CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses sexual assault. I’m also a self aware wolf. This is an opinion piece by a cis, gay, male person, discussing distinctly trans and mostly female issues. This is my take on it, I am not an authority, a judge, an expert- I’m just very opinionated and wanted to put my two cents out there. Disagree- that’s absolutely fine-this is how it looks from my perspective.
Another tweet by JK Rowling, another scramble to either defend or decry her. But as this endless culture war continues, who are the real victims- trans women, cis women-all women? It’s certainly not the perpetrators of the acts in discussion – cis men.
So much anger and vitriol is in the war on trans rights now- and it is a war on trans rights, however else you spin it. Transphobic people want to remove trans people’s rights, established and wholly enshrined ones – along with preventing access to new ones like faster healthcare or an improved programme of self ID- they are also quite openly cheering another delay in the ban on conversion therapy.
The last thing I’m sure that’s needed is yet another cisgender man weighing in. So let me state quite purposefully that nobody needs to listen to me as a person of authority on this topic, I’m not a cis woman and I’m not a trans person. But I am tired of seeing disgusting accusations of perversion or sexual assault levelled at friends of mine who I care greatly about, of seeing their vital healthcare needs ignored, of seeing slander and threats of violence fly across the internet- and I assure you as someone hugely supportive of the trans community who also believes that women are the horrific victims of a stone deep misogyny that runs through every society today, that I would condemn any trans people or allies issuing the above.
JK Rowling last night shared an article regarding how, in Scottish law amendment, rape would be categorised should it be committed by a trans woman. The article stated that this – currently theoretical by the way- process would allow for the person who committed the rape to identify their gender. Many people immediately leapt into Rowling defence mode- why would you want a RAPIST to be able to identify themselves how they want, why should they be lumped in with WOMEN’S crimes when WOMEN can’t commit rape according to the law? The critique I personally have with the law Scotland propose is that even if the individual has not changed gender, they will still be recorded with the gender they state- that, right there, can blatantly lead to misleading statistics and harmful effects on women, both cisgender and trans. It’s potentially damaging to the trans community to allow this to happen and needs to be further amended and would muddy the actual water for the recording of statistical figures which we use to combat crime. But the biggest problem comes from the simple notion that a person’s identity is often bigger than just them.
A person’s identity doesn’t change because you don’t like them
You don’t have to respect a person’s morals or actions to acknowledge their identity, and removing someone’s trans identity because they are a rapist is, ironically, counter intuitive to gender critical ideology anyway- if you’re bent on proving that trans people are a danger, removing their trans status just adds their transgressions back to the demographic of their assigned sex, rather than proving trans people are inherently a danger. Adding obsolecence to recording figures because of our personal distaste for the acts committed is foolish – if a person identifies as trans, record them as trans- after all gender critical people, surely recording crimes with cis or trans will allow for accuracy in your condemnation of a community you firmly believe do this… right?
Let’s be clear- rapists are disgusting and commit heinous acts which destroy people’s self confidence, damage their body and can ruin their lives. The issue comes with the fact that someone’s identity is tied in to conditions- if a rapist can have their identity denied, then why can’t an armed robber? Or just a robber? Or a person who commits assault? Or what about an angry person? Maybe just a person you disagree with? How about you just don’t like them? It’s a slippery slope, and it’s an understandable one when you look at crimes as truly heinous as sexual assault- we want rapists to suffer, they dehumanise others- but adding conditionality to a person’s identity affects more than them – I don’t respect rapists, but I respect my trans friends enough to know that if I misgender someone, no matter how heinous they are, it’s a warning that I could do the same to them if they don’t toe the line. Calling people like Caitlyn Jenner a man might seem funny to supposed allies- but it shows your trans friends that if they are the “wrong type” of trans person, you’ll do it to them too, that you’re only humouring them. It’s pretty disgusting. Caitlyn Jenner is a horrific person- and a woman.
The overarching issue as well, is doubling down on such a specific aspect of such a systemic crime- the statistics show worrying numbers for both trans and cis people- 50% of trans people have experienced serious sexual assault, and that 97% of women have been sexually harassed in at least one way. Perhaps people under such serious and constant threat of sexual assault should work together to counteract this heinous abuse. Of course, gender critical people would state that it’s trans people who offer that threat- with very little credence to back this up beyond a biased BBC article which at first featured a lesbian rapist condemning coercion and assault (hmm) and stories like Karen White, a trans rapist in women’s prisons- White is a threat against women around her and denying that is simply stupid- but is she only a threat against cis women or a threat against all women, and should be treated accordingly? And I researched further breakdowns of trans vs cis offense rates and was presented, naturally, by the scrivened research given to the government by fair play for women- a trans hate group, debunked here. Nobody worth listening to is denying the existence of evil trans people any more than we deny the existence of evil cis men or women, evil gay men or women- every demographic has it’s demons. Until gender critical people strip off the top layer of their fury and understand that nobody is denying transgender rapists exist, but that the wholesale condemnation of the entire trans community for the actions of a minority in a minority is just prejudice, no productive discussion can happen. Outliers exist and the demonization of all of the community based on outliers leads to… well, this.
Having myself been through sexual assault by several men- and two cis women, by the way- I can say that I understand that the extra, horrific and protracted things that go in hand with rape from someone with a penis, is horrific- there are elements to being sexually assaulted with a penis which make it horrifying in other ways that other transgressions do not- but it does not lessen the severity of someone who does not have a penis sexually assaulting you. Crossing of bodily boundaries is horrific, and nobodies’ experiences of this should be ignored or understated. I’m convinced that Lily Cade’s (the BBC article’s disgraced commenter) many victims would state that her gender wasn’t forefront of their minds when she stole away their consent.
Rapists must have their personal details recorded to an excruciating degree- not to invalidate their trans status, but for the vital enhancement of society. We must have clear statistics on who is and is not committing these horrific crimes – and more knowledge on gender would assist with this. Being trans is not a bad thing, so I would posit that recording a rape committed by a trans woman should go down as a rape committed by a trans woman. This would allow trans people to demonstrate that they are no threat: when the number of trans predators are revealed, it would bring exoneration to a community doomed to be sentenced to guilt based on the actions of a small number amongst them. Until then, the disparity of numbers will continue to be a source to lionise gender critical people, who seem to assume that one trans person who is a pervert means all trans people are, and will leave trans people unable to defend themselves with a simple “look at the numbers”. I also believe that the endless argument gender critical people often use that “women can’t commit rape” is ridiculous. If a person is found to have invaded your body without consent, it’s down to the victim to decide – the wordplay of gender critical people stating “that’s not rape” doesn’t ingratiate me to think I’m talking to sensible people with decent morality-nobody can tell you that someone crossing your boundaries is or is not this horrific crime.
Another argument which is constantly brought up is “where should trans rapists go?” and frankly I am the wrong person to ask as I’m of the keen opinion that all rapists should be turned into slurry- perhaps a harsh standpoint but not if you’ve experienced it- if you’re willing to cause someone long term to permanent mental and sometimes physical harm i fail to see how that’s something you can be rehabilitated from – it takes time and intent to commit a crime like that, it takes a fundamental ignorance of someone elses’ needs, wants and requirements. So I suppose my answer is this- why are we housing rapists in general population at all? Gender irrespective, why should a rapist walk amongst others? If you have been proven guilty of disregarding someone’s bodily autonomy you cannot be trusted to be around anyone. Lock them in isolation to serve out their sentences- anything else shouldn’t be countenanced, and if the argument of a prisoner’s bodily autonomy is raised- if they cannot respect someone else’s, why in turn should theirs be? A breach of bodily autonomy is a crime only paid with recompense.
Put the victims back at the front of the discussion
I can’t help but feel, in these discussions around trans folk and the unfounded accusations of perversion, that victims of sexual assault are left in the dark. The weaponisation of gender identity means that the victims of this horrific crime are left to founder as their horrible experience is turned into a stick to beat transgender people with. Putting the victim’s welfare front and center instead of using their decimation as an “a ha!” moment is a failure on anyone’s part. And assigning the title of “less distressing” to crime because it was committed by a woman against a woman is the height of rape apologism. You don’t get to decide how disgusted someone feels when their body is invaded by someone else. The “yes but” of gender critical people when a woman speaks out about sexual assault by another woman is horrific. I have literally seen a gender critical woman tell another woman who was talking about her rape by a female family member, “well, that’s not rape” as though this should be of any comfort, an easy dismissal of a horrifying experience.
The irony in this endless war is that neither side gains- but both sides lose. Cisgender women who would otherwise be indifferent are being radicalised into believing that every trans woman is a male pervert, playing dress up to lure you into unsavoury positions. Firstly- it’s wrong to conflate trans women with men. Behaviourally, societally, trans women and cis men are different, from presentation to healthcare needs and on and on. Whether you agree with gender identity or not, that point cannot be picked apart. And when it comes to the number of cisgendered men who do dress as women, who utilise, or reproduce aspects of trans women, who mimic cis women, this is because of their- cis, male- perversions or fetishisation and not because of their gender identity. This behaviour is wholly the fault of their own individual selves, not that of a community they are not a part of and whilst it’s simple to conflate a perverse cis man with a trans woman it is wholly wrong to do so- they are not the same. The threat offered by one is vastly different from the threat from another. And on the other side, people who simply want to live, be safe, not be demonised and have access to gender affirming healthcare to help them be who they are, are being pushed to attack those who are demonising them. Trans people and trans women in particular are held to a disgracefully high level of conduct. Every time a transgender woman commits a transgression the entire community is brought out for scrutiny, the example thrown in their face as if it’s not their own stomach dropping worst nightmare to see someone in their community lending a shred of credence to the dire warnings of their detractors.
For my part as a cisgendered man, I believe that society and media (initially- the onus becomes yours when you act instead of deconstruct) fails a huge number of people who are born in male bodies- regardless of whether they stay that way. I don’t know where it is that society fails to instil the idea that someone else’s bodily consent comes before their sexual pleasure, but that it does. Until this issue- the issue of a society bent on pitting women against each other to the delight of men who continue to benefit from that system- is addressed, men will continue to help women attack the trans community because they know that it benefits them to evade scrutiny. Trans women take the fall for the actual issues of cisgendered men and the cycle will continue until trans people are shown not to be this nascent danger that the gender critical movement paints them to be.
Ultimately, spotlighting trans people and their wish to be identified as they are, rather than what society dictates will continue on. Despite the horrific attacks on trans people in the media, in literacy- and in very real life, people will continue to be trans. Regardless of gender affirming healthcare’s availability, trans people will continue to exist. They do not transition to fit your idea of womanhood or manhood, they do so for themselves, as surely as you transition from unclothed to clothed every morning, choosing what aspect of your masculinity or femininity you choose to highlight, or not to highlight anything at all. It’s a longer and more intimate process, but it’s that process.
The rhetoric pushed by Rowling, Stock, Cherry, Bailey and more will continue only to serve those on the periphery of the debate. Cis men will continue to sit in the shadows, benefiting as trans rights are rolled back but punishment for rape continues to be vanishingly low- the statistics are horrifying, and a society that doesn’t take rape seriously is a failing society. And I need it to be clear that I stand with all women- but I do stand against a society that allows patriarchal continuance of the idea that only a man can rape, only a man has a penis etc. As surely as some men have large or small penises, as surely as some women can or cannot ovulate, nature and science are hopelessly more complicated than we will likely ever truly understand. And i trust that if a person tells me their gender, they know it better than I can or will, regardless of the causation behind it because I don’t believe a person is in control of the innate sense of self generated by their brains. I can’t help having brown eyes any more than a trans person can help being a trans person.
Societal acceptance is not a moral compass
When the rationales we face from gender critical people boil down to “well society says trans people are good/bad” I always have to roll my eyes. Was society correct when we burnt women as witches? When we put people of colour into indentured slavery? It was only 50 years ago it was legal for a man to rape his wife; society may claim to be the moral arbiter, but it has failed previously and it’s failing here- not just failing trans people, but failing cis women- and in fact, in it’s initial appraisal of them, failing the cis children who then go on to commit these heinous acts. This is not said to absolve them of guilt, but my rapist literally could not understand that climbing on to me when i was asleep and forcing himself into me was rape and that “if you’d start things with me I wouldn’t get horny and do it in my sleep” was a defence- whether this is his ability to deceive himself or society implanting this idea of absolution based on circumstance- or just the fact that rapists are missing a central part of humanity in caring about other people.
The propagation of the idea that trans women are wholly responsible for the crimes of the few is- at it’s core- transphobic, obviously. Am I responsible for the crimes of other gay men? While we may all bear responsibility societally for ensuring our fellows do not commit horrible acts (women asking men to ensure their friends are checked when they are misogynistic for example), that is not a fair parallel to enforce upon anyone- and their identity shouldn’t be revoked based on their transgressions either, no matter how heinous, because it’s a slippery slope- look at Priti Patel’s new legislation talking of the deprivation of citizenry as an example- If the worst offenders who have naturalised to British can have their citizenship, then why not offenders? If not offenders then why not those who COULD BE offenders…? It’s all too easy to take a little before taking a lot.
Cis women’s concerns
I can’t speak to the issues cisgendered women feel when it comes to transgender women in their spaces. And perhaps there’s some understanding of why cis women feel the uptick in trans women coming out feel threatened by the emergence of a larger portion of a very small demographic. But I know the answer is not to attack or buy into radical theories of perversion or sexual gratification, it’s not to retreat into the dungeons of the internet to swap affirmations about what the “right type” of woman or womanhood is. Whether you agree that trans people are who they tell you or not, demonising them and running away or screaming in their face- digitally or in person- is not going to win you favour or credulity. One side is asking for respect of their identity, healthcare and easier ways to quietly become the person they are within. The other side may have originally stood with valid questions the community could answer and could solve or dispel with simple discussion and a demonstration they are not a threat, but has morphed by degrees into a persecution that is wholly unhelpful to either side.
The women I know have explained to me that it’s not trans people who scare them, but people who have penises- seeing a penis as a weapon, as someone who has one, was at first a shocking viewpoint. Then I remembered the damage done to me by someone else and all came clear. For some in this debate, for some reasonable cis women (and by extension a small number of well meaning cis men) it’s not directly about trans identity but about people with a penis who can conceal it- but of course to a trans woman who may, or may not, fit into this group, again they are hit by the splashback of a demographic they don’t necessarily belong to, or feel they should.
When it comes to spaces Is it fair to ask a trans woman who has been sexually assaulted not to seek help from a survivors group because she’s trans, something she didn’t choose but just is? Or is it the experience of being degraded and having your body stolen that brings everyone in those groups together? It’s absolutely, completely clear that a cis man should not be welcomed into a group around an act a fellow cis man has partaken in, and as a gay man I wouldn’t expect to be allowed in. As to trans women…? Do they not deserve support from their sisters? Gender be damned, if someone has been through such a horrific experience and seeks support surely that overrides all. Equally, I’ve been to a diverse survivors group which featured LGBT+ people. There was no threat because we were all there to support each other. Problematic people would have been removed. It’s about the group’s individual efficacy, surely, not about the identities within?
I know this post might anger some of my friends and that’s absolutely not my intent- but I know that the daily back and forth, aided by allies and very intelligent trans people on one side and worsened by millionaire authors, ex tv show writers, academics and the press on the other, is not going to get anyone anywhere. the mire is thick, but can be escaped from. I’d urge gender critical people to stop listening to the same recitations of threat and start listening to the insistence of a community that does not mean you harm. And to my trans friends whoever you are and wherever you may be- keep being yourselves in the face of all of this because one day you’ll be able to show the world who you are without fear of persecution. You’re more than a sign on a bathroom door, you’re more than clothes or hormones and you’re certainly more than the whispered recycling of anti gay idealogues from the 70’s.
I’m certainly not saying “don’t listen to cis women’s concerns” but what I am saying is, bear in mind which cis women you’re listening to and how entrenched in this they are.
Come together, work together and progress to dismantle the patriarchy. Or keep recycling the arguments so prominent on the net today, and watch as cisgendered men just keep winning a game they’re cheering on from the sidelines.
Daviemoo is a 34 year old independent writer, radicalised into blogging about the political state of the world by Brexit and the election of serial failures like Trump and Johnson. Please check out the rest of the blog, check out Politically Enraged, the podcast available on all streaming platforms and share with your like minded friends! Also check him out on ko-fi where you can keep him caffeinated whilst he writes.