Susan Dalgety: My problem with men who self-identify as women

Self-identification can't change the difference between the sexes, says Susan Dalgety
Self-identification can't change the difference between the sexes, says Susan Dalgety
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When is a bloke not a bloke? When he self identifies as a woman apparently.

A slash of red lipstick and a pair of New Look heels is now enough to transform a confused young man into a confident young woman.

And any woman who raises even a quizzical eyebrow about this sudden sex change is labelled a TERF and will probably need to lock her social media account for a few weeks.

What, I hear you ask, is a TERF? Yes, I had to look it up too when I first saw it being lobbed at women on Twitter.

A TERF is a Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Or a woman who believes that it takes more than a love of lippie to make a boy a girl. And that sex matters as much as gender. As someone who fell in love with David Bowie during his dress-wearing phase, I am all for gender fluidity. Even the most testosterone-pumped, steroid-addicted gym bunny has his feminine side.

But I am very confused about this sudden influx of young male millennials who are self-identifying as women and demanding the same rights as sisters who have fought so long and hard for equal rights.

The trans debate is raging just now in the Labour Party, once the playground of burly trade union blokes and pipe-smoking academics.

READ MORE: Edinburgh playwright condemns ban on her ‘trans Jesus’ play

Brexit, growing poverty, the housing crisis, all have taken a back seat while the comrades argue about whether a man is woman if he changes his name from Luke to Lily and slips into a size 12 frock.

Men who self-identify as women are demanding the right to be added to Labour’s all-women shortlists. This is the hard-won device designed to ensure that more women become MPs or MSPs, so that the Labour Party looks more like real life, and less like a men-only club with a few hostesses on the side.

Labour’s leader, the sainted Jeremy Corbyn, has made it clear that he supports the right of people to decide whether they are male or female, without a change in their legal status or any “invasive” medical checks.

Jeremy, if you think those checks will breach a bloke’s privacy, wait till he has a smear test, or gives birth, or even menstruates once a month. Oh wait, that won’t happen. Ever.

And while Mr Corbyn, who self-identifies as a future Prime Minister, says he welcomes an open debate about self-identification, two female Labour members have already been suspended for speaking out against trans men joining the all-women lists. Many more have been abused on social media.

READ MORE: Darren McGarvey: Gender neutral toilets are proxy for wider battle

Gender dysphoria is when a person is seriously distressed because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. It is a recognised medical condition, for which medical treatment – including surgery to change genitals – is sometimes, but not always necessary.

A person can legally change their sex by living as their chosen gender for two years, and showing a medical diagnosis. No need to get anything cut off.

Press for Change, a trans-rights organisation, estimates that in 2014 there were around 5,000 post-operative transgender people living across the UK, and another 5,000 people on the waiting list for a gender identity clinic.

Of course there are many more people whose gender is less rigid than say, James Bond’s. As the Kinks once memorably sang, it’s a mixed-up, muddled up, shook-up world. Society is much more relaxed about gender than it was even 30-odd years ago when Boy George took to the stage and stole all our hearts.

But call me old-fashioned, naïve, or even transphobic; I do not believe that if a young man simply announces he is a woman that he is then entitled to hijack his sisters’ hard-won rights. And why do I have a sneaky, but growing suspicion, this is just another attempt by some blokes to invade our private space.

There are places where segregation by sex is necessary, such as rape and domestic abuse shelters and, I would argue, hospitals. And yes, all-women shortlists. This is not discrimination. It is simply a recognition that there is a difference between the sexes, and no amount of self-identification, or lipstick, will change that.