I often say we live in the best nation in the world. A society based on mutual respect and good manners. We pride ourselves on leading the world in the promotion of liberty, justice and equality. Of course we want to do the same for trans rights.
The recent committee report by the women and equalities committee, on which I sit, has called for self-ID for the purposes of obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC).
But a government that is rightly prioritising combating violence against women and girls cannot ignore the challenges that self-ID poses to women’s safety. Due to extensive and unchallenged pressure by Stonewall, in day-to-day practical terms we already have self-ID, with many private and public sector organisations conflating sex and gender without any real scrutiny of the implications.
This is the real challenge, and what the committee should have been examining instead.
Sex is biological and immutable. Gender is social. The two things are distinct. And by conflating sex with gender we have created an inevitable conflict between rights based on sex with those assumed by someone with a transgender identity.
It is time that our politics dealt properly with these issues, because sex really matters.
It matters in prisons. We have always housed men and women in different establishments but we are now seeing male prisoners being housed in women’s institutions because they choose to identify as women.
Sex offences committed by women have hitherto been a rarity, but today we are witnessing a surge in offences said to be committed by women. This has coincided with police forces recording crimes by gender rather than biological sex. This is skewing our crime data in a dangerous way.
And we know that most women in prison are extremely vulnerable so the last thing they need is to be forced to share accommodation with male sex offenders. We have already had cases of female prisoners being raped and assaulted, and this will only increase if we fail to get to grips with this policy.
It is not “transphobic” to recognise that male sexual predators use every tool at their disposal to access their victims. I want to see the government properly address the increased prevalence of male sex offenders identifying as women.
Sex is the biggest determinant of our health. Various conditions have very different pathologies in men and women so it is vital that their medical records are accurate so that patients can be called for their crucial screenings.
Yet the NHS’s confused approach allows medical records to refer to gender rather than sex, putting this at risk. Stonewall’s political agenda is literally putting people’s health at risk.
Similarly, the NHS has a policy of single-sex wards where patients are housed according to how they define their own gender.
This pays little attention to the concerns of women who, at their most vulnerable, may feel considerable anxiety at sharing sleeping accommodation, toilet and bathroom facilities with members of the opposite sex. So I’m glad this is under review by the secretary of state for health.
Sex matters in sport. It is an unarguable fact that male and female physiology is somewhat different. Males who have gone through puberty have more muscular strength than women, which is why women have their own sports categories.
Allowing male athletes to self-declare as a woman in full knowledge that it would become easier to win trophies would obviously ruin sport and undermine the talent and work ethic of the many brilliant sportswomen around the world.
Of course, in a free country, individuals should be able to live life as they choose and present themselves as they wish. It surely isn’t impossible to achieve this without undermining the rights of women. Isn’t that why we have the Equalities Act and a women and equalities select committee in parliament?
The Equalities Act is meant to offer all of us protection and yet it is being used and interpreted in a way that isn’t affording women the protection they expect. It doesn’t require women to share changing facilities with biological males. It permits single sex facilities for women for their own protection.
So how did we get here? It is partly a consequence of government sub-contracting the equalities agenda to Stonewall.
In the pursuit of becoming diversity champions, government departments have fallen over themselves to show how inclusive they are according to Stonewall’s political agenda. That has been recognised by Liz Truss who has been a breath of fresh air since she took over the equalities brief.
It isn’t good law making simply to pander to well funded and politically motivated campaign groups.
Our job as law makers isn’t to simply listen to the voices of those who make the most noise. Our job is to apply judgement to the evidence before us and to ensure that the laws we make solve real problems while causing no harm.
Where the rights of trans people conflict with the sex-based rights of women it is for government and politicians to be brave enough to grapple with that conflict and achieve a solution, not to pretend that the conflict simply doesn’t exist.
We can be inclusive without compromising the rights, dignity and privacy of women.
So in responding to this report I want to see an unambiguous statement from government that the Equalities Act protects single sex spaces like hospital wards, prisons, refuges and rape crisis centres as well as women-only sporting competitions.
This is an opportunity for ministers to be robust in defending women’s rights as well as the rights of everyone to live in Britain as they choose.