There are two things the liberal commentariat tend to forget about the ‘silent majority’, that great mass of ordinary people who don’t get involved in arcane discussions of modish topics, but who make their views known at every election.
Those two things? The majority is silent. And it’s the majority.
This week, Boris Johnson spoke for them loud and clear when he said something most people in Britain already thought, even if they never dared say so out loud.
Biological males, he insisted, should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports — and parents should be involved in their children’s life-changing decisions about gender identity.
Of course, these views should be uncontroversial. But in recent years a vicious and toxic debate, often conducted in bad faith, has clouded the issue badly.
The mantra ‘trans women are women’ has been recited like Holy Writ and to suggest otherwise has been heresy, putting the speaker at risk of ‘cancellation’, monstering on social media, the end of their career and worse.
At long last, common sense has prevailed. The Prime Minister’s intervention followed new guidance this week from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which made it clear that hospitals, shops and other businesses are legally entitled to offer single-sex services.
So, for example, a gym can insist on a female-only changing room, as long as it also provides a proper space for trans people to change.
Inevitably, these sensible measures were met by screeching fury from militant activists, who slammed the new guidance as ‘discriminatory’, ‘bigoted’ and ‘harmful’.
Furious NHS equality bosses were said to be ‘leading a mutiny’ against the watchdog’s rulings, with one declaring the guidance was ‘transphobic’ and recommending NHS bosses put it in the ‘bin’.
Well, I have a dog in this fight myself. Ten years ago, I transitioned from male to female.
By then, I already had three children and a wonderful wife. I am incredibly grateful that I still do, and that we all live harmoniously.
I transitioned for psychological reasons: it was causing me terrible anguish to live as a male while hiding my true self.
My mental health collapsed; it was a desperate time. Thankfully, after first transitioning in 2012 and undergoing gender reassignment surgery four years later, I recovered.
Pro-trans activists and their so-called allies often claim they want nothing more than to protect a vulnerable group — trans people like me — from discrimination.
If only that were true.
Instead, they have denounced as ‘bigoted’ the new EHRC guidance designed to protect other vulnerable people — such as women who may be in desperate difficulty. No doubt they have harsh words for the Prime Minister, too.
But imagine you are a woman who has been beaten up, or even raped, by your male partner.
Who exactly is a trans rights activist, or anyone else, to deny you the right to seek refuge in a place only other biological women can enter?
Women should not be forced to budge up and make room for biological males. If, God forbid, either my wife or daughter were ever the victim of male violence, I would want them to be able to seek refuge in a space free from all biological males, if that was what they needed.
And speaking as a trans woman, I am far more concerned about women’s rights to privacy and protection than I am about my right to access absolutely everywhere I might want to go.
Of course, we trans people should always be treated fairly and with respect. We should not be barred from spaces without good reason.
But there are some circumstances in which it would cause genuine harm to force women to share spaces with biological males.
Having suffered myself as, I believed at the time, a woman trapped in a man’s body, I would never want to exacerbate the suffering of a vulnerable and traumatised woman, or suggest that my ‘rights’ somehow trump hers.
If trans women are suffering a comparable crisis and need help in a refuge, they can be referred to a centre that caters for them. That’s not ‘bigotry’, it’s simple humanity.
Then we come to prisons. Inevitably, these house some very disturbed individuals. Many female prisoners have themselves been tragic victims of male violence.
Yet because of an ill-judged policy that has again prioritised the rights of trans people over those of vulnerable women, biological males have been held in women’s prisons because they identify as women.
In one terrible case, a violent rapist self-identified as a woman, ‘Karen White’. While at New Hall women’s prison, White sexually assaulted two female inmates.
Only then was White moved to an all-male prison. This is not an isolated case.
Before the Equality Act 2010, which made it illegal to discriminate against trans people on the basis of gender reassignment, trans women were sent to women’s prisons if they had undergone gender reassignment surgery.
But the issue has become horribly clouded in recent years, allowing the possibility of predatory men posing as trans women, using equality as a shield for straightforward misogyny.
The militants’ mantra that ‘trans women are women’ is an absurdity. You do not become a woman merely by saying you are one and it flies in the faces of reason, and biology, to suggest otherwise.
This fiction — so-called ‘self-ID’ — can and does make life more difficult for women.
When a biological male can assert that he is a woman without changing his appearance, let alone taking hormones or having surgery, there are risks to women when that male enters women-only spaces.
Take the case of Lia Thomas, the transgender American swimmer who recently won a prestigious women’s U.S. championship.
Thomas, who is over 6ft tall, has made female swimmers feel ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘awkward’ in the changing rooms after not covering up male genitalia.
Merely identifying as female was sufficient reason to enter this space, irrespective of the physical reality of Thomas’s body.
Of course, nobody wants to see Thomas or anyone else facing discrimination. But human biology is real and we should stop pretending that it doesn’t matter.
Let me stress: many trans people understand all this. But sadly the debate has been hijacked by furious activists who, I believe, do our cause more harm than good.
To admit openly that there are some circumstances when women should be able to access women-only spaces undermines their demented crusade to pretend that biology doesn’t matter.
As a scientist who has taught secondary school physics for more than 20 years, I can tell you that it does. Chromosomes and bodies don’t lie.
I wanted to be female for much of my life but, despite all the stages of my transitioning, I remain chromosomally, biologically male.
I can’t erase the past, nor would I want to. I am happy with my life now — and also glad I was born male, or I would never have married the woman who remains my wife or had our two wonderful sons and a daughter.
My hope is that the new guidance from the EHRC ushers in an era of sensible policy on these difficult issues.
What do I mean? Well, for example, across Britain there are more than 100 trans women prisoners. Why not have a dedicated facility for them?
In hospitals, trans women could be given a side room rather than being on a female or male ward.
If some women prefer women-only exercise or swimming classes, whether for religious or personal reasons, why shouldn’t they have them, alongside classes to which trans women are welcomed?
As for toilets — another unnecessary battleground — I use the unisex option whenever it’s available. We need more of these, offering all users as much privacy as possible.
Like most trans people, I simply want to live my life, not be defined by my gender. But with such nonsense being spoken in my name — and those of other trans women — I feel obliged to have my say.
Now the Prime Minister has waded into this debate and said what millions were thinking. Let a new climate of tolerance and respect blossom from his remarks and end, once and for all, the fury that has engulfed this debate.
By Debbie Hayton for the Daily Mail on Friday 8 April 2022.
DEBBIE HAYTON is a transgender school science teacher and political campaigner
* This article was first published by Mail+ on 7 April 2022: Now Boris has said what so many think, let’s end all the preposterous nonsense being spoken in the name of trans women like me.