by Mary Harrington
Monday, 30
May 2022
Analysis
07:45

Landmark trans cases show who the men really are

New legal battles reveal how sex is more salient than self-declared gender
by Mary Harrington
Isimemen Etute was acquitted after he was accused of fatally beating a man he believed was a woman. Credit: Getty

A natal female who had sex with three women using a specially-made prosthetic has been convicted of assault. Tarjit Singh, born Hannah Walters, met women via online dating, and kept clothes on during intimacy in the dark to avoid being revealed as a natal female. It was only several months into one relationship, on discovery of the prosthetic, that Singh’s natal sex was revealed.

This story reads very differently depending on where you’re standing. Is it a case of sexual assault, with a victim tricked into intimate contact she wouldn’t have accepted if she’d known the sex of the individual she was dating? Or is it evidence of our transphobic society, where stigma forced “Tarjit Singh” first to conceal “his” true self only subsequently to be punished for this with the full force of the law? 

This contest of views has been evident in another recent court case: the employment tribunal of barrister Allison Bailey. Bailey, who is a lesbian, was censured by her chambers for tweets including one about the so-called “cotton ceiling”. This reference to the “glass ceiling” was made by trans activists in reference to the difficulty of persuading same-sex attracted women to have sex with trans partners. The “cotton” in question refers to lesbians’ knickers. 

The phrase has prompted, to say the least, strong feelings among lesbians who are no more thrilled by the prospect of their knickers being forcibly breached by political activism than they would be by physical force. Reports suggest such arguments are common: a BBC article earlier this year reported that some lesbians feel pressured to consider males that identify as women as potential sexual partners. 

This view also has institutional backing: the BBC article triggered a response from the leader of trans activist juggernaut Stonewall comparing lesbian’s reluctance to include male-bodied “women” in their dating pool to “sexual racism”. Bailey’s employment tribunal turns in part on whether her chambers were justified in censuring her for responding critically to this term, and the role Stonewall played in that censure behind the scenes. 

In any case, though, it’s clear that whatever activists (or individuals) may desire, at ground level more people than not care a great deal what sex their intimate partner is. They also respond to being tricked in ways that appear distinctively sexed. A recent US case, with similarities to that of ‘Tarjit Singh’, resulted in murder — because the individual deceived was male. Ismiemen Etute, a Virginia college athlete, beat Jerry Smith to death after discovering he’d posed as “Angie Renee” online to obtain sexual contact with Etute. 

Etute was acquitted on self-defence grounds, but the sexed difference between this case and that of “Tarjit Singh” is striking. Singh’s victims were first guilted into continuing sexual contact, before eventually calling the police; Ismiemen Etute returned to the scene and beat Jerry Smith to death. Meanwhile when faced with moral pressure for sex by males identifying openly as the opposite sex, lesbians find themselves on the defensive: forced to justify why their same-sex attraction is not bigotry. 

All of this suggests that despite activist pressure, at the last count sex remains infinitely more salient, both personally and politically, than self-declared ‘gender’. Meanwhile, sexed differences have a way of percolating through whatever the avowed identities. 

Notably, and importantly, males remain more violent than females. And all the old-fashioned stereotypes about whose voice gets heard, and whose desires should gracefully concede ground, return when it comes to those lesbians now defending their right to reject sex with males. When it matters, everyone knows perfectly well who the men are.

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John Tyler
John Tyler
30 days ago

Interesting piece! Reasoned though it is, at least one of my children (I must add that they are all wonderful!) would describe your arguments as ‘transphobic’. We live in a world so infected by postmodernism and its offshoots that reason is itself an emotional and relative notion.

Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
30 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

I would’ve thought the article was arguably more misandrist than transphobic! Or would that be the judgement that decides that a Transman commits sexual assault as opposed to rape despite penetration. Of course any criticism of gender ideology is deemed transphobic today, whether it is or not is irrelevant.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
30 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

We live in a world so infected by postmodernism and its offshoots that reason is itself an emotional and relative notion.
It may seem that way. I think the abuse of postmodern ideas by the neo marxists (read identity intersectionalists) is a site for that infection.
But, in my view, reason may be relative (to initial conditions etc) but logic is not. Any claim that casts doubt on reason must be intelligible – that is, must be non contradictory and coherent in its logic.

Last edited 30 days ago by michael stanwick
Leif Sachs
Leif Sachs
30 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

With politicians and mainstream media pushing one “Great Narrative” (a term used by Klaus Schwab) as the New Normal, and conformed to by large amounts of the population, while differing opinions are denounced as heretical “mis- and disinformation”, it ought be obvious that postmodernist notions of relativism and différance are now dead in the water.

William Shaw
William Shaw
30 days ago

The percentage of the population that is affected by these issues is so small as to be negligible.
The issue receives orders of magnitude more attention than it deserves.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
30 days ago
Reply to  William Shaw

On the contrary. I used to be a college professor in the US and this was very much an important issue. Professors face possible loss of livelihood if they accidentally or purposefully ‘misgender’ a student.
While this issue may not affect you personally, it has wider implications for law, medicine, health, education and work. Beyond the practical application of this new gender ideology, it also shows a deep societal divide when we can’t even agree on simple notions of what constitutes a man or a woman.
I believe it is part of a wider movement which aims to make Westerners feel uncomfortable about their history, spirituality, success, and now bodies.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
30 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Indeed. You are correct. This issue, must instead receive “orders of magnitude more attention” than it is otherwise receiving because, as you have noted, it seeks to challenge both Western ontology and epistemology and linguistics.

polidori redux
polidori redux
30 days ago

“Tarjit Singh, born Hannah Walters, met women via online dating, and kept clothes on during intimacy in the dark to avoid being revealed as a natal female. It was only several months into one relationship, on discovery of the prosthetic, that Singh’s natal sex was revealed.”
I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t, but I find this funny. Ronnie Barker meets my dark side.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
29 days ago

No one, trans, or otherwise has sex with lesbians as a group. It is sex with an individual. Is Stonewall suggesting that individual women, lesbian, or otherwise, do not have right to decline a request for sex. This smacks of the way that the law used to be that a husband could not be charged with raping his wife.
Is Stonewall seriously arguing that lesbians should consider themselves to be effectively prisoners in a virtual brothel, with no right to withhold consent?

Last edited 29 days ago by Alan Hawkes
harry storm
harry storm
13 days ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

The answer is yes, when you defer to trans ideology to the exclusion of all else, including logic and sanity.

Patrick Butler
Patrick Butler
30 days ago

 “New legal battles reveal how sex is more salient than self-declared gender” Harrington’s Subtitle
 Harrington’s essay clarifies trans issues by replacing the irredeemably ambiguous word gender with the plain word sex. I think this represents a major advance in the debate and deserves recognition as such.
However, the word trans, which she uses and I repeat, is clearly not universally understood. So here’s my long definition:
Trans refers to an instrumental idea about compelling all society legally and socially to treat on demand persons who claim the right to identify as the opposite sex (or no sex at all), and thus the right to be treated by law and society exactly as though they were the opposite sex. By assigning the adjective trans to this “right to a legal sex change,” we can denominate all such demanders as “trans persons.” From gay children to adult men trapped in a fetish or the wrong prison, every trans person expects that getting society to acquiesce to this idea of a right to an opposite sex identity will somehow improve their lives.
Broad acquiescence to this trans idea attests to the subordinate, unliberated status of women.

Last edited 20 days ago by Patrick Butler
Michael Askew
Michael Askew
28 days ago
Reply to  Patrick Butler

Perfect definition. The last sentence might be true, but doesn’t follow from the definition (which is neutral).

Patrick Butler
Patrick Butler
20 days ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

I moved the last sentence away from the definition. Thanks for the correction.

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
30 days ago

When I was an undergraduate “gender” was only used in language classes, applied to nouns. Sex was a matter of XY or XX. I studied physiology, embryology and so forth and never doubted this was the way of things. The use of the word “gender” now seems to be a delusional psychological construct, about how one pictures oneself. Nature and the observations of ordinary folk are evidently supposed to go unsaid. The transitioners themselves seem a bit unclear on the whole thing. We had a neighbor, a retired military man, who out of the blue (a la Monty Python skit) seemed to think he would spend his retirement happier as a woman. He saved up for his great transition surgery, then at the last moment, blew the whole thing on the latest model Corvette. Still a dude, I suspect. Now tooling about the streets is the homeliest quasi-woman you’d ever want to see, at the wheel of a powerful flashy car. Still a dude, essentially.

R Wright
R Wright
29 days ago

I was under the impression that deception would lead to the vitiation of consent, therefore making it rape. How is it any different than a man removing a condom during intercourse?

Leif Sachs
Leif Sachs
30 days ago

I know sex toy technology has come a long way, yet I still find it very hard to believe that a woman would not notice the difference between a biological phallus and a prosthetic one for several months. Unless they were habitually incapacitated by alcohol and/or drugs. Then again, I am not a woman myself, so what do I know about such matters?
My impression after reading this head scratcher of an article is that just about everyone – with the exception of barrister Allison Bailey – made wrong decisions. Tarjit Singh and Angie Renee made bad decisions not to inform their partners of their transgender nature. But, as so often the case when vengefulness plays a role, their victims made equally bad decisions on how they reacted to the deception. Ismiemen Etute’s lethal reaction is obvious enough, but the victims of Singh charging him of assault in a court case are also wrong. While assault can involve a level of deception, it is a logical fallacy to conclude that all sexual deception equals assault. Imagine a woman with prosthetic breasts being put on trial on charges of assault because her partner felt deceived.
And organizations like Stonewall appropriating such cases for the grist of their political mill are wrong too. It is one thing to engage in propaganda, it is another to make the mistake that one’s ideology, however dominant in society, can trump reality at all times. Such hubris will eventually lead to a rude awakening.
In a culture war gone hysterically mad, all sides end up as losers.

Last edited 30 days ago by Leif Sachs
Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
24 days ago

I can’t believe that in 2022 people are trying to tell women who they must have sex with on political/sexual activist grounds. It is treating women as playthings for whoever wants to make them sexual conquests without desire or consent. The lunacy and arrogance is staggering!

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
30 days ago

The decision was consistent with the earlier case of McNally where it was decided that the true sex of the individual was fundamental to the act and deceit on this vitiated consent. I am not sure why it did not constitute rape rather than mere assault. In contrast stating that you had had a vasectomy untruthfully did not vitiate consent even though it resulted in an unwanted pregnancy.

In the McNally the woman pretending to be male did not as far as I know assert she was trans.

John Murray
John Murray
30 days ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Under English law, rape requires a p***s. Which is bloody stupid really.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_in_English_law
 if a victim is forcefully penetrated with an object other than a p***s, this is classed as “Assault by Penetration”

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
25 days ago
Reply to  John Murray

it’s all bullish!t. They want all the rights and none of the responsibilities that go with being the gender they want to be and move the goal posts to get it. If you want to be a woman then get rid of your pen!s. If you want to be a man then get rid of your uterus. If not then dress the part and go back to be a tranny but be honest about it ffs!

polidori redux
polidori redux
30 days ago

11

Last edited 30 days ago by polidori redux
harry storm
harry storm
13 days ago

RE: when faced with moral pressure for sex by males identifying openly as the opposite sex, lesbians find themselves on the defensive: forced to justify why their same-sex attraction is not bigotry. 
This is what I’ve never understood, not only with regard to this issue but with regard to race and other issues. Why be on the “defensive”? Why not just say “that’s bullsh*t” and get on with it…. Just because someone accuses you of something entirely daft doesn’t mean you’re automatically on the defensive, though that’s how many people react to absurd over-the-top claims like “sexual racism.” Is it that hard to say “f*ck off” and carry on?