Donald Trump’s decision to lift the guidelines issued by the Obama government allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, has caused much consternation and wailing about the rights of transgender students.
However, when you look at the impact of lifting this guidance, it’s hard to see what there was for people to get quite so het up about. Firstly, the original guidelines had absolutely no legal force whatsoever therefore as ever, the decision seems to be indicative of Trump’s usual style; it’s enough to please his supporters and establish his conservative credentials but doesn’t change a lot in practical terms.
For example, when the original guidance from Obama was issued the state of Texas put a temporary hold on it after 13 states sued. What the lifting of the guidance has done, is introduce a sensible level of subsidiarity noting that this is an issue best dealt with at a local level.
Tellingly for concerned Catholics, the American Bishops’ Conference, the USCCB has applauded and welcomed Trump’s decision on this issue, expressing their gratitude. They note that it’s an extremely sensitive situation, best dealt with care and compassion at a local level, respecting the privacy and safety concerns of all students.
Father James Martin SJ doesn’t appear to agree with them and in response issued a series of tweets, implying that to deny transgender students the rights to choose whichever bathroom or changing room they choose is not Christ-like, it further marginalises people, infringes on their basic dignity and asking ‘where’s the harm’?
Along with a number of other Catholic women, I responded to him in pretty gentle terms as a mother of 5. We asked where is the care and compassion for the dignity of vulnerable women and girls who don’t actually want to share their intimate spaces with non-biological females?
As a result, my Twitter-feed has been filled up with an eye-watering amount of expletive-ridden abuse and invective. I am a terrible person, a bad mother, evil, lacking in all compassion, who needs to educate herself, ugly, my genitals are deformed from having 5 children, I must die in a fire, commit suicide, hopefully my family will hate me and so on and so forth. The sheer level and bombardment of hate, is dizzying. I’ve been at the end of Twitter storms before, but this takes it to a whole new level.
It’s not only the violent abuse itself which is so frightening, but the level of delusion that it’s based upon.
The insults are all variations on a theme so I’m just going to offer a response to each one.
Adopting a realistic attitude
Nobody with any common sense or compassion minds an adult who has fully transitioned, using a public loo designated for women, provided that they do so in the same way as any other woman, i.e. unobtrusively and not drawing attention to their trans status in a way that makes other women around them feel uncomfortable. Most trans women I know, already do this.
Most women don’t actually take much note of who else is going into their toilets, which in many ways makes them more vulnerable, because we don’t expect to see men in there. If you can pass as a woman on first glance, chances are nobody will really object.
However, what women are objecting to, and rightly so, is the idea that anyone who decides to state that they identify as a woman for whatever reason, regardless of their manner of attire, can use women’s facilities. It’s not acceptable for someone who is so clearly obviously male, to think that their feelings entitle them to intrude upon women’s spaces. Plus, there is the issue of whether or not sexual predators might take advantage of relaxed laws, as has happened on past occasions. Part of the reason for enforcing legislation is to ensure that people feel safe and to discourage criminal activity.
Years ago, in the era before mobile phones, I was once followed home after getting off the bus and the only way to shake off the man, was to go into a public ladies’ and raise the alarm. The threat of being accosted by someone for entering a woman-only space proved enough of a deterrent.
What happens in ladies’ loos
It’s typically a place where women can feel safe, away from the male-gaze. On my Twitter stream, women have told me about having to rinse through clothing or underwear in the sink, following an unexpected menstrual leak. Women feel safe asking the person in the cubicle next door to pass them some paper for example, or perhaps asking a kindly stranger if they can help out with sanitary products in an emergency. Some women may also be dealing with an unexpected miscarriage, the physical aftermath of one, or other difficult gynaecological issues.
Few women want to deal with personal and intimate matters such as these, in front of male prying eyes. I remember once, as a student, men routing through my bag, finding my sanitary products, covering them in poultry blood and draping them all over my car windscreen and putting them back in my bag, as a prank. On the whole, women tend to adopt a far more sympathetic, sensitive and pragmatic approach to the indignities of the menstrual cycle than men.
Another thing that frequently happens in public conveniences, is that locks on the doors are often loose or faulty thanks to repeated use. Elderly people sometimes have difficulty in securing them shut. I’ve been burst in upon or accidentally opened the door on others, a number of times. Any mother who has taken a small child into the cubicle with them, has likely had the experience of the child opening the door prematurely, while still attending to herself. I’ve also had children who have been fearful about closing or locking the toilet doors and have sat there innocently on the loo with their pants down. Nobody wants men in that situation either. It’s the whole male gaze issue again. Women are far less likely to stare at, sexually objectivise, or mock someone who inadvertently exposes themselves, but most likely will act with camaraderie and support. Men are more often than not too embarrassed to tell you if you have your skirt tucked into your knickers or are trailing a bit of toilet paper and women are less likely to experience mortification when informed discreetly by another woman.
Inadvertent indecent exposure is not a myth, but an unfortunate fairly regular occurrence. Those who claim that people aren’t going round deliberately exposing themselves, willfully miss the point.
The situation in schools
We aren’t just talking about toilet cubicles, although many critics seem to lack an understanding that going to the loo in public, isn’t always just a mishap-free straightforward walk in, walk out of the stall, affair. Neither do all cubicles afford total privacy.
In schools, you have a different situation of often anxious and very self-conscious girls changing in front of each other, which could well involve stripping naked and showers.
I’m going to talk about my daughter briefly, given that I raised her dignity as a concern and everybody thinks I have taught her to be fearful of men.
Here’s the deal – until yesterday, she hadn’t even heard of transgenderism. But at the age of 12, she has gone from a child who happily ran about naked in the house without a care in the world, to, over the last few years, establishing her own boundaries and needs. Bathroom and bedroom doors are shut and locked, if she is caught unawares, she will instantly cover herself, which has not stemmed from any kind of adult prompting. It happens to most children.
Likewise whereas previously, she wouldn’t mind chancing upon male adult family members in the bathroom, now she is embarrassed. It’s all pretty normal textbook stuff.
Teen girls are often made anxious about the onset of puberty and various bodily changes. The role of the parent is to reassure, to soothe, to offer frequent support and comfort that all of this seems daunting but is perfectly natural. And also to assist and guide when it comes to personal and sanitary care. Above all to act as gatekeeper for a child to protect them at sensitive moments from tactless or curious siblings.
So when you’ve got a child who doesn’t actually want to see male genitals and is made uncomfortable by them, it’s not unreasonable to want to keep them out of female changing rooms at school. Why do we have to desensitise vulnerable young girls to looking at male private parts? Similarly why do we have to accustom young girls to their bodies being scrutinised by curious men (who are normally thought of in terms of having a penis).
A teen ‘trans girl’ isn’t biologically a girl and may not have decided whether or not to fully transition, so no matter feminine the hair and face, they will have the body of a male.
It’s not a case of educating oneself, it’s more a case that here is someone with different body parts which may make teenage girls uncomfortable. Again, it’s an instinctual awareness of the male gaze – because one thing that teen girls do tend to do, is sneak surreptitious glances at each other, mainly to compare your own development with your peers. The one question on the mind of every teenage girl, is ‘am I normal?’ I remember feeling reassured when I noticed that other girls were doing the same thing physically as myself and things like bras and pubic hair and later on periods, ceased to be such a big deal.
A trans girl is going to have more curiosity than most and also, there’s the issue that their appearance may trigger body anxiety in other girls, because men tend to have an entirely different look, owing to a different skeleton and physiognomy. Girls attempting to emulate the adrongynous look of their trans peers or normalising their shape as a glamorous ideal, is never going to end well.
Incidentally all local government authorities have a standard policy that mixed sex siblings shouldn’t be sharing bedrooms over the age of 10.
My experience of being a mother to a teen girl
So yesterday, when I was Skype-ing my daughter (who’s away skiing on half term at the moment), I said to her that I had been talking about her. Mainly what a great time she appears to be having.
I asked her how she’d feel if she had to share changing rooms and loos with boys. She laughed and said that would never happen because she’s at a girls’ school. OK, I said but what about the previous school you went to which was co-ed. “I wouldn’t like it” she said. “Why not, out of interest”, I asked. “I don’t know, I just wouldn’t, it wouldn’t feel right, I don’t want to have to see boys and I don’t want them seeing me”.
OK fine, I said, but what if you had a boy who felt he was born in the wrong body wanting to share your changing rooms and loos. Her face was an absolute picture. “What do you mean” she asked. “How can you be born in the wrong body”. Some people believe they are, I said. “But how does that happen, she said, I don’t understand, it doesn’t make any sense”.
I then went onto explain about how girls are supposed to like pink and clothes and make-up etc, which again my daughter found bizarre, not being into any typical girls’ pursuits. How some girls liked to play cricket and football and some boys liked to play with dolls and that made them feel like they were the opposite sex, because they identified better with them. Fortunately my daughter is level-headed and sensible enough not to think that because she isn’t into all the stereotypical feminine stuff, that perhaps she might be a boy, or genderqueer but you can certainly see how the idea can be suggested to children.
We then went into how people manage to actually become the other sex and hormone therapy. Which then prompted a question about whether or not pills changed private parts. No, they don’t, people have surgery. “That’s just gross” she said, “I can’t think about that, it’s really disgusting, can we change the subject now, I’m really freaked out”.
Sure, I said, but say you had a boy, who really felt that he was girl, who didn’t want to use the boys in case he was picked on and physically bullied, would you be happy to have them in your changing room? No, not really she said, I’d feel sorry for them, but I’d still be uncomfortable with it if I’m honest. Couldn’t they use a staff room or something?
Thinking about it later, I reflected, how am I supposed to de-sensitise a child to feel happy and comfortable and nonplussed about seeing male genitals and surely such a thing is abusive? I have no rational scientific explanation for the phenomenon of people being born in the wrong bodies, it seems evident that gender dysphoria is a mental condition which current medical thinking treats by radically altering the body.
Later on, after people implored that I cared not one iota for the safety of trans children who couldn’t use the bathroom of their choice, I reflected that there’s an interesting piece of sexism going on here. People assume that trans girls won’t be safe in boys’ bathrooms, but they seem to forget that girls are more than capable of ganging up on and bullying, even to the point of physical violence, those whom they deem other, or outside of the in social crowd.
Issues of safety
As Matt Walsh points out, despite the statistics which demonstrates assaults do happen, women’s concerns shouldn’t be dismissed as inconsequential or irrational whinging.
What about those women who have been raped, or victims of sexual assualt, don’t they have a right to safety and privacy?
What about the older generation, most of whom are deeply uncomfortable about allowing any man who identifies as a woman into public loos. Are their fears irrelevant mainly on account of their age?It’s often elderly women who struggle to lock doors with arthritic fumbling fingers and who are deeply self-conscious of various bodily functions that don’t work as well as they used to.
Where is the empathy for the needs of vulnerable women in all of this? Not least those of our elderly sisters?
Balancing of needs and rights
Nobody is saying that transgender people don’t have specific needs or aren’t vulnerable, but why are their needs deemed to be more important than those of women? Why does this have to be some sort of victim top-trumps, why can’t appropriate, unisex provision be made, if necessary designating or building unisex facilities for those who want them.
Friends in teaching are telling me of an explosion of teens, identifying as the opposite sex, including one report of 4 girls in the same form who all came out as trans in the same week. Another GP friend of mine who works in teen mental health, said that they couldn’t believe the volume of cases presenting, 99% of which were not believed to be genuine.
There’s plenty of resources, in terms of how children get sucked into this culture, and a wealth of information, a google on ‘gender critical’ will throw up all kinds of resources. 4thwavenow and Gender critical dad are two such excellent sites. In particular, this is a compelling story of a girl who believed she was a boy, and then reconciled herself with her identity, from the point of view of her mother. There are also some interesting stats out there about the percentages of those identified with gender dysphoria who don’t end up transitioning.
What was telling about the amount of abuse I received was the sheer violence and aggression, not to mention the machismo, one person bet me $10,000 to see whether or not my IQ was larger than theirs. Which was a frankly bizarre and very male-orientated competitive response.
The vast majority of abuse was either from transwomen or men. That’s right, men, telling me, why I had to accept men in female intimate spaces and mocking the idea that people feel vulnerable in loos, that exposure can inadvertently take place and generally failing to understand the whole concept of the male gaze and the nitty-gritty of what often goes on in public bathrooms, along with the unspoken bonds which unite women.
That people want to sexualise my children or accuse them of voyeurism or sex crimes if they are accidental victims of indecent exposure, or if they accidentally expose themselves, speaks volumes. As does their need to instantly cast any objectors into the role of sexual pervert and hold them up for public ridicule.
As ever, these people scream hatred and bigot, and yet the biggest irony is, that they want to force people to uncritically accept their unscientific ideology that if you feel like the opposite sex, then you definitely are that sex. Regardless of whether or not you have corrective surgery or take hormones.
Here’s the thing though. Just as I cannot control or force these people who claim that I am physically ugly, or unintelligent or whatever, to think otherwise, neither can they control how others think of them. Trying to force someone how to think, trying to impose your ideology on them, either by legislation or social shaming, making them too frightened to express their views for fear of abuse, well, that’s bigotry!
Take a look at my mentions on Twitter. They are quite the education. At one point they were coming one per second. I tried to bat them off with a witty response, I mean, suggesting that a troublesome woman should be burnt is hardly original is it? The hate was very one-sided and you have to feel nothing but pity for people who are so troubled that they want to do inflict physical, verbal or emotional damage on you, taking time to craft the most spiteful sentiments designed to wound.
To date I have muted over 237 people. Which was actually an interesting exercise in perspective. These activists may shout loudly and ensure their voices are the loudest to be heard, but lets be clear, even if I had blocked even double that number – say 500, then that’s hardly staggering proportion of people, or indicative of majority views on this. It’s nothing more than a noisy self-sustaining bubble, designed to drown out the mainstream.
Unbelievable though isn’t it? That in 2017, women are still having to fight to the right for separate public conveniences, free of men. Or that denying that born males are actually females, or vice versa and that due to some unexplained metaphysical and evolutionary miracle, which transcends scientific explanation, people can be born in the wrong bodies, releases such outrage. Even more extraordinary and some might say scandalous, that such abuse can be given succour by the words of a Catholic priest, because without a doubt, every single vile and vicious tweet many of which stemmed from California, where Father James Martin resides, supported his position. Some of them even copied him in.