Back in the summer, at a Test match at the Oval, the queues for the men’s loos were considerably longer than the women’s. One plucky chap ventured into our facilities and said in his deep and booming voice, “Can I use these toilets, I’m identifying as a woman?”
To which came the prompt response, from an actual woman, “Oh piss off!” and the desperado departed, chuckling.
If a similar scene were to unfold in Nicola Sturgeon’s Scotland this side of Christmas, that man would not even have had to ask. Soon, everyone north of the border will be able to be whoever they want to be just by declaring it so.
Scotland’s first minister is staking her reputation on her Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which she is pushing through parliament at breakneck speed to get it on the statute books this month.
The legislation will enable trans men and women over the age of 16 to acquire a gender recognition certificate without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, making self-ID easier.
All debate around so contentious an issue will thenceforth be shut down and people – well, women – who object to the presence of the opposite sex (biologically speaking) in their protected spaces, public loos included, will have no legal recourse.
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Already in Scotland, a culture exists which makes it difficult for women to question this course of events.
As we saw this week, ordinary women are discouraged from even talking about Sturgeon’s radical gender recognition plans and are then silenced when they challenge the omerta.
At a meeting of Zero Tolerance to mark the charity’s 30-year campaign to end violence against women, participants were told in advance to refrain from “discussions of the definition of a woman and single sex spaces in relation to the gender recognition act”.
Possibly, this was because Sturgeon was the keynote speaker, although she has denied having anything to do with the blatant attempt to ban free speech.
Women were then turned away at the door if organisers feared they would ask the “wrong questions”, Susan Smith of the campaign group For Women Scotland told LBC.
Fortunately, one brave soul, Alexandra Darroch, could not be kept in her box and heckled Sturgeon mid-flow.
In an attack that went viral on Twitter, Darroch, a women’s rights charity worker, accused the SNP leader of “allowing paedophiles, sex offenders and rapists to self-ID in Scotland”.
Darroch was thrown out, of course, and the other women there, far from applauding her intervention, seemed embarrassed or annoyed.
But outside of this gathering, the women of Scotland are not so easily gagged and many are now standing up to an ideology that seeks to erode their hard-won rights.
Even some of Sturgeon’s own colleagues, notably the SNP former minister Ash Regan, who quit her post in October, are finding the courage to resist the Scottish government’s transgender zealotry. Six SNP MSPs, including Regan, refused again this week to vote with their party.
What those beyond Scotland’s borders are wondering is why Sturgeon is picking this fight with Scottish women.
As a female leader and an avowed feminist, she once would have been considered a female role model. Now she is seen as the destroyer of women’s rights, as JK Rowling put it recently, on a T-shirt.
Her haste to change the law and her dogged opposition to various, perfectly reasonable, amendments reflect not only her win-at-all-costs stubbornness – a character flaw – but a disdain for women voters.
Whatever your politics in Scotland, it is hard to disagree with Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross’s line of enquiry at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday.
Why did she vote against an amendment to ban convicted male sex offenders from changing gender? New UK figures reveal that four in ten transgender inmates are guilty of sex crimes.
Why did she dismiss as unfounded the concerns of the UN’s special rapporteur on violence against women and girls, who said the new law could “open the door” for violent men to abuse the system in order to attack women, and called for the bill to be paused?
Why will she not wait until several related court judgements are concluded, or until further safeguards are put in place to reduce the risk to women posed by her bill?
If she was genuinely bothered about the safety of women and girls, she would, at the very least, listen to all opposing voices and expert opinion, allow proper scrutiny of the bill, and delay its progress.
Some say she is driven by a need to please her base, polish her progressive credentials, or is in thrall to Green Party trans activists who prop up her majority.
Maybe she wants this matter out of the way before the return, from maternity leave, of her popular finance minister and possible rival, Kate Forbes who, as a devout Christian, is unlikely to back it.
Whatever her motivation, nothing can probably stop her winning the Holyrood skirmish, as the controversial bill has the numbers to pass. But she may well lose the support of Scotland’s women in the process and, with them, her increasingly shaky grip on power.
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