Calling all gay men — women need you to speak up. Please read this.

Jonathan Best
Sep 8, 2018 · 9 min read

March 2019: a note on this article

This piece was written a few weeks before the close of the UK government’s 2018 public consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (2004). It deals directly with the issue of sex self-ID which was the policy change favoured by Stonewall and by the Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mordaunt MP, and strongly pushed by Maria Miller MP, chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committe. The tone of urgency and the call to action the article contains relate directly to this particular moment. The consultation closed in October 2018 and, as of March 2019, we still await the consultation results.

Original article begins here:

The conflict between today’s transgender politics and women’s rights dominates the LGBT and feminist communities at the moment. Rather than have a debate or a conversation, we are stuck in an atmosphere of suspicion, anger and — far too often — abuse.

If you care about the rights of transgender people and women, and you’d like to see a more respectful and constructive quality of debate taking place, please read on for the next few minutes and have a think about what follows.

Most importantly, if you care about the safety of women and girls and don’t want to see them placed at greater risk of male violence, please read on. And when you’ve finished reading, please do something to help.

The dispute going on between women’s groups on the one hand, and trans/LGBT groups on the other is all about proposed reform of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.

If you believe today’s most vocal trans activists — and, remarkably, Stonewall — thousands upon thousands of British women have become infected with hatred towards trans people and are pursuing a transphobic agenda to prevent trans people advancing their due rights.

But do you really think it’s plausible that huge numbers of ordinary women, who have been getting along just fine with trans women for years, have suddenly become foaming-mouthed bigots?

Of course that’s not the case.

To understand what is happening, we need to look at how trans politics has changed in recent times. I will focus on trans women, as this is where the current conflict is centred.

Until around ten years ago, to be trans usually meant experiencing dysphoria — commonly understood as the distress which comes from feeling that you’re ‘born in the wrong body’. Sometimes, people with a dysphoria diagnosis choose a form of medical transition to make their body look more like the body they feel they should have. This can involve hormones and/or surgery.

These are the trans women who have been living their lives alongside natal women for years, using women’s toilets and changing rooms in an atmosphere of mutual acceptance.

But today, what it means to be trans has changed dramatically. These changes are rarely discussed — in fact, too much of today’s trans activism seeks to prevent them being discussed.

The most important change to understand is that trans politics has been taken over by people who see gender dysphoria as out-of-date and something of an embarassment. In place of dysphoria as the basis for being trans, a new concept has been created: ‘gender identity’.

Stonewall defines it like this:

A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else … which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.

This is reasonable enough on a personal basis — we are all free to see ourselves in any way we choose. But today’s transgender ideology makes gender identity the sole determinant of whether one is a man or woman — i.e. to feel that you are a woman or a man is all that is necessary to be a woman or a man, in all contexts and circumstances, immediately — regardless of your biological sex. There is no longer any need to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, let alone to transition.

Stonewall locks this concept into its definition of transphobia:

The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans, including the denial/refusal to accept their gender identity.

So, according to Stonewall, any biological male who feels he is a woman, is a woman — and anyone who won’t (or can’t ) agree to this, is a transphobic bigot.

You may or may not find the concept of gender identity reasonable — at the moment, you are relatively free to accept it or reject it (although Stonewall will label you a bigot if you choose to dispute it). But soon, if the Gender Recognition Act is reformed in the way Stonewall wants, nobody will be free to choose to accept or reject the concept— and this will have a dangerous impact upon the safety of women and girls.

Today, a person seeking to change legal gender has to go through a process which requires a diagnosis of dysphoria and proof of having spent two years living in that new gender. For those in marriages or civil partnerships it is more complicated and applicants must live in their acquired gender for six years. Once the process is completed, a Gender Recognition Certificate is issued.

The government is currently consulting on revisions to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act which would enable anyone to change legal gender virtually immediately, with no oversight and no requirement to live in their new gender for any period of time. All that would be required is to sign and swear to a simple statement. This is called ‘self-ID’.

I’m going to leave all the political and philosophical arguments about this aside and focus on one issue — the safety of women and girls.

Men attack women and girls. Men rape women and girls. Men murder women and girls. We all know this.

These stats are from the Office of National Statistics 2016 data:

One in five women has experienced sexual assault

In the year ending March 2016, 1.2 million women reported experiences of domestic abuse in England and Wales

Two women are killed each week by a current or former partner in England and Wales

Violence against women and girls is real and widespread — and writing self-ID into law is one thing which is absolutely guaranteed to make this situation worse.

If self-ID becomes law, men who want to abuse women — men who want to rape and murder women — will be able to gain easy access to women-only spaces; for example, refuges housing vulnerable women (and their children) who are trying to escape male violence. All such a man need do is swear a simple statement that he identifies as a woman and — hey presto — he’s legally a woman. It would be that simple.

Trans and LGBT organisations argue that there is no evidence that the process would be abused by men who want to prey on women.

But, come on — really? We all know there are men who will do this. It might be inconvenient for trans organisations to admit it, but — come on — we know these men exist.

There are already men taking advantage of the concept of gender identity to do this. Activist and writer Julie Bindel:

I know of one refuge in the UK which was so scared of aggressive trans activists targeting its funders and trustees that it admitted a man who said ‘she’ was a victim of male violence. It turns out this man was a sex offender. The women in the refuge were terrified and one went back to her violent parter because she felt safer there than in the refuge.

And there’s the issue of women’s prisons.

Trans woman Karen White — born as Stephen Wood — was charged with two counts of rape in 2016. Because White identified as a woman, she was sent to a woman’s prison. Within days, White had sexually assaulted four women prisoners. You can read more about that story here. Listen to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on the story here (available until Oct 5th).

If this is happening now, what will happen if self-ID becomes law and any man is able to easily change his legal gender without any oversight at all?

We are in a deeply weird and unpleasant situation. Stonewall, the charity which fought for our rights as gay people in the 1990s and 2000s, says that to consider the facts and arguments I raise above is transphobic, that self-ID is no risk to women and those who argue differently are transphobes.

But Stonewall is wrong.

It feels strange to write that. Stonewall has been there throughout my adult life. It was founded when I was nineteen and throughout my twenties it was doing the slow, difficult work of shifting political and public opinion which led to legislative gains like the the repeal of Section 28, civil partnerships, and the equal age of consent. Stonewall played a large role in creating the the (virtual) equality that I, and millions more lesbians, gays and bisexuals, now enjoy. In my thirties, when I was running the arts festival Queer Up North, I was proud to work with Stonewall on an anti-bullying schools project we created together.

But Stonewall has lost its way. Ruth Hunt, the CEO since 2014, has invited into the organisation the most extreme trans ideologues and activists and she has swallowed their arguments whole. Hunt is stubbornly ignoring the danger self-ID poses to women and girls — and that is a scandal and a tragedy.

If you care about the safety of women and girls it’s time not just to ignore Stonewall, but to actively oppose it.

Stonewall’s preferred changes to the GRA will put women and girls at greater risk of male violence. Replacing a diagnosis of dysphoria with nothing more than the personal claim to feel like a woman (which is what gender identity amounts to), and combining that with a self-ID process which requires no proof of honest intent to live as a woman, enables any man to change legal gender easily and quickly and gain access to all woman-only spaces.

Let’s be clear about what would follow from this.

It would be impossible for any woman to tell whether the naked man next to her in the changing room identifies as a woman. If he claims to, there is no way to tell whether he is sincere — and to challenge any trans-identifying male in this context would place a woman at risk of a hate crime accusation. Women who simply do not want penises in their proximity — and don’t want that for their daughters either — would have no redress.

This is not exaggeration — it is what follows logically from the interaction between gender identity and self-ID if Stonewall gets its way. It represents a virtually complete disempowerment of women in the sex-segregated places in which they should expect to be safe — and in control.

None of this is to argue that all trans women are a danger to women and girls. It is to argue that self-ID represents an increased risk – and that this increased risk is unacceptable.

Men will take advantage of the open door that is self-ID to gain access to women and girls. You know it, and I know it. Deep down, Ruth Hunt knows it too.

We must stop self-ID becoming law.

Here’s how you can help.

Complete the GRA Consultation — click here to go to guidance written by Woman’s Place UK and a link to the consultation. You must do this by October 19th.

Email your MP — click here to find your MP’s email address.

Please encourage your friends to think about these issues. Send them this article and persuade them to complete the consultation too.

We can’t delay with this — the consultation ends on October 19th.

Want to learn more?

Visit the website of Woman’s Place UK — a grassroots campaigning organisation opposed to all forms of discrimination and formed specifically to ensure women’s voices are heard.

Visit the Fair Play For Women website.

Read trans woman Debbie Hayton’s article in The Economist.

Read Kathleen Stock’s articles. Kathleen is a professor of philosophy at University of Sussex.

Read James Kirkup’s articles in the Spectator.

You can also read a longer piece by me here which explains how trans politics differs from LGB politics. It also outlines a little more about where I’m coming from as a gay man thinking about these issues.

Jonathan Best

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I'm a musician, academic and festival director based in Yorkshire, UK. I write on LGBT issues, politics and culture from a liberal perspective.