“Biological men” and centre-left politics

“Labour is proud to stand with the LGBT+ community,” it tweets. What does that mean in this political climate, and does anyone believe them?

The anti-trans campaigners have moved on. Trans women have been in women’s spaces and services forever, and that just wasn’t a problem. There are so few of us hardly anyone noticed, and they mostly didn’t care. But then in 2017 Theresa May proposed reforming the Gender Recognition Act, and the campaign against trans people got the billionaire rocket fuel it has now. At first, the haters pretended they had nothing against “genuine trans women”, only predatory men pretending to be trans women. One vile slogan against GRA reform was “Self-ID gives predators the green light”. This is obviously transphobic, teaching people to fear “genuine” trans women, and judge us. Is that really a trans woman, or is it a “predatory male”?

But now there is no chance of GRA reform, and the transphobes have moved on. There is still the ritual claim “I have always supported rights for trans people”, along with a demand for “biological men” to be excluded from all women’s “single sex” or “separate sex” services.

Keir Starmer’s response was to support the Equality Act. Trans women can be excluded if there is good reason to do so, and not otherwise. Trans rights are just about fine as they are now, and so are women’s rights. He might think that was safe, but being centrist- listen to both sides, do what is reasonable- is not safe. The Independent reported this in the most confrontational way possible. “Keir Starmer backs excluding trans women from some women only spaces”, as if he had come down on a side. If there was any reasonable discussion, this might be tenable. I have no wish to retraumatise a woman who has just been raped, and would stay out of some spaces if it was reasonable. But the demand is for total exclusion, which brooks no compromise.

Ideally just before Conference attention should be on Labour values and policies, on Keir Starmer and his Fabian Society pamphlet. Instead, Rosie Duffield, relentless anti-trans campaigner, is “trending”.

On The Today Programme culture warrior Justin Webb asked Ed Davey, leader of the LibDems, “Do you believe there should be places in our society where biological males can’t go?” He spent more than a third of the interview (starts at 1.51.40) putting the views of the extremist trans excluders, with a petulant sneer, as if they were only seeking what everyone would agree is right. Absolutely no trans women, not never not nohow, in any women’s service. If I wanted to try on a T-shirt before buying it I should trek to the men’s section. Not all clothes shops have a men’s section. I should be humiliated.

Poor Ed Davey tried to be consensual. “I think the trans rights issue is an issue that all parties are grappling with and we need to come to some consensus across political parties.” Webb demanded a straight answer. Attempt at nuance, with any complex issue, is portrayed as equivocation. No issue is black and white, but any admission of shades of grey is called dishonest.

So Labour needs a clear, defensible position. Trans women might be excluded from women’s spaces if we did something wrong. Karen White should not be in the general population of a women’s prison. But we should not be excluded simply because of who we are. I would treat traumatised women with compassion, but not be excluded by diktat.

This needs a soundbite. “Trans women are women. Trans women should never be excluded from a women’s service because of who they are.”

Then explain as necessary. Any person who behaves badly might be excluded from a service because of what they have done, but not because of who they are. The Equality Act has always protected trans people from the moment they decide to transition. Trans women are vulnerable. Portraying us as a threat incites violence against us.

So Rosie Duffield is trending, and the news is full of the right to “single sex services” meaning No Trans Women, and my friend who is cis, in favour of trans rights, and bi, says Labour’s tweet is “opportunistic and not-credible”. Trans people should support Labour, to get the Tories out. Labour should return the favour. If that made anti-trans campaigners leave, that would be a bonus. They already are only of use to the hard Right.

Don’t out anyone

Should it be a criminal offence to out someone? It is, in the UK, subject to an unlimited fine, in certain circumstances.

Certain people who are aware that someone has applied for a gender recognition certificate should not tell anyone. If someone has a GRC, certain people should not disclose information about their previous gender. Note, it is not everyone who has transitioned, just people who have a GRC, which now may be about 12% of all who have transitioned.

Who? Employees of the State or local authorities, or of voluntary organisations; employers and colleagues, or prospective employers and colleagues. Then, anyone who finds out “in the course of or otherwise in connection with the conduct of business or the supply of professional services”. It is OK if the trans person consents.

So anyone involved with the claim can’t disclose it. Quite right too. And we should be able to get a job without anyone saying we are trans.

No-one has been prosecuted for this offence. Possibly, making it an offence contributes to the social understanding that outing people is wrong: though we both know a certain person is trans, a friend was embarrassed to mention her name to me as a trans woman, rather than as a person, woman, Quaker, whatever.

The people I would like prosecuted are journalists who comment on someone’s trans status. Journalists are acting in the course of their employment when they find that someone is trans, so should fit within the Act. They should not out someone unless it is clearly in the public interest. Victims of sexual offences are granted anonymity under the law, and so should trans people be. My gender change is no-one’s business but my own.

However, people may out a trans person maliciously. So, it should be a hate crime to out someone with the intention that the trans person suffers any harm, or recklessly when the revelation results in harm to the trans person.

A nurse who is trans

Content warning: transphobia. A woman patient asked for a female nurse to perform her cervical smear test. A trans woman called her, and she was distressed and embarrassed. She thought the nurse was clearly a man, with beard stubble, a large number of tattoos and close cropped hair. She complained, and the NHS trust apologised, saying there had been a recording error and that the nurse should have made her feel heard. The woman said that “people who are not comfortable with this are presented as bigots”. Well, few bigots recognise they are bigoted.

The Sunday Times, a bigoted transphobic publication, reported that the nurse had not been employed as a trans woman. Rentaquote transphobe James Caspian said similar embarrassing situations would become more common with self certification, and “Politicians have not thought through the implications of allowing self-certification”. However people transition before seeing a specialist: you do not need a diagnosis, and are protected from discrimination as soon as you decide to transition. The paper does not report whether the NHS seeks an exemption, and trans women do not perform certain tasks. Employers can argue that it is an occupational requirement to be cis if that is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim (Equality Act 2010 sch 9 para 1).

The reports don’t make it clear, but it seems what happened was this. The nurse had not transitioned yet, but a clerical error sent the nurse, presenting male, to see that patient. The patient said she wanted a female nurse. Even had I not transitioned at work, after deciding to do so I might not want to deny that I am a woman. The clerical error placed the nurse in a difficult position, and she said she was trans. Yet a trans woman before transition would normally be seen as a man, outside the trans community. The employer would not send her to take a smear of someone who had requested a female practitioner, unless there was a mistake. I would not blame the nurse for reacting as she did, but she got someone else to take the smear, and personally apologised.

Caspian’s comment is irrelevant. This is an Equality Act issue not a Gender Recognition issue. People transition without gender recognition, and are protected as soon as we decide to. That the Sunday Times don’t recognise this shows their transphobia. Once the nurse had started to express herself female at work, she would have been appropriate to take the smear.

The Mirror reported this at less length. The Sun’s initial headline referred to the nurse being “pre-op”, as if that were relevant to anything, just prurient titillation, but changed that to “YOU’RE CLEARLY A MAN! Woman complains after being assigned transgender nurse with stubble for her smear test”.

The Sun added the following detail: Trust policy for all services is to consider seriously all requests for clinicians of a particular gender; it allows patients to feel more supported; we will deny a request if we believe it to be sexually motivated or where there might be a risk to a member of staff, but we will always explain ourselves. When they say “particular gender” they do not specify whether one could request a cis woman rather than a trans woman.

Some women are happy for men to take their smears. The nurse, treated by the employer as a man, was doing smears. They would not consider a request for a particular race.

In other transphobia news, some women have complained that the women’s swimming pond on Hampstead Heath is open to “men undergoing sex changes” also described by the Mirror as “men transitioning to be women” and “men who identify as women and wore female bathing clothes”. It wheeled out rentaquote transphobe Julie Bindel: The last thing they want is to look behind them and see a male-bodied person pretending to be a woman in order to gawp at them. Then, how discreet would a lesbian have to be? And, can’t they just go there to swim?

The Mirror article helpfully links to other relevant stories: Ridiculous! This Morning viewers slam former mental health tsar who insists that teachers should stop using gendered terms; and ‘I spend half my week as a woman and the other half as a man’: Gender fluid Tabitha has boyfriend and a girlfriend. The mental health tsar is right, and radical feminists like Julie Bindel should realise that is the gender oppression they should be fighting; and the fact that someone is gender fluid and poly should be unremarkable.

Tabitha or Tate says Each morning, it takes me a few minutes to grasp whether I am Tabitha or Tate. It really depends on how I am feeling, and I can switch from one gender to the other throughout the course of the day. Some might find this hard to ­understand but why should a person be defined by what is between their legs? That seems utterly sane to me; yet the paper reports on “shocked glances from passers-by” when they express as Tate. Her father is a trans woman. Tate even wears a fake penis reports the Mirror breathlessly.

The Oldie

The Oldie magazine is obsessed with trans people, and not in a good way. In the December issue there is an article claiming Trans activists are ruling the world, but not thinking that a good thing, and at least three other mentions of transgender. There are possibly more, but the magazine is too boring for me to bother looking for them. This next bit is so vile I put it in small print, so you can dodge it if hate triggers you.

“What is it about transgender?” I asked.
“They’re crazy,” he said.
This was before progressive norms prevented us even contemplating hate speech.
“How do you mean crazy?” I asked.
“Aggressive, violent, disturbed, disruptive, impossible to reason with,” he said. “Really crazy”.

This comes after the writer claims to be bisexual, perhaps to indicate he could not possibly be prejudiced. The tone of the writing is supposedly “light and humorous”.

It’s awful. He refers to “cutting off the most definitive evidence of manhood”, asks if a “transgendered woman” is “actually- or originally- a woman or a man?” and compares us to Otherkin. Well, no-one is weirder than me, but the author probably does that to make us look bad.

Frankly, the science is a bit beyond me. That’s the Oldie’s schtick, pretending not to understand anything after about 1980, or anything at all really. Elsewhere in the magazine Virginia Ironside, their agony aunt, says In other words, and to use a vile expression, chill out. I don’t think she realises “chill out” has been replaced by “chill”. Her objection is that it is a new phrase, not an old one.

I’m still stuck on the basics: bathroom rights, male rapists declaring themselves female to get transferred to women’s prisons, linebackers coming out as women to play professional football. He paints us as a ridiculous, disgusting threat. He is delighted TERFs oppose us: Reactionary schools of thought hope this is the progressive movement consuming itself. That the contradictions will swallow the whole thing.

What else? In a review of a film by Sally Potter, the writer says she gave us a sublime Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton as the transgenderiste (sic) Virginia Woolf heroine. Oh well. And in “How to spot a decent vicar this Christmas” there’s this:

Forward in Faith’s website states, “We are unable in conscience to accept the ordination of women as priests and bishops”. This view is increasingly absurd in an age of gender dysphoria. Martyn Percy, the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, says, “Will Forward in Faith be able to tell us at what point a person’s valid ordination either evaporates or crystallises in the process of gender transition?”

Michael Cole thinks the “obsession with equality and diversity is killing quality television”, because nothing damages TV more in his eyes than having people different from himself on it. The survey would be asking me about my gender, ‘gender identity’, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability. Note the scare quotes, as if gender identity is not a real category. He objects: The real purpose of collecting this information is to limit the creative freedom of people working in television… [and] control what appears on the screen and who is in it.

“Who is in the screen”? No, Michael, that is liquid crystals rotating polarised light, or in your case perhaps a stream of cathode rays, not tiny people.

Trans is something new fangled, one more way the world is going to hell in a handcart, for Oldie readers and writers to resent. They have not heard of Elagabalus. Trans is as old as Deuteronomy, but with their affected ignorance they would not know that. Oh for the good old days when trans people would not be seen, or heard, they say. Harry Mount, the editor, also writes for the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

This is the year of transgender moral panic, where we are the subject of daily press articles abominating us. The transphobes are out in force, in what I hope is a desperate rearguard action to prevent our rights and recognition, their desperation being a sign they know they will fail; but I fear my country’s increasingly authoritarian turn.

I wrote that, then was so bored that I leafed through the rest of the magazine. For the fiftieth anniversary of Just a Minute, there is a lazy rehash of some of its jokes. Giles Brandreth began, ‘Nicholas, or as close friends know him, ‘Susan’, is the first transsexual to host a panel show in this country. Oh God, there’s more of it!

For relief, here is a writer not consumed with anger about every change in his world. The Romanian homeless guy prays alongside the person who is transitioning and next to the old Etonian ex-army officer. People go through all sorts of transitions- going to university, starting a family- but you know exactly what Giles Fraser means, and he expects all his audience to. Our language is becoming the norm.