Men and women, and the transgender debate



Was Adam a Madam and Eve a Steve? These days you might begin to wonder about the Garden of Eden story where God created man and woman, given some of the issues raised by gender fluidity.

Gender is a social construct. We are conditioned to behave in ways that are considered appropriate and views on what is acceptable for each sex evolve. Now, though, women play rugby and men may be stay-at-home dads, something that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago.

Biology may not be our destiny as far as gender goes but surely when it comes to sex – being a man or a woman – it does define us. Or so I thought, until I listened with mounting disbelief to a radio programme where it appears altered definitions attack our understanding of what it means to be a woman.

The HSE have changed Maternity Legislation under the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill. The word woman is replaced with person so that, for instance, people with cervixes, rather than women, get cervical cancer, though men, mind you, still get prostate cancer.

Why is this happening you may ask? It is because the transgender pressure group Transgender Equality Network is now influencing public policy around a tiny number of individuals without the rest of us, particularly women, who are 51% of the population having any say in matter.

Transition involves people who wish to identify according to how they feel rather than their biology, known as gender self-identification. Men may wish to identify as women and vice versa. Some ‘self-identifiers’ change their name, dress and pronouns while others may seek surgical reconstruction and hormone treatment.

Self-declaration doesn’t change the fact that sex is genetically determined, in that we born either male or female. Only women can give birth, menstruate and lactate and only men can produce sperm. No matter how much surgical reconstruction and hormone treatment a man who wishes to identify as a woman may undergo, he will not be able to reproduce. He might have a surgically created vagina, maybe even a pseudo cervix, but you can bet your bottom dollar that that cervix doesn’t lead anywhere. Maybe at some very future date it will be possible to transplant the entire reproductive equipment but not anytime soon.

It seems ironic that only a few decades after women have got hard-won equality rights, their very definition is now under attack. I am not against an individual belonging to any of the LGBTQ categories. Trans people deserve support and acceptance. However, I do mind about the definition of womanhood being under attack and the way that anyone who believes that sex is immutable, like JK Rowling the Harry Potter author, will be accused of being transphobic and may be subjected to abuse .

Dressing up as the opposite gender doesn’t change one’s sex. I have tried it as a journalist along with a male colleague. He hadn’t gone far in a skirt and heels when an urchin asked: “Hey Missus, are you a fella?” Despite my stuck-on beard, I found going to the jacks worrying.

Appearance aside, rewriting the rules around transactivism raises serious issues. Helen Joyce wrote her book ‘Trans – When Ideology Meets Reality’ published last week motivated by the suffering of people who are detransitioners.

“One of the consequences of the idea of gender self-identification is that children are being motivated and damaged,” claims Joyce. Treated with drugs to delay puberty, with hormones, mastectomy or castration surgery and rendered sterile, those who chose, mistakenly, to transition face a terrible predicament.

“Once you have seen that it is hard to look away,” writes Joyce.

Her book covers the history of the trans movement and deals with issues that are rousing controversy. Should men, who self-declare as women, compete in women’s sport when the purpose of having separate men’s and women’s sports was to make competition fair?

Men, who on average have 41% more non-fat body mass, legs that are 65% and upper body 90% stronger respectively, are going to be at an advantage. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) no longer requires that trans athletes need to have undergone hormone treatment or surgery in order to compete.

Other questions raised are whether trans men should have access to female lavatories or to women’s prisons or refuges. It’s not that transitioning is just a matter of self-identification but that women in particular have to accept that definition unquestioningly regardless of consequebces.


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