The day after a Commons debate to protect women from sexual harassment at Westminster, 50 people met in a Commons Committee room on October 31st with the same object: to protect women, in this case by resisting Government proposals announced in the summer by Justine Greening to allow people to self-identify as a different gender. These go back to the recommendations in the 2015 report by the Women and Equalities Committee, chaired by Maria Miller.
David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth,who has been alarmed by these proposals, had convened the meeting. He was to read out the list of transgender activist groups who’d provided the bulk of evidence to Ms Miller’s committee. Yet no representations had been heard from the other side of the argument, he said. Ms Miller had been quoted as saying that people with such views were bigoted and their opinions had no validity.
Given the difficulty of balancing women's rights with transgender rights, it was perhaps not surprising that his meeting was so well attended - not just by MPs from both sides of the House, but by women’s groups and journalists from the leading papers; or that two thirds of those present were women.
Caroline Flint MP, a Labour minister from 2005 to 2009, spoke of the emerging environment of competing rights in which women were on the losing end. Miranda Yardley, herself a transsexual, pointed out: ‘The endowment of rights to males as females compromises the privacy of females . . . and particularly will affect those women who are economically disadvantaged or victims of male violence.’
They were not alone in their concerns. Women’s group representatives described the chilling effect of trans-activism on women’s organisations who cannot publicise meetings for fear of attack. Exemptions under the Equality Act, by which single-sex spaces could be free from those with a legally recognised gender reassignment, were not working and were often not invoked due to intimidation; nor could they afford to defend a legal challenge to such exemptions. Women who’d been subject to male sexual violence needed women-only spaces – whether in therapeutic groups, swimming pools or department store changing rooms, and when receiving certain health services, they said. They also expressed concern for female prisoners unprotected from transgendered men convicted of sexual offences against women in the same accommodation; and finally that official government guidance and NHS guidelines had all been written by transgender activist organisations.
The meeting focussed on contradictory and negative consequences of the government’s proposals which included:
The issue of women’s sports if dominated by transgendered men. Why would ‘natal' women bother to take part? The physical advantage that men have is not changed by medical treatment – ‘equality is at the expense of equity', said Miranda Yardley.
The risk to woman of transgenderism being used as a cover for male violence against women; the risk of men posing as women to gain access to children. Claims of gender dysphoria were already used as mitigation in court for sexual offences against children, it was reported.
The integrity of women’s data being compromised when women’s statistics refer both to ‘natal' women and men transgendered as women; wit regard to crime statistics too, as some crimes reported as by women were actually by transgendered men.
Then there was the issue of the imposition of transgender orthodoxy on children – now taught a new rigid, anti-science belief system presented to them as fact. Yet cross-sex hormones cannot create the puberty of the opposite sex, Stephanie Davies-Arai explained, but they do bring a risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, diabetes and cancers.
Worries were expressed too, about 'non-evidence-based practice to treat a non-evidence-based diagnosis of being a girl trapped in a boy’s body and vice versa of which this generation of children are the guinea pigs’. ‘All published research on “gender dysphoria”,’ Stephanie Davies-Arai continued, 'shows that 80 per cent will naturally come to be happy as the sex they were born. Affirming a child’s “gender identity” can be seen as gay conversion therapy by another name.' Recognition of biological facts is not bigotry, she concluded.
There was also the issue of teenage girls having male classmates using their toilets and changing rooms. Wouldn’t this teach them that their boundaries could be violated and their consent was unimportant? Wouldn’t they learn that they are not always allowed to say ‘no’? This, one woman said, is grooming. Furthermore, voyeurism and indecent exposure would cease to be crimes once a man can claim to be a woman, while normal child protection protocols effectively become unlawful.
Yet the feelings of offence reported by a minority, and which cannot be contradicted, already regularly override other evidence in public argument.
If Justine Greening’s proposals become law, gender identity will depend on a piece of paper, not on the body people are born with. It is an ancient heresy: gnosticism. Everyone agreed it must be resisted at all cost.