As with discussing any topic, debate about the trans gender issue and its meeting with women’s rights has to start by defining terms. Without this, we will inevitably find ourselves talking at cross purposes, writes Caitlin Collins.
I will focus here on trans women, ie men who wish to be identified as women, rather than trans men, ie women who wish to be identified as men. This is because it is trans-identifying men who are causing the most disruption in society because their demands bring them into conflict with women’s rights: a man demanding to be accommodated in a women’s prison causes more disruption – and is a more likely occurrence – than a woman demanding to be accommodated in a men’s prison.
Sex and gender
First, we need to distinguish between a person’s sex and their gender. The terms are often used interchangeably, sometimes because gender is considered a more polite word than sex (and because asking the question ‘Sex?’ on forms invites the witty response ‘Yes, please’ instead of the required M or F), sometimes due to confusion as to their distinctions, and sometimes in a deliberate attempt to conflate the two.
A person’s sex is their physiological category relating to reproduction, which in mammals such as humans means male or female, ie those who produce sperm and have the potential to sire children, and those who produce eggs and have the potential to get pregnant and give birth to children.
Gender refers to the attitudes, behaviours and roles commonly associated with each of the sexes; however most of those (some would say all of them) are due to social conditioning, starting with blue rompers for a boy baby and pink ones for a girl. In some cultures gender variation is very limited, with boys being discouraged from adopting attitudes, behaviours and roles that are perceived as being feminine, and girls being discouraged or even prohibited from taking on attitudes, behaviours and roles perceived as being masculine. In other cultures, such as in the UK, the range of gender possibilities is much wider: if a boy likes playing with dolls and aspires to become a kindergarten teacher, it’s fine; if a girl studies political theory and aspires to become Prime Minister, OK. Of course some gender stereotyping still persists, as does the tendency for society to place a higher value on those stereotypes traditionally thought of as masculine (girls will wear trousers, but not so many boys are happy to put on a dress) but it is widely accepted that we have moved on from the restrictive rigid gender stereotyping of the past.
Next, it is important to distinguish between trans people and trans rights ideology.
Trans people are individuals trying to find happiness by adopting and living in accordance with the gender stereotypes or socially-conditioned programming more usually associated with the opposite sex. However, it involves more than, for example, a man simply changing his appearance to look more like a woman; it involves his making a lasting identity change in which he consistently lives his life as though he were a woman, and requires other people to accept his adopted identity and to treat him, as far as possible, as though he were a woman.
Trans rights ideology
Trans rights ideology is a complex, shifting mass of beliefs, ideas and theories providing various often conflicting rationales that claim to support trans people but that in practice may in fact be damaging to them due to negatively influencing public opinion. Many trans people reject trans rights ideology. Many, in fact most, people who champion the ideology are not trans people. Trans rights ideology promotes the following ideas:
- when a baby is born it is incorrect to observe its sex as a biological fact based on its physiology; rather, if the parents, doctor or midwife, on seeing its male genitals, say, ‘It’s a boy’, they are merely arbitrarily assigning it a gender or sex (the terms are often deliberately conflated), hence the expression ‘Assigned male at birth’;
- this assignment is often wrong, so that . . .
- the individual who was wrongly assigned male experiences a conflict between the male identity that was imposed upon him by others and his own feeling of being female; he feels like a female trapped in a male body;
- the feeling of being female is more authentic and more important than the biological fact of being male, so that . . .
- the individual is actually, really, authentically a girl or woman, so that . . .
- the individual has the right to access all of the protections and rights that society has provided to women in order to protect them from male violence and male privilege;
- anyone questioning any of these beliefs or ideas is hostile or ‘transphobic’ and must be silenced;
- anyone refusing to use the required language, such as the new gender-identity based pronouns (instead of the old sex-based pronouns that have served us since language began), or the prefix ‘cis’ as in ‘cis woman’, referring to a woman whose gender identity matches the sex assigned at birth (this politically sinister term is meant to groom society into accepting two equally valid kinds of woman: trans and cis), is transphobic and must be silenced;
- anyone standing up for women’s rights must include trans women, ie trans-identifying men, in these rights, or be deemed transphobic and duly silenced;
- anyone daring to defend some brave soul who has challenged the trans ideology and therefore been demonised, such as JK Rowling, is transphobic and must be silenced.
One of the ironies of trans ideology is that it has a very old-fashioned view of gender, recreating the polarised view of clearly separated masculine and feminine gender stereotypes. Instead of applauding today’s opportunities for a boy to embrace attitudes, behaviours and roles that were traditionally perceived to be feminine stereotypes, trans ideology takes any such preferences as indications that he is actually a girl – the ‘female trapped in a male body’ idea.
The five main groups of ‘trans-identifying’ men
There are five main specific groups of men who might claim to identify as trans women, more accurately termed trans-identifying men; there may be some who fit into more than one of these categories, and there are some who fall outside these categories.
- Men who just feel more at ease living as though they were women. They wish to adopt a consistent, lasting feminine gender identity. They may or may not take hormones and / or have surgery to bring about physical changes. They just want to get on with their lives. A well-known example would be the late travel writer, James Morris, who became Jan Morris.
- Homosexual men who believe they would be happier living as though they were women. In some cultures homosexuality is not acceptable, and it may be safer for a gay man to present as a woman; for example, Iran has a high proportion of trans-identifying men. Some families are uncomfortable with a boy child who seems to have feminine tendencies; they would prefer that he be re-branded as a girl. In these instances ‘transitioning’ such a child could be seen as an extreme kind of gay conversion therapy.
- Men suffering from the sexual fetish of auto gynephilia. This is a fetish in which a man is aroused by the thought of himself as a woman; he may enjoy dressing up as a woman in order to masturbate. The opportunity to parade this fetish in public, enlisting others as involuntary bit-players in his sexual fantasy as they unwittingly endorse his feminine role-play, may be very tempting.
- Young men who, as children, were encouraged by others – their schools, families, peers, online buddies, and medical professionals – to think that they could achieve happiness by identifying as female. Instead of being supported to explore their identity through counselling, or just encouraged to wait a bit, they were put on irreversibly damaging puberty-blocking drugs and then surgically castrated. As more and more of these tragically abused individuals attempt to ‘de-transition’ and rebuild their shattered lives, the court cases and compensation claims will happen, although of course no amount of financial compensation can undo the harm they have been done.
- Male sex predators who spot an opportunity to gain easy access to women and, perhaps, children. This is the group that is most disruptive to society. All a predatory male has to do is to claim to be a woman, and he can get his Access All Areas pass. Predatory behaviour ranges from voyeurism (peeping) and exhibitionism (flashing) in women’s toilets and changing rooms, all the way up to rape in California’s women’s prisons (don’t worry: the authorities are equipping the women – the real ones – with condoms). Such men are of course merely exploiting a loophole; by no stretch should their claims be given any legitimacy. The problem is, if people can self-identity themselves as the opposite gender, and that gender-identity counts as more authentic and more significant than their physical sex, there is no way to challenge the man who says he’s a woman for nefarious reasons.
Occupying one or more of these categories, or falling outside them altogether, are men with a patriarchal sense of entitlement who use the opportunity created by their trans identity to enable them to invade women’s protected spaces not for sexual predation but for other sinister reasons. Men are pushing their way into women’s sports by claiming they are women; it’s an easy way for a mediocre male athlete to succeed at last, at women’s expense. Men are pushing their way into women’s jobs, such as Mridul Wadhwa, the new CEO of Edinburgh’s Rape Crisis Centre, a trans-identifying male who says that any woman who is so impertinent as to ask for a female-only space at a rape centre should be ‘educated’ out of her transphobia. Men are claiming to be lesbian trans women and demanding that lesbians have sex with them. If a lesbian refuses, on the grounds that she is same-sex attracted, she is told that she must accept ‘girl dick’; if she won’t, she’s transphobic.
Distinguishing between trans people and trans ideology
We must be able to make these distinctions between trans people and trans ideology, and between different categories of trans-identifying men, if we are going to have any meaningful discussion about this issue that, like it or not, affects us all. Precise language matters: if the definition of the word ‘woman’ is expanded to include men who wish to be identified as women, then women will lose their sex-based rights. Already crimes that have been committed by men are being recorded as having been committed by women, simply because the criminals self-identify as women. In Ireland, a mentally deranged young man who identified as a woman, calling himself ‘Barbie Kardashian’, assaulted several women, culminating in an attack in which he tried to gouge out the eyes of his victim; when he went on the run, the Irish police were obliged to say they were looking for a violent woman who was a danger to other women. This is where the unthinking acceptance of trans ideology is taking us. It has to be stopped.