It would appear that Jeremy Corbyn is the latest victim of the smoke-and-mirrors campaign. Why on earth would anyone be so mean as to campaign against transgender rights? The notion of a socialist doing so is especially absurd. No wonder people are angry!
In fact, it is utterly incredible that a bunch of women – many of them prominent socialist trades unionists, would embark on a campaign to block the rights of a vulnerable group. So a closer look is needed. Common statements in the many arguments on the issue are “Reforming the GRA doesn’t diminish my rights as a woman” and, “trans people are incredibly vulnerable – it’s wrong to campaign against them” and, “It’s laughable that a male sex predator would go through the two difficult years that it takes to get a GRC, just so he could gawp at you in the loos” and, “it’s only the bigoted religious right who object to trans rights.” All absolutely true.
And yet I, like many other socialist women, am a committed supporter of the gender-critical women’s campaign. Let’s take those unbelievable points one at a time:
Reforming the GRA doesn’t diminish my rights as a woman
Absolutely true, and the statement and re-statement of this is the main plank of Pride’s and Stonewall’s argument. The Gender Recognition Act was the result of a long and determined campaign by a trans man who wanted to marry his female partner, because they were bringing up children together, and wanted legal confirmation of their parental status. Like the gay lib campaign, it was a brave and important thing to do. At that time, ‘same sex marriage’ was illegal, and so trans people were left with no way of becoming an ‘official’ family. Understanding that is what sets most people against the women’s gender-critical campaign.
A clever trick, because of course, the vast majority of women, including the women campaigning against self-ID, including the transwomen who campaign with Woman’s Place or Fairplay for Women, agree that the GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate) is a difficult one to deal with, and needs reform, not least because the original reason for its importance has gone. Our sex-based rights campaigns are not ‘against trans rights’ or ‘against GRA reform’. They are against ‘sex self-ID’, and ‘gender-identity’ because building those ideas into law allows them to trump ‘sex’, and so conflicts with women’s existing rights. Most of the population agree, supporting the idea of women having rights and services being based on sex, according to the last national poll that asked the question.
So why all the sound and fury?
Trans people are incredibly vulnerable – it’s wrong to campaign against them
This is the smoke-and-mirrors bit. Firstly, the women’s rights campaign is not a campaign against trans people. It is a campaign about changes being made to sex-based rights that vulnerable women (all kinds of women!) rely on.
Secondly, who are we talking about? Trans people are not all the same: *some* trans people are incredibly vulnerable. Young abuse survivors, who are desperate to get away from the reality of their prematurely sexed bodies are incredibly vulnerable. Young autistic kids and youngsters who haven’t yet found out that they are gay or lesbian – all those children are incredibly vulnerable, and if they believe it’s easy to change sex and try to do it at a young age, they are even more vulnerable.
Trans people working in the sex industry are incredibly vulnerable. It’s the most aggressive, oppressive and dangerous ‘industry’ going, and is peopled by aggressive male sex-predators. Very few trans people have been murdered in the UK, more have been in the US and far, far more in South America. In fact, the more trans people a country has working in its sex industry, the higher the figure for trans murders.
Why am I going on about the sex industry? Because it is deaths in the American sex industry that some UK organisations have been quoting to persuade people that UK women are putting trans people at risk.
Mature trans people holding GRCs are vulnerable. They see their GRC, and their status as ‘transsexual’ as their protection – ‘gender reassignment’ is rightly a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act, and they feel vulnerable because the trans rights movement demands the abolition, not just of their GRC but of the very word they use to describe themselves. They have the legal right to safeguarding, and refuge away from male predators (it is, after all, generally men who attack transwomen) – and if they object in public to trans rights activists breaking down their rights, they suffer the same aggressive pile-on that women do. They are vulnerable *because of* the aggression of the trans rights campaign.
So it would be doubly reprehensible to campaign to remove legal rights from these vulnerable people – but that’s not what the women’s campaign is doing.
A male sex predator wouldn’t go through the two difficult years it takes to get a GRC
No, he probably wouldn’t (although if anyone would, an obsessive sexual predator would – they are world champion obsessives, as any woman who’s been stalked will tell you) but the trans rights campaign is calling for an end to that two years work. They are demanding that the current law be replaced by sex self-ID – a scenario where a person simply has to say ‘I am a woman’ to be treated as legally female. A lot of organisations are doing that already, believing themselves to be very progressive, because their Stonewall or Mermaids or Pride trainers told them they were. That is how we got male sex predators in female prisons, where they took the opportunity to harass cornered, vulnerable women. That is how the US got into a situation where strapping, male bodied youths can win just about every prize going in female sports.
People do not like that – and that is *before* most people find out that along with legal recognition of sex self-ID will come a new birth certificate to say the person who has just said they are the opposite sex has in fact ‘always been’ that sex. It would take another thousand words to explain all the problems that would cause for the census, for the health service, for safeguarding and criminal records, because an estimated 80% of those declaring themselves trans never have surgery….. but
How have we got it so wrong?
Two things, I think. One is that the organisations pushing sex self-ID are extremely lucrative, corporate sponsored and trusted names, so they can afford extensive and convincing PR campaigns. The other is the concept of ‘gender identity’. As with climate-change-denial, it’s very easy to find what looks like ‘scientific proof’ of your belief – whatever you believe – and so many people believe that you really can be born ‘in the wrong body’. You can be a boy living in the body of a girl, or vice versa, or a bit of both.
The other important factor is gendered-marketing. The entertainments, fashion and publishing industries are among those which have, in the last 30 or 40 years, driven hard and long down the road of pink-for-girls blue-for-boys segregation, which forces the idea down kids’ throats that a love of pink, of dollies and fluffy things is an inherent part of being a girl and vice versa for boys – so kids who don’t conform to these forced stereotypes do feel like aliens, and it’s horribly easy for their parents and teachers to conclude that they are ‘the other sex, really’ – that their ‘gender identity’ does not match their body, just because they like the wrong kinds of toys or clothes, behaviour or language.
If the world freely allowed boys to play with dolls, girls to play football, and lesbian and gay kids to discover their identities in peace, that would not be happening. Maybe there are a few people who really cannot be happy any other way than by ‘changing sex’ but I suggest to you that that is almost always because of the oppressive way we demand particular behaviours from males and females, not because those individuals are ‘the other sex really’.
But what about gender-dysphoria
It is not true that radical feminists ‘don’t believe in’ gender dysphoria. In fact, it is the ‘trans rights’ movement that campaigned to get this distressing condition de-classified from the NHS and other health organisations. What kind of a person would deny something many of us have seen with their own eyes? Kids with dysphoria are very much like kids with anorexia or other body-punishing, traumatic illnesses. They need support, help and treatment. They can’t get that if there’s no recognised condition to diagnose.
Opposition to trans rights comes from the bigoted religious right
There is a vociferous element in Stonewall, in the Pride movement, in the sex and entertainment industries, that wants to sweep away anything that might ever restrict them, including the GRC, the sex exemption in the Equalities Act, the idea that dysphoria might be a mental health condition, and to sweep away any kind of safe-guarding of women and children. They want a free pass to pursue their highly sexed, ‘glamourous’ lifestyle to the full. That is why there are plenty of people on the religious right who oppose them.
That does not mean that anyone who opposes the trans rights movement is a bigoted right winger (please remember ‘belief’ is a protected characteristic too – the habitual tacking of ‘bigoted’ onto the word ‘religious’ is pretty nasty).
Feminists – mostly socialist feminists – have always fought back against gender-based oppression, particularly for the sake of traumatised youngsters, oppressed by gendered demands. The fact that some right-wing churches and politicians are fighting the same thing does not make them the same people.
But what about all that hate-speech?
Well of course I’m not going to tell you that some people have not said some horrible things on Twitter. Can you think of any issue at all that gets in the news without some people saying some horrible things on Twitter? Nevertheless, I am told that ‘hate crime’ against ‘trans people’ has gone up by 81% recently. What does this mean? Well for a start, it is bound to be one-sided because being rude to trans people is a hate crime, and will be recorded as such. Sexism and misogyny are not considered hate-crimes so do not get recorded.
One spat on Twitter, 100 complaints
The result of that is that if a trans activist and a radical feminist spend an evening arguing about the GRA and sex-based rights, by the end of the evening, any amateur police watching the debate will have taken about a hundred screenshots they can send to Twitter, or even to the police, and get a case of ‘anti-trans hate crime’ on record but no amount of rudeness to the woman will be recorded as a hate crime.
And women are angry. Easily angry enough to do some swearing on Twitter – because they have been attacked, bullied, no-platformed and denied jobs and political officer roles on the grounds that they are ‘transphobic’, when that word is used to mean ‘campaigning for safeguarding for women and girls’. This is happening so regularly, and with such heat that even such a level-headed, ‘for the many’ person as Jeremy Corbyn really believes that the nation is awash with a ‘horrible anti-transgender campaign.’
PS Jeremy – re the Stonewall riots – Storme was a lesbian, not a ‘black trans activist’.