In your edition on Thursday January 10, you ran a Telegraph Voices feature on the Gender Recognition Act. This is obviously a very current topic which has raised many related and complicated issues about access to women-only spaces, including prisons, girl guides, toilets and changing rooms, as well as related matters concerning trans identifying individuals’ participation in sport, access to health care and even the very definition of the word woman as adult human female.
Unfortunately, your article did not choose to feature any of these aspects of the current debate, but instead offered a double page spread to three contributors with very similar views who all espoused the virtues of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 as put forward recently by the government and which was subject to a consultation, the outcome of which is yet to be reported.
Sadly, this spread did not only exclude the views of many women and men, gay and lesbian, trans and otherwise, who do not support the proposed GRA reforms; it also contained within it many factual errors.
Firstly, in Steve Slack’s piece, it talks of someone being ‘assigned’ male at birth. No one is assigned a sex at birth; that implies there is a decision to be made by the health care professional. One’s sex is observed and recorded at birth (except in the very rare cases of those born intersex).
Secondly, as many of us were involved in distributing leaflets in Sheffield to raise awareness of the GRA reforms (given the comprehensive failure of the government to publicise the proposed reforms and associated consultation exercise), we can categorically state that those leaflets did not oppose rights for transgender people as implied by Mr Slack. Opposing rights for transgender people would be like opposing human rights and to suggest this was the case is patent nonsense at best, and highly libellous at worse. The leaflets referred to simply raised questions about how self-identification might have an unwanted and negative impact on women only spaces, currently protected under the Equality Act 2010 and urged people to go the Fair Play for Women website to find out more (https://fairplayforwomen.com/).
Thirdly, we can assure you that the vitriolic attacks Steve refers to have been very much directed at those of us who have been questioning the reforms. We challenge anyone to produce evidence that trans people have been threatened verbally or physically by anyone raising questions about these reforms. Sadly, many women’s organisations and individual women could provide many, many examples where violent and threatening language, slurs and even physical assault have been used against them and to their employers in an attempt to shut down the debate, and indeed, many venues have been forced to cancel women’s meetings because of scurrilous claims made about the nature of them to the organisations involved. In Sheffield specifically, The Harlequin pub which did hold one such meeting last September has been subject to an ongoing and nasty campaign of hateful online abuse.
Furthermore, to claim that ‘there is little evidence of men adopting female roles in order to invade women’s spaces’ is also disingenuous and lacking in fact. There are many examples of men self-identifying as women in order to, for example, gain access to women’s prisons. Only this week there has been a report of a trans identifying schoolboy who assaulted a six year old girl in a girls’ toilet in the US. The Cambridge Radical Feminist Network has this week produced a report entitled “There is nothing progressive about removing women-only bathrooms” which I would urge your readers to read. There is also a recent report on how women are at risk in mixed sex facilities. These are evidence-based reports that point to major risks to the dignity, safety and bodily autonomy of women and girls when they are no longer provided with single-sex facilities, currently required under the Equality Act 2010. (Access to these facilities is open to people on the basis of gender reassignment and not gender identity under that Act, but many organisations are already providing facilities and producing policies as though self-ID was already enshrined in law.)
Heather Paterson claimed in her piece that there has been no negative impact in countries where self-ID has been made law, but this is also untrue and again, we are able to provide examples of this.
In Canada, unisex toilets introduced to validate the identification of non-binary trans people are being scaled back, because of increased levels of voyeurism. A transwoman in Canada is currently taking sixteen female beauticians to a human rights tribunal because they declined to wax male genitalia. The other common example of Ireland does not actually have self-ID for all matters; for example it still segregates prisons by biological sex rather than gender identity.
But of all the contributors, we were astounded that Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, had been asked to provide an opinion without any counterbalancing to what many consider are policies within her organisation which put young people at risk of going down a medicalised route to transition without parental knowledge and which refuses to acknowledge or agree to any research into the phenomenon of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria which is leading many young people to identify as trans.
To go back to Steve Slack: “Men physically and sexually abuse women – including transgender women – with impunity. Rather than opposing transgender rights, and long overdue law reform, let’s show some humanity and compassion. Our energies are much better spent confronting the structures and cultures of toxic masculinity which impact negatively on the lives of all of us.” Let us assure you that this is something feminist organisations have been doing for decades.
We are deeply concerned that the current discourse around transgenderism, itself an umbrella term which many people may not realise embraces anyone from a fully transitioned transsexual to a part time cross dresser and all in between, reinforces our society’s strict gender stereotypes.