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A system of gender self-identification would put women at risk

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I find it stunning, peoples inability to recognize that more than one truth exists at the same time. You'd be remiss if you didn't know it can be dangerous and challenging to be transgender and issues like access to healthcare, employment, and housing are real. But you'd also be remiss, if you did not understand that for thousands of years patriarchy has systematically disenfranchised female born women and girls and that women share a collective trauma that has yet to be fully addressed or acknowledged. When these two truths collide in the great gender identity debate, they usually cancel each other out, with both parties feeling maligned. Until people are willing to be brutally honest about the history and current realities of different oppressed groups and the trials and tribulations they face, we will keep doing this patriarchal "Dosey Doe". Pippa Fleming


Such a sad and unsupported essay, with no clear argument and no specific policy fixes. Among other things, I'm still not sure what new problem or what new risks there are to women purely from gender self-identification. The author cites one example from one homeless shelter--but even if you take that example on face value, there are already laws against what that individual did. The problem was that person's actions, not their so called "gender self-identification".

Of course, the appalling thing about this argument by anecdote (rather than data and analysis) is that it ignores the millions of daily interactions transpeople have without incident. To put it another way, the author's bottom line appears to be based on the belief that transwomen are a threat to cis-women simply because of chromosomes. This is equivalent to saying that all illegal immigrants in the US are MS-13 members. The reality is that transpeople simply want to live their lives like everyone else-- go to work, go to the store, pick up their dry cleaning and all the rest of the mundane daily tasks. Implying that identifying as trans is really a cover to justify criminal behavior is offensive and appalling.

I'm also entirely unclear what the author proposes to do about the so-called problem. The author says the current system is burdensome and cruel, but also opposes self-identification. So what then? Rather than stir up fear and misunderstanding, I'd suggest you develop a cogent argument, supported by analysis, and make a clear presentation of what should be done.


Seems the media went all out when Prince William and wife had a child in April.
The media said it was a boy, named Louis.
Should not the media had held off until the child chose its sexual identification.
Who knows, the child could choose to be Louise.


I find the author's point that men posing as transgender women would be able to dangerously gain access to single-sex spaces both alarmist and absurd.

The example of domestic violence shelters, for example: surely shelters take into account whether new arrivals are partners of resident victims. Gay and bisexual women in relationships with women actually face higher rates of domestic abuse (, and I struggle to imagine a world in which there are not systems to prevent a women's abuser from entering a shelter merely because her abuser is, too, a woman. I can't imagine a world in which an abuser is allowed inside because he claims to be trans. Additionally, trans people face the highest rates of abuse out of any community (30-50%, - it would be cruel to deny trans women access to shelters because they had not managed to legally change their gender (a task likely made even more difficult if one is facing intimate partner violence).

I don't disagree that encouraging broader expression of gender in cisgender people is a laudable goal, but I do find this line of argument unconvincing.


This concern clearly points to the deficiencies of the gender-neutral label of 'transgender'. From the examples listed in the article, it is only the male-to-female transgenders who put women at risk, the same way the risk would be put on women if both male and female are simply self-identified as 'human'.
Just like homosexuals have gender specific names (gays and lesbians), transgenders must have (former) gender specific names. And preserve the 'transgender' for the truly bi-gender people.

ashbird in reply to Houshu

Re "transgender" and "bi-gender" -
One difficulty encountered in "name given" is a post-op transgender person could be heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual.
All is rather complicated and could be confusing.
I once, 20+ years ago, interviewed a patient in a low-cost community mental health clinic who was referred for being suicidal.
In the first 30 minutes of an one-hour clinical interview to decide whether the person met criteria for involuntary commitment (criteria for involuntary commitment in my state are "danger to self, or to others, or gravely disabled"), we spoke about "Larry"*, the name on the referral paper. Larry was 50 years old, 6 feet tall, weighed approx. 200 lbs, dressed in a heavy sweater with muffler around his neck, and a beat-up trench coat kept on during the entire interview. Larry had a big bushy beard and semi-long hair. Observed clinical signs were intact sensorium, flat affect, low mood, slowed speech, zero hallucination, zero delusion. Larry reported work history briefly as a sale clerk and book-keeper. About half way into the interview, my boss had a psych tech bring in his previous med charts. The charts consisted of 3 folders each fully 2 inches thick. I thought it weird my boss should expect me to read 6 inches of chart notes while conducting a clinical interview. Reluctantly I flipped open the first folder and read the first page of Intake notes. The date of that intake was 12 years back. I discovered the patient's previous name was Lisa*, and 10 years prior to the interview with me, Lisa had a sex-change operation + underwent a hormone regimen.


* "Larry" and "Lisa" are not the person's real names to ensure anonymity.

Houshu in reply to ashbird

I guess a string of 'F' and 'M' denoting the transition 'vector' could properly label your patient as 'MF Larry' that is, born as an 'F', had trans-operation towards an 'M'. If Larry later changes his mind, he then becomes 'FMF Lisa'. Who, according to the thesis of the lead article, could put women at risk.

ashbird in reply to Houshu

hahahaha! We can laugh about this. But for the person Lisa/Larry, it was no laughing matter. Remember 20 years ago, the world was a very different place. People's attitudes about LBGT was negative to the extreme. Indeed, in a couple of countries in South America, death sentence was the fate for all out-of-the-closet homosexuals (by edict of the Roman Catholic Church). Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, was assassinated in 1978 by a homophobe, along with Mayor Moscone, not a homosexual but Milk's friend (Milk was 48. Murderer got off capital sentence by the famous "Twinky Defense").
Speaking of changing of mind, I did have one patient, my very first one, as an intern in a 24/7 psychiatric crisis facility. The gal was brought in by the police for acute suicidality. The first sentence out of her mouth when she calmed down in the interview room was "I change my mind". It was too late. She was a male-to-female post-op , still taking hormone for female breasts. Post-op means the male organ had been removed. My first patient. I had no idea, with all the courses in Human Sexuality I had taken which my curriculum required, what to say, how to respond, in a manner that would not escalate "her" suicidality. In that moment, I received the best lesson anyone can teach - I responded (as @Sense Seeker sensibly wrote under a related blog) as a human being, not a straight woman, which is what I am, or a bi-man, or a bi-woman, or a trans, or a homo-.
Just human to human. No words were necessary. I just looked at the person before me and established "contact". A little like ET called home and home called back. Scary as hell. But it worked.
Many people are very phobic when there is absolutely no reason to. We are all the same when reduced to our base-line common denominators. We all need to be seen and understood. That is all.
I hope you didn't mind my sharing some professional "golden moments". They are what make life worthwhile.


Does the economist explicitly endorse this view? I assume so, given that they gave this author the platform to do so, but it'd be nice to know if their opinion aligned with this post, or instead if it it was an exploratory piece, given the themes this week.