Fair Play for Women loses census appeal

It suits the trans lobby to have no accurate sex-based data

Artillery Row

Feminist campaign group Fair Play for Women have just lost their case on appeal at the Court of Session over the question of whether some people should be allowed to provide false information in answer to the sex question on the Scottish census.

So what’s in it for trans people, being allowed to lie on the census? 

It’s understandable that you may wish to hide a trans identity in public, if walking down the street you are worried about adverse reaction, just as gay and lesbian people might feel unsafe in a  particular environment. It’s even understandable at work, where peer reaction hasn’t quite caught up with equality law and you fear discrimination. Concealing aspects of your identity when expedient to do so is not the same as lying: to a certain extent we all do it, it eases social interactions.

Accurate sex-disaggregated statistics are necessary to address inequality for women

Lying in the census though, that’s just lying. Information gathered by the census is anonymous, it is not made public, there is nothing to link the statistics gathered with you personally. Moreover, as reiterated in the Court of Session yesterday, the census does not have anything to do with conferring, removing or qualifying rights. It just gathers facts, and if a male answers “female” to the sex question, that is false information.

The sex question has already been qualified in any case, to include a very small number of people who have a Gender Recognition Certificate: the answer to the the question can be the sex on your birth certificate OR the sex on your GRC. This skews the stats in itself but it’s a concession to accommodate a “legal fiction” so we must put up with it. 

Accurate sex-disaggregated statistics are necessary to address inequality for women — Caroline Criado-Perez filled a whole book with reasons why. So we know why we are arguing for accurate recording of sex.

But why do trans groups claim this question is transphobic and show a complete disregard for other protected groups who need accurate statistics? With a separate gender question provided to log “gender identity”, what could possibly be the problem with answering the sex question honestly?

It could be argued that a lack of accurate data is exactly what is being lobbied for

Judging by the way the trans lobby operates, the answer is more than just a question of “validation” for trans people whilst in the act of filling in a form. The lack of accurate data about the trans community has some serious benefits when it comes to spreading false information or making it up as you go along. With no accurate measure of the proportion of trans people in the population, trans advocacy groups can claim either that they are a tiny marginalised minority, or that we’ve all undressed next to numerous trans people in our lives without even knowing it, depending on what they wish to prove that day. Similarly, there is either an anti-trans environment in this country, or trans people have always been welcome to use the facilities of their choice and it’s never been a problem. Regarding the census, we’re back to the “tiny minority” argument to suggest it won’t make any difference to anybody else, despite the evidence that even very small numbers can skew the information in areas such as violent crime and prison populations. 

It could be argued that a lack of accurate data is exactly what is being lobbied for: Stonewall, Mermaids and others depend on it. They routinely use unreliable stats of their own, on child suicide ideation for example, using surveys which are small samples, self-selected and unscientific, but which are then used repeatedly to push a particular agenda.

The more robust stats — for example, on male sexual offenders who identify as female — Stonewall really don’t want to know about because that would interfere with their insistence that males should be housed with females if they have a female “gender identity.” Fudging the issue with “gender identity” is the modus operandi of trans groups wishing to deflect attention away from the glaringly obvious unintended consequences of mixing males with females in vulnerable settings. Accurate data on sex is the enemy of obfuscation. 

The question of sex differences within the trans community itself is also potentially instructive in terms of equality. After all, even non-binary people come in both male and female varieties. What if we were to find that the stats backed up the anecdotal evidence that trans is a topsy turvy world where it is the transwomen who get all the careers in the media, publishing and politics, and it is the transmen who get famous for having babies? Might this kind of accurate statistical analysis back up the “gender critical” view that sex matters? Best not gather the information in the first place then, even if knowledge of sex differences in the trans population might be useful for gathering data on health and medical needs too. 

The arguments over the meaning of sex in the Court of Session yesterday were unintentionally ridiculous: Douglas Ross QC claimed that “There is no universal meaning or invariable use of the words sex or gender.” This is rubbish. We all know what sex means, just as we all knew what “sexual relations’ meant in the words of Bill Clinton and we all knew what “party” meant in the Downing Street lockdown statements: we’re not stupid.

Obfuscating the meaning of “sex” on paper makes no difference to the experience of sexed bodies in real life, you might as well be honest about it. You should certainly be honest about in in the census, where accurate information is needed for the benefit of all people: it’s not just about you. 

Clarity about the meaning of sex is necessary for women’s rights, but it clearly suits the trans lobby to have less clarity over sex and less accurate data. Today’s decision will suit them, but it has contributed to a lack of clarity in the law and a conflict with the sex-based rights of women as defined in the Equality Act, which will continue to play out. 

For a tiny marginalised minority they’ve done well. 

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover