Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Why I condemn the event: "A Woman's Place is Ours to Define"

Note, this article has been hastily written. I have not had the chance to include as many references as I would like. 

Today in Oxford there will be a meeting called “A Woman’s Place is Ours to Define”. The meeting is being hosted by a ‘Woman’s Place UK’ with speakers from that organisation, Transgender Trend and Fair Play for Women and Girls. 

These three websites cause me concern, as I fundamentally disagree with many of the statements they make. 

I state some facts below, which are frequently refuted by these organisations. 
I am transgender. 
I know that children can be transgender and support careful transition. 
I know that hate crimes and sexual assault against transgender people are real. I know that the high rate of suicide for transgender adults and children are not a myth and are not exaggerated.  
Self identification of gender does not lead to increased instances of assault in the countries where it is already law. 
Transgender people in womens spaces does not increase the likelyhood of assault. There is no evidence of this. 

As such, we should do all we can to protect our trans community. 

A Woman’s Place UK look to potentially roll back protection offered to transgender people by looking to potentially alter the Equality Act in order to do so. Given that transgender people are some of the most at risk people in society, with alarmingly high statistics for being on the receiving end of hate crimes, a reduction of the current protections is a major concern for me. From the Stonewall report: “Two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.“  

Transgender Trend have sent information to schools suggesting that suggest it is harmful and dangerous to allow children to question and explore their gender, and transition if necessary. This is in direct opposition to the general consensus by medical experts. Having worked closely with transgender young people and their parents, it is widely known that those children are at higher risk of depression, self-harm and suicide. Studies show that people who transition are overwhelmingly more likely to be happier. It should also be noted the slow process to transition, meaning that nothing is done quickly, without significant due care and attention, at immense medical scrutiny and with no permanent changes to the individual until these requirements are met. A child cannot medically transition on a whim, or as a phase. There are checks and balances against this. Worse, we need to actively support these children given the alarming statistics shown by Stonewall: “32 per cent of trans young people say they have missed lessons due to discrimination or fear of discrimination.” “nearly two in three trans pupils are bullied for being LGBT at school, one in ten have received death threats, and more than two in five have tried to take their own lives.” 

Fair Play for Women and Girls argue against changes to the Gender Recognition Act, making it easier for transgender people to change their legal status, and also state fear that children are being forced to transition. A major arguing point seems to be philosophical, “what is a woman”. Of course, the consequences for transgender people are real. 
As a side, I agree with the analysis of founder feminist Simone de Beauvoir that the statement “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman.” is trans-inclusive, as argued: 

I have discussed some issues with Nic from Fair Play for Women and children on live TV, although in that situation it is hard to get into details or depth. Also, live TV is puite scary! It was a very simplified discussion. However, the conversation continued afterwards and it was good to be able to engage in a relaxed manner rather than do so at arm’s length, and without antagonising each other. I strongly believe in discussion. 

I also appreciate that Nic invited me to the event being held tonight. However, I have decided to decline for the following reasons: 

The panel is not a balanced panel, with four people talking for one side of the debate. As such, this is of little academic merit. It does not mean that there is not a place for such an event – I am not against it in general. It is good to discuss things, even if I do not agree with them. But meeting such as these are biased, use one side, manipulated facts and that, to me, walks a fine line of hate speech. If there are things that concern people, I would love to be able to figure out why and try to address them if possible. However, I expect that I will strongly disagree with many points made, with good reason, and do not feel that it would be a suitable environment to engage in productive discourse. That I will not be able to fairly criticise those points. As an audience member, and with a crowd biased to one side of the issue, there would be no way to discuss this in a balanced and fair way. 

I also fear that the event will be particularly harrowing. I doubt that I will not be gendered correctly, that many of my thoughts may be dismissed and that I may even be dead named. I would hope to be treated with more dignity but I do not expect that. Note, this is a fear and not necessarily certain. But still, I do not want to risk my sanity in case I am right. 

I am also very concerned for my personal, physical safety. A number of events involving people who oppose trans-rights have ended up with physical violence. Are recent event, supported by the amazing feminist direct action group ended in physical violence just recently. I do not make statements about who or why that physical altercations started – the risk that such violence could start is enough for me. I am opposed to violence. I also support protests and physical presence – but not violence. I have seen people on the anti-trans side state that this behaviour is unacceptable. Direct physical action was a method employed by the Suffragette movement to gain votes for women. We should not forget that. 

As such I condemn this meeting. It will incite hate and propagate misinformation. It is not wrong to question and analyse changes to laws and regulations. However, it should be done in a calm, fair, balanced and non-emotional way. This meeting will not achieve that.