Over 750 people added their name to the open letter published in the Sunday Times asking Girlguiding to review their trans policy. Here are some reasons, in their own words, why people felt so strongly. If you want to add your voice, fill in the contact form at end of this blog.
Carrie Wheeler (Leader): With resources like ‘breaking free from gender stereotypes’ I am being asked to tell my girls that their gender shouldn’t limit what they like or do, yet Girlguiding are telling me I have to reinforce gender stereotypes for the transgender child. I cannot be that hypocrite. Not when my promise asks me to be true to myself and Girlguiding acknowledge that this might include making difficult decisions that others might not agree with.
For me, Girlguiding are ignoring every previous campaign or survey they have undertaken on behalf of their members. A Girls’ Attitudes Survey revealed that three quarters of girls and young women said that anxiety about potentially experiencing sexual harassment negatively affects their lives – their words ‘potentially’. They acknowledged that the girls fear the possibility that something might happen but this gender identity policy has dismissed the fears expressed by Girlguiding’s young members.
As a leader I am not permitted to have my biologically male children room in with biologically female children on residential events. Why? If a 6/9/11/15 year old transfemale poses no threat to other members of their section why does Girlguiding consider my 6-year-old biological male child a threat to the same members?
Girlguiding prides itself on being inclusive but it would appear this is only if you ‘feel like a woman’. Any child who feels they might be male “might be better supported in an organisation available to all genders” – We are being asked to exclude a child based on their feelings!
As a Guider there is just so much which has not been properly thought about. If Girlguiding continues to press ahead with this policy as it stands, with no review or consultation to ensure biological females are not being managed out because of their feeling of not fitting a gender stereotype, and we continue to be asked to withhold information about the presence of biological males on residentials, thereby not allowing parents to make an informed choice as to whether their own daughter should attend, I shall rescind my membership and that of my daughters.
Ali Ceesay (Mother with children in Guiding): As parents and adults, it is our moral and legal responsibility to safeguard spaces for children to learn and thrive in. As #metoo has shown us, rape and sexual assaults are far from uncommon in schools and other settings for young people. Whether it is peer abuse or predatory adults, we must teach our daughters that they are supported in setting boundaries and we will support them in consenting to who can and can not be in their spaces.
This is a female space. Female trans-identifying children are not excluded from it.
It is okay for females to create female-only spaces away from the constant pressures of mixed settings and societal power dynamics. We know girls thrive when allowed a single-sex setting, especially in activities usually dominated by boys.
There are many similar mixed organisations for parents to chose from. It is important society has a range of organisations offering choice.
Many girls sadly have been affected by domestic violence and child sexual assault. It is our responsibility to create spaces where they can feel safe. They are not transphobic, nor exclusionary, but have every right to choose not to have male-bodied people in their intimate spaces.
Maria Moseley (former member): I signed because Guiding provided me with safety as I came to terms with my father’s death: somewhere girls could talk about feelings without being mocked for being “girly” and “talking about mushy stuff”, and learn how to cope with life while widening my view of the world in a very small town. The presence of males changes that dynamic of openness and trust. I benefited and I want all girls and young women to have that small amount of time without male opinions.
Fiona McAllister: A very concerned member of the public who refuses to standby and leave a world where our granddaughters have to re-fight battles our own great-grandmothers won.
Wendy Johnson: I signed because I am appalled that all the previous good the Girlguiding movement has done for years is to be thrown away because of the influence of male activists. As a parent I am horrified you now want to take away my choice to keep my daughter safe. To send her off to camp not knowing she will be forced to share sleeping and washing spaces with boys. How dare you think it right to do this and conceal it from parents? As a safeguarding issue this is outrageous and it is without any satisfaction that I predict a huge lawsuit if you carry on down this dangerous path. Shame on you for destroying a proud history.
Jane Kirkland: Girlguiding is a passion that runs deeply in my family. My grandmother was a Trefoil founder, much loved Brown Owl and volunteered for the Guides even in retirement. I rose through the ranks from Rainbow to Guide, a journey that my own daughter is now making.
Female-only spaces are important, now more than ever. We are doing a great disservice to the young women growing up now if we do not help them speak out and ensure that their safe spaces are protected. If as adults we are silenced and patronised for trying to put boundaries in place, what hope do girls have in voicing their concerns? My daughter, aged 7, is already well-versed in gender stereotypes from school (where she has also been sexually assaulted). I want her and other girls to have at least one safe female-only space where they can explore the fact that they can do all the activities that their male peers tell them are not for girls and where they can learn life skills.
Brownies and Guiding gave me the opportunity to flourish. They allowed me to make new friends, even in a very small town. I tried new things. They allowed me to develop my independence. The absence of boys, who at school belittled me for being clever and not pretty, who laughed at my changing body and lack of sporting confidence, was key to my experiences.
We are denying this new generation of Brownies and Guides the opportunity to have enriching experiences in a female-only space. We are denying them the chance to have that same safe space on camps to grow in independence. Worst of all, we are telling them to ignore what biology tells us. Bodies and genetics are no longer what makes someone a certain sex. It’s in the brain; it’s feelings. By accepting this dogma, we are telling a whole new generation that male feelings are more important than female concerns.
Kat Busby Hicks: I signed because the Girl Guides’ stance of non-disclosure to parents clearly goes against basic safeguarding and puts the well-being of the trans child before that of biological girls. Single-sex places are rare for girls but incredibly important. There are other organisations that can accommodate trans girls (who are still anatomical boys, whether or not they feel like they are girls). Let’s not take away one of the few girl-only spaces for our daughters.
Frances Gee: I signed because young girls and young women benefit hugely from single-sex organisations where they have role models of their own sex and space to grow and become confident. If they see that a male person’s needs are put first, what is this teaching them and what are they learning? There may well be a role for a camp for young people who are confused about their identity, but there is no reason why girls’ sex-protected spaces should be used to basically validate an identity which is not true, let alone expose them to the possibility of abuse by these confused boys. I am shocked by the exclusion by the Girl Guides of girls who are thinking they would prefer to be boys. Young lesbians who could be supported within the organisation to accept themselves as female are at risk of hugely damaging interventions and should be protected. Girlguiding has always been very valuable for girls and their feelings must be given more weight than those of males.
Alison Loise Lloyd: My daughter will not be joining Brownies or Guides until this is addressed. Sexual violence against women, by men, in public toilets exists and should be considered. I would not invite a teenager with a penis for a sleepover with my daughter at home and do not want a club forcing my daughter to enter into that. I am a previous member and a writer.
Hannah Clarke: I’ll be honest and say I didn’t enjoy Girl Guides when I was a teenager. I was at an all-girls school and I am part of a family where there are no sons. I had plenty of opportunities to thrive away from teenage boys and away from the male gaze. Many of the other Guides weren’t given the same female-only spaces at school or at home and the single-sex space Guides provided was very important to them, a space they could be themselves and not submit to the alleged authority of young men – and where they weren’t concerned about fitting the stereotypes that society places on all girls and women.
It is so important to fight for these spaces, to allow young women to flourish in what is still a patriarchal world. Just because some of us don’t or didn’t need this space doesn’t mean nobody should have it. Girls need the space that Girl Guides provides, and it is unique in this provision.
One wonders about the motivation behind the push by Trans Rights Activists to change the very nature of the Girl Guides. There are a number of similar, unisex organisations who could cater to “trans children”. This is a deliberate targeting of women and girls – anything we have for ourselves is at risk by this drive to remove our rights. We must stand up to these bullies.
Mary Hinsley: My children benefited from Girl Guides, particularly my youngest who has Asperger’s. She is in a vulnerable position as she cannot read people which makes her socially awkward. She had experienced bullying and intimidation, mainly from boys, at school and the schools were very slow to indifferent in acting because “boys will be boys”. This made her very wary of boys who were not part of her domestic circle. Joining Rainbows, then Brownies really boosted her self-esteem. She felt included and safe for the first time in out-of-school activities and felt able to talk openly about her condition without ridicule. She had her first trip away without Mummy and gained valuable knowledge from other girls about safeguarding, on areas which I had unwittingly been clueless. My daughter lands in an at-risk group of sexual assault by men/boys at 2 x greater than the norm. Girl Guides is one of the most respected single-sex groups that allows a safe space for vulnerable and disabled girls. Under the new rules, Girl Guides is no longer a safe space for these youngsters and that in itself is exclusionary of disabled, lesbian and already abused girls. As a mother I know my child, I am responsible for my child’s safety and well-being and it is my right to decide if there is a risk not worth taking.
Andrea Thomas: There are many places, spaces and occasions when gender or sex doesn’t matter. When it does, it REALLY matters. 1-How can safeguarding make any sense at all if biological sex is a jumbled mess of identity and feelings? 2-Projects, organisations, teams and groups that understand that girls may need separate support, encouragement and space to shine or succeed have to be able to meaningfully define ‘girl’ based on biological sex.
Sinead Connolly : I signed because of fairness, basically.
Membership of the Girl Guides was part of what formulated within me the belief that fairness was fundamental, and that my sex was not a barrier to that – via anything – least of all oppressive gender stereotypes. How is it fair that a male child’s inner confusion be weaponised against the realities of female existence, either for girls or that confused child?
The Guides has had a long and notable history of standing for the rights of girls – for studying, highlighting and countering pressures unique to girls – the aforementioned stereotypes that transgenderism, by its very nature, serves to enforce.
In short, they’ve abandoned their every core principle, even unto rendering the definition of “girl” down to a feeling – a concept – a set of shackles, rather than the biological reality those shackles rely on for their function. They’ve abandoned girls .
And that’s simply not fair.
Amanda Bickerton: I want to protect the few spaces that women and girls have in which to flourish without the insidious pressure of what is still very much a ‘man’s world’.
I want to enable young women who do not follow societal pressures into over-sexualised hyper-femininity and crushing stereotypes to have a space where they can nurture strength and confidence in community with other women.
I want to ensure that girls and young women are safeguarded; male sexual and physical violence against women and girls is real, and we need to protect girls and young women rather than put them at risk.
I want to take a stand and say quite clearly that women and girls are disadvantaged in our society on the basis of their biological sex, and the demands and expectation that women and girls should surrender their spaces, their safety and their lived reality to make way for a tiny minority of men and boys who despise them is dangerous, misguided and speaks of a toxic combination of ignorance and misogyny. The fact that Girlguiding is doing this adds insult to injury; the betrayal of women and girls by an organisation that is supposed to be for and about them is a bitter pill to swallow.
I implore Girl Guiding to reconsider their position and to stand up for girls and young women.
Jane Doe: I am a former member of Guiding myself. I have slowly woken up to what’s going on and as part of that I have witnessed the hounding and harassment of women who have spoken up.
I would dearly love to add my proper name here but I am a single mother, currently changing professional roles in a field where those doing the harassing may target me and a future employer. This is not a made-up fear. I have seen it happen to others.
I cannot risk my being able to bring a wage in for my family right now. I’m doing everything I can behind the scenes to campaign for the rights of women and girls. This is not an anti-trans act on my behalf. For years I championed what I thought were trans rights. But when they start to impinge on women’s rights, with furious demands to enter women’s spaces regardless, I see a sea-change and an agenda that is male, aggressive and often sexualised. This is now a pro-women’s rights issue.
I know you can’t use my name. I could have made one up, to add to the list. But I wanted to make this point. It makes me so angry.