Steph's Place

Do you own a steel umbrella?

At 21.54 hours on Sunday 28 February 2021, a quiet town in Gloucestershire called Winchcombe hit the headlines for an out of this world news story, literally and metaphorically. Witnesses report hearing a sonic boom and others observed a fireball streaking through the sky, and for one individual who had, luckily, just finished washing his car, a meteorite the size of a golf ball and speed of a striking bullet, smashed onto his driveway; but for a fluke of timing, he would be dead. 

From this day forth should all of us when washing our cars, do so under the safety of a steel umbrella?

Most reasonable folk deem this bizarre item to be an unnecessary purchase because being hit by a meteor is extremely rare, and a quick gallivant around the internet reveals a chance of 1 in a million at least. 

However, the odds of being killed in a car accident are an order of magnitude worse, 1 in 200 in your lifetime according to car insurance statistics. This is much scarier, but does that stop us driving? Do we write a risk assessment each time we nip to the corner shop for some beer?  Most people unconsciously decide the beer is worth the risk.

I am a gender fluid trans woman and all my life have suffered from gender dysphoria, and for me this means constant anxiety.  The ravages of time and persistent negative feelings have taken a toll on my life in general and mental health in particular. The anxiety became unbearable and suicidal thoughts were predominant and I knew that if I did not seek help, I was heading to the edge of death and had to attenuate the mental momentum that was driving me inexorably over the edge.

So, in 2016 and after a year of psycho-analysis at a gender identity clinic, I was formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and was advised that to optimise my good mental health I should forthwith present my gender 100% as a stereotypical woman. 

But if I had followed this advice, I would have lost my partner and home, and the resulting domestic, financial and social upheaval would have caused levels of anxiety of the same order of magnitude as gender dysphoria.

To manage the competing sources of anxiety, I now live half my week presenting as a woman, and the other half as my wife’s husband. It’s not ideal for both of us, but it is tolerable and my wife says we are both “halfway happy”; but this also means “halfway sad”.

That I am on a journey of gender transition, albeit temporarily stopping at a station called “gender fluid”, means that under Equality Act 2010, I am in the process of gender reassignment and legally protected by the Act, as confirmed by the case of Taylor V Jaguar Land Rover (2020). Also, under the Human Rights Act Article 8, I have a right to “look and dress” as I please, and develop my own personal identity, which for me is self-identifying as a stereotypical woman and use of the word woman.

This means that I must be treated as such in places where the Act applies, and I am pleased to say that within my local community (shops, pubs, cafes, public transport etc) I am overwhelmingly treated like any other woman. I am managing my gender dysphoria responsibly and leading a healthy lifestyle, and as we have all learned from the Global Pandemic, people who stay healthy, stay out of hospital, and therefore protect the NHS and save lives.

But like the meteorite there are people who appear to come from another planet and don’t understand this simple logic. They call themselves “gender critical” and claim to speak for women, but provide no evidence they speak for anyone but a small cohort of bigots (I toyed with the use of this contentious word, but when you get to the end of the article, you will see that it is apt); they are mostly to be found on social media because their views are too abhorrent for anywhere but digital cyberspace, and summed up by a judge to one of them, Maya Forstater, as “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.

They can’t refute or prevent my self-identifying as woman, so they generate a new argument: how can they tell a genuine trans woman like me, from a male sex predator dressing up as a woman to gain access to female spaces?

With the exception of prisons, there is no evidence that cis-gender males dress as women and undertake this predatory activity, and the only reason why this occurs in prisons is a lack of training by staff in determining a genuine trans woman from a highly manipulative and determined sex offender.

I volunteer as a facilitator for a transgender support group in a prison that only houses sex offenders and if anyone can judge if they are really suffering from gender dysphoria or just pretending, it’s a trans person like me; lived experience counts for everything.

Even the most knowledgeable and educated of gender critical people cannot produce any evidence of a risk to women from self-identifying trans women.  At a recent Women and Equalities Select Committee hearing on the Gender Recognition Act (see transcript from Wed 9th Dec 2020), Professors Alice Sullivan, Rosa Freedman and Kathleen Stock, all so-called “gender critical” expert feminists, could not produce one solitary professional peer-reviewed academic study to back their claims that people like me are a threat to women.

They were asked by MP Nicola Richards the question “……about predatory males and how the same statistics of abuse on women carry over from males to trans women. Do you have any statistics that you can give us to prove that?”

The only attempt at producing a study that was remotely academic was by Freedman, who made reference to a Swedish study [2011 study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden] showing the level of violence of some trans women equated that of normal male pattern violence, but she neatly forgot to mention that the author, Dr Cecilia Dhejne, was extremely frustrated that “other professors”[1] were making “ridiculous claims” and quoting her work out of context. 

The context was that due to rejection from society, many trans women are forced into a life of squalor, sex work and drugs, and to live in the gutter.  No wonder they resorted to violence; self-preservation was at stake.

In the absence of any academic or scientific studies to prove their hypothesis, gender critical people resort to cut and pasting articles from newspapers that are owned and edited by their gender critical friends; articles full of mistruths, exaggeration, and most importantly, no statistical analysis.

Statistical analysis is fundamental to understanding levels of risk that we all face every minute of every day of our lives, and when the measured risk is too high, we take action to remove, mitigate or avoid the risk.  At a personal level, we undertake unconscious risk analyses and make appropriate decisions without the benefit of statistics, sometimes at our peril, like crossing the road, walking down a dark alleyway, eating in a dodgy restaurant.  On other occasions, like driving a car or flying in an aeroplane, we judge that these means of transport were designed and manufactured by people we trust and who have statistically analysed the risks on our behalf to conclude they are extremely low.

The Global Pandemic has brought out the statistical analysists in all of us.  Every news story now contains the mandatory numerical data of the incidence and prevalence of infection, the statistical comparisons of one town or country versus another, the vaccination rate, the death rate.  We all analyse these figures to determine our level of risk of catching the virus as we go about our daily lives, at work, shopping, socialising, going to the doctor or dentist.

As a society we take the precaution that if there is a risk worth measuring, we measure it.

That’s how it works.  If the Government perceives a risk, it commissions an academic body like a university to do some research, analyse and measure the risk, write a report. The same for private and public industry, spending huge sums assessing potential risks to their bottom line. 

If there is no perceived risk, no studies are undertaken.  Why bother?

And that is precisely why there are no academic studies analysing the risk to women of self-identifying trans women; there is no evidence that such studies are needed, just a few anecdotes that have been sensationalised and blown out of proportion by anti-trans news outlets.

That’s why, when the Women and Equality Select Committee hearing asked Professors Sullivan, Freedman and Stock for statistical evidence, all three of them were caught with their gender critical knickers down.  Nicola Richards called them out when she said “Would you accept, however, that to make the assumption that these are predatory males and predatory trans women, has quite a damaging effect without robust data, as you have pointed to without the stats?”

And that was that, the sum total of their combined academic statistical analysis of the threat of violence to women from self-identifying trans women was……….diddly-squat!

If these three pathetic excuses for academics are that worried about the threat of violence by self-identifying trans women based on non-existent statistical analysis and no evidence such a risk exists, then perhaps they should take this risk averse attitude to all aspects of their lives.

Rosa, Kathleen and Alice, take my advice.

Do not drive a car anymore, there is a risk you will crash and burn.

Do not go into restaurants, there is a that risk food poisoning will implode your bowels and strike you down.

Definitely, definitely, avoid anything that pretends to defy gravity, like an aeroplane; it’s not the falling that hurts but the sudden stop at the bottom.

And if you really think that you are at risk of violence from a self-identifying trans woman, take my advice and wear a steel chastity belt, you can get them as a matching set with your steel umbrella.

Julie Miller


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