LBC Views: It isn't my womb that makes me a woman, Natasha Devon writes

21 June 2021, 15:53

Natasha Devon gives her LBC Views
Natasha Devon gives her LBC Views. Picture: LBC
Natasha Devon MBE

By Natasha Devon MBE

LBC Presenter Natasha Devon MBE examines trans rights and some of the issues which trans people face in day-to-day life.

“It’s a mental illness!”

“It goes against science/nature!”

“It’ll confuse children!”

These were the battle cries of homophobes trying to defend the implementation of section 28 back in the 80s (legislation introduced by Thatcher which said homosexuality was not to be ‘promoted’ in schools and which traumatised a whole generation of LGBTQ people – including me – who grew up unacknowledged and without role models).

It’s significant, therefore, that we’re hearing these arguments being used again, recycled, repackaged and targeted at a different audience: Trans people.

In twenty years, I believe we’ll look back on some of the headlines and public discussions around trans people’s rights and be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. Yet I also can’t help but feel it shouldn’t have to take that long. We should have learned from our past mistakes.

Trans people have always been present in human society. Famously Marsha P Johnson, an American activist and trans woman, threw the first brick during the Stonewall riots in June 1969.

Binary notions of gender – the idea that there are only men and women and everyone fits neatly into one of those two categories - are also a Christian invention, which spread across the globe as Christian countries colonised it.

Numerous other cultures recognised a gender spectrum. Today, geneticists are taking to social media to remind us that biology is a little more complicated than the ‘XX’ or ‘XY’ rule we all learned at GCSE.

Yet, there is an additional layer of complexity when it comes to the trans discussion, which is confusing even some people who would consider themselves liberal and progressive – Namely, that trans women are erasing the rights of cis women (people who were born with a girl’s body).

As a cis woman, I am supposed believe trans women are a threat to my rights to sex-specific healthcare, as well as being terrified that men wearing dresses are going to invade my private spaces (like toilets and changing rooms) to assault me. I’m also meant to worry transwomen might beat me at sports with inherent superior ability.

Concerning the first point – Trans women have never (to my knowledge) denied the existence, or significance, of a person’s sex. Indeed, this is what the term ‘cis’ is meant to denote. As a cis woman, I have specific medical needs based around the existence of my cervix, womb etc.

Yet, as I am sure we can all agree, a woman is more than the sum of her reproductive parts. It isn’t my womb that makes me a woman. A trans woman is just as much a woman as I am – Just a different sort of woman, with different needs.

Furthermore, trans women have been allowed to use female toilets and changing rooms for decades. If you’re a cis woman, you’ve definitely peed a cubicle along from a trans woman at some point in your life and you haven’t known about it, because it’s not an issue. Of course, I understand being terrified of predatory men.

Most people are. But we shouldn’t be punishing trans women for the criminal behaviour of another group: That’s not how a civilised society should work. I’d also point out that, statistically, trans women are even more vulnerable to rape, assault and harassment than cis women.

They need somewhere safe to go, too. Lastly, if a predatory man is determined to enter a female toilet he really doesn’t need to go to the trouble of putting on a dress and saying he is trans – He can simply pick up a bucket and mop.

Trans people in sports is more of a nuanced discussion in my opinion, particularly when considering physical education in schools. Pre-puberty, it shouldn’t be too much bother to just let anyone of any gender play any sport they like, with anyone they like.

However, factors such as male bodies having (on average) stronger skeletal structures post-puberty, larger lung capacity and of course the impact of testosterone all make this more complex with teenagers.

I don’t think it’s unresolvable, however, if we really put our thinking caps on.

I think we’ll never reach satisfactory conclusions if we allow ourselves to be side-tracked by a combination of blatant transphobia and the fabricated notion that cis and trans women’s rights are at odds. After all, that’s not how right’s work: They aren’t a zero-sum game and we should always be cautious when we’re led to believe that showing humanity towards one demographic comes at the expense of another.

There fascism lies...