Trans extremists are putting equality at risk by Trevor Phillips in The Times 22.10.18

The original article is here.

At most weddings, there’s a certain wry amusement to be had from watching the father of the bride on the dance floor getting down with the kids, determined to show that he hasn’t lost his moves. But when a flailing limb catches a fellow dancer unawares it stops being funny.

So it is with politicians and identity politics. For four decades western leaders were so determined to prove their anti-racist credentials that they ignored the signs of growing public unease about our multi-ethnic societies. The outcome: Trump, Brexit and the steady advance of truly racist and anti-immigrant movements.

The disaster of the public consultation process on gender recognition has revealed a government so terrified of being labelled transphobic that it is ready to destroy half a century of painstakingly assembled anti-discrimination legislation to the detriment of every woman, person of colour and disabled individual in Britain. Under the current law, a change of gender requires a two-year period of reflection, medical checks and possible physical alterations. It is a gruelling process and proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act rightly aim to make the process less bureaucratic.

However, agitation by a guilt-tripping band of “trans” activists has corralled MPs into contemplating a wholly unnecessary and dangerous further step. It is seriously being suggested that we should do away with any objective test of gender, and leave the decision as to whether an individual should be treated as male or female entirely in the hands of the person themselves. In short, a man would be able to declare himself a woman, and immediately have every right to enter spaces reserved for women — changing rooms, lavatories, prisons.

The feminist objection to “self-declaration” has already been made on these pages, not least by Janice Turner, who has been subject to shrieking abuse by some bullies from the trans lobby. Many of these people were born — and still are — male, by most people’s standards. The fact that in at least one case women in prisons have been sexually assaulted by a “woman” who happened to possess a penis would give most of us pause for thought. Yet the otherwise sensible MPs on the women and equalities select committee have backed self-declaration and startlingly, David Isaac, my admirable successor as chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, has announced that he favours “de-medicalisation” — a way of allowing men to become women without the inconvenient step of ceasing to be male.

I can only imagine that many of those supporting this insanity believe that they are displaying empathy for a group of individuals who have suffered genuine anguish. But this is certainly not what I had in mind when, along with the other authors of the 2010 Equality Act, we fought to include transgender as a protected characteristic in anti-discrimination law. The truth is that, far from encouraging empathy, extreme trans activists and their allies are adding a new layer of cruelty by raising false hopes that changing gender could become as easy as changing a name.

The problem is this: if self-declaration becomes established as a principle for one protected characteristic — gender — why should it not apply to all of the other eight, including disability or race? It is hard to see how the law could resist the claims of a man who, despite all medical advice to the contrary, decides that he is mentally disabled, and therefore should be eligible for disability benefits and time off work. The human and financial costs would be horrendous.

I can already hear outrage at the comparison. The activists will complain that equating gender with disability is yet another example of galloping transphobia. But why shouldn’t a society ask individuals to pass objective tests to acquire identity status? Without criteria other than personal preference, it would be impossible to decide whether some groups truly suffer disadvantage — a big issue for women and people of colour. The measurement of gender and ethnic pay gaps would become instantly unviable, since no one could be sure that those who declared themselves to be black women actually were either black or female.

Self-declaration is already proving a disaster elsewhere in the world. In Brazil, dozens of blonde, blue-eyed students were found to have taken university places reserved for the descendants of African slaves. Given the country’s history of sexual violence pretty much every Brazilian can claim a black ancestor but this was hardly the law’s aim. In the US, Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who declared herself an African-American, contrived to become an officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. Vijay Chokal-Ingam, brother of the Indian-American TV star Mindy Kaling, found that his grades weren’t good enough to get him into medical school, so he shaved his hair, trimmed his eyelashes, reclassified himself as African-American, and duly took his place at St Louis University, almost certainly depriving some worthy young person of medical training.

The self-declaration principle, masquerading as compassionate recognition, risks making a mockery of the struggle for equality. If ministers give in to trans zealots, a white man would merely need to say “Today, I’m a black woman. I might not be tomorrow but, hey, who cares?” Well, I do. And so should everyone who genuinely believes in fairness.

Trevor Phillips was chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission 2006-12

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