Trans activist makes a fuss without facts

Trans people in the UK have all the same rights, and a few more besides

Since 2016, I have written over 200 pieces about the transgender debate. When I am not writing, I’m reading. I don’t restrict myself to authors I agree with; I’ve learned a lot from my political opponents. Recently, The National Wales published an opinion piece written by Leanne Wood.

The UK is a tolerant society where trans people can prosper

Wood is a former leader of Plaid Cymru, so her words carry weight. She opened provocatively, “Being trans in the UK is f**k**g agony right now.” That’s an opinion, but the truth is rather different. The UK is a tolerant society where trans people can prosper like everyone else.

Her piece is worth analysing because it pulls together several specious claims. The quotes are taken directly from her piece.

“‘Being trans in the UK is f**k**g agony right now.’

“My friend’s words last week following publication of guidance for separate and single-sex service providers by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. She goes on: ‘So now the EHRC want to help people exclude me from taking a piss in a bathroom that I’m comfortable in’.”

In the UK, we have toilets, not “bathrooms”. Nor do we have “bathroom bills”, and the EHRC is not proposing any. Rather, in recent guidance it clarified the Equality Act 2010 and the existing rights of service providers to offer single-sex and separate-sex arrangements. Wood continued:

“Trans people are protected under the Equality Act (2010) with several exceptions around access to some spaces. EHRC guidance seeks to exploit these exceptions. Trans people should have every right to use whatever facilities they want and to go wherever they want.”

While bathroom bills have been introduced in the United States, we have quietly maintained laws about breaching the peace. If being trans allows us to do exactly as we want, then the trans community is going to attract people who want to be able to breach the peace with impunity. As a trans person, that worries me.

Wood moved on to the Gender Recognition Act.

“True, people can change their legal gender, but they have to go through a procedure ranked by the European Commission in 2020 as amongst the worst in Europe with ‘intrusive medical requirements’. Those who persevere are issued with a gender recognition certificate. Most trans people don’t bother applying.”

Those ‘medical requirements’ gave the gender recognition process credibility

Those “medical requirements” gave the process credibility. Since 2004, trans people have been able to change our legal sex — a huge shift in our relationship with society — if we needed to do it to marry or protect our privacy. The process only became controversial when the public learned that those checks and balances may be swept away. I didn’t bother applying simply because I had no need for a GRC to be protected against less favourable treatment. I suspect there are many others like me — we don’t need to change the past to live in the present.

There were further harsh words about the Westminster Government’s dithering on conversion therapy:

“Johnson’s latest attack on trans people came with the last minute U-turn over the ban on conversion therapy, which has to be one of the cruellest acts of his administration so far.”

In truth, ambiguous language and weak definitions risked criminalising exploratory therapy for children who were presenting with gender dysphoria. The Government is wise — let’s at least wait for Dame Hilary Cass to complete her review of gender identity services for children and young people.

We also need to agree on what we mean by “conversion therapy” to make sense of Wood’s comment:

“Independent research commissioned by the government shows that conversion therapy doesn’t work. In fact it can make matters worse, causing suicidal thoughts among participants. According to the research, trans people are twice as likely to be subjected to conversion torture as gay and bisexual people were.”

Torture is already illegal — there is no need for any new laws to outlaw abusive and harmful practices. On the other hand, lots of things don’t work — astrology? homoeopathy? — but that is not a reason to pass legislation. But Wood jumps back to the Gender Recognition Act, taking another swipe at the EHRC in the process:

“The persecution doesn’t stop there. The EHRC, fast becoming the right wing’s weapon of choice, is a vocal critic of the Scottish government, belatedly trying to do the fair thing and allow trans people to self-identify rather than go through the current protracted and painful process.”

Self-identify as what? Wood doesn’t say. Protracted and painful process? Hardly! (Try comparing it with an application for British citizenship.) She then moved on to sport, citing cyclist Emily Bridges:

“And now British Cycling has suddenly thrown out its policy of including trans people by banning Emily Bridges from competing, even though she has met all the medical criteria demanded of her.”

That’s just not true. Nobody has banned Bridges from competing. The male category remains open to transwomen, where we can compete against our own sex. But this is a debate where emotional appeals are all too common.

“In times of culture wars, these are dangerous signals to be sending to a public which is slowly being radicalised against trans people.”

There is no radicalisation against trans people. Rather there is a growing pushback against gender identity ideology. That’s not the same thing.

“A powerful grouping has emerged, comprising wealthy American evangelical bodies, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, and others who seem to have the prime minister’s ear.”

There is no evidence that wealthy American evangelicals are influencing UK ministers. So it’s not surprising that Wood doesn’t supply any.

“Celebrities such as JK Rowling, politicians across parties and parliaments, fora such as Mumsnet and Twitter provide the spaces for the bigotry to fester.”

Bigotry is the obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices. Like the actions of those who are trying to silence JK Rowling.

“My friend runs school workshops about the importance of diversity. She recently received a letter from a child who wrote: ‘I just want to say that I look up to you greatly and I hope to be able to be proud and open like you too some day’. It is our responsibility to make that day happen.”

I’m a teacher, I don’t want my pupils looking up to people who say things like, “Being trans in the UK is f**k**g agony right now.” It is our responsibility to be honest with children. They can dress as the please, present as they please but they cannot change sex. And being a trans person is not “agony”. In the UK at least we have the same rights as everyone else, and a few more besides. Let’s restore some perspective and honesty to the debate, and we may start to move towards a resolution.

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