Trans Rights at the Green Party Conference

The Green Party of England and Wales conference, ended today, has supported trans rights. They passed this, which will now be part of their policy document:

RR531 The Green Party believes that trans, non-binary, genderqueer, third gender and intersex people should have their gender legally recognised and be empowered to update their birth certificate and any other official documents, without medical or state encumbrance. We support the right for individuals to update their legally recognised gender by self-determination, the only requirement being a statutory declaration, to how they would describe their gender, including having the option to change their name on all documents.

A similar paragraph came up at the Autumn 2020 conference. “Self-declaration” has been replaced by “self-determination”, because declaration might imply choice, and we are who we are. But “without requiring approval from a doctor or a judge” has been replaced by “the only requirement being a statutory declaration”. A statutory declaration has a penalty of perjury for falsehood. The new version adds the bit about changing the name on documents. In 2002, my university agreed to give me a degree certificate in my new name.

When Theresa May announced her proposal in 2017, that was what I hoped the law would be. We are not ill. ICD11, which comes into force next year, acknowledges we are not ill. To require us to produce a letter from a specialist psychiatrist stating that we are not ill in a particular way is ridiculous. Unfortunately, the Tories have moved even to the right of Theresa May, and believe culture war is a good way for them to retain power.

The Green Party also passed a motion to recognise trans parents on their children’s birth certificates as father or mother appropriate for their gender.

However, they have a large number of anti-trans obsessives, as if their main aim was ending trans rights rather than stopping the climate disaster. They had motions

  • To prevent medical treatment for trans children, disingenuously titled “To prevent irreversible damage to children with gender dysphoria”. They also had an emergency motion to prohibit GenderGP from operating in the UK, when the High Court has stopped the NHS from providing treatment.
  • To “ensure gender and sex are not conflated” by mandating misgendering of trans women in all government data, forcing the disclosure of birth sex of trans people.
  • To kick trans women out of women’s sports, claiming that women have “physically diminutive stature and strength”.

There was also an amendment proposed to RR531 which would have turned its meaning around. With this level of obsession, anyone would think the climate was absolutely fine.

Siân Berry, the co-leader and London mayoral candidate, was delighted. So was Caroline Russell, member of the London Assembly.

Unfortunately, a large minority voted against trans rights at the conference: about 230 of just over 500 voting. Shahrar Ali, their home affairs speaker, tweeted darkly about “things that move us away from recognising truth and reality”. It is as if he cannot see the truth before his eyes, that trans people exist, that we always have done, and that trans recognition increases freedom by subverting gender stereotypes. He moved the motion against GenderGP. Ali says this is about child safeguarding.

I am a trans woman. I would have hoped that the Green Party would support trans rights because trans people are a harmless minority. Unfortunately, some people are riled up to prevent trans rights, and become obsessive as if this was the most important issue in politics. I am glad the Green Party voted the right way, and appalled that so many Greens wanted to waste time persecuting trans people.

The feminist case for trans exclusion

Is there any merit in trans excluders’ arguments to exclude trans women from women’s spaces? Is there any harm to cis women from allowing trans women in?

If there were, we would have seen it by now. Trans women are in women’s spaces informally tolerated since the 1960s, officially under the Equality Act 2010, and even under Theresa May’s Tory government trans inclusion was seen as a good thing. Now, the English Nationalists in power seek to make trans people a vilified hate group, but they are not succeeding yet.

Any harm is not to all cis women. Many are trans allies, and say that they are perfectly willing to accept trans women in women’s spaces. However it is suggested that women traumatised by sexual assault may be retraumatised by seeing those they consider to be men in women’s spaces, that this is a harm to those women, so trans women should be excluded. For the purposes of this argument, I will assume such cis women exist.

We then have two groups of people whose interests conflict, trans women and these traumatised cis women. How could we resolve this conflict?

One way could be to argue that trans women are entitled to less consideration than cis women, or that our needs are not real, and trans excluders devote a great deal of energy to that, saying that our transition comes from false conservative understanding of gender, or from feelings which may dissipate. However trans women are real. Transition is in no sense a “lifestyle choice”, but something we do because we can’t bear not to. Without playing oppression Olympics, we can’t decide that one group’s interests should be sacrificed to the other’s.

Because trans women exist, cis women who merely feel angry that trans women are in women’s spaces are no more entitled to consideration than white women who feel angry at the presence of Black women. Trans excluders have sought to fan the flames of this anger, arguing that the presence of trans women is a danger or an insult. This is clear transphobia.

Trans excluders also collect all reports of trans women who are criminals, in order to stoke fear of trans women. There are criminals in every  social group (apart from the theoretical group of “non-criminals”). Sanctioning a group for the actions of individuals is wrong. Also, there are cis women who are criminals, and may pose a risk in toilets. The answer is to deal with wrongdoers, not collective punishment.

However there may be conflicting rights, between trans women, and some number of cis women, retraumatised when they see us, or placed in fear.

To resolve the dilemma, we could show that trans women in general are not a threat. Get to know some trans women. We don’t all look conventionally feminine, but the beauty myth is tyranny over all women. The Christian argument against the Shrek films was that children would see the trans character, see she was not evil, and come to accept trans people in real life rather than loathing and fearing us, as they thought people should.

In places where you do not talk to others, usually, the chance of a trans woman traumatising a cis woman is small. We use loos and changing rooms, then leave.

In rape crisis centres and women’s shelters, the two groups could be kept apart without reducing the service for either, and getting to know each other would reduce the hurt.

Then, what will reduce the suffering of female victims of male violence? Greater conviction rates might, societal disapproval, increasing women’s social status, dealing with the gender pay gap. A hate campaign against harmless trans women is the last thing to benefit cis women. All it will do is give them an out-group to despise, and direct their anger downwards rather than at the sources of their oppression. That is why the Tories support the hate campaign.

When you consider what might actually have value for some women, even at such a huge cost to so many others, in the trans-excluders’ arguments, you see how harmful their campaign is. It may arise from women’s pain and hurt, but it has no way of assuaging it.

NEC nominations and trans rights

Updated 13 November: the results of the NEC elections have been announced. Candidates in bold were elected. Most have spoken up for trans rights or against transphobia.

Labour Party members voted for National Executive Committee CLP representatives. Every eligible member could vote for nine CLP reps and one treasurer. What are the candidates’ positions on trans rights? The Labour Party LGBT Network asked a long list of questions, mainly about trans rights. Most candidates have spoken or written in favour of trans rights, or against transphobia. The ballot closed at noon on 12th November, and the results were announced the following day.

Continue reading

Trans women, simply explained

Non-trans friends:

Predatory men pretending to be trans in order to attack women is a myth. It could happen now, if they really wanted, as the Equality Act 2010 in the UK allows those who appear to be trans women to enter women’s spaces, but it does not happen because there are so many easier ways of attacking women.

That myth is transphobic. It creates fear of trans women. Someone might think: “Is that a genuine trans woman? Or is it a predatory man?” They might even feel an enhanced sense of suspicion- “Will there be a predatory man in a dress there?” Yet people who spread the myth often imagine that they are not transphobic because they don’t think they are hostile to “genuine” trans women.

Please, if you see or hear this myth anywhere, challenge it. State the facts. Call it what it is- transphobia. Explain why. Transphobia is spread by people who imagine they are not transphobic at all.

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Any attempt to exclude trans women from toilets and changing rooms requires policing women’s femininity. Do you want any woman to reconsider her hair or her clothes to avoid misgendering? What about the tall woman, or the broad shouldered woman? What about the woman who has ceased her public feminine expression and always wears DMs and a crew cut, because she is traumatised by predatory men who won’t take no for an answer? Whatever anyone thinks of trans women in women’s refuges, prisons, hospital wards or sports, excluding trans women from loos and changing rooms would hurt all women, and subject them more to patriarchal control.

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So what about refuges, prisons, hospital wards and sports? Women’s Aid helps fugitives from violence, and includes trans women fugitives from violence. No prisoner should be subject to violence: let us work for the reduction of the prison population and the humane treatment of prisoners, not for housing trans women in vulnerable prisoner units with male paedophiles. In hospital all deserve dignity, even trans women. In sport, the IOC requires drastic reduction in the male testosterone level in all trans women competitors. No man would endure that. These women should be able to compete.

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I am terrified. After The Sunday Times reported a “government source” promised to “safeguard female-only spaces, including refuges and public lavatories, to stop them being used by those with male anatomy”, and overturn the consultation, where 70% of respondents were in favour of trans self-declaration, I fear legal restriction and public hostility inflamed by public discourse where trans women are conflated with predatory men. Trans women are not the main threat to other women.

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What do you say when a cis straight educated white man says “Why do we need labels”?

Because the first time people are labelled is always pejorative. It may be scientific, classifying, othering us. It may be legalistic, regulating our behaviour or expression. It may be abusive, short and cruel to shout in the street. Then choosing our own labels is an act of resistance.

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There is no such thing as “trans ideology”. I am a trans woman. I do not seek to define womanhood for any other woman, or deny that sex is real. I don’t define women’s sexuality, or how women should dress or behave. I want freedom for women to be who they are, because I need that freedom myself. When we say “my gender identity is female” or “I am a woman” we are psyching ourselves up to do what we do not understand but want more than anything else in the world- to express ourselves as women. When we want inclusive language for trans men and nonbinary folk it’s just like women wanting inclusive language- “chairman” becomes “chairperson”. When that seems ugly, we work together to improve it: “chairperson” becomes “chair”.

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Keep it simple. Conspiracy theories flourish when people are drawn in by all the information available. QAnon addicts relish Q-drops, telling New Information about how wonderful Q+ (Donald Trump) is, and how threatened he is by the Deep State, and “Do the Research” in between drops, analysing. Anti-vaxxers memorise lists of ingredients of vaccines, and their alleged harm. Flat-Earthers study the Bedford Levels experiments. Transphobes and anti-trans campaigners learn about the few trans people who can be made to look bad, and all sorts of detail about sports and shelters and prisons and hospitals and changing rooms, and share it on forums and twitter. Cut through their crap.

Trans women are women, socially, legally and morally. Trans rights are human rights.

Labour Campaign for Trans Rights

Labour Party members should sign the founding statement and pledges to support trans rights. I signed before there were five hundred signatories, and by 1pm on 11 February the MPs Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner, Karl Turner and Nadia Whittome, as well as over a thousand activists, had signed. Lisa Nandy also tweeted support. She was faced with some thanks and a deluge of self-pitying abuse. So was Rebecca Long-Bailey. By 13 February at 00.00 Lisa Nandy, Dawn Butler, Emily Thornberry and Alex Sobel had also signed. Later MP signatories: Zahra Sultana, Clive Lewis, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Olivia Blake. So the women who are leadership or deputy leadership candidates have all signed.

Before the election, the so-called Labour Women’s Declaration demanded that trans women be excluded from “changing rooms, hospital wards, sanitary and sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostels and prisons” and women’s sports. It was a deliberate attempt to create division just before the election, and may have suppressed some Labour votes. Now, after the election, trans people and our allies have answered it. No MPs have signed the transphobes’ declaration.

These are the pledges, with my commentary:

1. Accept the material reality that trans people are oppressed and discriminated against in British society, facing a rising risk of hate crime, and difficulty accessing public services, healthcare, housing and employment.

Hate crime is not, as the twitterfreaks would have you believe, merely using the wrong pronouns for someone. That can be hate speech- but hate crime is a crime motivated by hate: intimidation, harassment, damaging property and violence may be hate crimes.

2. Believe that trans liberation must be an objective of the Labour Party, and that transphobia is antithetical to our collective aims.

Trans people have existed for centuries, and have been harmlessly in women’s spaces for over fifty years. I have never caused a problem in women’s spaces. Supporting working people, women and minorities was always Labour’s aim. The right creates hierarchies, of wealth and of out-groups: Labour subverts them.

3. Commit to respecting trans people as their self-declared gender, and to ensure that the Labour Party is an inclusive environment for trans people.

This was one achievement of the Equality Act, which the last Labour Government enacted.

4. Accept that trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary people are non-binary.

I don’t have a uterus- but I am socially and culturally a woman, and have lived as a woman since 2002. Trans inclusion makes society more tolerant of gender variance, so benefits everyone.

5. Accept that there is no material conflict between trans rights and women’s rights, and that all trans women are subject to misogyny and patriarchal oppression.

What would WPUK and their like gain if I was expelled from women’s spaces? Nothing. Trans exclusion is a symbol. We are harmless, and we are only about 0.1% of the population. 2500 children were referred to the Gender Identity Development Service in a year, out of 11.5m children in the UK, and that is for investigation- not all will be treated. That is why the hard right supports WPUK’s campaign- it sets the Left against ourselves, and diverts feminist campaigning energy to the right-wing cause of creating an out-group to be hated or despised.

6. Listen to trans comrades on issues of transphobia and transmisogyny, allowing trans people to lead the way on our own liberation.

7. Support the work of trans members and organisers within the Labour movement, including supporting motions on a local, regional and national level which are presented for the furthering of trans liberation.

8. Oppose transphobic motions which run contrary to our own party equalities policy, and support the NEC striking down such motions on this basis.

9. Organise and fight against transphobic organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and other trans-exclusionist hate groups.

There was much tweeting claiming WPUK is simply a women’s rights group. The problem is, it takes no notice of any women’s rights issues, only campaigning for trans exclusion. Here’s a dissection of a speech by their founder Kiri Tunks. As for the LGB alliance, their only concern is excluding trans women. See their About page: the threats they are fighting against are “gender doctrines” (reasons people transition), pressure on lesbians to accept trans women partners, the concept of gender identity and assigned sex: a series of myths and distortions about trans people. They claim supporting my right to wee in peace is “abandon[ing] any commitment to women’s rights and the rights of [LGB] people”. Fortunately Stonewall, the main LGBT charity and campaigning organisation, and lesbian publications like DIVA support trans people.

We must be very clear about what we mean by hate: WPUK wants trans women out of the spaces we have been in for decades, as harmless as any other women. That would make my life considerably more uncomfortable. Of course you can “believe sex is real”; the problem comes when you use that to exclude trans women like me- this is personal- who are culturally women. Possibly it might be better to write about “groups which would ban trans women from women’s space,” as that would make clear that they are haters.

10. Support the expulsion from the Labour Party of those who express bigoted, transphobic views.

Transphobes started tweeting #expelme. Well, they asked for it. The “Labour Women’s Declaration” was divisive. However while they were complaining, I was campaigning.

11.Support reform of the Gender Recognition Act to improve transgender rights, as well as supporting policies which would improve trans people’s access to necessary healthcare, housing, and employment.

12. Organise against and oppose any further transphobic policy from our own party or any other.

It came up on Newsnight, where the leadership candidates were asked questions from a trans-exclusionist point of view. “Is it transphobic to talk about biological sex?” Of course it isn’t; but it is transphobic to demand that all trans women be excluded from all women’s spaces, from domestic violence services to shop changing rooms. “There might be Labour members who would feel uncomfortable about people can self-identify their gender. Would you expel them having signed this pledge?” That casts the exclusionists as ordinary people with “discomfort” and trans people as the threat. But they are haters: see this twitter thread when Marks and Spencer made plain that trans women could be in women’s changing rooms. I tried on jeans yesterday, to see if they fit, not “to get sexual kicks”. They allege no woman would be comfortable with me there and say they will never shop there again. I don’t think anyone noticed me.

Rebecca Long-Bailey: “I am a firm believer in self-identification and I want that brought into UK law.”

Emily Thornberry, long-term LGBT ally, said she does not like to talk about “hate”. Here’s her statement from her twitter feed:

On hate, see above. Not everyone attending WPUK meetings hates all trans women, but when someone gloats about us committing suicide she clearly does. Ms Thornberry says “trans women are women, trans men are men”. She wants us able to talk to each other.

Lisa Nandy: people who wilfully go out to hurt other people has no place in the Labour party. We are free to raise concerns. The bullying and discrimination are awful.

Keir Starmer said “Trans rights are human rights.” He said treating this as a political football is wrong. Of course it is. The haters turn this into a zero-sum game, but we trans women just want to live our lives in peace.

LGBT Labour have their own ten pledges for LGBT rights, including this: “2. Trans rights and reforming the Gender Recognition Act.
I will campaign to reform the Gender Recognition Act to introduce a self-declaration process and for the introduction of legal recognition for non-binary gender identities. I believe that trans women are women, that trans men are men, and that non-binary gender identities are valid and should be respected.
” Keir Starmer signed that. And there are Labour women standing up for women’s rights rather than seeking to persecute trans women.

A declaration for all women

This is not the time to start campaigning against trans rights in the Labour Party, as some members unfortunately are doing. This election may unseat a Tory government which has created chaos, division and hatred, damaged the economy, set British people against each other and ruined our social safety net. Trans women are in all parties, and trans women like me are canvassing, leafleting and working for a Labour government. However a group seeking to roll back the rights of trans women and denying that trans women are women have started a campaign within the Labour Party, SNP and other parties to exclude trans women from women’s spaces.

This is my draft of an answering declaration, in solidarity with trans women, for when any woman suffers discrimination we all suffer.

1. Women and girls are subject to many forms of oppression. We are all subject to sexism. Some of us are subject to oppression because we are trans women, some because of our skin colour or national origin, some because we have disabilities, some because we are lesbian, some because we are pregnant, some for other reasons or several reasons. None of this oppression is acceptable.

2. Women are strongest when we are in solidarity, and others hear our voices and support our aims. We recognise that if discrimination against any group of women is normalised we all lose. We oppose discrimination against trans women.

3. We are concerned at the several campaigns to exclude trans women from women’s spaces. We recognise that no trans woman is a threat to any other woman simply because she is a trans woman. We do not judge any group by the actions of one or more of its members, and we reject attempts to foment prejudice against trans women because of the actions of any individual trans woman.

4. We recognise that transphobia and transmisogyny exist. Where any woman objects to the presence of trans women we will hear her, and seek to grow sisterly solidarity.

5. We recognise the campaign of vilification and hatred against trans women. We oppose all speech designed to foment anger or fear against trans women. We recognise it is hate speech.

6. We do not want trans women excluded from sports. We accept that the IOC rules requiring sustained reduction of testosterone levels are reasonable, and that trans women complying with sporting bodies’ rules should be allowed to participate.

7. We support women’s human rights. We recognise the widespread discrimination and problems of women including period poverty, unequal pay, unequal expectations in caring roles or house work, domestic violence… We oppose the diversion of women’s campaigning energy into a divisive campaign to exclude trans women.

(Note this in particular needs careful drafting. There are many threats to women’s rights and freedoms. Concentrating on trans exclusion helps no woman.)

8. Trans women are women.

Here is the petition drafted by some trans excluders, with my notes.

1. Women and girls are subject to discrimination and oppression on the basis of their sex.

This excludes trans women, because there is an implicit assertion that trans women are female by gender not by sex. We suffer sexism because we are women, and transphobia because we are trans women.

2. Women have the right to freedom of belief, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly (Articles 18, 19 and 20 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights).

3. Women have the right to discuss policies which affect them, without being abused, harassed or intimidated.

Yes; but trans allies are entitled to object to meetings whose purpose is to foment anger and fear against trans people. Some organisations take discrimination and inclusion seriously, and so refuse to let rooms for attempts to foment trans exclusion.

4. Women have the right to maintain their sex-based protections, as set out in the Equality Act 2010. These include female-only spaces such as changing rooms, hospital wards, sanitary and sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostels and prisons.

There is an argument that trans women are female by gender but not by sex. Some people assert you cannot change sex. While these are often semantic issues, semantics or beliefs about sex and gender should not be used to exclude trans women from women’s space. Trans women are women.

5. Women have the right to participate in single-sex sports, to ensure fairness and safety at all levels of competition.

Trans women should not be excluded from sport where we are demonstrably trans women, by reduction of testosterone levels. In amateur sports such as fun runs trans women should be accepted as women if they say they are.

6. Women have the right to organise themselves, as a sex, across a range of cultural, leisure, educational and political activities.

Yes, insofar as permitted by the Equality Act.

7. We condemn all attempts to undermine or limit the rights of women to self-organise and call on the Labour Party and the trades union movement to actively support these essential freedoms.

Condemnation of hate speech, disagreement, and refusal to provide platforms for those spreading fear or anger against trans women should be the position of the Labour Party. The Labour Party has women’s rights in its rule book, in women’s forums, officers, additional delegates and women only short lists.

Utterly distressed by reading that discriminatory declaration, I went out campaigning. It’s wonderful to speak to a former Tory worried about the direction their party is taking, who will now vote Labour.

Jess Phillips

Is Jess Phillips a transphobe? If you think “With us or against us” there is some evidence that she is, but she really isn’t. First, this tweet about the WPUK demands: I find these demands completely reasonable. I know that we can have a solution & reasonable adjustment and a rhetoric that gives progress to trans people & protects women only spaces.

Ms Phillips was responding to the 2017 demands (see link) which were transphobic but not as bad as later ones. The worst is “the principle of women only spaces to be upheld and where necessary extended”. They mean women’s spaces excluding trans women, which is allowed by the Equality Act where proportionate and reasonable. Ms Phillips is clearly not supporting trans women’s position unequivocally; but the transphobes at the time were circumspect as the hate campaign was in an early stage.

Someone wanting to build bridges might tweet that. In turn, I want someone like Ms Phillips listening to women who might otherwise retreat to impregnable hate. Speakers at WPUK events are incorrigible. Some attendees are not. If they felt listened to, they might accept trans women.

Reading further shows where she is coming from, “trying to converse rather than having a spat”. It’s Mandela talking to de Klerk, I say- trans women are in the right- but I would still talk. On that thread she says she ran specialist women’s services including trans people.

Elsewhere she does not commit to a side, but says there needs to be discussion and that needs to be conducted in a way that is considered and civil. The public conversation has been the exact opposite.

If anyone is tempted to endorse WPUK, I want them to feel listened to. There is no risk to cis women from trans rights, but they need to feel listened to before they will be convinced. When so many are in the trenches I want someone seeking peace.

Ms Phillips tweeted, I literally sat for weeks on committee listening to trans people, with specialist trans advisors, I proposed the law change, sponsored the bills. I am trying to listen to all reasonable concerns, the lack of good faith in debate is damaging.

I look further. Jess Phillips was on the Women and Equalities Committee when it reported on trans rights, recommending far more far reaching reform than the government would consider. For example, now women’s services can exclude trans women in some circumstances, and the report recommended that right be withdrawn.

Jess Phillips’ actions are on the side of trans women. Her words could be assessed, and found wanting: I think there is a reasonable way through this that protects the role of all-women shortlists and ensures trans women are included. It seems the debate around the issue has gone increasingly feral when actually there is reasonableness on all sides.

There is no “reasonableness” among people who want to exclude all trans women; but Ms Phillips wants to ensure trans women are included. That is enough for me. Look at her deeds, not just her words.

I could forgive her almost anything for this, which moved me to tears: Last week I met a man who had been convicted of a public order offence after he came to my office and tried to kick the door in while he shouted that I was a fascist… We sat down and talked together, we chatted about Brexit together, laughed together and reminisced about the streets we both grew up on. The politics of hope is harder to spread than the politics of hate.

Sometimes you know who someone is from a throwaway comment. Francesca O’Brien, shockingly still a Tory parliamentary candidate, said benefit claimants should be “put down”. I need know nothing more. Possibly Jess Phillips took dialogue too far when she proposed it with WPUK, but her instinct to hear all sides is right, usually.

Someone dislikes her for claiming she told Diane Abbot to “fxxk off”. That’s on Wikipedia. It was in the papers at the time. She apologised.

I will look at her behaviour in the round, not judge her on one thing she once said. Rows can be magnified by press attention. It’s just drama.

5 January 2020: people are pushing her to clarify her position. Consider this twitter thread: there are trans people and allies asking if they should worry about Jess becoming leader, and terfs calling her a “traitor to her sex” for supporting trans people. It is horrible. There are a huge number of people getting angry and self-righteous, and in the middle Ms Phillips tweets, “Have tried to include as many as poss, sorry I get millions of messages every day hard to see even a fraction. I was one of the MPs who wrote the report on improving trans rights.”

I will not demand a politician utter the words “trans women are women”, particularly not in this febrile atmosphere. Here she said we need to be confident to speak for what we believe in, never being neutral on the hardest questions. Trans rights should not be an exception, but what really matters is getting a Labour government. People are frightened of the Tories, talking of emigrating, and I will stand with them.

So this is what I ask of Jess Phillips. Say that men will not pretend to be trans in order to attack women: it’s too easy for them without dressing up. And trans women are not dangerous as a class: excluding trans women as a whole will do cis women no good. Refute the fearmongering claims. This is what politicians should say about trans.

20 January 2020: I am rather sad Jess Phillips has left the leadership contest, having been unable to gain sufficient Union support. I liked what she said on this Mumsnet thread. “I do believe transwomen are women.” She says the anger of the argument is bad for progressives, and safety for women’s spaces can be discussed. The trans women in her women’s shelter did not pose a risk. No trans woman wants women to shut up about reproductive health. They should not be turned away.

3 August 2020: Jess Phillips is wrong about Rosie Duffield, but it is of a piece with her desire to promote dialogue.

Women support trans

Reading this letter, I am glad they say it and sad they have to. They want so little for us- to be treated as other human beings! To have minimal respect! We should feel “welcome and safe”. But transphobic media and journalists write as if trans women were the only potential source of violence against women, rather than its victims; as if those objecting to us are the only voices to be heard, rather than a minority; as if theirs is a crusade for freedom of speech, rather than the loudest voice. Our opponents think themselves victims, so entitled to attack in any way they can, but we are suffering. We could be working for LGBT and women’s rights, but we are trying to survive.

I am delighted at the people signing: the actor Emma Thompson, and also MPs, MSPs and people from all over civil society in Scotland. The letter:

We, the undersigned, are a large and diverse group of women who are committed to ensuring that trans people feel welcome and safe within our society.

Recently there has been a rise in ill-informed articles and commentary, where writers have continually insinuated that trans women are not women. These same pieces misrepresent current legal statutes, equalities policies, and public attitudes in Scotland.

Since 2004 the Gender Recognition Act has realised, in law, the rights of trans women as women and trans men as men. Since 1999, the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations and then the Equality Act (2010) have recognised, in law, the right of the trans community not to be discriminated against on the basis of their gender reassignment. The right of trans people to access gender specific services is an already settled legal matter.

Many national and regional news outlets routinely fail in their pages to recognise this legal reality. Instead, it is our perspective that some writers rely on recycling outdated arguments in an uncomfortable attempt to shoehorn trans identities into much needed conversations about gender-based discrimination and violence.

We believe that national conversations about gender-based discrimination and violence are necessary, however these conversations should not in any way attempt to roll back the rights that trans people already have in Scotland, nor spread misinformation.

In the Scottish Government’s recent public consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act (2004) a majority of respondents supported gender self declaration, as well as recognising non-binary people. As a collective of women, we urge that trans-exclusionary writers do not suggest that their narrow and archaic arguments are in any way representative of the women of Scotland. They do not speak for us.

This is not an issue of Freedom of Speech. Both sides have a plethora of platforms to outline their position. However, it is imperative that these platforms should not be used to spread misinformation or misrepresent the law or the facts in this area.

When this conversation is reduced to allegations of “shutting down debate” whenever misrepresentation or misinformation is challenged, the result is to purposefully discount the position of many women – like us – who support the trans community. We will be heard.

Trans people have played an integral role in every civil rights movement to date; from LGBT equality to women’s causes. Attempts to airbrush trans people from conversations regarding equality and human rights, or to exclude them from advancements for LGBT and women’s rights, have happened before. Such efforts may have re-energised, but they are nothing new, and we say as a collective of women: they are not representative of us. We support trans rights.

Outlets and commentators have an ethical responsibility to consider the impact of their reportage, analysis and commentary particularly on the mental health of trans young people. Recently, data from Stonewall Scotland revealed that over half of trans people considered ending their lives last year. Trans people continue to face unlawful discrimination and violence. Routine misinformation and sensationalism is contributing to a cultural climate where this is legitimised. This has to stop.

Journalists, commentators, and publishers have a central role to play in ensuring Scotland is a welcoming and inclusive place for trans people.

The conversation has to change.

Domestic and Sexual Violence services for trans women

In any year, one in six trans women experience domestic violence, double the rate for cis women. Fortunately, women’s domestic and sexual violence services are trans inclusive, working to meet our particular needs, and other service users are supportive. Transphobes tell of challenges trans women pose in such services, but never tell the way those challenges are resolved, with sensitivity and common sense, for the benefit of all involved. The full story needs to be told. Jess Philips, who ran a refuge before becoming an MP, says such organisations are experts at risk assessment, and seek the help of LGBT charities to ensure they meet trans women’s needs, despite the funding restrictions they face.

Services say, a woman who identifies as a woman should be respected as a woman. They train their members on specific trans policy. Service users can be uncomfortable with each other for a lot of reasons, including homophobia and racism, and staff respond to these matters to keep everyone safe.

The other women told me that another woman was basically physically abusing the transgender woman in the refuge… When I talked to the transgender woman I said I know this is happening, why haven’t you said anything to me. And she said to me because I want to be safe and I don’t want to leave the place and nobody is going to take me in any other place, and I said but you’re not going to leave, you need to talk to me. And it was a big issue and she said this is the only place I’ve been able to get because I’ve been rejected everywhere in the refuge accommodation and this is the only place I got and that’s why, if I have to accept this from the other women in the refuge that’s fine because at the end of the day I know the staff and you are helping me and supporting me and that’s fine. And I said no, that’s not fine, that is absolutely not fine.

Residents can be lesbophobic as well as transphobic: ‘Oh she’s weird and probably she wants to kiss me, I’m going to punch her.’ We don’t want to be bringing residents into a situation where they’re going to face discrimination because we went through that journey in the seventies and eighties with BAME women going into refuges that were largely full of white women and experiencing a lot of racism and hostility, or just lack of understanding. Gender Recognition Act reform would have no relevance to how they deliver their services.

People say ‘Yes, but what if some man decides to dress as a woman and goes to the refuge’, and I’m like ‘That’s why we’ve got risk
assessments.’
Indeed, some trans women do not pass well, but we tend to pass better than some straight man dressing up for the first time. It is ridiculous to think such a man could fool women’s services. No service said they had used the Equality Act 2010 to exclude a trans woman. If the risk assessment recommended not admitting to a communal shelter, they would offer dispersed accommodation. Some staff thought the Equality Act exemption should be abolished.

The fears raised by Women’s Place UK are divorced from reality. Services do not ask for a gender recognition certificate or birth certificate- they operate on self-ID already. Trans inclusion “has been a really positive experience”.

Trans women remain vulnerable. When they seek refuge, they are victims of domestic or sexual violence, and then some people seek to exclude them by calling them a threat. Services see that this makes us so much more vulnerable, and want to help, to make sure we feel welcome from the start. Including trans women emphasises the gendered nature of domestic violence, against commissioners who move towards a gender neutral perspective.

There is prejudice in shelters. One black woman said that “the category of woman [is] designed very much in a white, Eurocentric, middle class way and everybody else is falling outside of that”. It made her more determined to support trans rights. It is appalling that the right-wing press calls us a threat, where the main threat to services is austerity and loss of funding.

Research carried out by Stonewall (pdf).