Trans women in women’s spaces: the evidence

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:

Jessica Yaniv

Does any trans woman support Jessica Yaniv? She is suing several Canadian beauticians for refusing to wax her scrotum. She demands several thousand dollars each from them in compensation, and some have gone out of business.

She pretended to be someone else when approaching them,  using the profile of a pregnant woman.

Wedding cakes are symbolic of equality. If a baker can refuse a wedding cake, a landlord can refuse an apartment. The same might apply to waxing, except that it is an intimate service. Some traders are happy to wax a penis and scrotum for payment, some are not. Also, it is different from waxing a vulva. The hair lies differently and the surfaces to be waxed are more complex. Jessica may have a woman’s genitals, but she does not have a vulva. Arguably, a “Brazilian” is a vulva wax.

For me it is not the appropriate cause for activist litigation. Punch up, not down.

I heard about it days ago in strident Facebook comments from anti-trans campaigners. “What would be a good enough reason to force someone to handle someone’s genitals against their will?” They put the case as shockingly as they can, of course, but it is an open goal.

Then it got into The Guardian, in a popular piece which was about as little transphobic as possible, I suppose. “It’s not a hate crime for women to feel uncomfortable waxing male genitalia” said Arwa Mahdawi. I agree, though I don’t think the case tells us anything interesting about trans rights, or equality legislation, except that some trans women are unpleasant people. I don’t want to be so vulnerable that I am unsafe to be unpleasant, and I also don’t like the press drawing attention to people whose only newsworthy characteristic is that they are an unpleasant trans woman. It increases transphobia.

Mahdawi points out that right wing media which usually campaigns against women’s rights and immigrants are now hypocritically using women’s rights and immigrant rights to hammer a trans woman. But then she states Yaniv is a “troll, not an activist”. I agree, because I feel there are reasons to sympathise and argue for Yaniv’s victims.

Catriona Stewart in The Herald used the case to campaign against trans rights. “The case encapsulates the concerns of feminists around self-id”, she writes. No, it doesn’t. There is a clear distinction between a vulva wax and a scrotum wax. Possibly it “Disregards women’s boundaries and dignity”, but in a unique way. I don’t expose myself in a loo, I use a cubicle. It is easy enough to make the distinctions and see where trans rights are justified, unless you want to make a transphobic point.

“There is a bitter divide between trans allies and women’s allies,” she writes. That is the hideous lie. It is not all cis women against trans women, many support trans rights. I am glad of the female politicians Stewart quotes taking a stand, though she mocks them.

Stewart writes of another Canadian case in which a cis woman would not share a room in a hostel with a “masc-presenting” trans woman, that is, one with a beard and men’s clothes, and so was evicted. That’s a difficult case. I don’t think UK law would require the trans woman to share with a woman. But then my voice does not pass as female. There is a line to be drawn, and if it is at stealth then I don’t measure up.

So liberal media plays the conservative game, drawing attention to problematic trans women, which has the effect of making us look bad. Yes it’s transphobic to judge all trans women by a few onjectionable trans women, just as it would be antisemitic to judge all Jews. It does not mean people don’t do it.

People often think of issues in terms of individual stories. The relentless focus on unpleasant trans women turns people against us.

To end on a positive, here are those female politicians Stewart quotes. Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, says “trans women are women”. Mhairi Black, Scottish MP, supports us. And The Herald is on both sides like the Guardian, with an opinion piece saying Scotland must introduce gender reform.

Ignoring women

The report, chaired by a woman, seeking evidence from women and women’s organisations,
“ignored women,” she said.
She meant, ignored her.
Did not repeat her views.
Perhaps I should tell her the ways of the world.
Even I ignore me.
I said to the paedophile
(Of course he is more than that-
hopes, fears, dreams, love, aspirations
Achievements- and yet a paedophile
And so, a paedophile)
“Look mate, I get it. I am someone the meanest of men can despise too.”
You’re never invisible when they want to hurt you.
Do these feminists take their equality so seriously
that they think they can despise me like men do?
When she says “I was raped. I was traumatised. I was sexually assaulted”
I hope she inspires sympathy, anger and resolution
but against rapists, not trans women.
“for the crime of asking if it was a female only space”
(That is, pure of trans women
Who pollute like a drop of ink in a litre of water
even if we are not actually there)
“I was spoken down to!”
By Women!
Women abet the Oppression of Women!
What greater loneliness could there be?
Woman’s voices are being suppressed! Misogyny!
She will preserve her standard of Integrity.
As for me, I wheedle, “Why can’t we all get along?”
How feminine is that?

How to hate trans women

You may have come across trans women, and not known it. Some of us look and sound indistinguishable from other women. And some of us you could spot a mile off, because we look like men in drag; but if you talk to us you will see we are not like men, being culturally feminine, and often humble and unassuming, or badly hurt.

Hate works best with a kernel of truth. Tell the truth, first, to create a feeling of righteous anger. If you started by dehumanising us, people would see through it.

The first truth to tell is general, about the difficulties women have. There is no such thing as female privilege. Male violence against women and girls is everywhere: FGM, honour killing, immolation, rape, sexual assault…

This is all true. Remind women of what they have to be angry about. The hope is that you can then get them angry about something new.

The next step is the half-truth. “If Government proposals go ahead, any man will be able to declare himself a woman.” It’s probably not good to dwell on this too much. After all, apart from trans women, who would? Perhaps a few anti-trans campaigners. Graham Linehan might try, to prove a point. However he probably would not succeed. How can you swear before a magistrate that you intend to live life-long in the opposite gender, when presenting male? If he dressed up for the occasion, he would still not be protected from possible charges of perjury.

So it’s better to rush over that bit. Don’t elaborate, or people will see through it, unless they are predisposed against trans people to start with.

Then you start on bad things that trans women have done. Unfortunately, the Times and other media publicise trivial things which put a trans woman in a bad light. Tara Wolf has done us a great deal of harm, made worse by all the publicity.

Then, you start on particular issues. Keep negative. It does not matter that the problem is always something else: on trans women in women’s prisons, the problem is the underfunding of prisons and the authoritarian drive to imprison people who should never be there. Karen White was in a women’s prison because the authorities failed to implement their own rules properly, and did not have proper security. But that does not matter: Karen White is the perfect monster, to allege The Tranny Threat.

If your audience is inclined to be sympathetic with trans people, you can claim to be too- but only in theory, never in practice. You do not oppose the decent transsexuals, you say, the ones who want no trouble; but you claim that any actual trans woman is not truly transsexual. You say they have autogynephilia, and ignore the fact that theory is discredited. You claim they have penises, though most trans women want surgery. Insist that they are all men. Act as if absolutely everybody is clearly a man or a woman, and deny that culture has any effect on this. Yes, people have been transitioning all over the world for millennia, but if that gets mentioned deny it and move swiftly on to anger issues.

You must never allow any of the positives of trans recognition to be mentioned. Just deny them, and keep emphasising anything women should be angry about. Drown out all mention of the tiny proportion of the population that is trans: 0.1%, but even were it 1% that is still very few people. Trans people subvert gender by obviously not conforming, but insist that they enforce traditional gender roles against all the evidence.

And then you will have created a new hate group. Your right wing, authoritarian funders will rejoice (its probably better to deny the right wing funding). You will achieve nothing for feminism, because you will divert feminist energy against a non-existent problem. But you will have a delicious feeling of righteous anger.

Audre Lorde explained: Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human difference between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals. As a result, those differences have been misnamed and misused in the service of separation and confusion.

Spreading hate does the Masters’ work.

My right to my feelings and perceptions

He told me that “Look mate, I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman” is not clearly objectionable. He explained that I have quite a deep voice. I am glad Tina reacted to this with incredulity: it helps me value my own view. If I go up to a man and say something unrelated to my trans status, and he responds with that, he is saying that I am a weirdo (his tone of voice emphasised that, but the phrase shows it). That is only relevant if he thinks it means I do not deserve his respect.

I tend to hope that line is generally seen as abusive. However, the bland denial has a purpose: to show that my response was objectionable. I am reduced to the plight of William Brown, saying “I was just statin’ a fact”- often, William is. If I proceed, I will face more denial of facts seeming self-evident to me. It is destabilising for me when someone asserts 2+2=5, but fortunately we do not have to agree on all facts, and no-one has a cage with a rat in it to hand.

In mindfulness practice, I develop self-respect. I am clearer about my judgment and my feelings. I have a right to both. This does not mean that I will not take another’s perspective into account, but that I will not merely submit to it. I will exercise my own judgment.

Whose feelings and perceptions matter? When we want a common understanding (which is often reassuring) how do we reach it?

She said, Is this going to have a unilateral application across all diversities? Should it be essential for everybody to have a self-respect which is impervious in order to be part of these meetings?

No, I said. I meant that I desire the equality of others. Now, I think it helps to know different perceptions may coexist. Those things I resent about H- I was thinking of saying, possibly she couldn’t have done anything better- I actually said, anything else. I don’t want to enforce my idea of “better”. Better for whom?

This is humility! Why does it appear arrogant to others?

-I have great strength as well as terrifying weakness.
-Of course: and also great weakness and terrifying strength.
-Terrifying for whom?
-Other people, who don’t expect you to have it? Human beings are a marvellous mess of paradoxes and dichotomies and conundrums and everything else-

The mercurial organismic self responds unpredictably because it responds to the actual situation it perceives. Its perceptions may be incomplete or inaccurate, but it continually reevaluates them. Unfortunately part of the situation is the self-concept’s need to believe certain things about itself. The self-concept is a great burden to the organismic self.

How can you be a square peg in a round hole? It’s difficult. It may be sustainable for a time but not permanently, eventually you revolt. Or you might manage it if you know what you’re doing, or perhaps if you appreciate the needs of the hole. It’s not wrong, it’s just different.

-At the moment you are strong. YM did you good. I am curious about what your isolation means for you?
-I refuse to surrender belief in possibilities.
-There are eejits in every gathering of human beings. I wish they were more clearly marked.
-Well, we just have to open our mouths, you know.

I get knocked down. But I get up again…

In the actual situation, I wrote:

I feel anxious about being late. The way I respond is self-soothing behaviour which actually makes me more late. When I start getting ready I will feel my anxiety and hurry. Or despondency (which I feel now) around not measuring up. This lessens my energy and motivation.

I want to meditate on feelings, but I have to go. I am putting down the burden of my feelings, and picking it up in a different way. How do I know what was going on in that situation? Well, it seems reasonable. I can’t know that the people making the decision knew what I knew. I thought they did, and it made them do what they did. But possibly no-one reported to them, and they didn’t ask.

I was stressed, then, and again arriving late, so that I even thought of giving a long elaborate explanation of my feelings and how they affect me, but decided that’s a big excuse to be saved for another time. My lateness, less than five minutes, is noticed and possibly hinted at but not commented on directly, and I don’t apologise for it.

Human relationships are difficult!

Graham Linehan

Graham Linehan will no longer be posting transphobic tweets, he claims. His Medium post explaining why summarises many of the transphobic and idiotic arguments put by the transphobes. So I will answer them.

Linehan objects to trans people having surgery. He quotes transphobe Kristina Harrison, saying children are being medicalised with inappropriate, irreversible treatments. However he also objects to trans people not having surgery: “current ideology dictates that you don’t need surgery or hormone treatments to be trans”. He repeats the old trope of “transsexuals” not benefiting from self-ID, and claims that because some trans women parrot these tropes he cannot be transphobic: “they are the wrong kind of trans to some”. Perhaps he has never heard of internalised misogyny.

Where to start? So who benefits from this? Who is feeding the furnace? Not transsexuals, many of whom are watching with horror as the rights they do have come under threat from such nebulous concepts as self ID, and are labelled ‘truscum’ for opposing them. No, there are, it seems to me, four groups that benefit from the toxicity around this topic: predatory men, con artists, misogynists and fetishists. It is in their interests and their interests alone, that none of us can have a grown-up conversation about this subject.

The few trans folk who agree with him are the good people, and all the trans people trying to live our lives are the bad people. The “transsexuals” are the people who have the surgery and hormones, from the threat of which he wants to protect children. Every trans person who disagrees with him must go into one of those four heads. Many of us are living full time, having had surgery or seeking it, and on hormones, but he still dismisses us as “misogynists and fetishists”. The “predatory men [and] con-artists” are wholly fictional. A man can barge into a woman’s loo without bothering to dress up, dressing up to disguise yourself shows premeditation so is an aggravation for the purposes of sentencing, and most cross-dressers cross-dress in private, so where are these people?

There are a few chaotic individuals who show signs of being trans who commit sexual offences; and Chris Langham is a comedy writer just like Graham Linehan, who was imprisoned for possession of child pornography. I judge Linehan on his transphobia, and do not imagine he is a paedophile, just because he shared that characteristic.

He wants to protect children from medicalisation, and cannot distinguish a referral or psychological treatment from hormones and surgery: “Why are children being sent down a medical pathway?” Well, because when a child is clear that they are transgender, or they want to present cross-gender, it is good for that to be assessed. Is there some underlying mental health problem? Can a psychiatrist discern whether the child will want to live transitioned as an adult?

A child psychiatrist told me that much of his work is treating the parents. Often, toxic family dynamics manifest in abnormal behaviour by a child; Linehan claims “whistleblowers” at the Tavistock clinic say homophobic parents try to transition gender non-conforming children. This is the system working: the children are referred to the clinic, which diagnoses that they are not trans.

Should children be medicalised? The hatred of such as Linehan, calling us fetishists, drives us to prove ourselves, and one of the ways we can show we are serious- even to Linehan, who might deign to call us “transsexual” if we never disagreed with him- is to seek hormones and surgery. 60% of those seeking treatment as adults want surgery.

There is no magical essence called “gender” that can be “born into the wrong body”, he says. I agree. Yet we exist, and the somewhat confused Linehan admits that “transsexuals” exist. We do not vanish in a puff of logic. Even though he can criticise some of the words we use to explain the inexplicable, we exhibit this behaviour. I no longer explain it by “gender identity”, myself, I believe that I transitioned because of not fitting gender stereotypes- sexism and patriarchy made me do it. I am gender critical too; and yet the thought of reverting revolts me.

He imagines that transition, or “gender ideology”, is fashionable. I must admit I also rather naively hoped a few more high profile people might join in and help make those like myself and the ‘gender critical’ women and trans people I support feel less isolated. That never happened. Has he not noticed The Times, The Spectator, The Daily Mail, and a host of smaller yappy dogs, all pumping out transphobia? The Guardian has printed some horrible articles. I could not understand such blindness, but having observed it in so many Trans-obsessives like Linehan, I think they like to imagine they are on the Left and so want affirmation from people on the Left, such as Jeremy Corbyn and most female Labour MPs, who are trans-affirming. Perhaps they experience cognitive dissonance- the rabid support of Murdoch, Koch and others shows their cause is a hard-right one, not Left-wing as they desperately assert.

Or it could be that in the heat of the conflict he is in a fight or flight situation. He only notices the threat. All the support they get does not seem to matter so much to them as the condemnation. That’s the lesson trans people can learn from them: don’t obsess over the condemnation, notice all the support we have. Thank God most people don’t care.

The importance of disagreement

Trans rights are held back by trans women working against them. I’ve just seen that one of them has written of me, Clare and I disagree on some issues but I suspect we agree on many others. Yes; but right now our disagreement matters more.

The most important issue in the struggle around trans rights now is the involvement of the hard-Right and far-Right. The Heritage Foundation works incessantly against women’s rights, even when it funds feminists. Its desire is a world run in the interests of the rich, where only the rich are free. I have changed my mind about my advice to Julie Bindel– she should shout this from the rooftops. The aim is to set left-wing trans women, and left-wing feminists, against each other so that we consume our energies and do not resist the hard-right.

“Gender-critical” campaigning against trans rights had been a mainly British phenomenon. The persecution in the US was from the hard-Right. Trump pleased his base with a ban on transgender troops. But now there is a “Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights” which entirely bizarrely suggests that the threats to women’s rights are surrogacy and transition.

On the re-affirmation of women’s sex-based rights, including women’s rights to physical and reproductive integrity, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls that result from the replacement of the category of sex with that of ‘gender identity’, and from ‘surrogate’ motherhood and related practices.

What are the most important feminist issues? Worldwide, literacy and education must come pretty high; in developed countries, the gender pay gap affects most women; FGM; bodily autonomy, and access to family planning matters everywhere; I would argue even the number of women on the boards of the biggest multinational companies is more important to average American women than a few trans women.

The declaration argues, the concept of ‘gender identity’ makes socially constructed stereotypes, which organize and maintain women’s inequality, into essential and innate conditions, thereby undermining women’s sex-based rights. Rubbish. Transition only affects trans folk, not anyone else. I have no interest in other women behaving in a “feminine” way if they do not want to.

There was a launch in New York last Friday. Jean Hatchet may have revealed the funding for that.

I can see that if “femininity” does not fit you, you would feel irked, angry or hurt for someone to doubt you were a proper woman. For centuries women have been attacked as unfeminine, as bluestockings, for being too clever. Yet the heart of “transgender ideology” is the idea of gender identity, the knowledge at the heart of me, before any justification, that I am a woman. Therefore any woman can define her own womanhood. We are not the ones doubting or circumscribing your womanliness. All we do is assert our own. It would not affect women’s rights if even 5% of women were AMAB, but 0.1%?

I agree with them. They are women. Any time they want to talk, or find how we are natural allies, I am open to that. And I disagree. They are being set against their allies by their enemies, and the ridiculous self-justification they use for imagining attacking trans people is left-wing, principled, or against stereotyping of gender is utterly wrong.

And, what do I agree about, with that trans woman? I would like some accommodation with gender-critical feminists. What do I disagree? I condemn her utterly for writing for the Spectator. It is a right-wing rag. Yes, it’s nice to get your name on a well-read website, but not worth. betraying all you should hold dear. They want to criticise the prosecution by the prosecuting authorities of someone for doxxing a trans child, or pretend there is some “free-speech” issue around putting forward a view trumpeted in The Times four times a week, or even argue that trans women are not women. They are your enemy, and the enemies of all feminists. Yet you publish there, undermining everything you might want to achieve as a union activist, or even as a teacher. And these “feminists” undermine feminism by diverting feminist energy against trans women. I am with John Major on this- it’s time to “condemn a little more, and understand a little less”. Debbie Hayton: stop self-harming, and stop betraying feminism.

Sympathy for the anti-trans campaigners

A thread on a site where anti-trans campaigners go asks them how they started with that campaign. It has over six hundred responses, and the personal stories are fascinating. Why would people invest so much time and energy in trying to evict 0.1% of women from women’s spaces? Why do they spend so much time on line, radicalising each other, nursing their wrath to keep it warm? There is qualitative evidence there, and I hope serious research is done to draw some conclusions from this archive. Meanwhile, here are some quotes and stories. Continue reading