It's necessary to know people's birth sex
Why is it important to know someone’s birth sex? The Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, who chairs the Women and Equalities Select Committee, evidently has no idea. ‘Why on earth would we want to?’ she asked during an interview on this morning’s Today programme.
Where shall I even start? Maybe — and I’m just guessing wildly here — to avoid the wrong people being called for NHS screening programmes. I’ve just had a routine mammogram, which I was offered because I am female. It would be an expensive waste of money to screen me for prostate cancer because, funnily enough, I don’t have one.
Then there are prisons. Does Nokes really believe that court officials stand around at the end of a trial, not wanting to offend convicted offenders by asking their birth sex and wondering where to send them? Oh, but I’d forgotten: if said rapist announces that he ‘identifies’ as a woman, he may well end up sharing cells and bathrooms with actual women, regardless of how they feel about sharing intimate space with an individual with a penis.
That’s what happens when you ignore the distinction between sex and gender; one is a fact, while the other is about someone’s feelings, and entirely subjective. It’s jaw-dropping that Nokes and most of her committee appear not to understand the difference, but the problem can be traced all the way back to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, an ill-considered piece of legislation that enshrined the confusion in law.
Instead of listening to academic experts and women’s organisations, Nokes’s committee has published a report chastising the government for not pushing ahead with reforms to the GRA, which would make things even worse. It insists that being trans is not a medical condition, calling on the government to remove ‘medical scrutiny’ from the process of getting a gender recognition certificate, while simultaneously demanding better health care for trans people. Confused or what?
The committee evidently thinks that replacing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria with a statutory declaration would be adequate protection against male predators abusing the system to gain access to women’s prisons, toilets and changing rooms. (It occurs to me that incarcerating a male rapist in a women’s prison is a unique example of allowing a convicted offender to maintain access to his weapon and potential victims.)
Not quite everyone on the WESC agrees with a move to self-ID. ‘The conflation of sex and gender has created a conflict of rights which Parliament has so far failed to address,’ the Conservative MP Jackie Doyle-Price declared on Twitter. But it appears that a majority of the committee has endorsed the fiction at the heart of the GRA, which gives an official stamp of approval to the notion that people can change their sex. An individual with a gender recognition certificate can get a new birth certificate that erases their birth sex, even in the case of a man who still has male genitals.
If any man can do this, merely by making a statutory declaration, it puts every protection natal women currently have at risk. Sex is a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act, but how can a woman claim protection against someone who has a piece of paper saying he shares it? It is even a criminal offence, in certain circumstances, to reveal the trans status of someone with a GRC, with the courts able to impose an unlimited fine.
Endorsing self-ID is an astonishing conclusion from a committee that has the word ‘women’ in its title. I’m also wondering whether Nokes, who recently accused the prime minister’s father, Stanley Johnson, of slapping her on the bottom at a Conservative party conference, really believes her ‘birth sex’ had nothing to do with it.