Monday, 20 March 2017

A few thoughts on Hadley Freeman's Guardian Article

  • Hadley Freeman talks about there being a range of ethical issues that need to be explored when thinking about trans women being included as part of womanhood. Sports wise, it's important to recognise bodily and hormonal differences that come about pre and post transition. Testosterone levels will undoubtedly fall after a person has transitioned because of them being on hormone replacement therapy. There is an argument for separation in physical contact sports such as Rugby between pre trans women and cis women. Gender affected sports are ones where "the physical strength, stamina or physique of average persons of one gender would put them at a disadvantage to average persons of the other gender and the prohibition is necessary to secure fair competition or the safety of competitors, including the safety of transgender ones". There is a condition in the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 that already covers playing gender affected sports such as Rugby, stating that trans people do not have an "automatic right to participate in competitive sport alongside other people of the acquired gender" but when it comes to grassroots participation in non gender-affected sports, should there be a necessary separation based on gender? The International Olympics Committee have ruled that trans participants can take part in Olympic sports without going through GRS, with hormone testing being the way to determine eligibility. Trans activists welcome this but gender critical radical feminists do not. The fact is that hormone testing in sports is complicated, there are a greater variation of sex chromosomes than originally thought (including XXY, XXXY, XXXXY, XXYY and XXXYY). Such chromosomes only have an impact when combined with certain hormones. Then there is the question of where intersex people and those who have a mismatch between genital and chromosomal sex and the question of sports participation on the basis of gender and sex becomes very complicated. Hence why Freeman openly admits that she can't offer an answer to the question of sports participation in the article.
  • Freeman doesn't take note of such reports as the Scottish OutForSport Tackling Transphobia in Sport Survey (published in June 2012), which found that over 75% of respondents said  there was a problem with transphobia in sport. 80% had witnessed or experienced transphobia, with 96% (yes 96%) having witnessed or been subject to verbal abuse, 16% had witnessed or been subject to physical abuse and 7% had witnessed or been subject to sexual assault. 68% of trans respondents also said that they'd been significantly more likely to participate in sports if it was more LGBT friendly. The Survey also talked about the issue of changing rooms; trans people generally do worry about their inability to be seen as passing when in the changing room corresponding with their gender and would prefer there to be gender-neutral changing facilities in place which can be freely used by trans (and non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer people). The Transgender Enquiry, published by the Women and Equalities Committee in January 2016 has talked about the need for Government to work closely with Sport England to develop guidance on participation sports, gender neutral changing rooms to make it clearer for organisations to implement the rules on gender-affected sport appropriately and fairly. That should help reduce instances of trans people being or feeling unable to participate.
  • In terms of prisons, I believe personally that a pre-op trans women who has had a history of violence towards women and girls should be kept under close watch during transition whilst remaining in a male prison. The trans prisoner doesn't deserve to be abused for openly acknowledging their status but at the same time, it would be unpopular to move a convicted sex offender or domestic abuse and violence perpetrator to a women's prison. If it were to happen even post-transition, they may need to be kept in isolation or be watched very closely by prison guards to ensure they don't try to commit an offence whilst in the prison. Prisoners rights have to be balanced with security needs. However, if a trans women hasn't committed a sexual or violent offence against women or girls, I don't understand the logic in preventing them from being transferred to a woman's prison. There are around 80 trans people in prisons in England and Wales (as of January 2017) and there have been 5 trans women who have died in prison within the last 16 months. The Government did announce in November 2016 that they will be reviewing their policy on transgender prisoners and recently, the Prison and Probations Ombudsman published a bulletin in January 2017 which has argued for flexibility in the rules. You can read the bulletin for yourself here: http://www.ppo.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/PPO-Learning-Lessons-Bulletin_Transgender-prisoners_Final_WEB_Jan-17.pdf)  Their key recommendations include:
    •  making sure all relevant people involved in a trans prisoner's care attend Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork case reviews when a trans person self-harms or tries to commit suicide
    • access to the same NHS treatment that prisoners would be accessible to if not imprisoned
    • investigating all instances of transphobic bullying and harassment thoroughly with steps taken by the prison Governor to address it
    • personal prison officers being attached to trans prisoners to establish meaningful contact and sense of trust
    • reasonable adjustments to be made to allow the prisoner to live in their acquired gender (e.g., changing clothing, use different pronouns/name)
    • prisoners to be held in prison that matches their legally recognised status-i.e. if a post Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) trans woman has legally changed her gender via a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) attained as part of adhering to the GRA, then according to the law she should be placed in a women's prison, not a men's one.  
  • Biologically speaking, there is no doubt that there is  a key difference between cis women and trans women in that cis women are born with ovaries and have to go through the menstruation cycle. Trans activists should be accepting of this difference and understand that they'll never have to go through period pain (having to make sure they have sanitary supplies in place) or through the menopause. There's no risk of pregnancy either. At the same time it must be recognised that Trans women can't help being born with the wrong sexual organs. It's not their fault they had testes instead of ovaries and a penis instead of a vagina. Mutual understanding is important and that includes being able to listen to a variety of different experiences and understanding that privilege is a multilayered concept that isn't just related to gender identity or sex. That's what being an intersectional feminist is all about!
  • If we're all going to start talking about the "transgender movement", then journalists and presenters need to give a voice to trans men as well as trans women. Trans men rarely get a mainstream media platform in which to discuss their feelings and shed light on their experiences pre and post transition. There are issues that pertain specifically to them; for example, the embarrassment they may face when having to get sanitary products from the shop whilst still menstruating in pre-transition or the extra expense of having to get binders to hide their breasts and give their bodies a "more masculine look". Trans women commentators can't offer those specific perspectives so why not get people like Fox Fisher to write an article/comment in papers such as The Guardian/do a BBC One prime-time documentary to put his side of the story.
  • Finally, being confident about one's own gender identity (or lack of it) isn't meant to erase another's gender identity (or lack of it). Non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer identities are as valid as trans or cis ones and journalists and presenters must be prepared to listen to their experiences rather than immediately stereotype or berate them as being "mentally ill". The more non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer voices are heard, the better understood the concept of gender identity will be. There are plenty of non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer people willing to speak to journalists and presenters openly on this topic including the wonderful Maria Munir.