Emily Maitlis: I wanted tonight to use your expertise to better understand gender self-identification. Trans groups have been ignored and discriminated against for a long time. Are you saying now that anyone can self-identify without the need for medical certification?
Clare Flourish: Yes. Having to get medical certification is humiliating. Trans people know who we are. No one will pretend to be trans and make a statutory declaration that they intend to live as the opposite sex. This legal change will sweep away prejudice.
EM: Do you believe that gender is assigned at birth or do you believe in biological sex?
CF: Of course I believe in biological sex. But gender is assigned at birth from blue or pink it’s a boy/girl cards to different clothes, toys, hobbies. People want to know if it’s a boy or girl, and from birth speak to and treat them differently. When the assigned gender is profoundly wrong, we allow people to transition. People don’t do that on a whim, but because it is their only way to be themselves in this society.
EM: If anyone can self-identify as a woman they can then inhabit spaces that are meant for women only. You’re happy with that?
CF: Yes. Trans women are not a threat to women. Anyone who is clearly not transitioning should not be admitted, but most men would be ashamed to claim to be a woman, or pretend to be a woman. Men feel no need to pretend to be a woman before they enter women’s spaces and assault women. Trans women should be in women’s space. We are not a threat.
EM: If police forces record male rapists as women by their own self identification is that OK?
CF: The Gender Recognition Act excludes rapists and I would not want to change that.
EM: Rape Crisis calls itself a feminist organisation run by women for women. Now if male bodied people identify as a woman, are they allowed in your rape crisis centre where there may be abused women who are seeking refuge from violence? But it’s their right isn’t it? This is their refuge this is their safe space this is their space?
CF: Trans women can be seen separately.
EM: Well take it away from a rape crisis centre take it to a swimming pool or changing room take it to a changing room take it to somewhere where women feel they’ve earned the Right to go and change in privacy.
CF: Most trans women would not want to attract attention and would prefer a separate cubicle.
You’re making this a conflict between women’s rights and trans rights. I don’t believe there is any such conflict. Everyone benefits when others are free to be themselves. Trans women subvert gender stereotypes. There are very few trans women and cis women will rarely see us. We do not want to attract attention or cause trouble because we may be hurt. But when we can be ourselves, everyone is liberated to be more themselves too. Everyone benefits from an accepting, tolerant society.
Of course, I was not interviewed on Newsnight. Instead it was Dr Sarah Wollaston, standing for the LibDems. Emily Maitlis barracked and challenged her in an unacceptable way. For example,
EM: We’re looking at the women [she means cis women] in this case.
Well no, you should not. You should take into account everyone’s rights when considering policy, not attempt to protect one group while ignoring another.
When Dr Wollaston said trans women don’t want trouble, Emily Maitlis responded, “This is about Law. Your manifesto is about Law and when women may read this in your manifesto and say I don’t know how I can vote for the Liberal Democrats any more because they seem to be erasing our rights?”
Well, I would not advise anyone to vote LibDem unless the LibDems were the only candidate with a chance of beating a Tory. But no-one should decide on this issue alone when the Tories threaten the country and when Labour offer a chance of decent public services and a nation run in the interests of its people rather than billionaires and corporations.
The suggestion that trans women erase women’s rights is inciting hatred against us.
Dr Wollaston did quite well, saying we have no wish to threaten anyone and if we are causing problems we could be removed. Ms Maitlis responded “if anyone’s threatening anyone you’d hope they’d get kicked out it is the sense Sarah that women thought that they had earned the right to have changing rooms or toilets or perhaps a rape crisis centre or safe house and know that that was for women you’ve said you’re for women run by women yet the Liberal Democrat manifesto has made clear that there is self-identify…”
She became incoherent. I resent the assumption that I am not a woman, and that if you talk of “women” you exclude me. Culturally, I am a woman. I should not be erased either.
These questions were unacceptable. Couching them as questions makes no difference, it’s like asking “what about the people who find [Insert minority here] dangerous?”
Watch here, starting at 28.50
Then complain here.
On 6 December Emma Barnett interviewed Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, on Woman’s Hour. At 12.50 she starts a 40 second harangue, rather than a question:
“A striking policy of yours is the reform you want to make to the Gender Recognition Act which will allow anyone without any doctor involvement something we’ve discussed at length here on Woman’s Hour to change their gender on all official documents. Gender self-identification as it’s referred to will mean a blanket law which could mean any predatory man could self-identify as a woman to gain access to women in what have been traditionally women only spaces especially vulnerable women for instance women’s shelters do you understand why some women are very concerned about this?”
Of course they won’t. This is the lie the transphobes use to claim they are not anti trans, just anti self-ID, to inveigle in women who are not anti trans. Once you enter the rabbit hole they start on about how no one is a “genuine transsexual”.
Though Jo Swinson made good points, saying there should be no hierarchy of equalities, trans women would not be likely to be violent, trans women are women and no one asks for your birth certificate when you go to the loo, Barnett continued repeating the point.
This tweet shows Emily Maitlis parroting the same lie: We discussed gender self identification last night #newsnight. It’s not “these people“. It’s the fact a blanket law would allow any predatory man to self identify as female to gain access to women. That’s the danger.
This is a myth, used to foment hatred against trans women. Men do not pretend to be trans to assault women, they just barge in. Men would not get a GRC to be able to assault women, because it would prove premeditation aggravating the crime and the penalty, and open them to a charge of perjury. The myth is spread to foment fear in cis women of trans women. Is that a trans woman, or a man wanting to assault me?
The myth is used to oppose a law reform fitting trans human rights which only affects trans people.
The myth is used to inveigle women into online and off line spaces where extremists claim trans women are not “genuine”, casting doubt on our motives, or simply that all trans women are men. No BBC news presenter should express such hate filled opinions. It is incompatible with 15. 3. 14 of the BBC editorial guidelines, and perhaps other guidelines.
A cis woman might read this tweet, then see me in a loo and feel sudden fear: is that a man pretending to be trans to assault women? What good does that do anyone? Like all hard right promises, it does you no good but you are conditioned to want it. It is merely symbolic. Brexit-you voted for it! Immigrants- are they taking your jobs? Feminist campaigning seeks material benefit and equality, such as equal pay, but even the campaign for more women in boardrooms achieves more for women than the anti-trans campaign.
Guidelines section 15, conflicts of interest
Guidelines section 4, impartiality
As this is a tweet, the social media guidelines apply: All BBC activity on social media, whether it is ‘official’ BBC use or the personal use by BBC staff is subject to the Editorial Guidelines and editorial oversight in the same way that our on platform content is.
Three complaints against the BBC in three days!
Unfortunately the BBC response was to say fuck off. “We’re not preaching hate against you! We’re saying there are people who look exactly like you who are the danger, not you!” Thank you for contacting us regarding the interview with Dr Sarah Wollaston, broadcast on Wednesday 4th December on Newsnight, and subsequent Tweets about it.
We have spoken with the programme team about your concerns. Dr Sarah Wollaston was invited on to the programme to discuss Liberal Democrats’ position on the Gender Recognition Act, and to clarify what changes would be made under their government.
The Lib Dems are one of two political parties – Labour being the other party – who have outrightly pledged in their recent manifestos to reform this Act, a move which has been welcomed by many voters but has been criticised by some, including some women’s right groups and campaigners. As a live policy debate in the week before the election, we consider it was appropriate to question a representative from the party on this issue.
Right at the beginning of the interview Emily Maitlis said, “Trans groups have been ignored and discriminated against for a long time, we recognise that.” When the discussion moved on to the subject of self-identification, Emily raised the issue that some predatory males may use loopholes to self-identify as ‘female’, when this is in fact not their intention, to commit offences against women. Here Emily was simply reflecting the voices of people who would oppose these changes, and it shouldn’t be inferred as her own view.
This is also a subject that has previously been debated in Parliament, so we consider it was entirely legitimate for Emily to question Dr Wollaston on this issue. Dr Wollaston was given ample time to put across her views and to answer the questions put to her.
In regards to Emily’s Tweet, she was simply reflecting that she was not meaning trans people in this portion of the interview, but certain people who may exploit this law for their own ill gains.
On 20 January, I got the brush-off about Woman’s Hour:
Emma was discussing the Gender Recognition Act, and to clarify what changes would be made under a Liberal Democrat government. The Lib Dems are one of two political parties – Labour being the other party – who had out-rightly pledged in their manifestos to reform this Act, a move which has been welcomed by many voters but has been criticised by some, including some women’s right groups and campaigners. As a live policy debate in the weeks before the election, we consider it was appropriate to question a representative from the party on this issue.
In her line of questioning, Emma was simply reflecting the voices of people who would oppose these changes, and it shouldn’t be inferred as her own view. This is also a subject that has previously been debated in Parliament, so we consider it was entirely legitimate for Emma to question Jo Swinson on this issue.
Not in those terms. Again, Barnett said, “Gender self-identification as it’s referred to will mean a blanket law which could mean any predatory man could self-identify as a woman to gain access to women in what have been traditionally women only spaces especially vulnerable women for instance women’s shelters.” That’s a false assertion. It’s her position, not her listeners’.