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Harriet Harman webchat - her responses to the self-identification question

(38 Posts)
CaroleService Mon 20-Feb-17 14:42:01

One response so far. But it very much depends on what her definition of 'women' is.

CaroleService Mon 20-Feb-17 14:47:48

"Self-identification should not be absolute in cases of individuals where it's not appropriate. The point is to identify a process which goes with the spirit of self-identification but is proof against those who would abuse it, like a self-certification process but one which allows for an appeal against it."

How does that actually help? Suppose a persistent sex offender decides to 'identify' as a woman, enters a women's change room and assaults, say, a young teen female? Even if they are identified, arrested, charged and convicted, what is to stop them doing it again after serving whatever piddling little sentence is handed out? Is there going to be a guard at the door of every women's bathroom looking out for them?

DonkeySkin Mon 20-Feb-17 15:01:16

Yes, CaroleService.

Many posters were effusively thanking Harmon for engaging on the issue and 'recognising the problems with self-identification', but if you read her answer closely she actually re-affirmed a commitment to self-ID gender identity legislation.

It means nothing to say that you want to 'balance the needs of trans people and women', if 'women' is going to include men who say they 'feel like' women. The meat of Harmon's answer was this:

Self-identification should not be absolute in cases of individuals where it's not appropriate. The point is to identify a process which goes with the spirit of self-identification but is proof against those who would abuse it, like a self-certification process but one which allows for an appeal against it.

So it sounds like she is for introducing a clause in the legislation that allows the government to refuse gender ID change in extreme cases like Ian Huntley, but still abolishes 'sex' as a legal category. This will help the government by allowing them to put a stop to gender ID changes of high-profile inmates like serial killers, which might embarrass politicians and cause the public to question the wisdom of this legislation, without mitigating at all every other predictably disastrous consequence of this move for women.

DonkeySkin Mon 20-Feb-17 15:04:45

Sorry, Harman. I'm not British so she's not well known to me. But I am watching very closely the advance of legislation that abolishes sex-based protections for women across the world.

CaroleService Mon 20-Feb-17 15:38:44

Donkey - that was my take too.

CaroleService Mon 20-Feb-17 15:44:31

The 'answer answerless' in fact.

Datun Mon 20-Feb-17 16:01:33

If the suggestion is for self certification. Presumably that is done on a laptop and is a piece of piss. She is saying the certificate can be appealed. So if someone is caught in a crime, they can have their certificate revoked.

But since asking for proof of transgenderism is discriminatory, how the hell is that going to work? You can't ask to see the certificate!

Prawnofthepatriarchy Mon 20-Feb-17 16:33:32

I'd imagine how it would work is like this: Say a a man is reported to be hanging round inside the ladies loos or changing rooms but when the police are called he claims to be a woman. The police look him up and establish that he's, for example, a registered sex offender. This automatically disqualifies him from declaring himself a woman so the police arrest him.

It would mean, I'd guess, that anyone convicted of sex or violent crimes would not be entitled to self identify.

Trouble with all this is that, not having any idea about some random man's record, women and girls are unlikely to challenge this theoretical man in the first place for fear of being branded a bigot. Also there's the truth that female socialization deters most women and girls from forcing a confrontation. If we're scared of someone we tend to go quiet.

Plus we know that only a very small proportion of sexual assaults and rapes end up in court, let alone with a conviction. The fact that someone isn't on police records doesn't mean they don't pose a risk.

I don't think anything will be acceptable short of a simple rule that you use the facilities that correspond with your sex. That's essentially what we've always had, and transgender individuals who genuinely pass as the opposite sex have been able to break the rules. Given that the only transwomen I've ever seen who look convincing are very petite gay men that works fine. I have not yet seen a sex offender who claims to identify as a woman who doesn't look entirely male, though of course the same is true of transwomen in general.

I can't think of any way both women and the mishmash of identities that travel under the trans umbrella can get what they want. We don't want them in our spaces whereas they won't be satisfied with anything less than full validation.

BarrackerBarma Mon 20-Feb-17 17:22:37

I think Harriet is new to this and hasn't yet been through the thought process of HOW it is possible to allow two conflicting definitions of woman to exist simultaneously.

However, she definitely recognises and is distinguishing between the two groups. This means that she is not going down the path of "there is no difference and only bigots suggest otherwise".

Harriet wanting to find a way to protect both groups is good. Most of us want this. Many of us have already been where Harriet is now and subsequently gone through that thought exercise before coming to the realisation that it can't be done with two different definitions. It needs to be done another way entirely, which recognises the different characteristics and needs of the two groups and protects them accordingly.

The fact that she appears to be at the beginning of the process is encouraging to me, given that the alternative is to reject ANY differentiation between women's needs and those of transgender people.

I wish we didn't have between now and Friday to convey to her the importance of this though.

Datun Mon 20-Feb-17 18:27:21

But prawn is right. The needs of women and transwomen conflict on the basis that the one wants what the other has. And anything less will create a backlash.

Frankly I'd like to see trans-people get a legal definition of 'trans-people'. It's a protected characteristic and cannot be discriminated against. Entirely separate to the category of man and woman.

Therefore sex discrimination can still be in place and can't be automatically countered by 'men breastfeed too', for instance.

It would be much easier to stop discrimination towards trans-women, as well. They get discriminated on the basis that they are men dressed as women, not that they are women. It would really separate out the basis for discrimination and you could define different abusive acts accordingly.

BarrackerBarma Mon 20-Feb-17 18:38:56

I completely agree Datun.
I just think people take a journey to get to that conclusion.
I think they resist accepting it because of the immense pressure of "transwomen are women"

It's the only logical and fair conclusion, but one does have to resolve the conflict between treating people how they want to be treated vs treating them how it is fair to treat them - which involves saying no to them.

HelenDenver Mon 20-Feb-17 18:43:19

I agree with Barracker's take.

Aliasnumberone Mon 20-Feb-17 18:52:02

This whole self very thing is ridiculous.

Datun is right and I've said it for ages, there's needs to be a third category of gender, that of trans, trans woman and trans man. Anything else leads to a conflict of interests.

No man can ever become female, they can identify as whatever they want but legally trans woman protects them and protects woman. I just cannot wrap my head around why this is so ducking difficult for people to grasp.

Women do not want to let biologically male people into their sex segregated spaces, which is perfectly acceptable and arguing that sex is a social construct and their penises can be female is total twaddle and gaslighting bullshit.

TRAs are expecting WOMEN to put their own oppression and safety concerns aside for them and crying about the high suicide stats and murder rates, do you know I genuinely believe that if trans folk were more open and honest about their trans status then the violence and abuse stats would start to fall. Homophobic men being duped into close sexual encounters by transwomen when they discover a faux vagina or ladydick are going to respond with violence. That's not ok, never will be, we've been advocating against male violence as a movement for decades, but how about instead of asking for us to enable their delusions and perpetuate this cycle we all just say nope, here are some trans folk and aren't they lovely just the way they are no matter what they wear or what hormones they take or what surgery they have. Acceptance not more layers of deception and lies

YetAnotherSpartacus Mon 20-Feb-17 19:33:01

Sounds to be like a typical politician's non-response. Very sad, but not unexpected.

CharlieSierra Mon 20-Feb-17 19:44:26

Totally agree, it was a politicians answer. I think like Datun that the only way to do this is with a separate category of trans-person. They need rights and protection, give them rights and protection, but not at the expense of another oppressed group.

PencilsInSpace Mon 20-Feb-17 20:13:45

I agree with Barracker, I think Harriet is at the start of the process of thinking through the consequences of changing the law. It didn't seem like a politician's non-response to me, there was an acknowledgement that women's spaces are important, which is more than we've had so far!

It won't work though, as AskBasil said on the thread here, if you genuinely believe that a man is a woman because he says he is (which is basically what the select committee's position is), then you cannot pick and choose which men you believe; you have to believe all of them, not just the ones you like.

Poppyred85 Mon 20-Feb-17 20:25:21

I'm quite new to this so happy to be corrected but it seems to me that it's transwomen who are pushing for this rather than transmen. I've read a number of reports where the plan was to accommodate trans people by making, for example, toilets single occupancy and therefore as only one person at a time could use it, it was open to everyone but that this has been opposed by transactivists as transphobic and I'm having real difficulty with this. While I can see the similarity in the argument with, say same sex marriage (the why should gay couples only be allowed civil partnerships instead of full marriage?) I feel suspicious of why a vocal group of transwomen are so adamant that they must be allowed into women's spaces. I don't believe it's so that they can abuse women/girls and actually my concern on this is not that transwomen will but that male sex offenders will use the legislation to claim they are transwomen to access these spaces but I really don't get why the need to be so insistent on this.

dorade Mon 20-Feb-17 20:57:06

MNHQ. Please could you forward a link for this thread to Harriet. She kindly answered my question but, like many other posters, I feel that she has not thought this through. Given the crucial timing with the debate on Friday, it would be fab if its possible for you to do this.

Datun Mon 20-Feb-17 21:05:58


I don't believe it's so that they can abuse women/girls

I don't think it's necessarily abuse in the way that you are thinking of it.

Autogynephilia is a cross-dressing fetish. The person who has it is aroused by the idea of themselves as a woman. Hence those who go for hyper sexualised clothing and get a kinky kick out of all the female accoutrements. Because it is sex based and because it's the biology of women they want to possess, being in women's private spaces, particularly, is the goal. More than say joining a women's knitting circle.

It's very bizarre in that they actually want to become the object of their own desire. Almost more than desiring other women. (A common theme on trans threads is imagining themselves being penetrated as a woman, even whilst remaining attracted to women. Hence male lesbian).

So yes, having access to women's personal space is a massive turn on. It's not so much that they will jump on you (any more than any other man), but they will be getting off on you using lipstick, operating a Tampax machine, urinating. All that.

Separate toilets are useless for that kind of fetish. And every time someone suggests at school, in institutions and shops the transactivists go mad. It's partly validation, yes but it's also because of the kink.

Frankly if a man is demanding access to women and children, and is not content with just a place to pee, my first question would be why? The very insistence should raise red flags everywhere.

They never campaign for their own rights, their own spaces. Only those of women.

Prawnofthepatriarchy Mon 20-Feb-17 21:07:17

There are two reasons transwomen want access to ladies loos, changing rooms etc. The first is validation, that they feel sharing women's spaces proves they are really women. The second, which is far darker, is that the majority of transwomen have AGP, meaning they are aroused by the idea of themselves as women. They are excited by breaking boundaries in various ways, including for example listening to women use the toilet.

The majority of transwomen are not criminals but the things they find arousing can be pretty creepy. These include collecting used sanpro, "accidentally" exposing themselves, starting conversations with strangers (they seem to think women are always enjoying "girl talk" in the loo) or just masturbating either in cubicles or over women's clothing they try on in shops. Basically, they find sharing our spaces sexy.

MaryTheCanary Tue 21-Feb-17 03:05:39

My understanding is that in Western countries like the UK, around 60% or so of transwomen are AGP.

The other 40% (roughly) are "androphilic," meaning attracted to men. They appear to come from the same "pool" as gay men, or are a point along the same spectrum of sexual desire. I don't feel at all threatened by this group and don't care so much about their being in female spaces, but then, this is not the group that tends to be affected by bathroom laws, since these transwomen tend to "pass" as women very easily and have always used female spaces without being challenged (or at least, very rarely challenged).

The problem with the laws coming in is that it will give carte blanche to AGP transwomen, and the part-time cross-dressers who are part of the same group as AGP transwomen. Not to mention, any "regular" heterosexual man who is not any kind of transgender anything but is simply a horrid abusive person, will be able to take advantage of these laws to enter female spaces--and it may be legally very difficult to get rid of them.

MaryTheCanary Tue 21-Feb-17 03:07:22

Agree with Datun, separate category is probably the best way to go.

Datun Tue 21-Feb-17 07:48:08


I don't know if you know this, but the transgender equality report didn't even mention AGP, much less address it. In all it's 98 pages.

I asked my MP why the omission and she forwarded me a reply from Caroline Dinenage who stated that the existence of autogynephilia was controversial.

I've sent back a letter with a link to numerous sites devoted to it.

How they can defend that something like this is controversial is beyond belief.

MaryTheCanary Tue 21-Feb-17 12:39:14

Yeah, they hate the AGP concept alright.

You know what, though? I can see how putting AGP transwomen and, shall we say, "feminine-presenting" androphilic transwomen in the same spaces (prison cells, hospital wards) could potentially create problems as well.

Androphilic transwomen who transitioned young often pass very well indeed, and I can easily see that they would be "attractive" to an AGP transwoman who has the sexuality of a heterosexual man.

While I have no doubt that the majority of AGP transwomen (just like the majority of het men) would not rape or commit sexual assault, my concern is that mixing the two types of transwomen together in intimate spaces could potentially create similar issues to mixing het men and women together.... if you see what I mean.

It seems to me that honestly discussing the medical reality of transgenderism (particularly the fact that there appear to be two types of transwoman) is essential not only for keeping women safe, but for keeping the more vulnerable types of transwomen safe as well.

Datun Tue 21-Feb-17 12:48:47

Androphilic transwomen who transitioned young often pass very well indeed, and I can easily see that they would be "attractive" to an AGP transwoman who has the sexuality of a heterosexual man.

I've never seen anything written about this before. Are you saying they would be attracted to them until they found out that they weren't real women?

Presumably the attraction wouldn't be returned?

I need to think about this one.

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