That’s not what the law says

Gaby Hinsliff says a thing about the law and the ontology of women that brought me up short.

This ruling was purely about whether Forstater’s views count as a so-called protected belief, like religious faith, which employers can’t discriminate against someone for holding. And while she met four of five legal tests for that, the sticking point was her insistence that a trans woman is still a man even if she holds a GRC confirming her legal status as a woman.

That’s what Forstater thinks. It might be what a number of other people think. But it’s not what the law says and the judge ruled that Forstater’s desire to be able to refer to someone by the sex she felt appropriate, even if that created an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”, failed the fifth test – that a protected belief can’t violate human dignity or conflict with fundamental rights.

Emphasis mine.

What I’m left wondering – does she mean the law says trans people are in a legal sense the sex they say they are, or does she mean the law says they are the sex they say they are?

If it’s the second…is that real? Can laws do that? Can laws create reality in that way? Does a false claim become true because the law says it’s true? Can legislators just say “men are women if they identify as women” and lo it becomes true?

I think people are losing their grip on the difference between claims and reality.

Hinsliff finds it all very reassuring, but I don’t share her enthusiasm.

Put simply, those seeking the protection of the law can’t ignore the protection it affords others. Even the vulnerable must acknowledge that others can be vulnerable too.

Crucially, that doesn’t mean women can now be sacked just for criticising self-identification or for objecting to trans women having automatic access to women’s prisons and domestic violence shelters. But what it means is objections shouldn’t be based on arguing that trans women are men really.

So we “shouldn’t” argue that Rachel McKinnon/Veronica Ivy is a man really, even though he transparently is one, and acts like one, and bullies women like one. We shouldn’t argue that even though it’s true.

The grip, it is lost.

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