This website has been controversial. Why?
There is a small group of people who disagree with everyone else about the nature and importance of biological sex. They think sex is not real, or not what we thought it was, and anyway not important. What’s important is ‘gender identity’, the way people feel about themselves. Pretty much everyone else thinks sex is real, there are two sexes, they are roughly what we thought they were, and they are extremely important.
These two groups are at odds because legal changes are being implemented that replace sex with gender identity, or conflate sex and gender identity. The small group are happy about these changes, which they see as an advance for trans and ‘gender diverse’ people, and a loss for no one. Others view the changes as creating a conflict of rights, being an advance for trans and ‘gender diverse’ people at the expense of women, and lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Both sexual orientation and women’s oppression exist on the basis of sex, not gender identity.
Because the small group think ‘woman’ is a gender identity, they believe that ‘women-only spaces’ – spaces that exclude men – should include any males who self-identify as ‘women’ (they call those males ‘transwomen’ or just ‘women’). Others, who think ‘woman’ is a biological sex (synonymous with ‘female’) think women-only spaces should exclude all men/males. That’s why the issue of inclusion/exclusion in/from ‘women-only spaces’ is so heated. The small group think keeping women-only spaces for women/females only is exclusionary of transwomen, and that this is morally bad. Others, especially radical and gender-critical feminists, think the small group are including men/males in spaces that are meant to be for women only, which is in disregard of the safety, privacy and dignity of women and girls.
Is this website ‘transphobic’?
A lot of things are called ‘transphobic’ these days that aren’t, like acknowledging the reality of biological sex, or advocating for the protection of sex-based rights, or mentioning that it’s probably quite important to keep gathering data that includes sex as a demographic variable.
Many people who think ‘woman’ is a biological sex category also think that there are important reasons to keep women-only spaces sex-separated. They are making a distinction between people on the basis of sex, not on the basis of any other feature. In the equal opportunity law of many countries, sex is a protected attribute, and exemptions to discrimination legislation are frequently granted on its basis. That means, while it might otherwise count as discrimination to keep one sex out of a school, exemptions are likely to be granted for schools that wish to be single-sex.
These people don’t care what further features boys and men might have. If all boys can be excluded from a girls’ school, then it doesn’t matter if the boys who’d like to go to that school have further protected attributes. For example, it would be permissible to exclude black men, men with disabilities, religious men, gay men, and most significantly here, men who say they have ‘woman’ gender identities.
So, this website is not transphobic. The feminists who are concerned about impacts on women-only spaces are concerned about all/any men using them, not men with gender identities in particular. ‘Exclusion’ from these spaces is about sex, not about gender identity.
What’s the complexity here?
The group who think ‘woman’ is a gender identity, which people of either sex can adopt, believe this website is transphobic because it’s not all men/males who are actively contesting women-only spaces, it’s men with gender identities only. So when we ask about negative impacts on women from men accessing their female-only spaces, the stories we’ll get are generally either about men with gender identities using women’s spaces (and often acting in male-typical ways in them), or about how social and legal accommodation of the ideology of ‘gender identity’ has negatively impacted women-only spaces more generally (for example, because they are now mixed-sex, women who would have used them self-exclude from them).
Those who think ‘woman’ is a gender identity see those who think ‘woman’ is a biological sex category as picking on men with gender identities, by drawing attention to the impacts of their self-inclusion. Some have even claimed that it’s targeting a vulnerable minority group by highlighting instances of violence or harassment by them, which contributes to negative stereotypes or an otherwise negative public view. This is not the intention of those who care about keeping women-only spaces sex-segregated. Their – our! – intention is to draw attention to the behaviour of males (as a biological sex category). We simply don’t make exceptions for some males that some other people want to make.
Who’s right here?
Each side is pretty convinced that they’re right! One thing it’s helpful to acknowledge, though, is that there’s no clear definition or understanding available of what it means to have a ‘gender identity’. Absolutely standard feminine-presenting women claim to have ‘nonbinary’ gender identities because they adopt ‘they/them’ pronouns. That can be all that they change. Men with full beards and fully male appearances claim to have ‘woman’ gender identities because they adopt ‘she/her’ pronouns or make a claim to ‘feel like women’, whatever that could possibly mean.
There are no requirements beyond self-identification, e.g. for presentation, medical intervention, or surgical intervention. (It’s worth pointing this out, because many people who don’t know much about this issue assume that ‘gender identity’ is something that only transsexual people have. It isn’t). It’s a good thing that people shouldn’t feel pressured to look any particular way or modify their bodies. But it’s a bad thing that this ‘identity’ claim is being conflated with biological sex, or taken to be the only thing that matters for purposes previously determined by sex. Including, for example, the feature on which sexual orientation depends, or the feature relevant for whether you’d be put in a men’s or a women’s prison if you committed a crime, or the feature relevant to which sporting category you should compete in.
What’s the bottom line?
People who care about women’s sex-based rights are under attack, because they’re dissenters from the fashionable and allegedly progressive ideology of gender as identity. Their dissent matters, because sex is enormously important. It’s the basis of sexual orientation and so LGB rights, and it’s the basis of women’s oppression, and so women’s rights. Tracking it in accurate data collection helps us to know what kind of progress we’ve made for those groups. Conflating sex with gender identity isn’t helpful to LGB people, it isn’t helpful to women, and actually, it isn’t helpful to trans people. There are sex differences in welfare outcomes within trans communities, with female trans people (trans men and female nonbinary people) facing higher amounts of sexual violence and sexual harassment.
To quote a line from a recent protest against this website, 'when women’s rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!' This website is one tiny way to fight back. We’re fighting to protect women’s sex-based rights by providing a platform for women to talk about how the replacement of sex-based legal and social rights with rights based on ‘gender identity’ has impacted them. Women’s voices matter.
Hopefully we can eventually get some real data on what’s happening in and to women-only spaces, and to the women who would have used them had they not been made de facto mixed-sex.
What if I have a question you didn’t answer here?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and if it’s a good one, I’ll add it here.