Politicians are betraying women in the rush to support trans rights The Times 13.11.56
The original article is here.
This election is being fought on, and is exposing, the contentious issues that divide us: Brexit, antisemitism in the Labour Party, how the state should be run, who needs more of our society’s resources and who should pay. The choices on offer may feel agonisingly inadequate, the people and parties offering them horribly flawed, but at least the discussions are happening.
These conversations are vital because politics is where power is decided. The arguments we’re having now deal with the agonising, elemental questions of identity, human dignity, rights and respect.
Except in one key area. One of the biggest social shifts in a generation is taking place with almost no political discussion, because all the main parties — Tory, Labour, Lib Dem and SNP — have largely surrendered to one side of the argument before the public debate has even begun. The effect of trans rights on women’s rights is being ignored. Voters who are concerned by this have no party to represent them, or even one that acknowledges it’s worthy of discussion. It is a shocking dereliction of political responsibility by all those who want to govern the country.
I believe in trans rights. I have every sympathy for people who think their bodies don’t match their minds or who would rather live life as a different gender. I think everyone should dress and live as they wish, be treated equally, and that adults who want to transform their bodies with hormones and surgery should be free to do so. My only proviso is that women have hard-won rights too, and that in order to protect them male-bodied people should stay out of women’s spaces. This simple qualification has now become a battleground.
Women’s identities, safety and privacy are all being eroded by a new orthodoxy which has been imposed on the country by stealth and without all its implications being thought through; the idea that sex-based identities are irrelevant and should be replaced by an individual’s choice of gender instead.
In this new paradigm a woman is anyone who says they are, even if they are a male-bodied, male-presenting man with a beard. Trans rights trump women’s rights. The old idea that trans women were men who felt trapped in the wrong body and wished only to present as, and be accepted as, a woman has been tossed aside in favour of self-identification; any man’s absolute right to assert that they happen to be female that day. A woman is no more than a feeling which anybody can claim at any time.
Our institutions have swallowed the new definitions. Police forces are willingly recording male rapists as women, men with penises and records of sexual assault are being sent to women’s jails, Almost any man who wishes to is being allowed into women’s hospital wards, refuges, toilets, sports teams. The Girl Guides lets boys who self-identify as female sleep and shower alongside girls and has been known to expel any woman who says out loud that this could make girls uneasy or put them at risk. Schools are removing girls’ toilets; Virgin Active gyms have been known to let men into female facilities; Topshop has opened its changing rooms to any gender.
Under the banner of choice and liberty, women’s rights, achievements and peace of mind are being taken away. There is clearly a tension here between women’s protections and those of men claiming the right to self-identification.
There is an equal tension within the trans rights movement between those people who have genuine gender dysphoria and wish to live as the opposite sex and those activists who are using the cover of trans rights and self-ID to intimidate, taunt, assault and get access to women in their most private and vulnerable spaces. Self-ID is not a simple matter of being kind and accommodating to people who want to live in a different gender. It means that women have absolutely no protection from the predatory men who, through history, have exploited any opportunity to abuse them, and no right to challenge their presence. If there is no gatekeeping, any male abuser can claim the rights of a trans woman.
There is no mystery about whether these men exist or have these motivations. They post pictures on Twitter of themselves with erections in ladies’ loos, or crow about how they walked around naked in a women’s changing room with no woman daring to challenge them, or write about their fantasy being to film a pornographic video in the women’s showers with “one lucky cis woman sucking our lady d***s”.
They threaten to smash, rape or choke with their “lady d***s” the women who say publicly that they feel unsafe when men have unlimited access to women’s territory. This crudity, this menace, is what self-ID is legitimising. The price of these men’s freedom is women’s fear.
This issue is the proper stuff of politics. How are we to balance conflicting demands and needs? The few brave women’s groups who are trying to discuss it, such as Woman’s Place or Fair Play for Women, are under continual assault by trans activists, who blockade and often prevent their meetings. The onslaught against anyone who questions any aspect of trans ideology is now so ferocious that prominent people in every profession are too scared to speak out. Anyone who does so, like my courageous colleague Janice Turner, the writer Graham Linehan or the SNP MP Joanna Cherry, is targeted.
Our leading politicians are dealing with this elemental dilemma by pretending it doesn’t exist. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn backs self-ID, saying anyone who opposes that is part of a “horrible” anti-trans campaign. The Lib Dems’ Jo Swinson claims anyone questioning trans rights is challenging human rights; this week her party told a voter who doesn’t believe that humans can change biological sex that they should vote elsewhere. The SNP is more divided, but Nicola Sturgeon backs self-ID.
The Conservatives, who first proposed writing self-ID into law two years ago, are the only party who appear to have even the faintest reservations about the policies they’ve backed; last month the equalities minister Liz Truss acknowledged that single-sex spaces should be protected and that reforms should not be rushed.
This is an act of national cowardice by our would-be leaders, dressed up as high-minded moral superiority. Will any of them think again? While they absent themselves, women are being betrayed.