Badenoch's anti-trans 'birth certificate' policy could deny services to abuse victims and refugees

6 June 2024, 13:22

Badenoch's anti-trans 'birth certificate' policy could deny services to abuse victims and refugees
Badenoch's anti-trans 'birth certificate' policy could deny services to abuse victims and refugees. Picture: LBC/Getty
Natasha Devon MBE

By Natasha Devon MBE

Yesterday Kemi Badenoch, who was until recently our Minister for Women & Equalities, was touring TV and radio studios explaining that, if re-elected, her party would make amendments to the Equality Act and change the definition to ‘sex’ so that it meant ‘biological sex given at birth’.

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This would in turn prevent trans women from accessing women-only spaces (and trans men from men-only spaces, although their existence is often conveniently forgotten during these conversations).

Side note here: As a minoritised woman and card-carrying fan of equality, I’d much prefer Badenoch to dedicate her energies to increasing funding for domestic abuse and rape crisis centres, sorting out systemic misogyny, racism and homophobia within police services or increasing resources and training so that more victims of sexual assault see their perpetrators sentenced (it currently stands at less than 1%).

As it is, it seems she’d rather spend her time performatively stapling ‘men’ and ‘ladies’ signs onto previously gender-neutral toilet cubicles, as though doing so activates a forcefield which would automatically stop a predatory man from attacking a woman within.

Still, we are where we are and Badenoch has apparently decided the biggest threat to the safety of women here in the UK is a hypothetical cisgender male perpetrator of sexual violence who would go through the almighty hoopla required to obtain a gender recognition certificate (requiring him to live as a woman for two years) in order to access female-only spaces.

Rather than doing, you know, whatever all the actual male perpetrators responsible for the fact that 85,000 UK women are currently raped or sexually assaulted every year are doing.

I won’t go into how this is an obvious, gossamer-thin veil for blatant transphobia, because Badenoch and anyone who supports her policy quite obviously don’t care.

What I will do instead is point out the glaring, should-have-a-neon-sign-above-it problem with Badenoch’s plan.

Your assigned sex at birth, i.e. the genitals a baby has as observed by a doctor, is listed on your birth certificate.

Since you cannot always tell if a person is trans by looking at them, a domestic violence refuge, rape crisis centre or toilet attendant would therefore need to see every wannabe-service-user’s birth certificate before allowing them into a single-sex space. People who are fleeing an abusive partner, or have been sexually assaulted, or indeed are just out-and-about and need a piddle, don’t usually have their birth certificate about their person, for a variety of fairly obvious reasons.

Now, the government could introduce a requirement for every citizen to have digital ID which shows the gender they were assigned at birth.

The issue with that is that it would naturally exclude some of the most vulnerable – namely refugees and people who are victims of sex trafficking.

Given the fact that the conservative party still clings inexplicably to its doomed Rwanda scheme, it’s safe to say they care about as much for the safety and dignity of these vulnerable groups as they do that of trans people.

However, given how much Badenoch floundered when questioned on the distinction between ‘legal’ and ‘biological’ sex during her interviews yesterday, I think it’s safe to assume she hasn’t thought that far.

What is more likely would happen (and has already begun to happen owing to the bigotry this type of anti-trans rhetoric has enabled) is a kind of gender-critical militia approach.

As numerous social media videos will attest, women (most of them cisgender but tall/large/gender-nonconforming in some way) are being confronted and denied access to public toilets, both in the US and here in the UK.

Our access to single-sex spaces is, terrifyingly, beginning to hinge on how closely we resemble some arbitrary blueprint of womanhood.

Does Badenoch delight in the idea of a future where vital services are being denied to women based on the same criteria?

One can only hope not.