First thoughts on the issues of safe spaces for women as this has been even more in the news than usual. Within the last week JK Rowling has written an essay on Sex and Gender Issues and the Government has “leaked” that they are going to safe guard womens’ safe spaces amongst other measures to be announced on the 1st July.
JK Rowling has been subjected to a hostile campaign denouncing her as transphobic. She was in contact with Magdalen Berns who had brought a case asking the court to rule that a philosophical belief that sex was determined by biology and is protected in law. The outcome of the case was that it was ruled that such a premise was not protected in law.
This seems to me to go to whole issue of what is gender. I am almost certainly treading on thin ice at this point as when it comes to LGBT the T seems to me to be the odd one out in that the T relates to a person’s Gender whereas LGB relates to a person’s sexual orientation. The Trans person will also have a sexual orientation distinct from their gender identity whether it be straight, gay or bi.
In so far as I have discovered there is no one hundred per cent definitive explanation why some children, boys and girls find they have an utter belief they are of the opposite sex to their genitalia from which they cannot, will not be disabused.. There are theories that it is a result of hormones influencing the unborn child, others claim it is environmental and to do with nurture. Jan Morris argues that being transgender is something larger, deeper and more elemental- something of which the sexual body is an indelible part but only part. She writes:-
Transsexualism … is not a sexual mode or preference. It is not an act of sex at all. It is a passionate, lifelong, ineradicable conviction, and no true transsexual has ever been disabused of it… I equate it with the idea of soul, or self, and I think of it not just as a sexual enigma, but as a quest for unity. For me every aspect of my life is relevant to that quest — not only the sexual impulses, but all the sights, sounds, and smells of memory, the influences of buildings, landscapes, comradeships, the power of love and of sorrow, the satisfactions of the senses as of the body. In my mind it is a subject far wider than sex: I recognize no pruriency to it, and I see it above all as a dilemma neither of the body nor of the brain, but of the spirit.
Why am I talking about this? There seems to be a view that gender identity relates to sex alone and that trans people self-identify for purely sexual reasons.
The premise that males will self-identify simply to enter simply to enter safe spaces designated for women is a fallacy. There will always be “bad apples” and if some man is intent on dressing up as a women to abuse or harm them that is will happen anyway. Trans women are in themselves women that is how they identify and want nothing more than to be safe in a women’s space as do cis women. As the law stands at present transwomen can enter womens’ safe spaces. The proposed Equality Act is not conferring any greater access than already exists. In reality making a transwoman enter a male “safe space” is likely to be putting that transwoman at considerable risk of harm.
How does the Government intend to police the access to safe spaces. It would seem that a Gender Recognition Certificate may be necessary. It is not a requirement to have Gender Reassignment Surgery to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate so you would have transwomen still with incongruent genitalia entering women’ safe spaces.
I am aware that self-identity is the major topic causing debate and goes to the core of whether self-identifying people can enter these safe spaces. As I understand it the Government is going to announce that they will require confirmation of gender identity from accredited gender specialists. To get a Gender Recognition Certificate you already have to have a medical report from an accredited gender specialist. Personally, I was pleased to receive confirmation of my own diagnosis of gender dysphoria and that I was not deluding myself.
In JK Rowling’s essay a reason behind Magdalen Berns’ application to court and her belief in the importance of biological sex she was that she “didn’t believe lesbians should be called bigots for not dating trans women with penises”. What? Who you date is surely a completely personal decision. Nobody should be called a bigot as long as people respect differences and treat any another person with integrity.
Another area covered on by JK Rowling includes shelters for women. Again a genuine transwoman is just as entitled to shelter from an abusive situation as cis women. I would suggest the same arguments apply to shelter as to using womens’ safe spaces. She mentions the domestic violence and sexual abuse which she has suffered. On all counts this is completely unacceptable and traumatic and something no person should ever be subjected to, She goes on to say that she feels nothing but “empathy and solidarity with transwomen who have been abused by men”. So why should they not be entitled access to the same shelter?
These are difficult issues which need sensible consideration without abuse and threats and on another occasion I hope to look at in more detail.