Transgender Equality: What Next?

I was one of a group of about eight feminists who attended the event Transgender Equality: What Next? on Tuesday night in London (Sept 13), having been invited to attend presumably because we had all made written submissions to the trans inquiry. Maybe it was us Maria Miller was referring to when she spoke of “certain feminists” who are “the real impediments to solving discrimination” in the previous day’s Guardian. Not a very welcoming statement from the Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, who might be expected to take seriously the concerns of women whose rights will be affected by new legislation, but indicative of the attitude we would face at the meeting.

The guest speakers – Helen Belcher (Director, Trans Media Watch) Ashley Reed (creator of the petition “Allow transgender people to self-define their legal gender”) and Dr Jay Stewart (Director, Gendered Intelligence) – were invited to reflect on the government’s response to the select committee’s recommendations following the trans inquiry, and as expected there was much disappointment expressed at the government’s lukewarm reaction.

There were areas of concern expressed by the transwomen attending this event which obviously raise questions and have implications for women and girls: transwomen’s rights to be housed in women’s prisons for example; the removal of gender markers throughout society where they are ‘not essential’ and the right to self-identify. There are clearly clashes here with women and girls’ existing rights to single-sex facilities and services but there are also wider issues around identity rights. On a practical level, a lack of distinction between men and women in certain areas would clearly pose risks to women’s safety but not men’s, for example.

More widely, there seems to be no will from the politicians to analyse the political, cultural and social effects on women and girls within this changed world order where males can self-identify into the female class. What’s missing is an analysis based on the structural power imbalance between men and women; without analysing new proposals in relation to the established gender hierarchy of male dominance and female submission we will inevitably shore up men’s position and further disempower women. When a dominant group gains entry into an oppressed group the power differential doesn’t change, the more powerful group just gains a new arena of dominance.

Women are already seeing this happen. The first and most essential right that women have lost is the right to define ourselves as the female sex rather than an ‘identity’ which anyone may adopt. Culturally and socially, we have lost the right to talk about ‘female biology’ or use the word ‘woman’ in relation to female biological functions. Women’s language is being policed to remove any reference to the connection between female biology and being a woman, and we are being bullied into denying specifically female experiences in order to accommodate those who change their ‘gender identity.’ Not to comply is framed as ‘transphobia’ whereas the denial of female biology is not considered ‘misogynistic.’ If we are denied the language to talk about and define ourselves as female, you may as well say that ‘being female’ is transphobic.

None of this, of course, is happening to men.

Biological females have been forced into the closet and silenced, politically as well as socially, while the only ‘women’ allowed freedom of speech are transwomen. Women have protected category status only in regard to our sex, so what happens when our sex is denied?

With women’s groups now defining women as ‘anyone who identifies as a woman,’ we have lost political representation as the female sex, a distinct class with boundaries; we are now the group that represents everyone, male or female. Nowhere is the effect of this neutering of women’s organisations thrown into stark relief so clearly as at government events like this one. There is no-one to speak for the rights of women and girls as a sex; politically it seems we have ceased to exist.

So it is left to a group of individual feminists to raise the issues which impact on the rights of women and girls. As one of those feminists, I ‘identify’ as a member of the female sex, the one identity that dare not speak its name, but I believe that the perspective of this group is vital if we are to protect the interests and safety of women and girls. What I observed during this event only confirmed what I see across social media: that however people ‘identify’ they are still treated as members of their biological sex class and the male/female power dynamic remains unchanged.

The first striking fact was that the attendees were predominantly transwomen; the no-show of transmen was bemoaned but not explained. It is transwomen who are the dominant force in this group, not transmen, who take more of a backseat (with the notable exception of Jay Stewart). So far so stereotypical in terms of male/female roles.

In terms of socialised male/female power relations, the females still catered to the males, took them seriously and showed them respect, the males demonstrated a sense of entitlement, assertiveness and confidence in being right. The serious responses to transwomen and contrasting lack of interest in the concerns of women from Ruth Cadbury and Maria Miller looked no different to what women have come to expect in politics: the male sex is taken seriously, the female sex is not.

As women, we respectfully listened to transwomen’s views and the three of us who had a chance to speak made our points calmly and politely. We raised points about the sterilisation and lifelong medicalisation of ‘gender non-conforming’ children, the teaching of ‘gender identity’ to children in schools, women’s rights to single-sex spaces and services, the issue of male violence against women, and the protection of women-only awards, scholarships, prizes and sports etc. The lack of engagement with these issues, and the total absence of curiosity about our concerns was stark. Even the words ‘sterilisation of children’ met with impassive faces. Women know so well that feeling of being invisible, but it still always comes as a shock.

We were also met with the kind of emotional manipulation, gaslighting, minimising and denial of our reality that women are used to experiencing from men. We had threats (unless the comment “you wanna take it outside?” was just “banter”) and there were cries of “TERF!” “It’s not about you!” and “I AM a woman!” When the point was made that there were areas where the pursuit of trans rights clashed with women’s rights, it was met with an immediate chorus of ‘No!” and the speaker was eventually shouted down completely. Two young women sitting behind us kept up a tirade of abuse; we were told we were disgusting, that we should feel ashamed, that we had no right to be there and should leave.

This was a public meeting at which one group and their supporters was given free reign to harrass another group: women. It is hard to imagine this being allowed to happen to any other group. Ruth Cadbury, as Chair, did not at any point stop the heckling but made it very clear whose side she was on: “I am not threatened by transwomen” was her virtue-signalling and point-missing response to concerns about the safety of women and girls in toilets and changing rooms. She also provoked the biggest gasp of disbelief (from our group) when she dismissed women’s fears with the words “not all men.”

Perhaps the biggest indicator of women’s relative position in the hierarchy came when she was asked why no women had been invited to speak at the trans inquiry after submitting written evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee.

Her response? “We didn’t have time.”

It is a strange position to be in, when the debate is about policies which will impact on your rights and there is no acknowledgment that these sex-based rights and legal protections for women even exist, and consequently no recognition that they are being lost. As the first public meeting where transwomen and feminists were in the same room, this was a chance for the government to listen to both sides and facilitate respectful debate. Instead, the attitude of the politicians and lack of adequate chairing can only have reinforced the idea that the only possible reason women challenge gender identity legislation must be transphobia, that feminists are transphobic bigots deserving of abuse. It was a huge opportunity lost and a massive betrayal of women.

30 Responses

  1. Miep
    | Reply

    Excellent. Thank you.

  2. Jilly
    | Reply

    Good write up. I will add my own later if that is OK?

    • Stephanie Davies-Arai
      | Reply

      Great!

  3. sonia climes
    | Reply

    Good work Batwomen. Thank you. XX

  4. Emily
    | Reply

    An excellent summary, though depressing. I’m beginning to wonder if the consideration of the female sex in the context of trans rights ever plays out any differently. Thank you for attending and enduring such ghastly treatment.

  5. Anonny
    | Reply

    “This was a public meeting at which one group and their supporters was given free reign to harrass another group: women.” Outrageous and offensive to women. Thanks for the report and analysis. Non-women (haha) have always pressured women and attempted to control us. But this is crude suppression.

  6. Tony
    | Reply

    Denying specifically female experiences to accommodate change of ‘gender identity’; sterilisation and lifelong medicalisation of ‘gender non-conforming’ children; the teaching of ‘gender identity’ to children in schools, INSTEAD of freer visions of femaleness and maleness: all markers of a sexist and right wing ideology.

  7. Kathara
    | Reply

    This is so brilliant. It voices my concerns as a female exactly. Thank you so much for being such a brave voice while feminism is being trojanhorsed by trans ideology. We will not be silenced!

  8. Brigitte Lechner
    | Reply

    The situation bears many hallmarks of a colonisation duly accomplished. Reading this excellent article was like watching a car crash in slow motion. There is now no way the term ‘women’s liberation movement’ holds any meaning for biological females. What I resent most of all is the theft of my identity, to have a third person impose a new identity (cis). It’s as if the WLM never happened. I think we should cut our losses and build on what we can rescue. First of all, we need to go to work semantically and refer to Womyn or Wimmin when we mean us.

    • Fiona
      | Reply

      No we must not do that. Image matters. Womyn and Wimmin conjure up, in many people’s minds, the image of a highly unattractive harridan. Whether that is fair or not, is not important. The terms are off-putting and we havent got valuable time to waste explaining why they arent.

      We can either really stick it to them and go with ‘real women’, or find a new term. Tell them, we have abandoned the word woman, since they have associated it with male behaviour and male violence and male entitlement. You can have it, tell them. There you go. Real women are going with Sapphites.

      I like this term, because it sounds like sapphire, so conjures images of something valuable, plus it relates to Sappho: we can explain that when we are saying, women loving women, we are including lesbians and hetero women…love can mean a lot of things.

      • Tina
        | Reply

        The problem with sapphite is that it’s already a word, and it refers specifically to lesbians. We need a word that all women can share. Five years ago I would have deplored the use of “female” as a noun (being very dehumanising) but at this point it seems like one of the most defensible options, if we’ve already lost too much ground on “woman”.

  9. Suzie
    | Reply

    Thank you, all of you. It’s so hard to stand up to bullies, thank you for trying. [flowers]

  10. Ruth
    | Reply

    Seriously?! Do you honestly think it’s easier to be a transwoman than a woman who is biologically female in Britain? As someone who’s biologically female and considers herself a feminist, I am saddened at your apparent resistance to the emancipation of transwomen (and by extension transmen). It’s sad also you feel your voices were not heard at this event, but the tone of this write up is not exactly measured. Someone less aware of the sexist overtones of the word might even describe it as “hysterical”.

    • Miep
      | Reply

      Here is an example of how much gay men care about transmen.

      https://therearesomanythingswrongwiththis.com/2016/09/18/meanwhile-on-reddit/

    • Hearth Rising
      | Reply

      You still are not listening to women Ruth. Are you even listening to trans women activists? According to many of them, “biological female” does not exist/is transphobic. The only way to correctly identify yourself is “cis,” “trans,” or “non-binary.” They have taken “biological” as well as “female” from you. You cannot respond as one of us women and be attentive to trans ideology, because under trans ideology there is no class identifier for you. If you think you belong to some group called “biological female” you are a TERF.

    • Magdalena
      | Reply

      It’s easier to be a male anywhere. Males are not oppressed anywhere in the world so they do not need to be emancipated.

    • puzzled
      | Reply

      “Hysterical.” Classic accusation. could you not have worked “pearl-clutching” into that comment?

    • Fiona
      | Reply

      Of course, Ruth. When women speak their truth and fellings, it has always been called hysterical. the one thing this article was not, was hysterical. Its extremely calm and measured. What it described, was hysterical behaviour. For once, lets hear someone actually answer something. Ruth, please comment on the behaviour of the transwomen who refused to let the speakers speak, but shouted them down in a public forum. Do women do that, Ruth? Or do women worry about being polite and hurting feelings?

      Transwomen want to be taken as women, then they should behave like them, instead of acting like a parody of womanhood with all the heels and make-up. Transwomen behave like men: above all, they priotritize themselves. Never do you see a transwoman apologize before speaking, in case feelings are hurt. NO, transwomen police the words of women…and only women, not men…and viciously insult them and threaten them if they dont comply, particularly sexually.

      Ruth, here are two responses given to a young lesbian, who very politely explained that she doesnt want to hurt anyone, but she just doesnt like penis (men say that, but dont bother to apologize first…imagine a man apologizing for not wanting a dick in his mouth):
      “I hope someone fucks you in the face so hard it breaks your jaw”
      “I hope you go home with a transwoman and when you see her cock and back away, she’s already choking you to death…lol”

      Or how about the transwoman who informed a lesbian that being raped ‘Can sometimes be an excuse for avoiding penis”…as someone said: ‘so female consent and autonomy now only matter if they have been violated before”

      Ruth these are a tiny few of thousands of the things like this. The trans movement isnt a group of brave little souls. SEVENTY-SIX large corporations pour in money…including Geroge Soros. the bathroom bill in the US…one TW commented that ‘if women only knew how much work goes on under the radar, in the backrooms, so to speak”…in other words, just like the gentleman’s clubs which used to rule everything. We were just beginning to break down the doors…so men found a new way to attack…Ruth, the history of the world is the battle between male and female. Female progress is always one step back for every two forward..and our worst enemies are those who side with men. Like you, Ruth. Like The Chair, here, who says “Not all men”…and who opens women’s spaces…WITHOUT EVEN ASKING A WOMAN TO JOIN IN THE CONSULTATION.

      • Stephanie Davies-Arai
        | Reply

        Hi Fiona do you have a list of those organisations? It would be very interesting to see who they are.

    • Tina
      | Reply

      I love how you acknowledge the misogyny of the word hysterical and then go right out and use it anyway.

      BTW, “transwoman” and “transman” are considered transphobic terms now and would get your ear chewed off by most of the people you’re defending. It implies that a “transwoman” is a different category from “woman” rather than a subcategory. Which, you know, is true, but it upsets them to hear it. I would SERIOUSLY suggest you do some research on what the party line is right now in the trans activist movement. It is not about living safely in society; it is an incredibly extremist and anti-woman position that states discussing female biology and female oppression is now off-limits.

      As a self-described feminist, why do you feel that “trans women” need to be emancipated from the material realities of biology and sex-based oppression systems?

  11. Kim
    | Reply

    Funny that someone claiming to know the meaning uses that word anyway. You are exactly the kind of sell-out this article was written about, Ruth. Catering to male needs from the moments you wake up each morning and attacking women on their behalf.

  12. atranswidow
    | Reply

    Thank you Stephanie, and the other women who attended. Thank you for bearing witness to this erosion of what it means to be a woman. I write as a woman who has fought on a personal level to retain her own identity. After 30 years of life given to a man whose fantasy life became more real and more important to him than being a father to his own family, I was expected to step aside and abdicate my lived reality as wife and mother.
    As my husband declared himself to be a woman, and have always been so, I learned on a daily basis the insidious hatred and misogyny that these men harbor towards biological women who do not ”accept” their fantasy as reality. It is feminists, either as real life friends, or on line, and the discovery of the incredible writings and insights of feminist writers that have pulled me through. For me ”the personal has become political”. The attempted silencing of women must not be allowed.
    Thank you for ”having time”.

  13. Vicky
    | Reply

    The trans movement is going to set back womens hard fought for rights hundreds of years. Its horrible and scary to see it in action. I despair of what is happening to the world right now. Men telling women what to do, how to think…just in a new form. And this is accepted without question and everyone who disagrees is a TERF or some other random insult.

    Self-identification is a slippery slope. We have sex (NOT gender) segregated spaces for a reason..has everyone forgotten this?

  14. another transwidow
    | Reply

    I second above.
    i, and other women like me, have lived experience of what it really means to find yourself in a beard marriage with an autogynephile male transgender. The truth is mine to tell. I own it, because its my life too. i’ve been silenced and shouted down and mocked more times than i can remember, i have been lied to, betrayed, gaslighted, used and abused, sexually objectified along with my young female children according to a secret sexual agenda, without knowledge or consent. My identity has been regarded as beneath consideration and damaged beyond repair by years of subtle gaslighting and erasure. i have been egregiously insulted for identifying as the woman in the heterosexual relationship i signed up for with a man which i was led to believe was intimate, open, honest and forever.. My generally-lovely-nice-lefty-but-sharp-person credentials are in shreds.
    I have heard every logical fallacy, excuse and justification, ive heard the same old trans-narrative, the trite cliches trotted out countless times.. ive heard them all. theres not one i or any decent feminist cant shoot down. The ‘no true scotsman’ argument looks like a pathetic excuse to women like me who have learned to spot the classic Agp behaviours a mile off. We see you. Plenty of intelligent, erudite women see you for what you are – a danger to women and girls, a backwards step in fighting the gender stereotypes that harm all of us, and an erasure of women as a biological class of human , erasure of our voices and our reality, erasure of our biology and our ability to speak of it, and erasure of true female identity, formed through lived experience in a female body in the real world, not by a male appropriated fashionable sexual-identity. No one will ever persuade me that a woman is really some middle aged man in mental crisis with a dirty secret he most dearly wishes to get away with living out in public.. getting off on the male gaze and girly talks and expecting lesbians to let him ‘join in’… ffs… oh yes we see you. right through you in fact, because there’s nothing really there is there? its all a huge lie to cover up the truth – that the vast majority of male transitioners are autogynephiles who’ve overdosed on tumblr and cant hide their male entitlement any longer – by funding the trans lobby and manipulating the public and the transgender community with a cult ideology, they hope to achieve what MRA’s have so far failed to do… ultimately, this movement is doomed to crash and burn, once people wake up and realise how dumb they sound swallowing the gender bullshit and begin to understand the harm that is being done to women and children… already we are seeing rapes, sex crimes and domestic abuse and murders being reported as committed by ‘women’ *by the police and judiciary* and in the media – unbeknown to the Office of National Statistics i might add… skewing the statistics deliberately so as to obfuscate the fact that 98% of sex offenders are male, that the number of convicted male sex offenders in uk jails outnumbers the entire female prison population several times over… to suggest somehow that women are also responsible for these crimes, and to direct attention away from the fact that its overwhelmingly men that hurt and murder women, children, transgender people and each other.
    …. trans isnt a sexual orientation? then why the LGB ‘suffix’? … trans isnt an illness? then why is the NHS spending millions on drugs and surgery?…. trans isnt a sexual disorder and its harmless? then why are there so many victims? … trans isnt narcissism? then what are all the selfies about? …. Agp doesnt exist? i should co-co.
    We stand together as women for women. Every time you pop up to mansplain to us what a ‘real’ woman or a feminist should be, every time you post something hateful online, in the search engines we find you and WE SEE YOU .
    So i am qualified to speak about what is really going on in the mind (and bedroom) of a predatory autogynephile aka middle aged transgender male, because i was there.. and i WON’T sit down and i WON’T shut up. i am spartacused.

  15. Addie Jo
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for standing up for women! I’m sorry you were treated the way you were. I remember calling out a trans “woman” in his blatant hatred towards women and I was met with violent threats, slurs, and was told I wanted to “kill Trans people”. Just remember, women don’t get sold off at 8 years old because of they way they identify, young girls aren’t raped by their fathers because of the way they identify, this all happens because of biology.

  16. Debbie
    | Reply

    Thank you. I am a transwoman and I understand your concerns. I am also an intellectual and I deplore any attempt to silence reasoned argument.

  17. Una Hodgkins
    | Reply

    Dear Stephanie,
    Can I please ask for one small correction? The meeting was on Tuesday 13th September, not 14th.

    Thank you so much for attending this riotous gathering of the insane and their cheer-leaders, Maria Miller and Ruth Cadbury. Thank you even more for writing a report about it and an excellent analysis.

    Thank you for asking why other women had not been invited. I was one of those who, I think, should have been invited. They certainly knew of me. Starting in January 2016 I wrote numerous e-mails to my MP Andy Slaughter about the WESC proposals. My e-mails included my address (required) but they were not acknowledged. I don’t know whether he forwarded them to the committee. After months of silence I e-mailed the secretary of the WESC and Ruth Cadbury several times starting on 13th June 2016. I received no acknowledgement until I finally demanded one! But I received no thanks for my contribution or invitation to the next proceedings.
    I explained in my e-mails why I was opposed to the changes which the committee proposed for children and that, as a transwidow, I was in a position to shed some new light on the background to the proposals. The evidence which I would have given is an account of the abuse to which I was subjected throughout my marriage of 14 years: increasing misogynistic taunting and bullying by a 60 year-old “teenager” who never showed any insight or remorse. It was the most bewildering and humiliating experience of my life. The WESC committee has heard nothing about this. No transwoman has ever admitted to such appalling behaviour, because they have a blind-spot to their drive to dominate and control! This behaviour is evidence that all is not well in their psychiatry, and that they cannot cope calmly with the contradictions inside themselves and with their families. It is extraordinary that GD seems to occur in (or, perhaps more accurately, is widely reported in) highly intelligent and articulate men. When these men speak others tend to listen. So it is really difficult for anyone on the outside, an ordinary person, to understand, unless they have made a special study, that some forms of delusion or insanity can leave a man able to function logically in other domains, that it doesn’t cripple all their functions. Please try to read a copy of Christine Benvenuto’s “Sex Changes” (available on e-bay) and an article by the barrister Jon Holbrook: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/transgenderism-a-top-down-politics-of-identity/17938#.V-ANOa1TtS3

    We need a really good turnout for the next meeting of the WESC. If you are invited to another meeting, can you please forward it to me and I will ask to come? Thank you.

  18. Mancheeze
    | Reply

    Ty so much for standing up for women.

    Is there a video/audio recording of this event? I’m sure there are women around the world who want to see it.

    • Stephanie Davies-Arai
      | Reply

      Unfortunately not as far as I know. I wish there was.

  19. Isla
    | Reply

    Thank you for this. It’s hard not to despair – With this as well as the recent home affairs select committee report which recommended legalised brothels and pimping, we really are entering a very dark time for women. Behind both decisions is money of course. George Soros funds both campaigns. Whilst the statistics on violence and harassment of women keep flowing ever upwards you would think that this would be the priority for the minister for women,. Women are vulnerable because they are physically smaller, and trans women do not experience this. Perhaps we should redefine as small and large women (Irony).

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