Oh alright then, if no-one else will – here’s my blog going all lavatorial again…

Lavatorial situation number one

I’m a tall, physically active woman approaching sixty. I don’t think I personally have a problem with letting anyone use women’s toilets – but the other day I was sitting in my favourite spot, late at night, relaxing with friends, when I spotted a tall figure in a leather jacket, big biker boots and a biker’s hair non-cut swagger into the ladies. Only when I realised where he was going, and with what look on his face, did I clock the dress and tights in between the jacket and the boots, and realise I would probably be terribly wrong and cruel, by the new rules, to say ‘he’, so I am going to do what women have done for decades – be nice, and say ‘she’.

My blood pressure was up, my relaxing evening was abandoned, and I was on grandmother duty. This is instinctive and automatic. Most women will recognise it. It’s the hind-brain seeing a man with an adolescent “let’s see if I can cause a stir” look on his face as he enters women’s territory. I was desperately trying to remember if any women had gone in the loos recently – young women, vulnerable looking women… Fore-brain kicked in and I thought, it’s probably okay – she is quite young, and probably has the modern view of gender. She is more likely to have that look on her face because she‘s got that young person’s “I am leading the charge of the brave new world – am I going to be challenged by silly old people” feeling, rather than the “pervert attempts to cause trouble for kicks” feeling.

I was counting the seconds and deciding how long I could safely leave it before I followed her into the loos to check that no-one had been put in an awkward spot or worse, cornered by a pervert. It was okay – she came out again, and there was no-one else in there. Nevertheless, my relaxing evening was broken. Oh well, can’t be helped.

Society-ID

When I say it’s impossible to self-identify as any particular gender, I am not trying to stamp on anyone’s rights, I’m just stating what I have observed – that it’s your hind-brain, an organ over which you have very little control, not your politically correct fore-brain, that decides how you place the people you see around you, and what sex you identify them as.

Biology-deniers are quite right when they say that women’s groups, women’s refuges and all the other places threatened by ‘self-ID’ have never asked for proof of a person’s sex – that is because we are biologically primed to recognise those who are the same sex as ourselves, and those who aren’t. ‘Passing’, as trans people call it, is relatively rare. Women usually spot a transwoman, judge how far she’s seriously worked on becoming woman-like and, 99 times out of 100, accept her. Transwomen who do ‘pass’ are doing so because they have put long experience and a lot of effort into fitting in and getting along with women. Self-ID, along with the current idea that being a transwoman starts the minute you say “I want to transition” puts an end to that natural decision-making, and puts women at risk everywhere that women use ancient mutual protection instincts to look after each other.

Lavatorial situation number two

Women – picture this situation, and tell me how common it is. A young woman rushes into the women’s toilets in the pub, dithers a bit between sinks and cubicles, then rests her elbows on a sink, her forehead on the mirror above it. She’s shaking, drawing wobbly breaths. A moment or two later, a second woman comes in, clocks the situation and asks her if she’s okay.

A sob-punctuated story unfolds. Could be about her period, her boyfriend, a suspected pregnancy or the man who scared the hell out of her in an alley on the way to the pub. By now, one or two women who don’t know her have come in and offered sympathy, or a hanky, or a tampon or painkiller and a glass of water, and maybe joined the huddle talking over what happened. She’s stopped shaking and the situation is well on the way to having been dealt with.

Any one of those women could be a transwoman. That does not matter and that is not new – it is the case for as long as we know who and what transwomen are, and we have some assurance that they have really taken all the steps they can away from the state of manhood.

A compromise solution

Like many confident, mature women, and also like many young women who are looking at the world in a new way, with new ideas about how it all ought to work, like all these people, I have said that I’m not personally bothered by the toilet issue, that it will probably be solved by providing unisex toilets – but I would like to point out that this is a compromise solution. Women will lose what has been more or less a biological-female-only sanctuary in their pubs, clubs and cafés. Life will be that much harder but okay, if we’re going to do self-Id, which allows people who have not made any visible or social efforts to change, to enter women’s spaces, then unisex loos is what we should do. It appears to be what most young people want, so probably is the future anyway. If we do not do it, the ‘ladies’ will become a false sanctuary, and that is worse than no sanctuary at all.

The trouble with stereotypes

The trouble is, I can quite see why the transwoman in my first example above may not want to ‘make an effort’ in the way that’s implied by the current rules. After all, I am a tall, relatively broad woman with lousy dress sense and if anyone tells me I should have surgery or take hormones so I ‘look the part’ better, I’ll tell them where to go. But I am rarely mistaken for a man – biology will out. Perhaps we should have some facilities set aside for biological females – and if that creates a problem for transwomen, perhaps biological males should have a think about how they might look after their own, rather than telling women to make way and stop making a fuss.

It would have been nice to get to that point after a civilised, public discussion. It would have been nice to get to that point without months and months of misogynistic men telling women what they do and don’t need, and calling them terfs and bigots and even Nazis, when they failed to believe them but there you go – that’s the way many people brought up to be men behave, and I wish they weren’t allowed in our toilets. That’s one handy sanctuary for women in difficulty shot down – and it is also a loss for what I have the nerve to call *real* transwomen – so don’t say we haven’t made an effort to compromise. We’ll all miss ‘the ladies’.

woman's place uk - 5 simple demands

Not caring

This lavatorial story is not though, the big issue. I present it as an example of those who want to encroach on women’s territory – to blow it apart in many cases – not caring about the dangers to women. In some cases, it’s rebellious youth not realising what they are breaking. In some cases it’s the casual attitude of male privilege. in others, it’s worse than not caring, it appears to be a gleeful attack.

That attitude is not uncommon, and the presence of that attitude is the main reason that women – the majority of our population – are still woefully represented in politics, in business, in government. That is why we need strategies like All Women Shortlists, and Women’s Groups and Officers in political parties, to work on evening things up for women. And it is why those women – do I really have to explain this? – those women have to be female.