Keir Starmer dodges the Trans question

Keir Starmer is only not likely to be the next Prime Minister because Mr Sunak is unlikely to last the two years during which the Tory party can deny us an election. So he had a long interview on the BBC Sunday politics programme. Of a 27 minute interview, 6.20 minutes were spent on gender recognition reform, which will marginally affect a few thousand lives. That’s longer than they spent on anything else, including NHS reform, which has the possibility of changing the lives of everyone in this country.

Laura Kuennsberg asked Keir Starmer if he would allow gender recognition without a diagnosis, and if he would introduce self-ID. That’s two ways of asking the same question, and he dodged both. He said he would “modernise” the system. That sounds great, but he did not say what it means. The ICD does not call trans a mental illness, so a diagnosis by a psychiatrist is inappropriate, and doctors resent having to make it. He wants to take out the indignities of the process, and he wants trans people treated with respect. That depends on definitions: I don’t think it’s respectful to exclude me from women’s services, but some disagree.

He said for 99.9% of women the issue is biological. Well, how else could anyone be trans, or gay, or aphantasic, but by biology? A fairy curse? About 0.4% of people are trans, as the census showed. That may be undercounted.

He said, “What I don’t want to be drawn into is the usual toxic political football which this always seems to become.” Unfortunately he is: he’s on the football pitch whether he likes it or not, and people keep kicking the ball at him. Hence all the waffle about “modernising”. It could mean anything.

He said he had concerns about getting a GRC aged 16. He did not think people were old enough. They are old enough to vote in Scotland, to marry or join the army. He’s pushing the lie that cis children change their gender then regret it. In Norway a six year old can get GR if their parents consent.

Starmer said he’s very keen to preserve women’s safe spaces. Well, I’m a woman. That, again, means nothing. But the haters may hope that he means, women’s services according to gender assigned at birth, which they call “sex”. He waffles, and leaves a back door he can dodge through.

He would not say if he would vote to block the Scottish Bill. He said he would wait to see what the Government proposes. He’s being lawyerly- don’t commit to opposing before you know what the proposal is- but he should oppose any attempt to block, as a threat to the Union and against the Labour government’s devolution settlement.

Labour in Scotland introduced an amendment to the GRR Bill to ensure the primacy of the Equality Act. Starmer said he’s very concerned that it was not accepted. I don’t know if he does not know about s15A, which says, “Nothing in this Act modifies the Equality Act 2010”. And the Scotland Act says anything in a Scottish Act affecting Equality law, with specific exceptions, is “not law”. Is that not enough?

Kuennsberg asked the actor Brian Cox about it all. He said he is very proud of Scotland for the GRR Bill. She then asked Caroline Nokes, a Conservative MP. Nokes chaired the Women and Equalities Select Committee when it reported that something like the Scots GRR Bill should be enacted in England. She thinks it’s an odd issue for the Scottish secretary to pick a constitutional fight over. She too is against the toxic allegations thrown around in this debate, though for her this included the use of the word “terf” as an insult.

Nokes agreed that some in her party were trying to use this issue as a “battering ram”. She wanted GR simpler and kinder.

The BBC had two reports on the interview. The one on GR had more views than the one on the NHS, even though the NHS affects everyone and GR only affects trans people. It’s as if people read news for entertainment, or to get riled up, rather than to be informed. The Guardian did a report on Starmer’s comments on the NHS, but not those on trans.

Sonia Sodha and the Labour Women’s Declaration

Keir Starmer is clear on trans rights. He says, “Trans women are women”. Sonia Sodha is an anti-trans campaigner, who seeks to foment fear about trans people, particularly trans women, and trans rights. So, what did she say in the Guardian this time?

Sodha’s aim is to paint trans exclusion as sweet reason. She starts with scaremongering: anti-trans campaigners felt unsafe, she says, and had to hire security. Then she introduces a hate group: The Labour Women’s Declaration.

They are a hate group because they campaign against trans rights and spread fear and misinformation about trans people. Sodha repeats that misinformation here.

Sodha claims their “belief” is unobjectionable, even rational: that “biological sex cannot be replaced with self-declared gender identity”. Nobody wants biological sex to be replaced. Most women have XX chromosomes and female reproductive systems. We only want people to recognise that trans women exist: that a tiny vulnerable minority, who do not have female reproductive systems, believe we are women or desire to express ourselves as women. We are women: that is the clear definition of the word.

We are happier, and enabled to contribute to society, if we can be accepted and treated as women. The Equality Act recognises this and allows us to use women’s services unless there are exceptional circumstances. We are allowed in from the moment we decide we will transition, if we present in our true sex.

Sodha claims the LWD position is “essentially where current law stands”. This is false, taken with her statement that women have the right to “single-sex” spaces, which she interprets as excluding all trans women. She wants trans women consigned to “gender neutral services” which often do not exist. Why should I use a toilet designed for disabled people?

Sodha demands total exclusion of trans women from women’s services, and for us to be placed in gender-neutral services we do not want. She calls this extreme position, contrary to the Equality Act, a “dignified and respectful compromise”. She cares nothing for the dignity of trans people.

Sodha implies that schools tell children they are trans, when the desire to transition comes from the child. Children have to show incredible strength of character, and usually have loving supportive parents, before they can transition, leave alone receive medical treatment. Of children discharged from the Gender Identity Development Service in 2019/20, around 250 of them had been referred to an endocrinologist for puberty blockers, perhaps half that were approved for cross-sex hormones. That’s out of eleven million children in Britain. Yet she claims this medical treatment is a threat to children, and implies that far more get it than actually do. Trans people who received this treatment as children report they live happier, healthier lives.

Sodha lists the ways people associated with the LWD have been treated by the Labour Party. She says Keir Starmer has had meetings with them, but not done what they demanded. She does not say why, she just says he has “failed to address” LWD concerns. The Labour Party refused the LWD a conference stall. In candidate selection, people have been asked to justify their views. A councillor has been disciplined for abstaining on a motion. A woman I admire has had her membership application rejected. Sodha says Unions also object to LWD associates.

The Labour Party is a democratic, decentralised party. This indicates that Party members at all levels object to the LWD and their views. The party is governed by rules: this shows that people disciplined by the party have broken those rules. Sodha has not investigated, or given the party members who made those decisions a chance to respond, she has just asserted that all levels of the Labour party and Union movement from the leader down have mistreated people associated with LWD. Then she says the SNP support increasing trans rights. Does she deny Nicola Sturgeon is a feminist? Does she accept that the SNP is a worthwhile party for feminists to join? More than half the SNP’s MSPs, and more than a third of its MPs, are women. Would they support a policy which hurts women’s rights in any way? Some of them oppose SNP policy, but only a tiny minority.

Sodha says this means “gender critical women” are “not welcome” in the Labour party. That’s ridiculous. Nobody accepts the whole platform of a party. We support it because we prefer it to the alternatives. “Gender-critical” people are welcome to their beliefs, but are not permitted to take action against the party, or unlawfully harass or discriminate against trans people.

The Guardian should publish a correction to the misinformation Sodha shares. However the next week the Observer letters headline was, “toxic trans debate is making me afraid”: the writer was not a trans women victim of the Observer, but a hater, objecting to being called transphobic. I don’t want her to be afraid, but her fear does not mean she is right.

Parliament debates nonbinary people

140,781 people signed the petition to make nonbinary a legally recognised gender identity in the UK. So, there was a debate in Westminster Hall. However, only six MPs bothered to speak, and only one was an unequivocal ally. Anneliese Dodds, the shadow secretary for women and equalities, was particularly disappointing. Content: transphobia. Continue reading

Keir Starmer says “Trans women are women”

Will Labour politicians admit trans women are women, and just say so clearly?

On 8 March, (question at 19.50) anti-trans campaigner Emma Barnett demanded Anneliese Dodds tell her the “Labour definition” of the word woman.

Dodds said there are different definitions, the legal definition and the biological definition. To me, the biological definition includes trans women: I am not a ghost or a computer simulation, I am as biological as anyone. Dodds said it depends on context, which is pretty much what the Court of Session said. Then Dodds said that those who have to transition, live as women and want to be defined as women. That’s what the GRA is for.

Dodds may be misunderstanding. That’s what the Equality Act is for: we are treated as women, and truthfully called women.

Then anti-trans campaigners The Times questioned Yvette Cooper on 9 March. She just refused to answer. She refused to go down the “rabbit hole”- she was there to talk about International Women’s Day, so did not want to talk of the definition of woman. Given that The Times is so hostile to trans women, this is understandable, but disappointing. The Times called it “Labour’s rabbit hole,” but the rabbit hole is entirely of the anti-trans campaigners’ making.

Finally the Times tackled Keir Starmer on 12 March. He said female adults are women, “and in addition to that trans women are women”. Finally. “Trans women are women,” says Keir Starmer. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? He said that’s the law under the GRA and the Equality Act.

What would I say? This is my definition. I would start by simply saying “trans women are women”. If pressed, there are various further things you can say:

Women are so varied. Some women are Scots, and some are English. Some are young, some are old. Most are not trans women, but some are.

Some women have differences of sexual development and are still women. So I would not insist that a “woman” had a female reproductive system because that would exclude many women. Why should women be excluded?

The Court of Session said a trans woman saying “I am a woman” was telling the truth, and it’s sad that we should need the Court of Session, the highest civil court in Scotland, to say so. The Equality Act says trans women should be treated as women.

Most women are not trans. And some women are trans women. Language and categories have to fit reality. If trans women don’t fit your categories, you should change your categories, not erase a whole class of women.

I would hope not to need this one, but- most mammals give birth to live young, and some mammals lay eggs. Are platypuses not mammals?

Added: when anti-trans campaigners use the phrase “biological men” they do not define the term. Including people with Klinefelter’s syndrome but not androgen insensitivity is difficult, and involves a lot of clarifications. Basically, they are Tweedledum: they mean “people I think are men”.

Approaches to the trans rights debate

Trans allies found Wes Streeting “disappointing”, but I see where he’s coming from. And, when the authoritarian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill promises to criminalise protest, David Maclean, “Lord Blencathra”, wasted a self-indulgent hour of debate railing against trans women as a danger to “women”.

The Shadow Health Secretary grew up in the East End of London. His mother’s father was a bank robber. His father, and father’s father, were working class Tories, with strong patriotism and Christian faith he still shares, even though it took years for him to accept his sexuality and reconcile these parts of his identity. Finding he was gay, members of his family would have been surprised, disappointed, and concerned for him. Aged 38, he is grateful to the pioneers of the Lesbian and Gay Rights movement, whose abuse he recounts- outed by The Sun, a brick through the window…

So there was prejudice which was frank hatred, and there was prejudice seeing itself as Christian principle, and on equal marriage he respects the Christian prejudice. That required listening, discussion, empathy and respect. Hearts and minds were changed, and now there are Methodist gay church weddings. He hopes for the same on trans rights.

In his BBC interview, now available as a fifty minute podcast or a two minute video, but initially a 23 minute broadcast, the interviewer took a strong anti-trans line. Women are women, who fought for their right to safe spaces, [meaning No Transwomen!] which should not be overturned. All of this is rubbish. Trans women have a legal right to enter women’s services, and are no threat.

The video Jolyon Maugham found “disappointing” omits that question, and starts with Streeting’s soft-sounding but pro-trans response. He says women’s rights should be respected, LGBT people should listen, you don’t win the argument by shutting down JK Rowling. He wants to win the argument, and hear anti-trans campaigners’ distress as a way to win them over. I am not sure that will work, but am glad someone is trying. He objects to “feminists” using dehumanising language about trans people. It is gratuitously obnoxious.

I had thought the podcast would give the whole interview, but the next bit from the video is edited out. Streeting talks of anti-trans hate crime and trans mental ill health, which he wants to address. So most listeners will not hear about the hate crime. This is a distortion.

Tory peer David Maclean, “Lord Blencathra”, avoided Capital Gains Tax on a £750,000 house by claiming it was his main residence, and got £20,000 parliamentary “expenses” by claiming it was his second home. Rather than addressing the anti-freedom aspects of the Police etc Bill he stuck in an anti-trans amendment and insisted on debating it on the floor. There were many moments my contempt for him bubbled over, but the main one was when he withdrew his amendment because it had no chance of success. He wasted an hour and 23 minutes of Parliamentary time on his pointless hategasm.

His amendment to this oppressive Bill would have required that trans people are ordinarily imprisoned according to their sex registered at birth, and if in exceptional circumstances they were not they should be held in accommodation specifically for trans people with no access to “prisoners of the opposite sex”.

He has had a great many letters, he says, and from the love-bombing of anti-trans campaigners he falsely deduces that his amendment has support. Tory Patrick “Baron” Cormack was also love-bombed, and quoted the words: it is so easy to “stand up for womanhood and motherhood” as a Tory, if all you have to do is express hatred for trans people.

Maclean says that “gender reassignment protection [should not be] a separate protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010”. As it currently is, he wants to change the Equality Act to withdraw protection for trans people.

He kept his foul amendment despite the teach-in organised by the Ministry of Justice. The Tory minister, David Wolfson QC, knew he would not persuade the haters, but tried in the teach-in, and tried again in the debate. He said you could find heat but no light on Twitter. He said all the trans women in women’s prisons have gone through a rigorous risk assessment, and our safety matters too. It is a balance of risks to cis women and trans women. 90% of trans women prisoners are in men’s prisons. If there was one trans women’s unit, it would be too far for most friends and families to visit. It would be “cruel”. The minister is “alive to the risk of suicide”. Before 2019 there were some sexual assaults by trans women on cis women, but “We learned the lessons of that and since 2019 there have been no such assaults”.

Former Reform MEP Claire Fox continued the hate, despite having attended the teach-in. Ignoring the facts, she demands “single-sex spaces” excluding trans women. She quoted hate from Twitter, even the suggestion, which she had just heard refuted, that “anyone who claims to feel like a woman” might be imprisoned with cis women. Fox: “I say hear, hear to that.” She ignores any threat to trans women. Instead she claims “biological reality” vindicates her, as if the fact of trans people’s existence for millennia around the world did not matter at all. She called the amendment practical, pragmatic and humane, as if our safety did not matter.

David Pannick said putting a trans woman with a GRC who had lived as a woman for twenty years (that’s me, my twenty year anniversary is in April) who has had GRS in men’s prison would be a “disaster”. I agree. I find it terrifying. If I chained myself up like a Suffragette, this bill would render me liable to a ten year prison sentence, if they could get a jury to convict. So I suppose I might be safe enough demonstrating for XR, but maybe not if I demonstrated for trans rights.

David Hope, former Scottish supreme court judge, spoke out against the “cruelty” of the amendment. “It is not a choice. They are driven.” It needs to be said, because Maclean, Fox and the rest ignore it: “The [trans] offender requires as much consideration on the grounds of safety and emotional distress as the people around them in the prison in which they are placed.”

Michael Cashman said the amendment perpetuates the stereotype of trans women as sexual predators. Edward Faulks, who had been April Ashley’s barrister, said how April Ashley had been put in a men’s prison.

Hater Michael Farmer, former treasurer of the Tory party, called for women’s rights “based on sex not gender”. That is, to him the most important thing in women’s rights is excluding trans women. With this language they can expatiate on women’s rights, as if trans women did not matter at all. By contrast Michael Berkeley, composer and broadcaster, said “effeminate” people would be “targeted” in a male prison.

Former Tory MP Nick Herbert put it bluntly: “if people’s fears are provoked and if media campaigns suggest that women cannot be safe, there will be such fervent outrage, but that is not a reason for us to depart from the facts.” That’s the answer to Wes Streeting. He can listen all he likes, and just hear the wilful distortions of the transphobes. As they rant on, they just get more self-righteous.

Jennifer Jones, a Green party member, flouted her party’s policy to play the “I’m a woman” card, objecting to men speaking against the amendment. Well, I am a woman too, and I care about women’s safety- but I care about all women’s safety. She claimed there was “sexual predation” in women’s prisons, despite the changes in 2019.

Elizabeth Barker, LibDem, spoke “as a woman who cares deeply about the physical safety of women”. She objected to media suggestions that trans allies did not care. She pointed out the factual errors in the haters’ speeches, and the polls with leading questions designed to elicit anti-trans opinions. As she said, the amendment was not based on evidence, so should be rejected.

Brian Paddick, LibDem and former police officer, quoted some of the abuse he receives as a trans ally: “You nasty little misogynist… MRA bigot”. He affected not to know that means “Men’s rights activist”, putting the hater in their place.

Frederick Ponsonby, hereditary Labour peer and fourth baron, had actually spoken to governors of women’s prisons, who assured him they could handle any problems from trans women prisoners.

The haters in the House of Lords, and their adoring admirers such as the one who sent hate to Brian Paddick, show the chances of Wes Streeting’s approach are slim. They are utterly self-righteous, and they use the language of women’s rights as if trans women did not matter. They call us men, as if trans as a phenomenon was a worthless delusion. But they have a long way to go before our protections in the Equality Act are chipped away, even with this Tory government. My right to protest is not nearly so safe.

“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.

“Biological men”

What do the anti-trans campaigners seek to achieve by the phrase “male-bodied biological men”? What do ordinary people hear?

When I read Rosie Duffield’s twitter rant against trans people, I thought it was a fig leaf. Complaints would flood in to the Labour Party, and she would say, “Who, me? Transphobic? I have always supported gay rights and human rights, and the rights of all trans people to live freely as they choose. I am only against violent men pretending to be trans.”

Then the Labour Party would say “We don’t believe she has demonstrated hostility or prejudice based on gender reassignment or identity”, quoting their rule book 2.I.8. She has never rebelled against Labour this parliament. She probably has some name recognition in her constituency, but outside it only among people with an obsession with politics. Complaints against MPs are a political issue, and the NEC will not discipline Duffield. After an investigation by the EHRC they take antisemitism seriously, but not transphobia. But when she refers to “lists of murdered women”, no man was pretending to be trans after being murdered, and Naomi Hersi, who still spent some time presenting male, was never included. Andrea Waddell, murdered in 2009, was initially included in the Femicide Census, and only removed in 2020. She is referring to trans women, not pretenders. Here’s the Labour Party complaints policy. Please do complain– you don’t need to be a member of the party- but don’t hold your breath. I have complained.

The phrase “biological men” started out as a way for anti-trans campaigners to make a distinction for themselves. They were not against “genuine transsexuals”, who have had a diagnosis and a genital operation. They were against “self-id”, which would result in people who weren’t genuine transsexuals in women’s spaces. They are far beyond that now. They initially realised there were some people who couldn’t help it (irony alert) and were to be pitied not condemned, but now they are against all trans women.

It could be a compliment. They call us “biological men”, as an admission that legally and socially, from a freedom of the individual and human rights perspective, in ordinary language and in the views of most people who don’t really care, we are women. However more likely it is a despairing assertion that they are rational and scientific. This is to deny the evidence that trans women exist, and always have. Trans women are women. They call us “biological men” to reassure themselves, but we do not disappear, or change our nature.

The anti-trans campaigner goes into a loo and sees a trans woman. And instead of thinking no more of it, like any normal person, she has an extreme emotional reaction, like an arachnophobe seeing a spider. Then she goes on the internet, like a QAnon cultist or anti-vaxxer, and finds others who share her fear and rage, and together they express their perplexity. “But- it’s a Man. A biological man.” Obviously they could not say “Real man”. It’s a verbal tic.

As for “male-bodied”, initially it might have meant not having had a genital operation, but now means a Y chromosome. Even Klinefelter syndrome people, with two X chromosomes, are included.

It’s gaslighting. To write “trans women are men and shouldn’t be in women’s services” is horrible, but just simple hate. Instead she writes “I’ve always fully supported the rights of all trans people,” and until you are used to the tactic there is a weird, destabilising feeling.

Duffield now seeks notoriety among trans people and anti-trans campaigners. So she writes this self-righteous screed, and trans people and our allies take notice, and are disgusted with her. One more stupid hater. What about ordinary people who don’t take an interest in politics, leave alone trans rights?

Most people don’t know what “woke” means, and pay no more attention to the arcane rantings of transphobes than they do to 9/11 conspiracists. Burning aviation fuel might not melt steel, but instead of being intrigued, and reading on, they think about their real lives and real concerns. Then the word “biological” might be confusing. Of course men should not be in women’s spaces, they would say. But trans women? Don’t know, don’t care.

Tonia Antoniazzi MP and transgender crime statistics

Tonia Antoniazzi MP is a transphobe, who uses her voice in parliament to attack trans rights and attempt to make trans people look bad.

On 17 May 2021, in a debate on the Queens Speech on violent crime, where Labour MPs should have been pointing out the many failures of the Tory government, Antoniazzi chose to make a misleading case against trans people, in order to smear us as sex offenders.

How does recording sex by gender identity affect the profile of sex offenders? Does it matter?

Most victims of sexual offences do not report them, so the number of crimes in crime surveys is far higher than the number of charges or arrests. About 3% of women were estimated as having been sexually assaulted in 2017, from a survey of a representative sample, and 1% of men. In 2016 there were 53m UK adults, so that is around 800,000 women sexually assaulted, and around 200,000 men.

However only 6960 offenders were found guilty of sexual offences in all courts in England and Wales in 2017. The conviction rate was 62%, but there is a time lag between charge and conviction or acquittal. So say 11,000 people were charged in court.

Women make up 2% of prosecutions for sexual offences, says Antoniazzi. You can download a spreadsheet. In 2017/18, 28,589 males were arrested for sexual offences, and 628 females.

Say 0.1% of women are trans women who have taken some step towards transition. So, say 25,000. Say they have “male patterns of offending” as anti-trans campaigners claim, though this is not backed up by evidence. If the proportion of trans women was 46 times the proportion of cis women who were arrested for sex crimes, 26 might be arrested for sexual offences, and six convicted. If they are counted as women, then the number of women arrested has gone up by 4%.

But if there were 26 trans women who were counted, or not, as women, the proportion of arrestees who were women would go up from 2.15% to 2.24%. That is, a tiny percentage of arrestees are women, whether trans women are included as women or not.

That statistic, that 0.1% of women are trans women, is my best estimate, but it is not clear how many people identify as trans, ever express themselves in public as their true gender, or take steps towards transition. The census, which starts to be published next year, may start to give us a better idea.

A tiny proportion of those arrested for sexual offences are female, and that proportion is not changed beyond a rounding error whether trans women are included as women or not.

Antoniazzi says, “We need to count sex”. She objects to police forces counting suspects’ sex on the basis of gender identity. She wants trans women counted as men.

Even if trans women offend 45 times as much as other women, the increase from 2.15% to 2.24% of offenders is tiny. There would be no change in conclusions drawn about the need to protect women and girls from male violence, or the relative threat from women or men. Trans women need protection just as cis women do.

Whether we need as a society to take violence against women, or men, more seriously is shown by the proportion of offences resulting in arrests. Of about a million sexual offences, there are 6960 convictions. Most victims do not report the offence.

Recording trans women as men does not make any change to the lessons we learn. Women are vulnerable and need more protection than we have. Such protection might be improved by greater resources for police, and greater cultural condemnation of male sexual violence. The culture still makes excuses for men, and even glorifies male sexual aggression. Complaining that trans women criminals should be called “men” actually reduces the effort to protect women, because it diverts campaigning energy from a real threat to a harmless minority.

And, it would make life harder for vulnerable trans women in the justice system. If we are recorded as men, we have yet more evidence that the system is against us for who we are, rather than what we have done.

It would probably backfire on the anti-trans campaigners, showing trans people do not have a high rate of sex offending. They want to say, Look, look, there were six trans women convicted of sexual offences!! Trans is Bad!! They’re all like that!! Of course we are not all like that, and I am not a sex offender, but the extremists use such stories to radicalise each other.

An MP should consider the 800,000 women who suffer sexual assault in a year, and speak up for them, not speak against trans people, a tiny, vilified minority.

The records of “biological sex” of offenders she demands would tell us nothing except that some trans women are criminal. We know that already. If it is ridiculous to say Rosemary West is a murderer therefore cis women cannot be trusted, it is equally ridiculous to say Karen White is a rapist therefore trans women cannot be trusted. Antoniazzi would stir up fear against us.

“We must respect the privacy of transgender people,” she says, but would make an exception when we are arrested.

Then she cites an increase of 84% in reported child sex abuse by female perpetrators between 2015 and 2019. It could mean 2015 had particularly low figures and 2019 particularly high. We can’t establish a trend without more years. We don’t know if this is because of increased reporting, and one expert the BBC quoted thought that explained the whole increase. But the MP called recording trans women as women “data corruption”, and suggested the increase was due to “those identifying as women”. In 2019 there were 1048 more offences reported than in 2015, and to suggest that a significant proportion of those were by trans women is monstrous as well as ridiculous. It is clear hatred.

Antoniazzi then refers to Lauren Jeska. Her attempt to murder was a monstrous crime, but to use it to argue that the justice system must count trans women offenders as men is also monstrous. The number of convictions of women for attempted murder is so small- six in 2017, from Antoniazzi’s figures- that even were it to double it would tell us nothing about female violence. She fulminates that calling Lauren a woman “falsely elevates the number of females convicted”. It does not, because trans women are women.

Antoniazzi has demonstrated a level of prejudice against trans women that should result in withdrawing the whip. Statistical arguments by other transphobes and haters are no more robust than hers. She met with anti-trans hate groups as long ago as 2018, and asked questions about trans women sex offenders in prison in July 2021. It is a good job she left the Women and Equalities Committee in November 2019.

Escaping the culture wars

The Fabian Society shows how culture wars are created by the right wing to damage the left. Its pamphlet “Counter Culture” details how we could resist them and build solidarity: by working to end culture wars, not to win them. Culture wars are political fights picked not to change public policy, but to enflame emotion and deepen division as a campaigning tool. They do not show differences in interest or beliefs among people generally, but instead are fomented by elites.

Even right-wingers who might profit electorally should see that the damage to social cohesion is not worth it. The Left sees we have “more in common than what divides us”, and only solidarity offers real security. Our anger at injustice can give us energy for campaigning, but harms us when it breaks relationships.

I got the pamphlet to see what it said about the anti-trans movement. There may be 50,000 people transitioned or transitioning in Britain now, but trans is dragged up constantly by the right wing press, and Tory MPs recognise it is a wedge issue to divide the working class from other disadvantaged groups. “MPs have been piling pressure to engage in a war on woke. Issues ranging from alleged BBC bias and Extinction Rebellion to trans rights and Black Lives Matter could unite the base, wrote Katy Balls. So this is a campaign strategy, to “fatten the pig before market day” and get people identifying as Tories, rather than a coherent strategy on policy, and the war against trans people is a central plank.

“Culture war” is an American term, concerning issues of who we are as a nation. The international hard right exports this around the world. Though in Britain Christianity is less important, and on the Left as well as the Right, the media which ignored culture war in 2015 was writing about it daily in 2020. Even now, few people care. But Tory voters who have “leant their votes” in the North of England are economically left wing, dividing them from the core Tory vote, members and MPs. But on questions of identity and values, Tories are united, and Labour MPs, members and voters divided.

Populism is different: a view of Left or Right that the corrupt elite oppress the real people. So for the Left, plutocrats distort our politics to avoid paying their share or supporting the common good, and for the Right, enemies of the people, such as judges, tried to block Brexit. But most people are reasonably accepting of trans people, and those working for us or against us are educated and comparatively wealthy.

The writers propose three elements in culture war. 1. An attempt to argue that the Left undermines or disrespects Britain or its people. Jonathan Haidt says on the Left, morality is based on care for others and fairness, but on the Right includes respect for tradition, loyalty and sanctity. 2. This exploits majority fears, and the loss aversion cognitive bias, with zero-sum thinking that others’ gain is our loss, producing a thwarted sense of entitlement, that something is being taken from us. 3. Something minor, marginal, or made up is being amplified: you will rarely see a trans woman in a women’s loo, and Laurel Hubbard is one trans woman in a competition of 11,000 athletes in 339 events, the first since trans women could compete as women in 2004.

Culture war is a Right wing strategy to divide, distract and demoralise the Left. The British Social Attitudes survey shows an increasingly liberal outlook. The media is creating culture war, for example The Times’ obsessive reporting demonising trans people. 2% of the people produce 80% of the tweets. The BBC found someone from Philadelphia to argue that Adele committed cultural appropriation, in order to stage a “debate”.

The culture wars distract us from real issues that affect our lives. A cis woman might read a pejorative article about Laurel Hubbard, “do her research” and start campaigning against trans rights even though she has never had a bad experience with a trans woman, let alone have her off-line life affected by trans rights. They divide feminists on trans rights, so feminists oppose each other with arcane debates, rather than working together against patriarchy, and appear irrelevant to other women. We spend time in smaller echo-chambers, so do not seek common ground. And people on Left and Right use the word misgendering as a shorthand for allegedly woke policies, not in the interest of the working class, which the Left should avoid- as if we could not support trans rights as well as equitable economics. But working class cis people may have trans friends, and trans people also suffer materially. Class is a matter of identity.

The culture war demoralises us, exhausting us. The class interest of the majority of people, in getting companies and the wealthiest to pay fair taxes, is clear, but the Right would claim supporting Black rights is an attack on white people. Women, particularly Black women, in politics face dreadful abuse.

The culture war is fomented by grievance mongers driving a wedge between supporters of interventionist economic policy, tempting some away by a “war on woke”. And by those who make a living from outrage, such as Melanie Philips. Once they start, people affected join in- trans people on facebook occasionally speak up for our rights, because our lives are affected, and so public threads started by enthusiastic trans-excluders grow like tumours. Toxic social media polarises debate, then news media gets attention by quoting tweets, or inviting grievance peddlers to “debate” on news programmes.

Then there are trolls, who enjoy being transgressive, or enjoy seeing others emotionally wounded, or are marginalised people who crave status, or who work for malign foreign actors seeking to promote division. Social media amplifies them.

How can the Left build a better politics? We need to repay our debts to those who have sacrificed or suffered the most, from the financial crash, austerity and Covid. We need a vision of the future everyone can value. Robert Kennedy in the 1960s built a coalition of working class whites and blacks by saying what he believed, and giving a coherent, popular message, rather than relying on focus groups, by finding a consistent story that unites voters in all battlegrounds. We need to mention all groups by name, or they do not feel included. Their dignity and feelings matter, not just their income. A story of our past which everyone can take pride in showing the unity Gareth Southgate builds in his team?

Politicians should calm down angry division, and show how they can negotiate a solution where everyone wins, through co-operation. To love one’s country is not a matter of having a particular view on the legacy of empire, but to uphold the integrity of its institutions; not to demonise immigrants and benefit claimants, but those who seek to buy influence or avoid their responsibilities to society. We should shame culture war peddlers, and promote the understanding that a diversity of opinions and values is essential to democracy. We need to regulate social media out of making money from division and misinformation.

We should name and oppose the attempts to distract and divide us. We need to know a good argument before facing the questions. 77% of people believe the media makes the country look more divided than it is, and 44% believe politicians exaggerate culture war as a political tactic. Why are they trying to shift the debate from covid deaths to statues?

We need inclusive social movements, cross-class, multi-racial and intergenerational. We should not use a language of weakness and shame, labelling people vulnerable or hard to reach. We should use clear language- most people agree that it is easier to get ahead if you are white, but far fewer agree that there is white privilege in Britain.

The pamphlet is freely available here.

Is transphobia as bad as racism?

What turns speech into “hate speech”? What should prevent it?

Ruth Smeeth wrote in the Times that an employment tribunal case had placed anti-trans campaigning in the same category as “dangerous extremism” which threatens society. She claimed anti-trans campaigning was not the equivalent to racist hate speech.

Anti-trans campaigning is often couched in terms of safety. But then so can racism be. 1960s America had unashamed campaigners for segregation, who would argue in terms of safety. Black men were lynched after being accused of sexual crime against white women.

Homophobia can claim to work for the safety of children too. Section 28 of the Local Government Act, which was in effect from 1988 to 2003, prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” and prevented teachers from acknowledging that people could be gay. This tortured gay children. Yet in 1999 in Parliament Jill Knight claimed that “children at school [were] being encouraged into homosexuality and being taught that a normal family with mummy and daddy was outdated.”

Prejudice is also couched in terms of difference. Racists argue that Black people are different from white people. That is the basis of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. In the same way, trans-excluders argue that differences between trans women and cis women are in some way relevant, so that we should be excluded from shop changing rooms.

The classic free speech defence is that wrong speech will be subjected to the light of truth, and be refuted. This ignores the question of power. Governments of the Right have encouraged racism and homophobia, and governments of the Left have moved to sanction them. Now, racist views are encouraged by the Murdoch media empire, because these views tend to preserve hierarchy and their own power.

Theresa May described her “hostile environment” policy- making sure immigrants without a current visa or right to remain could not work or rent, expelling them from homeless shelters, closing their bank accounts. This, combined with the Home Office’s restrictions on evidence and incompetence led to the Windrush scandal.

The Smeeth article is not an attempt to justify anti-trans campaigning or a discussion of the issues. It uses the word “dangerous” but does not say what the danger is. People who agree with it will be prevented from thinking: they will see the word “dangerous”, agree that danger must be bad, and so conclude that their anti-trans campaigning is unobjectionable. Smeeth uses the word to describe the ET decision- the danger is of restricting speech- but also dangerous extremism, where speech should be restricted.

At its core is an assumption that all good people agree “racist hate speech” is bad, but anti-trans campaigning is not equally bad.

Smeeth claims a right to say who needs or deserves protection. Minority ethnic people need and deserve protection. I agree. She claims, though she gives no reason, that trans people do not deserve the same protection.

Teaching pseudo-scientific claims of racial difference, even where backed up by selected data by tenured professors, creates a hostile environment for Black people in universities. It’s not a question of how language is used or whether it imitates dispassion. The cold hate of Jill Knight is as damaging as the hot hate of the Nazis shouting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville.

Racists, homophobes and transphobes can easily find powerful backers and ready audiences. They make money from their speech, just as climate change deniers do. Smeeth’s claim that trans people are entitled to less protection than racialised people or gay people makes it easier to persecute us, and drive us out from ordinary society. All transphobia, from debates in university common rooms and Quaker meetings, to assaults on trans people, is linked: it shares a view that we might be in some way dangerous, or not deserve protection, that we have less value than the normal people.