Why are feminists getting our knickers in a twist about bathrooms?

In response to the insidious & growing oppression of women in the UK, we are forming a woman’s action group. One thing I would like to do, is contact other women’s and parents’ groups and inform them of our concerns with the proposed legislative changes currently being supported by all political parties (except the Tories). So I’m writing this, to prepare. Try to make this complex and heated debate simple and communicable. Here goes 😬

So, a lobby of men claiming to represent transsexuals is pushing for changes to our laws. Theresa May has launched a public consultation to explore amendments of the Gender Recognition Act.

The Current Situation

A “transsexual person” is a person who feels that their physical sex does not match the gender they feel they are, in their brain. To feel more comfortable, they undergo a process to “live as another gender”. This typically involves

1. Social transitioning

This is a process of “coming out” to people such as explaining to your friends you now wish them to consider you a female or male, and you may decide to begin wearing women’s or men’s clothing in public. This is a process of getting used to the new you, and is also known as “real life experience”

2. Legal transitioning

This is the formal process of changing your legal documents. You usually require a doctors note, saying you are transitioning and that you intend it to be permanent.

3. Medical transitioning

This is a process of changing your body physically. You may decide to take hormones or have plastic surgery.

This process currently takes around two years.

Proposed changes: Self Identification

The trans lobby says two years is too long, and the process is too distressing (1). They are campaigning to have the law changed, so that a person can declare themselves to be transsexual without committing to any medical, social or legal process.

In real terms, this means that a man who has been living as a man until this very second, can now turn up at a swimming pool, declare he is now a woman, and he will be given access to the women’s facilities. The legal advice is, that if a woman does not want him in her space and asks for him to be removed, she will be removed and charged by the police with a hate crime because saying he is a man is “transphobic” (2)

It means that male prisoners may decide they are now women, and demand to be in a woman’s prison (3). We feel this puts those women at risk. It would also mean women’s only domestic violence shelters could not refuse them entry based on their sex. (4).

Boys at school who say they are girls will be allowed to use the girls toilets and changing rooms. If the girls complain, they will be told they are transphobic and told they themselves are not allowed to use those facilities. This is not a crazy vision, this has already happened (5).

Feminists have been called transphobic for being concerned about these legal changes. In addition, attempts by women’s groups to meet and discuss the potential impact on women and girls have been shut down. Some women have been dismissed from the Labour Party, for raising concerns (6). Chillingly, one woman was even arrested by West Yorkshire police and questioned by the police for raising concerns (7). Women have lost their jobs or been stopped from speaking at universities (8).

Feminists have never been transphobic. Calling us that is a way to discredit us (9). We support trans people to live their lives. But we do not accept men coming into women’s spaces. We feel women need some safe spaces without men. These proposed legal changes take away that right.

What next?

1. Sign the petition

Consult with women on proposals to enshrine ‘gender identity’ in law

The government proposes to amend the law to allow people to self-identify as men or women, and to stop allowing organisations in sensitive situations to exclude people of the opposite birth sex. We call for women to be consulted on how to protect women and girls’ rights, safety, privacy and dignity.

2. Join the campaign

A group called Womans Place UK has demanded five things from the government (10). You can follow them on twitter (11) or Facebook (12)

1 Respectful and evidence-based discussion about the impact of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act to be allowed to take place and for women’s voices to be heard.

2 The principle of women-only spaces to be upheld – and where necessary extended.

3 A review of how the exemptions in the Equality Act which allow or single sex services or requirements that only a woman can apply for a job (such as in a domestic violence refuge) are being applied in practice.

4 Government to consult with women’s organisations on how self-declaration would impact on women-only services and spaces.

5 Government to consult on how self-declaration will impact upon data gathering – such as crime, employment, pay and health statistics – and monitoring of sex-based discrimination such as the gender pay gap.

3. Contact your MP and tell them how you feel

4. Direct action. To raise awareness of this issue and how it may impact women, two women declared themselves to be men and went swimming, in men’s trunks, at a male only swimming session (13). This may not be a comfortable option for many of us, but it does illustrate how simple direct action can be effective in raising awareness and empathy.

Footnotes

1. Stonewall, 21.07.17, We need urgent reform of the GRA

2. Statement by Metropolitan Police, “A Hate Incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender”.

3. Good Morning Britain, ITV, 21.09.17, Transgender people could be able to swap prisons if new law is passed

4. Evening Standard, 04.02.18, Abuse victims at female-only refuge centres could be looked after by self-declared transgender women

5. BBC, 19.03.18, Essex school changes transgender toilet policy

6. Feminist Current, 20.01.18, What’s Current: Labour Party suspends second female member after being placed on list of ‘TERFs’

7. I am defending my right to free speech, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull , 11.03.18

8. Telegraph, 01.03.17, Bristol University students seek to ban ‘Terf’ speakers who question transgender status of women

9. The Spectator, 27.01.18, Women come last in Labour’s deranged victim hierarchy

10. https://womansplaceuk.org/our-demands-2/

11. @Womans_Place_UK

12. @womansplaceuk

13. The Independent, 18.03.18, Female activists took a group of male swimmers by surprise on Friday evening when they attended a men-only swim session wearing just trunks and pink swimming caps.

Sources

The Independent, 23.07.17, People to be allowed to pick their own gender without doctor’s diagnosis, under Government plans

Bristol Post, 31.01.18, Should trans-women be banned from women’s shelters, changing rooms and toilets? Bristol debates

The Guardian, 18.10.17, Theresa May plans to let people change gender without medical checks

Blog, Nicola Williams, The Oldest Hate Crime: How Misogyny is Being Used to Strangle Women’s Debate on Sex and Gender.

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