The Committee of the Beaumont Society was concerned about remarks attributed to Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, about ‘single-sex safe spaces’, so we wrote to the Minister and sent copies to the relevant spokespeople from the opposition parties. Here is the text of the letter:
Gender Recognition Act consultation and Single-Sex Spaces
The Beaumont Society is a registered charity that has been at the forefront of support for the UK transgender community for more than fifty years. During that time, we have helped and supported many thousands of trans people through membership or through help offered on a one-to-one basis via our information line.
We are concerned about several aspects of your recent announcement about single-sex safe spaces. We condemn any kind of intimidation aimed at women, including violence, voyeurism, and the grotesque practice of so-called “up-skirting”. We understand the anger felt by all women at the unacceptable practices of a minority of men. We feel that anger too. But these actions, including voyeurism are already illegal, with laws in place that the police and CPS can use to prosecute anyone who indulges in such practices.
The proposed changes on “single-sex spaces” seem rushed and ill thought out, with too little consideration given to the practical consequences of your new proposals.
As the Minister for Equalities, we would appreciate your answers to the following concerns that we have.
Changing and Fitting Rooms
- A) What data from police forces across the country concerning incidences of voyeurism in changing rooms and toilets have been used as the basis for this new proposal?
B) Do the data suggest that there is a significant problem?
C) Has the Crown Prosecution Service indicated that new legislation is required in order to bring such voyeurs to justice?
- A) What data exist on incidents of voyeurism in fitting rooms in clothes shops?
B) How many incidents have been brought to your attention?
C) Have you sought such data?
- A) What data exist from clothing shops that operate a gender-neutral fitting room area on incidents of voyeurism?
B) Does a problem exist in shops that have mixed-gender or gender-neutral fitting rooms?
C) Such shops may have a lot of advice to offer. Have you sought their input?
- A) What advice do you plan to give to shops and sports/leisure centres to help them enforce this new legislation?
B) Will there be requests for some kind of proof of birth-gender or other evidence on entry to rooms to try on clothes in shops or get changed at sports/leisure centres?
C) Have you considered the practical difficulties in enforcement?
- If your proposals go ahead, then presumably trans women will be required to use men’s changing and fitting rooms. Voyeurism is much more likely in this scenario than in the current situation. After all, the appearance of a woman with an armful of dresses to try on will cause quite a stir among the other users of a men’s fitting room in a shop. Similarly in sports/leisure facilities.
A) What guidance on protection for trans women will you include?
B) Are you concerned about protecting trans people from possible voyeurism or assault?
C) If you plan to offer no such guidance, does that mean that you consider trans people somehow worthy of less protection than their cis gender counterparts?
- Under any new proposals, we assume that trans men (assigned female at birth) would need to use women’s changing/fitting rooms. This is likely to cause consternation when bearded trans men wearing lumberjack shirts and work-boots enter in order to try on their new shirts and trousers or to get changed for swimming and other sporting activities. Are you prepared for the inevitable onslaught of dismay and anger when women find this happening?
- A) How will the new proposals prevent the voyeurism that they are meant to stop if a masculine-dressed individual appears at the women’s changing rooms and demands entry claiming that he is trans, was born female and must use women’s changing/fitting rooms under the new guidelines?
B) Doesn’t this make voyeurism of the type you seem worried about more likely (and a lot easier) than at present?
- A) Or do you plan to make the new guidelines one-way only, applying to trans women but not trans men, such that all trans people must use men’s changing/fitting rooms?
B) As Secretary of State for Equalities, what consequences would you envisage if this extremely unequal option were to be chosen?
Women’s Refuges and Crisis Centres
- We understand the safety concerns of refuge managers but would like to point out that trans women are as likely to become victims of domestic violence and assault as cis gender women.
- What provisions would you envisage being put in place if trans women were to be refused entry to such centres?
- If you support moves to exclude trans women from such centres but do not propose and support alternatives, how would this equate with your role of Minister for Equalities? Do you recognise that none of us are equal until all of us are equal?
Single Sex Wards in Hospitals
- From the experiences of some of our members, we are aware of the extreme distress experienced by some trans people in hospital when they are placed in a ward designated for the sex they were assigned at birth. Some have reported taunting and bullying by other ward patients, causing suicidal thoughts, along with unfeeling attitudes from a minority of staff. How do you propose ensuring that this kind of demeaning treatment doesn’t happen if you plan to return to a strict birth-sex based ward system?
Self-Identifying as Trans
- In the consultation document prepared and presented to Parliament in July 2018 by your predecessor The Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, it was estimated that up to 500,000 people identify as trans (other estimates would support a higher figure) and yet fewer than 5000 had successfully acquired a Gender Recognition Certificate. Our experiences in running an anonymous helpline, and meeting trans people of all types and backgrounds, would tend to support this level, just under 1% of the UK population. Many have struggled with internal turmoil for many years before contacting us. Many then live a dual life, in which they compromise their own wishes in order to keep partners and family together. This is why so few seek medical appointments, hormone treatment, surgery and the route provided by obtaining a GRC; and yet (before the Covid-19 lockdown) all the Gender Identity Clinics have waiting lists of about three years for a first appointment! That so few have acquired a GRC is because the process is too bureaucratic, too expensive and too intrusive, and also because most find self-identifying has worked for them, after a fashion, allowing them to maintain their relationships and family ties by living a compromise life.
If measures are taken to severely curtail self-identification as trans by introducing “hostile” policies, are you prepared for the likely increase in people approaching GPs and gender clinics in order to obtain a formal diagnosis and GRC? It is likely to be far more than the 15% – 20% annual increase seen in recent years. Will the government provide the resources to expand the system to cope?
B. One consequence of a “crackdown” on self-identifying will be an increased rate of separation, divorce and family breakups, as trans people are forced to seek official recognition and transition fulltime. Have you planned for this?
B. Much of the friction over this issue is due to confusion about the terms sex and gender. Trans people are extremely aware that their gender pressures are experienced in the brain, largely in the subconscious, creating tension and distress. Do you fully understand those experiences? Have you taken on board the increased level of fear and anxiety that has been added to the daily lives of several hundred thousand people by your recent announcements and those of Baroness Nicholson? What exactly are you trying to achieve and why?
Adolescents and Young Adults
12. The Beaumont Society has a recently formed Parents’ Group. We are very aware that young trans people need to be able to access advice and support from suitably qualified and experienced professionals and, if deemed appropriate on a case-by-case basis, access to puberty-blocking medication. Currently, under 18s have no access to surgery, despite the misinformation circulating about this. The misunderstanding about hormone blockers seems to be focussed on an irreversible outcome but in reality the treatment can be stopped allowing normal puberty to proceed. Decision makers must take into account the high rate of self-harm among teenagers forced to wait years for treatment. The impact of refusing hormone blockers at a crucial time would lead to far more worrying decisions and potentially put lives in danger.
- Have you sought data on the rates of self-harm and suicide among adolescents and young adults forced to wait for lengthy periods before gaining a clinic appointment?
- What conversations have you had with trans healthcare specialist and child rights experts before making the decision to restrict access to puberty blocking treatment?
- We are particularly worried about young trans adults in their late teens and early twenties. There is little significant support for them. We believe that suicides and incidences of self-harm during the long wait for a first appointment are not logged as trans-related because the individuals involved have not yet been officially identified as trans. Could you confirm this, please? If this is the case, could you help to set in motion the necessary changes so that these incidents are correctly logged?
We would be very grateful if you could address these very real concerns about possible changes to legislation and look forward to your reply in due course.
(Signed) Dr Jane Hamlin