Transcript of the discussion between Debbie Hayton and James Max on TalkRADIO, 30 December 2021
James Max (JM): Let me speak to somebody who perhaps has a slightly different view on this. Debbie Hayton is a transgender activist and teacher, and joins me now. Debbie, very good morning to you.
Debbie Hayton (DH): Good morning, James.
JM: There are some who said that I made an absolute hash of yesterday’s discussion [with Kellie-Jay Keen]. What did I get wrong?
DH: Well I think what you said before about it being a complex issue. In some ways it is, but in some ways it’s a very simple issue. There are two sexes: there are male and there are female, and what you got wrong was forgetting that, and concentrating on something else which I think is called gender identity. [Something] which is unclear and is ethereal and, I think, has caused huge damage to trans rights over the past 10 years. We need to refine trans rights in reality, not on this fantasy.
JM: OK. So are you telling me then, that the people who have defined trans? So say, for example, if one goes to the people who are experts. Because a lot of people will say look, if you don’t feel like you know very much about trans people, they start off (and this is Stonewall). Lots of people don’t, and the thing is that if you are not something then you probably, or you don’t know something, you probably don’t know very much about it. And yesterday, I was trying not to use the wrong language because I don’t want to offend people unnecessarily and I’m not a great expert on trans. But what I do understand is that, for a very small number of people their lives have been made living hell because of the attitudes of others who are very vehement in their views and their opinions on it. Because they don’t think it’s right, or should be allowed.
DH: Well I think we need to go back to the root cause of this. Go back 10 years, and trans people existed. We were fine, we were getting on just fine. And then, along comes this ideology that says that we can be whichever sex we like. Trans women are Women, is its rallying call. Along comes this ideology, and we’re trying to base rights on fantasy. And as soon as we start doing that people get uncomfortable. People lose confidence in the system, and people start defending their own position, and I do not blame women for defending their own position. If any man can say, I am a woman and you’ve got to let me in! then women’s boundaries become meaningless. That’s plain for everybody to see.
JM: Well I totally understand that, but then I’m not sure necessarily that’s exactly what trans people are arguing for but then I get it but say, for example, how does one then respond. So the stars of Harry Potter have made their statements about all of this. So Daniel Radcliffe, and some would say well he’s a bloke so what does he know? But he said, “transgender women are women, any statement to the contrary, erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject than either Jo [JK Rowling] or I.” So, that was his comment and I get it. I understand it. Emma Watson, so she says, “trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told that they aren’t who they say they are.” She wrote, adding [in] a subsequent tweet, “I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.” So both of those comments are slightly contrary to Jo Rowling’s explanation which, in large, I sort of get. But there are bits of it which I find deeply uncomfortable. But then, why has this become so toxic that we can’t have a proper conversation without people being called out? And all the stuff that has arrived at me on Twitter is just horrendous.
DH: Well it’s what those actors were saying. It seems to me that they were trying to protect their own backs. They didn’t want happening to them what’s happened to JK Rowling, i.e being cancelled, being dis-invited, having awards taken back from them. This is what’s been happening, and I can quite understand why youngish actors are trying to protect themselves. But what they’re saying is nonsense. Women are female; transwomen are male. Male is not female – we are different – and to deny that is to deny reality. And this is what we’ve been trying to do, and this is why we’ve got a problem.
JM: So trans people in the UK, though. They do face a huge level of abuse and inequality. And, I guess, what I was talking about with Kellie-Jay yesterday is that … If you take her views and you move away from what she was telling me on air; if you move to what she’s said and has been quoted as saying and is filmed as saying off air but on YouTube. She doesn’t seem to agree with any aspect to trans at all?
DH: Well I know you had Kellie-Jay on yesterday, and she could speak for herself. But I want to go back to what I think, which is that we need to refine trans rights in reality, and then we can perhaps get somewhere. I do take issue, actually, what you said about trans people facing oppression and marginalization in British society. I don’t think we do. I think we suffer in the same way that other people do, but we have huge rights. We’ve got the same rights as everybody else and a few more besides. This idea that we face extra pressure and oppression? It’s not my experience at all and it’s not the experience of trans friends of mine.
JM: What about two in five trans young people have attempted suicide, and one in eight trans people have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers at work? That’s a fact.
DH: Do you would you have the source for that information? Most of it comes from self-reported uncontrolled studies, James.
JM: OK, so as somebody who is not connected to this. So I’m trying to navigate my way through this without either offending or upsetting but also trying to understand well what is the best way to respond to this because my problem is that as soon as I speak I’m told that I’m middle class, white and a bloke, so what do I know? and therefore I can’t enter the conversation. Then if you have a look at the timeline here, I’m told what female or what women have – which I’m well aware of – but apparently you know a woman is a woman, and that’s it and there is no further debate or discussion. But that seems not to be the case because if you speak to anybody under the age of 35, they’ll have a completely different view.
DH: Well lots of people have got different views, but there is one reality and one truth, and a woman is a woman. A woman is an adult human female. That’s the way we’ve always defined it, and that’s the only definition of woman that doesn’t involve sexist stereotypes or circular reasoning. People can believe what they like, but it’s when we start trying to base rights on beliefs, that’s when we’ve ended up with a problem.
JM: So is everything that is then written about in terms of trans rights and what we should be doing and how we should be referring to people and the names or the gender assignation and various other things. Is all of that wrong advice?
DH: Well people should be free to think and say what they like. The problem is that people don’t feel free to say what they like.
JM: Well they’re clearly not because if you have a look at the stuff that’s been aimed at me, I’m not free to say what I like, and what I feel. And the thing is that as somebody who looks at this from the protection of a minority, just because a majority thinks something it doesn’t necessarily mean that the minority doesn’t need to be protected. Now you’re telling me that as a trans person, no thanks I don’t need help from you, and that’s fine by me. But there are a lot of people who might not necessarily agree with your view, I’m assuming.
DH: But we need to base rights – and I keep going back to this – we need to base rights on reality and truth, so trans people need to be protected, but we don’t need to be protected by an ideology that just isn’t true; that says people can choose to be the sex they want to be. That ideology has damaged women’s rights. It’s also compromised the safeguarding of children, which is a completely separate argument to what we’ve been discussing here. And together, they’ve caused people to lose confidence in the entire system, and that’s why we’ve ended up with the mess that we’re in.
JM: But then when we also end up in a mess when a lot of the tropes that were used to describe gay people back in 60s, 70s, 80s, whenever it was, are still being used by some about those who are trans. I’m assuming that there are trans people, well we know there are, but there are trans people who for whatever reason will or whatever feelings they may have or however one wants to define it, there are trans people in society, and we’ve got to find a better way to deal with it rather than just accusing anybody who perhaps dresses in a certain way as being a transvestite, and having some kind of perversion.
DH: Well the problem with this ideology is that it’s opened us up to this. It’s opened us up to this if any man can say that I identify as a woman, and demand access to women’s spaces, then it’s reasonable for women to be suspicious of all of us. Women need to do that to protect their own boundaries and protect their own spaces. I understand that.
JM: I understand that but then what I’m trying to work out is how do you not marginalize the person who genuinely they might have a physical form of a man but they might not be male. Are they still male?
DH: What do you mean about the physical form of a man who’s not male? There are two sexes. We are animals, the same as any other mammal. There’s two sexes, James, There is and there is female. Me and you are male, and the women are female.
JM: All right I take a definition because I’m going to refer to expertise which is far greater than mine, clearly: It’s important to remember that being trans isn’t about having a particular appearance or particular body parts it’s about something that’s absolutely core to a trans person’s identity and doesn’t alter whatever their outward appearance might be.
DH: Well, that’s meaningless twaddle isn’t it? You know, I don’t know where you got that from or whose authority that is, but it’s totally meaningless. What you’re doing is, you’re subverting the entire concept of biological sex, which is the reason why we’re here. It’s this nonsense that’s got us to the problem that we’re in.
JM: Right, so do I need to be better educated on this or do we need to have proper conversations? and just finally to you, or do we need to go back to the people who are writing this stuff and they are some of the charities who are there to help trans people. Maybe they’re not helping them, then?
DH: We need to spend more time listening, and we need to spend more time talking to each other. One thing I usually say to people in your position, James is, who told you this and why did you believe them? Because we’ve all got a brain and we can all work this out for ourselves. There are truths which we’ve known since the dawn of time which have not gone away.
Transcribed by Debbie Hayton