Readers of The New York Times might be wondering how trans people manage to survive in the UK. From the other side of the Atlantic the newspaper depicts a hostile climate where both the Left and the Right are out to get us.
Last Friday they published an interview with British transgender stand-up comedians Jen Ives and Bethany Black. The piece explains that, although life might not be a bed of roses for them, they manage to laugh at the world. But underpinning the story is the assumption that life in Britain is a daily struggle for transgender people.
I just don’t think it’s true, and I say that as a transgender person on this side of the pond. I also stand up in front of audiences — I am a teacher — and my life experiences seem no different to my colleagues. My pupils and their parents seem to care far less that I am trans than I know my subject and I can teach well. Surely these were the goals that transgender people set out trying to achieve?
But our American observers fail to distinguish between transgender people and transgender ideology. That is, the proposition that humanity is divided not by biological facts but by feelings in our heads. The rallying cry seems to be “transwomen are women.” They conflate dissent with the ideology with transphobia: a hatred of trans people.
After perpetuating the myth that JK Rowling was transphobic by defending women’s sex-based rights, the NYT suggested that feminists who do not accept me as a woman are questioning my very humanity.
That is a bold claim, but one that is not only untrue — even the most robust of feminist campaigners seem content that I am a human being — it is also unhelpful, and particularly to transgender people ourselves. Gender reassignment — whether it be social or medical — may relieve psychological distress but it does not change our sex.
The NYT does, however, make one valid observation. Unlike the US, where the response to transgender ideology is split on partisan lines, in Britain voices on both the Left and Right have criticised publicly the concept that a woman is anyone who feels like one, or thinks they feel like one.
In the bizarre world of American politics where liberals seem determined to grant biological males a free pass into spaces and places designated for females, the defence of women’s rights is left to conservatives, including former president Trump.
We might struggle to understand US politics, but the NYT clearly misunderstands ours. When voices across the political spectrum defend women’s rights, they are not erasing trans people. They are simply pointing out what we all know to be true: biological sex is real. It’s vital for women – if we ignore sex we ignore sexism – but it is also vital for trans people. When our rights are grounded in reality, we can be confident to live in society.
* This article was first published by Unherd on 2 March 2021: Why is the NYT perpetuating myths about trans life in Britain?