Next Thursday (December 1st) the Women and Equalities Select Committee will host a debate on transgender equality in the House of Commons. Their goal is to amend the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and update the Equality Act – with “utmost urgency”- to create new primary legislation. There are two proposed changes to legislation which are very concerning for both women and children and which also raise questions about the legal position of parents.
- The first is the move to self-declaration in order to change legal sex
Currently if a person wishes to change their legal sex they must be over 18, be diagnosed with gender dysphoria and have been living in their desired gender role for at least two years, and intend to do so for the rest of their life. The Committee’s report called for the removal of all three of these criteria, so that anyone could easily become legally a member of the opposite sex, without the need for any form of social or medical transition.
This would mean that any man would be able to declare himself “female” in order to gain access to facilities where privacy is crucial to the dignity, comfort and safety of women and girls, such as toilets, changing-rooms, women’s refuges, single-sex hospital wards, prisons, rape crisis centres and women’s support services. The obvious consequence would be that women would not feel safe to access the services and facilities intended for them. Any man declaring himself to be a woman would also be eligible to win awards previously restricted to women and girls specifically to advance women and level the playing field with men, for example in sports, prizes and awards, shortlists and quotas.
- The second is proposed legislation to amend the name of the protected category from “gender reassignment” to “gender identity”
This may look like just a change in words, but the implications are huge. “Gender reassignment” suggests a change, a process of moving from one thing to another. “Gender identity” legally enshrines the concept of an innate fixed identity which overrides biological sex as the distinction between boys and girls, men and women. In other words, there would no longer be any way of legally differentiating between the sexes, it would become a matter of personal unverifiable feelings. “Gender identity” would effectively replace the protected category “sex” which is the only protection women and girls currently have.
These two proposals combined would effectively mean that in legal terms everyone would have the right to “choose” their sex, for whatever reason, and would have a legal right to be affirmed as that sex by everyone else. A girl who named someone exposing himself to her in a changing-room as a man, for example, would be open to the charge of a transphobic hate crime, whereas the crimes of voyeurism and indecent exposure would cease to exist for any man who declares himself to be a woman.
It would also enshrine in law the discredited myth of “pink” and “blue” brains; the very stereotypes that hold back and disadvantage girls in society would be reinforced as the true distinction between boys and girls in place of biological sex.
For sex to be determined by self-declared “identity” takes away all protections for the children and adolescents who are included in the protected category, even though their identities are not fixed, but unformed, developing and changing. Even without the change in legislation, we are seeing how this lays children open to abuse when social services and child protection agencies accept a child’s cross-sex “identity” without question and dare not look further for the causes of it. It is also already very hard for a parent to find a counselor or therapist prepared to do anything other than “affirm” a young person’s “gender identity.” What will new legislation mean for the parents of a child who identifies as the opposite sex? Will they be bound by law to affirm their child’s identity or face the charge of transphobic hate crime?
We urge everyone to write to their local MP asking them to attend this debate and to speak on behalf of them as constituents (which is their job). Rather than using a template letter, please write your concerns in your own words and include personal examples where possible, for example:
- Local knowledge (such as a cluster of teenage girls “transitioning” together in a local school)
- Your experience with your own child or adolescent
- A story in the news which has concerned you
- What your child is being taught at school
- Your own or your friends’ experiences of situations in toilets/changing rooms etc
- Why you think the proposed legislation would further disadvantage your own daughter
- Examples from your own profession or workplace, for example, having to replace the word “women” with “people” if you work in the area of women’s health
Ask your MP to:
- oppose the proposed legislation on the grounds of loss of the established sex-based rights and protections for women and girls and the effective erasure of the “sex” protected category
- Demand a full equality impact assessment on the rights and protections of women and girls
- Demand a full child-protection assessment of proposed legislation, including protection from unnecessary sterilisation and invasive medical treatment, protection from adult ideology and discrimination (eg. homophobic or lesbophobic parents or community), and protection from the teaching of gender and sex-role stereotypes in school
- Question the committee on the definition of “transgender” eg. if a girl is faced with a person with penis on display in a communal public changing-room, how does she know if this person is a “man” or a “woman” based on the person’s internal feelings of “gender identity” and how should she respond in a way that doesn’t put her at risk of being charged with a transphobic hate crime?
We are grateful to friend and colleague Josephine Bartosch, a researcher and campaigner for equality for lesbian & bisexual women, who wrote this excellent synopsis “Implications of Current Transgender Theory on Children and Young People” which you can download and send to your MP as supporting evidence.
If you don’t have much time, please do send an email just to express the fact that you have concerns and ask your MP to attend. The more MPs who receive letters from constituents, the more the government will take our concerns seriously. You can find your local MP here.