Still arguing about transgender

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A new transgender drama called Butterfly is starting on ITV. As debate continues about transgender issues, these are some further arguments I have heard made against giving equal rights to transgender people.


‘People are too politically correct. No-one can challenge transgender issues without being criticised.’ Ordinarily this amounts to little more than hypocrisy. It is usually an assertion that people should be able to be critical of transgender issues without being criticised back. Yet freedom of speech works both ways. And if the defence of transgender equality comes across as persistent and vociferous, is it any wonder when their very identity is being denied.


‘How can it make sense that a trans-person might merely self-declare themselves a woman?’ This seems to ignore the fact that cis-gendered women feel able to call themselves women without the permission of a doctor or a psychologist. And to reply, of course they don’t need permission, they are women, takes matters no further forward, since a trans-woman could say exactly the same thing.


Indeed, there is no persuasive reason to give moral priority, in the identification of gender, to the genitals one had at birth, rather than the mind one had at birth.


‘Women would not be safe if trans-women could use the same toilets.’ The suggestion is that trans-women are sexual offenders. That is incredible, to accuse an entire demographic. Unsurprisingly, there is no evidence to support this. It is no more attractive than saying that there should be separate toilets for homosexuals or black people. The depressing truth (from the Office of National Statistics) is that the vast majority of sexual offences against women are committed by partners or ex-partners or someone who was known to them.


There is a brand of extreme feminism which would deny equal rights to transgender women. I find this astonishing. Feminists have long argued that women are denied equality with men. They are correct to argue that this state of affairs is morally wrong. So it seems hypocritical to deny equal rights to another group of women, and seek to subjugate them – which is precisely what feminists complain of for themselves.


‘Sex change treatment for very young children.’ Similar headlines persist in spreading a huge amount of misinformation about NHS medical intervention for transgender children. The truth is that no child will receive medicine before puberty. Once puberty has started, a transgender child might receive hormone blockers. These simply suspend puberty, delaying the development of irreversible secondary sexual characteristics, thereby buying the child extra time. If the child desists in taking hormone blockers, normal biological puberty resumes. Hormone blockers are only prescribed for children after psychological and endocrinology assessments.


Cross-sex hormones allow a transgender child to go through puberty in their identified gender (so a trans-girl might develop breasts, and a trans-boy might get facial hair). These are currently only available to people aged 15 or 16 at the earliest. This is nothing unusual; it is entirely in keeping with statute and common law about a person’s ability to consent to any medical interventions. Gender alignment surgery is not usually available before the age of 18.


But there should be no need for medical intervention before a trans-person has their identity recognised. Medical intervention without genuine consent is criminal and tortious. It is invidious to require a trans-person to choose between the recognition of their identity, and their bodily integrity.


Nor should there be a requirement for medical diagnosis, like gender dysphoria. A person is only dysphoric if they cannot live in their identified gender. It is uncaring and irrational for a system to create dysphoria simply for a person to earn the right to overcome it.


We are so used to seeing the world through binary opposites: day and night, wet and dry, boy and girl. Yet the world is much more complex and rewarding than that. To insist on binary vision is merely self-limiting.

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