Thank you Graham for being open about the process here. It sounds to me like this was mostly a workplace dispute and there was good reason for handling it the way you did, even though it has clearly upset many readers. Understanding the process does help, though.
I just popped back in here to respond to Graham, but I have to make one last comment on the “rights” issue since it seems people still don’t understand why it is that trans people like myself are frustrated by how the narrative has been framed.
Trans people already have human rights. We never didn’t have them. We are humans, so obviously we have all the same rights other humans have. The only people who are advocating taking our basic human rights away are the most batshit of the right-wing conservative fringe. It’s really not helping our cause to let them pick the battlefield.
Please understand this. I am a UK citizen by birth, I have a UK passport. I transitioned over 20 years ago. My passport says F. I didn’t need to do a whole song and dance to get my passport changed, I just had a letter from a GP saying “alison will be living as a woman from now on”, it took 5 minutes at the doctor and 2 weeks of waiting for the envelope to arrive. That was last millennium! This is not a topic that is under any serious debate. Anyone who is curious about the present-day process, check out this link: https://www.airport-parking-shop.co.uk/blog/lgbtq-transgender-change-passport/
The proposed reforms in the UK would not make it significantly easier for people to change their passport, since that is already very easy to do. The current debate is specifically about birth certificate. Except nobody asks to see your birth certificate anywhere, no rights are denied to people based on their birth certificate, so it’s really more of an ideological battle than something practical. My birth certificate still says M, still has my old name, I don’t care. Why would I? That’s who I was when I was born. Some people do care, though, and right now those people need to get a whole ream of medical documentation to change it. They want it to be as easy to change as a passport. I don’t really understand why, but whatever, I guess if it makes them happy, it doesn’t seem that controversial to me.
People keep bringing up sex- or gender-segregated spaces as if that is some kind of “human rights” that trans people are being denied, but - aside from the fact that the vast majority of these spaces we were/are already there and nobody cares - segregation is implicitly a restriction of human rights! Before certain corners of the internet decided that “gender critical” now means something different than what it appears to mean, it could be boiled down to an argument for the abolition of gender as a patriarchal social construct. Abolish these gender-segregated spaces, because they are fundamentally oppressive! This is obviously a radical view, that’s why it is/was a part of second wave radical feminism. Some (but not all) of the older feminists you might read in The Guardian are still from that era and still think about gender like this.
Unfortunately talking about gender in the terminology of the second wave is now considered unfashionable, but that doesn’t mean that some of the ideas didn’t live on in a different way. Here is a contemporary feminist take on why sports should be desegregated, for example: https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/against-women-sports-interview
It’s not about trans people. It’s about segregation being fundamentally unjust.
That’s why I want us to be excluded from this conversation. I think it was a strategic misstep for both radical feminists and trans activists to cede this ground to the ultra-conservatives who want the conversation to be all about dudes with dicks in your daughter’s hockey team. To me it’s unproductive to mindlessly repeat “trans rights are human rights” or “trans women are women”, as if those things were ever seriously being questioned by reasonable people. I think it’s more important for trans people to talk about concrete issues like how can we give guidance to parents of trans kids who don’t know how to deal with the situation, how we can improve the situation in countries where there is still fairly rigorous gatekeeping around access to hormones and corrective/reassignment surgery, are there still gaps to be closed around unfair workplace dismissal or hate crimes, can we provide better support to tackle the extremely high suicide rate amongst trans youth in the period before they transition etc etc.
Meanwhile, from the feminist point of view, I also think it is still important to talk about gender as social construct vs gender as a performance vs gender as an item of cultural or ethnic significance. Men, women, non-binary folks - we all need to be able to discuss the impact gender has on our lives and question the value of sex- or gender-segregated spaces. Personally, I am gender critical the same way that I am critical of religion, or nationality. I understand it has a place in society for cultural reasons, and I understand that some people believe that they could not live without it, but I see it as a dated institution that we should be working to abolish, at least from the public space. I know my view is radical, but the whole discussion is radical.
It’s a fascinating topic that I wish I could talk about without intolerant trans activists (or malicious transphobes) charging in to shut it down, or drown it out with their toxic arguments. Unfortunately both of these factions have taken over the entire room to debate, which is why up until this broke out in the comments thread of one of my favorite websites I have steered the fuck clear of any online discussions of the topic, as have many other trans people. It’s not a topic that is safe for us to discuss any more.
Anyway, as Graham pointed out up-thread, RPS is not about creating a “free speech zone”, or about creating a “safe space” for everyone. That’s fair. It’s just so sad for me to realize how many people supposedly on my side have let my whole identity get reduced to vapid, tautological slogans and a pointless internet shitfight that even when you “win”, nobody wins.
Okay, now I’m really logging out! Thanks again to Graham for explaining his position, and to the commenters both here on the forum and on the site who have provided so much entertainment over the years. Maybe someday I will be back, but right now it’s time for a break