What is happening and why does it matter?


For hundreds of years, laws were made on the basis of sex. Laws were passed that said male people and female people were different and should be treated differently.

In 2010, Parliament passed the Equality Act, which said everyone has to be treated fairly — with some important exceptions. MPs said that single-sex spaces were sometimes necessary. Parliament said women should be able to say No to having male-bodied in places like refuges; women should be able to say No to having intimate medical procedures and other services carried out by males.

There is also a law, called the Gender Recognition Act, that allows someone to change their sex in the eyes of the law. While the law can change someone’s sex on paper, it doesn’t mean someone has actually changed their biological sex. This is impossible. Most people don’t know this, but you don’t need to make any physical change to your body to be able to legally change sex. So a person can be a “trans woman” and be seen by the law as female, but still have a penis and all the other parts of a male anatomy. No one knows for sure how many trans women keep their penis, but there are less than 10 NHS surgeons who can carry out the relevant operation. Transgender organisations estimate that only 5-20% of trans people have any medical intervention at all. Quite a lot of transwomen have male genitals.

That matters a lot to some women. They want to keep the legal right to say No to being in an intimate, vulnerable place with people who — whatever they’re callled — have male bodies.

The government is consulting on a change in the law that would make it even easier for someone to change the sex on their birth certificate. They might remove any medical check from the process, so that anyone could legally change sex purely on their own say-so. Anyone with that male anatomy could get legal access to women-only spaces, just by saying “I am a woman now”. If you’ve heard the phrase “trans women are women” this is what it means: any man can be legally recognised as a woman, just because they want to be. That means if will be easier for them to get access to women’s spaces and women’s legal rights. That means women’s rights don’t mean anything any more.

Trans lobby organisations like Stonewall and Gendered Intelligence have been lobbying, training and advising government and organisations to remove or weaken women and girls’ legal protections. Fair Play for Women want to restore them and halt their erosion. No one representing the interests of biological women has been properly consulted, and nor have ordinary women. Fair Play for Women’s mission is to ensure that happens, and it needs to happen urgently.

The lobby organisations say there are no problems and trans people can already access women’s spaces and rights. But the impact on women and girls of this shift towards ‘self-ID’ policies ahead of the law has been completely ignored. The government needs to make sure society and law can clearly distinguish between the biological sexes so women can have privacy, dignity, safety and fairness when it really matters to them:

Here are some examples of problems that have a negative impact on women and girls already. Many organisations are running ahead of the law change and giving up on single-sex spaces for women altogether. Instead they have ‘self-ID’ policies where they allow anyone into women’s spaces who ‘self-identifies as a woman’.

  1. Schools: Lots of schools are being advised by Lobby groups about how to deal with kids who say they’re trans. Some schools have turned girls’ toilets into unisex toilets, so girls have to share intimate spaces with other people who have the anatomy of a teenage boy. Some schools have a policy that says if a girl objects to sharing toilets, or showers, or dormitories, with someone who has a male body, it’s the girl who should be removed from that space and be “educated” into thinking differently about the situation. Some schools have a policy of not telling parents when a child tells a teacher they think they might be transgender.

  2. Girl guides have a policy in place which means a boy who says he feels like a girl can share tents, showers, changing areas with the other girls, but the girls’ parents will not even be told. This has not been made clear to parents of guides, and as mentioned above, those trying to raise questions about it have been hushed up and censored by guides

  3. A male bodied person who describes themselves as ‘non binary’ has been pressuring women’s changing rooms in places like Top Shop to let him change there, and has somehow been successful in doing so

  4. Overnight sleeping accommodation such as the Caledonian Sleeper Train and the Youth Hostel Association have quietly introduced policies that allow a man who simply says he is a woman to sleep in ‘single sex’ accommodation. This means a woman could be undressing and sleeping in a female dormitory without even knowing a male person is there too.

  5. Male bodied prisoners are being held in women’s prisons, and senior and experienced people in the industry are deeply concerned about the impact on the women. There have been reports of women in prison being sexually assaulted by male-bodied prisoners.

  6. Councils have approved guidance for schools that says if parents are concerned about a boy changing next to their daughter a good response would be that “although the individual in question may have the body of a boy, they are in every other respect a girl and as such have the right under the Equality Act to change with the girls” A parent whose daughter was uncomfortable changing next to a boy at school contacted an MP who dismissed her concerns.

  7. Medical confusion and ethics: there has been a huge rise in the number of children seeking medical treatment at gender clinics. The doctors who run those clinics say they don’t really know why. They think we need more evidence be a few years ago, most kids at gender clinics were born male. Now most are female. Again, experts don’t know why this is. Some charities are lobbying for rules that would make it easier for children to get drugs and even surgery to try to change sex. Most doctors say we shouldn’t rush decisions like that, because they can have permanent consequences for children


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