Anti-trans feminists blinkered on Tories

Submitted by AWL on 25 April, 2020 - 12:33 Author: Natalia Cassidy
Liz Truss addressing the Women and Equalities Select Committee

This article has been responded to by WPUK, which in turn has been replied to here.

On 22 April, Minister for Women and Equalities Liz Truss addressed Parliament's Women and Equalities Select Committee, laying out her priorities. The Tory minister's comments and plans were met with much support from many from socialist feminist backgrounds on the basis that she thought single-sex spaces should be protected (a shorthand to communicate to the relevant audience that trans women will be excluded from accessing services and particular areas of public life).

The feminists in question - who subscribe to a very different kind of feminism from ours - have spent the last few years agitating against any reform to the Gender Recognition Act. Hence their acclaim for Truss' call for “checks and balances” on the ability of trans adults to live their lives as they wish without fear of persecution.

So busy lauding the Tories for their efforts in taking up the mantle of eroding the rights of trans people, these feminists failed to take any kind of critical view on the final point of priority laid out by the minister: that “under 18s are protected from decisions they could make, that are irreversible in the future [...] it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions”.

Given Truss' previous stated priorities, one might understand why many have reacted as if the only application of this is the seeking of trans healthcare by teenagers. It is important to be clear in this matter, it is often construed that these treatments are surgical when in fact most treatment for trans adolescents amounts to hormone blocking treatment in order to delay the effects of puberty. This course of treatment is not nearly as irreversible as surgical intervention that we are led to believe is being performed en masse.

There are, however, far wider ramifications to what Truss is saying here. This is effectively an opposition to Gillick competence: the ability for children under 16 to consent to their own medical treatment. This means that teenagers will often be unable to access contraceptive medication (for whatever reason) and that pregnant teenage girls could be forced to carry children to term by way of a parental veto. These represent a huge step backwards for the bodily autonomy of girls, the way for which was paved by cries to “protect women and girls”.

This is the logical end-point of the anti-trans feminism that has dominated the bourgeois press, is a major force in the hierarchies of many unions (much less so among their activists) and much of the left influenced by the Morning Star.

For some even on the left, the desire to push back against the rights of trans people is so strong that it scarcely matters what other rights must be pushed back at the same time. The calls for vigilantism against trans women in women’s toilets led to widespread harassment of butch and otherwise gender non-conforming women. This was a price worth paying for these feminists. When the calls to protect children by preventing all treatment to trans adolescents inevitably mean that teenage girls will be unable to access medication they need or be forced to carry their pregnancy to term by their parents, that too will be a price worth paying.

Of course this will more broadly aid the conservative and radical right, who actively want to drive down the rights of all oppressed groups.

We need to assert rational, inclusive socialist feminism and mobilise the labour movement, including obviously the Labour Party, for trans rights, women's rights and the rights of all the oppressed.

• More on fighting for trans rights in the labour movement: see our recent video below:

• Listen to our recent audio below:


Submitted by Noa (not verified) on Mon, 27/04/2020 - 08:29

I'm not a mind-reader or defender of Truss, but it seems to me the fair interpretation of her phrase "irreversible decision" in context is, that it refers to the teenagers' own life and own body, not to that of her fetus. It's not convincing to warn that the ramification or logical end-point of this is the driving down of abortion rights for teenagers. A teenager's decision to abort her child does not irreversibly deny her the ability to bear children later in life. In fact on the contrary, denying her the right to abortion does constitute an irreversible decision at least to her own life, in the sense that she would have a child to look after.
You yourself appear to concede the point that irreversible decisions (to their own body/life) should not be allowed to teenagers, when you argue:
" it is often construed that these treatments are surgical when in fact most treatment for trans adolescents amounts to hormone blocking treatment in order to delay the effects of puberty. This course of treatment is not nearly as irreversible as surgical intervention".

This seems like a straw man argument. The position is not that treatment is only surgical. The argument is rather, that even hormone blocking treatment in irreversible. First, you do accept their point that hormone blocking is nevertheless still irreversible (with the specification, that it is just "not nearly as irreversible" as surgical intervention). Which is logical from within your standpoint, since one of the argument that I do believe is frequent on the other side is, that denying teenagers hormone blockers is horrible, because it would be indeed irreversible (namely the effects of puberty can't be undone).
The disagreement boils down to whether children should be allowed to make "irreversible decisions" about their own body. But why then do you seem to be less supportive of even "fully" irreversible surgical interventions?

Submitted by Paul Muddle (not verified) on Tue, 28/04/2020 - 13:54

I find the assertions in this article indefensible. It is absolutely right that teenagers should be protected from any medical intervention that is irreversible. It is quite clear that the Tavistock clinic offers premature and potentially irreversible solutions to youngsters who might simply be confused about their sexuality. A 16 year old autistic young woman, a friend's daughter, is being given hormone treatment on the basis that she feels she is in the "wrong body" because of her attraction to other women. A more appropriate clinical response would surely be counselling based on discussion of all the issues including the possibility that she's gay. At any event a treatment which renders her permanently sterile should not be endorsed to someone of an age where all sorts of things are in flux. I also fail to see why women shouldn't have the right to separate facilities to males who identify as women . I admire the work the AWL does around issues such as anti semitism on the left but I'm afraid you're wildly wrong on this and shouldn't brand those who disagree as potential Morning Star readers.

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