I’ve seen a lot of self-appointed spokespeople for the transgender community (whatever that is) proclaiming that the proposed changes in law to allow people to self-declare their gender have nothing to do with anyone who is not transgender (whatever that is).
I think what they’re doing here, consciously or otherwise, is echoing that snappy comeback to opponents of equal marriage, ‘if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married’.
That one always makes me smile, and I agree with the sentiment. Lesbians or gay men who choose to get married or form civil partnerships are not affecting anyone else.
But there is no equivalency. A trans-identified male, or indeed a female MP who asserts that a move to self-ID won’t affect anyone except those doing the ID-ing is not being honest.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of groups that would be affected by a gender self-ID law.
WOMEN AND GIRLS. Let me say that again. WOMEN AND GIRLS.
There are 32 million of us in the UK.
We stand to lose so much. Our hard-won legal rights, our cultural progress. Women-only services for the many, many occasions when we are victims of male violence. This is the big one. There are many articles here and elsewhere focusing on what’s at stake for us, so I’m going to move on to some other groups that could be affected – many members of these groups are of course also women and girls.
Parents of trans-identified children and of children uncomfortable with losing single-sex facilities
Doctors, Nurses, Healthcare Practitioners, NHS bed allocation staff
Spouses and children of those who change gender
How can teachers discuss sexism and also transgender ideology, which is heavily based on gender stereotypes. What about biology lessons?
Prisoners and Prison Workers
Who has to strip-search trans-identified males?
The head of the British Association of Gender Identity Specialists, Dr James Barrett, warned the 2015 government consultation on transgender equality that sex offenders in prison seek to transition in order to access incarcerated women.
People with disabilities
Self-ID may have the unintended consequence of an increase the numbers of people using accessible facilities who don’t actually need them. Women who no longer feel confident that that public toilets or changing facilities are single-sex may opt to use the single accessible cubicle or room. As far as I know, organisations representing people with disabilities have not been consulted.
(A side note here – it is well documented that large numbers of people with disabilities and long-term conditions have been catastrophically failed by the Work Capability Assessment system, in which people have to prove that they really do have their disability or illness. Why are they not allowed to self-declare with a doctor’s letter, but under the proposed new law, with its intention to ‘de-medicalise’ the process, trans people would be able to do so?)
Perhaps you think this is too tenuous, just a hypothetical, likely to affect only a small number of people and not worth worrying about. Let’s look at one different small group, who had their hypothetical worries sorted out before suffering any real-world consequences.
Yes, really. My heart is not usually to be found overflowing with compassion for the predicaments of the landed gentry but let’s take a magical journey…
Britain’s top progressive institution, the monarchy, abolished primogeniture (inheritance by the eldest son) in 2013, just in time for the royal baby. Ladies – the kind with a capital L – felt that this left their lot looking outdated and sexist. (No comment).
Here’s Lady Liza Campbell, who campaigned in vain to change the law. Interestingly, the 2004 Gender Recognition Act contains an exception for the aristocracy; a full legal gender change would not affect who was in line for the country pile.
Were Liza’s brother to reveal he’d always been a woman, he’d still inherit – despite totes being a womany woman of course. An eldest daughter could inherit after all – but only if male. Sorry, Lady C. Conversely, if she were to realise she was in fact a man and get the certificate to prove it, she’d be the kind of firstborn son who couldn’t inherit. The female kind.
The thing to note here is that back in 2004, someone somewhere spotted a potential problem for a tiny group of men, and acted to pre-empt it.
I’m an atheist, so again, not a group of people I’ve bothered my ladybrain much about over the years, but undeniably practitioners/leaders/followers etc of organised religions are an affected group. Can a transgender man become a Catholic priest? An imam? If they’re men under the eyes of the law, then the law needs to say why or why not.
Interestingly, Stonewall’s ‘A Vision for Change’ (tagline ‘Acceptance without Exception’) doesn’t mention either the aristos or the priests.
The 2015 government consultation on transgender equality ignored submissions that weren’t from the transgender community (whatever that is etc).
In 2017 I hope that our elected representatives start listening to everyone affected by any changes in the law.
The government has produced a self-selecting internet survey for ‘LGBT people’ () but there doesn’t seem to be any other consultation as yet.
As we’ve seen, those responsible for the 2004 act were capable of anticipating consequences for a tiny group of rich, privileged men. No doubt at this very moment the civil servants and lawyers are exercising equal diligence on behalf of all the other groups above. Right?