Trans activist makes a fuss without facts

Let’s restore some perspective and honesty to the debate, and we may start to move towards a resolution

Trans people in the UK have all the same rights, and a few more besides

Since 2016, I have written over 200 pieces about the transgender debate. When I am not writing, I’m reading. I don’t restrict myself to authors I agree with; I’ve learned a lot from my political opponents. Recently, The National Wales published an opinion piece written by Leanne Wood.

Wood is a former leader of Plaid Cymru, so her words carry weight. She opened provocatively, “Being trans in the UK is f**k**g agony right now.” That’s an opinion, but the truth is rather different. The UK is a tolerant society where trans people can prosper like everyone else.

Her piece is worth analysing because it pulls together several specious claims. The quotes are taken directly from her piece.

“ ‘Being trans in the UK is f**k**g agony right now.’

“My friend’s words last week following publication of guidance for separate and single-sex service providers by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. She goes on: ‘So now the EHRC want to help people exclude me from taking a piss in a bathroom that I’m comfortable in’.”

Leanne Wood

In the UK, we have toilets, not “bathrooms”. Nor do we have “bathroom bills”, and the EHRC is not proposing any. Rather, in recent guidance it clarified the Equality Act 2010 and the existing rights of service providers to offer single-sex and separate-sex arrangements. Wood continued:

“Trans people are protected under the Equality Act (2010) with several exceptions around access to some spaces. EHRC guidance seeks to exploit these exceptions. Trans people should have every right to use whatever facilities they want and to go wherever they want.”

Leanne Wood

While bathroom bills have been introduced in the United States, we have quietly maintained laws about breaching the peace. If being trans allows us to do exactly as we want, then the trans community is going to attract people who want to be able to breach the peace with impunity. As a trans person, that worries me.

Wood moved on to the Gender Recognition Act.

“True, people can change their legal gender, but they have to go through a procedure ranked by the European Commission in 2020 as amongst the worst in Europe with ‘intrusive medical requirements’. Those who persevere are issued with a gender recognition certificate. Most trans people don’t bother applying.”

Leanne Wood

Those “medical requirements” gave the process credibility. Since 2004, trans people have been able to change our legal sex — a huge shift in our relationship with society — if we needed to do it to marry or protect our privacy. The process only became controversial when the public learned that those checks and balances may be swept away. I didn’t bother applying simply because I had no need for a GRC to be protected against less favourable treatment. I suspect there are many others like me — we don’t need to change the past to live in the present.

There were further harsh words about the Westminster Government’s dithering on conversion therapy:

“Johnson’s latest attack on trans people came with the last minute U-turn over the ban on conversion therapy, which has to be one of the cruellest acts of his administration so far.”

Leanne Wood

In truth, ambiguous language and weak definitions risked criminalising exploratory therapy for children who were presenting with gender dysphoria. The Government is wise — let’s at least wait for Dame Hilary Cass to complete her review of gender identity services for children and young people.

We also need to agree on what we mean by “conversion therapy” to make sense of Wood’s comment:

“Independent research commissioned by the government shows that conversion therapy doesn’t work. In fact it can make matters worse, causing suicidal thoughts among participants. According to the research, trans people are twice as likely to be subjected to conversion torture as gay and bisexual people were.”

Leanne Wood

Torture is already illegal — there is no need for any new laws to outlaw abusive and harmful practices. On the other hand, lots of things don’t work — astrology? homoeopathy? — but that is not a reason to pass legislation. But Wood jumps back to the Gender Recognition Act, taking another swipe at the EHRC in the process:

“The persecution doesn’t stop there. The EHRC, fast becoming the right wing’s weapon of choice, is a vocal critic of the Scottish government, belatedly trying to do the fair thing and allow trans people to self-identify rather than go through the current protracted and painful process.”

Leanne Wood

Self-identify as what? Wood doesn’t say. Protracted and painful process? Hardly! (Try comparing it with an application for British citizenship.) She then moved on to sport, citing cyclist Emily Bridges:

“And now British Cycling has suddenly thrown out its policy of including trans people by banning Emily Bridges from competing, even though she has met all the medical criteria demanded of her.”

Leanne Wood

That’s just not true. Nobody has banned Bridges from competing. The male category remains open to transwomen, where we can compete against our own sex. But this is a debate where emotional appeals are all too common.

“In times of culture wars, these are dangerous signals to be sending to a public which is slowly being radicalised against trans people.”

Leanne Wood

There is no radicalisation against trans people. Rather there is a growing pushback against gender identity ideology. That’s not the same thing.

“A powerful grouping has emerged, comprising wealthy American evangelical bodies, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, and others who seem to have the prime minister’s ear.”

Leanne Wood

There is no evidence that wealthy American evangelicals are influencing UK ministers. So it’s not surprising that Wood doesn’t supply any.

“Celebrities such as JK Rowling, politicians across parties and parliaments, fora such as Mumsnet and Twitter provide the spaces for the bigotry to fester.”

Leanne Wood

Bigotry is the obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices. Like the actions of those who are trying to silence JK Rowling.

“My friend runs school workshops about the importance of diversity. She recently received a letter from a child who wrote: ‘I just want to say that I look up to you greatly and I hope to be able to be proud and open like you too some day’. It is our responsibility to make that day happen.”

Leanne Wood

I’m a teacher, I don’t want my pupils looking up to people who say things like, “Being trans in the UK is f**k**g agony right now.” It is our responsibility to be honest with children. They can dress as the please, present as they please but they cannot change sex. And being a trans person is not “agony”. In the UK at least we have the same rights as everyone else, and a few more besides. Let’s restore some perspective and honesty to the debate, and we may start to move towards a resolution.

Debbie Hayton

* This article was first published by The Critic on 30 April 2022: Trans activist makes a fuss without facts.

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

5 replies on “Trans activist makes a fuss without facts”

Another insightful and well focussed article, Debbie.

It seems pretty clear that Leanne Wood is not trans, but rather a natural woman. I have noted this before, but it bears noting again, that the most sympathetic (and gullible) supporters of trans people (as depicted in transgender ideology) are so-called “cis” people. Of course, there are the die-hard trans prevaricators such as Chase Strangio. But for every Chase Strangio out there, I suspect there are a dozen Leanne Woods. In an exchange of notes with a poetry site editor with whom I was arguing about this issue, he talked about the pain a child must feel to be born in the wrong body, as if that pain were equivalent to be roasted in Hell by a hundred Bunsen burners. People who have experienced great longing in their lives know what longing feels like, but also know that longing is part of the human condition, and that we all experience it in various degrees in our lives (and that most of us survive it if not get stronger from it).

To change the subject, I don’t know whether Boris Johnson is listening to American evangelicals, but it is well known that many American evangelicals have travelled to Africa in recent years to poison the minds of the emerging Christians there against gays and other groups that evangelicals hate. African culture is already intolerant of gays, and the American evangelicals want to make sure that African Christians feel the absolute maximum amount of hatred possible.

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Yes, Caleb, thanks. You remind me here of one of the underlying themes in this and many other current issues, the attitude of entitlement and victimhood that seems to have become rife. Debbie cites another example in Leanne Woods’ demand, for trans people to “use whatever facilities they want and to go wherever they want.”

In the case of your interlocutor, it’s combined with that weird philosophical dualism that somehow goes wrong, putting a gendered soul in a body with the opposite sex characteristics. We don’t hear much about this biological error in previous centuries – I wonder what explanation there could be for more and more soul-body mismatches. Is God getting a bit sleepy at the conveyor belt and messing up? Anyway – whatever the cause might be – society has to put it right with chemicals and surgery.

Too many people are spoilt these days. They think whatever their heart desires ought to be facilitated for them. So Leanne Woods can claim being trans in the UK is “…agony,” ignoring – and unconsciously insulting – those who literally wake up to actual agony every day, due to illness, disability, climate change, or war.

Indeed, instead of growing stronger from longing for things to be different from how they are, these people collapse psychologically. They demand attention and rescue from their imagined horror. The trans fad is one example, but another is the enormous popularity of cosmetic body modifications, the breast enhancements and lip fillers and botox injections and spray tans. And I suspect there’s a similar rude awakening for many who undergo these transitions, a new longing, a new horror, that what they thought would fix reality didn’t, and they’re still just the same sad person they were before.

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Well said, Squash. Years ago I read an article by a gay man who injected silicone into his penis. Doing that did not give him a larger erection; rather, it simply made his penis look larger when it was soft. But the silicone started to migrate where it wasn’t meant to be. In order to get it out, they had to remove portions of his penis that became saturated with silicone, which meant that he lost all of his foreskin. At the time he wrote the article, there was still silicone moving around inside but all the extraneous skin was gone.

I am so cautious about changing anything permanent about myself that I won’t even get a tattoo.

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Leanne Wood appears to be yet another person irresponsibly whipping up a frenzy of fragility amongst transpeople, aided and abetted by mainstream media, of course. Clearly, there’s currency in keeping that fragility on the boil.

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“Whipping up a frenzy of fragility” — I like the way you put that. I find myself wondering if some of these young trans people who are in constant pain because they were not born the sex they want to be ever stop to appreciate what they do have. “I may not have the body of a man, but the body I have still functions normally, and I am grateful for that.”

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