So now we are told, by campaigners and even the British Medical Association, that it’s not “women” who bear a pregnancy – it’s “people”. This week the Foreign Office was forced to deny that it had asked for the phrase “pregnant women” to be replaced by “pregnant people” in a UN treaty. Whatever the truth of the matter, activists are undoubtedly lobbying for this change in order, they say, to avoid giving offence to transgender individuals.
Feminists are mightily displeased with this development, and rightly so, just as women were outraged by the Office of National Statistics’ suggestion that the census should not necessarily distinguish between male and female. Germaine Greer said that such a move denies a woman’s “right to exist”.
The transgender movement arose – to some extent – from the influence of women’s liberation, but the relationship is not at all comfortable. Outspoken feminists like the lawyer Julie Bindel and the BBC presenter Jenni Murray have said that a transgendered man can never be a woman, because his/her formative experiences are different. So are the chromosomes.
Of course we should look compassionately on anyone who feels they have been born into the wrong body. But many feminists believe that the movement is progressively stealing women’s identity – by appropriating pregnancy, for example, and by altering language from “motherhood” to “parenting”.
Many women actually feel threatened by male-to-female transgendering. Personally, I don’t object to shared loos, but many women really dislike the idea of transgender-inclusive public toilets. In sport, feelings can be even more hostile: since an athlete born male will almost always out-run an athlete born female, sportswomen feel it’s unfair competition.
The case of Caster Semenya, the South African sprinter, has illuminated this: Caster identifies as a female, but she benefits from certain male characteristics and higher testosterone, so she nearly always beats female-born competitors, who, understandably, consider this unfair.
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