Why compassionate women should not compromise

People will never forgive you for their mistakes. It feels warm and magnanimous to forgive others for their mistakes but it takes a real grown-up to forgive people who spot one’s own mistakes. That’s why the words “compassion” and “compromise” are constantly flying at women wishing to discuss the state of their sex-based rights, when neither compassion nor compromise have been offered to them.

The Westminster politicians who wish to be seen as grown-ups are now looking for a “compromise” solution to the clash that Stonewall and their allies created between sex-based rights and the wish-list they call “trans rights”. The problem with that is that they have decided to concentrate on what extra concessions trans people want, and what concessions women as a sex-class should make. Compromise, though, was imposed on women nearly 20 years ago, with a loss to sex-based rights in the shape of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act. It took ten years to achieve a partial redress in the 2010 Equality Act. In other words, where trans rights are set against women’s rights, women are already at a considerable disadvantage.

Click here to read a court ruling from 2021 in which the judge’s summary demonstrates that. And here is the relevant clip, for those who don’t want to read through the whole document…

A history of sexual offending is an indicator of risk of future sexual offending' and women are more likly than men to be the vitims of sexual offending. The evidence therefore supports the existence of a prejudicial effect on women if transgender prisoners in the male estate are transferred into the female estate.

Legislating for trans rights

Both women and trans people currently have one of the best set of legal protections in the world as regards discrimination in housing, employment and so on, thanks to our 2010 Equality Act – but there are difficulties. The Gender Recognition Act of 2004 gave trans people a relatively easy path to legally ratified “sex-change”. That path has since been made both easier and cheaper.

That sounds like a good thing, but the GRA pretty much destroyed women’s right to single-sex spaces and services, and its vaguaries (such as failing to define ‘gender’, or ‘trans’ effectively) caused huge problems in sectors such as the prison service. If you look at the debates of 2004 in Hansard, you can see that MPs did bring up concerns about women’s safety, but then satisfied themselves that there were very few trans people, so it didn’t matter. There were eventually around 5000 applicants for this legal sex-change – mainly, at that time, middle-aged men but more significantly, a culture of self-declaration led to many more people ‘living as’ the opposite sex without following any procedure, either legal or medical.

Legislating a compromise

When it became clear the “it’s okay, they are very rare” argument no longer made sense, the 2010 Equality Act addressed the arising problems to some extent by re-iterating sex-based rights alongside trans rights, thus making it just about possible, in extremis, for women and girls to achieve some single-sex provisions, and by defining the protection against discrimination for trans people as applying not as a result of a legal or medical procedure, but from the moment they state an intention to transition.

Permissive not mandatory

The Act defined much-needed protections, and laid out exemptions that allowed for, among other things, single-sex services. It may have salved the consciences of those MPs who had allowed women’s services to be whittled away but the exemptions are permissive, not mandatory. That means, they make it possible for organizations to provide single-sex services but they do not enforce them. When, for example, there is a strong campaign by lobby groups such as Stonewall to shame or defund organizations that provide single-sex services, those services tend to disappear – it’s just too difficult and, when finances are under pressure, too risky, to provide them. By contrast, there have been multiple funding-pots available for LGBTQ+ work in recent years, but as this mainly seems to translate into organizations and services for trans people, there is little comfort there for women who are lesbians, for example, who have been regularly harried into accepting males who say they are lesbians into their groups and services by the very services that are supposed to support them.

Nancy Kelly describes lesbianism as a 'societal prejudice'

Judith Green explains how all this pans out for vulnerable women in the second half of this speech from 2018 (if you’re pushed for time, start around 10 minutes in).

Click here to listen to Judith Green’s speech

The spousal veto excuse

So the compromise is already in place, but rather than explaining their mistakes and their corrections, politicians are telling women they should “show compassion”, and make a further compromise now, by accepting further loss to allow more rights to trans people. A common camouflage strategy they use to justify their stance is to talk about repealing “the spousal veto”, pretending that this is a terribly unfair way that wives have of preventing husbands from transitioning.

That’s not what the spousal veto is, and I doubt all the politicians saying it are daft enough to believe it is. Here is the truth, please tell your MP: the spousal veto does not stop a person transitioning. It’s a provision that allows the spouse of a person who’s transitioning to annul their marriage. It was put in place because MPs felt it was unfair to just shunt someone into what would in effect be a same-sex marriage (which at that time was illegal) when their partner changed their legal sex. It doesn’t matter so much now – to most people – so it’s nice and easy for politicians to look “grown up” by promising to repeal it.

In fact, the main reason given for passing the GRA in 2004 was to allow trans people to marry, and to “count” as parents of their spouses’ children. that particular need disappeared when same-sex marriage became legal because marriage and parental rights are now the same whether a couple are same sex or not.

So repealing the spousal veto does not do anything for either trans people or women, and the need to legally change sex is if anything less urgent than it was ten years ago — meanwhile, the dwindling dedicated women’s services and the endless tide of violence against women and girls strongly suggest that women have more, rather than less, need of support.

Whilst politicians can win lots of virtue-points by saying they are acting out of compassion for trans people, there was little sign of, for example, any compassion for women in prisons, who are perhaps the most vulnerable to the idea that a male can, at his say-so, be transported into formerly female space.

It is that neglect that has made women campaigners increasingly angry and sweary for some years now – but, despite all the excuses, and claims that we’ve lacked a ‘respectful debate’, I do, and always have, maintained that women sex-based rights campaigners have been far, far less abusive than their detractors, and in fact, rarely as ‘direspectful’ as their brothers in trade union world always are and always have been. Here’s my commentary on that from a year or so back…

Woman power poster

Click here to read ‘Calm down, dear’

Women should not compromise

Surely a decision that leads to males winning ever more female sports titles, and male sex-offenders gaining access to vulnerable women, should be acknowledged as a mistake – but politicians will never admit to mistakes, it is easier to ask women to show more “compassion”. This week, the fact that Nicola Sturgeon has finally been cornered into facing the issue has led to so many politicians belatedly rushing to say “oh, we never meant women should be put at risk from rapists”. This suggests to me that they knew what was wrong with the situation all along. That’s a trifle annoying, and I freely admit that their sudden protestations of concern have, if anything, made those of us who’ve been on the campaign, and been ignored for years, more sweary than we’ve ever been.

Click here to read an example women who’ve been slandered for years are finding very therapeutic just now!

The fallout

Seriously through, the situation that has developed over the last decade or so is bad for everyone. We are stuck with a conflict of rights that politicians seem unable to address in a logical, transparent manner. It’s bad for transsexual people (those who did what everyone thinks all trans people do – ie, everything they could to fit in with and live as the opposite sex); it’s bad for women and girls and, above all, it’s terrible for young people who were persuaded that “sex change” was straight forward, and would be the answer to all their troubles, if they could only get “self-ID” into UK law.

Our kids need to know that “sex-change” is a lifelong medical battle with your body, not a quick-fix that solves adolescent alienation; women and girls need to know that “self-declaring” as a man cannot solve trauma or sexism, they need to know that as women, they have a right to dignity and boundaries, and that their safety and privacy will be protected when they are vulnerable.

Trans people of all kinds need an end to this situation where their interests are presented as a war between trans people and angry women. The solution to those problems will not be achieved by further degrading sex-based rights, nor by endlessly telling women to “show more compassion”. For the sakes of all those groups of people, we must defend the sex-based rights we do have, and look to evidence-based studies such as the Cass Review to find a new way to help trans people. To be compassionate, we must stand our ground, not agree to further compromise.


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