Trans women are not generally either a threat or a problem in women’s space. Individuals may be, but not trans women as a group. The evidence is clear. Unfortunately so is the vehemence of those who oppose trans rights.
Before a Parliamentary committee, Diana James of the Cornwall Refuge Trust said,
“We have had trans women through the women’s refuge and we have had transmen through the men’s refuge, and lesbian, gay and bisexual people through our refuge all the time.”
There you are. A charity willing to include trans folk does so easily. But not all are. Karen Ingala Smith of “Nia” takes a doctrinaire position that trans women are men, and because of this excludes us:
“We decided to do that because we decided as an organisation we wanted to protect single-sex women-only services as much as possible.”
Nia excludes us out of belief, rather than evidence. The committee commented,
“It was clear from her evidence that she believed that excluding people with the protected characteristic of gender reassignment was the only way in which Nia’s service could be considered women-only.”
A lawyer will tell you that this bald public statement will discredit any case she makes that she has excluded a trans woman justifiably under the Equality Act. She is so filled with contempt for us that she does not care.
Janet McDermott of Women’s Aid represents a number of separate charities, which have different policies. There are power dynamics in a refuge:
“Domestic abuse is about an abuse of power and control, so all our practice has to be about challenging any hint of perpetuating coercive behaviours in residents in refuge and in our services. The services can be unsafe places for all sorts of reasons [ … ] because of racism, because of homophobia, because of different levels of access to privilege, status, power and so on. We have to manage those power dynamics all the time within our service-user population and in relation to looking at a new referral and how safe our service is going to be with its current service users for this new potential referral.”
Women’s charities have the skills to manage those power dynamics, and can exclude women, including trans women, if they need to. But there is no need for a blanket ban.
Women’s Aid are working to produce guidance for their members at the moment. Trans women who have used their services or have experience of domestic violence should approach them to tell of their needs. Any guidance should be based on evidence, rather than the prejudice shown against trans women by some groups.
The terfs have played a blinder with the report, though. One “voluntary organisation,” basically three terfs and a typewriter, were quoted claiming:
that women’s organisations were worried that “invoking the single sex exemptions of the [Equality Act] will leave them vulnerable to costly and difficult legal proceedings, or cost them their funding.”
They did not even know that trans women, even with a gender recognition certificate, could be excluded. I could have told them that. The committee paid a barrister to do the same.
So what will happen? The Committee said,
“We recommend that, in the absence of case law the EHRC develop, and the Secretary of State lay before Parliament, a dedicated Code of Practice, with case studies drawn from organisations providing services to survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. This Code must set out clearly, with worked examples and guidance, (a) how the Act allows separate services for men and women, or provision of services to only men or only women in certain circumstances, and (b) how and under what circumstances it allows those providing such services to choose how and if to provide them to a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment.”
That guidance can be based on the evidence that individual trans women are safe in services, and need them, or prejudice and hatred. Trans women should approach the Equality and Human Rights Commission to make the guidance include us. The terfs will be spinning their tales.
It’s tragic because the report details actual difficulties refuges have, beyond complaining about a tiny number of harmless trans women. Some authorities are paying for gender neutral services, even though women’s need is much greater than men’s. These “women-led voluntary groups” could work on that issue: but then the hard right organisations would not fund them.
Ach. It’s a pain. I cycle to work between lakes I can hardly see, because of the trees lining them. It makes the wildfowl feel safer, and makes each glimpse all the lovelier: