Trans Debate, Female Debate or No Debate?

“Trans Debate” is an inappropriate and abusive phrase for any trans person to hear, because their existence is real and not up for debate. It is also completely nonsensical from a sociological and cultural perspective.

The term “Trans” in isolation suggests the so-called “debate” applies to all trans people, but media hostility is directed only towards trans women; trans men are conspicuous by their absence from the front pages, they are not perceived to be a problem.

Trans women are the “concern”, so it seems, specifically people born into male bodies but now living lives as close to being women as allowed by their physical traits, NHS waiting lists and their bank accounts.

Contrary to gender critical ideology, society has accepted for many years that trans women are women. Take for instance the timeframe from the first sex change operations in the 1920’s to today, during which there have been over 25 general elections, but – and noting that Parliament is society’s ultimate debating chamber – there have been no Parliamentary debates to discuss “the trans issue”. Democratic society has never perceived trans women to be a problem and by default, Government and society have accepted that a person born into a male body can live as a woman.

Indeed, over the years, Parliaments have introduced laws making it easier for trans women to live as women.  Equality Act 2010 protects anyone who is serious about living as a woman for the rest of their life, and Human Rights Act 1998 allows anyone to “dress and live” as they like, and have their own “personal identity”, which means any person born male can self-identify and live as a woman, with the assistance of their community, friends and family, and work colleagues, in respecting and accepting them as such.

So, if both society and the legal system accepts that male-bodied people can live as women, what and where is the problem?

Before that question is addressed, an understanding is required of the first principles regarding sex and gender, and importantly, from a practical rather than academic application, because it is physical situations like sex-segregated places (toilets, changing rooms, hospital wards, domestic violence refuges etc) that are the epi-centre of the so-called “trans debate”.

Historical analysis of the word “gender” shows it to be the behaviour or a person rather than their physical being; it is based on society’s socially constructed stereotypical roles normally associated with being a man or woman, as evidenced by NHS, WHO and UN definitions of gender[1].  Prior to the 1950’s use of the word “gender” only applied to grammar, not people.  A person’s gendered behaviour is not dependent on physical sexual organs.  Any male-bodied person can present their gendered behaviour as a woman, and vice versa for people born female.

“Man” and “woman” are only two of the infinite categories that can be used to describe someone’s gendered behaviour.  Around the world other societies have decided to socially construct themselves with more than just these binary genders, for example cultural identities like Hijra, Kathoey, Fa’fafine, Muxe, Xanith, and others.  Contemporarily prescriptive identities like non-binary, gender-fluid, agender, are becoming popular for people wanting to more accurately present their authentic gendered selves.

To summarise so far, “trans debate” is morally and literally an irrational and invalid phrase, but despite this, transphobic people still pursue “concerns” about trans women.  They know they have lost the argument that trans woman are accepted in society as women, so the only remaining “concern” left in their box of bigotry is that trans women do not possess female “biological sex”, as trumpeted by gender critical transphobes like Maya Forstater with her Sex Matters campaign and obsession with genitals.

Conceptually, there are just two sexes, male and female, except in the confines of university laboratories and medical institutions, where scientific debates continue on the biological nuances of how these two states of being are fully defined, focusing on chromosomal, genetic, hormonal and anatomical attributes of the human body, and whether a spectrum exists between these two binaries.  But for people in the street, at work, in social settings, it’s one or the other, male or female, and importantly in these public places, sex is presumed by outwardly appearance rather than visibility of sexual organs.

And here is the crux of the issue, transphobic people focus their whole discussion around the concept of “biological sex” being an immutable, intractable concept and expect all aspects of society, whether legal, social, or political to only focus on biological sex when generating and formulating laws, policies and processes relating to access to sex-segregated spaces.

But they do not identify how a person’s biological sex is supposed to be assessed in these day-to-day practical situations.  Many trans women will have made physical changes to their bodies to increase the presumption, presentation, performance and impression of biological sex, for example hormones to feminise mind and body, genital plastic surgery, facial feminisation surgery. Therefore, for a fully transitioned trans woman, the only significant evidence left that they were not born female, is their (male) XY chromosomes and their (male) prostate, neither being visible to the naked eye.

It is only doctors and scientists that have the necessary equipment and techniques to assess someone’s biological sex; the rest of us just have the power of vision. It is naïve and impractical, but also immoral and illegal, to implement measures that assess if a person has the correct “biological sex” to enter a specific space.

In all but clinical and scientific settings, or during procreation, the only option is to make a presumption about someone’s biological sex, based on outwardly appearance. A trans woman’s “biological sex” must therefore be accepted as female unless she volunteers evidence to suggest otherwise.

One incidence for providing this evidence is, for example, in a medical setting, where a trans woman would not only be irresponsible, but would risk her long-term health, if she did not advise her doctor that despite outward appearances, she was born into a male body and still possessed a prostate.  Not only could the doctor make the wrong diagnosis about an ailment, but would be wasting precious NHS time and money in the process.

A trans woman would also need to consider the consequences of not telling her intimate partner that she does not have a womb and cannot conceive.

Having worked for three years in a transgender support charity, giving emotional support to trans women of all backgrounds, I have encountered pretty much every interpretation of what it is to be a trans woman, including the concept of being “female”.  Some state unequivocally that they are female in every respect and will undertake every possible hormonal or surgical process to convert body and mind to remove any hint of maleness, whilst others will acknowledge that they are only superficially female and will make just limited social and physical changes, the use of hormones, hair, clothes and make-up, to alter their presentation. Others will not claim to be female at all, still retaining mostly male anatomical features and male hormonal levels, but will live as women.

All of these interpretations by individuals of their sexed bodies are equally valid because they all have a common denominator that serves a higher and more fundamental purpose, that being the nurturing, maintenance and preservation of good mental health.

It is the discussion of mental health which is glaringly absent from gender critical observers as they obsess about biology and genitals.  They fail to acknowledge that there is currently a mental health pandemic which is sapping at the health and wealth of society in general and NHS in particular, and that each and every one of us has a responsibility to look after our good mental health in our myriad of unique individual ways.

Their focus on biological sex is a dangerous and anachronistic road down which to travel, that has already been well-trodden by fascists focusing on human physical purity, racists on skin colour, homophobes on heterosexuality, and the main casualty on these journeys of bigotry and hate, has been the good mental health of the persecuted individuals concerned.

It is not the “trans debate”, it is not even the “female debate”.  The management and preservation of good mental health must be central to any society, and trans women are uniquely courageous in their pursuit of a positive state of mind through their gendered presentation, their performance of womanhood, and their presentation as females.

This is a statement of the profoundly obvious and of the moral high ground, and for which no debate is necessary.

[1] NHS – https://service-manual.nhs.uk/content/inclusive-content/sex-gender-and-sexuality, WHO – https://www.who.int/health-topics/gender#tab=tab_1, UN – https://www.un.org/womenwatch/osagi/conceptsandefinitions.htm#:~:text=Gender%3A%20refers%20to%20the%20social,women%20and%20those%20between%20men.