Differing perspectives on transgender rights | Letters

Readers respond to an article by Suzanne Moore

We reject the argument put forward in a column by Suzanne Moore (Women must have the right to organise. We will not be silenced, G2, 3 March) in which she implies that advocating for trans rights poses a threat to cisgender women. The British Social Attitudes Survey (2017) found that a majority of the British public were supportive of transgender people, with women more likely to be in favour of trans rights than men. Moore’s column does not represent the views of the public, nor is it representative of the views of most women.

Both trans people and cisgender women are discriminated against because of their gender. This is why both groups experience harassment in the street, sexual violence, domestic abuse and poverty at much higher rates than cisgender men. Trans people experience more difficulties accessing healthcare, higher rates of suicide and more frequent mental health issues, and are more likely to be victims of hate crimes.

We stand together in opposition to such abuse and inequality. As believers in human rights and justice, it is our duty to support all marginalised communities as they fight for respect and equality. And as feminists, we believe that we need to keep fighting for gender-based services and resources together.
Reni Eddo-Lodge Author, Jo Grady General secretary, UCU, Zarah Sultana MP, Nadia Whittome MP, Sian Berry Co-leader, Green party, Amelia Womack Deputy leader, Green party, Christine Jardine MP Equalities spokesperson, Liberal Democrats, Tai Shani Co-winner, Turner prize 2019, Martha Spurrier Director, Liberty, Alison Camps Co-chair, Pride in London, Faiza Shaheen Economist and activist, Rachel Watters Women’s officer, NUS, Nim Ralph Co-founder, QTIPOC London; anti-oppression consultant, Travis Alabanza Performer and writer and over 100 others

• As a trans woman, I find myself largely in agreement with Suzanne Moore – at least, up to a point. Her distinctions between sex and gender, and acknowledgment of the existence of intersex people ought to be beyond debate as matters of fact not opinion, and her analysis of the looking-glass perspective of some trans activists regarding this is acute.

I have had gender reassignment surgery, so do not know if I might pass the bar that Ms Moore sets for protection from domestic violence, say, as any other woman might lay claim to. And there is no question that placing male-bodied but female-identifying persons in hitherto exclusively natal female spaces such as prisons and refuges does pose risks that need to be managed or, occasionally, avoided through denial of entry to those spaces. But those risks are contingent on the person concerned in each case, not on a sweeping category of trans.

I therefore feel bound to observe that following the excellent first part of her well-argued piece, she moves to a conclusion that silently endorses the notion advanced by trans-exclusionary radical feminists that all trans women still always are men and must therefore always be excluded from places open only to an essentialist conflation of sex and gender defined as “real” female.

By tacitly adopting these terms of debate, she sabotages her own argument, denying not only protection to some of the most vulnerable trans people, but also saying nothing to any woman, natal or otherwise, without a functioning womb or history of periods, or whatever single immutable thing is held to define womanhood. After all, women are just baby machines, aren’t they? The patriarchy would approve. Surely this was not her intention?
Tanya Murray

• Thank you to Suzanne Moore for her column. It was a joy to read the feminist case being made with a passionate sense of the movement’s historical solidarity with the oppressed, at a time when feminists who seek safe spaces for women are themselves being characterised as the oppressors. It was gratifying to read a cogent exposition of the difference between the biological fact of sex and the social construct of gender. Moore is right that there are “more of us than you think”, but to present the feminist case is to imperil careers. I write as a retired teacher, but I know many younger women who are fearful for their futures – and their safety – if they speak out on this issue.
Maggie Patel
Bearwood, West Midlands

• As someone who is neither female nor transgender, the dispute between some feminists and transgender activists is frustrating. Suzanne Moore is right to highlight the importance of solidarity. Both feminists and trans people (and there is a large overlap between the two) are fighting for the same goals: equal basic respect; liberation from oppressive social gender roles and identities; and to abolish the power structure that enforces them. In the vast majority of situations, what’s good for trans people is good for women, and vice versa.

But Moore’s article has ended up as just another shot in a war that’s hurting both sides. Infighting between feminist and trans groups only benefits established power. With women’s and LGBT rights increasingly at risk from patriarchal movements around the world, it’s long past time that both sides joined forces against their common enemy.
Alasdair Murray
Westminster, London

• Suzanne Moore is right – there are more of us (biological women who will not be silenced) than you think. This message needs to be heeded by the Labour party, once the natural choice for many feminists, before it doesn’t just lose its traditional strongholds, but swathes of very angry women too.

There is a constructive way out of this quagmire. If trans people and feminists of goodwill could come together to listen to each other’s concerns with kindness and respect, with the objective of jointly working out practical solutions to the clash of rights while resolving to stop the unhelpful name-calling and attempts to silence women, I believe we might begin to move forward. Whether Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey are big enough to admit they should have checked before signing the pledge describing Woman’s Place UK as a “trans-exclusionist hate group”, apologise and back moves towards finding solutions remains to be seen.
Sue Newte

• Thanks to Suzanne Moore for an article that got it absolutely right, with not one word needing to be altered. Gender is not something that can be claimed and possessed by anyone who wants it, and saying this doesn’t mean feminists are transphobic. I’m retired so I’m not obliged to use social media in the course of my work, thereby facing threats like Suzanne and her family have to, but I’ll happily chain myself to the railings over the right to speak out on this one. No-platforming is a dubious business and, if used at all, should be limited to speakers who are inciting hatred. Please, let’s continue this debate in the open without hurling abuse.
Hilary Caldicott
Freeland, Oxfordshire

• Thank heavens for Suzanne Moore’s clear thinking. And thank you, the Guardian, for publishing this piece. I don’t underestimate the courage this must take in these days of science denial and witch-hunting of women like Selina Todd. I stand alongside Suzanne as a self-identified woman who also won’t go quietly.
Jo Adams
Abingdon, Oxfordshire


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