Tag Archives: Trans Rights

Debunking the “gender critical” myth

“Sex is binary and immutable” is the great myth that underpins “gender critical” ideology.

At first glance, it might appear to be plausible, but anything beyond a cursory inspection shows it to be shallow and incorrect.

Biology is a complex system, and although broad classifications like sex can be useful for a lay understanding, it falls apart at edge cases and under scrutiny. Intersex people exist, other differences of sexual development do happen, and of course there are also transgender people.

Medical science is wonderful and has helped us overcome constraints of biology. Vaccinations help us develop immunity, LASIK corrects poor eyesight, and trans health care helps transgender people transition their biological sex into that which best aligns with their gender identity.

Every morning I wake up and take 5mg of estradiol valerate, and every night before I go to bed, I take 200mg of progesterone. As a result, more of my body is female than male, and this is monitored every 6 months through blood tests at my GP.

Not everyone who is trans undertakes medical intervention that alters their sex, but using hormones to bring about these changes has been done for more than a century. To deny that it exists and is effective is to deny the reality of medical care.

This is not a controversial view. The most recent legal precedent on this was the employment tribunal “Forstater vs CGD” appeal which confirmed that “there is significant scientific evidence that wrong” and called them “profoundly offensive and even distressing”. It is the duty of us as liberals to challenge and call out these beliefs for the lie that it is, especially when they become expressed as justification for transphobia. “Gender critical” beliefs are not protected from challenge, and can not be used as a justification for discrimination or harassment.

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Lib Dems should stand up against EHRC claims on sex and Equality Act

In February, the Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch wrote to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to ask them to consider the current definition of “sex” in the Equality Act.

It should not be a surprise that the EHRC replied this week identifying eight areas, ranging from book clubs to sport to access to single sex spaces in which amending the Equality Act so that sex means what they call “biological sex” would bring “greater legal clarity.”

It is not an exaggeration to say that this, if implemented, would have a massive impact on trans people’s ability to live their lives. Not only that, but women who aren’t trans, but who don’t look “feminine enough” could face challenge in single sex spaces. It would essentially make life more miserable and dangerous with no gain for anyone.

Not only that, but part of the requirement for getting a Gender Recognition Certificate is that you do use single sex spaces after you have transitioned. So restricting those to sex on your original birth certificate creates a Catch 22.

The EHRC is led by Kishwer Falkner, who was once a Liberal Democrat Peer but now sits in the Lords as non-affiliated after leaving the Party over our continued opposition to Brexit. She was appointed by the Government to her current role in December 2020 and the organisation has been adding to the anti-trans mood music since.

I have spent my adult life campaigning for women’s rights and I’m far from being done. The Scottish Lib Dem Women constitution cites smashing the patriarchy as an aim and I am here for that.

I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of threatening behaviour from men in a public place and to actually fear for my life.

None of that makes me think it is ok to stop trans women accessing women’s spaces, or fail to do them the most basic courtesy of respecting their identity. Because if you don’t accept them as the women they are,  how on earth are they supposed to go about their lives? What facilities are they supposed to use?

Falkner says in her letter to the Government that she wants to see a more informed and constructive debate on these issues. One way to do that would be to target the misinformation and fear being spread by anti trans groups and to recognise that this is part of a global effort to undermine women’s rights and LGBT rights.

Liz Barker pointed this out in her International Women’s Day speech in the Lords:

Women have different life experiences, different economic circumstances and all sorts of differences between us, yet we have common aspirations for safety, health, autonomy and prosperity. It is important to bear that in mind as we have this debate, because it takes place against the background of a campaign originated and orchestrated by Christian nationalists in the United States, Europe and across Russia, which is very definitely about curbing the aspirations and autonomy of all women.

In the United States and places like Poland and Hungary the focus is on anti-abortion activities. In Africa, the focus is against equality and LGBT rights. In the US and UK, the key focus of this campaign is anti-gender.

The constant drip feed of anti trans stories in the media brings to mind the constant drip feed of anti EU stories over many years. And we know that didn’t end well.

It is therefore hardly surprising that trans people are worried and fearful about their safety in this sort of environment as hate crimes against them soar.

Women are equally understandably worried and fearful about their safety as violence against women and girls increases. The threat to women’s safety is not trans women though – it is predatory men in a society structured in such a way that those men are rarely  held to account for their behaviour.

If we turned our attention to dismantling the power structures and the culture that enables that to happen rather than picking on trans women, the world would be a lot safer for all women.

EHRC officials met LGBT representatives the day after the letter was released. And it is fair assessment, from Jane Fae’s account, that they do not fully understand what they are talking about. I am in awe of our own Helen Belcher for keeping her cool through that meeting and calmly and forensically questioning them on their assertions:

Well, I can understand that might be an aspiration but when your letter talks about reasons for, erm, excluding trans women from women’s spaces, how, how do you expect me to live my life? How do you expect me to be a councillor and represent my constituents? How do you expect me to do my work in Parliament if I cannot use women’s facilities? …

That’s a really basic element of human rights and the proposal seems to me to demand that I am openly identifiable as trans in any interaction with public services. So how does that square with my right to privacy?

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It’s time for gender critical people to leave

This spring conference season Lib Dems filed into the auditorium to hear a motion that would amend this piece of the constitution, to remove all references to self-ID and non-binary people:

Whenever this Constitution provides for the election by party members to a Federal Committee, not less than 40% or, if 40% is not a whole number, the whole number nearest to but not exceeding 40% of those elected shall self-identify as men or non-binary people, and self-identify as women or non-binary people respectively.

And this spring conference, a weary bunch of Liberals – tired of the constant, fundamental attacks on our values from a determined and illiberal minority – moved to ignore it entirely, a vote that passed with such a staggering majority that you could weigh the result.

The message was clear: “go away”. And now it’s time for those critical of gender identity – in the footsteps of those critical of sexual identity – to leave the Liberal Democrats.

The writing is on the door – there is no space for bigotry in this party. And while our byzantine machinery has allowed this motion to reach the conference floor, no representative auditorium will pass it.

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Lib Dems amend definition of transphobia – LGBT+ Lib Dems vow to resist

The Federal Board announced yesterday that it had amended its definition of transphobia in light of recent legal advice. The new wording can be found here,

However, LGBT+ Lib Dems, the official party body for gender and sexual minorities, has vowed to resist it, saying that the party had been unable to stand by its values when confronted by well-funded and organised transphobia. They said:

Like many reading this, the team at LGBT+ Liberal Democrats are disappointed and frustrated with the recent revisions to the Liberal Democrats definition of transphobia. While some tidying up of it may have been needed to protect against vexatious legal challenges, we are sad that our party has been pushed so far backwards.

As a party, we see ourselves as having the longest and strongest record on advocacy for trans rights and the wider LGBTQ+ community. Only last month our leader, Ed Davey MP, met with trans and non binary activists in the party to talk about trans people’s lives in the UK today. Many, many people throughout our party are staunch trans allies – be that in Parliament, the Council chamber, or party staff. And yet institutionally we remain risk-averse, unable to fully stand by our liberal values (as clearly laid out in the preamble to our constitution) as an organisation when confronted by well-funded and organised transphobia.

This process began earlier in the Autumn, and LGBT+ Liberal Democrats were sought for consultation on these changes. Naturally, we had a strong line on any changes that might be made, but sadly these do not appear to have been reflected in the final version. Key points that we raised in our response included:

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LGBT+ Allies need to step up

On March 31 2022, Boris Johnson announced he was U-turning on the government’s pledge to ban conversion “therapy”; a form of abuse that seeks to undermine someone’s gender and/or sexual identity, and gaslight them into believing how they view themselves is wrong and must be “corrected”.

Due to backlash from politicians across the House; including a number of Tory MPs, and LGBT+ pressure groups Johnson acquiesced – to a point. He has promised to uphold the ban on gay and bisexual conversion therapy but has failed to do the same regarding trans conversion therapy. What has been made very clear is that the LGBT+ community is viewed as nothing more than a vehicle to gain votes for Boris Johnson. The way he is willing to make such rash, disgusting decisions that compromise the rights and safety of individuals serve to highlight that now, more than ever, LGBT+ allies need to rally around the community and bolster our support.

We cannot expect trans people to shoulder the burden of standing against societal, and now state-sanctioned oppression alone. If we want to see real change, we must create platforms that amplify trans voices. We need to contact MPs, MSPs, MSs, MLAs, Councillors, Mayors, anyone and everyone that is integral to our political system and encourage them to speak up against such prejudice. We must listen, not to respond, but to understand and learn from trans people, the negative experiences they face and what we can do to mitigate them. It is our moral responsibility to defend and uphold the individual freedoms of all people – a responsibility that our government has abandoned.

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Sex, gender and everything in between: why we need new language to help people understand trans rights

I am a trans ally. Trans rights are human rights, and we should be doing everything that we can to ensure that they are enforced and everyone is given the respect and dignity they deserve.

Unfortunately, all too often when engaging in this area one of the first hurdles is getting past inaccessible language.

First of all, there is the term “assigned”. People are “assigned a sex at birth”. That’s a really misleading phrase. What we actually mean is that they were assigned a description of their sex – typically male or female, based on characteristics that they have.

But that’s not really very accurate. I have a daughter, and we definitely didn’t go through a process of checking levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. We didn’t check her chromosomes, there was no extensive check for genital abnormalities. We “assign” a description of their sex, based on a whole raft of assumptions. It can be years later that people figure out that that was inaccurate.

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Liberals and the cancel culture

The sujet du jour; at least on Twitter, seems to be “cancel culture”.

I’m a newbie on Twitter and as I have scrolled through my feed and seen various threads; I’ve noticed a schism between Lib Dems, on this particular issue. On one side there are Lib Dems, advocating the necessity to protect the individual, human and civil rights of the oppressed and that freedom of speech doesn’t come with freedom from consequence. On the other side are those Lib Dems who see freedom of speech as a key tenet to liberalism. An article by Tim Farron (advocating the latter), exemplified this schism with Tim being supported and rounded on, in equal measure. However, this isn’t a divide about free speech – it is a divide in the discourse of what is morally absolute and what isn’t.

Within social justice, liberals will always seek a moral universalism when advocating human rights for the oppressed minorities. The danger is, this advocation can fall into absolutism and that those opposing the perceive moral truths by absolutists are not only wrong, they are immoral; leading to those opposing their worldview to be swiftly labelled “racists,” “bigots,” “Nazis,” etc. In a democratic society our cultural norms, ethics and morals, evolve over time through societal discourse. Absolutists, in shutting down what they perceive as immoral; shut down the debate. In effect, they break the social contract that allows for moral consensus to be agreed upon.

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Young, Liberal and ready to fight for trans representation on Manchester city council

Manchester – a city of equality and fairness. A place where the Tories homophobic section 28 had no chance without a fight. Known for our world-famous gay village, we aren’t a city that shys away from ensuring that representation matters, are we?

We are home to the largest group of Labour Councillors in the country and we, Liberal Democrats, were close to taking control of Manchester City Council at one point before the coalition. Yet, Manchester has never seen an openly trans politician. Ninety-six seats on our council and not a single openly trans, non-binary or gender diverse councillor insight.

You would expect a city so liberal and diverse like Manchester to have had many trans politicians by now, but because we haven’t, I’m here to say that enough is enough. No more hollow words on trans rights – but real progressive action. Just imagine being a young trans person who has little hope in society and feels that not a single politician truly represents you, because that’s what it’s like for me and so many right now.

Posted in Op-eds | 29 Comments
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