Fur flies over ‘Brazilian’ wax for trans woman Jessica Yaniv by Rosamund Urwin, The Sunday Times 19.05.19

The original article is here.

A feminist blogger banned by Twitter says transgender rights are a threat to the existence of female-specific services

A feminist journalist who has been banned from Twitter for her views on transgender rights has warned about the “risks to women” of allowing individuals to self-declare their gender.

Meghan Murphy, a Canadian blogger, will speak at the Scottish Parliament this week, where she will raise concerns that “self-ID” proposals will undermine women’s rights to female-only spaces, such as changing rooms, prisons and domestic violence shelters.

She received a lifetime ban from Twitter in November last year after she used a male pronoun to refer to Jessica Yaniv, a Canadian transgender woman who is not thought to have had gender reassignment surgery. Yaniv had attracted Murphy’s attention after attempting last year to book a series of appointments with beauticians, including for “Brazilian” waxes, which remove all pubic hair.

Murphy is due to appear at Holyrood, where the government has expressed formal support for reforms to the Gender Recognition Act that would allow anyone who does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth to be recognised automatically as the gender they have adopted. This would mean that people could legally determine their own gender identity.

At the moment, people need a gender dysphoria diagnosis and must have lived as their adopted gender for two years to change gender officially. Murphy, 39, said: “The risks are that we won’t have women-only spaces and female-specific services. Why does a woman need specific services, if it’s not because she has a female body, or has a particular experience under patriarchy?”

She said Canada allowed anyone who self-identified as a woman to use female changing rooms and lavatories, regardless of their genitalia or whether they were receiving hormonal treatment. “At school, if a boy says ‘I’m a girl’, the school is not obliged to tell the parents and they’ll just start calling her ‘she’. These policies have been enacted without really consulting anyone publicly,” she said.

Murphy, who edits the website Feminist Current, was invited to Holyrood by Joan McAlpine, an MSP. Murphy’s views are divisive: her arrival is likely to be met by protests, but she is also seen as a heroine by some feminists, especially after raising concerns about Yaniv online.

After being repeatedly refused appointments for beauty treatments, Yaniv filed complaints with a human rights tribunal against at least seven salons, accusing them of discrimination.

The cases led Murphy to discuss the issue on Twitter, where she referred to Yaniv as “him”. Murphy said: “Some of these [beauticians] were women working out of their homes and their names were published in the papers, but [Yaniv’s] anonymity was protected.”

Not using the adopted pronoun for a transgender person is known as “misgendering”. Yaniv said: “Twitter is absolutely right to ban users who misgender individuals. This is known as hateful conduct.”

Murphy is suing Twitter for suspending her account. “Twitter has always sold itself as a free speech company, and used free speech to defend allowing people to spew hate and abuse on the site,” she said. “But suddenly on this issue, they’re cracking down in the weirdest way — even if you just share research that challenges the politically correct narrative.”

The site has attracted opprobrium from other feminists for taking such a hard line on Murphy, while repeatedly letting off other users who make rape or death threats to women.

Joanna Cherry, the SNP member for Edinburgh South West, recently questioned Twitter’s head of UK public policy, Katy Minshall, at a parliamentary hearing, where Cherry spoke of violent threats that had initially been cleared by the site’s moderators.

Murphy said: “I have received countless violent threats on Twitter and I don’t think they’ve banned any of them. My tweets were not violent. I think someone at Twitter wanted to get rid of me — I was one of the most well-known women talking about this, and I wasn’t apologetic. It is scary a corporation [can] start determining what we’re allowed to talk about.”

Sophie Bridger, campaigns, policy and research manager for Stonewall Scotland, said: “Trans people are facing high levels of abuse and discrimination so it’s crucial that public discussions about trans equality are respectful and informed. Finding out the facts is absolutely vital because . . . we know a lot of fear and misinformation has spread.”

Twitter, which is fighting Murphy’s case, said its “hateful conduct” policy prohibited the promotion of violence or threats of attack against those in categories including sex and gender identity.

 

@RosamundUrwin