Decision Time for Women’s Organisations: The Growing Conflict with Trans Activists

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Noeline Blackwell Director Dublin Rape Crisis Centre

One of the most contentious issues of gender politics is the war that has now broken out between groups that were long-term allies up to a few short years ago. The issue is the demand by trans women, biological males who now identify as women, to be treated exactly the same as biological females. In essence, they want access to all facilities for women. Not a big issue you might say if they had gender assignment surgery, but the point is very few have and all that is required by law is that they self-identify as women. Changing rooms, school residential trips, rape and domestic violence refuges, and prisons are going self-ID. So are electoral shortlists and even sporting competitions. The presence of biological males in women’s athletics and sports generally is causing growing opposition among sportswomen who feel that they are now at a disadvantage. Top former women athletes like Martina Navratilova and Olympian Sharon Davies are among those who have objected.

Male sex offenders in women’s prisons

Last year we learned that serial male sex offenders are being transferred to women’s prisons solely on their claim to identify as women. All of these events are leading to growing unease even alarm among women who claim to feel less safe as a consequence. But surely, you might ask, the longstanding women’s representative organisations will be there to stand up for women; haven’t they always rushed to the aid of women who feel they are being treated unequally or who feel unsafe?

But hold on; incredibly they are now on the other side, or at least most of them are.
Q. Where stands Sharon O’Halloran of Safe Ireland (left)?
It is hard to be definitive so let’s start with those in the UK. According to the Oxford sociologist Michael Biggs: Virtually the entire feminist establishment has embraced transgenderism, from celebrated feminist Members of Parliament like Jess Phillips (Labour Party) and Mhairi Black (Scottish National Party) to organizations like the Fawcett Society, Engender (the feminist group funded by the Scottish government), the Women’s Equality Party, and Women’s Aid. Transgender doctrines are enforced by the burgeoning diversity-industrial complex which was created by feminists and is disproportionately staffed by women. It was a woman employed as a university Equality Projects Officer who started a petition to transfer a violent trans-woman to a women’s prison; the petition was so successful that it persuaded the UK government to divide prisons by gender identity rather than sex. In universities, transgender doctrine is promoted by feminist academics like Sally Hines and Alison Phipps.

As for the media there appears to be no consensus but we know that Katharine Viner chief executive of the Guardian newspaper has championed the transgender cause for many years.

Virtually the entire feminist establishment in the UK has embraced transgenderism

Biggs’s argument, in short, is that since the 1970s feminists have been sawing off the branch on which they perched. By denying biological differences they inadvertently eroded the distinction between male and female, which now licenses a social movement that undermines the interests of women and girls.

In the US the National Organization for Women (the largest feminist group in the United States) and the Feminist Majority Foundation both support trans rights. Canada’s oldest Rape Shelter has lost funding after a campaign by trans rights activists. The city council of Vancouver in February voted to withdraw its funding from Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter because of a dispute over the admission of transwomen.

In Ireland the Law Society Gazette recently reported on a new phenomenon in Irish jails, where “male-bodied” prisoners can now be housed with women – even when said prisoners have a record of sexual assault against women.

The person concerned was previously convicted of ten counts of sexual assault. But this claim has legal recognition under the law. Where were Women’s Aid (Director Sarah Benson inset), Safe Ireland, the Rape Crisis Centres, not to mention the NWC, always so vocal when the rights of women are concerned when this was going on?

Nowhere, they fully agree with the policy it seems. And what of the media?  Again, as so often when contentious gender issues are at stake, cowardice rules; there is no debate, no discussion only a great silence. In this case, contrary to new rape law, silence means consent.

Dawn Butler: babies are not born with a sex and talking about biological reality is “dog whistle transphobia”

The Position of UK Labour

In the UK, the current Labour leadership contest was enlivened when it transpired that Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy both signed up to the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights pledge, which led to heated debate both inside and outside the party. Angela Rayner and Dawn Butler, who are in the running for deputy leader, also backed the group’s pledges.  It also vows to “organise and fight against transphobic organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance, and other trans exclusionist hate groups.” The highly emotive language is indicative of how trans activists respond to any opposition to their cause. Woman’s Place appears to be the only feminist organisation which is actively opposing the trans demands.

Lisa Nandy has said a biological male who was convicted of raping a girl should be allowed to move to a women’s prison because of their recent self-identification as a woman. In the UK, currently 1 in 50 male prisoners are now claiming to be a woman.

According to Dawn Butler babies are not born with a sex and that talking about biological reality is “dog whistle transphobia.”

But senior Labour MPs’ support for calls to expel party members who support WPUK was condemned by several academics from University College London, so there is by no means a feminist consensus on this.

It is now time that organisations here which claim to speak for the interests of women make clear their position

The Women’s Equality Party has also seen internal conflict over this issue. Heather Brunskell-Evans who served as party Spokesperson for the Policy on Violence Against Women and Girls was another who objected to this policy. After a lengthy investigation she resigned.

Public Opinion

There is good evidence that the public is opposed to this policy and this has just received further confirmation.

Eric Kaufmann, a politics professor and an expert on immigration and demography has taken a keen interest in issues which divide social democratic parties in Europe. Centre-left parties are struggling across the West he says, and one reason is their “cultural turn” away from economic issues toward the politics of identity. He did a survey on the effects of the Labour pledge and concluded: “All told, it seems the trans pledge resulted in Labour losing 2.5 times more people than they gained from other parties: hardly a good trade.”

He goes on: “For Labour to have lost so badly [in the recent election]and to have immediately indulged in a politics of progressive virtue-signalling raises the question of whether they are serious about returning to power.”

It is now time that organisations here which claim to speak for the interests of women and receive very large amounts of state funding for doing so make clear their position. Where does RCNI, Women’s Aid, Safe Ireland stand in relation to women who now feel unsafe as a result of the new measures?

There is no doubt this issue will run and run.