If there’s one thing trans women really don’t need in our lives, it’s bollocks – but that’s exactly what the Labour Party is offering us.
Last week, Jeremy Corbyn used a speech at the Pinknews Awards to announce that it is now official Labour policy to give literally any person the right to self-declare their legal gender – something that would make the process of changing one’s gender as simple as ticking a box on an administrative form.
For those who don’t make a habit of following trans trends, Corbyn’s speech was in reference to the Government’s controversial consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act (which sets out the process by which someone can legally change gender in the UK) to create a fast-track system based on self-declaration.
In making his comments, Corbyn sent a clear signal that, even if the Government chooses to heed warnings from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and various women’s groups and scrap the proposed reforms, Labour will include self-declaration in its next election manifesto.
Such a change is both unnecessary and dangerous. In fact, the current system strikes the right balance between empowering legitimately trans people to change their legal gender and receive a high standard of medical care on one hand and providing reasonable safeguards to prevent abuse of the system on the other.
Corbyn’s view is parroting hard-left activists who claim – wrongly – that the current system is profoundly undignified for trans people. But this simply isn’t true.
The current process requires a trans person to have a medical confirmation of gender dysphoria, spend two years living as the gender with which they identity, and provide the Gender Recognition Panel with reasonable evidence that they live according to their gender identity on a daily basis. In my opinion, it is streamlined, simple, and affordable. There are even significant discounts to administrative charges for low-income transfolk.
Labour’s policy, if implemented, would invite abuse by dangerous sexual predators seeking to exploit the system to gain unfettered access to segregated and safe female spaces such as women’s changing rooms, female wards in hospitals and women’s prisons. This is already happening on a small scale, even without making it a breeze for any man, on a whim, to self-declare themselves legally female. Self-declaration wouldn’t just make it legal for wolves to wear sheep’s clothing – it would hand them the shears.
Let’s be clear. Segregated female spaces are appropriate places for trans women who have physically transitioned into women via a combination of hormone therapy and surgery. But they are not suitable spaces for men who have merely checked a box that says they’re women. When I was pre and mid-transition, this dichotomy was astoundingly obvious to me. While it wasn’t entirely convenient for me to avoid women’s changing rooms or showers, I did so out of common decency and out of respect for society’s norms for segregating men and women in those limited situations when modesty is preferred and safety is paramount. Yes, the extra efforts I had to make to change and shower in private were not ideal. But at no point did I feel dehumanised or that the relative burden I had to carry was particularly significant.
The ideas put forward by highly-partisan and militant LGBT groups – ideas that, rather than merely promoting mainstream tolerance of and equality for trans people, seek to radically disrupt well-established societal norms – could lead to a potent backlash against decades’ worth of hard-won trans rights.
Some complain that the current system requires trans people to seek medical advice. But being trans isn’t easy. Believe me. It’s common to feel a profound sense of confusion, shame, rejection, isolation and fear. In my view, undergoing such a transition without proper psychological support is akin to skydiving without any training. A system based purely on self-identification would mean that genuine transgender people might sidestep the vital process of psychological counselling and support for their emotional wellbeing. As a trans woman, I am thankful that this is currently a required step under the Gender Recognition Act.
Here in the UK, trans women like myself have the opportunity to live a life of dignity, with access to comprehensive medical and psychological support, and with recognition of our womanhood under the law. Yes, there are still serious problems with violence and discrimination (something both Labour and the Conservatives have acknowledged), but Corbyn’s insistence on self-ID is not the way forward.