Vulnerable women continue to get the short end of the stick in the growing conflict between women’s rights and transgender rights, particularly when it comes to female-only spaces and services.
In England, a sexual-assault survivor is suing a government-funded rape crisis centre for allowing a trans-identified male (transwoman) to join its women-only support group.
The woman, known only as ‘Sarah’, joined the Survivors’ Network in Brighton last year to seek help for trauma resulting from sexual abuse she experienced as a child and being raped in her 20s. While she had initially felt “relieved” to share her story with women who had suffered similar abuse, she became “shaken and upset” after noticing “someone who appeared to be a man” in one of her sessions.
Sarah, now married and in her 40s, requested a women-only support group but said the centre “made it really clear they can’t offer me any help”, as their policy states its women-only services are available to any “self-identifying woman”. The Survivor’s Network, which received over £100,000 in government funding last year, said in a statement:
“Survivors of trauma and sexual violence, irrespective of gender identity, need support, care and belief... Trans-inclusive feminism is key to our values and central to our services as a rape crisis centre.”
Since filing her legal claim last Friday, Sarah has told media:
“I completely support trans people’s right to live how they want to live, but in practice women who have been raped are being left to get on with it on their own because of the approach these groups are now taking to please trans activists.
“I want to stress that we’re not looking for this instead of the mixed-sex women’s groups. It’s in addition. It seems like a really small ask for a supposedly trauma-informed rape crisis centre.”
Sarah said she was reluctant to bring the case as it “appears anti-feminist to challenge a rape crisis centre”, but has felt affirmed after “hundreds” of survivors have since contacted her with similar stories.
With self-identification laws operating in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Northern Territory, and the ACT, Sarah’s story could very well have taken place in Australia, and according to gender critical feminist Angela Jones, similar stories are already playing out. In a tweet earlier this year, Jones wrote:
There is self ID in my city (Melbourne, Australia) Men are self identifying in to female sexual assault recovery services. Say no and they take you to the Human Rights Tribunal. Women self exclude.— Angie Jones (@angijones) March 5, 2022
No more services for our most vulnerable women.
Under self-identification laws in these states, transgender people can self-nominate their sex as male, female or another non-binary descriptor of their choice and can change the sex on their birth certificate accordingly. In contrast, NSW and Queensland require individuals to undergo “gender reassignment surgery” before updating their birth certificate.
The consequence of such laws is that biological males may self-identify into women’s spaces, services and sports, and under anti-discrimination law, cannot be treated differently from biological women. In addition to rape crisis centres, men have been self-identifying into other vulnerable women-only spaces like prisons, domestic violence refuges, hospital wards, changing rooms and bathrooms. And tragically, all have examples of women being sexually assaulted by trans-identified males who were given access to those services.
For example, in a UK women’s prison in 2018, a trans-identified male and convicted rapist named Karen White sexually assaulted at least two female inmates.
Last year, a girl was assaulted in a school bathroom in Virginia by a “gender fluid” teenage boy.
Women’s services that exclude males from their services have lost government funding or had human rights claims brought against them.
Biological sex is real and disregarding this has very real and severe consequences for the sex-based rights of women and girls, particularly when it comes to women-only spaces and services.
Self-identification laws should never have been passed when the clear outcome was that they would undermine the rights and safety of women and girls. However, the bigger problem is the Sex Discrimination Act which was amended in 2013 to remove the biological definitions of “woman” and “man”. Without a sex-based definition of woman in the Act, Australian law is no longer able to differentiate between women and males who identify as women. It is a matter of urgency that the Act is amended to restore protections for the sex-based rights of women and girls.