In exceptional circumstances

Even people who aren’t 100% “trans women are the most oppressed ever and you have to give them whatever they demand” are still desperately cautious about how much they’ll let women keep. Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian for instance:

When Nandy told a recent hustings that “trans women are women” there were whoops of delight. But ask around for women feeling alienated from Labour over this issue and they’re easily found.

Some are survivors of domestic violence who resent being told to “educate yourself”. Others are bewildered that decades of loyally knocking on doors seemingly hasn’t earned them the right to be heard. They long to hear someone defend what is still Labour’s official policy: promoting trans equality but defending powers in equality law that let organisations exclude trans women from all-female spaces in exceptional circumstances.

In exceptional circumstances? Women’s organizations should be required to include men (who say they are women) unless the circumstances are exceptional? We can’t just have women’s organizations as a matter of routine, because women need to organize and we have a right to organize as women? Being able to say men aren’t invited isn’t allowed unless we have a damn good reason, with other people deciding what “damn good” means?

That’s like saying labor unions have to include bosses in ordinary circumstances. It’s like saying LG organizations have to include straight people unless they have a damn good reason not to. It’s like saying women don’t have a right to organize, basically.

Yet it’s still not too late to find common ground. No compassionate human being should want a woman who has been raped or brutalised to feel traumatised all over again by sharing counselling or refuge services with someone they perceive as a threat. Even a person who poses no danger whatsoever can inadvertently frighten a traumatised person, if something about them – a sound, a scent, a habit – triggers flashbacks. But nobody should want trans people to feel unsafe or cast out, and barring a trans woman from women’s services seems the cruellest of personal repudiations.

No, it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. I can think of much crueller ones. It seems at most disappointing for men who want to be accepted as women. Women need women’s services in a way that men don’t, even men who say they are women. Being a man who thinks of himself as a woman is not the same kind of thing as being a woman, and all this pressure to pretend it is is just more oppression and I’m sick of it.

Some refuges have now accepted trans women (excellent risk assessment helps, and careful laying out of accommodation). Some schools absorb gender-questioning pupils without fuss; teens queue happily for mixed Topshop changing rooms; and with time, maybe we’ll wonder why unisex loos were ever an issue.

Because by then men will have stopped raping and molesting and spying on women? Hahaha that’s funny, of course not. So why then? No reason, just a pious hope that ignores the reality of being (not pretending to be) a woman.

10 Responses to “In exceptional circumstances”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting