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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

When ideology meets reality


Trans: when ideology meets reality, by Helen Joyce, hardback, 311 pages, ISBN 978-0-86154-049-5, Oneworld, 2021, £16.99.

This is a very fine book, which puts the case for an objective, scientific and humane approach to the vexed questions of gender, sex and identity. Helen Joyce is Britain editor at The Economist.

She observes that science shows that "for humans, as for all mammals, individuals are of one sex or the other, and that sex is immutable and determined at conception." Trans activists choose instead to believe in a non-existent sex spectrum, because "If the sexes were distinct and non-overlapping, how could you move from one to the other? But if sex was a spectrum, then perhaps you could move far enough along it to be reclassified."

Trans activists reject the reality of biological sex in favour of self-identification. Joyce explains: "The embrace of gender-identity ideology was part of mainstream feminism's shift away from seeking to improve the loves of ordinary women and towards a self-congratulatory, performative, postmodernist style with its origins on campus." In other words, trans activism is reactionary. It is no surprise then that several US billionaires, including George Soros, have given hundreds of millions of dollars to transactivist groups.

As Joyce points out, "What campaigners mean by 'trans rights' is gender self-identification: that trans people be treated in every circumstance as members of the sex they identify with, rather than the sex they actually are. This is not a human right at all. It is a demand that everyone else lose their rights to single-sex spaces, services and activities. And in its requirement that everyone else accept trans people's subjective beliefs as objective reality, it is akin to a new state religion, complete with blasphemy laws." These groups work "largely towards two ends: ensuring that male people can access female spaces; and removing barriers to cross-sex hormones and surgeries, even in childhood."

Men should not be allowed in women's prisons. As Joyce observes, "Of the 125 transgender prisoners known to be in English prisons in late 2017, sixty were transwomen who had committed sexual offences, a share far higher than in the general male prison population, let alone in the female one."

Men should not be allowed to compete in women's sports. This is because "At least ten percent of the bodyweight of an elite female athlete is fat; for an elite male, that share can fall as low as five percent. The extra fat is worse than useless for women's sporting performance, since it has to be lugged around. … The average adult man has 41 percent more non-fat body mass (blood, bones, muscles and so on) than the average woman, 50 percent more muscle mass in his legs and 75 percent more in his arms. His legs are 65 percent stronger, and his upper body is 90 percent stronger."

Safe single-sex spaces for women, unsurprisingly, are safer for women. Ninety per cent of sexual assaults and harassment in public swimming pools occurred in the minority of changing rooms that were designated unisex.

In Britain, the majority believe that biological sex is real, and that gender self-identification should not overrule women's rights. "In 2018 research by Populus, an independent pollster, crowd-funded by British feminists, found that only 15 percent of British adults agreed that legal sex change should be possible without a doctor's sign-off. A majority classified a 'person who was born male and has male genitalia but who identifies as a woman' as a man, and only tiny minorities said that such people should be allowed into women's sports or changing rooms, or be incarcerated in a women's prison if they committed a crime."

Joyce explores the misogyny behind so much of transactivism. For example, "Only females … can be TERFS [Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists]. There is no equivalent insult for males who deny that sex can be changed by self-declaration." Also the hate campaigns against those allegedly hostile to trans people seem to be directly exclusively against women - Professor Kathleen Stock, J. K. Rowling, the dancer Rosie Kay, for example.

Again, the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights' pledge card, signed by Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey, two of the candidates for the Labour Party leadership, called women's rights groups like Woman's Place UK and LGB Alliance that campaigned to keep sex-based rights 'trans exclusionist hate groups' and urged that Labour Party members supporting them should be expelled.

Joyce sums up, "All in all, gender affirmation … creates trans adults who have lost fertility and sexual function, and exposed themselves to unknown health risks, in return for passing better. And those trade-offs are being made, not by adult trans people in full awareness of the risks, but in childhood, when parents and clinicians decide to socially transition children, or give them puberty blockers, without anyone acknowledging where this is almost certain to lead." 

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