Blog: And why I’m glad I did leave Humanists UK!

This post is a follow-up to my last blog: Why I resigned from Humanists UK.

I have said repeatedly that the society we should be striving for is one where the whole thinking around “gender” changes. Let’s discard stereotypes, roles and expectations based on biological sex and let people be free to express themselves however they like as long as they don’t pretend to be what they are not. The truth matters and truths are discovered through the scientific method, evidence, and reason – at least that’s what Humanists UK say on their website.

My opinion on the subject of personal identity has been much the same for more than four decades and nothing I have heard or read in the year and a half since I’ve been immersed in transgender issues has changed my mind. On the contrary, having both seen and experienced some of the hurt and harm caused by those promoting transgender ideology, my opinions have, if anything, become more entrenched.

I am now firmly of the opinion that a diagnosis of gender dysphoria should not justify the creation of a legal fiction, which is what the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) does. I am in favour of the Act being repealed or re-drafted in such a way as to protect transgender people from discrimination, without undermining women and without conflating ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. This means doing away with the nonsense enshrined in Gender Recognition Certificates that ‘male’ and ‘female’ are gender categories. They are not. They are the names we give to the two reproductive categories – the two sexes – in mammals. What the GRA does in effect is allow someone to legally change their sex.

However, it seems we are stuck with the GRA for the foreseeable future and the government consultation on whether we should make it even easier to create such fictions, is due to close in two days time. As I wrote in my last blog, I resigned my membership of Humanists UK (HUK) after 25 years because I understood – though they wouldn’t confirm it – that the organisation was supporting gender (effectively sex) self-ID. This is a position I feel is irreconcilable with humanist principles.

Humanists UK Submission

They have since submitted their response, which is posted on their website and, in case there is any doubt, I feel kind of obligated to say why I am satisfied I made the right decision and they made the wrong one.

Firstly, they say:

Our values commit us to ‘engage in dialogue and debate rationally, intelligently, and with attention to evidence’ and ‘recognise the  dignity of individuals and treat them with fairness and respect’. It is in line with this position and these values that we are responding to this consultation. 

I’m only mentioning this because, while I was a member of Humanists UK, I saw no evidence whatsoever that any such dialogue had taken place and neither has any other member I have spoken to. This was not a decision taken in consultation with the membership. Strangely enough, given how controversial this issue is and that such a small percentage of the public reportedly support self-ID, there is no mention of it in the latest members’ newsletter, which I received shortly after I’d resigned.

 

On Gender Dysphoria

It is apparent that those responsible for writing and signing off this submission, were doing so from a perspective of being strongly influenced themselves by transgender ideology, probably of believing the oft-repeated absurdity that “transwomen are women” and of wanting to support self-ID regardless of the problems highlighted by feminists and others, including transsexuals. One hint of this is the use of the unutterably silly term “cisgender” but a stronger illustration comes in the HUK’s answers to certain key questions, especially Question 3 of the consultation, which asks:

Do you think there should be a requirement in the future for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria?

“No”, says HUK, claiming that, “Both in the medical and human rights professions there is growing consensus that gender dysphoria should not be considered a medical disorder” and concluding that, “It is not appropriate to require a person seeking a Gender Recognition Certificate to have a diagnosis which has little to no medical basis.”

The HUK fails to support these assertions. One of its references is to the World Health Organization (WHO) page on the International Classification of Diseases, from which we learn that the WHO has recently reclassified what it now calls “gender incongruence” from mental health disorder to “condition related to sexual health”. A major justification offered by the WHO is that to call it a mental health disorder is “stigmatising“. But the WHO also states that “there remain significant health care needs that can best be met if the condition is coded under the ICD”. (My emphasis). This alone would seem to contradict HUK’s claim above.

By the way, this supposed stigma attached to mental health conditions raises the question of why the WHO doesn’t reclassify many more conditions. Why not eliminate mental health disorders as a category altogether and reclassify everything listed there? It’s interesting that conditions such as eating disorders remain under the mental health classification, while gender dysphoria doesn’t.

If the growing consensus is that gender dysphoria isn’t a medical disorder, then it should surely be declassified altogether, as was homosexuality nearly 30 years ago. Nobody in their right mind today would say that, by virtue of being homosexual, one has “significant health care needs”. And nobody who has done a modicum of research would deny that many of those diagnosed with gender dysphoria – certainly those determined to change their bodies by means of life-long hormone therapy and surgery, with all the risks to health these involve – are in need of some kind of medical help, though there may be disagreement as to what kind. How many times have we heard people say they felt suicidal prior to transgendering? (Note: my use of ‘transgender’ rather than ‘transition’ as a verb is intentional).

Why does our publicly-funded NHS which, by the way, states quite clearly that gender dysphoria is indeed a medical condition “for which treatment is sometimes needed”, run eight gender identity clinics around the country? If it’s not a medical condition, then what the hell is it?

Let’s just take a moment to read a powerful description of what gender dysphoria is like.

Charlie Kiss was born female and spent years “trying to be a lesbian” before opting to transgender. A few months ago, Charlie Kiss wrote a piece in the Economist. Here is an extract:

I know I could not have tried harder or longer to be a true lesbian. Ironically, because I had never had sex with a man, I was sometimes regarded as the “gold standard” by other lesbians, even looked up to. But deep down, painfully, I desired a man’s body more than anything. I continually visualised having a man’s body. I tried not to. It made me deeply ashamed. And it was confusing because I, like most lesbians, considered men’s bodies unattractive….I felt uncomfortable being perceived as a woman, not only by straight men, but also by other lesbians – by everyone, in fact. It felt strange having a woman’s body; as if it wasn’t really mine. This was in spite of all the affirmation of women’s beauty around me. In my thoughts, my mind would always present me to myself as a man.

This is one of many similar accounts of gender dysphoria I have read. The distress suffered by Charlie Kiss during those years of “trying to be a lesbian” but who “desired a man’s body more than anything” is surely beyond question. I’m not going to deny that the happiness and quality of life of many people like Charlie Kiss has improved because what would appear to be a psychological condition was treated by physically changing their bodies. Unlike, say, anorexia nervosa – a condition that also causes huge mental anguish – the option of finding relief from gender dysphoria through the use of hormones and surgery is open to sufferers. (Of course, I’m also well aware that sometimes people bitterly regret having gone down this route and that there have been some tragic outcomes. I devote a page to stories of detransitioning here.)

I suggest taking the claim that gender dysphoria isn’t a medical condition with a large pinch of salt. But even if it were true, what would be the justification for letting someone not suffering from gender dysphoria to legally change their sex? Why would they even want to?

The HUK submission doesn’t tell us. It suggests that self-ID “would enhance the freedom of transgender people to live their lives as they wish” – a line likely to strike fear in the heart of any woman who’s been victimised by men in general and male-born trans people in particular. Let us remember that a large majority of males who transgender are heterosexual and do not go in for surgical alteration. The usual knee-jerk response to anyone who dares to suggest that transgendering makes no difference to certain males’ propensity for violence and sexual assault is to call “bigot” and wail “not all trans!” Nobody is saying it’s all trans! I don’t doubt that it is only a tiny minority of trans folk who commit violent and sexual crimes and only a tiny minority of men who will falsely claim transgender status in order to get access to women. But it happens.

 

About the Equality Act 2010

It is, in my view, staggering that HUK do not explain their understanding of what transgenderism is – except to deny that it’s caused by a medical condition – and that they appear to be in favour of allowing anyone to legally change sex without any form of gate-keeping, apparently thinking that the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 are sufficient to keep women safe.

Their submission mentions the recent case of Stephen Wood aka Karen White, calling it “extremely distressing and represents a serious failing on the part of the prison service”.

Under the Equality Act, it is clearly a legitimate aim to ensure women are kept safe from individuals with a history of sexual crime, and it is clearly a proportionate means of achieving that aim to prevent such individuals from interacting with women prisoners. That must remain the case and there must be steps taken to ensure that those responsible for the provision of public services are aware of what the Equality Act says in this area and do not repeat the mistakes that occurred in this case.

But as barrister, Julian Norman, points out here, the definition of sex under s.212(1) of the Equality Act, which is that a woman is a female of any age, while a man is a male of any age, is further informed by by s.9(1) GRA. This allows a biological male to be legally considered female on acquisition of a Gender Recognition Certificate.

Once a GRC is acquired, a legal fiction is created that the person is of their new sex. A new birth certificate is provided and that person becomes “for all purposes” the sex they acquire and not the one they were born. There are therefore two ways to be a woman in law: biologically by birth or legally by acquisition of a GRC.

 

Goodness knows we already see enough male-born trans people waving their legal status at us. Look at the delightful Tanya Love (screencap right), for example, who has recently become Telford Labour Party’s Women’s Officer. Why wouldn’t any woman be ecstatic to find someone like this in the changing room of their local leisure centre?

Julian continues:

If there are two ways to become female for the purposes of s.212(1) EA – and therefore to meet the criteria for single sex provision – biological and legal, and it is proposed to amend the GRA to open up the legal route to many thousands more people with no oversight beyond a statutory declaration, then it is axiomatic that amendment of the GRA will have an enormous effect on the EA.

The effect would be to open up the legal status of “female” gender by way of s.9(1) GRA, and therefore “woman” for the purpose of s.212(1) EA, to include anyone who signs a statutory declaration.

Indeed, on Twitter I saw a different lawyer liken the promise not to change the EA while introducing self-ID to promising to keep a door locked but then giving a key to anyone who wants one.

 

Prisons

The stories of violent male sex offenders transferring to women’s prisons that have made the headlines over the last couple of years are just the tip of the iceberg. There are reportedly some 125 transgender prisoners, of whom 60 are sex offenders and about half of these are guilty of sex offences involving children. According to Andrea Albutt, President of the Prison Governors Association, most women prisoners have come from backgrounds of abuse and violence. They are extremely vulnerable. Source.

However, there is a a danger of focusing on physical danger while ignoring the psychological and emotional well-being of both staff and prisoners.

Anne Ruzylo, who spent some 19 years working in the prison service told a meeting I attended recently about correspondence she’d received from staff working in women’s prisons. They’d written to her about male offenders who claimed to be women and were serving time in the female estate. It was extremely concerning to hear about the ideology-based “training” for prison officers, which allows no dissent to the notion that males who claim to be transgender are women.

According to one account Anne read out,

I had to walk out [of a training session] before my head flipped. I feel like I’m being abused. It’s gaslighting. I can see they’re fucking men – it couldn’t be more apparent –  and yet I’m made to lie constantly. If women prisoners ask me, ‘Is that a man?’ – and sometimes they are terrified – I’m bound by confidentiality, I am not allowed to confirm…Most of these women have been victims of CSE (child sexual exploitation), rape, prostitution, etc. They feel threatened to be trapped around men. You can see their mental health decline. Also you see friendships developing between male sex offenders and vulnerable women and there’s fuck-all we can do about it.

Anne reminded us that some of these male offenders are pedophiles and they will latch on to vulnerable women prisoners who have children, perhaps with a mind to getting access to those children after release.

And then there’s this:

Most of the men are sex-offenders and what we’ve noticed is that once they’re rehoused with the women, they totally give up the pretence of womanhood. They dress and act like the blokes that they are and have what they want.

There are plenty of trans activists and allies who, in all seriousness, deny that anyone who isn’t “genuinely” transgender – whatever they mean by that – would change their legal sex just to get increased access to women. But if you make it as easy as pie to do so, why the hell wouldn’t they? As two Professors of Law from the University of Reading write here:

We argue that self-identification may conflict with the rights of other vulnerable groups, particularly women and members of religious groups that require segregation of the sexes in some contexts. Given men’s history and continuing efforts to control and dominate women, we fear that self-identification offers too many opportunities for people born male to colonise women’s spaces and pursue the same control and domination.

 

But nothing’s happened anywhere else!

This is the point at which I’d like to deal with one of the worst arguments I hear from those in favour of self-ID and I was dismayed to see the HUK submission contain a version of it. On those countries that have already introduced self-ID they say:

Research has suggested that they have had no negative consequences either for the transgender person or wider society

Presumably by “wider society” they mean anyone who isn’t transgender – like individual women, for example. Negative consequences? What like women being embarrassed, frightened or traumatised by finding people who are perceptibly male in spaces they only expect to find females, as are the prisoners described by Anne Ruzylo above? Or the domestic violence survivors described by Jean Hatchet at the same meeting? Probably not. When it comes to feelings in this debate, the feelings of transgender people are invariably prioritised over the feelings of women, which are largely disregarded.

No, what tends to be meant by “negative consequences” by those who deny they happen is physical molestation of some kind and, as I’m sure we all know, most of these go unreported wherever they happen. We simply do not know whether there have been “negative consequences” or what impact self-ID in other countries has had on the lives of women. In any event, comparing our legislation with that of other countries isn’t necessarily comparing like with like, as this very helpful page on the Irish laws makes clear. Nobody should be taken in by “oh but nothing has happened so far” argument because it’s crap, basically.

Edited to add: Ireland: The Gender Trap Storm Force Feminists 25.10.18

I could say a lot more about HUK’s submission but that’ll do. To anyone reading this before the consultation closes on 19th 22nd October who hasn’t responded to it yet but who, unlike Humanists UK, genuinely cares about women’s rights, safety and well-being, I urge you to complete this one-click response [now finished]. It should take no more than a minute. Please…do it now.

 

 

Published 17 October 2018

 

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