The United Kingdom has a transphobia problem

by Heather McNamara

Heather McNamaraIn an attempt to better serve its transgender citizens, the UK government has recently proposed new guidance be considered in the Gender Recognition Act of 2004. Currently, a transgender person in the UK must prove they’ve been living as their gender for at least two years and present a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in order to obtain changes to their legal documents. If the changes proposed are accepted, however, this will not be required. A transgender person will simply be allowed to declare their gender.

Predictably, a lot of people are up in arms about this. British TERFs and conservatives alike are extremely concerned that cis men everywhere will declare themselves women in order to receive the benefits of being women, such as access to rape crisis assistance and incarceration in women’s prisons, which of course are things all women just clamor over because they’re super fun and really empowering. I mean I don’t know a single woman who isn’t excited for her next opportunity to weep in a rape support group or waste away in a women’s prison, right?

Thankfully, this sort of contingency is actually already addressed. According to the BBC:

At present, the guidance issued to service providers – women’s refuges, for example – by the Equality and Human Rights Commission states: “Where a transsexual person is visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable from someone of their preferred gender, they should normally be treated according to their acquired gender unless there are strong reasons not to do so.”

Those with a GRC “should be treated in their acquired gender for all purposes”.

That means that anyone who identifies themselves as a woman – whether that is their legal status or not – can already use separate-sex facilities such as changing rooms, toilets or single-sex gyms.

The proposed changes to the gender recognition act does not change that.

What wonderful news! It turns out that if any woman, cis or trans, is a threat to the women around her whether it be in a prison or a rape crisis center, that woman can be removed for the safety of others. Nobody at this point or at any point in this proposed dystopian future wherein trans people have autonomy is actually being forced to subject women to the tyranny of anyone with an F on their legal forms.

In fact, none of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act pose any risk to any of the cis women in the UK. The changes serve only to benefit transgender men and women who, for whatever reason, would be unable to prove they meet the current criteria to the satisfaction of their local council. While it certainly is a lot easier to access a counselor or other medical services in the UK than it is in the USA, there’s never a guarantee that said professional would be willing to diagnose a transgender person properly and there is no demonstrable need for this barrier in any case. Exactly zero overly impulsive cis people have been stopped from making silly mistakes. The hurdles in place serve only to satisfy the anxieties of cisgender people. In practice, transphobic cisgender people are not satisfied anyway and the sacrifice of transgender citizens’ dignity and agency so far has been in vain.

Since threats to cisgender women have already been addressed and in changes to these protections aren’t actually a part of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, the clown car vomiting op-eds and TERF concerns can and should be easily ignored by members of government reviewing the proposed changes. It cannot be ignored by transgender people in UK and anywhere else they might be subjected to the dialogue. It is neither necessary nor acceptable for the conversation on transgender rights to be dominated by noise about crimes that cisgender men might commit as though transgender people are enabling them. Law abiding transgender people are never to blame for the crimes of cisgender men.

Like cisgender women, transgender women deserve the right to live freely and openly regardless of what men might decide to do to harm women. Trans women’s freedom is never an excuse for men to victimize women just like cis women’s freedom is not an excuse for men to victimize women. These concepts are familiar to feminists when framed as cisgender women’s freedoms to drink or leave the house at night or wear whatever they please. We already know that predatory men will take liberties and help themselves whenever they can. Victimizing women is not an acceptable preventative measure.

About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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