There has been a shocking backlash following the government announcing its plans to streamline and de-medicalise the process for changing gender.
Helen Lewis, the deputy editor of the New Statesman, wrote in The Times today to criticise the idea that people should be able to define their own gender.
Days after Jeremy Corbyn called for an overhaul of the 2004 Gender Recognition Act at the PinkNews Summer Parliamentary reception, the government announced it would move to allow transgender people to change their legal gender.
The current law requires trans people to pass a number of bureaucratic hurdles, wait two years and to submit to medical tests in order to change their legal gender.
Corbyn backed trans campaigners in calling for a ‘self-declaration’ system which would eliminate many of the obstacles.
But Lewis objected, comparing gender to nationality and stating that “you might feel British and wish to spend the rest of your life in Britain, but there’s still a formal process to go through to become a citizen.
“Crucially, once you’ve completed that process, you’re as British as someone who was born here.
“It’s not a perfect model, but it’s the least worst one we have.”
Unless you marry a British citizen, it takes five years to achieve naturalisation.
Writer and campaigner Juno Roche rubbished Lewis’s comments, drawing attention instead to the dangers faced by trans women all over the world.
“Whilst some speculate wildly about what may happen if trans people are allowed far more freedom in relation to self-identification and how dangerous they perceive us to be – as they do that, people, real people, trans people are dying.
“Look at the numbers globally of trans women – mainly TWOC (trans women of colour) – contracting HIV, through structural and systemic discrimination and societal neglect.
“Claims about us as perpetrators of crimes against women are factually wrong, but are also made out of pure and simple spite.”
The Sunday Times also sparked a negative reaction with the way in which it reported the government’s proposals this weekend.
Tim Shipman and Jason Allardyce wrote: “Adults will be able to change their gender legally without a doctor’s diagnosis under government plans that will transform British society.
“Men will be able to identify themselves as women – and women as men – and have their birth certificates altered to record their new gender.”
Women would identify as women – and men as men – under the new plans, which acknowledge trans rights.
Lewis was also worried about the government’s proposals increasing the number of male flashers in women’s changing rooms.
“In this climate, who would challenge someone with a beard exposing their penis in a women’s changing room?” she asks.
Similar arguments – about how trans people might abuse the ability to use their bathroom of choice – have been used to battle against trans rights in the US.
On Sunday, as the UK government was making its announcement about the reforming the Gender Recognition Act, the Texas Senate State Affair Committee passed Senate Bill 3.
The Bill forces people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Paul Embery, a Fire Brigades Union official, also came out against the government’s plan, comparing gender identity to weight, height and attractiveness.
Coming next: short people may identify as tall, fat people may identify as thin, and ugly people may pretend to be George Clooney. pic.twitter.com/Crxau2dZtz
— Paul Embery (@PaulEmbery) July 23, 2017
People hit back after Lewis’s article.
Hi Helen, as a cis woman and a feminist I’d expect you to not occupy debates on trans rights with fear based argts of indecent exposure…
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— Noémie Ducret (@ncjducret) July 25, 2017
Helen Lewis’s repeated comparison of trans rights to the UK immigration system (arguing the latter = “the least worst option”) is *so bad* pic.twitter.com/IhaNEs1jAB
— [pasta emoji] (@pastachips) July 25, 2017
Some were furious.
I wish I could get paid ludicrous amounts of money to dehumanise Helen Lewis on a daily basis. Free speech means equal debate, right?
— 🧜♀️ ⚧ Alex ⚧ 🧙♀️ (@winterslex) July 25, 2017