I was never a huge fan of Self-ID. The Labour Party accepts it within the party - often with the slogan, 'Trans Women are Women', something else I personally, (I emphasise personally) am not entirely comfortable with.
I much prefer to call myself 'trans' a 'trans woman'
Yes, my gender, (my personal belief to my rightful sex), is that of a woman for sure, but I am equally, sadly aware that I could not give birth. People find it hard to believe, but not being a 'mum' is something I still find very distressing to this day.
My concern for Self-ID was real. I imagined if my one of my daughters were in jail, would they want to share a prison cell with a trans woman? And the obvious answer is probably not, especially if she did not have surgery. Now I hasten to add that I have not any anticipation that any of them are off to prison - but just supposing. I wrongly assumed that a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) was a passport to access everything feminine.
It is not.
But then I learnt more. Self-ID is not a case of going in front of a judge and saying "I am a woman", get a GRC, and off she goes. What it means is the applicant must make a sworn statement to live like a woman and if she dont - oh she is in the pooh - it is perjury with a potential jail term of two years.
And if the applicant (a trans woman, for example) commits a crime with a GRC and is not living as a woman, the punishment is likely even more severe. Being trans in prison is not recommended. On average, a trans woman gets sexually assaulted in a men's jail once every thirty-three days.
Newspapers dont report that - do they?
Latest figures suggest 91% of trans women in jails (there are only 130 of them), are in men's prisons. There are answers to this issue and others, and I will get to them at the end of this blog.
A GRC does just one thing - change a birth certificate to the sex the applicant identifies, and currently, there are just two options - male or female.
It is a human right and has been since 2004 when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) quite rightly pointed out to the UK that we were out of step with Europe. We can LEGALLY change sex. But if there were a third option - what then?
The UK did just the bare minimum required to satisfy the ECJ, making it very difficult to obtain a GRC. So much so that on average, only one person applies every day. And even then about 12% of applications are rejected. Apply the Spousal Veto, and then up to one-quarter of applications are not finally authorised.
A common misconception is that a GRC will automatically mean that a trans woman (for example) can play women's sports and get access to single-sex spaces. This is not true as there are conditions in the Equality Act 2010, allowing service providers to refuse entry - in short, legally discriminate.
The key is how an applicant "presents" and the service provider (such as a refuge) can then accept or deny the applicant as they believe appropriate. They do need to make the right choice, though - if they cant justify their decision, the Equality Act gives the right to the applicant to take legal action for sex discrimination.
The same applies to sports; it is legal to refuse a trans woman with a GRC if the club or sports body believes it is unfair or dangerous - get it wrong though, and they can be sued. Recently there was a case in Portsmouth (Hampshire UK) where a trans woman was refused access to play bowls with a women's team. The legal point is obvious - this is almost certainly sex discrimination.
There is no advantage in a trans woman playing bowls with other women.
Rugby, on the other hand, could well (and quite rightly) want to look at the situation much closer. Rugby can't permit a six-feet ten-inch trans woman possibly not even on hormones, flying into a five-foot-nothing woman. Some sports for sure must look at trans participants on a case by case basis - that is only fair to other participants, but fair means fair.
So let's look at it another way.
The Gender Recognition Act does not work; it needs reform.
But the Equality Act - the one that protects single-sex or 'safe' spaces, (not just for women but for trans, gender-free & men) works very well. In fact, in the ten years, the Equality Act has been on the statute books, there has never been a legal case of a trans woman taking legal action for sex discrimination. Nor am I aware of many incidents inside UK sport or a refuge that has not been dealt with reasonably successfully.
Service providers can't just remove someone as they wish. They have to show that it is a 'proportionate means to a legitimate aim' and there is no less restrictive option.
Part of the answer to all the arguments is for the UK government to recognise the third sex. "Non-binary," "Inter," possibly "Trans" - call it what you will. The 'third sex' just like the Hijra in southern Asia, (see link below). Indeed, The Women & Equalities Committee called for this back in 2016. The need not to identify to either male or female if a person believes that is right for them.
It is the middle path which some, perhaps many people (especially the intersex folks) crave. An "X" on the passport and birth certificate and a few "X" single-sex spaces too. Just what is the problem with this? Men and women are different - we accept two genders/sexes - what is so hard in excepting "unisex" as well?
People could express themselves; however, they want but those who are not comfortable with male or female would then feel safe in the knowledge they will always have a "Unisex" home. Currently, intersex people do not have a home.
The "Unisex" home will not solve everything, but I do feel it would solve some of the problems for those who wish not to identify to male or female. In fact "Unisex" is already with us in toilets, clothes and even the odd hospital with a unisex ward's - the middle way.
All the time with have binary thinking, though - the problems will not go away. Three official sexes please! - even if one is not biologically true.
In the meantime, Bowling Clubs beware.