Skip to main content

Aggressive protests like that in Brighton mean the real causes of transphobia go unaddressed

Transgender campaigner DEBBIE HAYTON reflects on the consequences of trying to shut down meetings like the WPUK's recent unofficial Labour conference fringe

“WE had women arriving through the crush in tears. One woman had liquid thrown at her as she tried to enter. Even the men who attended were shocked at the scale of the harassment because they’re not normally subject to this.”

Those were the words of a WPUK spokeswoman, reported in this newspaper. Shockingly, the context was a meeting to discuss women’s rights on the fringe of the Labour Party conference.

How on earth did we get here: to a place where women meeting to discuss sex-based rights and the trafficking of women and girls are accused of hate speech and denounced as “TERFs?” TERF stands for “trans exclusionary radical feminist,” but it has become a dreadful slur — akin to bitch or whore.

The charge against these women was that they are “anti-trans” because they do not believe that trans women are biological women. That was enough to denounce them as bigots and dehumanise them like the victims of some modern-day witch hunt.

However, those women are right. Trans women are biologically male — in fact being male is the sole qualifying criteria to be a trans woman — and women are biologically female. Male people are not female people and therefore trans women are not women.

Those are the facts. I know this because I am a trans woman. But in this world where opinions take precedence over facts, reason is abandoned to protect feelings from the harsh reality of life.

However, inconvenient truth is still truth: biological sex is real and it is immutable. Fantasy can never protect feelings, but — worse — humouring these ideas puts both women and trans women at risk.

Women’s rights are vulnerable because if any male person can identify as a trans woman — membership of this group is not restricted to nice people — then sex-based protections, provisions and boundaries become meaningless.

Sadly, some transgender campaigners appear to have been blind to their own folly. With a far bigger sense of entitlement than empathy, they have demanded that women give way on access to spaces, scholarships, bursaries and protected places in politics, and even in sport.

By a carrot and stick approach — appealing to the good nature of women while denouncing dissenters — women have been coerced into accepting trans women not as allies who seek to live in the same way as women but as actual women. In their world biology has been abolished.
Meanwhile the real source of transphobia goes unaddressed. When I have been abused in the street, the perpetrators have always been male: every single time.

The same men that routinely harass women also harass me. Unless they clock me, that is. Abusive males know that trans women are not women, and they reserve a special treatment for those they perceive to be an affront to masculinity.

In the political arena, I have faced opposition from women who do not want trans women in their groups and spaces, but none have adopted the tactics of some of my fellow transgender activists who have filed complaints with my employer in an attempt to have me dismissed.

Transgender campaigners need to wake up before our credibility is damaged beyond repair. Gender dysphoria does exist, and society has been willing to accommodate those who undergo gender reassignment, but the idea that we really are the opposite sex is a delusion that has led us to the brink.

Trans women can live like women, we can live alongside women, and society can treat us like women, but we are not women — not really.

We need to step out of the fantasy and back into reality because the real source of our oppression is going unaddressed. I would urge some of my fellow transgender campaigners to reflect on the focus of their campaigning.

To paraphrase Margaret Atwood — creator of The Handmaid’s Tale, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

As trans women, if we want to be accepted by women, maybe we ought to start thinking like them?


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 10,087
We need:£ 7,931
9 Days remaining
Donate today