The Women and Equalities Select Committee have just published another report into the Reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The inquiry was launched in October 2020, and written submissions were collected over a year ago. Oral evidence was heard in the early part of this year, but the committee waited until four days before Christmas – in the midst of another Covid storm – to share their findings.
A new ruling on trans rights could erase women completely
The United Kingdom may have left the EU, but we remain members of the entirely separate Council of Europe. The two organisations are easily confused — and no wonder. The similarly named European Council is an EU institution, though I suspect few would be able to distinguish the European Parliament (EU) from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe is the older and larger of the two organisations. Founded in 1949, it now comprises 47 members: every European country with the exception of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kosovo and the Vatican City. On paper, it purports to have three core values: democracy, the rule of law and human rights. But in recent years it has found a new cause: the promotion of gender identity ideology across the continent.
As Covid-19 spread across every continent, the world changed in ways that we could not have anticipated as recently as Christmas. “Self-isolation” and “social distancing” have entered the lexicon and taken root in my mind to such an extent that video clips of people breaking the two-metre rule seem to belong to another age, like old silent movies. These are – to use an overworked expression – unprecedented times.
But trans people have been living in unprecedented times that go back further than Christmas. While previously we were largely ignored by politicians and the media – apart from occasional salacious and often unwelcome feature articles – trans issues have been high in the news agenda for the past three years. That has not always been a blessing.
As the United Kingdom plunges into an unprecedented crisis, the time has surely come to halt the reforms to self-identification of gender. Schools are closing; London could be locked down; even The Archers has an uncertain future – this really is a crisis. At such times, we can no longer afford the luxury of devoting time and resources to the foolish idea that biology matters less than feelings, when we divide humanity into male and female.
Guardian columnist Owen Jones predicted last week that history will damn anti-trans zealots as it has judged those who resisted gay rights.
I’m a trans woman, so for me this is personal. Transphobic keyboard warriors have called for me to be sacked from my job as a teacher and a supposedly respectable Christian charity misgenders me deliberately on its website.
Self-declaration of legal gender is a reckless proposal that would deny trans people the opportunity to have their gender externally verified and force them to rely entirely on their own assertions. While that might work in some parts of society, it could be catastrophic for those living in hostile environments where their motives may be questioned and their claims disbelieved.
Trans rights were thrust back into mainstream politics this week when Jeremy Corbyn offered Labour Party support to government plans to reform the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.
The law is in desperate need of reform, but introducing gender identity as a protected characteristic and allowing people total freedom to self-identify their gender may not be the best way forward.