Inclusive feminism

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In response to a tweet in which I stated that I believe trans women are women, and that Plaid Cymru is committed to equality for all trans people, many people have asked me to elaborate on my statement, which I want to do here.

Respectful debate is a crucial part of feminist politics. However, some responses to my tweet showed that transphobic views are being voiced by a small but vocal minority. Stonewall research shows that 41% of trans young people in Wales have attempted suicide – the climate of fear, misinformation and hatred that has come with this debate will directly harm trans people who already face much higher rates of bullying and mental health issues.

 

Trans women in Wales experience particular challenges, including increased vulnerability to domestic abuse, violence, harassment, hate crime and homelessness. The bureaucratic and demeaning process of gender recognition under the current Gender Recognition Act is an additional barrier to equality. I believe that a system of gender recognition where people would be trusted to be the authority on their own identities – like they already have in Ireland and Malta – would be much more progressive.

 

I used to work as a support worker for Women’s Aid, and so I know how important domestic violence services are. I don’t agree with those who say that allowing trans women to access these services endangers other women. The proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act don’t affect the exemptions under the Equality Act for single sex services. However most women-only services wouldn’t consider a blanket ban on all trans women and many services have been providing trans-inclusive support for years. The staff who run support services and shelters make informed decisions in the best interests of survivors all the time, including assessing whether an individual is likely to pose a risk to other people.

 

If services were to refuse access to all trans women and non-binary people, where are they supposed to go when they face abuse, violence or homelessness? The appalling experiences of trans women housed in male prisons shows why it’s so important that people are given appropriate accommodation and support.

 

Violence against women is a huge problem – but denying trans people equal respect and recognition under the law is not going to solve that problem, neither will turning vulnerable people away from support services. The example from Scotland of women’s organisations there coming together to support reform of the Gender Recognition Act and affirm their commitment to trans inclusion is one we should follow in Wales.

 

Trans women are not the enemy. The enemy is cuts to funding which has seen domestic violence shelters and support services close across the UK. The enemy is a backlash to women’s progress which has seen misogyny promoted by some of the most powerful men in the world. The enemy is narrow gender norms which limit our children’s expectations and lead to bullying and abuse of anyone who’s seen as different.

 

I want to see an inclusive feminism which brings women together rather than dividing us. A feminism that recognises our shared challenges while valuing our differences. A feminism that understands that gender is a complex and deeply personal thing, and is about so much more than outdated ideas of biology. As a working class woman, it’s important to me too that feminism recognises that some women face multiple oppressions due to their class, race, disability or gender identity and that all of these need to be tackled.

 

I’m proud that Plaid Cymru has championed trans equality, including securing improvements to trans healthcare in Wales and challenging hateful comments from other parties. We will continue to do this. Plaid Cymru’s vision is of a Wales where everyone is respected, free from abuse and discrimination. I want everyone who shares that vision to be part of building that nation, together.


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  • commented 2018-03-20 08:53:22 +0000
    As brilliant article at a time when the women’s​ movement, is being divided, by a group of women who are either ignorant of the facts, or should know better.
  • followed this page 2018-03-20 08:15:47 +0000
  • commented 2018-03-17 22:23:47 +0000
    Some fantastic and well informed feminist comments here in response to this shocking article. Not much else to say except to reiterate that biological sex is NOT a social construct, that the term woman is exclusive to biological adult females ,that the Stonewall study has been thoroughly discredited as dishonest and damaging and that there is no historical precedence for transitioning. Gender non conforming men have never demonstrated that they are subjected to any more violence than any other group of men and are statistically just as likely to be violent as any other men. Oppression does not stem from some imagined inner identity but from the real lived experience of women.
  • commented 2018-03-16 13:18:28 +0000
    I have no problem with a review of the GRA. I do have a problem with those who say #there is nodebate about some issues that arise from the Self-ID recommendation as regards the impact on women. One of which would be the elimination of the category “woman”. Yes, that’s pretty serious. So let’s talk about it, OK? Otherwise it’s just succumbing to intimidation… Fortunately previous comments from Sharon Campbell, Sian Jones,Dr K, Christina Forte, Jayne Egerton, Herby HellsBells, Julie Oosthuysen and Bella Bailey have said it all. So can we have this discussion upfront and public? Will you respond to the questions you’ve been asked? Please…
  • commented 2018-03-16 12:01:46 +0000
    Leanne

    Thank you for clarifying your position on this. However, I am shocked and saddened that an intelligent person can say that biological sex is a social construct. What do you mean by this? The human race, like all mammals and many other species are dimorphic. It requires one male & one female to produce another human being. How can this be a social construct or outdated? I am just an ordinary mother of three children who is now wondering how/if I will ever be a grand parent if it is now so difficult to measure who has the ova and who has the sperm? It is as simple as that for me.

    Gender on the other hand is a subjective feeling/opinion which cannot be measured. Surely gender is based on personality and socialisation so is different and unique to every human on the planet as none of us has identical life experiences ? How can that be legislated for in law? Surely to break down gender stereotypes we should be encouraging people to ‘be themselves’, wear what they want, play with what the want, pursue interests that they enjoy. i feel the transgender lobby is reinforcing these stereotypes rather than breaking them down. As small children my kids loved to dress up. My sons loved wearing fairy & Disney princess costumes , does that mean they should be identifying as female? Their sister was a big Bob the builder fan, does that make her a boy? Why are organisations such as Mermaids promoting such rigid stereotypes to our kids? encouraging boys to play What toys, colours etc a child likes has absolutley no bearing on their biological sex. The promotion of transgender in schools is leading to some very confused children. Why can’t kids be kids and enjoy their childhood unencumbered by such subjective issues?

    As a mother of a young daughter (and sons) the proposed changes are deeply worrying to me. The Labour Party seem intent on giving female only opportunities (which are female only to help address sex imbalances in parliament etc) to self identified TIM in contradiction to the Equality Act. TIM have lived as males through childhood, and often many years as adults. They do not and can never have the same experience as born females so I think it is very unfair on born females to allow TIM to take female only places. This applies to female scholarships etc too. Women have been fighting for equality for many years. We are still not there but have made much progress in the 20th Century. Is the 21st century when we see theses rights and protections rolled back in order to protect and appease a small minority? I really hope not.

    With regard to domestic violence shelters etc I am so grateful to my foremothers who fought and campaigned for these. Why don’t the trans community do the same and campaign to set up their own? After all, their needs are unique and may be not the same as non trans (I will NOT use the term CIS) women. I know many feminists who would support them in this. In fact, many feminists have fought for gay & transgender rights in the past. These same women are now concerned about the effect of self id on women & girls and are quite rightly questioning self id. We are however being silenced and villified for our genuine concerns #nodebate.

    Most of the problems society faces due to violence and abuse are caused by people of the male sex. This may be unpalatable but it is fact. Transgender people say they are intimidated and scared. Who is it they are scared of? Men, not women. Why can’t TIM address this issue rather than eroding the sex protected rights of females who suffer greatly from male violence? According to the Femicide Census 2016 113 women were murdered by males in England, Wales & NI that year. 9 (7.9%) of these women were killed by a stranger while 78 (69%) were murdered by a current or former partner. In comparison no transgender people were murdered in the UK in 2016.

    I and most other women have no problem with transgender people. They are humans who deserve to have the same rights as other humans. They deserve freedom to live their lives in peace & security. What rights do transgender people not have in the UK? If they are male they have the same rights as all natal men. The only rights they do not have are those related to the protected characteristic of sex (unless they are a TIF, of course, which means they are biologically female). Why are TIM ( and it is males, TIFs do not seem to have much of a voice here) so desperate to obtain the rights of women that are based on their biological sex? Is it purely for the validation that they pass as female?

    Gender self id will be open to abuse. If we can just make a declaration we are the opposite sex it will be easy for people with less than noble reasons to do so. Sexual predators have gone to great lengths to access victims in the past ( becoming catholic priests, sports coaches, scout leaders etc ) why make it easy for them? Can’t get chosen as a political candidate as a man? Self identify as female (which will require no effort at all) and get on an AWS or a female leadership course (or both) and bingo your chance of selection is increased significantly. Gender Self Id will be harmful to genuine transgender people too, indeed many of them are against it. When society wakes up to the problems this will cause then there will be a backlash and trans people will suffer.

    Another concern is the erosion of language and the way society is being gaslighted into believing lies such as a man can be a woman if he says he is. Where will it end? Biological reality (XX= female XY= male except in a small number of intersex people) is fact but we are now being told it is wrong!and to believe it is bigotry. What next? 2+2=5? The sky is green & the grass is blue? Laws must be based on measurable reality not subjective feelings.

    This issue is troubling me greatly and I will no longer vote for any party who support self id. Many members of my family feel the same way.
  • commented 2018-03-16 10:45:07 +0000
    As a Welsh autistic woman I am confused by your words. A woman is an adult human female. A trans gender woman deserves respect and equality, but cannot be defined as a woman, because a woman is defined by sex, and not gender.

    You are telling me that I need to lie to be seen as not transphobic. It hurts me to lie. My autism causes me pain to lie, but this is what the world wants me to do now. I do not understand how you can legislate for a belief when the facts are there.

    Most autistic women don’t conform to gender norms (I don’t), but we love rules. It doesn’t surprise me to see Autistics overrepresented in trans people. We are vulnerable to being told that our preferences mean we are in the wrong body, and vulnerable to taking hormones and having surgery that could render us infertile.

    We also have much higher suicide rates than the general population, which don’t change after transition.

    I fear for my community. I fear for the sterilisation of young autistic people. I know many with nastier agendas don’t see an issue with that. It terrifies me.

    I don’t understand the mantra. I only feel pain at the lies. Trans people have rights. They are absolutely equal in this world. I have no phobia to speak of, but women and girls need sex-based segregation. If trans people also require safe spaces then they can be created.

    My PTSD after being raped did not respect people’s pronouns, it only let me feel safe around biological women. I would never have sought help if I could not have made that choice freely.

    I have always voted Plaid. I am a proud Welsh woman, and I am now politically homeless. In a marginal, Plaid constituency, you have lost my vote.

    This is important. This is about equality not meaning the same thing as equity. I have the right to my safe space, you do not have a right to throw me and my disabled sisters under a bus for the sake of creating rigid gender stereotype rules.

    I have always had enormous respect for you, Leanne, I very much hope that you listen to women. So far the debate has been shut down. Women have been shouted down and silenced. I am terrified writing this comment, because I know how so many women have been treated for voicing their fears.

    There is nothing wrong with being a trans woman and I don’t understand the need to escape that label. Woman means one thing. Trans woman means another. Equal but different. Why is there so much self-hatred from the trans activist community? Why can they not accept that stating the truth is not a value-judgement.

    Mae dweud y gwir yn bwysig.
  • commented 2018-03-16 08:51:57 +0000
    Leanne:

    I’m a scientist. On top of my general annoyance at this post I have two things I’d like to say,

    1. You say that sex is a biological construct. This is incorrect.
    2. You refer to outdated notions of biology. Please clarify ? I note that the TRA movement has started saying this and it worries me because it too is misleading – science is pretty tight when it comes to sex determination

    GENDER. GENDER IS THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCT LEANNE

    Sex is a neutral biological fact. It’s an objective, measurable attribute.

    Here’s how to tell the difference:

    If you can measure something or count it or observe it as an either/or phenomenon then it’s an OBJECTIVE measure. Height, mm of rainfall, sex as M or F, a lightbulb as on or off. That’s measurable. It’s objective. It’s neutral in terms of worth.

    If you cannot measure it or it depends on opinion, it’s SUBJECTIVE. So love, how good a piece of artwork is, whether women should wear dresses. If musicals are fabulous or a bunch of dire shite. Subjective.

    Sex can be objectively measured. It’s real. When an archaeologist digs up bones they can say ‘here we have an adult female’.

    Gender feelings are subjective. That’s whats a social construct. Work towards getting rid of the daft and constricting narrow gender expectations we have and the world will be a happier place.

    The transgender movement is actually narrowing those gender stereotypes- little boy playing with dolls? Must be a girl! No, it’s just a little boy playing with dolls. To then give that child puberty blockers and surgery to permanently sterilise them is gross child abuse. When these children come of age we are going to see some very traumatic lawsuits.

    Gender stereotypes harm everyone. Sex is an undeniable, objective, value neutral fact. If people don’t conform to gender stereotypes the answer is NOT that they must be the opposite sex, it’s that our stereotypes are too narrow

    I feel so strongly on this that my next vote will be single issue. I’m a lifelong leftie but I will not vote for any person or party who supports self ID.

    I await your clarification on which specific bits of biology you feel are outdated. With peer reviewed references…
  • commented 2018-03-16 08:41:54 +0000
    How can you not understand that gender is the social construct, and sex is our living reality?

    Gender roles harm us all by forcing us into restrictive boxes, based on our sex. Boys should be free to play with dolls, hair grips and such without being told “you’re really a girl” (and forced onto an irreversible path of medicalisation etc) likewise we need to encourage girls to be football stars and construction workers.
    THIS is how you free people from harmful stereotypes which are fluid and changeable over history.

    The 41% suicide stat is not true. Nothing in your statement is true.
  • commented 2018-03-16 00:16:30 +0000
    Leanne. I completely agree. Not surprising given I’m a trans man and a feminist. Thanks for being vocal though. I note in other comments that there are still some blatant untruths still being told. I"m sure you’re aware for example that the Stonewall study included over 500 trans young people in arriving at the awful suicide statistic.
  • commented 2018-03-15 23:36:09 +0000
    Thankyou Leanne for trying to navigate this minefield with considered calm. It seems the tories and their billionaire press friends have taken an opportunity to yet again attack a tiny minority of citizens for whatever political motive .
    The GRA has over the years become less and less fit for purpose, but with all the other important things which need immediate attention why do they dig this up except in the hope the right wing bigots will start screaming and demanding certain citizens be excluded from their basic human rights. Quite frankly the “community” which actually doesn’t exist except in the minds of transphobic bigots are sick and tires of always hearing the exact same slander and slurs which were thrown at gay men in the past, some of them even coming from gay men and women.
    While the GRA is obsolete and needs reforming is in no doubt, it is ungainly and has too many restrictions which serve no logical purpose except to put hurdles in the way for no apparent reason. I am sure you are aware the GRP panel demands reports from “approved specialists” and helpfully provides a list, except it has not been updated since 2004 and most of the “approved specialists” now have retired or become private consultants only. They also charge fees, yes even the NHS specialists demand at least £50 for a one line “report”. This has to stop.
    The current system needs reform, but I would not go as far as to say there should be absolutely no checkas and balances in the system of changing an inportant personal thing like one’s complete legal identity. It is far far more than a simple name change, and I feel some kind of “seriousness” is required from the applicant. Perhaps making it only possible to make such a change every say… 2 years.. would be more appropriate than one proposal which was “at whim as many times as a person likes” .
    In the meantime attention needs to be paid to the increasingly hysterical abuse from certain sectors. There is an example in the replies to this article. No more than lies and bigotry. They have no evidence that transwomen are any danger to the female population, and yet they stay silent on the subject of transmen who could quuite possibly be as much of a danger as any other man in the same situation. Their refusal to even consider this issue shows them up for what they really are, and these TERF hatespeech merchants need to be closed down with 21st century science. A respectful debate on the issue is welcomed by everybody except the bigots who keep on and on spouting hate and lies backed up by no more than prejudice and long discredited “studies” carried out using totally flawed methods and a visible agenda to provide ammunition to create an atmosphere of hate and abuse towards specifically trans and non binary women.

    the situation is getting worse every day. The right wing press and their TERF allies are making transwomen.. and only transwomen.. into the 21st century Jews.. it’s unacceptable.

    What would be your opinion on these kinds of activities being carried on behind closed doors in Westminster?. The reports show what can only be described as hatespeech towards a minority being used, in secret, in Westminster..

    http://uncommon-scents.blogspot.co.uk/2018/03/parasites-evidence.html

    Thanks for reading. I apologise for the length of my comment. I was meaning to be brief but it’s hard to cover all the points without sounding rude if too brief.

    Regards and Respect.
  • commented 2018-03-15 22:12:37 +0000
    You say you support single sex exemptions but don’t elaborate on when women should be afforded the sex – not gender identity – based protections of the Equality Act. Please have a look at this report from Canada & tell me if you think that vulnerable & traumatised women should be kicked out of homeless shelters because they can’t cope with being forced to sleep near to male bodied people – however they identify. Do you really think these women are bigots who should be kicked out on to the streets? Is this the kind of feminist future you welcome? https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/globalnews.ca/news/3300518/concerns-over-transgender-client-at-okanagan-shelter/amp/
  • commented 2018-03-15 22:10:46 +0000
    Leanne- I’ve always been a fan. But that stat you’re repeating (41% of trans people try to commit suicide) is not true. This was based on a study of just 27 people, 15 of whom expressed this sentiment. Vitally, it wasn’t de-duped for existing mental conditions and as anyone who works in healthcare knows, this makes the study worthless. Actually, it’s worse than that, it’s actively dangerous to unhappy teens, in all its suggestibility, and against all advice from the Samaritans and other professional bodies. You need to engage at a deeper level with this debate and work with women to find a way through this impasse. Not simply show what a compassionate woman you are. Compassion is allowing women to organise as a class, in the face of relentless discrimination.
  • commented 2018-03-15 21:22:36 +0000
    Interesting how many of the diehard binarists below are lockstep in in agreement with Tory climate change deniers like David Davies. Tells you all need to know about the wilful shibboleths TERFs cling to.
  • commented 2018-03-15 21:18:42 +0000
    Yn union! Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi, Leanne.

    Bigots, get out of Plaid with your retrograde superstitions.
  • commented 2018-03-15 20:21:25 +0000
    Thank you for engaging Leanne, there’s a thread on Mumsnet where women are discussing this post: https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/womens_rights/3195297-Leanne-Wood-has-responded-to-her-tweet
    (just in case you are interested)

    I asked you on Twitter, to define the word woman.

    Could you please do that? What do you actually think a woman is?

    Whenever I ask, I either get a list of sexist stereotypes or a circular definition, or in most cases, I just get blocked.

    I’m always interested to find out if people who believe a subset of males are women, can actually come up with a coherent definition of the word. I’m prepared to believe that someone who has been born with male sex organs, brought up a boy, socialised as a man and benefited from the structural sexism which gives men an unearned advantage, is a woman, if only someone can tell me what that actually means. So far no-one has, but I continue hopeful.
  • commented 2018-03-15 20:11:42 +0000
    Transwomen are MEN. 80-90 percent have male sex organs. You are placing the rights of 0.03% of males above that of the 52% of the population that are female. Stonewall’s figures are fake. To say that feminism, a movement for the overthrow of male rule of women, should include men, is ludicrous. Disgusted that you have said nothing here about the abuse of children by the trans cult. When a woman is raped in a prison, when a child is abused by a self-ID in a shower, I will hold YOU responsible, Leanne Wood. Traitor to your sex.
  • commented 2018-03-15 18:37:34 +0000
    Disappointed that you have not listened to the arguments of the “small but vocal minority” and instead respond to what you think are our concerns, but sadly not surprised.
    The pressure to say the prescribed ‘correct’ thing is hard to fight as a female MP.

    Thank you for responding, at least.

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