It was reported in June that the UK government intends to drop plans for allowing people who claim to be transgender to self-identify as such.
This proposal was first mooted by the government in 2018 (en September 2018). The result of the consultation has never been published*.
Concerns were raised that self-ID would allow men to legally access women’s only spaces. Although this is the case at present**, the emergence of so-called trans rights activists in the past few years has moved the debate beyond addressing the issues presented by a group of people who know they remain the sex of their birth. It has become a movement where predatory and abusive men who deny biological facts, claim to be women, and who verbally and physically attack women all in the name of establishing their ‘rights’.
J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike series of books, was perhaps the most high-profile woman who hit the headlines for asserting the need for biological women to have protected spaces. For stating this, she (and others who endorsed this view) received death and rape threats. Such threats have frequently been made as the debate has become increasingly, and inevitably, polarised. Some claimed they were burning her works, and a number of bookshops have refused to sell her books. Actors whose careers she made, lined up to denounce her views.
Biological males have been accessing refuges for women. Rowling, a survivor of domestic abuse herself, noted that it was vital that spaces remained for biological women only.
Male sex offenders have been moved into female prisons (e.g. en Nov 2018) after identifying as women. Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures in November 2019 said there were 139 transgender prisoners in 44 jails. Of the 42 in women’s jails, 22 were men who identified as female, while in male prisons 92 of the 97 were men identifying as women. Harry Fletcher, director of the Victims’ Rights Campaign, said he was convinced that ‘for some this is a total try-on’ with the prospect of a more relaxed regime. Separate prison wings were created for transgender prisoners in 2019 (The Daily Telegraph, 2019).
Outside of prison, men who have gone through male puberty have been allowed to compete in women’s sporting events including cycling and athletics (e.g. en August 2019). The pressure for organisations to capitulate to the demands of activists is immense. Any organisations who do not undertake training run by Stonewall or Mermaids risk being seen as bigoted, and face negative publicity.
Twitter: good or bad?
Twitter gives anyone with a keyboard and an opinion a voice, and is filled with disturbing comments about women, sex and gender. Staggeringly, it has people denying biology, and claiming that transgender women (i.e. a man who claims he is a woman) are more female than ‘cis women’ (women born female). Some have noted that in the same way that ‘blackface’ (white people donning black make-up) is offensive to people who are black, so ‘womanface’ (men donning ‘female’ attire) is equally offensive to women.
Twitter is where the debates are being held. People are being drawn together to lobby the government, share information and challenge explicit and dangerous sex education that has slipped into classrooms. It is not however, for the fainthearted. As activists attacked J.K. Rowling with such odious comments, they don’t blink at doing the same to anyone who attempts to reason with them.
**To be given a gender recognition certificate under the current system, a person needs to have satis-fied a few criteria including: having lived as a trans person for two years; taken medication/ had some treatment to modify their body; planned to live for-ever as the new gender; have had a medical report written about their gender dysphoria. In 2018 when the government launched the consultation on chan-ges to the law, it estimated that half of the people who could apply for a certificate wouldn’t meet the current requirements. A change in the law would mean that a person could just declare themselves as ‘transgender’. Although exact figures aren’t known, it was noted in US medical data from 2019 that 90% of trans women (ie biological males) keep their penis.