Yesterday, I read a news article published in the Independent that the UK government are planning reforms allowing trans people to self-identify without the need for all of the red tape and medical examinations. They’re even allowing an “X” marker for those who feel they sit outside of the binary. It’s a step in the right direction, I’ll grant it that – but it still falls short of recognising that sex and gender aren’t so easily compartmentalised.
I loved reading the comments though. The strawmen were everywhere! Strawmen with rabidly-frothing mouths, throbbing veins in their foreheads and dangerously high blood pressure. Plus a lot of the usual “political correctness gone mad”/”the world’s going to hell in a handbasket” type ramblings.
If you’re not familiar with the strawman fallacy, it’s where one’s claim is substituted with a completely distorted and inaccurate view by another. In this specific case:
Government: “We’ll allow trans people to self-identify on their birth certificates without a doctor’s diagnosis”
Comments: “So you’re allowing sex offenders easy access to women’s toilets, and men to compete in women’s sports?”
The government makes no claims that this will change the legality of sex offences, nor will it make committing said offences any easier. Any sicko motivated enough to prey on women in the ladies’ toilet isn’t going to pause at the door, make a u-turn and go “Drat – I forgot to change my birth certificate first”. Regardless of what’s on your birth certificate, and regardless of which toilet you walk into, the moment you start engaging in lewd behaviour, you’re breaking the law.
The way I read it, the whole “restroom” debate is often over-simplified, unidirectional and littered with similar strawmen. I’m also surprised at how often transmen get excluded from it; when you look at the bigger picture, they’re the game-changers. You can’t force them into the women’s toilet without the risk of someone screaming “Aaargh! A man’s walked into the ladies’ toilet!”, and you can’t allow them into the men’s toilet without admitting your solutions are inconsistent. Beyond the protections already enshrined in law, what can you do to keep the predators out without infringing on the rights of the innocent?
This could be one argument for the abolition of gendered bathrooms. When the debates focus solely on the vulnerability of women and children, they ignore the fact that the overwhelming majority of men are perfectly harmless and have the same attitudes towards sex offenders as they do. It is possible that any sex offender would think twice if other men were using the same bathroom, or if one could walk in at any time. If you’re a husband or father, where are you best placed to protect them? Waiting outside, or in there with them?
There are also no claims that this will change competitive sports in any way, so where they get that nugget of information from is anybody’s guess, but let’s treat it as a valid concern for now. Competitive sports are divided along the men/women divide, so how do you make them trans-inclusive? One way would be to employ a classification system similar to how the Paralympics ensures fair competition. That wouldn’t be so bad, would it?
One thing I’m sure we all can agree on though: jumping instantly to extreme or reactionary conclusions, without any prior debate or discussion, doesn’t exactly help your credibility on the subject.