Allison Bailey, one of the founders of the LGB Alliance, whom I used to know through an ex-boyfriend, has asked me why I have criticised the group on Twitter, and in particular why I have openly criticised (like many other intersectional feminists) their recent full page ads in the Scotsman (and the Metro) promoting a protest outside the Scottish Parliament on Saturday.
She asked for a public debate but then wrote this:
First questions: “what was in the recent LGBA full page ads that was (i) hateful (ii) factually inaccurate (ii) transphobic? Real world answers please, not liberal feminist gender theory or be kind. posturing”
I am not going to answer on Twitter because there’s just not enough space and also when others start responding to individual tweets it’s just impossible to keep up and I do not intend to spend all my spare time on Twitter trying to manage that.
I can’t help but wonder why she felt the need to put that last sentence in. ‘liberal feminist gender theory’ (as if that’s per se a bad thing) and ‘be kind posturing’. ‘posturing’? Being kind is bad now? [facepalm].
We don’t have to look much further than the title of the ad in the Scotsman to find evidence of all three; inaccuracy, hatefulness and transphobia.
“Self-ID gives predators the green light.”
Firstly, using the term ‘predators’ and ‘green light’ together is highly emotive and designed to imply that there will be a surge of predatory men queueing up to self-declare as women in order to prey on women and girls. In no country where self-declaration has been brought in has this happened. The majority of predatory men prey on families in their capacity as relatives or family friends. The vast majority of predators are cis males and to use self-declaration to add to their existing ways of accessing women and girls would require them to give up their male gender identity. It is not without the realm of possibility that some might. While in human experience there are always exceptions, we do not live in societies that create laws to cover every single possible exception. If this were the case, we would not allow men to have unaccompanied access to any woman or girl, for example. We accept that the police and criminal justice system is there to protect us as much as possible and to punish those who transgress. Trans people are not exempt from the law. To suggest they need to be treated exceptionally because of a few instances of criminal behaviour is simple bigotry and we would not accept it for any other protected characteristic. Therefore, this is hateful and transphobic.
Secondly, the term ‘self-ID’ is meaningless. The actual process proposed in Scotland is through a statutory declaration, which is a legally binding declaration, punishable if done fraudulently. The use of ‘self-ID’ suggests that a person may, at any time, simply say out loud “I am a man/woman” and they cannot be challenged. This is not the case. [Though if they are going about their business without bothering anyone it’s really hard to imagine why anyone would be challenging them unless they were prejudiced against people who choose to dress/present in a certain way. I say this because there seems to be an unhealthy interest in whether someone can ‘pass’ as a trans person, which is complicated by views about the way men or women (regardless of whether they are or are not trans) should dress. Given the ‘way’ that seems so problematic is usually men who dress/present in a feminine way, rather than women who prefer to present as ‘butch’ (for want of a better word) does hint at some deeper prejudice. When people say, “it’s ok to dress in a non-gender conforming way”, they usually mean it’s ok for women to dress like men…]. Therefore, this is inaccurate.
The ad states that the new law would make it possible for “any man to ‘become’ a woman more quickly”. Apart from the fact that this begs the question, why are you only concerned with M to F transition, it is an inaccurate portrayal of the reforms. The reform does not allow ‘any man’ to self-declare, legal gender recognition is intended for those people who transition permanently to live as a gender (until death) other than the one recorded on their birth certificate, (this DOES NOT include cross-dressing people as many have suggested, nor does it include non-binary people). The reform is not about giving people ‘permission to transition’. People can do that socially at any time, right now. Social transition involves a person changing their social documents such as driver’s licence, passport, bank and credit cards etc. The Gender Recognition Certificate is typically the final stage of this transition and provides (as the name implies) ‘recognition’ for living as their gender identity. The reform will not therefore substantially change the status quo in real terms. It will provide those who wish to have full recognition of their gender identity a less intrusive and non-medicalised means to achieve this. It is essentially a bureaucratic reform. You do not make this clear anywhere but instead portray the reform as somehow ‘giving licence’, which it is not. Therefore, this is inaccurate.
The use of ‘become’ in inverted commas, could be read as a dog-whistle to transphobes who are keen to stress the biological essentialist argument that people cannot change sex. This is disputed, but irrelevant here. The dog-whistle is what is hateful – even if it was unintended, it still does not reduce the effect and as the LGB Alliance has received considerable criticism for being appealing to transphobes it is hard to believe that this was not deliberate. Therefore this is potentially hateful and transphobic.
The next paragraph starting ‘He won’t have to change his name, shave his beard…’ etc. implies that to be a trans woman one has to do any or all of these things. Again, please note the focus only on women. Trans men are apparently of no interest to the LGB Alliance. While most trans women choose to do many of the actions stated, they may not wish to do all of them. But more problematic is the assumption that anyone other than the person transitioning should have the right to comment, limit or even coerce another to fit into their gender stereotypes. What business is it of yours? Many cis women have beards, which they usually choose to remove, but having one is not a purely male attribute. This is the kind of gender stereotyping which feminists have long fought against. It is a form of patriarchal body policing which has no place in the 21st Century. The inclusion of this paragraph was solely designed to raise feelings of distaste and fear in the minds of readers and to make them feel negatively towards trans women, particularly by using the pronoun ‘he’ to promote the mistaken assertion that trans women are ‘really men’. This is hateful and transphobic as well as inaccurate.
Following on we have the common fear-mongering trope – men in changing rooms and toilets etc. The GRA reforms will not affect people’s requirement to adhere to socially acceptable behaviour or single sex provision. To suggest that the reform will make it legal for men to carry out peeping and harassment without fear of challenge or prosecution is simply incorrect. If someone enters changing rooms of any gender or gender neutral in order to commit a crime, they’ll be a criminal and treated accordingly whether they have a GRC or not – the fact is people already do this without going to the bother of getting a GRC – all that would do is add another charge for making a false statutory declaration. Prisoners do not have the right to pick and choose their cell mates and do not need to be housed in a women’s prison even if they have a GRC – all of this is subject to risk assessment. Likewise access to refuges is decided on case by case bases and is subject to risk assessment – not even a cis woman has an absolute right to a spot in a refuge. The experts in this are the current service providers, who have already issued statements saying their services will not be affected by the GRA reforms. You might not like this, but we live with similar risks in every part of life. There are bad people everywhere pretending to be something they aren’t. To present the reforms as ‘giving permission’ is therefore inaccurate and the tone of the ad is clearly designed to raise fears and disdain for trans women and could put them at risk and is therefore hateful and transphobic as well as inaccurate
The next paragraph which claims that as predators typically abuse hundreds of times, this will affect thousands of women, is possibly the most egregious. There is no evidence that trans women are more likely than any other part of the population to be a predator and conflating trans women with predators (even by implication) is unconscionable. The numbers here are pure conjecture based on absolutely no real premise. They are exaggerations at best and pure, unadulterated fear-mongering based on portraying all actual or potential trans women as predators at worst. This is therefore inaccurate as well as transphobic.
Finally, you claim that the Scottish government hasn’t consulted enough. The Scottish Government is on its second consultation, therefore, it’s totally inaccurate to say it hasn’t consulted fully enough
If, as the LGB Alliance likes to protest, trans women are not the target of this fear-mongering then it has nothing to do with the GRA Reforms and is instead about the male potential for violence. So why protest against it? Instead of protesting against the GRA Reforms, why is the LGB Alliance not campaigning for a massive increase in rape crisis and domestic violence funding? Why are they not campaigning for education around the dangers of toxic masculinity and violent sexual behaviours, for free self-defence training and for every woman to be issued with safety alarms and pepper spray? The huge sums of money you are spending on advertising and the production of videos targeting trans people and allies could surely be better used?
My questions to you, Allison are these:
What is the purpose of dividing the T from the LGB if it is not to suggest there are competing interests (which almost all LGBT+ groups disagree with) and therefore to isolate trans people?
Why are none of the activities and focus of the LGB Alliance focused on improving the interests of LGB people and instead focus almost entirely on opposing GRA reforms (the ad didn’t mention LGB people at all).
Why do you deliberately not make it clear to your followers that trans people do not need ‘permission’ to transition and therefore misrepresent the reforms?