We are cis-women (our gender identity matches the sex we were assigned at birth) in the trade union movement who have become increasingly concerned about what we see as scaremongering in certain sections of the left as a reaction to proposed changes in legislation for gender recognition.
What changes are being proposed? Under current law - the Gender Recognition Act 2004 - anyone who wishes to transition must apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. This requires a doctor's diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Additionally that person must spend two years living as a member of the opposite gender and evidence this. It is a costly, bureaucratic and medicalised process which often impacts on the mental health of the person transitioning.
What is being proposed is a change in the law that means that the process would be one of ’self-declaration’ (where you declare your gender identity on a simple form which can be witnessed), the process used in Ireland and several other EU countries. This demedicalises the process and makes it much less bureaucratic. The proposed changes are supported by Jeremy Corbyn.
These arguments have been put forward as reasons to oppose this change.
It will make sex discrimination meaningless.
We’re not sure how. Sex discrimination legislation will remain the same.
It will enable predatory men to enter women-only spaces.
There is simply no evidence of this happening in countries where this change has been implemented. We also don’t see how you can base legislation on the premise that ‘we can’t do the right thing in case someone abuses it’.
It will hamper services in providing support to the client group for which they were intended.
Again we don’t see how. Women will continue to access women’s services. Some trans-women will access women’s services. If a trans-woman is physically abused by a male partner are we really saying it would be inappropriate for her to access domestic abuse services?
The word ‘woman’ will become meaningless.
We really don’t think so. Women will still be women - if that’s how they choose to define themselves. In any case we’re not sure that looking to a future where gender has been completely deconstructed is such a bad thing.
Gender may be fluid but sex is binary.
Sex may be a biological category but male/female doesn't work for over 100,000 inter-sex people who have different chromosomal origins - for example Klinefelter Syndrome where you have XXY or Turner’s Syndrome where in an XX female one of the X chromosomes may be missing or incomplete, alongside the effects of exposure to hormones such as androgen in foetal development or an insensitivity to testosterone etc. Sex is most definitely not binary.
We reject the suggestion that this change in legislation will impact on women’s rights. We urge all those on the left and in the trade union movement to support the proposed changes and our trans-comrades in their right to self-determination. An injury to one is an injury to all.