and an irruption of men in women’s spaces, perving and assaulting, go here.

Yes, I am mocking. No, I am not taking those accusations seriously, because they are completely groundless and increasing gender recognition elsewhere has furnished no evidence to support them.

Then there are a series of questions on how gender recognition might affect people with rights under the Equality Act exemptions. Initially, I thought them stupid questions. They depend on the interpretation of the Equality Act, so are issues of law rather than fact. After gender recognition, we remain “transsexual persons” according to that Act. They give an opportunity for anyone to claim they are affected, and explain why. I don’t think there is any reason anyone would be affected.

12. Do you think that the participation of trans people in sport, as governed by the Equality Act 2010, will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. Women remain subject to gender tests. Sports bodies can make rules about safety and fairness, and clearly could ban a trans woman who had not had hormone therapy on those grounds.

13. (A) Do you think that the operation of the single-sex and separate-sex service exceptions in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. They can still exclude trans people in rare, particular cases.

(B) If you provide a single or separate sex service, do you feel confident in interpreting the Equality Act 2010 with regard to these exemptions?

I can see that some people might not feel confident. Excluding someone leaves you open to a claim of discrimination, and even if you are likely to win you still face worry and expense. But if there is a good reason (a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim) they may exclude.

(C) If you are a trans person who has experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault, were you able to access support?

I have not, thank God, but I understand some services include trans folk. Why should they not?

14. Do you think that the operation of the occupational requirement exception in relation to gender reassignment in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. Single sex services will still be able to employ cis people of that sex. The consultation document explains that the Equality Act exemptions will still apply. But, again, there is room for the “Help help the sky is falling” interjections. I hope they only want junior civil servants to get a good laugh. I fear such meretricious objections will be taken seriously.

Similarly, single sex communal accommodation (q15) and armed forces combat effectiveness (q16) will not be affected. The government don’t think insurance (q18) will be affected, and nor do I. Q19 refers to other public services, including hospitals and prisons. There are provisions for dangerous cis women to be placed in the male estate, so these will continue to apply to dangerous trans women. Prisons are underfunded death traps, unfit for human habitation, and a disgrace, but that is not going to be affected by gender recognition.

17. Do you think that the operation of the marriage exception as it relates to trans people in the Equality Act 2010 will be affected by changing the Gender Recognition Act?

No. Religious people are officially allowed to be bigotted against us, because of their “beliefs”. Then again, it should be. A baptised member of, say, the Assemblies of God or the Jehovah’s Witnesses should be able to force them to recognise her/his gender. But there is no proposal to change this law.

Q20 asks about non-binary gender, and that’s tomorrow’s post.

Gender Recognition reform

Should we be able to change our gender without medical evidence? Of course. I know who I am, and you do too. Will we be able to? I hope so. The government consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act has now been published, along with “Easy-read” documents explaining it aimed at people with learning difficulties or low literacy.

The government estimates there are between 200,000 and 500,000 trans people in the UK. 4910 of us have gender recognition certificates, recognising our true gender. Not all that half million have transitioned: my crude estimate puts that at about 40,000. By transition, I mean, changing name and gender expression permanently, as I have done. I have a woman’s name, clothes, hairstyle. My mannerisms are my own, but before transition I attempted to make them manly and now no longer do so. My voice is variable, as I did not work hard enough at the speech therapy exercises.

That means the number who have transitioned is far less than the number of trans people. Some might be in complete denial and internalised transphobia, some might express themselves in their true gender in private, or in closed, secretive clubs, some might think they had a sexual perversion rather than gender incongruence, some might express their true gender in public, but not all the time. Some might express their true gender in words and mannerisms, but not in symbols like clothes. Any amount of true gender expression might go with any level of self-acceptance, from total denial and shame to full acceptance.

At the moment, there is gender recognition for people who transition, seeing a specialist psychiatrist, getting a diagnosis, changing their name and living in their true gender, though not necessarily passing. The consultation asks if the process should still require

medical evidence,
evidence of living in the true gender for a period of time,
a statutory declaration leaving a frivolous or fraudulent application open to criminal prosecution, and/or
the intention to “live permanently in the acquired gender until death”.
“Should there be any other safeguard to show seriousness of intent?”

The questions are not written to lead to either answer. You are invited to say yes or no, and why. There is no clear indication of the government’s intent.

The purpose of a consultation, a cynical civil servant (that may be a tautology) told me, is to get evidence to support doing what you wanted to do. I fear the Tory government. I fear that they want evidence to justify them being restrictive. I fear Brexit means not bothering about human rights any more. But the question is, what harm would it do? If someone wants their true gender recognised, why shouldn’t they have it?

I hope reform will mean more people transitioning, and being more visible. We will still be seeing psychiatrists because we want to make sense of our feelings, consider other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and discuss what to do. Then we will change name and gender presentation, intending for that change to be permanent, and then get a GRC. Because transition lets us be fully ourselves, express who we really are, stop living a lie, stop pretending. Gender is restrictive and Procrustean, and this is our way of escaping it.

Some people worry that someone might get a GRC without transitioning, still presenting in the birth gender sometimes or even all the time. Would anyone actually do that? Would cis men get a GRC as a woman to enter women’s spaces? Would trans people get a GRC without an intention to permanently transition? If a woman can go out with short hair, no makeup, t-shirt and jeans, what does “living in the acquired gender” mean, anyway? Would a man pretend to have a GRC, in order to get into women’s toilets?

I don’t think anyone would. Would a cis man want to declare he is a woman, either in front of a magistrate or at a toilet door? There are contemptible game-players about, who might, but they have other ways of being arseholes. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility, and not so likely to be a reason to prevent trans people getting gender recognition.

What I want from this reform is for being trans to be less of a big deal. Making it easier makes it more normal. The result is to blur the boundaries between genders so that people can express themselves more freely. It might reduce the pressure to have surgery and hormones: if a trans boy can be accepted without question or continual “mistakes” about his pronouns as a boy, he might not need to wear his binder so tight. Telling him he’s a girl, really, puts more pressure on him to prove himself.

There is enough of a difference between male and female presentation for trans to have meaning. Trans people often have visible signs of our birth gender which drive us to signal our true gender more clearly.

The consultation is a chance for trans people to become more visible and more accepted. This will reduce the hurt and fear around trans people. We will be part of ordinary human diversity. We will be safer as a result. People will blossom and flourish as our shame decreases. We will express ourselves as we truly are.

My estimate of the number transitioned I got as follows. 6900 trans people (excluding non-binary) responded to the government’s National LGBT Survey. 9.4% of them had a GRC (11.6% of 5600, excluding those unaware of the GRC procedure). 4910 people have a GRC. So, if the proportion of trans people in the UK who have a GRC is the same as the proportion of respondents who have a GRC, 52,153 are trans; but 16.6% had not started transitioning, so 43,495 have started transitioning. This takes no account of whether any particular group would be more likely to respond to the survey, whether people who have not started transitioning, people transitioning or people who have completed transitioning, so is an extremely crude figure. So I have limited it to one significant figure. I am quite sure the order of magnitude is correct. If there are 500,000 trans people, only a small fraction of those would transition or consider transitioning. People identifying as non-binary were not asked if they had a GRC, and they might. So that would change the figure. As GRCs have been awarded since 2005, some people with GRCs will have died, and some may have reverted, so the number of people living in the acquired sex with a GRC will be less than 4910. About 7500 non-binary people answered the survey.

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.

Ain’t I a woman?

We say we are women and have always been women, even before transition. Don’t deadname me. Apart from a vociferous minority, most on the Left, or anyone with respect for human rights or common politeness, will call us “women”. What does the law say?

In Corbett v Corbett, a case for nullity of marriage where a cis man married a trans woman, Mr Justice Ormrod said to establish whether someone was a man or a woman you should consider psychological factors as well as chromosomes, gonads and sex organs. A doctor said, We do not determine sex- in medicine we determine the sex in which it is best for the individual to live. Doctors are not concerned only with objective facts, but helping people to function as best we can. However the judge was deciding the case in a marriage, which he said required straight sex, and there can be no straight sex with a woman whose chromosomes and pre-operative gonads and sex organs were male. I am not concerned to determine the ’legal sex’ of the respondent at large, said the judge. April Ashley was paying national insurance, then different for men and women, as a woman. The judge saw no objection to that. So we could not marry, but we could be treated as women for all other purposes.

Then came the Gender Recognition Act, in 2004. At the time there were Civil Partnerships for gay people, which were not called “marriage” but were more or less similar. Equal marriage came in 2013. The GRA provided that a marriage must end before a gender recognition certificate was granted, which implies that was because two people of the same sex cannot be married. Now, a civil partnership must be converted into a marriage before a GRC is issued, apparently because two people of the opposite sex cannot be in a civil partnership.

Before the GRA, we could get our passports changed, to indicate we were female. Even married people could. We can get that change before getting a GRC. When a full GRC is issued, (s.9) the person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender (so that, if the acquired gender… is the female gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a woman). My sex is female. My gender is female. Sex offences legislation in Scotland says that it is rape if a penis enters a vagina without consent, whether those are surgically created or not. But the GRA says a GRC does not prevent a woman with an unreconstructed penis from being found guilty of rape.

Before my GRC I was treated as a woman, with the clear exception of marriage and possibly other exceptions. After my GRC I am a woman for all legal purposes; but the father of a child is still the “father”.

We need to be treated as women when dressed as women, even when for most of the time we are still presenting male. My psychiatrist gave me a card to show people if I were challenged in a woman’s loo. The Equality Act protects us from the moment we propose to undergo… a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex. Physiological is clear- hormones and surgery. Other attributes include social relations: if I intend without hormones or surgery to express myself female, then I seek to be reassigned.

I am protected from being treated less favourably because I am seeking gender reassignment- in employment, services, public services, premises, education, and clubs and associations. I would be treated less favourably if I were made to use a man’s loo. There is no law preventing people being treated less favourably because they are cis.

There is an exception (sch. 9, para 1(3)(a)) if it is shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim to require a worker not to be a “transsexual person”. That applies whether or not I have a GRC.

In some cases, services can be provided only to people of one sex. Women’s refuges might argue that. It is not discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment (sch 3, para 28) to exclude someone from a single sex service if that is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. So a women’s refuge might treat me as a man even after I get my GRC: they are discriminating on the ground of gender reassignment, but that is lawful.

Law only matters when there is a dispute. A man can go to a woman’s toilet if no-one challenges him, They tend not to, as they anticipate a challenge, fear mockery for lacking manhood or accusations of being a sex predator, or feel it would not be right. So first what matters is what society considers reasonable: if I, before transition, dare go into a woman’s toilet, dare anyone challenge me? If, after transition, I seek help from a women’s refuge, do they think it reasonable to exclude me? If there is an all-woman shortlist, do we go along with it using the normal definition of “woman”, which includes trans women?

Before I went full time, I went into women’s loos when dressed female. The Labour Party can decide that I can join the women’s forum, and if it is not clear from their rules I can go along, and no-one has objected to my face. Many people say that is right. The State has been giving us passports saying F and driving licences saying we are female long before the GRA. Even before I transitioned, I had a credit card with the title “Miss”.

The Scottish parliament has just enacted a “gender representation objective” for a public board [which] is that it has 50% of non-executive members who are women. The Act specifies, that “woman” includes trans women if we are living as a woman. That would apply immediately we went full time. Other matters may be disputed on a case by case basis.

Trans feminism

Trans rights are essential to feminism, for they are the way to value all that a woman can be, from ultra-feminine to (almost) trans man. Trans rights are a feminist issue. Trans people advance feminist concerns.

I spent half an hour last night on Youtube watching a feminist attack trans rights on feminist grounds. She told of the opposition to the women’s suffrage movement a century ago, by women as well as men, based on the idea that women were different and would not have the objectivity to judge the interests of the public sphere. She has been held back by this persisting idea of difference, which is the heart of women’s oppression, and which she says “trans ideology” actively enshrines.

That might be true if trans were static, one way of being trans being the only way. But trans people are creative, finding new ways of being ourselves in our own spaces, in performance writing and entertainment, and in ordinary lives in the world. Trans is a force undermining that idea of difference between sexes and promoting the truth of the variation within the sexes which increases the freedom of everyone.

I want to relate to others as myself, with minimal pretence to comply to gender norms. This is easier after transition. I tried to “make a man” of myself, with a restrictive idea of how a man should be. Expressing myself as a woman freed me. If it were indeed seen as leaping a chasm, becoming something utterly different, that would be conservative, enshrining difference. When the doctors got hold of the idea of trans, taking it out of our own subcultures, they produced a medicalised idea of transition, involving hair removal, genital alteration and hormone treatments, to create a person who would look like a man, or look like a woman, undressed as well as clothed.

The idea that I am really a woman, with a woman’s brain, spirit or character, which this feminist finds so oppressive because it means there is a difference between men and women beyond our reproductive function, freed me to transition. Thousands of us, rather than tens of thousands in Scotland where she was speaking and which proposes altering the law, might be freed from a conception of their gender which they find oppressive, yet they cannot change without this drastic step- by allowing transition. Out of 5.3m people, ten thousand would be 0.2%, a large number actually to transition.

The idea of a transsexual person freed me to transition, but even as I did I realised there were two questions.

Am I transsexual?
Will I be happier if I transition?

The second is more important. First the ideology, then the idea frees me to express my gender by teaching me that it is possible. So individuals and society together produce formalised routes for transition and recognition. Trans people become more visible, vocal and encouraged, and empowered to do something about the restrictions of their gender rather than living fearful, stultified lives or ending them.

As we become empowered, we critique the medicalised concept of transition. Do we really need genital surgery? Should someone necessarily be sterilised before their gender is recognised? No, we say. Do we need to live in stealth, where people think we were born (wo)men? No, because that is in fear of transphobic violence- it may be prudent sometimes but it oppresses us with an impossible ideal of beauty.

Gender ceases to be a choice of two, almost entirely aligned with physical sex, and becomes a palette of possibilities. It is happening- here, now, in Scotland and beyond, with people who would never think of themselves as trans but also with trans people, blurring the lines and increasing freedom. Eventually the two groups will meet, a spectrum of gender rather than a division between those self-identified as trans or not-trans. The increasing complexity of ideas such as genderqueer and non-binary accelerate this change.

Femininity is oppressive when people are judged as less because of their natural unfeminineness. Then femininity can seem merely oppressive, a tool to oppress women. Trans shows that femininity freely chosen is a source of strength and self-actualisation, valuable in its own right for AFAB as well as AMAB. I see trans men choosing what I rejected, and so am enabled to see value in it.

That feminist on the video, wanting to say “NO” to a trans woman entering a woman’s bathroom, and getting a loud cheer for rejecting the idea that women must always put others’ feelings before their own, paradoxically aids the conservatives by restricting trans people to a narrow, absolute concept of transition. She opposes the law being more liberal, and discerns a loosening of the concept of a “sex change”, though in Scotland the proposals would still require us to swear we would live in the other gender life long. Allowed to grow freely, the trans movement would increase the range of gender expression and freedom.

Trans is a feminist movement, promoting the freedom of all, including cis women who do not conform to the cultural stereotype of femininity, including that woman who rails against it. Many cis women support trans rights. As Margaret Atwood says, A war among women, as opposed to a war on women, is always pleasing to those who do not wish women well. Women strongly opposed to trans rights should consider whether any of the wrongs they rail against has any realistic chance of happening.

Trans women are no threat

Self-declaration is the way to make gender recognition fair. I do not need a psychiatrist to tell me who I am. No-one who is AMAB will declare herself to be a woman lightly, and a few safeguards will make that risk minimal: requiring a change of name, requiring an oath or affirmation, making it slightly more difficult to change back, will prevent people doing it for laughs.

When cis women say self-declaration is a threat, or that women should be consulted, it is hard to find what they feel the threat comes from. From all trans women? We generally transition because we are soft and gentle and not conventionally masculine. Whether or not you think that is “feminine” or womanly or women would be like that but for Patriarchy, it means we are not likely to hurt other women. We don’t like to be noticed, because when we are we may suffer violence from others. If you call us a threat that is threatening to us: others may feel justified in attacking us to “defend” themselves or others.

Or is it from a small minority of trans women? Some of us are violent; but then so are some cis women. There is a greater risk in a changing room from cis women, because there are more of them. Most people are peaceable.

Or from men pretending to be trans women, to get access to women’s space? There should be no minimum standards of visible femininity to be an acceptable trans woman, because a lot of us don’t pass, and “women’s clothes” is a problematic category. But people can see where something is off, and generally a trans woman will want to appear to be making an effort. We don’t want to be noticed, because that is a threat to us. Men are a threat to women, but do not need to dress as women to attack women.

Possibly particular groups could be treated differently. Perhaps self-declaration should not be enough to transfer a prisoner from a men’s to a women’s prison. But there could be easy safeguards in such cases, requiring psychiatric assessment and a period of adjustment before transfer. Having to express themselves as women in a male prison, or go into segregation, would deter all but the most determined prisoners, and the trans women are the most determined.

Where a woman has been attacked or violated recently, she may feel particularly vulnerable. She may feel a woman’s changing room should be a safe space, and be disturbed to see someone she reads as a man there. I sympathise with that. I try to be sensitive. I am not demonstrative in women’s space, but make myself small so as not to be noticed. That seems to be the source of the objection, though: the problem is all trans women, and cis women may be offended or disturbed to see us in women’s space. That is, it is a phobic reaction, a disproportionate sense of threat, or attaching the sense of threat to something unthreatening, as a spider is unthreatening, really, to an arachnophobe.

They do not see themselves as phobic, but as reasonable. There is the cause of the anger. It is extreme anger, especially when they congregate together, exemplified by Linda Bellos on a platform saying “If anyone of those bastards [transwomen] comes near me, I will take my glasses off and thump them. [crowd laugh] Yes I will take my glasses off… But I do, I am quite prepared to threaten violence, because it seems to me that what they are seeking to do is piss on all women.” For her, I am part of an undifferentiated “Them”, a threat to her wanting to damage all [cis] women.

Fortunately, women who are not transphobic do see that we are unthreatening, and support us.