Back the Gender Recognition Act reform. It’s the feminist thing to do

From The Guardian UK:

Introducing self-identification has not led to problems in other countries. On this final day of consultation I urge feminists to support this progressive step

Fri 19 Oct 2018

Today (Friday 19, 2018) is the final day that anyone can fill in the consultation for the Gender Recognition Act. So let’s start with what the Gender Recognition Act actually is. If you want to change your gender in the UK, you need a gender recognition certificate. To obtain one, you need to have lived in your preferred gender for two years and get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria (ie be treated as mentally ill) from two different doctors.

Trans people and a growing number of experts have long argued that this process is needlessly distressing and longwinded. In fact, Amnesty International UK responded to the GRA consultation by pointing out that the process constitutes a violation of human rights. In June 2018 the World Health Organisation declassified gender dysphoria as a mental illness.

The GRA proposes replacing the current archaic system with a simpler process, whereby trans people can instead self-identify as their preferred gender. The GRA consultation will, in part, work out exactly how this should happen, but around the world where self-identification has been introduced there have been no reports of problems so far, and trans people say they are happier. Perhaps we will adopt the same process as Ireland, where a person changing their gender must sign a certificate in front of a lawyer and confirm that they understand the gender change is a serious undertaking that will last for the rest of their lives.

The GRA changes will have a negligible effect on British society, because most gender-segregated spaces already rely on self-identification. That’s why no one has ever demanded to verify your gender – whatever that might entail – before you use a public toilet. Trans people have been using toilets, accessing domestic violence facilities, playing sports, using changing rooms, and generally trying to get on with their lives for as long as they have existed (which is about as long as all people have existed). This won’t change any of that. But it does mean that if a trans person wants to get married, they don’t have to choose between getting diagnosed with a mental illness and having their day ruined by the registrar writing the wrong gender on their wedding certificate.

Supporting the updated Gender Recognition Act is a necessity for anyone who calls themselves a feminist, and in fact most feminists do support it. Trans people are more likely to experience domestic violence, sexual assault, self harm and mental health problems than cis people. Anything that can be done to remedy that should be supported in full by feminists, including making the process of changing gender easier and less humiliating. What’s more, if the problems trans people encounter sound familiar, it is because they are: cis women are also more likely to experience domestic violence, self harm, sexual assault and mental health problems.

Why? Because both trans people and cis women live in a patriarchal culture which privileges men by keeping rigid and outdated ideas about gender in place. Trans people and cis women have a shared interest in confronting patriarchal norms, and promoting a more fluid understanding of gender. The sooner we can do that, the happier, freer and safer both groups will be.

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Trump’s anti-trans proposal may increase prejudice. Here’s one way to combat it.

From Vox:

There’s one science-backed method to reduce anti-transgender prejudice. See for yourself how it works.

By Brian Resnick
Oct 22, 2018

Though they are often conflated by many Americans, and particularly Republicans, sex is not the same thing as gender.

Sex is determined by the biological configuration of chromosomes. Gender is our individual identity: one that can be fluid or fixed. Respecting and honoring this difference is key to respecting the rights of transgender people.

The Trump administration is hoping to erase these distinctions, via changing the Department of Health and Human service’s interpretation of Title IX. As the New York Times reported over the weekend, the administration “is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” and that “any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.”

But as Jack Turban, a resident physician in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital who researches gender identity, told me in an email, “There is no ‘scientific definition’ of gender. Things like anatomy and chromosomes just don’t cut it. The only way to know someone’s gender is to ask them.”

The administration’s insistence on using genitalia to define gender, he adds, also doesn’t make sense for people born with genitalia that are “not clearly defined as male or female.” It’s possible for some people to have XY sex chromosomes, but their bodies neither respond to testosterone nor develop into that of a typical male (known as androgen insensitivity).

So, the Trump administration’s proposal is not grounded in science, or reality. And if the government conflates sex with gender, it could mean that civil rights protections will no longer apply to the 1.4 million Americans who are trans, and that discrimination against them could increase.

They already experience a lot of prejudice: A 2017 NPR/Harvard poll found that 38 percent of transgender Americans have experience slurs, and 22 percent said they “have been told or felt they would be unwelcome in a neighborhood or building because they are transgender.” Transgender people are often targets for violence.

I don’t want to understate how painful the HHS policy changes would be. But there is some hope that the discrimination they face doesn’t have to go on forever.

It’s worth to revisit a small glimmer of hope from psychological research on changes in attitudes toward transgender people. These insights may not change the mind of the president. But they can help change the minds of our neighbors.

What it takes to reduce anti-trans prejudice

In 2016, the journal Science published a remarkable bit of insight: It’s possible to reduce prejudice and sway opinions on anti-transgender legislation with one 10-minute conversation. What’s more, the researchers found that the change of heart can last at least three months and is resistant to anti-transgender attack ads.

The study is titled ”Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing,” and it was the first large-scale, real-world experimental effort that shows lasting opinion change is possible.

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Trump Administration Moves to End All Trans Protections via New Rule

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

by Gwendolyn Smith
October 21, 2018

In their boldest move against LGBTQ rights, the Trump administration is considering an exceedingly limited definition of sex that would likely erase any and all transgender rights and protections.

The proposed rule, according to a report in the New York Times, would define sex as “either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.”

The rule is coming out via the Department of Health and Human Services under Alex Azar.

HHS has been arguing that “sex” doesn’t include gender identity over the last year, and has, according to the Times, felt that the “lack of clarity” caused by inclusive Obama-era rules “wrongfully extend civil rights protections to people who should not have them.”

In the memo, HHS states that governmental bodies need a uniform definition of gender that is formed “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable.”

All disputes regarding sex would be based solely on genetic testing.

The move would roll back protections at all levels of the Federal government for transgender people.

The draft memo, which has been circulating since spring, also takes aim at birth certificates, saying, “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

This rule would fly in the face of scientific reality. By defining sex so rigidly, it would essentially ignore intersex people as well as transgender people.

It has been scientifically understood for decades that sex is not rigidly defined, and that there is a great variation of potential genetic markers beyond XX and XY, the most common chromosome pairs for sex determination.

This is the boldest move yet from the administration since their attempts to bar transgender people from the military.

How it feels to be a trans feminist academic in 2018

From Dr. Ruth Price:

By Dr. Ruth Price

I would like to say something about how it feels to be a trans feminist academic right now, with the emergence of a growing number of “gender critical” voices in academia.

In the wake of Brexit and Trump, and with the renewed growth of far-right movements across the world, it seems that everyone feels empowered to speak out about their own personal prejudice. Trans issues are no exception.

When I first came out and transitioned as a teenager, almost two decades ago, one of the scariest things for me was using public toilets. Let that sink in for a moment. I was scared simply to use the toilet – for fear that people might shout at me, drag me out, maybe even beat me up. While that fear has dissipated for me, I have not been to a public swimming pool since my mid-teens, and have not even been swimming in the sea since my early 20s. This is because I am scared. I am scared of violent men, but I am also scared of violent women. Cis violence against trans people is a reality. I have an enormous amount of admiration and respect for trans people who are able to overcome this fear.

It was hard to come out in the early 2000s. There was an enormous amount of casual transphobia in the media. Guardian columnists wrote pieces such as “Gender Benders Beware”, TV programmes such as Little Britain and the League of Gentlemen were immensely popular, and 90s films such as Silence of the Lambs and Ace Ventura remained popular with my friends. Trans women were variously represented as a pathetic joke, a burly men in self-denial, deceptive liars or outright sexual predators.

Legislation such as the Gender Recognition Act 2004, Sex Discrimination Act Regulations 2008 and Equality Act 2010 were yet to see the right of day. It was therefore legal for employers and service providers to know all about my gender history; it was also legal to refuse to hire me because I was trans, fire me from a job because I was trans, deny me services and kick me out of shops, pubs, post offices, leisure centres (etc etc) because I was trans.

It was not easy to come out in this environment. There were exceptionally few openly trans people involved in public life – and none of them looked, sounded or acted much like me. I certainly hadn’t knowingly met any other trans people. I delayed coming out for years because I wasn’t sure if I was “really trans” (a phenomenon common among participants in my research). I thought that I might ruin my life. It was only the knowledge that my life would likely be ruined regardless, and the sheer awfulness of the alternative – becoming a man – that persuaded me to take the enormous step of coming out.

Consequently, I was very isolated during the first few years of my transition. I find it very hard to express how intensely lonely that experience was. Fortunately, my friends (mostly cis girls my own age) were immensely supportive, but it was difficult not to have any people with similar experiences to me to talk with. People who had a very deep complex relationship with our gendered movement through the social world, and/or our sexed bodies, such that we knew the assignation we received at birth was not right for us. People who felt a deep, deep relief upon transitioning socially and/or changing our bodies as appropriate.

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Meet Roger Severino, the Trump Bigot Working to Erase Trans People

From The Advocate:

The Anti-Trans Nuremberg Laws Are Upon Us

From The Forward:

By S. Bear Bergman
October 22, 2018

When I came out in 1990 as a fifteen-year-old queer (my gender-nonconforming nature required no announcement) and promptly started being public about it, my father sat me down for a talk.

My father, who attended a Hillel weekend in college that was surrounded by jeering anti-Semites from which he had to be snuck out a back door, whose own father never, ever spoke about his much-decorated service in World War II, sat me down and said: “If you do this, they will know about you forever. You will never be able to blend in and stay safe.”

I sat with that, for a moment.

It would have been characteristic of both fifteen-year-olds in general and me in particular to dismiss it out of hand. I took it seriously, though, after six summers at Camp Kinder Ring, sharing space with and being taught by Holocaust survivors, after seeing the versions of my family tree with the legend “all names in italics killed during the Shoah,” at the bottom.

“That’s okay,” I told my father in that food court, after an interval. “If we get to that point, you know I won’t be quiet anyway.”

He nodded quietly, as proud as he was resigned.

We are at the point.

The Trump regime’s memo, which purports to be a clarification of the definition of gender, is in fact a full-scale attack on the existence of transgender, nonbinary, and genderqueer people. It proposes that a person’s gender shall be based on their assigned sex at birth, and that no remedy but genetic testing shall be sufficient to change that assessment.

Besides the fact that the memo conflates sex and gender as one thing (they’re not) and appears to have no sense of how many chromosomal variations of sex there actually are (5 are fairly common, with at least 4 others known), it’s also written to create harm for any American who is transgender.

The memo is, at the base, mean.

The entire structure is designed to exclude anyone who is trans from legal protection or recourse against discrimination.

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Authoritarians like Trump target trans people for a reason

Consider the Authoritarian streak and the cruel delight TERF Scum take in abusing women born Trans.

From The Guardian UK:

Transgender rights are crucial in the struggle not only for human rights, but women’s liberation

Mon 22 Oct 2018

Attacking transgender people – especially transgender women – has become a favorite strategy for authoritarians, and Trump is no exception. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that the Trump administration is attempting to narrow gender identity to the one assigned at birth – thereby denying transgender people their place in society.

This is a deliberate attempt to deploy tried and tested transphobic messaging to rile up his voter base ahead of the midterm elections. Trump wants to rally conservatives while engaging in attacking a marginalized group that it is still socially acceptable to target. Unfortunately, support and inclusion of transgender individuals even among mainstream progressives is lacking, and even some self-proclaimed feminist movements advocate for trans exclusion in ways similar to the recent Trump directives.

The irony in this is that if we peel the onion it becomes clear that transgender people are not actually the real target of such authoritarian leaders. Though transgender people will be the ones annihilated on the frontlines, figuratively and literally, by this tactic, we form too small a minority to pose a serious threat to authoritarianism. Women’s liberation is what autocrats are attempting to quell with anti-trans measures. Strongmen have made their hostility and contempt for women clear, whether it is through promotion of rape as was done by the Filipino leader Rodrigo Duterte, or pushing a US supreme court nominee credibly accused of sexual assault while insulting his accusers, in the case of Donald Trump.

Substantial evidence exists showing that gender equality and greater participation of women in the democratic process leads to more inclusive and socially oriented forms of government. Autocrats rely heavily on the “might is right” model and perpetuation of socially constructed violent models of misogyny in order to exert power, and women’s equality and liberation challenges basic tenets of totalitarianism. It is not a coincidence that with increasing pushes towards gender equality and justice across the globe, patriarchal forces are striking back violently and propelling anti-women leaders such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro towards power.

Progress on transgender issues, and the very existence of transgender individuals, also challenges the basis of male hegemony, because it blurs the boundary between men and women. The directives from the Trump administration on strictly delineating and defining sex as binary, immutable and determined by chromosomes and natal genital anatomy are basically attempts to demarcate a red line between men and women. The recent actions by the Hungarian leader to withdraw funding from any educational programs that deal with gender theory and an insistence on binary immutable sex is part of the same effort of transgender erasure.

Transgender erasure is a weapon being used to fight against women’s equality. In order for a mechanism of oppression to exist between two classes in society, differentiation between them is crucial. In the same fashion as interracial relationships and mixed-race children were anathema to segregationists, transgender people pose a serious challenge for patriarchal structures. The inviolable superior status of white people over black people is challenged when there are people who are both black and white. Similarly, in creating gray space between male and female, transgender people subvert the patriarchy.

Misogyny and oppression of women must be fought globally and unwaveringly, including in western societies, which have falsely been perceived as post-feminist. Transgender rights are crucial in the struggle not only for human rights, but women’s liberation. Those who fiercely advocate for eradicating transgender people are fighting to retain a world under the regime of male hegemony. In such an environment, autocrats and their accompanying oligarchies are sustained. A world without misogyny and with women and queer liberation is a world without despotic rulers. We are in desperate need as a global community to arrive there