The trans rights that trump all Women’s rights were not considered in legislation that allows trans people to effectively decide their own gender The Critic – April 2021 Julie Bindel, Melanie Newman
The Political Erasure of Sex An overarching project which aims to document the process of policy capture in our public institutions, and how it is impacting the recognition and recording of biological sex in public policy, law, language, and data-collection.
A joint statement by Scottish women’s organisations on women’s sex-based rights and the Scottish Government’s proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act
This statement has been issued by 14 Scottish grassroots feminist and women’s rights organisations in response to the Scottish Government’s announcement that it intends to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). The First Minister offered an assurance that this new legislation will “not… remove any of the legal protections women currently have”. We welcome that commitment to women’s sex-based rights. However a central feature of the proposed Bill is the introduction of sex self-ID and we do not believe that this can be compatible with the retention of existing women’s rights and protections under the Equality Act 2010. We use the term sex self-id instead of gender self-id because the most significant aspect of obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) is that it allows people to engage in the legal fiction that they have become a member of the opposite sex, despite the biological impossibility of such an action. This contributes to widespread confusion, which makes it increasingly difficult to name, define or identify women, or to protect our single-sex spaces. We therefore call on all MSPs to reject this Bill in its entirety.
We would like to take this opportunity to make clear what the Scottish Government would need to do to ensure this commitment to women is kept.
We demand that women’s voices and experiences are heard and inform any legislative change.
To date the Scottish Government has predominantly engaged with a small selection of publicly funded trans-rights and women’s sector organisations, none of which consult with or claim to represent women’s views. Any legislative change must include meaningful engagement with a wide range of grassroots women’s rights organisations and take fully into account the needs of women.
Any changes to legislation must ensure that protections for women on the basis of our sex are strengthened, rather than weakened.
We oppose sex self-ID as it is detrimental to the overall interests and the sex-based rights of women. It would fundamentally transform our legal, political, social and cultural landscape with no objective assessment or analysis of the consequences for women and girls (or boys).
Removing any medical requirement from the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) would open up the process to abuse. It would be at best naïve and at worst criminally negligent to deny that predatory men will take advantage of any opportunity to gain access to women and girls when they are at their most vulnerable.
Additionally, removing medical diagnosis would remove protections and essential support to individuals considering transition but for whom this may not be the right course of action to deal with the distress they are experiencing.
In recent years, the Scottish Government and many other public organisations, including Police Scotland, the Scottish Prison Service and the NHS, have operated an informal process of sex self-identification, effectively turning single-sex spaces such as hospital wards, prisons, youth hostels and changing rooms, sports, awards and women-only shortlists into mixed-sex provision. These decisions were undertaken with little or no consideration for the effect on women, especially in prisons. The Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments in these cases are usually not fit for purpose.
Increasing amounts of official data, which ought to record the protected characteristic of sex, are now being collected on the basis of someone’s self-declared gender identity (for example, Police Scotland recording male rapists and sex offenders as ‘female’). This seriously compromises the integrity of the data and makes it even more difficult to develop policies to overcome the disadvantage, oppression and discrimination faced by women.
This self-ID by stealth ignores and undermines the protections offered to women by the Equality Act, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, CEDAW and elsewhere.
We believe everyone should be able to live their lives in safety, free from discrimination or harassment. However, we oppose the introduction of any measures increasing the rights of males who identify as women or other genders to access women’s spaces, services and occupational roles on the basis of such professed identity as this is incompatible with the sex-based rights of women.
The Scottish Government must maintain single-sex spaces for the dignity, privacy, physical, emotional and psychological safety of women and girls.
There has long been a widespread recognition of the need for women-only spaces and facilities. Excluding the entire sex class of males from such provisions for women has, until recently, been entirely uncontroversial, despite the fact that not all males are predatory, violent or present a danger to women. It is a proportionate way to protect women and girls from the minority of males who do present a threat. Furthermore, the exclusion of all males as part of helping traumatised women is a proven feminist approach within the MVAWG (Male Violence Against Women and Girls) sector.
Some males who say they are not men now wish to be given an exemption from this general exclusion. Yet male patterns of offending behaviour do not vary according to gender identity and trans-identified males also retain male physical and social advantages. We believe this is neither fair nor safe for women, and therefore there is no case for allowing them privileged access to women’s spaces and facilities.
The Scottish Government must therefore:
ensure single-sex spaces, facilities and other provisions are fully protected;
strengthen the rights of women to create and access them through clear guidance;
ensure in-depth and thorough Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments are carried out, especially in sectors and services where sex self-ID has been introduced by stealth ahead of legislation, so that public bodies in Scotland are not potentially in breach of their Public Sector Equality Duty.
The Scottish Government must guarantee that the human rights of women, including those to freedom of speech and assembly, are not adversely affected by legislative change.
We believe all people should be free to define themselves in whatever way they choose. But we reject the demeaning implication, outlined for example in the Gender Representation of Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018, that being a woman can be reduced to a series of pronouns, the name on a utility bill, a haircut or a dress.
Whatever label an individual chooses, the law must acknowledge that men cannot literally become women and women cannot literally become men. Women should not be compelled to act as though this is so, whether in our personal, professional, social or sexual lives.
We call on the Scottish Government to drop its plans to introduce sex self-ID and ask all MSPs to vote against such a Bill as it would have a hugely detrimental impact on women’s rights to safe single-sex spaces and freedom of speech.
“I fully support this statement and commend all the organisations for working closely to send this strong statement. I hope Scottish Government takes note.”
“I wholeheartedly support these women’s organisations in asking the Scottish Government to look again at the SelfID proposed under a review of the GRA. 51% of the electorate in Scotland are women – adult human females and I absolutely object to the definition of my sex category to behind redefined to include men who insist on being called women, even though there is no biological evidence to prove this . Dressing up as a woman will never make them women but they want access to women and girls spaces, Women/females absolutely object to this. If you were so certain that the women of Scotland will agree to this then why don’t you do a consultation with adult female women who live in Scotland, not organisations and individuals with vested interests. Women are not giving up on this and your party will be very foolish to pursue a policy that WILL put women at risk.”
“I will be proud to sign this declaration calling on our elected representatives to scrap the GRA review. I believe the introduction of ‘self-id’ is dangerous in many respects. I expressed this in my response to the consultation exercise on the GRA reform. It does nothing to help people with gender dysphoria who need specialist mental health care and not immediate affirmation. Autogynephilia among men is a condition that needs to be more widely recognised and treated. The fact that the cult of trans ideology seeks to stymie any discussion should be enough of a red flag to our government to halt the Bill and take much more time to explore the potential consequences. There are plenty of cases in Canada and America to be examined. Cases of men self-identifying their way into women’s prisons and shelters where they go on to assault and rape female inmates.”
Help for women involved in prostitution An extra £90,000 is being invested by the Scottish Government to support women involved in prostitution. The money will help fund vital services run by Victim Support Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre and the Encompass Network.
I thought ‘trans’ meant transsexual and my idea of a ‘trans woman’ was someone who had had genital surgery and was quietly going about their life, doing their best to ‘pass’ as a woman, or at least look as if they were trying. I knew a few such people back then and they seemed to fit this idea. Whenever I encountered an unknown ‘trans woman’ in a public toilet (never ever in any other female spaces back then) I noticed and I felt uncomfortable. But I was polite and respectful and did my best to pretend not to notice because how awful it must be for them. And after all, it didn’t happen often.
I also knew a few men who were not transsexual but who wore women’s clothing. Some did it just because it was the 1980’s and they looked good in it, so why the hell not? There were others though…
There was a boyfriend who liked to cross-dress in the evenings as he found it ‘relaxing’. I tolerated this until he started trying to introduce his hobby into our sex life. And no thanks, I did not want to go to a tea dance at Madame JoJo’s with him ‘dressed’ and no thanks I did not want to join Wives of Beaumont.
There was a man who developed a creepy stalky fetish around my sister and tried to dress just like her, look just like her and copy all her mannerisms, especially if they would be at the same event. He went to my sister’s wedding dressed as my sister. He was kind of tolerated on the edge of our small-town social crowd but all the women knew he was a creepy fucker and we kept a sharp eye on him.
We were never expected to believe or even pretend that any of these other non-transsexual men were women. We were never expected to respect their ‘identities’ or welcome them into female spaces. We naively imagined we had a sort of ‘honour system’: we wouldn’t make a fuss if transsexuals used the women’s toilets as long as they behaved (despite never having been asked if we were OK with this in the first place) and as long as we could tell the rest of these men to get to fuck.
So it was a bit disconcerting when things like this started to appear in the mid 2010’s:
The category of ‘trans’ now apparently included drag queens, transvestites and cross-dressers, according to ‘a bunch of queer and trans folks who lived in Houston, Texas.’ For a couple of years it was possible to think that this was just some outlandish idea that nobody would take seriously.
Then in 2015 Stonewall, the largest and most influential UK charity for lesbian and gay rights, became ‘trans inclusive’ and they took this outlandish idea very seriously indeed. Their definition of ‘trans’ would henceforth be:
‘An umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth.
‘Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) transgender, transsexual, gender-queer (GQ), gender-fluid, non-binary, gender-variant, crossdresser, genderless, agender, nongender, third gender, bi-gender, trans man, trans woman,trans masculine, trans feminine and neutrois.’
Quite suddenly, whatever ‘honour system’ we imagined we had was broken because we were no longer permitted to tell the rest of these men to get to fuck. They were all ‘trans’ now and to object to the presence of any of them in our single sex spaces and services was ‘transphobic’.
But the trans umbrella is older than we thought.
Here is a version from 1994. Note the inclusion of ‘crossdresser’, ‘transvestic fetishist’ and ‘transvestite’.
The trans rights movement in the UK started with the Beaumont Society – a club for heterosexual cross-dressing men and their wives, set up in 1966. Transsexuals were permitted to join but the main focus until relatively recently was definitely male cross-dressers.
The Beaumont Society was started by Alice Purnell, following an epiphany in a soho sex shop:
‘Anyway, I searched and searched through bookshops, and of course I read Krafft-Ebing and Magnus Hirschfeld and Freud, and everybody you could think of. And always they associated anything to do with gender variance as a type of deviance, and I got more and more horrified by this and I thought, what the hell am I going to do, and I came across … would you believe it, in a dirty book shop in Soho, a magazine called Transvestia and I thought, what? And this was a magazine produced by a Dr Virginia Prince, who was an American pharmacist, and she had organised a thing called Phi Pi Epsilon, very American, which stands for Full Personality Expression. And the essence of her thesis was that you could be a woman, though male. So the goal of her organisation was to try to maintain marriages or relationships between men and women when one or the other, usually the one that was officially male, gender migrated by cross-dressing or by being what eventually we came to know as transsexual. The whole vocabulary of gender was a dreadful, dreadful nuisance.’
You can hear all about it in this enlightening interview of Alice by best mate Christine Burns:
My guest on this show is a former geriatric nurse and a counsellor. She writes poetry and lives in Hove. Alice Purnell OBE is perhaps best known to many listeners as the founder of the Gender Trust, a support organisation for trans people. Before that she had also been involved in co-founding the Beaumont Society, in the mid 1960s. She also founded a ground breaking series of biennial conferences, bringing together international clinicians and stakeholders for the first time in the 1990s to discuss improvements to care for such people. Alice speaks about all that and more at home on the South Coast as she celebrates her 70th birthday.
Burns went on to set up Press For Change with Stephen Whittle in 1992. In the early 1970’s Whittle had co-founded the Manchester Transvestite and Transsexual Support Group, and had also joined Beaumont as the first ftm (female-to-male) member.
Dr Stephen Whittle is perhaps the world’s best known transsexual man. He is Professor of Equalities Law at Manchester Metropolitan University, the President of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and the Chair of Transgender Europe, in addition to being one of the founders of the UK lobby group Press for Change. He is also a committed family man, with a wife and four children. In this in-depth interview, originally recorded in summer 2007, we cover his own personal background growing up in Manchester, his transition in the 1970’s, his work as a campaigner, and his views about the future for trans people.
Press For Change is the organisation that is pretty much solely responsible for the Gender Recognition Act being passed in 2004. They championed the use of the term ‘trans’ precisely because it made no distinction between ‘transsexual’ and ‘transvestite’. Christine Burns:
‘Until human rights campaigners like us came along, talking about umbrella concepts, this diverse community had got along with a relatively stable lexicon for many years. There were ‘transvestites’ and ‘transsexuals’ – TVs and TS’s in the community shorthand – and that was more or less the only language you needed to know for more than a generation since Harry Benjamin had coined the latter term in his book ‘The Transsexual Phenomenon’ in 1966.
‘Our successes as a campaign were grounded in progress made for people who fitted the clinical definition of transsexual. At the heart of this was a tacit understanding that people in positions of power might be persuaded to change laws for people with some kind of clinically underwritten status – something they couldn’t help being. This is why ‘Transsexualism – The Medical Viewpoint’ was seen as strategically important and why all the key court cases had rehearsed the developing scientific understanding of a basis for us being born or developing this way. It was also why the government would expect to include a medical definition of ‘transsexual’ in the forthcoming employment protections they planned to consult upon.
‘We knew in our hearts at that time that policymakers and judges weren’t yet sophisticated enough in their understanding to contemplate rights for people whose difference appeared self-identified or impermanent or maybe even optional. That didn’t mean we weren’t going to try where possible. There was a valid freedom of expression case to be made for people to be able to present in whatever way they wish. But we were also pragmatists, careful not to frighten the horses at this early stage. (Note, however, that in the Equality Act 2010 – which replaced the Sex Discrimination Act – the requirement for having been medically diagnosed was finally removed).
‘I cannot recall exactly how we reached a consensus inside Press for Change. It wasn’t written down in email correspondence – it arose in telephone or face to face conversations, including the long calls I was now having with Claire McNab on Sunday afternoons before setting off for another hotel. Somehow or other, however, we arrived at a consensus that if we maybe all used the word ‘trans’ as an umbrella term – and words like ‘transsexual’ only when we needed to be more specific’ then maybe some of that would catch on gradually.
‘And so that is what we did. From there on, without fanfare, my essays and our web content discreetly began to use this language. Claire took the opportunity during the move of the PFC website to revise the existing content in the same way.
‘In the weeks and months ahead people would sometimes ask what the word meant or why we were using it. Then we would explain the rationale and suggest why we thought it was important. The change was gradual. In fact it took years for the word to begin sounding familiar and to hear it in other people’s language. In 2002 when we were consulting over government press releases to announce the forthcoming Gender Recognition Bill, the officials still weren’t convinced that enough people understood the new word to use it. Yet today most people seem to embrace the word naturally – when they are not simply calling themselves men or women.’
Throughout the history of trans rights campaigning there has never been a time when transsexuals and transvestites were not working together, involved in the same groups, pursuing the same aims, or at least intertwining their aims in mutually beneficial ways. All that happened in the mid 2010’s is that they started being open about this and stopped pretending it was all about rights for a tiny number of transsexuals.
Perhaps they decided that policy makers and judges were now ‘sophisticated enough’ and it would no longer ‘frighten the horses’ to campaign openly for transvestites’ and cross-dressers’ rights. Or perhaps they decided they had now pushed through enough legislation, that completely coincidentally gave unintended rights to cross-dressing men, that it didn’t matter if they now showed their hand. Ha ha, too late. The strong push-back against GRA reform and the sharp, renewed focus on the Equality Act, suggest they may have miscalculated.
International Women’s Day Statement of Solidarity with Joanna Cherry (and other women abused for speaking out).
Men Supporting Women’s Rights was set up in 2019 to challenge the new expressions of misogyny that have emerged in recent years. We are men from a wide range of backgrounds, sexualities and political opinions drawn together by a shared concern at the very negative implications that extremist ‘gender identity’ ideology has for women and girls. This ideology has, under the guise of ‘progressiveness’ captured powerful institutions across society with alarming speed and with almost no public discussion. The lack of public discussion is a product of fear. Anyone who openly challenges the new orthodoxy is likely to be subjected to a campaign of lies, vilification and threats of violence. As men we see it as important that we stand up and be counted by standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the many courageous women who have defied the bullies and continued to speak the truth.
The most high-profile example in recent times has been the continual harassment, abuse and threats of sexual violence, including death threats, aimed at Joanna Cherry MP. These threats have come from numerous gender ideologues, shockingly some of them fellow members of the SNP. One recent threat from a party member has lead to a criminal investigation and an arrest. This campaign of misogynist bullying targeted at a Lesbian feminist politician has now been going on for years. It is calculated to send a clear message to all women: “Shut up and accept our dictatorial worldview or we will destroy you”.
One of the most appalling aspects of this has been the utter absence of any condemnation of these sickening threats from the leadership of the SNP. Ms. Cherry has received no support, solidarity or offers of protection from her party bosses. Indeed Nicola Sturgeon, who appears willing to stake her reputation on allowing any man to legally self-identify as a woman simply by making a declaration, has made her own thinly-veiled attack on Ms Cherry in a video in which she accused her own party of “transphobia”. And last month’s proposed amendments to the controversial Hate Crime Bill that might have afforded some protection to gender-critical women like Ms Cherry from prosecution for “stirring up hatred” were suddenly abandoned by the Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, after more threats from gender fanatics.
We conclude from all this that in effect the most powerful people in Scotland are, through their silence and through their actions, giving support to misogynist thugs who have no respect for women, no respect for free speech and no respect for laws against threatening, violent and abusive behaviour. Men Supporting Women’s Rights believe that this will go down in history as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the SNP and of Scottish political life.
To mark International Women’s Day the members of Men Supporting Women’s Rights want to make it clear that we are standing in solidarity with Joanna Cherry over this issue. We condemn the behaviour of many so called ‘trans-activists’ in abusing and threatening women. We condemn the cowardice and complicity of her party bosses in failing to stand up for truth and decency. We stand in solidarity with all the women who have suffered abuse for bravely speaking out against the new misogyny that is expressed through an ideology that redefines women’s very existence whilst attempting to deny them even a right of reply. We call on all men to do what they can to stand up for women’s right to maintain long established sex-based legal protections, and to offer their support to women in defining their own existence without being vilified and threatened.
Women Speak Scotland is publishing a ‘Manifesto for Women’s Rights in Scotland’ on International Women’s Day (8 March) ahead of the Holyrood election on 6 May. The Manifesto demands the protection and implementation of women’s human and legal rights. WSS will invite all parliamentary candidates to support it.
The Manifesto affirms women’s sex-based human rights, which are enshrined in international treaties and national legislation. It includes rights related to:
Safety and Privacy
Health and Bodily Autonomy
Freedom of Speech and Association
Fairness in Sport
Freedom from Male Violence and Exploitation
Young Women and Girls
WSS says the Scottish Government must make a commitment to uphold women’s rights, regardless of which party/parties form the next administration. WSS believes the Manifesto is necessary because recent years have seen the gradual erosion of women’s rights. A spokeswoman for the group said “Women have been fighting for our rights for over 100 years but now we are facing a serious backlash. We are seeing the advances we’ve made being watered down or removed one by one. Public bodies and organisations too often dismiss women’s concerns. Many organisations now routinely confuse ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ which has the effect of reducing or removing women’s rights.
“The Scottish Government appears to be mounting an attack on women’s rights. For example, it has recently redefined the term ‘women’ to include men in relation to the Gender Representation on Public Boards Act. The Act was intended to address the historical under-representation of women on these boards, but is seriously undermined by allowing males to take places designated for women.
“The Hate Crime Bill proposed by the Scottish Government is in its final stage and will be debated at Holyrood on Wednesday. WSS is very concerned that the Government is refusing to offer protection to female victims who are attacked because of their sex despite widespread support for this measure. As it stands, the Bill will criminalise women advocating for our sex-based rights, including the maintenance of existing legal rights. So the WSS Manifesto demand for the protection of the right to freedom of speech is essential.
“We seem to be on a slippery slope which risks making women invisible both to the law and in national statistics. For example, there is a suggestion that the next Census in Scotland will not record the population according to our sex, even though this is crucial for planning many services, or identifying inequalities such as the sex pay gap. WSS is determined to reverse this trend and make sure the voices of the majority of women in Scotland are heard.
“Scottish Parliamentary candidates should be aware that women’s votes count – we are nearly 52% of the electorate – and we intend to make sure that women’s rights and concerns are not ignored during this election, nor by the incoming government.
“We also hope the Manifesto will empower those women who aren’t yet confident being involved in politics or activism, to feel able to engage in conversation with candidates in their constituencies, by providing information about some of the most important issues facing us at present.”
Copies of the Manifesto can be downloaded from the WSS website from 8 March onwards.