A Brief Thought Experiment
Imagine that you were not allowed to use any toilet other than the one in your home. Imagine your day at work, maybe going for a drink in the evening if you could, going shopping, meeting friends for a cuppa, attending a political event of any kind, attending a sporting event, going to the beach, going to evening classes, the gym, yoga, university or further education, travelling any long distance by car, buying groceries at the supermarket or indeed any combination of these.
Imagine your day, your week, a month, a year without being able to go to the loo anywhere until you get home. Could you do it? What would your life be like?
It doesn’t bear thinking about does it? It would make your life unlivable. Yet this is what is being proposed for trans people.
All trans people want is to live normal lives just like you, we need to be able to have access to the same facilities as you because we have the same needs as you. Yet the government is proposing to bring in a kind of law targeting trans people by preventing them from, amongst other things, using the appropriate loos.
This would be the most oppressive measure targeting a minority group since homosexuality was a crime, before the mid-1960s. Britain would become one of the few countries in the world to have explicitly state-sanctioned oppression targeted at a minority group, joining countries as oppressive as Hungary, Chechnya and Saudi Arabia.
South of the Border
Ireland is celebrating five years of trans people having the right to self-determine their gender identities. This law followed hard on the heels of Malta, which celebrated a similar law being in place for five years on the 1st of April. This provision is a basic element of trans equality which means that, when it comes to fundamental citizenship trans people have the same rights as everyone else.
This is a particularly important anniversary because it reveals one of the most pernicious lies about trans people, a lie spread widely by both the anti-trans hate groups as well as by the media. That lie is that cis women will be less safe in women’s spaces if trans women are allowed to use them.
The number of interconnected anti-trans hate groups in the UK pushing this lie, most, if not all, of which appear to be dubiously, and secretly, funded by extreme right fundamentalist groups in the US (groups opposed to equal marriage and women’s rights), has grown in the last few years. If you listened to anti-trans groups like Woman’s Place or The Times you would expect to be reading of dozens, if not hundreds, of cases of problems arising from trans women using the ladies. The problem for them is that the number of such incidents, in five years of statutory self-declaration of gender being available, is…zero, zilch, zip, nada, none.
Yes that’s right, there have been no such incidents at all in Ireland in the five years that statutory self-declaration of gender has existed. Not only that but you have the overwhelming majority of women’s groups and feminists in Ireland vocally and uncompromisingly supporting trans equality, such that when Women’s Place UK attempted to hold one of their “events” in Dublin they were run out of town by Irish women.
In the UK
But guess what? When it comes to toilets, trans women in the UK have always been able to use the ladies, and have done so as far back in history as anyone can remember. It has never been illegal for trans women to do so. And guess what else? There have been no instances of cis women experiencing problems because of trans women in the ladies here either.
These “women’s safety” arguments, put forward by the anti-trans hate groups, are central to their dishonest case against trans people’s equality. They are not peripheral arguments they are core, central, pivotal arguments. Yet they have been demonstrated, time and again, to be false, not merely in Ireland but also in many other places around the world including Belgium, Portugal, Norway, Uruguay, California & many other US states (some of which have had statutory self-declaration for decades), the Australian state of Victoria, Malta, Mexico City and Denmark.
In none of these places has there been any increase in assaults on cis women in women-only spaces. Indeed a peer-reviewed academic study by Hasenbush et al (2018) has confirmed this.
Anti-trans campaigners, of course clutch pearls over one or two badly behaved prisoners who are trans, but of course making an entire group of people – and there are millions of trans people worldwide – responsible for the acts of a tiny number of individuals is pretty much the dictionary definition of prejudice. No-one makes all cis women take responsibility for the actions of Rose West or Myra Hindley.
But, egged on by these hate groups, the Tories are proposing to make it illegal for trans women to use the appropriate toilet on the pretext of “protecting cis women”. Protection from what? All the evidence shows that cis women do not need protecting from trans women, and forcing trans women to use any other toilet would put them in very real danger of violence, sexual assault or rape.
So there are two questions you need to ask yourself;
1. Is this the kind of country you want to live in?
2. Who will be next? People in same-sex marriages? People seeking abortions? Women or girls (or indeed anyone else) seeking access to contraception? Same-sex couples wanting to adopt children? Lesbians wanting IVF? Rape and sexual assault victims? Victims of domestic violence? Pregnant people’s employment rights?
The far right has, in recent years campaigned against all these groups. So it is safe to say that the extreme right is not funding these anti-trans groups just because it wants to target trans people, it is using trans civil rights as a wedge issue, and it has bigger plans.
Plans that may well include you or someone close to you.
Hasenbush, A; Flores, A & Herman, J (2018) Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Laws in Public Accommodations: a Review of Evidence Regarding Safety and Privacy in Public Restrooms, Locker Rooms, and Changing Rooms. Sexuality Research and Social Policy. 10.1007/s13178-018-0335-z.