My name is now Deborah Ashley Hayton, but that was not always the case. In 2012 I transitioned “male-to-female”. I didn’t really change sex – I know that now – but at the time I was convinced that I was some kind of woman. Otherwise, I can’t imagine that I would have gone through with it and caused so much distress to my wife and children.
Las afirmaciones «las mujeres trans son mujeres» y «los hombres trans son hombres» han de estar compitiendo por erigirse como la frase definitoria de nuestros tiempos. En poco más de cinco años, el tema transgénero ha irrumpido con tal fuerza en la conciencia colectiva que el aún joven Día Internacional de la Visibilidad Transgénero parece ya anacrónico. Quizá deberíamos de remplazarlo por el Día del Discernimiento, porque, si bien las personas transgénero (como yo, por ejemplo) nos hemos vuelto bastante visibles, las razones por las que somos transgénero siguen ocultas en la sombra.
Trans women are women and trans men are men must be in contention for the defining statement of our age. In little more than five years, transgender awareness has burst into the public consciousness to the extent that the recent International Transgender Day of Visibility seems to be a relic of history. Maybe it could be replaced by a day of understanding? Because, while transgender people – like me, for example – have become very visible, the reasons why we are transgender are still hidden in the shadows.
The butterfly effect describes how the flapping of tiny wings in China may cause a hurricane in the Caribbean a couple of weeks later. The hurricane tearing through social policy in Scotland at the moment also had small beginnings: not in China 14 days ago but in Yogyakarta, Indonesia 14 years ago. This, however, was no accident of chaos — it was deliberate and planned.
Future historians may marvel how that meeting of human rights groups in Yogyakarta established gender identity as an innate human quality and decided that it must be protected in law. At the time, in 2006, political commentators at home were more concerned with the so-called Granita Pact, and whether Tony Blair would ever resign in Gordon Brown’s favour. But Yogyakarta triggered a chain of events that would eventually challenge the use of biological sex to divide humanity. While the definition of gender identity was vague — how can you define what is in essence a feeling in our heads? — the vision was grand.
As a child of the 1970s, I can still recall the trauma of watching Elvis Costello jab his finger at me as he sang “Called careers information; have you got yourself an occupation?” My dreams of becoming an astronaut had already evaporated by then and I feared I needed to make a hasty decision before I was conscripted into Oliver’s Army — or worse.
A generation later, the stakes are far higher for our kids. Today the refrain might be Called social media; have you got yourself a gender identity?
On Wednesday night [21 November 2018], Channel 4 broadcast a much-debated documentary examining the staggering rise in children being referred for consultation on gender re-assignment. In the last nine years, referrals for children to the NHS’s Gender Identity Development Service have risen some 2500 per cent.
I am a transwoman but I am also a science teacher, and I do understand the reality of biological sex. It is the basis of the procreation of our species. There are seven and a half billion people on this planet and each has two biological parents – one female and one male – that’s real.
When Tara Wolf assaulted Maria MacLachlan at Speakers’ Corner on September 13th 2017, a social-media dispute between transgender activists and radical feminists burst out onto the streets of London. Ms MacLachlan, a 60-year-old woman, was going to a feminist meeting that had been forced to move to a secret venue after protests by a group of transgender activists that included Ms Wolf, a 26-year-old trans woman.
International Transgender Day of Visibility falls annually on March 31, though even the most casual observer must wonder if we still need a day to mark it. In the three years since Caitlin Jenner transitioned there has been an explosion of transgender visibility. What might be lacking is an International Day of Transgender Understanding. Western society has been keen to affirm trans people, and that is to be welcomed, but it has been slower to think critically about the wider impact of legislative change, and particularly the effect on women and their right to organise and associate as a biological sex.