Women’s Groups Protest Transgender Conference: Demand Representation in Debates over ‘Transgender Equality’
June 15, 2016
London – Furious at the impending erasure of women’s rights resulting from the 2015 Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee Report headed by the Conservative Party’s Maria Miller, women representing a coalition of feminist, progressive, and lesbian organizations picketed today’s Westminster Social Policy Forum on Transgender Rights.
Protesters expressed outrage at the Committee’s recommendation to remove sex-based protections for women and girls by erasing the protected category of ‘sex’ and replacing it with an undefined category of ‘gender identity’. The proposed change would eliminate the ability of women to seek redress under law for sex discrimination and sex inequality. Such violations would no longer be recognized by the state as the category of ‘sex’ itself would no longer exist.
If the Equality Committee’s recommendations go forth as planned, the elimination of legal sex as a protected class will be replaced by an individual’s declaration of their subjective and internal gender-based “feelings”. This would give men who proclaim such gender feelings the legal right to expose themselves in women’s locker rooms and other single-sex facilities where public nudity occurs and where women are particularly vulnerable. Convicted male prisoners who proclaim gender feelings will be housed in cells with confined female prisoners who will have no legal grounds to object. Men will have the right to compete in women’s sports, apply for women’s scholarships, and the right to serve as female proxies by occupying affirmative action slots which formerly served to address sex inequality in women’s representation in public life. Single-sex rape crisis services, women’s refuges, lesbian public events, will become illegal on the grounds they discriminate against the gender feelings of men.
From a flyer distributed at the protest:
Women’s voices are being ignored and our rights eroded in the name of ‘transgender equality’. Current policy recommendations regarding transgender rights have a potentially adverse effect on women in a number of ways:
- The pressure on parents to accept a trans diagnosis for a gender non-conforming child, based on gender stereotypes of clothing and toy preferences; or in the case of teenagers, to give in to the social media contagion to which they might be susceptible.
- The threat to current sex-based rights, which keep males and females segregated in public places where women and girls might be physically vulnerable. These include toilets, changing rooms, rape crisis centres, refuges, hospital wards and prisons.
- The inclusion of male-bodied, male-socialised people, into areas of success and achievement where women currently have their own space in order to make competition fair or to level the playing field. These include sports, prizes and awards, shortlists and quotas.
- The negative affect on the lesbian community of the pressure on young women to identify as trans rather than as lesbian. There is also pressure to accept male-bodied self-identified ‘lesbians’ as sexual partners.
- The skewing of national statistics regarding crime, due to the higher rate of offending by male transitioners as opposed to women, with possible knock-on effects on funding for women’s services.
- The effect on the ‘trans widows’ of men (and it mostly is men) who transition in middle age. There is nowhere for these women to turn: all the help and support is directed towards the ‘trans’ person.
- The changing of language pertinent to women and girls in order to make it more trans-inclusive, thereby making ‘women’s issues’ impossible to talk about. This includes the use of such terms as ‘pregnant people’ by health providers.
No women’s groups were invited to testify at the 2015 Women’s and Equalities Committee hearings on the largest proposed rollback to the legal status of women since the birth of the Suffrage Movement.
The Independent covered the growing outrage in January of this year, reporting on Committee Chair MP Maria Miller: “The former Culture secretary said she was taken aback by the “extraordinary” hostility from a minority of women “purporting to be feminists”.
“The only negative reaction that I’ve seen has been by individuals purporting to be feminists,” Miller went on to say.
Fellow committee member, Labour MP Jess Phillips, was quoted as saying: “Some feminists prioritise gender equality above all else, but I think we should also do our bit to promote general equality.”
Today’s public forum at Congress Centre in London was organized by the same individuals behind the proposal to erase legal sex-based protections for women and girls. From the event page:
We are delighted to include at this seminar keynote addresses from Jackie Driver, Director, Funded Programmes, Equality and Human Rights Commission; Will Huxter, Regional Director of Specialised Commissioning (London) and Chair, Gender Identity Task and Finish Group, NHS England and Ade Rawcliffe, Creative Diversity Manager, Channel 4. Helen Belcher, Trustee, Trans Media Watch; Dr Polly Carmichael, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director, Gender Identity Development Service, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust; Peter Dawson, Deputy Director, Prison Reform Trust; Dave Frost, Vice-Chair, LGBT Committee, Equity; Susie Green, Chief Executive Officer, Mermaids UK; Dr Debbie Hayton, Head of Physics, King Henry VIII School, Coventry, West Midlands; Member, NASUWT and Member, TUC LGBT Committee; Delia Johnston, Specialist Diversity Consultant, Trans in Sport; Anna Lee, Vice President, Welfare and Community, Lancaster University Students’ Union; Megan Key, Equalities Manager, National Probation Service; Steve Mulcahy, Headteacher, Richard Lander School, Cornwall have also agreed to speak. Baroness Barker, Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights and Ruth Cadbury MP, Member, Women and Equalities Committee have kindly agreed to chair this seminar.
Women’s groups represented at the protest include the Women and Girls Equality Network, Transgender Trend, UK Lesbian Rights Group, and Parents Campaigning for Sex Equality for Children, among others.
Another flyer from protesters:
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Filed in Feminism, Gender, Government, Law, Lesbian, LGBT, Trans Politics, Women
Tags: gender identity, legal sex, MP Maria Miller, sex equality, sex stereotypes, transgender rights vs. women's rights, Westminster Social Policy Forum, Women and Equalities Committee, women's rights