THE decision by the International Swimming Federation FINA to ban athletes who have gone through male puberty from competing in female events is seen by some as a great victory against the militant ‘trans lobby’. It is certainly a victory for fairness and recognising basic biological fact. FINA’s decision also prompted the momentous statement from our prime minister that a woman cannot be born with a penis.
However this seemingly positive move towards sanity teeters on to shaky ground in the small print. To acknowledge the impact of male puberty in athletic performance FINA has banned only males who have not completed their transition before age 12. There is a real risk that this will encourage and indeed frighten ever younger boys to embark on irreversible medical interventions towards ‘gender transition’. Ironically, this victory for women’s rights could end up damaging some of the most vulnerable children. The only sensible decision would have been simply to exclude all males from female sports. The reluctance to do so should sound an alarm.
However important the issue of fairness in elite or general competitive sport, there are even more fundamental threats to women that have become normalised. In 2020 there was considerable outrage around Marks and Spencer’s updating their changing room and toilet policy to allow males identifying as women into female-only spaces. Liz Truss, as Minister for Women and Equalities, expressed strong criticism of this.
But for all the tough talk and kerfuffle she could offer only legal provision to support retailers excluding males from female facilities. Nothing was done to make it illegal for males to invade female safe spaces under the guise of trans rights. In December 2021 a campaign was started by members of the Women’s Rights Network to secure female-only lavatories and changing rooms in Milton Keynes shopping centre. They distributed flyers declaring ‘All I want for Christmas is safe single-sex spaces’, in particular targeting M&S, John Lewis and Primark. Fast forward to this month and I had an extremely unpleasant experience sharing a changing room with men in that very Milton Keynes Primark. One of these men asked the female retail assistant whether he could try on underwear. The unease was palpable. I was grateful to have my mother standing in front of my cubicle curtain. I’m a woman who has suffered an assault by a man, which makes it especially difficult for me to have a man in what should be my safe space, but removing single-sex spaces threatens the safety and wellbeing of all women. When I tweeted about my changing room experience, Primark told me to report ‘the incident’. Even after lengthy explanation that the problem was their policy, not any ‘incident’, the customer service team member did not appear to understand. The idea of women and girls being unsafe without single-sex spaces appears to have floated away over the trans inclusive pride rainbow. Where are the campaigns against this? Even Wimbledon now has gender-neutral toilets! The fact that there are still single-sex loos dotted around the grounds will be of little comfort to women who happen to find themselves in an area without one when nature calls. It also betrays a ‘sex doesn’t matter’ mentality. When I had the opportunity to tell a case worker for my MP about the gender-neutral and trans-inclusive facilities in the main shopping centre in our constituency he was shocked and surprised. Surreptitiously, fundamental changes have taken place in society without many of us realising or resisting beyond the odd angry tweet.
At the heart of all our gender and trans woes is the belief enshrined in the mantra so beloved of the trans activists – ‘trans women are women’. Of course they are not. Yet trans women are women in the eyes of the law because reality doesn’t matter as much as avoiding being branded with a ‘phobia’ or an ‘ism’. Even the Church of England is considering bringing in a new baptismal liturgy to mark gender transition. Such services are indeed already taking place ‘off grid’. The plucky vicars who still stand by biological reality and Biblical teaching, my mother among them, are considering the legal implications if someone accuses them of discrimination. Until the law acknowledges that a man cannot become a woman, and indeed vice versa, the trans debate will rage on.