Some days the New Ireland feels creepy like old Ireland. Different identities, different rhetoric, but the same sanctimonious scapegoat of women who step out of line.
This is how I felt when I read Emer O’Toole’s article last week on how Irish feminists must avoid transphobia. Like Emer, I was curious about the Irish Women’s Lobby (IWL) and attended its opening event for International Women’s Day. The event I attended online focused on the sexual exploitation of women through a lens that recognizes the specific impact it has on working class migrants and women. Speakers from the USA, Sweden, Turkey, Ireland and Great Britain presented research results or spoke from lived experiences.
Iseult White is a business consultant and psychotherapist
Emer O’Toole saw “shocking transphobia”. It’s almost like we’ve attended two completely different events. Fortunately, all presentations are on the IWL website so that you can judge for yourself. Some Irish feminists put trans women at the center of their activism. Most people, when they think of trans women, think of Lydia Foy, who fought with great dignity for the right to be legally recognized as a woman. The language commonly used used to be transsexual, but many younger transgender people now prefer the term transgender.
Today, transgender identity is an umbrella term for a wide variety of identities including, but not limited to, trans men and trans women. non-binary persons who identify external notions of feminine and masculine polarity; gender-specific individuals whose gender identity changes over time; and men who like to crossbreed and like to wear stereotypical feminine clothes.
Some transgender-identified people take hormones and may have surgery, but many choose not to.
Social acceptance for trans men and trans women who are changing medically is generally high. A 2020 YouGov survey in the UK found that only about 30 percent of people were against transsexuals who use same-sex toilets and locker rooms to match their new gender. When they asked the same question about trans people who had not undergone sex reassignment surgery, opposition to their inclusion rose dramatically. Around 70 percent of people are against the use of same-sex rooms in their new gender.
Butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-your-mouth activists will tell you that terf is an acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist, no bow
The women involved in IWL were now referred to as “terfs”. Butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-your-mouth activists will tell you that terf is an acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist, no bow. Women who raise concerns about a conflict between transgender identity and women’s rights correctly identify Terf as a gender arc often accompanied by online threats of rape and violence. Not surprisingly, men who raise concerns are not attacked with the same malevolence.
The culture war over transgender identity is believed to be a British issue and British terfs are expanding westward to colonize Irish feminism.
This is divisive and sectarian nonsense and suggests that Irish people who raise concerns have no agency or ability to think independently. Furthermore, this culture war is global. Transgender identity issues will upset US politics for the next four years.
On February 20, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo was executed as a portrait by activists to repeat a cruel tradition dating back to the public execution of heretics during the Spanish Inquisition.
She was accused of transphobia despite the fact that her government was committed to removing medical and legal barriers to trans people’s self-identification. The allegations of transphobia came when Carmen Calvo delayed a bill citing the need to address potential conflicts between new transgender rights and existing rights to protect Spanish women based on their gender, rights expressly protected by the Spanish Constitution. She has a PhD in Constitutional Law and appears to be well placed to point out potential legal issues.
On March 11th, the Scottish Parliament passed the Hate Crime and Public Order Act (Scotland). One of the protected traits is transgender identity, which is defined as trans men and women, non-binary people, and cross dressers.
Former Scottish union leader Johann Lamont proposed a change to add sex as a protected trait. She argued that the case of including women “who understand hate crimes better than any other group” is “indisputable”. Your amendment was rejected by the government.
The deeply challenging work of compassion is finding compassion for the people you disagree with
Joan McAlpine, SNP MSP, abstained from the vote on the bill. She said, “It will seem bizarre to many that men who enjoy cross-dressing are protected from hate crimes while women are not.”
Both women were accused of transphobic hatred. At the same time, gender-based violence due to the murder of Sarah Everard was at the forefront of our thinking. Most people seemed to understand exactly what they meant when they talked about the ongoing violence by men against women.
In the context of enshrining transgender identities into law, I don’t think we have a clear definition of gender or transgender identity. Nor have we worked to understand the potential conflicts with women’s rights.
In order to express this opinion, I was referred to as a transphobic terf.
On the other hand, I have also been labeled a sex traitor because I support transgender adults’ self-identification and I support the medical transition for transgender teenagers as part of holistic care that takes complex presentation problems into account.
To the self-proclaimed “Irish feminists” who are full of compassion for the women who agree with them, let me remind you how easy it is to have such compassion. The deeply challenging work of compassion is finding compassion for the people you disagree with.
It is in this room that speaking and listening can begin and there is potential for resolution. This culture war hurts innocent people.