Mark Jenkinson is MP for Workington.
“Transwomen are women”: it sounds innocuous enough, why wouldn’t you say it? Most of us never set out to hurt anyone intentionally if we can avoid it, and it’s an inclusive statement. If that’s what it takes to make someone feel accepted, then what’s the harm?
It’s only when you scratch the surface that you start to see how much harm those innocuous three words can do – that the people we harm when we set out to erase the notion of biological sex are the most vulnerable, the LGB community and women.
So why, then, is a white, heterosexual male writing about transgender issues?
Because last week I was thrust into a Twitterstorm for saying that I would stand up for the hard-won rights of women and the LGB community – for saying that it isn’t people like me who are impacted by the erasure of biological sex, but women – who are then expected to share their safe-spaces with male-bodied people, and those who are same-sex attracted.
After all, if there is no such thing as biological sex and only our chosen gender identity, there is no valid reason for a lesbian to refuse to sleep with a male-bodied woman. That leaves only bigotry as her excuse.
It was after this statement that Britain’s first transgender newsreader said she’d stand against me in Workington in the next election. I welcome the challenge, and I wish more of my detractors would put a ballot paper where their mouths are, but she went on to block me without any further discussion. A bad start, I fear.
I never considered that making a statement of indisputable scientific fact – that there are only two biological sexes, each with their own set of immutable characteristics – would cause such a stir. And then I see the Labour Party eating themselves alive over it, trying hard to lose the votes of the 51 per cent of the electorate that are female.
There is no doubt that gender dysphoria exists, but no-one is born in the wrong body – your body is exactly as nature intended. For some people, there is a definite disconnect between their brain and their body and, for a much smaller number, the only thing that will allow a full and happy life is cross-sex hormones or surgery. Those people need our support.
I am concerned that the upcoming Gender Conversion Therapy Bill will criminalise practitioners and parents that don’t simply affirm their child’s chosen gender. Data tells us that the majority of gender-dysphoric children desist into adulthood. We must stop prescribing irreversible puberty blockers to children – which not only have a significant impact on their lives if they desist, but which create further problems should they go on to have surgery to complete their transition.
I am an instinctive libertarian. Everyone should be free to live their lives, as fully as possible and in a way that makes them happy. Free to live with, sleep with and love whomever they wish. Neither the state or I have any business intervening, other than to stop serious harms. But when I see the direction we’re sleepwalking in, I can no longer stay quiet.
Between 2012 and 2018, 436 women were charged with rape. OK, you say: there were over 29,000 people charged with rape in that period, of course some of those are going to be women. And then I tell you that rape in the UK can only be committed with a penis. Those 436 women had penises.
Which prison are they going to go in – we can’t put male-bodied rapists in female prisons can we?
The answer is yes. And not only that: we don’t track the majority at all. If a man obtains a Gender Recognition Certificate, even without having had any surgery, he is treated as a woman in all instances, including that there is no risk-assessment for those with previous sexual offences (unlike the 11 male-bodied prisoners in the female estate that don’t even have a GRC, who are ‘risk-assessed’).
As it is only this year that we’ll start to track prisoners with GRCs, we don’t know how many male-bodies there are in the female prison estate, where some of our most vulnerable women are housed.
We do know that at the latest datapoint in 2019, there were 129 males who identified as transgender held in the male estate, and that 57 per cent of them had at least one previous conviction for sexual offences, compared to 17 per cent of men and two per cent of women convicted of the same.
Despite exemptions for single sex spaces in the equality act, the NHS allows access to same-sex wards depending on how you present not your biological sex. Despite exemptions for necessarily same-sex services, hospital trusts are referring to ‘birthing people’ and ‘cervix havers’ – while also referring to only men having prostates.
The Scottish Government is set to introduce gender self-identification, significantly speeding up legal recognition of gender in all spheres while reducing to the age requirement to 16 – meaning those transgender prisoners can move more easily to the female estate.
Meanwhile, the UK government is toughening up on the recording of statistics around sex and gender, but is also seeking to ban conversion therapy, on the back of an unprecedentedly-short six week consultation.
As Conservatives, it’s time we stopped staying silent because it’s the nice thing to do: emotion cannot trump biological reality.