Trans people, standing up for ourselves

Trans people tell our life stories.

After an enquiry by a parliamentary committee in 2016, a consultation, ministerial foot (and knuckle) dragging, we now have another enquiry by the same committee, and trans folk are fed up. In evidence to the committee, Genie put it brilliantly:

You shouldn’t still be asking these questions; please make trans people’s lives easier and do what you said you were going to do, or leave us completely alone. This has become policy theatre to appease bigots, and we know you know that.

Debbie wrote, “We are not what is between our legs. We are not the shape of our chests. We are not our pasts.”

Deborah wrote, “We’ve always been here, we always will be. The government can either treat us as equals, or join the oppressors.”

Emma writes, “You shouldn’t have to pay to be your gender”.

I have not read all the evidence, and brilliant clear exposition of the issues shines out of trans people’s submissions. People told their experiences:

One of my earliest memories is being six years old and crying at a dance competition because I couldn’t wear dresses like the other girls. That was 1975. I very quickly learned that I had to conform, hide who I was. Over the years, this has caused mental issues. When puberty hit, I became a troubled teen, desperate to fit in. I ran away from home and was in trouble with the law, but somehow, I came through that. … At fourteen, a child psychiatrist diagnosed it as disassociate personality disorder, which meant he knew the person he was talking to wasn’t me. I went to university, I fell in love, I married and I had children. Eventually, the façade broke too much to be fixed. It’s hard to maintain. As I approached forty I became anorexic and withdrawn. Eventually, after therapy, I told my wife what the reasons were. I’d finally come to understand myself who I was. Pre-internet I had zero access to information, between 1995 and 2005 I didn’t dare look, for fear of what I’d find. Before 2010, it was still sordid. And then we got the first glimpses of being accepted. I finally could admit to myself first and others after, who and what I was. This wasn’t a perversion. I started the process of transitioning in 2012 and this process turned a dour, dark, depressed individual into somebody who was finally happy inside and out. I’m accepted for who I am at work and with friends. The recent furore over the gender recognition certificate has turned the UK back into a toxic environment for trans people. I can’t go back. I’ve been in the light, a return to darkness would kill me.

“Jane Doe” is a transmedicalist. She writes,

GRC is for those meeting a diagnosis of Transsexual, a permanent desire to make a change. Transgender is a broader term and includes many people who consider their identity fluid. It is to be expected that only a small subset of those identifying as transgender would be eligible for / find it appropriate to acquire a GRD. In essence you are conflating Transsexual and Transgender – they are different.

She is in error. Many people now on the waiting list for gender clinics identify as trans women, but most of them want hormones and surgery.

Opening a tranche of the evidence files, I found eleven trans women and one trans man. The Revd. Alex Clare-Young is a minister in the URC. He had his GRC application rejected because he did not give medical reasons for not having received particular medical treatments. He objects to “discussing one’s genitalia with a panel of strangers”. Bravely, he writes of his experience of assault.

it was extremely difficult for me to access smear tests, despite the fact that I still had a cervix when I reached the eligible age. The system simply didn’t recognise me because in order to change my gender to male, it also changed my sex to male.

Unlike Jane, he stands up for all trans people including gender fluid and nonbinary people.

Katherine disagrees with me. I don’t expect all trans people to have one view. She writes, “I have no personal objection to being transgender being considered through a medical lens, but I know some people do, so I’d just say it’s not a trivial issue.” She too suffered sexual assault, and worries about accessing services.

Nova writes,

I am 22 years old and I’m Transgender. I am currently on the waiting list to see a gender specialist for Hormone replacement therapy and a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. For all my life, I have felt uncomfortable in my skin. I used to dream about being the opposite sex, wearing their clothes, living their life, being regarded as one of them and not what my outer appearance betrays. For in My head, I have a brain that does not match my body. And looking back, all the awkward moments in my childhood make sense, I was being forced to live a lie.

Haters might pick on the mention of clothes, but it’s not about clothes: it’s about expressing our true selves.

She says that GPs should be able to diagnose gender dysphoria and prescribe hormones. The criteria are not difficult. That would get rid of the waiting lists. She dislikes the waiting period: “We are treated like defective machines that must prove they are defective by playing what you believe is “dress up” for two years only to then be assessed by two people just to decide if actually, this is just our natural state of being.”

Alexis makes the obvious point that if the WHO says gender incongruence is not an illness, a diagnosis is otiose. I hope they get that point. She says people don’t get GRCs because it’s expensive and makes no practical difference to our lives. She says how the hate campaign has made trans people afraid. So many of us could make the same points.

Jay is a healthcare professional. She says trans people wait a year even for private treatment. She only legally changed her name one year ago despite transitioning five years ago and using the name informally. She is now concerned she might not be entitled to a GRC because of the delay.

Desirae: “Being trans is not a disease.” She thinks a GRC should be no harder to get than a passport. She has not suffered discrimination, but waited three years to get a first appointment to a GIC.

It is compelling stuff. I assume a researcher will read the evidence, distilling the main points and arguments for the MPs.

Haters

Anti-trans campaigners disregard the humanity of trans people, and are happy to abuse us in the most distressing ways. Content: I will quote them. They think they are the victims, so they feel entitled. When institutions oppose them, they cannot understand why. It’s pitiable really.

I’ve been reading evidence given to the Women and Equalities Committee. I would have thought most people would be aware of the appropriate register to use in Parliament, but one of them swears. How can she not see that this discredits her? The lesson is, these people are like this. Fortunately, it means they will repulse normal, sane people. They cannot persuade anyone, because they cannot understand why people disagree.

many people do not understand the threats to women’s rights. Many otherwise decent people are quick to cancel, doxx and silence women who try to speak up on legislation which affects them because they’ve been convinced that these women are bigots

When someone disagrees with her, she thinks that is because they do not understand. She sees they are decent, but thinks the decent people must have been got at, in some way, as if she were in Invasion of the Body-snatchers, and no-one shares her concern. It is like Jesus said: For her heart has grown dull, and her ears are hard of hearing, and she has shut her eyes.

“There is no evidence they are born this way,” she harrumphs, directly contradicting reality.

It’s not a sexual orientation that they’re born with, it’s something else, and that something varies per individual but it could be any of the following: an identity (a cultural trend, like hipster), a costume, a fetish, an escape, an obsession, a delusion, or even a self diagnosis which holds as much weight as any other medical self diagnosis.

She can imagine delusional or exploitative reasons for us to transition, but not the truth, simply that we are trans.

Among the evidence is the bizarre fulminations of Helen Bunter. She says she used to work for the NHS as an Equalities Manager. She does not say why she ceased to do that job, but it could be because of her views.

Again, she cannot understand why no-one sees what seems obvious to her. “We do not encourage anorexics to have lipo suction.” Well, no, because that would harm them.

She thinks people need to be protected from us. “We should never be in a position where a person finds themselves still in a marriage or civil partnership where their partner has changed sex.” What, not even when they want to remain in the marriage? She can’t conceive that, though.

She abuses us. “Some man who thinks that he’s a woman even though he still has a penis.” Well, she’s just written that the treatment process should take years, so some who want an operation will not have had it yet.

She asserts her right to a women’s space with No Transwomen in unqualified terms. “For instance, at the moment organisations are supposed to consider on a case by case basis whether men who say they are women are allowed to enter women only spaces. ALL males should be banned from women only spaces.” “We’re not allowed to challenging them coming into our toilets or we’re bigots and transphobes.” “Oh FFS. Gender is NOT a protected characteristic. We do not make laws for the feelings that people have in their heads. They can dress how they like but I’m not playing the pronoun game.”

Then there’s a teacher, who asks to remain anonymous because she fears her career could be in jeopardy. She will not teach “wrong science” and she says “gender identity ideology” stops her keeping her students safe. That is, she will refuse on principle to acknowledge a trans pupil’s gender.

She does not understand why anyone would disagree with her. She writes of “legislation and policies that have been passed largely by stealth and institutions being captured by ideology,” as if no-one would pursue inclusive policies as a matter of principle. “Nobody can change sex,” she says.

Another “member of the public” can only imagine trivial reasons to be trans. We’re only transvestites, she thinks. Note her claim of liberal tolerance, but her insistence on her Rights: “Liking opposite sex clothing for example can be caused by a variety of motivations, including sexual fetish, and while I support the rights of individuals to express their sexuality however they see fit, that must include the consent of everybody expected to participate. It is unreasonable to ask other people to accommodate the sex games of strangers in their daily lives.”

“I personally know someone who struggles with their gender identity and lives six months in their acquired gender and then switches back, only to repeat the cycle again,” she says. That could be a way of coping with their unclassified gender in a hostile society.

Maura Maxwell says if gender recognition is reformed, sex offenders will abuse the law. She thinks all the genuine “transsexuals” have GRCs already.

Unfortunately, all these women have their echo chambers, on line, where they can shout their hate and be affirmed for it. In the real world, when they meet people who disagree, they are confused, hurt, and so they deny reality. I have not read all the evidence given, but have quoted all the haters I unearthed. They are all equally deluded.

Fortunately, trans people and allies also gave evidence. I will quote the sane people shortly.

Parliament supports trans rights

Liz Truss spoke to Parliament about her refusal, three years after the announcement, to reform gender recognition after all. MPs eviscerated her, though two other Tories spouted “feminist” anti-trans claptrap, using the same words as any other anti-trans campaigner. Here is the transcript: or view the debate.

Truss claimed there are “proper checks and balances”- the humiliations the consultation overwhelmingly opposed- and that it is “important that we protect single-sex spaces”. Note she does not use the term “women’s space”, having learned to avoid it from the haters. When she says “It is also important that under-18s are properly supported in line with their age and decision-making capabilities” she means she wants to restrict treatment for trans children. Even after three years she could give no date when her paltry improvements will come into force. The Tory transphobe MPs echoed her language: Felicity Buchan said retaining “single-sex spaces” in women’s refuges would “protect vulnerable women”, though many women’s refuges welcome trans women, and Jackie Doyle-Price asked her to “reconfirm her support for single-sex spaces”. Previously, Doyle-Price has voted against gay rights, against equal marriage, against retaining EU human rights, for repealing the Human Rights Act, and to repeal the EHRC’s duty to work for a society without unjust discrimination. Felicity Buchan normally tamely follows her whip, but has spoken out in hate of trans women. They are just the kind of allies trans-excluders would have.

Even other Tories supported trans rights. Crispin Blunt said the trade minister should not have the Equalities brief as well. He asked if Truss understood the “crushing disappointment” trans people felt at her announcement, made without good reason. He talks of trans-excluders’ fears, “void of evidence”. “Younger people in particular are more starkly intolerant of the cruelty of wider society’s inhumanity towards trans people. The vast, vast majority of lesbian, gay and bisexual people will stand in solidarity with trans people.” Shaun Bailey spoke of how trans people feel “locked out” of health care by waiting lists. Sara Britcliffe wanted “to find a way to make the path to self-determination not only cheaper but easier”. Nicola Richards spoke of trans people’s frustration with the “lack of substance” in Truss’s response. Elliot Colburn, who is gay, said “I stand by the trans community”, and asked “that we will make those changes that cost so little but mean so much to trans people”. David Mundell wondered if the new clinics were sufficient. Peter Gibson said the business community supported trans people- 200 company leaders wrote in support of trans rights. Christian Wakeford wanted more than the government promised.

Opposition MPs revealed the full hypocrisy and nastiness of the Tory government. Marsha de Cordova, shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, said the delay was unacceptable, the debate was toxic, and the Government have let trans people down. She spoke of “the rise in transphobia and misogyny”- the two are linked. Labour will continue to support self-declaration.

Anne McLaughlin of the SNP said there was need for education to show trans rights do not encroach on others’ rights: “The Minister has failed on that front”. She pointed to the Scottish government’s better record on reform. She asked, does Truss “recognise the need to comply with international human rights law?” Truss said she did, just after making a statement indicating she doesn’t. Stuart McDonald for the SNP said Truss’s position was “a breach of human rights”.

James Murray, Labour, spoke of the consultation’s overwhelming support for trans rights, and asked, “Why have the Government taken so long to respond, only to ignore the wishes and destroy the hopes of so many in the trans community?” Truss said she was against self-ID. Lloyd Russell-Moyle said the World Health Organisation obliged us to remove trans as a medical classification, but Truss still wants doctors involved, claiming “the specific diagnosis is a matter for clinicians.” Would those clinicians be able to diagnose someone as gay, too?

Stephen Doughty, Labour, asked, “Does she understand the hurt to our fellow human beings, who are feeling deep distress and are deeply let down and deeply concerned about the direction in which this Government are going? And will she stop the off-the-record briefings to newspapers, whipping up hatred against the trans and non-binary community?” Truss denied personal responsibility for such briefings, and ignored the point about our distress.

Wera Hobhouse, LD, asked if Truss had met trans organisations, and Truss did not say she had. Cat Smith, Labour, said trans people were among her most vulnerable constituents, and Truss had let us down. Andrew Gwynne, Labour, said anti-trans hate crime had nearly trebled in five years.

Even Truss, while using policy to foment culture war and increase hate, spoke of making the gender recognition process “kinder”. The British people are mostly tolerant, and in favour of trans rights. Our hard-Right government is fomenting hate, with its allies in the trans-excluder movement and the press, but it has a hard job at the moment. Theresa May wanted self-declaration for trans people. It would have been the decent thing to do, and even Truss sees that at some level.

In the House of Lords, Ray Collins said other jurisdictions demedicalised trans recognition- what evidence is there from them that medicalising it is necessary? Transphobe Elizabeth Berridge could not answer. Elizabeth Barker called the government position “callous and cynical”. Michael Cashman called the government position “woefully inadequate…at a time when gross defamation and misrepresentation of trans people, particularly trans women, has been whipped up by the media and some Members of your Lordships’ House.” Again he asked for evidence of any abuse of gender recognition. Berridge had none.

Gender Recognition and the Rights of Transgender People

MPs and others knowing little about trans people, but wanting an in depth briefing, might turn to the House of Commons Briefing paper. It gives undue weight to transphobic falsehoods. It follows a previous paper on gender recognition.

It quotes “Fair Play for Women”, a transphobic, trans-excluding and anti-trans campaigning organisation, as saying “ordinary, everyday women. Any woman.” can be attacked as transphobic for “asking questions or voicing concerns”. This is a direct echo of Enoch Powell‘s “decent, ordinary working man”. It then quotes the Westminster Hall debate. At the end, it quotes the Minister:

Domestic abuse services, including refuges, have robust risk assessment procedures and may exclude anyone who might threaten a safe environment for victims and their children, as well as signposting sources of support for those people whose needs they might not be able to meet.

This is clear and obvious. Even if there were no specific rule for excluding trans women, they could exclude anyone dangerous. So why quote David Davies’ fearmongering?

It gives links to articles about the issues. Some attempt to appear balanced, some are for trans rights, but some are ridiculously phobic. After Rachel Bowyer refutes Rosa Freedman, why link to Freedman’s discredited blog post?

Many readers may not get beyond the summary, which says,

Those against self-identification are concerned, for example, about creating a system which might be abused, and about the potentially negative impact for safe single-sex spaces.

That is refuted in the paper itself, but the summary leaves it there.

I don’t have the law memorised, and could not fault the account of it, but was surprised to see a reference to “Genuine occupational requirements” in Equality law. That’s outdated by more than ten years. The word “genuine” is superfluous, and no longer used.

The summary defines gender dysphoria as “a sense of unease”. That minimises our distress, and the relief transition brings.

The results of the Scottish consultation have been published, but they have not even been summarised in the paper. They would show that people who took the time to respond were strongly pro-trans, despite the desperate campaigning of transphobes to get people to answer. Many of the responders were in England.

The summary says trans people object to the requirement for a diagnosis, as being trans is not an illness. However “the removal of the requirement for a medical diagnosis was one option on which views were sought,” rather than a recommendation. The section on the Equality Act clarifies that there is no need for us to undergo a medical process to be protected: that should have been made clear in the summary. We have our rights, and gender recognition will not affect them: it is only a symbolic legal acknowledgment of our value- or something to campaign against or withhold, to show we are despised.

The account of the background starts with useful quotes. “Being trans is not a mental illness. Despite this, and despite the progress that we have made in recent years, trans people continue to face significant barriers to full participation in society,” said the 2018 consultation paper. Exactly.

I learned useful things about hate crime, which is

Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person’s … transgender identity or perceived transgender identity.

This means a stronger punishment. However hate crime based on race or religion is an aggravated offence: that is the offence, not just the penalty, is greater. And stirring up hatred based on race, religion or sexual orientation is a crime, but not hatred based on gender identity, or some of those “everyday women” might be liable to prosecution.

The paper then covers the background, including Christine Goodwin’s case, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights considering the Gender Recognition Bill in 2003: “They advance the aims of certainty and help to ensure that the Government’s flexible approach to the stage at which an acquired gender should be recognized will not degenerate into giving legal recognition to lifestyle changes.” We know that a change of name and gender expression is a huge change, whether or not you have diagnosis or medical treatment, and deserves gender recognition. The committee was concerned about effects on other people. Our rights come last.

The section headed “Gender Dysphoria” goes into detail on NHS treatment of children and adults, but not diagnostic criteria, which reveal we have self-declaration already.

The section on the Equality Act quotes a legal textbook, saying the guidance on the Act makes it appear too easy to exclude trans women from women’s spaces:

It would be inadequate for a provider of services to assume female victims of sexual assault would necessarily object to a trans-woman attending group counselling sessions. A degree of canvassing of opinion would surely be required… There are very real concerns that such guidance is too categorical and fails to emphasize the lengths an employer … would need to go to in order to demonstrate proportionality as an adequate defence to discrimination.

The chapter on young people says the government did not plan to reduce the age below 18, though as the minister said,

Social transition, such as changing the name you are known by, and the pronouns you use, can be done by anyone at any age, and is often subject to a discussion between a child and their parents if it happens before age 18.

Legal gender recognition is the icing on the cake, with only symbolic significance. My bank card establishes I am female, and I have only shown my GRC to friends. I am glad I have it, but I don’t use it.

Chapter 6 at last addresses gender recognition reform. The criticisms of the current regime are listed: it is medicalised, intrusive, burdensome and expensive. There is the spousal veto: there are things I had not considered, such as “Spousal consent may not be possible, for example if the spouse cannot be contacted or lacks mental capacity”.

In Scotland, a married person applies to the Sheriff Court for gender recognition, and gets a GRC, but the court informs the spouse, and “That gives the spouse the grounds, at any time in the future, to seek a divorce.” Though, no-fault divorce will start in England in Autumn 2021. In Scotland, parties have to be separated for two years before one can get a divorce without the other’s consent.

Most people who take an interest in gender recognition reform will pick up things they did not know from this briefing paper. It has a dry style, and attempts to appear dispassionate. However it gives far too much weight and prominence to the anti-trans campaigners, and is not appropriate to inform anyone who does not know about the issues.

Liz Truss Speaks

In a time of Brexit madness, a Tory government considered whether making recognition of trans people’s true genders easier would advance equality of opportunity, and decided it would. Today, Liz Truss answered questions to the Minister for Women and Equalities in the House of Commons after “a government source” was given the platform of the front page of The Sunday Times to threaten, obscurely, “big moves on safe spaces”, but state, clearly, plans for gender recognition reform had been “scrapped”. So, while waiting for Liz Truss’s slot to come on the BBC Parliament channel, which I was obsessing about all morning, I went back to the Pre-Consultation Equality Impact Assessment for the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

By law, Ministers should seek to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations, in this case between trans and non-trans people. The Government Equalities Office (GEO) thought their consultation would achieve these aims.

They said 4910 GRCs had been issued by 31 March 2018, but the “trans population” is estimated at 200,000-500,000. They made no estimate of the number of people who had actually transitioned. As 12% of trans people had applied for a GRC, most of that “trans population” would never seriously consider transitioning, or needing another gender recognised.

Trans people in the government’s LGBT survey said the GRC process was bureaucratic, too expensive, and intrusive. If the government made it simpler, the GEO said that would reduce discrimination, reduce the barriers we face, help improve our mental health and wellbeing, “reduce the stigma attached to being trans” and publicise that we are not mentally ill.

The GEO said that there would be a positive impact on relations between trans and non-trans people, increasing knowledge and understanding of the issues we face, and reduce misunderstanding and misconceptions. They said that in the 2017 National LGBT Survey in which 108,000 people participated, 39 had claimed that self-declaration of trans people would “threaten women-only spaces”. But then, the transphobic campaign to foment anger, fear and “concern” had hardly got started. The GEO pointed out,

again,

that the Equality Act would not be amended.

The GEO promised, “We will use any insight gained from the consultation exercise to help foster good relations [between trans and women’s groups].” As I write, it seems likely that promise is being broken.

In the LGBT survey, 53% of trans men respondents and 15% of trans women respondents had begun transition before the age of 18. In Norway, children aged 6 can change gender, with parental consent. In the Netherlands, 126 people aged 16-18 applied for gender recognition in 2016. The government thought it would not reduce the age limit of 18, but welcomed responses.

“The Government does consider being trans to be a disability”- I am not sure if that is a misprint. They don’t consider gender dysphoria to be a mental illness. Some consider it a mental health problem. The GEO referred to another report saying isolation, discrimination and transphobia contributed to “88 per cent of [trans] respondents had suffered from depression, 80 per cent from stress and 75 per cent from anxiety at some time,” but that does not mean that being trans is an illness in itself. The GEO said “40% of trans men, 30% of trans women, and 37% of non-binary people had tried to access mental health services in the last 12 months.” Streamlining gender recognition “may have a positive impact on their wellbeing and mental health”.

In a time of Brexit and Covid madness, after that anonymous source spoke to the Sunday Times, I awaited Liz Truss answering Parliamentary questions hardly able to think about anything else. Kemi Badenoch and Liz Truss answered questions. There were questions on payments for self-employed people during covid, BAME people suffering disproportionately from covid, hospitality and leisure workers, the closure of child care facilities, and other matters relating to equality and women’s issues. Many of the questions were from Tories, to give the impression that the government were doing something useful. They have suspended face to face assessments for disability benefits, which they usually use to take away benefit. There were warm words about addressing unconscious bias.

Liz Truss said that conversion therapy is a vile and abhorrent practice which the Government want to stop. The Government has commissioned research on conversion therapy in the UK- they don’t even know if it is a problem, really. Specifically, they have a concern for under 18 being coerced into conversion therapy. Why the announcement on conversion therapy now? Is it to split LGB people from T people? Does it even relate to some idea that gay people are forced to transition because of homophobia? These concerns are not paranoid. All I can say is we can’t be definite this is action against trans people, yet. Probably, the announcement on conversion therapy is to pretend to advance LGB rights, even if there’s no serious risk of conversion therapy here. All the professional bodies say conversion therapy is unethical.

Truss said the government would work towards global LGBT equality. At least the T remains in LGBT for now. She said it is essential to deliver on 2018 LGBT action plan. Happy Pride, said Liz.

So, there was nothing on trans self-declaration. I will continue badgering my MP.

23 July: In similar questions today, Liz Truss was asked about trans rights. Nadia Whittome, MP, said, “Does the Secretary of State agree that her quibbling on this issue is fanning the flames of populist hate towards an already marginalised group?” Gotcha! Truss did a partial climbdown, though I see no more reason to believe her on this than Government assurances that the NHS will not be sold off. Truss said, “Let me be absolutely clear: we will not be rolling back the rights of transgender people. It is important that transgender people are able to live their lives as they wish, without fear, and we will make sure that that is the case.”

Truss and Johnson want to make us a hate group, but the British people are too canny to fall for that one, and the Labour Party is doing well in damping down any possible culture war.

An open letter to my MP, about the British Government’s threat to trans rights

I write to you because I am extremely concerned about recent ministerial statements about gender recognition. The ministers show a lack of understanding of the law and of medical understanding of gender dysphoria. In particular, gender recognition on the basis of the trans person’s self-declaration will pose no threat to women’s single-sex services, as English law already recognises trans people in our chosen gender for most purposes. I am concerned that the ministers’ misunderstanding threatens a restriction of my rights in law as a trans woman. The ministers propose to restrict medical treatment for trans children, and so do not show proper respect for medical expertise or children’s needs.

On 3 March 2020, in response to a written question, Elizabeth Berridge said in the House of Lords,

Those seeking to rely on the protections and exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2020 [sic] must be able to do so with confidence and clarity. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s statutory codes of practice on the Equality Act 2010 explain the provisions of the Act and the EHRC is responsible for updating these codes as necessary.

This Government has been clear that we must take the right steps to protect safe single-sex spaces for women and girls; their access should not be jeopardised. Some women’s organisations have expressed concern that predatory men may abuse the gender recognition system, intended to support transgender adults. We have heard these concerns and are considering carefully our next steps.

On 22 April, in a speech to the Women and Equalities Select Committee, Liz Truss said,

The final point I’d like to make, Madam Chairman, in this initial part, is on the issue of the Gender Recognition Act. We’ve been doing a lot of work internally, making sure we’re in a position to respond to that consultation and launch what we propose to do on the future of the Gender Recognition Act. We will be in a position to do that by the summer, and there are three very important principles that I will be putting place.

First of all, the protection of single-sex spaces, which is extremely important.

Secondly making sure that transgender adults are free to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution, whilst maintaining the proper checks and balances in the system.

Finally, which is not a direct issue concerning the Gender Recognition Act, but is relevant, making sure that the under 18s are protected from decisions that they could make, that are irreversible in the future. I believe strongly that adults should have the freedom to lead their lives as they see fit, but I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions. Of course some of these policies have been delayed, Chair, by the specific issues around Covid but I can assure you that alongside the Covid work, our officials continue to do those things to make them happen.

Both ministers refer to the protection of single-sex spaces, and Elizabeth Berridge specifically states “concern that predatory men may abuse the gender recognition system”. This misunderstands the way the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 work, and how psychiatrists understand gender dysphoria. For almost all purposes, we have self-declaration of trans people already.

The International Classification of Diseases provides a definition of gender identity disorders including transsexualism, which is defined as,

A desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by a sense of discomfort with, or inappropriateness of, one’s anatomic sex, and a wish to have surgery and hormonal treatment to make one’s body as congruent as possible with one’s preferred sex.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association defines gender dysphoria as follows:

A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, of at least 6 months duration, as manifested by at least two of the following:

1. a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or, in young adolescents, the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).

2. a strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender (or, in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).

3. a strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender.

4. a strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

5. a strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

6. a strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

In both definitions, the patient’s desire or belief is paramount. I am a trans woman because I believe I am. There is no other way of diagnosing: only what the person says and does. We transition, because we cannot avoid it, because we want it more than anything else in the world.

In terms of using single sex spaces, the presence of trans women was tolerated long before either Act. When I saw my psychiatrist in 2001, he gave me a card stating that I was undergoing treatment for transsexualism and it was part of the treatment to dress female and use women’s spaces. I never had to show it to someone. Before I saw the psychiatrist I spent a long time preparing to transition, because I was scared, and felt the need to check out whether I could bear the hostility and discrimination. So I expressed myself female and went out- to the supermarket as well as the gay pub, including women’s loos. People tolerated me. I only wanted to pee. I am not sure what law applied, then.

The law now protects people as soon as we decide to transition. It is in the Equality Act 2010 s 7:

A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.

So as soon as a person decides to transition they are protected, and for purposes of changing rooms and toilets we go to those of the gender we are expressing. We self-declare: I am a trans woman, because I say that I am. I should not be discriminated against as a trans woman, whether or not I have a gender recognition certificate. I express myself as a woman, and so should be treated as a woman.

But we can still be excluded from women’s spaces, under the Equality Act 2010 schedule 3 paragraphs 28-30. We can be excluded if it “is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Elizabeth Berridge echoed concerns about predatory men, but Layla Moran MP answered those concerns comprehensively, in 2018. In a debate she said,

Let us assume that someone wants to go into a women-only space for nefarious purposes. That [gender recognition] would be quite a stupid thing to do because, apart from anything else, if an offence was committed it would show evidence of premeditation, which would increase the person’s sentence. Also, had the certificate been gained for the sole purpose of entering such a space to commit a crime, that would be a separate crime under ​the Fraud Act 2006. If someone was intent on harming women, that would be one of the stupider ways of doing it.

Gender recognition does not affect any of these matters. Section 9 of the Gender Recognition Act states the person’s gender becomes the acquired gender, as does the sex, but this is “subject to provision made by this Act or any other enactment or any subordinate legislation”. That includes the Equality Act.

Before the Gender Recognition Act, I got a passport saying that my sex was “F”, and a driving licence indicating in the driver number that I am female. The guidance now on passports is here, and on driving licences here. A transgender person only needs a letter from their doctor to change their passport, and a statutory declaration or deed poll changing their name to change their driving licence. We do not need a GRC.

So, why do people get gender recognition certificates? In 2004, a friend got one because it entitled her to claim her state retirement pension early, and at the time it affected whether people would enter a civil partnership or a marriage, but after the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 that no longer applies. I got my gender recognition certificate because it was there. The law could officially declare that I was a woman, so I wanted that. However the current procedure is generally recognised as intrusive and expensive.

Because the junior minister is echoing groundless fears about “predatory men” and the Secretary of State refers to “checks and balances” I fear that my rights to be treated as a woman may be reduced. The law helps mold society’s response to trans people. Discrimination law protects me, and creates a moral injunction to treat me decently. Talk of how my rights may endanger women reduces that. Because of the campaigns against trans women I have suffered personal abuse and threats on line.

I want you to express these matters to the ministers, explaining that their fears are groundless, and ask them to assure me the rights of trans people will not be curtailed. I would like you to express your personal views to me, and answer these questions: would you oppose any diminution of trans rights under law? Would you support reform of gender recognition, to dispense with the requirement of evidence beyond the trans person’s word, formally sworn or affirmed, as Theresa May promised in 2017?

I am particularly concerned about the Secretary of State’s remarks about the treatment of children. She says that she wants to protect under 18s from irreversible decisions. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of treatment for trans children and young people.

It should not be for the law or the government to interfere in medical decisions for children. These decisions should be made by doctors, parents and the children themselves according to Gillick competence in the best interests of the children. Irreversible decisions are not made by children. The NHS can treat under 18s with puberty blocking hormones, which are reversible. For evidence of this, for example consider the Australian standards of care and treatment guidelines.

Social transition of transgender children, not necessarily involving any hormone treatment, improves their mental health.

Please may I see you about this. During the lockdown, are you holding surgeries by video conference?

Georgina Beyer

Georgina Beyer was the first trans member of Parliament anywhere in the world, though she says she is the first Out trans person. She started showing transgender behaviour aged four, and transitioned aged 16. She was unemployed, and the benefits office told her she could not get benefit unless she put her trousers back on. So she became a sex worker. She hated it from her first “client” to her last. She had been brought up middle class and wanted to reach her potential, but there was a barrier to trans people. As a sex worker she was in a twilight world, constantly in danger. Clients were often hypocrites pretending to be straight.

She still wanted to be an actor but after five years she escaped, and worked in a drag show in a gay club. “I sold my arse to get my moneymaker.” The New Zealand health service now performs SRS but not enough. In 1979, she was working in a strip club and when it closed she went to Sydney. She worked in a bar, her first legitimate job, and after four months she was gang-raped. The police told the Maori drag queen she asked for it. She thought of suicide.

“Fortunately I got angry. I got a fire in my belly that anybody who had to endure anything like that deserves justice, including a transgender person like me.” She got into TV, and made a film about a TS in a platonic relationship, presenting trans characters in the most realistic way made to that date, but the public censor cancelled the whole series because of her film. Eventually it got her a best actress nomination in the NZ Film and TV Awards. She was recognised as a woman.

She got typecast into trans roles, eg trans rape victim. Being visible, she reduced prejudice. Queers became less threatening. She moved to Carterton north east of Wellington, and started to teach drama on a life skills course: they were unemployed young people, and she got them to create a show to express their view of the world, and gained confidence. Expressing their frustration was fulfilling.

She ran the course from the community centre, and in 1991 the finance minister of the National party cut 25% from state benefits, which was devastating for the most vulnerable in the community, which has caused deprivation and dependency including homelessness even now. They got a caravan which they used to house homeless people. She kept being made the mouthpiece, talking with the local council, and in 1992 she stood for that council. She only ran with the intention of raising the issues, and missed out by 14 votes. Then she stood in a by-election, when she got half the vote.

She took her duties seriously. She was the first Maori on the council, and was the person who was appointed to liaise with the local Maori iwi, though she knew no Maori beyond Kia-ora (“hello”). In 1995 she ran for mayor. She was told she was popular, and she did not know she was being set up. She won with a good majority. She loved it. It’s about being genuine and straight-up. Doing Anzac day, she found her acting experience helped. She had the mana (Maori word- see Barry’s comment below). She engaged people as young as nine in speaking to the council. She got the local school to elect their own council and arrange a meeting. She preferred to lead by consensus without votes.

She was mayor until 1999 when she stood for parliament for the Labour party. Formerly it had been a National party stronghold. She got a 32% swing and a 3000 majority. She suffered impostor syndrome but got on with it. No-one mentored her, she learned for herself. She helped push through the Civil Union Act and prostitution law reform, to provide human rights, health and safety for the sex workers. It was a world leading piece of legislation. The debates were divisive and horrible, across the nation. It was dehumanising. The haters were getting self-righteous, including 8000 Christians who marched on Parliament shouting “Enough is Enough”. Georgina stared them down, holding a rainbow flag. There were a hundred children on that march and she was shouting at them “Why do you hate us so much? What are you teaching your children?”

It is wrong to use children like that, to deny the rights of others.

“I have been very fortunate. I could not be more proud to participate in my country. I thank New Zealand for that. They could look beyond my colourful past.” It inspired other trans people and minorities. After, trans people were elected to the Italian and Polish parliaments. People are afraid of diversity, and she blames religion. Christians quote Leviticus, and that countermands the commands of Christ. If we can be who we are, we can contribute to our society rather than being a burden, but we commit suicide because of the oppression.

Why New Zealand? Our isolation, she says, and people escaping the British class system for an egalitarian society. You can make anything out of nothing. The treaty of Waitangi was very important: Maori were more equal than other indigenous populations. It was hard to build the economy. New Zealand is a caring society. Rural folk can spot a fake, and spotted her talent.

Taken from her speech to the Oxford Union. Here is her maiden speech in Parliament.

Photo by Montrealais.

Elizabeth Berridge

Another day, another transphobe, a nonentity saying what she is paid to say- but this one could be dangerous. The Mail on Sunday reported in its print edition, though not on line, that she had said in the House of Lords,

“Those seeking to rely on the protections and exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2020 [sic] must be able to do so with confidence and clarity. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s statutory codes of practice on the Equality Act 2010 explain the provisions of the Act and the EHRC is responsible for updating these codes as necessary.

“This Government has been clear that we must take the right steps to protect safe single-sex spaces for women and girls; their access should not be jeopardised. Some women’s organisations have expressed concern that predatory men may abuse the gender recognition system, intended to support transgender adults. We have heard these concerns and are considering carefully our next steps.”

This was in answer to a question by Ralph Palmer, a noted transphobe. He asked, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Equality and Human Rights Commission about amendments to its guidance on the Equality Act 2010 to help providers of services understand how to handle requests for access to services and facilities from transgender people.”

How to handle requests? Grant them. If there is a clear reason not to serve trans women with non-trans women- not just someone finds trans icky, but a clear, statable reason- explain it, and find another way to support the woman. Instead, Berridge quoted myths from WPUK, and “considering carefully our next steps” means “We are going to find the best way to make trans people, and particularly trans women, a culture war target”.

The Mail apparently asked her for further comment, and summarised her response- the law is clear that such places [single sex spaces] should be for biological women only. When they quoted her directly, it was more circumspect: ‘Transgender people can be excluded from singlesex facilities if service providers have a legitimate reason for doing so and if exclusion is the least discriminatory way to proceed.’ That is mostly unobjectionable, though I would put it the other way round- trans women should be admitted unless there is a legitimate reason to exclude.

Berridge is the kind of nonentity to be appointed a Tory “working peer”. She was Executive Director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship: I found this page asking for “prayers” about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, now deleted from their own site: Berridge would like to call gay men “Sodomites” but is too frightened to. So, meanly, she attacks trans people instead.

In February, she was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System at the Department for Education and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Women) at the Department for International Trade. These posts are so junior within government that no-one bothered to update her wikipedia entry for weeks after. But she is a person, with a name, unlike the “unnamed source” which was reported in the Times in February, saying While we believe adults should be able to live their lives, and trans rights should be respected and protected, the government also has a role to play in protecting children (nudge nudge, wink wink)- protecting children, they mean, from medical treatment facilitating transition. The Times began, Ministers are expected to drop plans to make it easier for people to change their gender amid concerns about the impact on children, but the sources they named were neutral or supportive of trans rights.

The hate progresses very slowly, but it is progressing. The haters are more willing to speak out. I would say that the “LGB Alliance” should note who its allies are, but I don’t think they care.

Transphobia in parliament

In the International Women’s Day debate, two MPs fomented hate and fear against trans women with a series of transphobic myths. The myths need refuted. I quote some vile hatred in this post, but also the truth against it.

Jackie Doyle-Price, Conservative, said the debate on gender dysphoria and trans issues has become rather ugly in recent weeks, then made it uglier. Our rights have been pitted against the rights of women– by her. She wants a set of rules and principles that protect the rights of transsexuals to find a way of living their lives and do not discriminate against women at the same time– we have it. It’s called the Equality Act. We have found a way of living our lives. We use women’s spaces like other women. And some “transsexuals” are trans men, whom she ignores.

Those of us who want to see women-only safe spaces are not guilty of hate crime against trans people. Not all, because hate crime is intimidation, harassment, property damage and violence. Women-only should admit trans women- that is why her acceptable trans are called “transsexuals” rather than trans women or trans men.

Then she produces the “Good trans” myth. The good transsexual supports her, lives quietly, and possibly she could not identify one of them. I think people who are trans want to quietly get on with their lives. It does not help any of them that they are pitted against women in this terrible, horrible toxic debate. She drones on about toxicity while inflaming it.

She contrasts this with the bad trans- anyone who disagrees with her. The typical bad trans she names is a rapist, whom she would imply is typical of us bad trans women, who are going into women’s spaces. The only people who are winning through this debate are those men who use their power to oppress women, and see the opportunity to claim the right to self-identify as a weapon. None of us in this room should collude with that. We have already seen the case of Karen White, who self-identified as a woman, went into prison and committed crimes against fellow inmates.

She wants law to further restrict trans women: We must be able to devise a law that stops that happening. Actually the law is robust: trans women can be excluded from women’s space where there is good reason- specifically trans women, though I hope anyone might be excluded where there is good reason. The prison rules are robust, and if a mistake was made putting White into women’s prison it was a local mistake by the board making the decision, not a fault in the rules.

She goes on to trans children. We have allowed treatments to develop at the Tavistock really unsupervised. This is no criticism of the medical professionals there, who clearly are doing their work with the best of intentions, but we need to look at the ethics of some of this and the practicalities of it. So she accuses the psychiatrists of faulty ethics, and their supervisors of not supervising. She says puberty blockers are irreversible- not true- and that she as a tomboy might have been referred: I carried on climbing trees and so on, and playing at being “CHiPs” rather than “Charlie’s Angels”, but now I would be on my iPad and I would suddenly find lots of other people who thought like me and then—guess what?—all those people are going to the Tavistock. There are more than two thousand tomboys among the 11.5m children in Britain. Very few people are referred to the GIDS.

Of course it is a natural response to pretend to be a different gender. I don’t know what she means by that, but if she means teenagers imagine things, they are not all being swept up and sent for chest surgery.

Joanna Cherry, SNP, was as bad. She spoke long and eloquently on violence against women, then used that to attack trans women. For all these reasons, women must be allowed to organise themselves to campaign against their oppression. Sometimes, this means excluding the group that has historically been responsible for the oppression of women, and that group is men.

Trans women exist. We have for thousands of years. We are not oppressors of women, but a strange anomaly: we desire to transition, so we do. We can be accommodated in ordinary society as women. But Cherry alleges we are at the heart of women’s oppression: gender is imposed on women in order to uphold their oppression. By gender, feminists mean presentation, modes of dress and the falsehood of masculine and feminine personality traits, about which we heard earlier. So if we say that gender is somehow innate, and that it supersedes sex, the logical conclusion is that women can somehow identify out of our oppression.

I oppose gender stereotypes, and trans women subvert them- which is why conservatives hate us. No “logical conclusion” can be drawn: trans rights are not a wholesale reinvention or redefinition of all of humanity, but a loophole to allow trans people to live our lives in peace. The battle for women’s equality and freedom from violence continues, ideally with trans women allies of cis women- but Cherry’s feminist energy is diverted into fighting a monster that does not exist, that wholesale redefinition. If the fight against gender stereotypes is perverted and distracted into a fight against trans inclusion, gender stereotypes are consolidated. Conservatives, loving the condemnation of trans women, use it to reinforce those stereotypes.

Then she positions herself as a martyr at risk: disagreeing with gender ideology has become a dangerous thing to do. If she is threatened, violence against us is justified- see the vile threats and hatred of a commenter here recently. She opposes no-platforming and the attempted silencing of well-respected feminist academics and others simply for asserting women’s rights, and names Selina Todd. Well, public bodies have the public equality duty, so should not platform trans-excluders. They have powerful platforms, such as The Times, the Houses of Parliament, the Universities….

Then she goes on to the “good trans” myth again. Many trans women I speak to are angry that their quiet and dignified lives are being disrupted by malevolent individuals pushing identity politics in a way that is anti-democratic and abusive. The malevolent individual here is Cherry herself. I want to go into women’s changing rooms to try on clothes. If I have to speak out to defend my rights, Cherry would call me names.

Some feminists have legitimate concerns about changing the law on gender recognition to allow self-identification. The Equality Act and the diagnostic criteria are based on self-identification: trans women know we are women, or want to be women, and tell a psychiatrist or decide to transition, and are then protected. That is self-declaration. Yet Cherry still spreads this myth uncorrected.

Then Cherry generalises us as the threat from violent men. Even if one does not care about this issue, if we allow bullies to triumph over free speech in one area of public discourse, we are giving them free rein to triumph over free speech in other areas of public discourse. I use the word “bullies” advisedly, because men—and it is mostly men—who want to silence women and prevent them from organising as a sex class are bullies and human rights deniers. She wants the right to compare me to a rapist, to throw me out of women’s spaces where I have been harmlessly for years, and to foment violence against me, and she calls me the bully.

Last year at the International Women’s Day debate trans rights were not mentioned. Other women brought up real women’s issues- among others, violence against women, with Jess Phillips reading out the names of women killed by men; poverty from Government cuts; and the plight of immigrant women who have “no recourse to public funds”. Cherry and Doyle-Price made speeches promoting hatred. They should be ashamed.

Several MPs talked of harassment and vilification on line. Caroline Nokes, the new chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, spoke of FGM, and said, the “mute” and “block” buttons are your friends, and by being here you achieve more every single day than your fiercest keyboard warrior critic ever will. Cherry and Doyle-Price indeed achieved a lot in the debate: they made innocent trans women out to be monsters, and encouraged violence against us. Because of them, lesbians with male-stereotype haircuts or clothes will be more likely to be challenged in women’s toilets.

The debate is here.

Trans, toilets and the House of Lords

I should be able to march into the Ladies over there just because it is a nicer facility than the Gents and I feel like identifying as a woman at the moment. Ralph Palmer, the twelfth Baron Lucas, is a Tory peer, Epsilon semi-moron, and transphobe. He appears to have worked as an accountant, and voted for idiots on horseback to be allowed to torture foxes. In the House of Lords he used his well-paid and undeserved platform to attack trans women. Much hilarity arose on his suggestion that women washed their underwear in toilets, when they were menstruating, rather than “Put it in a ziploc bag and take it home,” like my friend does. His tweet asking “I should like understand how menstrual flooding is handled, and what makes for good practice” appears to have been deleted.

His transphobia is malicious as well as buffoonish. Why are we seeking to make women feel unsafe in the toilet provision we make for them—unsafe and uncomfortable? No-one desires that. He claims to want to break down gender boundaries, but acts to prevent trans people doing just that. He criticises Stonewall and the Fawcett Society for being trans inclusive and supporting Gender Recognition Reform.

Lord Blencathra’s worst transphobia needs whited out. Select text to see: when will you stand up to the small, militant, transgender fascist lobby and say that the rights of 32 million real women and 800,000 wheelchair users are more important than the rights of tens of thousands who identify as transgender? He refers to us as “hulking male brutes” terrifying women. He would keep us out of all women’s space until we had satisfied the Real Life Experience for two years. David Maclean, also a hunt supporter, should take care about calling people fascist, looking to his own party’s glass house. He avoided capital gains tax on his house, saying it was his main home, but claimed £20,000 in parliamentary expenses to do it up, claiming it was his second home.

I have heard racists claiming that if only they were asylum seekers they would get anything they wanted, and now Blencathra claims that wheelchair users need only identify as trans, then a whole industry would have moved into high gear to get us access to anywhere we wanted in the country, and no doubt we would have had the police running around as well, checking out wheelchair transgender hate crimes.

Emma Nicholson said that trans women should undergo physical changes before being allowed in women’s space- surgery or at least hormones. She claimed that the Equality Act required that. The minister, Olivia Bloomfield, pointed out that was not true, and that trans people should be treated according to the gender they present.

Baroness Grey-Thompson wants trans folk consigned to gender-neutral toilets, and talked of “horrible” sex abusers.

Not all the Lords in that debate were transphobic.

Baroness Brinton said, The data does not show us that transwomen are more dangerous than anybody else. On the contrary, there is considerable evidence that LGBT people, especially transpeople, are more likely to be attacked, more likely to suffer abuse and hate crime and more likely to be at risk of suicide because of the pressure. I just hope that we can pause for a moment and consider how a transwoman, portrayed as a possible danger to families by some, might feel.

Baroness Elizabeth Barker said the debate continued without moving on. I do not think that we are doing women any great favours by increasing their fears without an evidence base on which to do so. Where there are toilet scares, she says, lesbian women who look very butch get challenged going into women’s toilets… it is men whom women should fear: it is not trans women who are the perpetrators of the crimes against them. It is tragic that needs to be said.

The debate is here.