GRA reform has been scrapped by the UK government for England and Wales. This comes after an incredible grassroots campaign by ordinary women against allowing people to simply self-identify (“self-ID”) as the other sex to get a Gender Recognition Certificate and then a new birth certificate. But why was it so important for us to defend our rights?
Transgender rights are already protected in law, and that won’t change. But trans pressure groups took it too far, they weren’t just asking for trans rights, they were demanding women’s sex-based rights too. Women said no.
Current rules mean the number of people who are allowed to change the sex on their birth certificates is small. Just a few thousand people have done so since 2004.
But demands for Self-ID would have meant *any man* could have changed his birth certificate to say he’d been BORN female.
We were told time and again not to worry about it. This will have no impact on women’s sex-based rights. There’s no impact on privacy, safety or fairness for women and girls. They were wrong. This short article explains why.
“It’s just admin”. Ruth Hunt, Stonewall
“I don’t believe there is a problem”. Jo Swinson, LibDems
“No changes will be made to laws that protect single-sex spaces and services” Scottish Government
“I don’t think it threatens women” Sarah Wollaston, LibDems
GRA reform was fundamentally about language capture and would limit a woman’s ability to discuss and uphold her sex-based rights.
It started out as transgender people simply asking to be protected from being treated unfairly because they are transgender.
Women should respect someone’s gender identity by treating a man “as if he were a woman”.
It was a courtesy, a kindness extended to people who suffered from gender dysphoria. We all know that trans people aren’t *literally* the sex they identify as. It was simply polite to use “preferred pronouns” and repeat the platitude that “transwomen are women”.
But this then fundamentally changed.
It was no longer enough to treat a man ‘as if he was a woman’. To respect his gender identity, we were told we must now believe that he was *literally* female, that he hadn’t even been born the male sex at all.
Why does scrapping GRA reform matter to women?
It matters because back in 2004 the Gender Recognition Act created two routes to becoming female. Some of us are by virtue of birth and our sexed body; and others are female by virtue of asserting a gender identity – despite their sexed body. GRA reform would have opened up that second route to *any male* who wanted it.
Women are fast becoming a subset of their own sex class. It matters because the word woman is becoming ambiguous and no longer associated with a persons sex. It matters because women’s rights are no longer about sex-based oppression. We are “cis women” now. Being female is just a niche issue peculiar to us. It’s no longer centre stage when it comes to talking about women’s issues, in fact it is actively discouraged and considered exclusionary.
This has had a profound and damaging effect on how women talk about our sex-based rights. Wholesale changes in social convention mean that many of the words used by women to discuss sex-based oppression are now off limits. This makes even the most respectful conversations about how we fairly balance rights based on sex and rights based on gender identity fraught with difficulties and tension.
We have all but lost the word woman. The only words that we are still allowed to use without sanction is “male” and “female”. They must not be given away.
Even now, spurious scientific arguments and unfair accusations of transphobia are frequently used to muddy the meaning and use of these most basic words to describe someone’s sex.
We are already starting to see Twitter impose sanctions for using male and female. Fair Play For Women was temporarily suspended for ‘hateful conduct’ for using the word “male”. We successfully appealed and Twitter admitted their mistake because under current UK law it is still accurate to state that most transwomen are the male sex. Indeed the Equality and Human Rights Commission has recently clarified this legal position.
Fair Play For Women has also been recently accused of ‘transphobic abuse’ by a newspaper for describing a transgender cricketer as male, despite this being legally accurate and relevant to discussions about fairness and safety in sport. We complained to the press regulator IPSO and won.
But most shocking of all has been the increasing pressure not to use the words “male” and “female” in official policy development meetings. As a policy stakeholder invited to represent the sex-based rights of women and girls, both in the UK and internationally, we respectfully refuse. We use sex-based language not to be rude, but because gender identity is not the same characteristic as sex. Being able to acknowledge and identify the male and female sex is fundamental to the theory and practice of sex-based rights for women and girls.
Self-ID GRA reform would fatally undermine the sex-based rights of women and girls.
It is no longer enough to treat a man as if he is woman.
It is not longer enough to consider all transwoman to be a type of woman.
It is now being demanded that all transwoman are *literally* female too.
Trans activists no longer wanted transwomen to be transgender. They wanted to be female, and for their trans history to be a secret. They wanted to be identical to the “cis women”. Indistinguishable from us.
GRA reform won’t just allow every trans person to change the sex they were born on their birth certificate, it will also become impossible to confirm it was ever changed. On paper, a transwomen’s maleness will have been totally erased.
How will campaigners, policy makers or journalists be able to do their job when we are all obliged to name someone born male, with a male body and male genitals, as being the female sex?
How can we protect single-sex spaces and services when we can no longer know or say who was born male or female?
How can a female-only space ever be guaranteed to be male-free when we can no longer acknowledge that transwomen are actually the male sex.
How will you be able to express your legitimate concerns if you can no longer say things like:
“I don’t want a transwoman to share a changing room with my daughter because that person is male”
“I don’t want a transwoman to perform a cervical smear on me because that person is male”.
“I don’t want my elderly mother to be washed and dressed by a transwoman at the care home because that person is male”.
“I don’t think its fair or safe for my daughter to play rugby against a team that fields a transwoman because that person is male”.
If we can’t talk freely about the material reality of sex we can not discuss, monitor or uphold our sex-based rights.
This is why is matters to women and girls.
This is why we had to say NO.
This is why GRA reform was scrapped.
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