Transgender rights risk trampling on the rights of women, including transgender women. What can be done about that?

Human nature is suspicious of ‘differentness’. As recently as a hundred years ago, even being born left handed was enough to have this ‘abnormality’ beaten out of you because of some mumbo-jumbo about devils and the left hand side of God. Happily for everybody, that nonsense is now a curiosity of the past, as is discrimination against transgender, transvestite and homosexual people, at least in most western countries. That transgender, transvestite and homosexual people are no longer, as they have been in the past, treated as if they suffer some kind of illness warranting horrible ‘treatments’, beatings or worse, is itself to be celebrated.

Many women may be nonplussed by seeing men stroll casually into women’s spaces, such as public toilets, but many are just plain alarmed by it. They are told its OK, because, although he looks and behaves like one, isn’t really a heterosexual man. His interest in watching particular women fixing their makeup or adjusting their clothing is incidental and certainly not related to the fact that he is a man. Because, well, today or this afternoon or this evening, he’s identifying as a woman. That’s alright, then.

Not all men who say they are transgender have undergone the difficult, expensive and sometimes distressing process of successive hormone treatments and surgery necessary to change their gender. And of course, of those who do, many consequently find themselves subject to discrimination, persecution and often violence, mainly from men who for some reason feel threatened by these women. Changing your physical gender is not something you do on a whim, unlike strolling casually into ladies’ toilets or other women only spaces, just because you can.

With typically long queues for the ladies’ its hard to understand why anyone would want to: if anything, the temptation must be the other way around, for women to use the queue-less men’s toilets. Some women do, but rarely out of choice, rightly sceptical about the standards of hygiene prevailing in many, not to mention the risk of being cornered by an aggressive male. More women’s toilets would be a logical and relatively easy remedy solution to that problem.

Although more headline grabbing, the recent International Olympic Committee decision to allow athletes to compete according to the gender they identify with rather than their physical gender can be thought of as one of many ways in which transgender rights can trample on women’s rights.

Similarly, this new, ‘enlightened’ regime where you use the toilets corresponding to the gender you identify with at that instant in practice systematically disadvantages women. It entails men invading spaces intended to be reserved for women, but generally not the converse. Transgender women are more likely to outcompete athletes born female than transgender men are to outcompete athletes born male. And because men are usually stronger than women, so much more able to defend themselves when necessary than the other way around, women often have no safe spaces – not all that enlightened, when you think about it.

There’s a problem there, but what to do?How do you ensure that transgender women, whose need for women’s safe places are the same as it is for all women, have the same access to them?

One possible measure might be to require some kind of medically approved document certifying gender. But who would police that and how? It is easy to imagine grave offence being caused by asking, say, a very tall woman to prove she is a woman when she just needs to use the toilet. This is a hard question with no obvious solution. It calls for sensitive and informed public debate. In the meantime, women and girls need to be confident that safe spaces reserved for them really are.

Featured image by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.

Sasha Diable
European and I guess that's about it for now.

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