‘Her penis’ and other facts we all should know
Josephine Bartosch explains how the urge not to cause offence has plunged the UK into a “gender theocracy”
If you believe that there are only two sexes, male and female, you may well be a bigot. And if you choose to express that belief on social media you deserve to be fired. This is the upshot of a ruling in December 2019, which was heralded as a victory for equality by transgender activists.
The case in question centred on consultant Maya Forstater, whose contract at the think tank Centre for Global Development (CGD) was not renewed after she expressed such views on social media. Forstater took CGD to an employment tribunal on the basis that her “gender critical” beliefs should receive protection under the law. She lost.
Defending her stance, Forstater explained: “Fundamentally I believe in fairness and equality. I do not harbour any ill-feeling towards people who identify as transgender or transsexual, I simply think it is important not to forget about the power dynamics between men and women in society.
“Gender identity and sex are different. It is increasingly argued that gender identity should overwrite sex as a legal and practical category. Many organisations have adopted the idea that it is personal identity (gender), not anatomy (sex), that determines if someone is a woman or a man. Redefining womanhood as an identity based on subjective feeling undermines our ability to talk about the discrimination, violence and oppression that still affects people because they are born female.
“I know many people fear consequences at work if they publicly state an opinion on this issue, even in a personal capacity on their own social media, like I did. This should not happen in a democracy.”
The judge, James Tayler, ruled that Forstater’s views were “not worthy of respect in democratic society” and that they conflicted with the fundamental human rights of others. Just two weeks later, by contrast, it was successfully argued that ethical veganism was a belief worthy of legal protection.
The cult of gender demands total obedience from followers, compelling the faithful to deny what they can see with their own eyes and to rise above the material reality of the flesh.
It is worthy of note that the transgender rights lobby groups Press for Change and GIRES are both referenced in the “Equal Treatment Bench Book”, the guide to which judges refer when presiding on matters of equality.
Arguably, Judge Tayler was right about one thing, Forstarter’s understanding that there are two sexes does not constitute a belief — it constitutes a fact. Indeed, it could be more cogently argued that “gender identity” is a belief.
Over the past thirty years “gender” has crept from the pages of “queer theorists”, such as Professor Judith Butler, onto forms and into law. In everyday speech the terms “sex” and “gender” are used interchangeably though, as Forstater points out, they are not synonymous. “Gender” was a term taken from linguistics by sexologists in the 1950s to describe the masculine and feminine behaviour of boys and girls.
It was later adopted by some in the social sciences, including feminists, to explain the socialised differences between the sexes; such as the stereotypes that teach girls they must be pretty and boys that they ought not to show emotion. The word “gender” has since filtered through into common parlance, though it has picked up the ideological charge of queer theory. The social shift needed to accommodate the demands of gender are profound, because to believe in gender one must see beyond the material reality of sex.
According to the NHS and WHO, each of us has an innate gender identity, and this may or may not correspond to our biological sex. No conclusive evidence has been found as to where exactly this feeling of gender resides, or how it might be expressed without relying on sexist stereotypes. We are told proof rests in the small proportion of the population who feel they have been born in the wrong body. That people feel discomfort in their sexed bodies cannot be disputed, but the idea that this is because of a mismatch between gender identity and their sex is unverifiable, not to mention a substantial leap of logic.
The urge not to cause offence coupled with successful lobbying has plunged the UK into what might best be termed a “gender theocracy”. As the Forstater case shows, gender apostates can expect to face severe social and legal consequences. For every Forstater there are lesser-known stories of others, people hounded out of political parties, arrested for “misgendering” and forced to call violent offenders by preferred pronouns.
Monuments to gender are being erected at a fearsome pace. A slew of celebratory exhibitions from Beyond the Binary at the Pitt Rivers Museum to Kiss My Genders at the Hayward Gallery has sprung up; the faithful even include the Ministry of Defence who spent £15 million on “gender neutral” lavatories.
And it’s not just the UK that has its collective gender-nonspecific underwear in a twist over this: last June UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka announced that the UN agency for women would no longer focus on women’s rights but rather “equality of all genders.” Resistance is futile; gender is omnipresent and all powerful.
The cult of gender demands total obedience from followers, compelling the faithful to deny what they can see with their own eyes and to rise above the material reality of the flesh. One would hope that the function of a fair and democratic state would be to check such fanaticism, not to fan the flames.
Whilst writers like me are still at liberty to express ourselves, I think it important to explain the real world consequences of what can seem like a purely academic conundrum.
The 2019 Rape Inspection Report released by Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate devotes an introductory paragraph explaining that “penetrative offences are gender neutral”. Whilst there is no dispute that both sexes can be victims of sexual violence, the law in the UK is clear that rape can only be committed by a man, using “his penis”. How the penis-haver identifies should be irrelevant. Data from the Office for National Statistics show 98% of prosecutions for sexual offences are against men. Given this empirical if unpleasant truth, it is fair to ask who benefits from the cultural shift toward the primacy of gender over sex.
As with so many religions, sheltering under the roof of the gender temple is the grubby and unspeakable truth; that for some men use of women’s facilities and services is a sexual fetish. The existence of “autogynephilic transsexuals”, men who are sexually aroused at the idea of having a female body, is a well-established phenomenon.
Analysis from the world’s largest free pornography provider, Pornhub, suggests that this is a growing fetish amongst men, with words relating to transgenderism becoming the fifth most searched terms by those aged 45 to 64 through 2018. Pornographic subgenres of transwomen performing lewd acts in women’s lavatories are surprisingly popular.
It is largely feminists who are at the forefront of the fight against gender orthodoxy, but those on the differing sides of the culture wars view feminism as the enemy.
For most men the desire to prance about in lacy pants is pretty benign, and it would be deeply unfair to suggest that all of those who identify as transwomen are predatory. But the impact has seeped out of the bedroom; it is now estimated around half of transgender prisoners known to be in prison in England and Wales are convicted sex offenders. This pattern has led some, such as lesbian feminist scholar Professor Sheila Jeffreys, to term transgenderism “a men’s sexual rights movement”.
It is largely feminists who are at the forefront of the fight against gender orthodoxy, but those on the differing sides of the culture wars view feminism as the enemy. The swivel-eyed libertarian loons of the right blame “feminazis” for birthing political correctness, whilst fascist foot soldiers of the left rail against those they deem “trans exclusionary radical feminists.”
There is a grain of truth to the claim that feminists started the trend of remodelling language to fit their ideological aims. In the 1990s the style guides circulated throughout universities asked readers to consider using words such as “chairperson” rather than “chairman” and “firefighter” rather than “fireman”.
But their aim was somewhat different: these linguistic sleights were designed to break down sexist social stereotypes and to open up possibilities. The idea was to use language to reflect and build a fairer society, to encourage girls and women to think of themselves behind cameras, on building sites or on the bench. This is markedly different from the rigidly enforced gender doctrine of today’s institutions.
The conversion of civil society to the dogma of gender has been rapid and almost total. Whilst most now scoff at the use of words such as “chairperson”, “misgendering” has rapidly become akin to blasphemy.
The end times may be in sight for the gender cult, as several legal challenges to the primacy of gender are pending. Interestingly most have been launched by the sex formerly known as “women”. These include: a mother challenging Oxfordshire County Council over their “Trans Inclusion Toolkit”, a no-platformed artist taking Oxford Brookes University to judicial review, a group of lesbians tackling the National Theatre, a female prisoner bringing a case after an alleged assault by a trans prisoner and a former Girl Guiding leader who was expelled for her “gender critical” views.
Gender apostates are also mobilising at an international level. Launched in 2019 by the Women’s Human Rights Campaign, the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights re-affirms that the rights of women and girls in international human rights law and policy are based on sex, and not on “gender identity”.
With economic, civil and environmental strife on the horizon it seems likely that the days of the naval-gazing cult of gender are numbered. But this lesson in credulity and institutional capture is an expensive one. The tragic cost will not just be written into our statute books, it will be read for years to come on the bodies of the vulnerable.
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