This is my written submission to the ‘Transgender Equality Inquiry’. My comments follow the headings suggested in the inquiry’s remit. There was a window of around a month to do this which fell during two deadlines and five days working at a festival, so this was as much as I could muster.
I am Miranda Yardley, I am a magazine publisher, accountant and transsexual. I am responding to your request for written submissions to the ‘Transgender Equality Inquiry’.
Terminology and definitions, and the availability and reliability of data, relating to the trans community
Sex, Gender and Transgender
The term ‘transgender’ is hardly a settled term and it’s scope is very broad (1) and is used to encompass a variety of sexual and gender identities, some of which are fetishes (transvestites) and some of which are cultural expressions of gender very different from the male/female binary found in Western cultures (for example ‘two-spirit’ and ‘Hijra’).
Gender itself is a socially constructed system which forms the basis of a collection of ‘appropriate norms and behaviours’ deemed appropriate for members of a particular biological sex (2) or, if you will, stereotypes. Gender is often used in common language as being synonymous with biological sex, however biological sex is a real thing with material consequences; it is not something you just can dip in and out of (3).
The key point is that sex and gender are neither equivalent nor are they synonymous, and this should be recognised without conflation of the two.
Recent neologisms like ‘cisgender’ are used to denote individuals whose “gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender” (4) and leads to terms such as ‘cis woman’. This term is meaningless except as a designator for ‘not trans’. We already have words for men and women who are ‘not trans’, and these words are ‘men’ and ‘women’.
The use of ‘cis’ to describe women is disputed particularly by many women who see it as a way of controlling women through biological essentialism “if you are born in a female body and accept the name ‘woman’ then for you biology is destiny” (5). There is nothing new about this, as Mill (1869) stated in his essay ‘The Subjection of Women’ these stereotypes women are expected to conform to are negative and themselves reinforce women as being a lower social class to men. (6)
Gender can be viewed as a hierarchical system that oppresses women, as opposed to being a civil liberty. This is a notion central to radical feminism. (7)
Availability and Reliability of Data
Suggested fields for systematic research and study through appropriately designed and peer-reviewed methodology/literature review would include:
- Definitions of ‘transgender’ (being identity based, this can be viewed as a political identity) and transsexual (those of us who undergo meaningful social and medical transition).
- The definition and incidence of transsexualism in the UK, the definition and incidence of transgenderism too (recognising these are two different things with different manifestations and needs).
- The attempted and actual incidence of suicide amongst transsexuals/transgender individuals.
- Any co-morbidities, eg depression, autism, Asberger’s syndrome.
- Clear delineation between homosexual and heterosexual (autogynephiliac) transsexuals, including destigmatisation and acceptance of autogynephilia leading to more appropriate treatment.
- Identification of and challenging the cultural forces that lead to autogynephillia, for example pornorgaphy as well as possible parental or other abuse/bullying of children.
- An understanding of the impact and appropriate treatment of gender dysphoric young people on the basis that gender, being something society imposes, is the thing that needs to be fixed, rather than the child.
- The incidence of criminality in transgender and transsexual people, both pre- and post-transition, whether sexual, physical or property based crime.
- The effectiveness of counselling or other talking therapies for gender dysphoric individuals especially children, including ‘treating the parents’.
- The health effects of the long-term use of synthetic hormones.
- Collation of meaningful crime statistics on the victims and the perpetrators of violence against trans people.
There are many more.
The relationship between the Government Equalities Office and other government departments in dealing with transgender equality issues and how the UK’s performance compares internationally
I have nothing to add here.
The operation of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and whether it requires amending
Removal of the requirement for a married couple to divorce before a GRC is issued. Reconsider the value of issuing birth certificates as the adopted gender identity, this essentially erases the lived lives of trans people.
The aspect of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 which is referred to as the “spousal veto”
Whereas I support same-sex marriage, nobody should be forced into being part of a same-sex marriage where they may have religious or other objections.
The effectiveness of the Equality Act 2010 in relation to trans people
This act does not allow for improper purpose. Spaces designated by sex should be protected to afford the safety of the women for whom these spaces were designed. Legally enforceable rights should be available only for public spaces that are available for the use of the general population. Spaces for women in crisis should not be affected and remain women-only to avoid risk (8), trans people in crisis have very different needs to women and this would serve us better. For example transwomen’s rights and women’s rights are a rights balance.
Employment and workplace issues (including in the Armed Forces) affecting trans people
I have nothing to add here.
Transphobia (including the portrayal of trans people in the media) and hate crime against trans people
Use of ‘incorrect’ pronouns do not constitute transphobia; violence, discrimination and abuse however do. The problems gender non-conforming people face are a result of male cultural violence and the abusive treatment by men of men who fail at (the gendered stereotype of) masculinity. This cultural problem could be addressed not by teaching ‘diversity’ rather motivating it by cultural change. Such cultural change would seek to achieve, amongst other things, to:
- eradicate negative cultural stereotypes that are applied to women’
- eradicate macho/hyper-masculine stereotypes that are applied to men
- identify and eradicate cultural stereotypes that depict women as submissive and men as dominant
- address the problem of male cultural violence and the unacceptable annual death toll of women at the hands of male partners
- eradicate homophobia and lesbophobia (which are the root of the discrimination against and abuse of trans people)
Issues affecting trans people in the criminal justice system
If prisons are dangerous places for trans people, it should be recognised that it is the prisons that need to change. It is not, for example, acceptable to put women at risk by housing them with transgender males who have been convicted of violent and/or sexual crimes.
Issues concerning the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, including the operation of NHS Gender Identity Clinics
Gender should be recognised as a societal problem, not the individual’s, and that it is preferable for society to change, rather than individuals.
Access to gender reassignment treatment under the NHS
It should be recognised that meaningful therapy has value and that it is more cost effective and may result in a non-interventionist outcome. One gender reassignment operation could fund up to 200 one hour therapy sessions. Access to this therapy via the NHS is inadequate. Therapy should not focus on facilitating gender transition, rather it should attempt to enable the individual to come to terms with themselves and explore other possibilities than transition and even surgery.
Trans people and wider NHS services
I have nothing to add here.
NHS services for trans youth
If children are uncomfortable with the stereotypes and expectations our system of gender demands, it is this system that should change, not our children. Most children demonstrate gender non-conformity at an early age, initially at least as part of play.
Issues concerning trans youth in the education system
Please see my comments regarding homophobia and bullying.
Issues concerning trans youth and social care services (including looked-after children)
I have nothing to add here other than there should be adequate screening of all support organisations to protect vulnerable individuals. (9)
(1) for example https://transaustin.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/transumbrella.jpg
(3) for example “being a woman is not a spiritual or metaphysical experience. It is not a feeling and it is not a performative utterance. Being a woman is a lived experience with material consequences” http://ehungerford.com/?p=65#_ftn15
(6) “this great means of influence over the minds of women having been acquired, an instinct of selfishness made men avail themselves of it to the utmost as a means of holding women in subjection, by representing to them meekness, submissiveness, and resignation of all individual will into the hands of a man, as an essential part of sexual attractiveness” JS Mill, The Subjection of Women, published in 1869 http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/347
(8) eg the case of Christopher Hambrook http://www.torontosun.com/2014/02/15/a-sex-predators-sick-deception
(9) eg the case of Allison Woolbert http://www.transadvocate.com/thritvtp-executive-director-resigns-after-aggravated-sexual-assault-record-discovered_n_14862.htm