PC Culture

The Broad Church of Transgender Dissenters

(Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via Reuters)
In the U.K., proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act have formed unexpected alliances.

One of the interesting developments in the response to trans militancy has been the forging of unexpected alliances. The left-wing feminist — of the “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists” variety — now finds herself shoulder to shoulder with the social conservative, who is bedfellows with the dissenting transsexual, the reasonable LGBT advocate, the concerned politician, the baffled doctor, the worried parent, and the formerly gender-confused teen.

When it comes to transgenderism, most people more or less agree that a “live and let live” philosophy is best. Yet with mounting pressure to radicalize the Gender Recognition Act, the consultation for which closes October 19, many Brits now wonder how best to respond.

The Gender Recognition Act of 2004 in England and Wales, which allows a person to change his legal gender, is under review. The proposal, backed by trans activists, is to remove the legal requirements of living as the opposite sex for two years, having a medical proof of gender dysphoria, and being at least 18 years old (activists want it lowered to 16).

Women’s-rights groups have led the resistance to this proposal, citing concerns for safety. Indeed, this became a national conversation after Karen White, a transgender rapist, was incarcerated in a female prison despite having a penis. White subsequently sexually abused multiple inmates, for which she has now received a life sentence. However, even now, it remains unclear where White will spend this sentence.

It’s not only vulnerable inmates affected by this controversy; children are, too. The UK Girl Guides (Britain’s version of the Girl Scouts) made the controversial decision to allow boys who identify as girls to shower with girls if they self-identify as girls. And some schools have already embraced similar policies.

Astonishingly, the House of Commons opted not to discuss White’s case despite being asked to. New evidence shows why politicians continually skirt around the issue: fear. A recent ComRes poll showed that 35 percent of male MPs said they could speak freely about transgender issues, and only 28 percent of female MPs said they could. Notwithstanding, The Times reports:

The poll — one of a regular survey of MPs on topical issues by ComRes — found that only 9% of Tories back self-declaration without a doctor, with 69% opposed. And 54% of Tories oppose transgender women getting all the same legal rights as those born female. Eight out of 10 say they are worried by the number of children wanting to change their gender and 56% are opposed to puberty-blocking drugs being administered. The poll found 63% of Tories fearful of speaking out after examples of campaigners branding those who question the plans “transphobic.”

The silencing of women on the subject is particularly worrying given the rise in gender dysphoria among teenage girls. (Previously, the condition mostly affected boys.) For instance, Britain’s largest gender-specialist clinic has seen an increase of over 400 percent in gender dysphoria referrals in the past four years, two-thirds of which are girls. And Dr. Lisa Littman, of Brown University, uncovered a potential socio-psychological element (“social contagion”) and therefore recommended that scientists conduct more research. Some now wonder: Are girls under the impression recently that simply becoming a boy is a quick fix to the difficulties of womanhood?

But even raising these concerns is apparently “transphobic.” For instance, Brown University rescinded their press release of Dr. Littman’s study (despite the fact it was peer-reviewed and appeared in PLOS One). And when Edinburgh University’s rector, Ann Henderson, who has long been a liberal LGBT enthusiast, retweeted notice of an event discussing these issues, she was accused of enabling “transphobia” by various student groups, while an official spokesperson for the university chose to equivocate rather than defend Henderson.

Meanwhile, Helen Watts, the Girl Guide leader, was fired, despite having dedicated nearly 30 years to the organization, for stating she did not support allowing self-identified boys to shower with girls. Journalists who have dared to pen dissent, such as the feminist Julie Bindle and Times columnist Janice Turner, have faced similar treatment. Helen Belcher of Trans Media Watch resigned from a panel of judges because Turner, who has written that “trans teenagers have become an experiment,” had been shortlisted for a Comments Award.

All this is overbearing, of course. Especially since, as many have pointed out, the transgender orthodoxy does not represent all transgender people. As one New York Times reader wrote:

Journalists covering this issue should not assume the T in LGBT necessarily means that folks within the LG part of that acronym are uncritical supporters of all that passes for being an ally of T youth lately — if anything, they may be more critical of chemical and surgical treatment recommendations than their straight peers. Don’t assume activists are representative of anything other than activists.

Similarly, the British gay-rights activist Jonathan Best, former artistic director of Manchester’s Queer Up North Festival, heralded a letter to Stonewall (a main gay-rights group) entitled “Please join us in asking Stonewall to reconsider its transgender policies and approach.” Signed by other LGBT advocates, the petition reads:

Stonewall was founded in 1989 to fight for the civil rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. It has played a leading role in advancing these rights, from the abolition of Margaret Thatcher’s hated Section 28, to securing an equal age of consent, civil partnerships and gay marriage.

Since 2015, Stonewall has also campaigned on trans issues. We believe the organisation has made mistakes in its approach. These mistakes are undermining women’s sex-based rights and protections, and damaging the relationship between transsexual people and women – a relationship which had been positive for many years.

On Oct 19th the Government’s public consultation on proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act closes, so it is important that there should be debates amongst us all about transgender politics and the rights of women and girls. Stonewall disagrees and calls debate on this matter of public policy transphobic.

Stonewall’s promotion of the concept of ‘gender identity’, which has it that a man or woman is anyone (of either sex) who identifies as such, is also undermining the basis of lesbian, gay and bisexual identities as orientated around same-sex attraction. Lesbians in particular are coming under pressure to accept male-bodied trans women into their spaces and as sexual partners.

At the moment, Stonewall is failing in three key ways:

  • By uncritically adopting a form of transgender politics which undermines the sex-based rights of women and the concept of homosexuality itself
  • By refusing to recognise the diversity of viewpoints on these issues, including among LGBT people.
  • By seeking to prevent public debate of these issues by branding as transphobic anyone who questions Stonewall’s current trans policies.

We call on Stonewall to:

  • Acknowledge that there are a range of valid viewpoints around sex, gender and transgender politics
  • Acknowledge specifically the conflict that exists between transgenderism and sex-based women’s rights
  • Commit to fostering an atmosphere of respectful debate, rather than demonising as transphobic those who wish to discuss or dissent from Stonewall’s current policies.

This has prompted some politicians to take a stand. For instance, the Tory MP David Davies wrote on Twitter this week:

Such courage is to be commended not least because, if unchallenged, trans orthodoxy will become legal coercion. In some cases, it already has. With pressure mounting on doctors, therapists, teachers, and parents — how’s that for live and let live?


Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that Karen White had “raped” fellow inmates. This has been corrected to “sexually abused”.


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