Equality Act 2010
October 2, 2010 1:29 PM   Subscribe

"As of today, I am no longer a woman."

On October 1 2010 the Equality Act came into force in the UK. Whilst many of the provisions in the Act provide vital protection to vulnerable members of society, provisions for enforcing equal pay were left out, and transsexual people have seen some of their recently-won rights rolled back.
posted by ArmyOfKittens (96 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
The explanatory document (PDF) gives this example regarding transsexual people:
A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:29 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


…the person to whom A applies the requirement does not meet it (or A has reasonable grounds for not being satisfied that the person meets it).

Okay, now I see they were shooting for 1970s sketch comedy. I also thought at least with all the budget cuts they'd be leaving some of the more obscure Tory agenda crap alone for a while. WTF.
posted by shinybaum at 1:45 PM on October 2, 2010


So if a clergyman suspects that you're trans, you can't get married? Am I reading that right? Because if I am, that's pretty amazingly bad. Not just for transpeople, but for everyone who doesn't fit the norm.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


It just seems peculiar to me, that a society like the UK, which I understand (although have no direct experience with it) has a pretty good policy about transsexuals and affording them the rights of their corrected gender status, would then go out of its way to suddenly decide that their corrected gender doesn't actually count for anything at all under certain circumstances. It all feels rather two-faced and hypocritical, and speaks to a fundamental flaw in their theory of transsexuals and who they are and long to be within society at large. (At least the way I understand transsexuals, which is mostly theory, but I like to think carries a lot of respect for how to interact with them.)
posted by hippybear at 1:59 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I freely admit to not knowing enough about this, and my general knee-jerk reaction is to assume that LGBT folks are getting the short end based on, well, empirical fact.

But I'm not sure about your example, ArmyOfKittens. I have to say, if biologically female victims of sexual assault would only feel comfortable without biologically male people in their support group, I think I'd have to support that. There are seperate-but-equal sounding echoes that bother me, but it seems like the important thing is for people to get the support they need. When someone is dealing with being sexually assaulted is maybe not the time to force them to face their own prejudice.

Again, it sounds likely that this law is saying a lot more than that, and going in directions I would not support. I'm just not sure about the specific example here. If the law precludes access for LGBT victims to support, I am totally opposed. But I'm frankly not sure everyone has the right to attend everyone else's support group.
posted by freebird at 2:04 PM on October 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


If the law precludes access for LGBT victims to support, I am totally opposed.

LGB people are (I believe) unaffected by this particular wrinkle, but in denying trans people access to services for sexual assault victims they are effectively doing just that; there are simply no funds for trans-specific services in a country where women's services in general are being cut back. If a trans woman has been assaulted (and trans women are at far greater risk than cis women in this regard) and is looking for support, where does she go?

As an aside, you might be surprised how many local- and national-level LGB groups don't include the T, don't campaign on behalf of trans people, and sometimes even work against us.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:17 PM on October 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fair enough, and I completely agree there is a real need to recognize the violence against trans women and support them. I was just saying that lumping everyone into support groups based on biological *or* chosen gender might not be best for everyone in these circumstances. But there definitely need to be options for all.
posted by freebird at 2:28 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


When someone is dealing with being sexually assaulted is maybe not the time to force them to face their own prejudice.

But it would be the time to force them to face the prejudice of others?
posted by Marty Marx at 2:40 PM on October 2, 2010 [15 favorites]


Huh?
posted by freebird at 2:42 PM on October 2, 2010


1. manly looking women
2. women who were reassigned at birth and therefore have the wrong birth certificate
3. women who are more like Caster Semenya than Paris Hilton
4. trans women

Women are like porn, you know one when you see one? changing a law before this needed conversation is properly had is premature and there doesn't seem to be a temporary or permanent alternative suggested. Meanwhile trans women and anyone else in a tricksy situation has to lose services.

Although this is the only article I've read and even the author isn't sure that's the right interpretation, so we'll see.
posted by shinybaum at 2:43 PM on October 2, 2010


freebird, what I think Marty Marx is saying -- MM, please do correct me if I'm wrong -- is that when you restrict group counseling to cis women who have suffered sexual assault, and then deny access to that group counseling to trans women who have also suffered sexual assaul, then you are forcing trans women to face the prejudice of cis women.

In other words, it appears that you're saying this:

"When [a cis woman] is dealing with being sexually assaulted is maybe not the time to force [her] to face [her] own prejudice [against trans people],"

while Marty Marx is saying this:

"When [a trans woman] is dealing with being sexually assaulted is maybe not the time to force [her] to face [the prejudice of cis women]."
posted by bakerina at 2:55 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


freebird, I think that Marty Marx is pointing that a trans woman who is seeking support after being sexually assaulted and is then told that she is not welcome in a support group because she is transsexual is being forced to contend with transphobia on top of everything else.
posted by overglow at 2:58 PM on October 2, 2010


oops, should have previewed
posted by overglow at 3:00 PM on October 2, 2010


Freebird: I take you to argue that it might be okay to segregate cisgendered and transwomen in sexual assault group counseling sessions because some cisgendered women are transphobic and, even though transphobia is wrong, sexual assault group counseling is the wrong time and place to force cisgendered women to confront their prejudices.

That's plausible, but the move doesn't come for free. The transwomen are no less the victims of sexual assault. Segregating them into a separate group because some cisgendered women might be prejudiced forces the prejudices of those cisgendered women onto them.

Somebody is going to be uncomfortable however the group is composed, and I suspect that however difficult it is to confront one's own prejudices in such circumstances, it is even harder to be the victim of those prejudices. So however bad the time and place is for cisgendered women to see transwomen, it's an even worse time and place to tell the transwomen they can't be seen.
posted by Marty Marx at 3:04 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I should have previewed too. Bakerina and overglow have it right. I should add that this doesn't mean prejudiced cisgendered women shouldn't have access to therapy for sexual assault, just that they'd need individual therapy rather than group. Ideally, that'd help them deal with their transphobia, too.
posted by Marty Marx at 3:07 PM on October 2, 2010


Then shouldn't male victims of rape also be allowed in the support groups? This is not that simple. The exclusion isn't necessarily about transphobia but about exclusion of the gender that has attacked you. This would presumably mean that FTM would be OK in the support groups (since they originated as female) but not MTF because they might still have remnants of male privilege.
posted by Maias at 3:24 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I previewed, and I guess my position is somewhat contentious. It is this: if a group of cis women who have been sexually victimized by a male would not be comfortable with someone biologically male showing up for their support group, it's better for everyone to not force the issue.

I think there needs to be support for trans victims, and I think every effort should be made to bridge that gap because I think there is a tremendous potential for healing and growth there. But if a bunch of cis women simply cannot get past the fact that there is someone they can only perceive as "male" sitting in a group of victims of "male" violence, and that interferes with them getting past what happened to them, I think they should be given space to deal with the assault first. And trans women should be given access to support free of prejudice among people who will not be trying to fit them to a mold they left behind long before.
posted by freebird at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


So however bad the time and place is for cisgendered women to see transwomen, it's an even worse time and place to tell the transwomen they can't be seen.

A thousand times over.

A transwoman is not a "biological male." She is not someone who is likely to be the assault-er in a sexual assault situation. She is not the person who assaulted any of the cisgendered women in the group. She is not the enemy. She is a victim every bit as much as they are and to further victimize her by denying her access to help is flat out cruel.

A transwoman is not male. Lather, rinse, repeat. If you can't wrap your head around that, you need to confront your own transphobia.
posted by sonika at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2010 [32 favorites]


Does this law ban group therapy for transwomen, or carve out an exception to a ban on discriminating against transwomen in that limited circumstance, in the event someone else in the group doesn't want men born women in the group?

Cause I would imagine that the latter situation would not come up that often.
posted by msalt at 3:30 PM on October 2, 2010


in the event someone else in the group doesn't want men born women in the group?

Cause I would imagine that the latter situation would not come up that often.


You'd be surprised. I know transmen who have been the victim of male-initiated sexual assault. And I also imagine that they would not be comfortable in a "women's" support group as they don't identify as women.

The parts down below do not dictate the identity of the person. Period.
posted by sonika at 3:32 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is group counselling for sexual assault more effective than one-on-one counselling, or is its use primarily a cost-saving measure?
posted by Leon at 3:33 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"But if a bunch of cis women simply cannot get past the fact that there is someone they can only perceive as "male" sitting in a group of victims of "male" violence, and that interferes with them getting past what happened to them, I think they should be given space in individual therapy sessions that does not reenact discrimination against transwomen to deal with the assault first."

What's wrong with what I've added as a solution? I mean, surely you wouldn't suggest that if one of the cisgendered women in the group was also anti-semitic that there should be a restricted group, or if she were also disgusted by the physically disabled that there should be an able-bodied-only group.
posted by Marty Marx at 3:33 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Trans people as a group, in situations like this, seem to attract perfect world arguments. In a perfect world, there would be a support group for cis women and a support group for trans women*; but trans and cis people have to live together in this one, and we all have to compromise.

Cis women having access to a service and trans women not** is not compromise.

*Perhaps; often the assault of trans women is explicitly connected to their trans status and being shut out of the "real women only!" group is going to be a second kick in an already raw wound.

**Because that's the upshot of exclusion, out here in the real world.

posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:39 PM on October 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


In a women's refuge, women of all backgrounds have been assaulted in all sorts of ways and you get the odd racist/homophobic/classist woman like you do anywhere else in life. You deal with it, but you don't deal with it by kicking the less appealing (to them) women out of the session. The difference with this is that it's generally (to whatever extent) agreed upon that racism and such is wrong, but too many women's groups haven't yet agreed that trans women are women. Normally in a situation that did discriminate in whichever way, you'd have the law to back you up.

It could be argued that women who have been assaulted by men have more right to be sensitive, but then you'd have to agree that trans women aren't 'really' women after all, at least only in certain circumstances whereby they aren't offending anyone, and if they do then they're men. That makes a mockery of all the other legal shit where we pretend to pretend they're actual women.
posted by shinybaum at 3:45 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, let's just say that a group of white cis women are together for therapy and some of them have been assaulted by black men. If a black cis woman wants to join the group, is it ok to deny her because that might (or would) make the white cis victims uncomfortable, being reminded of the blackness of their attacker/s?

I didn't think so.

A woman who might have male 'traits' is still a woman. And an assault victim, however that person came to be assaulted, is still a victim. Much is made of the re-victimization process inherent in court proceedings for sexual assault. And now we're heaping the blame game into therapy?* Let's not allow trans people to be tacitly (or openly) blamed for the actions of other people born with penises (penii?)

*I'm straight, feminine-enough, cis woman. I've been blamed for my own sexual assault, and, because I didn't call the cops, for the theoretical assaults of others. I believe the blame belongs with people who can't keep the hands/dicks/objects of choice to themselves.
posted by bilabial at 3:46 PM on October 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


And I also imagine that they would not be comfortable in a "women's" support group as they don't identify as women.

To say the least. It is horribly awkward enough to have to share an OBGYN waiting room twice a year.
posted by Wossname at 3:47 PM on October 2, 2010


Metafilter: transphobe defends transphobia and the community shake their clue sticks.
posted by mistersquid at 3:49 PM on October 2, 2010


I am a bit confused. Why does the link say as of today I am not a woman if she considers her prime identity to be trans?
posted by A189Nut at 3:49 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


If accurate this deserves sympathy and action. I cannot imagine how hurtful it must be to find yourself barred from a place where you go for support.

The comments raise an interesting question. To what extent is there an obligation to respect another persons identity when this conflicts with your own identity/need for security? Changing social norms is a constant struggle. I wish all affected strength.
posted by eeeeeez at 3:52 PM on October 2, 2010


The exclusion isn't necessarily about transphobia but about exclusion of the gender that has attacked you.

No. As sonika pointed out above, trans women are not men simply because they were designated male at birth, based on genital characteristics. Nor are trans men women simply because they were designated female at birth on the same basis. Gender identity is more than a matter of the genitalia you had at birth. Gender identity is also chromosomal and neurological -- that is, the innate, "subconscious" sense of male/female/both/neither that you recognize as yours. (The writer and biologist Julia Serano calls this "subconscious sex.") Cis people often are not aware of the idea of subconscious sex, because their innate sense of self is consistent with their external sex characteristics. Trans people, on the other hand, are constantly aware of their external sex characteristics being at odds with their subconscious sex -- with their own innate knowledge of who they are and what their own gender identity is.

So no, if the group therapy is specifically confined to women (it would be a different matter if the group welcomed both female and male rape victims), trans men (FtM) should not be allowed to participate in the group, but trans women (MtF) should be. Unfortunately, in situations like these, gender essentialism rears its ugly head, and someone decides that trans men are okay because they're really women fighting against traditional sexist gender roles, but trans women are not okay because they were raised with "male privilege." It happened at the Vancouver Women's Health Collective, and it happens every year at Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.
posted by bakerina at 3:53 PM on October 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


A transwoman is not a "biological male." She is not someone who is likely to be the assault-er in a sexual assault situation. She is not the person who assaulted any of the cisgendered women in the group. She is not the enemy. She is a victim every bit as much as they are and to further victimize her by denying her access to help is flat out cruel.

A transwoman is not male. Lather, rinse, repeat. If you can't wrap your head around that, you need to confront your own transphobia.


Ok, that's your perception. But if a woman with a different, less enlightened, perception is the victim of sexual assault, and perceives a trans-woman as male, do we want to make her "confront her transphobia" when she's trying to deal with her rape?

I think in this case, trying to give the victim of sexual assault a place where she can feel safe is more important than forcing her to confront her prejudices.
posted by orthogonality at 3:54 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


It does seem to boil down to a basic idea that transwomen somehow are not women, regardless of how far along their reassignment process they are. If they've gotten to the point where the UK government has given them, what were they called, a Gender Recognition Certificate (which I assume is an official government document stating that the bearer should be treated according to the gender presented), then to suddenly decide that they ARE NOT REALLY THE GENDER THAT EVEN THE GOVERNMENT RECOGNIZES THEM AS BEING...

...that's just plain discrimination. And an ugly form of it, too. One which actually may undo a lot of the psychological work which the transwoman has done as part of her reassignment process. There's nothing worse than finally achieving something, and then being told it doesn't really count. Even more so in matters such as these, I am certain.
posted by hippybear at 3:56 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


trying to give the victim of sexual assault a place where she can feel safe is more important than forcing her to confront her prejudices.

Then why isn't it at least as important not to force transwomen to confront discrimination when seeking a place they can feel safe? And why can't the transphobe's safe place be a one-on-one session with a counselor? Nothing about this requires segregating transwomen, any more than it would require segregating Jewish people, disabled people, black people, or any of the other groups in the scenarios above.
posted by Marty Marx at 3:59 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


if she were also disgusted by the physically disabled that there should be an able-bodied-only group.

The difference is that she is statistically much less likely to have been assaulted by someone physically disabled, in your somewhat concerning metaphor.

I have my own biases, I'll admit. I find sexual abuse of "females" of all varieties so horrible and wrong that I guess I'm willing to consider it a "trump card". If someone has been victimized that way, I'm pretty much ready to give them a pass on their other issues if they need it. And I don't see how subjecting trans women to a support group full of women who don't want them there is the best way to help them.

It's complicated, of course. If ArmyOfKittens is right and it's a choice between forcing the admission of trans women into groups that "aren't comfortable" with them and not giving them support at all, I'd of course choose giving them support. And it is certainly true that sometime the encounters people need to be forced into are the most healing of all.

OP: does "tranphobe defends transphobia" refer to my comments? If so, OK we're basically done I guess. You're so comically and nastily far off base in your rush to judge I don't think it's worth pursuing.
posted by freebird at 3:59 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am a bit confused. Why does the link say as of today I am not a woman if she considers her prime identity to be trans?

While I cannot speak for the author of the article, it is not unusual for a trans person, even living stealth* to be perfectly ok with acknowledging they are trans, have unique medical and social issues, and lived a significant portion of their life socialized as the other gender. Not everyone burns their old photos and stops talking about their childhood.

As an FTM, aside from my different health needs, I live a life pretty typical of a cis-male and only close friends and family (and some online forums) know I am trans. But I cannot have a day pass where I am reminded I am not 100% biologically male. When I have to use the bathroom, there's a reminder. When I hear a woman talk about being discriminated against solely due to her sex, there's a reminder. I will never be able to "forget" I am trans, and that's OK. It is still part of my identity, biologically and socially.

I think to not identify in some way is unhealthy. I think most trans people identify as trans, but to different degrees. You have those who treat it akin to being a cancer survivor. And others are like someone who is bi-racial and embraces both their ethnicities. In both cases, it's still a very large part of their lives.

I personally try not to let being trans define my life. But other people sure as hell will try.

* Where they generally don't disclose to anyone they are trans.
posted by Wossname at 4:06 PM on October 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Orthogonality, if a cis woman victim is racist bigot, do we make her confront her racist bigoted attitudes in group therapy if a black cis woman victim is in the group?

No. The racist bigot is free to unjoin and find therapy elsewhere. But the black victim is still in the group. (oh progress, we have so far to go still.) and as far as I know, there aren't any 'black only' or 'white only' therapy groups.

There is a shortage of therapy options for all victims. I get that. But why is it ok to categorically deny an entire group help because they have something in common with a sex offender? As a cis woman assault survivor, I have to point out that therapy is about doing work. It is not rainbows and Popsicles on those rooms. Therapy for me is/was hard, no two ways about it.
posted by bilabial at 4:11 PM on October 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


I find sexual abuse of "females" of all varieties so horrible and wrong that I guess I'm willing to consider it a "trump card"

I'm trying to parse why you put "females" in quotes here. I'm also trying to understand if you mean to say that the sexual abuse of males (or people who don't fit into the binary gender system) is somehow less horrifying, or if you've just neglected to mention them. Because I think it's super important to acknowledge that people of all genders experience sexual violence, and that it's always horrible and wrong.
posted by overglow at 4:14 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I find sexual abuse of "females" of all varieties so horrible and wrong that I guess I'm willing to consider it a "trump card". If someone has been victimized that way, I'm pretty much ready to give them a pass on their other issues if they need it.

No, you don't; no you're not.

You're only applying this trump card in favor of cisgendered women. In the case of transwomen who are victims of sexual assault, you support segregating them with the idea that it would be better for them to be segregated whether they like it or not.

Well, if we're going down that road wouldn't it be better for transphobic cisgendered women to confront their prejudices whether they like it or not? Wouldn't forcing that unpleasant experience at least be just?

I don't think sexual assault groups are the place to teach people Important Lessons, but I don't think they're places to teach people how much cisgendered folks despise them, either. If you forced me to choose, I'd rather people learn Important Lessons, but as I've said (perhaps too many times by now) one-on-one sessions for transphobic cisgendered women would allow them to get therapy in a safe place without inflicting their prejudices on transwomen in group sessions. Everyone's a winner. Honestly, I suspect that individual therapy would be more effective for such transphobic women anyway since they definitionally have problems with being in the presence of other people.

Also, the scarequotes around 'females' don't help your case that you disagree because you just care about sexual assault victims more than I or others do.
posted by Marty Marx at 4:16 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I do think it's important to point out that nowhere in the law does it say that transwomen MUST be excluded from sexual assault therapy sessions. So it's not like a Jim Crow law or anything. But leaving the door open to allow such things, I personally find bothersome.
posted by hippybear at 4:16 PM on October 2, 2010


But leaving the door open to allow such things, I personally find bothersome.

It's the rollback I find bothersome. It's as if we've not been slowly recognising trans women as women after all, we've been patting them on the head and telling them 'fine, you can have a piece of paper saying you're a woman, now shut the hell up'. You can have the paper, but you you can't have the life or the services or the legal standing when people hate on you, because really all along we were just talking hypotheticals in a nice perfectly ordered universe and not actual messy real stuff.

But your passport will TOTALLY reflect who you think you are. Just not who other people can think you are. Aren't we nice.
posted by shinybaum at 4:25 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


*treat you as, not think you are.
posted by shinybaum at 4:27 PM on October 2, 2010


A transwoman is not a "biological male."

Huh? I thought that was the whole deal. What is a human male, then, biologically?

I'm one of the most accepting dudes on the planet. I love all people of all different kinds of backgrounds. I don't think it makes me "transphobic" to say that someone who was born "biologically male" (whatever that now apparently means) who has had sex reassignment surgery is "biologically male".

I will freely accept this transwoman as whatever gender she chooses to identify as, and I will not treat her differently than I treat other women because she has a y chromosome instead of two x's.

But facts are facts. Sex reassignment surgery doesn't change the chromosomes someone has.

Maybe I'm just missing the point on this thing. I often do, because I don't get people who care so much about what gender a person was assigned at birth if they identify with a different one now.
posted by King Bee at 4:27 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am a bit confused. Why does the link say as of today I am not a woman if she considers her prime identity to be trans?

I can only speak for myself, of course, but transsexual is something that I am in addition to being a woman. I am trans in the same way that I am white, British, and short; none of these are elements of my identity that reduce my womanhood, in my eyes at least.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:33 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think in this case, trying to give the victim of sexual assault a place where she can feel safe is more important than forcing her to confront her prejudices.

So, in essence, you're saying that the trans-phobic, cisgendered victim of sexual assault should receive priority over the non-prejudiced, trans victim of sexual assault?

How is that just in any way?
posted by kylej at 4:38 PM on October 2, 2010


The difference is that she is statistically much less likely to have been assaulted by someone physically disabled, in your somewhat concerning metaphor.

And how often does it happen that a woman is sexually assaulted by a trans-woman? Probably not any more than the amount of regular women that are assaulted by women. Perhaps all women should be banned from group counseling sessions and everyone should receive one-on-one therapy?
posted by kylej at 4:45 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that groups should also be open to men -- that is, cis-men and ftm transmen -- who have been sexually assaulted. Because it does happen, and I think that meeting men who have been assaulted would go a long way yo helping women heal.
posted by jb at 4:46 PM on October 2, 2010


Besides which, people who run good group therapy sessions are old hands at dealing with internal strife and conflict. Except that sometimes the problem isn't the hypothetical assault victim who can't abide trans women, it's the very unhypothetical staff and therapists and committee members. Note the wording in the OP example - this isn't a case by case basis, it'd be a judgement call in advance.
posted by shinybaum at 4:47 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Soooo....according to this policy, an FtM trans would have to be assigned to a women's support group...yes, that makes perfect sense!

The workaround solution I see is for the MtF not to mention her trans status, although if she was raped because of it, that wouldn't really work well.

I am reminded of a controversy in the LGBT community of Seattle back around 1990 or so where a lesbian group was arguing over whether to allow a MtF lesbian into their group. One faction said she was the ultimate infiltrator from the patriarchy, the other faction said people gotta be what they gotta be. I have no idea how it all was resolved, I suspect it was via schism within the organization.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 4:48 PM on October 2, 2010


Ok, that's your perception. But if a woman with a different, less enlightened, perception is the victim of sexual assault, and perceives a trans-woman as male, do we want to make her "confront her transphobia" when she's trying to deal with her rape?

YES.

Because that transwoman is also dealing with the same rape and she deserves every bit as much help as the ciswoman. If the ciswoman can't deal with that, it's her problem.

I think in this case, trying to give the victim of sexual assault a place where she can feel safe is more important than forcing her to confront her prejudices.

No, absolutely not. Providing a safe space to all assault victims is more important than catering to transphobia.

I won't say this over and over again, I'll just leave it at this one re-iteration of what I, and others, have previously said - but the discomfort of a cisgendered woman is absolutely a bullshit reason to deny help for a transwoman.

Also, I'm a woman who has been the victim of date rape by another woman. To say that we should deny people access to support based on the genital characteristics of their attacker would imply that I couldn't attend a group with anyone, because I myself have the same genitalia as the person who abused me. It's totally absurd.

But facts are facts. Sex reassignment surgery doesn't change the chromosomes someone has.

What I'm trying to say is that defining someone by their chromosomes and not by their identity is counter-productive. A trans woman may have a penis, but she's a woman, not a "male." As for chromosomes, there are many variants beyond XX and XY and unless you've been tested, there's no way to know for sure if you're a "real" man or a woman in the first place.

The reason I'm making this point is to remind people who are defining "man" and "woman" by genitalia that it's not that simple and for transfolk, it doesn't work that way. Not to say that there's no such thing as biology, but rather that biology isn't destiny and to define a transwoman as "biologically male" in this particular context is denying the fact that she's a woman, which is problematic to say the least.
posted by sonika at 4:54 PM on October 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


What I'm trying to say is that defining someone by their chromosomes and not by their identity is counter-productive.

I agree. This is probably the point I said I was missing above.

But aren't "man" and "woman" totally different terms than "male" and "female"? I feel like the latter two are a biological thing and the former two are a social thing.
posted by King Bee at 4:58 PM on October 2, 2010


I find sexual abuse of "females" of all varieties so horrible and wrong that I guess I'm willing to consider it a "trump card".

No, you don't; no you're not.


(deletes first three responses) Please, I'm not telling you you're a bad person whose being disingenuous. I'm genuinely trying to convey a thought I feel is respectful to all parties. If you disagree that's fine - please explain. But don't tell me I don't find sexual abuse horrifying - you have no idea where I'm coming from, what I and people I know have been through, or apparently what I'm trying to say. Let's keep this respectful, OK?

the scarequotes around 'females' don't help your case that you disagree because you just care about sexual assault victims more than I or others do.

Fair enough. I'm sorry I put "scare quotes" around the term "female" to try to quickly convey that I understood it was a loaded and complex term. Language around this stuff is complex and I thought it was a reasonable shorthand.

In the case of transwomen who are victims of sexual assault, you support segregating them with the idea that it would be better for them to be segregated whether they like it or not.

No I do not. I said that it might not be optimal to dump them in a room with a bunch of cis women who don't want them there. I said several times I thought there would be cases where there would be no need to separate the groups at all: only that if there were, it might be OK.

In fact, noone's really mentioned the main flaw in the point I've been making . The reality is that it most of these cases, the decision to exclude is made not by the cis women themselves, but by a caseworker or coordinator who may dramatically over estimate the issue. I don't think that's in any sense a good thing for anyone.

Look, I meant only to say that in *some* cases, it might be OK to cut rape/assault victims (cis women, or *anyone*) a little slack if it could be done without taking it away from other victims, and that trans victims might not want to be forced into a room full of prejudiced people when they've just been victimized - likely by prejudiced cis people. I realize it's a complicated issue, and tried to make very clear that I understood this. I also tried to make very clear that every one, trans cis or candystriped, deserved the fullest possible support. That's my point, and we're just talking about what that means, and like it or not, it's not a simple issue.

I deeply resent being portrayed as "transphobic" and not understanding the depth and complexity of violence against women for trying to discuss what seems to me a really difficult issue. I'm not going to fall into the "some of my best friends are X" trap here, so I don't really have a choice but to abandon the conversation. Even if you have already decided I'm transphobic (ridiculous if you know me), please consider what this implies about how you engage in these discussions.
posted by freebird at 5:04 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


But aren't "man" and "woman" totally different terms than "male" and "female"? I feel like the latter two are a biological thing and the former two are a social thing.

Right, but to say "A transwoman can't have access to a space because she's biologically male" (the assertion being made in this case) is very different from a deconstruction of "Well, what is male anyway?"

I wasn't in any way trying to provide Gender Studies 101 (though really, I probably could), but rather to refute the assertion that being biologically male should exclude transwomen from women-only spaces. Unless it's a vagina only space (like a gynecologist's office... and, well, that's the only one that comes to mind), it should be a space for women, which absolutely includes transwomen.

Also, pointing out "she's biologically male" is a way of denigrating a transwoman's womanhood and seeing that just doesn't sit well with me. She's a woman. Whether she has a vagina or a penis is only your business if she wants to share her genitalia with you. And I'm guessing she's probably not interested. We don't point out that cisgendered women are biologically female, we only point out the biology of transwomen when doing so makes a backhanded point that they're not "really" women.
posted by sonika at 5:07 PM on October 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Soooo....according to this policy, an FtM trans would have to be assigned to a women's support group...yes, that makes perfect sense!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:48 PM on October 2
That is correct. This is the "sex goes down to the DNA so a man can only marry a woman-born-woman" thing that Texas tried to put through. They did, and a lesbian couple (one of whom was MTF) got married. Legally. In Texas. See Queerty for a reference.
posted by andreaazure at 5:12 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, if people still get freaked out by using the same bathroom with a transsexual and we can't figure out how to fix that as a society I don't think we have a lot of hope figuring out a way to make everyone happy here on a far more delicate and complex issue.

Bottom line to me? Group therapy is about a give and take with a group and about learning about various perspectives on similar problems and trying to support each other and figure them out. If you are going to come to the group without the necessary respect and acceptance for that process, you shouldn't be in the group. Go get private therapy.

Transfolk deal with prejudice, a lot of it, they have practice. Let them make the decision for themselves, they can leave if they want. Someone who is prejudiced against them can make that same call. No one should be kicked out for being who they are.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:15 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, pointing out "she's biologically male" is a way of denigrating a transwoman's womanhood and seeing that just doesn't sit well with me.

OK, I think I understand where you're coming from now. I wasn't trying to be playing devil's advocate at all. What I was saying above wasn't meant to be taken as any sort of denigration of this woman's station in life.

Like I said above, I don't care one way or the other what gender some human wants to identify as. Whatever they're identifying as, I'm going to treat them as such. If I understand you correctly, I shouldn't be treating transwomen any differently than I treat ciswomen. I don't, except in the fact that there are apparently 2 words to describe these different people that are OK to use.

I'm essentially talking out of my ass now, because I really have no idea what's going on. I can understand from the OP that there is a class of people being unfairly treated for who they are, and that is wrong.
posted by King Bee at 5:17 PM on October 2, 2010


The reality is that it most of these cases, the decision to exclude is made not by the cis women themselves, but by a caseworker or coordinator who may dramatically over estimate the issue.

This can indeed be a problem, much like the Lu's Pharmacy mess recently, where the organisers discriminated against trans women (and not just trans women) but the service users mostly didn't care.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:20 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the trans people are hereby invited to my house. I'll make dinner, we can hang out, maybe watch a movie if you want.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:30 PM on October 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


If I understand you correctly, I shouldn't be treating transwomen any differently than I treat ciswomen.

Yes, exactly.

I can understand from the OP that there is a class of people being unfairly treated for who they are, and that is wrong.

Right. And we can get all fancy about the language and dissect that forever, but you've got the basic point here: transwomen and ciswomen are all women and should be treated equally. And that's really it.

(And transmen and cismen are all men. And we're all humans. Etc.)
posted by sonika at 5:32 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the trans people are hereby invited to my house. I'll make dinner, we can hang out, maybe watch a movie if you want.

I've been meaning to watch Brazil again lately. Can we do that, and have twiglets?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 5:34 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


You're on, ArmyofKittens! You bring the twiglets, I don't think I can get those in Canadia.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:35 PM on October 2, 2010


Well, sonika, I shall go about my business doing exactly what I was doing before then. =)

I suppose I just need to watch my language so as not to offend anyone. Of course, that's a constant battle anyway.

Oh, and I extend the same invitation as Hildegarde above. Except that my apartment is kinda messy. Give me a heads up first if you're on your way over.
posted by King Bee at 5:39 PM on October 2, 2010


Well, sonika, I shall go about my business doing exactly what I was doing before then. =)

Excellent! :)

I'm not trans, I'm just trans-friendly, but I've got cupcakes and I'm even willing to share.
posted by sonika at 5:45 PM on October 2, 2010


Transphobic ciswoman wants transwoman excluded from group, believing - maybe even rightly - that due to her transphobia, she will not be able to benefit from the group if there's a transwoman there. Transwoman does not wish to be excluded from group.

Because that ciswoman is transphobic, someone is going to be unable to benefit from this group. Suggesting that the burden of that fall on anyone but the bigot is itself, I think, pretty damn bigoted. And no, it being a rape trauma counseling group doesn't excuse a damn thing.
posted by kafziel at 6:57 PM on October 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


Comes down to who gets to define what "woman" means, I suppose. Some cis women figure they've got the right to make that definition themselves. Transwomen feel they do. As a male, I'm uncomfortably aware that I'm probably the one in the room with the least that's useful to say on this point.

Honest question - are there specific resources set aside for transpeople dealing with rape? Not to suggest that there should be some "separate but equal" bullshit going on here, but it seems like abuse directed towards trans victims has its own particular and unpleasant twist in our society, and might consequentially require specialized resources.

Every once in a while something comes up on Metafilter (I only really run into this stuff here) about clashes between close-minded cis feminists and the LGBT (especially T) community, and it gives me the same feeling I got when I heard some black churches in California were supporting Prop 8. There's something incredibly depressing about one marginalized group ripping into another one, far more depressing than anything the close-minded mainstream can do to either of them.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:34 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Honest question - are there specific resources set aside for transpeople dealing with rape?

For the most part, no. I don't know of anything in my city, for example. I expect you'd have to use generalist trans support groups, which are usually non-funded volunteer-run social groups that deal in networking and transition stuff. You could also get counselling on the NHS through your GP, but there'll be a wait for an appointment.

A nasty wrinkle in this whole thing is that, once again, it splits trans women down the centre: I look cis and could use any of these resources even if they were packed with anti-trans bigots as long as I kept my mouth shut (whether I would find the whole process helpful because of that is another question, but I can get in the door), but a trans women who doesn't look cis (by choice or not) is going to get turned away. The trans women who look or sound to the rest of the world like trannies already can't find work or housing, they get unbelievable amounts of shit just for stepping out the door every day, and now they could find themselves turned away from rape counselling services, hospital wards, and sheltered accommodation.

It's inhumane and it's heartbreaking.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:38 AM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


If we're going to really bash the Equality Act I think we need to go to the Daily Mail.

Death of the office joke: Britain enacts PC equality law which means ANYONE can sue for ANYTHING that offends them.

The BBC has a calmer guide: What does the Equality Act mean in practice?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:40 AM on October 3, 2010


Why do we have a long thread that is based on two short blog posts written by someone who admits that

I perhaps have some of this wrong as I don’t have much legal knowledge outside of IT and the Internet and this stuff is hard to read

Are there any analyses conducted by trans rights groups in England?

So if a clergyman suspects that you're trans, you can't get married? Am I reading that right? Because if I am, that's pretty amazingly bad. Not just for transpeople, but for everyone who doesn't fit the norm.

You're reading it wrong. CoE clergy are required to marry anyone living in their parish even if they're not Christian in which cases they perform a civil ceremony. This is an exception to that requirement. They can still marry you if they wish (most CoE reverends likely would) but they're not legally bound to. You can still be married by anyone else empowered to contract marriage though (as most people are these days).

The whole problem with these exceptions is that we have a society where binary gender norms run very deep. The way that transpeople have gained rights in this system is by gaining legal recognition of another gender, this makes people only marginally uncomfortable. You can explain it away to them as "a man in a woman's body" and they can understand that and legislate for the right to switch to the gender of the mind. Of course the gender identity of many transpeople is more complicated than that, which not just the legislative framework but our whole society isn't really set up to deal with.

As it is though, the solution such as it is that our legal system has come up works around the binary gender system by changing the gender to which a person is assigned, like a switch.

If we didn't have communal sleeping accommodations and sporting events segregated by legal gender then we wouldn't have any need to carve out exceptions. It seems though that
posted by atrazine at 1:07 AM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Incidentally, I don't see that this act rolls back any of the rights granted in the 2004 bill (the Gender Recognition Act which allows legal gender to be changed). That bill didn't forbid any discrimination. This bill is a step forward in that it specifically bans virtually all discrimination against transpeople, we may complain that the exemptions to this are overly broad, but it is in no way a rollback.

Also, while it is unfortunate that the equal pay sections didn't make it in, the law does nullify pay secrecy clauses which made it very difficult to bring employers before employment tribunals. This is also a step in the right direction.
posted by atrazine at 1:18 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


So if a clergyman suspects that you're trans, you can't get married? Am I reading that right? Because if I am, that's pretty amazingly bad. Not just for transpeople, but for everyone who doesn't fit the norm.

You're reading it wrong. CoE clergy are required to marry anyone living in their parish even if they're not Christian in which cases they perform a civil ceremony. This is an exception to that requirement. They can still marry you if they wish (most CoE reverends likely would) but they're not legally bound to. You can still be married by anyone else empowered to contract marriage though (as most people are these days).


Actually, by your interpretation, that's reading it exactly right. If a given vicar decides you look trans, the legal obligation to marry you is waived. If a given vicar decides you shouldn't marry, the legal obligation to marry you is waived if they just say you looked trans.
posted by kafziel at 1:28 AM on October 3, 2010


If a given vicar decides you look trans, the legal obligation to marry you is waived.

Though that wouldn't stop you getting married in a Registry Office, right?

OK, I'm with King Bee here. I've no desire to discriminate against anyone or treat anyone differently. I'm simply seeking some illumination/clarification here. Bear with me for a moment.

Transgendered status appears to be something that one defines for oneself. Therefore, if 95% of the time, I dress and live as a male, but 5% of the time, I like to dress and act as a female -- primarily for my personal sexual gratification, I get to count myself as transgendered, right?

Now, if I get sexually excited by fantasies of rape and sexual, isn't it possible that those fantasies would be massively heightened by listening to the accounts of victims, directly from their own mouths? And all I have to do to hear those accounts is dress in women's clothes and show up at the support group, claiming I'm transgendered?

Obviously, I'm not complaining all transgendered people would be pulling such a stroke (no pun intended), but I'm not seeing how you can legitimately exclude such people if all transgendered people are welcome?

Presumably, you'd have to discriminate on a case-by-case basis? This transgendered woman gets in, but that one is a little too masculine in her appetites and fantasies to qualify?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:38 AM on October 3, 2010


Actually, by your interpretation, that's reading it exactly right. If a given vicar decides you look trans, the legal obligation to marry you is waived. If a given vicar decides you shouldn't marry, the legal obligation to marry you is waived if they just say you looked trans.

Maybe I misread the original comment. It says:

So if a clergyman suspects that you're trans, you can't get married? Am I reading that right? Because if I am, that's pretty amazingly bad. Not just for transpeople, but for everyone who doesn't fit the norm.

I read that comment as asking whether you wouldn't be able to get married at all, which is emphatically not the case. Just that this particular clergyman would be exempt from his somewhat archaic and bizarre requirement to marry all comers. Most people getting married by CoE clergy are married in religious ceremonies (the requirement to marry anyone in the parish applies only to the civil wedding) by ministers who know at least one of the couple personally (as they usually won't perform a religious ceremony in a church for someone who isn't a regular attendee of services).

Though that wouldn't stop you getting married in a Registry Office, right?

Right. It's actually sort of archaic legislation that needs a little translation for people from countries without established churches. If a Catholic wants to marry a Jewish agnostic, and they are legally eligible to marry then a Church of England clergyman has to marry them if they ask as long as they live in his parish. He will then officiate at a civil wedding ceremony, obviously not a religious Christian one.That is the price they pay for being the established church.

Since transwomen are legally women1 (since the 2004 act this has been possible) and since this bill bans discrimination against transwomen except in a few particular cases, without this exemption CoE ministers would legally have to perform marriages involving transpeople. My own opinions of religions are quite negative, but we do in general allow the religious quite a lot of latitude to not do things that violate their religious codes. Interestingly, it would be an offence under this act for a registry office employee to refuse to perform such a marriage.

(1) This bill does create a legal category of transpeople which is distinct for the purpose of forbidding discrimination against them explicitly.
posted by atrazine at 3:11 AM on October 3, 2010


It just seems peculiar to me, that a society like the UK, which I understand (although have no direct experience with it) has a pretty good policy about transsexuals and affording them the rights of their corrected gender status, would then go out of its way to suddenly decide that their corrected gender doesn't actually count for anything at all under certain circumstances. It all feels rather two-faced and hypocritical

Perfidious Albion....
posted by MajorDundee at 3:17 AM on October 3, 2010


The wording of the Act is insidious. Suppose that someone (I'll call her "Mary") has been discriminated against, allegedly because the service provider (e.g., a rape counsellor) believes that she is transsexual. Mary's first problem is that the service provider is both the judge of the facts and the person who applies the ruling. Mary can (probably) appeal against the decision, but it will probably be too late by then - does she really want to file a complaint and wait for her case to be put on?

Anyway, let's suppose that it's a year later and her case is heard. The test isn't whether the service provider was correct in assessing Mary to be a transsexual; it's whether the service provider had "reasonable grounds" for the decision. At the hearing the service presenter says that Mary had a deep voice and walked funny. Or that her clothes were masculine. Or even that Mary's general demeanor seemed masculine. I can't see why any of these would not be considered "reasonable grounds", and appeals bodies are generally reluctant to revisit findings of fact. So Mary can effectively be denied access to rape counselling whether or not she is a transsexual. And what goes for Mary goes for anyone. It's all down to the opinion of the service provider and it would be very hard (and also quite pointless) to appeal.

Of course, this ignores the elephant in the room - that the discrimination can legally exist in the first case. But other posters have addressed this.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:18 AM on October 3, 2010


Why do we have a long thread that is based on two short blog posts written by someone who admits that "I perhaps have some of this wrong as I don’t have much legal knowledge outside of IT and the Internet and this stuff is hard to read"?

The PDF in the first comment is a UK government document; the stuff about support groups is set in stone.

Incidentally, I don't see that this act rolls back any of the rights granted in the 2004 bill (the Gender Recognition Act which allows legal gender to be changed). That bill didn't forbid any discrimination. This bill is a step forward in that it specifically bans virtually all discrimination against transpeople, we may complain that the exemptions to this are overly broad, but it is in no way a rollback.

There's definitely some good stuff in the Act, but as far as the GRA granted trans people all the rights and responsibilities of their sex and the EA sets out specific exclusions to that, then yes, it is a rollback. Bluntly, a trans person with a GRC just had a bunch of doors slammed shut in their face that were only opened six years ago.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:30 AM on October 3, 2010


That's one seriously convoluted hypothetical PeterMcDermott.
posted by Iteki at 3:37 AM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


but as far as the GRA granted trans people all the rights and responsibilities of their sex and the EA sets out specific exclusions to that

Did the GRA or existing legislation forbid discriminating against transpeople? I'm not an expert on the landscape of anti-discrimination law, but I'm not sure that victim support groups and sports competitions had any legal duty to accept transpeople before.

After the GRA was passed a transwoman was legally a woman and could therefore enter female-only sporting events by default. What I'm wondering is whether it was specifically illegal for the organisers of such an event to exclude transwomen between the passing of the GRA and this bill. As a rule you can exclude people from many things for any reason you want, as long as that reason is not specifically banned by law.
posted by atrazine at 3:51 AM on October 3, 2010


Now, if I get sexually excited by fantasies of rape and sexual, isn't it possible that those fantasies would be massively heightened by listening to the accounts of victims, directly from their own mouths? And all I have to do to hear those accounts is dress in women's clothes and show up at the support group, claiming I'm transgendered?

I had not considered this angle and I am completely mollified. However, it occurs to me that I should now lobby parliament to amend the Act in case a cis lesbian goes to a support group riding a dinosaur.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:52 AM on October 3, 2010 [12 favorites]


Now, if I get sexually excited by fantasies of rape and sexual, isn't it possible that those fantasies would be massively heightened by listening to the accounts of victims, directly from their own mouths? And all I have to do to hear those accounts is dress in women's clothes and show up at the support group, claiming I'm transgendered?

You'd have to live as a woman for two years minimum and then go before a panel before they'll do the legal re-assignment. You can't pop on some knickers and a bra, become a woman legally and change back a few hours later after a few hours leering in the women's loo, if that is the kind of thing you are envisioning.
posted by atrazine at 5:03 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Therefore, if 95% of the time, I dress and live as a male, but 5% of the time, I like to dress and act as a female -- primarily for my personal sexual gratification, I get to count myself as transgendered, right?

Well, sort of. In that case, you could easily call yourself a transvestite or genderqueer - or transgender if you really want - but what the laws are dealing with are transsexuals who are people who are in some stage of the process of fulling living their lives 100% of the time as a gender that does not match up with the sex parts they were born with.

As for the rest of your hypothetical... why would you need to be trans for that to be true? Couldn't you a be a woman with wacko rape fantasies and attend a support group in order to get off from hearing about rape? People are bizarre and twisted enough without having to require them to also be crossdressing. All you can do about that is try and have responsible, trained people running the groups and hope for the best.
posted by sonika at 5:36 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


All you can do about that is try and have responsible, trained people running the groups and hope for the best.

Hopefully such people will also be able to run support groups including transwomen. This legislation doesn't do anything to prevent such groups existing, it just allows groups that include only women born as women to exist without violating the law. Of course I understand why this is undesirable to transwomen, it undermines their equality with other women by drawing a distinction.

On the other hand, how do you deal with the strong negative emotional reactions that some women might have to transwomen joining their rape victim support group? It's all very well to say that these reactions are irrational transphobia, but that doesn't change how people feel. If we were all hyper-rational then we wouldn't need support groups to deal with the effects of traumatic events. Of course that isn't how people work, precisely because people have emotional lives that are affected by traumatic experience.

I'm not writing because I know of an equitable solution to this through legal means, because I do not.

As for the rest of your hypothetical... why would you need to be trans for that to be true? Couldn't you a be a woman with wacko rape fantasies and attend a support group in order to get off from hearing about rape?

Indeed. I don't think much of the hypothetical either, partially because if someone is being actively disruptive by telling the rest of the group about wacko rape fantasies then you could remove them from the group for that reason. What this law is excluding from discrimination protection is discriminating against people for being transexual.
posted by atrazine at 6:19 AM on October 3, 2010


Of course I understand why this is undesirable to transwomen, it undermines their equality with other women by drawing a distinction.

Not only that, but it's an extra layer of trauma on top of the original abuse. Cis women can basically guarantee, should they be able to find a support group, that no-one there is going to say, "Sorry you were raped, but we can't help you; this group is for real women only."

For further context, this recent research shows the staggering level of domestic abuse against trans people in the UK.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:35 AM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm assuming that the overall number of transwomen are not enough to provide trans-only rape group counseling, right?

This is a dilemma. Because I can see the female rape victim not wanting to be in a room with anyone capable of using male genitalia in a rape situation. But you cannot deny transgendered people the right to get care.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:45 AM on October 3, 2010


I'm assuming that the overall number of transwomen are not enough to provide trans-only rape group counseling, right?

Probably not geographically concentrated enough outside of London.
posted by atrazine at 7:39 AM on October 3, 2010


On the other hand, how do you deal with the strong negative emotional reactions that some women might have to transwomen joining their rape victim support group?

The same way you deal with a racist woman having a problem with a woman of color joining the support group: compassionately, and with the emphasis that they're both victims who need care.
posted by sonika at 8:51 AM on October 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


On the topic of the biological basis for being trans, I want to add this: Referring to someone as "biologically male" on the basis of her having an XY chromosome (if she even does -- many trans women have other chromsomal patterns) privileges chromosomes at the expense of a whole bunch of other biological factors, possibly most important of which is neurological sex. Trans women have, from the studies done so far, brains typical for females and atypical for males. Thus, designating chromosomes as the ultimate decider of who's "biologically" a given sex or not denies other, even more fundamental biological bases. "Biology" is not just composed of chromosomes. Thus, describing a trans woman as "biologically male" is a misnomer at best.

A better term than "biologically male" would be "assigned male at birth".
posted by jiawen at 11:41 AM on October 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry this had to be your first ever post to MeFi in nine years ArmyOfKittens. On the other hand, I guess that demonstrates how strongly you must feel about it.

jiawen: "A better term than "biologically male" would be "assigned male at birth"."

That's before you get into the gaps between "neurological sex", "genetic sex" and "phenotypic sex". Oh, and then there's the people who are chimeric.

It always seems to me that sexuality just isn't as well defined as (some) people would like it to be, whether you self-identify as gay or straight of whatever gender, that identity is to some extent a social construct: the reality is more fluid and nuanced. Is it any surprise that not everyone is happy being forced into one of the particular set of pigeonholes that society has decided are acceptable at any particular moment?
posted by pharm at 1:44 PM on October 3, 2010


That's before you get into the gaps between "neurological sex", "genetic sex" and "phenotypic sex". Oh, and then there's the people who are chimeric.

Yes, this. It sounds like it's over-simplifying the situation to say that "gender is a social construct" but it's absolutely 100% true. The more you try to tease apart the biology of gender (that is to say, who you feel that you are), the more you come up across shades of grey where you really were expecting black or white. Your gender identity starts in the womb, and even then does not develop according to an either/or path - some XY individuals develop androgen sensitivity causing them to be born with female genitals (interestingly, female is the fetal default) despite being chromosomally male. And on and on and on. To say that you can identify someone as 100% biologically male or female by pulling down their pants or checking their sex chromosomes is to ignore the many, many factors that go into determining a person's gender identity.

Of course, in our society, to fit in you have to pick one. For most people, this isn't an issue. Most people's perception of their own gender matches their sex organs. For some people, it doesn't. Some of those people are trans-gender or trans-sexual and feel like their internal self is not the same as their external sexual characteristics. Some of those people are intersex and their "biological" sex is impossible to narrow down conclusively. All of those people are faced with really difficult choices about daily life and how to "pass" in a society that demands conformity from birth to a strict gender binary.

The more we can do as cispeople to subvert the idea that you have to be "one or the other," the better.
posted by sonika at 1:56 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


It always seems to me that sexuality just isn't as well defined as (some) people would like it to be, whether you self-identify as gay or straight of whatever gender, that identity is to some extent a social construct: the reality is more fluid and nuanced. Is it any surprise that not everyone is happy being forced into one of the particular set of pigeonholes that society has decided are acceptable at any particular moment?

Just a heads up that sexuality is not the same as gender identity. The two are totally separate.
posted by kylej at 2:41 PM on October 3, 2010


kylej: "The two are totally separate."

I had intended to add that the fluid definition of ones sexuality also extended to gender identity, but somehow that got dropped on the editing floor. Mea culpa.

On the other hand, sexuality and gender are intimately related concepts. To say that they're "completely separate" seems a little strong to me.
posted by pharm at 3:06 PM on October 3, 2010


Atrazine wrote: This legislation doesn't do anything to prevent such groups existing, it just allows groups that include only women born as women to exist without violating the law.

I'm sure that's what the amendment is supposed to do, but it effectively means that anyone - even 100% XX morphologically-biologically-neurologically female women - can be excluded from these groups on the say-so of the organiser. The test for exclusion is remarkably weak. It doesn't say that only transsexuals can be excluded. It doesn't even say that only people who are thought to be transsexuals can be excluded. It says that people can be excluded if there are reasonable grounds for thinking that they are transsexual.

Let me tell you a story about an attorney my brother-in-law once worked with. Billy was a racist. In one trial he excluded all the black jurors from the jury pool, one after the other. The opposing counsel objected and said "Your honor, this is outrageous, he's excluding all the black jurors." The judge leaned over and said "Is this true, Billy? Are you excluding the black jurors?" Billy said no, he had a reason for each exclusion. The defense counsel demanded to know the reasons, so Billy started supplying them. This juror was unemployed, and might resent his client's wealth. This one was a teacher, and she might dislike his accent. This one looked at him funny. At the end of the day, Billy had a reasonable answer for excluding each juror and he got away with it even though everyone knew exactly what he was doing.

Suppose the rape counsellor doesn't like a particular client. It's not going to be hard to find some "reasonable grounds" for thinking that she is a transsexual. Every woman seeking counselling is threatened by this legislation, especially anyone who dresses oddly or talks oddly or doesn't quite fit in. The fact that they might be able to prove that they're not transsexual isn't any help - they're not going to get the counselling when they need it, or without a lengthy and humiliating appeal process. This amendment is really an awful idea.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:07 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


This legislation doesn't do anything to prevent such groups existing, it just allows groups that include only women born as women to exist without violating the law.

That's no good too, you realize.
posted by kafziel at 3:36 PM on October 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Suppose the rape counsellor doesn't like a particular client.

That's part of what makes this so wrong. If a client and counselor don't get along, that should be the end of the relationship. This just gives someone nasty a legal cudgel against people who get cudgeled all the time.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:39 PM on October 3, 2010


That's no good too, you realize.

It's not good, no. I don't like exclusions to anti-discrimination laws, even if I understand the social context.

Suppose the rape counsellor doesn't like a particular client. It's not going to be hard to find some "reasonable grounds" for thinking that she is a transsexual.

But why? "I don't like you" is a perfectly legal reason not to work with a client. It may not be acceptable to society or to the organisation that the counsellor works for, but the same applies to discriminating against transexuals.
posted by atrazine at 9:39 PM on October 3, 2010


I'm sorry this had to be your first ever post to MeFi in nine years ArmyOfKittens.

OH GOD I'M OLD
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:35 AM on October 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia makes a good point as to why this is bad law. It's a loophole you could march an army through, and I've certainly known cis-women who looked somewhat male and would have no recourse if excluded.

But the same exact law could have very different practical effects depending on how widespread various prejudices are. IE, the marriage clause is meaningless if only 1 in 100 ministers objects to marrying trans-people. Why would you want a hostile minister to marry you, anyway? But if the number is 50% or more, then it becomes more like Jim Crow laws in the 1950s U.S. south that allow and support full segregation.

Ditto the support groups. My guess is that very rarely would this issue come up, in which case I'm not that bothered (assuming the city in question has more than 1 support group). Probably a better for everyone. But if trans-women routinely can't find a group, that's horrible of course.
posted by msalt at 12:23 PM on October 4, 2010


"Wonder whether, in allowing this information to come out in this way, the state is allowing Nina to receive a trial which is fair and unprejudiced?"
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:47 AM on November 1, 2010


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