Sarah Ingham is author of The Military Covenant: its impact on civil-military relations in Britain.
For those who, whenever they hear ‘TERF’, reach for their lawnmowers or the Racing Post, the controversy surrounding Laurel Hubbard’s brief appearance at the Tokyo Olympics could well have been news.
The New Zealand weightlifter might have gone down in flames at the Games, but she reignited the debate around gender politics. Sunday’s brief super-heavyweight Clarke-Aliev bout in the Kokukigan arena has nothing on the struggle between those defending the rights of women and those defending the rights of transgender people.
Having presided over an ever-more divided Britain for a decade, women versus trans women is another culture war battle which the Conservative government can do without. But with ministers, their departments and agencies all too frequently undermining the rights of women, deliberately jeopardising women’s safety and devaluing woman-related language, the Government has brought this mess upon itself.
Emerging over the last few years, the legal and cultural imperatives forcing women to subordinate themselves to trans women – i.e. biological men – reflects a misogyny which many thought the Party had dumped long before David Cameron resigned his membership of White’s Club when Opposition leader.
While some celebrated the first appearance of an openly transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics, others observed that a female athlete’s place in Tokyo had been sacrificed to accommodate Hubbard. Nanomoles of testosterone per litre of blood was a head-of-a-pin irrelevance, swept away by the unequivocal declaration of the International Olympic Committee’s Medical and Science Director – ‘Trans women are women.’
Er … If Laurel Hubbard were in that cinematic masterpiece Some Like it Hot, biologically the weightlifter would be closer to Joe and Jerry than Sugar Kane. Hormones and reassignment surgery can take a man a bit further along the female end of spectrum than Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis donning frocks, but it doesn’t make Marilyn Monroe.
At the most cellular level, you can’t buck the biology. Not that biology matters according to the law: gender change can be achieved without the messy bother of surgery.
Should any woman question the current anti-woman trans orthodoxy enthusiastically championed by too many of our politicians, she risks being accused of hate crime and abused as a ‘transphobe’ or ‘TERF’ – Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Academics, including the esteemed Germaine Greer have been routinely no-platformed, their careers jeopardised. Maya Forstater had a two-year battle to win an appeal after being sacked by a think tank for questioning modish gender dogma. Even the sainted J.K. Rowling was pilloried after tweeting #IStandwithMaya.
A year ago, and after almost two years of consultation, the Government rowed back from the reform of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, dropping a key proposal for gender self-identification. Despite this, some NHS trusts happily allow men, including sex offenders, who self-identify as women to be treated in women’s hospital wards, it was reported this week. Last month, the High Court ruled that men identifying as female could serve their sentences in women’s prisons. According to the BBC, in its evidence the Ministry of Justice had argued the measure would ‘protect transgender people’s mental and physical health.’
What if the late, unlamented Fred West had self-identified as a woman? Is the MoJ really saying that should the serial killer have ended up in a women’s prison, he would be more worthy of protection than vulnerable women inmates?
Trans activism and lobbying has enjoyed stellar success since the “T” was added to LBG. In the case of Stonewall, this occurred sometime in the 12 months before September 2015, according to its Trustees’ Report registered with the Charity Commission (‘This year, the charity extended its campaigning remit to include transgender people, alongside the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities’).
In a 2018 briefing paper, the Government Equalities Office stated: ‘We tentatively estimate there are approximately 200,000 – 500,000 trans people in the UK.’ This year’s census was the first to include a question on gender identity, which should provide some clarity. However, it seems that a maximum of two per cent of the estimated number of trans people – 4,910 – have been issued with a gender recognition certificate between 2005-18. And if half that tentative, estimated upper limit of trans people are men identifying as women, they represent fewer than one per cent of the country’s 33.6million females.
Instead of compromising women’s hard-won rights and protections, policymakers should bear in mind the fate of Jo Swinson, the former Lib Dem leader. During the 2019 general election, when not conducting her party’s kamikaze campaign to unseat Dominic Raab, Swinson was mustard-keen to promote trans rights. It must be wondered how her demands to let men access women refuges went down with female voters in the East Dunbartonshire constituency she narrowly lost.
Sajid Javid, our savvy new Health Secretary, has already announced an investigation into the hospital wards report, earning praise on Mumsnet. Should he start indicating that repellent gender-neutral phrases like ‘chest feeding’ (rather than breast feeding) are no longer welcome within the NHS, the Conservative leadership might well be within his grasp.
The legal and dictionary definition of a women (‘adult human female’) is a problem for some police forces, which have considered a public order offence could have been committed if it is found on billboards and stickers. The adult human females of middle Britain are not TERFs and transphobes; they are surely sympathetic to anyone suffering gender dysphoria. Militant trans activism – which has somehow failed to realise that unscrupulous men might game the self-identification system – is sabotaging their goodwill and promoting yet more social division.
The resurgence of the Taliban will prompt lamentations from our politicians about the threat to women’s rights and safety in Afghanistan.
Let’s also focus closer to home.