COMING TO THE AID OF THE PARITY

You shouldn't really need to say the following: it is entirely possible to be pro women's rights, pro trans rights, pro gay and lesbian rights and pro independence at the same time.  I plead guilty to all these charges. I'm not sure which feminist wave I first caught but it wasn't yesterday morning.  The marches, the campaigns, the raging against what we hoped was the dying light of misogyny.

And along the way we campaigned for our lesbian sisters and our gay men friends. The fight for trans rights was still largely underground and we all share the guilt of letting it stay there so long.  Nevertheless my generation knows about the need for inclusion where all manner of human and minority rights have to be hard fought and hard won. We have the scars; we have the campaign medals.  So it is more than a little unsettling to find yourself labelled transphobic when a piece of legislation comes along with which you are out of sympathy. Out of sympathy on the grounds that it puts at risk some of the freedoms  for which you you fought..

The row over the gender recognition act and self identification is now completely out of hand and, frankly, completely unnecessary.  People in the trans community who have been threatened and bullied and worse need validated and protected. That is not at issue. Neither is it in any way radical to question whether the need for formal recogntion of their identity need be the lengthy and bureacratic process that it is. By the same token it is legitimate to ask whether the current proposals impinge on equally valid rights to protect women's spaces and places from possible predators.

It is a sad fact of modern life that some  men use many unsvaoury ways to target vulnerable women and children. The instances of abusers who have assaulted women in prison are not widespread, but neither are they unheard of. A list of abusers  I recently read, complete with their offending histories, was truly chilling. Not least because they had gained access by assuming a false trans identity.   These men are simultaneously a threat to women and to the trans community who face quite enough prejudice without these dangerous frauds. The latter are as worthy of contempt as men who take up posts involving the care or training of young people and then groom  and assault them.

What is equally distressing about this debate is the role and tactics of some activists whose track record in respecting human rights is unclear at best.  Of late we have seen children used as placard holders,  women attending women's liberation anniversary celebrations heckled  and verbally abused,  smoke bombs thrown at a women's meeting in the vicinity of the Grenfell tower, a much respected columnist trashed and a particularly unlovely balaclava clad protestor sporting a day glo penis on the wrong side of the trousers. What a poppet.  

It's true that the civil rights movement had to be uncivil at times. It's true that the suffragettes might have spent much longer in the franchise exclusion zone had they not resorted to law breaking. What is different about the current situation is that the more rabid activists are venting their spleen on people who are basically on the same side with regard to  human rights. It is madness. It is utterly counter productive.

In Scotland there is another dimension, since the squabble has infected the body politic, pitting people in the same parties against each other and giving rise to all manner of nonsense on social media.  Some have used this debate to fuel the proxy wars they seem intent on pursuing (and not infrequently inventing.)  It is a ludicrous distraction from the very real challenges the country is facing and to say so is doing no more than recognising that if Scotland does not sort out its own future, then the future of all minorities will suffer under a UK administration with no history of supporting them. Quite the reverse.

A sub text of all of this has been institutions running scared of being labelled unwoke and hastily inventing new signage for their loos and new labels for their clientele. Not to mention charities feeling the need to rewrite their constitution lest their funding be threatened.  I watched Lisa Nandy get into all kinds of a semantic fankle on TV trying to explain gender and multiples thereof. Many women, and not just those of my vintage, find all this tedious and baffling in equal measure. Silly old us, thinking we were women rather than ciswomen or womxn.

It is surely not beyond the wit of government, once their consultation exercise is complete, to find a legislative compromise which can reassure all those involved that they and their rights are equally deserving of respect.