Why does Charlie Kiss say (PN 2614–2615) that PN facilitated the distribution of ‘anti-trans’ leaflets after the deplorable event at the Anarchist Bookfair? As I understand it, those leaflets were handed out by a women’s group who felt that women’s rights were being changed without most women’s informed consent. They had a logical reason to be campaigning – Jeremy Corbyn, that most inclusive of politicians and enthusiastic supporter of self-ID [the right to be recognised legally as a woman on the basis of self-identification], has said it’s an issue people have a right to campaign on.
The campaigners on the other side, ‘transactivists’ as they’re generally called, have put about the idea that radical women’s movements are ‘anti-trans’ – but to disagree with someone’s policies is not be be against that person as an individual.
It is slanderous to imply, as Kiss does, that radical feminism is comparable to fascism. The radical women’s movements I’ve had dealings with are not trying to deny transwomen anything they need, simply saying that tailored provisions should be made for them, rather than all women’s provisions opened up to anyone who says they’re a woman.
Kiss presents the common argument of transactivists, that the current GRA is a bureaucratic nonsense – and I agree, it is. But the answer is to produce a more effective law, and to be clear about where the boundaries are for women as biological females. Kiss tells us ‘there have been no problems in Ireland’. There are obvious reasons why you can’t compare the affects of self-ID from one country to another – in the case of Ireland for example, male prisoners don’t get to identify as a woman and switch prisons. That has been happening in the UK, and it has caused problems. And, yes, I daresay it is less problematic in Denmark – a country that has far more civilised and better-staffed prisons and hostels than the UK does.
Kiss says no one is asked to show their birth certificates in toilets – no, that’s because until recently, we could safely challenge anyone who appeared to be male who was hanging around in the ladies (it does happen, we do challenge them, and there is often good reason to do so). Kiss says sport is no problem – tell that to the women who’ve been injured or trounced by transwomen in US sports in the last few years.
Kiss tells us sex-based data won’t be prejudiced because ‘the numbers involved are miniscule’ and yet on the subject of ‘passing’ as women, Kiss knows ‘countless numbers’ who do so.
Kiss says the woman running a crowdfunder to take legal action against the Labour Party aims ‘to stop transwomen appearing on all-women shortlists’ – does she? Or does she merely aim to stop ‘anyone who identifies as a woman’ standing – because that’s Labour’s current criteria, and administrating it has very obvious problems.
That though, is the level of argument we’ve been faced with over the last year or so, as it’s gradually become clear that the rules are changing – in affect, have been trampled and disregarded, whilst most women still don’t know the details of what’s happening.
We often don’t get any arguments at all – we’re just told we lack compassion, or that we’re being silly (or bigoted, or transphobic or fascist) and the cavalier manner in which questions and concerns are brushed off has done nothing but increase many women’s anxiety. A phobia is an irrational fear. It is not irrational for mums to cry ‘hang on a minute!’ when the laws and the social conventions that generations of women have used to protect themselves and their children have evaporated overnight.
“Let’s have a nationwide discussion, with less shouting down & abusive responses”
We’re told trans people aren’t dangerous – we didn’t say they were, but if accommodating them means leading autistic, gay and lesbian kids down a path of irreversible medical changes wherever their particular discomfort with gender roles is misinterpreted; when we see signs in toilets telling us not to question someone ‘we think might be using the wrong toilets’, something we’ve taught our kids to help them avoid ‘dangerous strangers’; when our politicians and professionals decide they can sweep aside the equalities law that allows some spaces and services to be set aside for biological women, without any attempt at risk-assessment; when the world suddenly turns unisex without any wider conversation about the fact that 98 percent of violence against women is perpetrated by men; when we learn that around 80 percent of transwomen do not have surgery, and so are still intact biological males, our fears are not irrational.
Try reading some of Kristina Harrison’s work on this subject, or go look for her on YouTube. She is a transwoman who, as she puts it, ‘stands with women and girls’ – she empathises with them. That’s why she’s happier living ‘as a woman’ and it is the empathy she has that leads her to say we do have a problem with self-ID and that the answer is not to shout women down and tell them to get used to the fact that anyone is allowed in women’s spaces, on women’s courses, and anyone is allowed to claim the increasingly scarce bursaries and protections that had been put in place for women, protections that the current government has spent years whittling down to a shaky and insufficient provision, even without ‘countless numbers’ of extra takers.
Our fears are not irrational. Give us time, give us space, let’s have a nationwide discussion, with less shouting down, abusive responses and general misogyny. Only then will we find a way forward that works for everyone.