transgender self-identify
Society and Social Structures

The compassionate origins of Tory transgender self-identification proposals

“Maria Miller gathers up her handbag and makes to leave: ‘I don’t think I’m happy about this. I think I’ve finished… I didn’t realise this was such a stitch-up'”, the Times recounts as they probed Tory proposals to make gender-switching a simple matter of self-identification. You’d think, as Chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller would be eager to explain the rationale and virtues of transgender self-identification – that is, the state’s recognition of a person’s preferred sex/gender irrespective of biology or medical authentication – especially as the consequences will be quite far reaching, and the policy didn’t feature in the Conservative Party’s (very) recent General Election manifesto. The announcement of a public consultation on the matter appears to have come somewhat out of the blue.

The question which particularly perturbed Mrs Miller (or is it ‘Ms’?) was the emotive one of rape. The interviewer remarked that “90 per cent of violent crime and 98 per cent of sexual crime is committed by men. Trans women, such as Davina Ayrton, who raped a 15-year-old girl, have been convicted of offences seldom committed by natal females”, which elicited the question: “Would self-identification mean these crimes would be registered as committed by women, skewing the figures?”

“It should be registered in the gender of the person when they committed the crime,” Maria Miller responded, apparently without thought or hesitation.

And so the Times concludes: “This would mean that if Katie Brannen, charged with twice raping a man in South Shields, is convicted that crime would be recorded on female statistics even though legally women cannot commit rape.”

So the Chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee has confirmed the emergence of a new gender inequality in law: presently, natal women cannot commit rape but transgender women patently can. Transsexuals obviously can’t: the penis is all. This means that transgender women will be treated differently in law to natal women, and that’s… well, it’s called gender discrimination, and it’s Maria Miller’s task to stamp all that out because it isn’t fair.

When this question was thrown out to Twitter (as one does to crowd-source wisdom, which sometimes works), Michael Stokes QC confirmed that the law would need to change:

So the law on rape would need to change for the UK’s entire female population of 33 million in order to redress an inequality which might be potentially advantageous in a court of law to the minuscule number of male-to-female transgender rapists. In fact, the law would need to change in many areas in order to accommodate transgender self-identification, unless we are going to see men who self-identify as women being able to work in rape crisis centres and live in women’s hostels; or circumvent all-female short-lists and other quotas designed to redress gender imbalance. And what happens in competitive sport? Will a trans testosterone-charged self-identifying woman be permitted to trounce all the oestrogen-infused natal women and win gold at the Olympics? Will they be able to dress in the women’s changing rooms? Use the women’s toilets?

How will the state prevent the systematic vexatious abuse (“for a laugh”) of transgender self-identification? How will it judge the motives of those who decide to transition in order to secure benefits peculiar to their new gender (/sex)? What is there to stop gender self-identification being used for trivial or trendy motives? Should a transient rebellious ‘phase’ really have the capacity to amend a state document as important as a record of birth?

And what of the religious realm? Will a Roman Catholic priest who self-identifies as a women be permitted to celebrate Mass? Will Muslim women who self-identify as men be permitted to prostrate themselves in the men’s hall of the local mosque? If Justin Welby decides to self-identify as a woman, does he become the first female Archbishop of Canterbury? Can he be fully woman-bishop with a penis; two Hypostases in one Ousia? If a married Roman Catholic self-identifies as the opposite gender(/sex) 30 years after their wedding, is the couple thereby automatically divorced if there are no valid canonical grounds for annulment (ie, that this is genuine transgender maturity; the original consent was never defective)? These might seem like highly improbable metaphysical questions, which some might term transphobic absurdities, but transgender self-identification raises serious theological questions with which all religions will have to grapple.

Yet the searching questions of gender identity aren’t metaphysical for those who are genuinely transgender. The intersexed patently exist; hermaphrodites blow dimorphic universality and binary sex out of the water. ‘Male and female created he them; and blessed them‘, and then He went and allowed the emergence of ambiguous genitalia, genetic idiosyncrasies, chromosomal spectrums and hormonal confusions, all of which conspire to create a myriad of variations of biological sex urges and societal manifestations of gender dysphoria: natural physical behaviours combined with mental-health disorders. Heterosexuality may be the procreative norm, but there’s an awful lot of messy biological and societal transactions going on within and around God’s perfection.

The Conservative task is to recognise the reality and to ensure that state regulation is proportionate and the bureaucracy defined and limited. The Christian task is to be compassionate and loving, merciful and kind. Five digits on one hand may be God’s prescribed anatomical ideal, but those who have the prenatal printing for four or six are still searching for a soulmate to touch. And those who lose a digit or two postnatally can still point to a destiny. What constraints should there be on those who were born that way in nature, or made that way by nurture or circumstance?

It is patently absurd, not to say demeaning and distressing, that some ad hoc gender recognition committee should sit in judgment to certify what those who are transgendered already know themselves to be. It is bureaucratic, not to say exasperating and humiliating, that the transgendered are presently forced to live for an arbitrary period of two years as their new gender (/sex) in order to ‘make sure’ that that is what they are. They are being asked to prove their humanity; to test the core of their identity. The turmoil and emotional costs of current procedures are considerable:

We have had, for example, a young person in their early 20s who has not yet had any sexual relationships being forced to decide and state categorically whether or not they want genital surgery and being questioned over the fact that initially they wanted breast augmentation but then grew breasts through hormone treatment. Panels have been incredibly pedantic about any perceived inconsistencies in the medical reports, which means that people end up extremely upset and feel really invalidated.

No wonder so many contemplate killing themselves. Yet it is curious that the skeletal anorexic who self-identifies as obese is viewed as someone who needs mental healing, but the gender-dysphoric man who self-identifies as a woman is deemed to have a mental disorder which needs consummating.

But it’s probably transphobic to go there.

The Conservative and Christian response to gender dysphoria hardly needs reiterating: compassion must flow in order to mitigate suffering. Why compound the hate, cruelty and discrimination so many already experience with overbearing state regulation and bureaucracy?

But surely transgender self-identification is three steps too far? Is there not some organic, incremental via media between the invasive medical inquisition of the gender recognition panel and the seismic revolution of universal transgender self-identification?

“How an individual presents themselves is really up to them,” is what Maria Miller told the Times. What happens to feminism if being female is simply a matter of a man choosing to present himself as a woman? What happens to racial equality if white people may present themselves as black? What happens to racial profiling or crime stats? What happens to the Paralympics if the able bodied may present themselves as physically disabled? What happens to abortion if a legal advocate may argue that the disabled baby in the womb might self-identify as physically perfect? What happens to the Equality Act’s protected characteristics if they are henceforth literally in the minds of participant individuals? Will it be a ‘hate crime’ to insist that a self-identifying man is really a woman?

Transgender self-definition will open a Pandora’s Box of identity delusions and infallible feelings. It might even permit liberals and libertarians to self-identify as conservatives, and who knows to what Dystopia that might lead?