Journalist insists she isn’t anti-trans, believes trans women should not have access to women-only services

A feminist journalist who believes that transgender women should not have access to women-only spaces or be able to self-identify has insisted that she is not anti-trans.

New Statesman columnist Sarah Ditum appeared on Victoria Derbyshire this morning (March 5th) to debate trans women alongside Dr Nichola Williams, an academic who specialises in reproductive ethics, personal identity and intergenerational justice.

Ditum and Williams went head to head with trans activists Rebecca Root and Clara Barker to debate self-identifying.

Self-identifying would mean that transgender people would not have to go through many of the current hoops to legally change their gender.

Prime minister Theresa May exclusively told PinkNews last year that the government was working on a much-needed update to the Gender Recognition Act, which currently allows people with gender dysphoria to get a new birth certificate, but the process is complex and bureaucratic.

Individuals, who must have transitioned at least two years earlier, present their evidence to a Gender Recognition Panel, who, after considering the case, may issue a Gender Recognition Certificate.

However, May wants to move away from the current required medical checks in order to make the process less distressing for trans people.

In the segment, host Derbyshire asked Ditum to explain why she thinks women might “feel cautious about having trans women in their spaces” and why trans women shouldn’t be allowed to self-identify.


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Ditum begins to explain that the biggest worry is the “potential for exploitation”.

“If you move to the model of self-identity then the idea is that you are a man or a woman because you say you’re a man or a woman and no one else has got the right to question it.

“That’s a real problem because it means that there are going to be men who will exploit that. There will be men who are predatory and exploit that to gain access to spaces,” Ditum said.

She then goes on to give the example of trans women in prisons, noting the case of Paris Green, a trans prisoner who was removed from the female prison for having sexual intercourse with other prisoners.

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 25: Demonstrators protest for transgender rights on February 25, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The demonstrators were angry with President Donald Trumps recent decision to reverse the Obama-era policy requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Related: Labour confirms its all-women shortlists are open to self-identifying transgender women

Ditum said that this “sexually predatory behaviour” is “really troubling, so we need to have a system which is stronger than self-identification.”

However, she does not mention the danger that trans women could be put at if they are not permitted to use spaces which correspond to their gender identity.

The journalist then denies the notion that the current trans debate is similar to the debates that occurred around gay men concerning adoption, the use of male changing rooms by gay men and the education on LGBTQ+ rights.

She insists that a debate on trans access is legitimised because of the threat imposed against “biological women”.

The two feminists are asked to give a real-life example in which trans women should not be given access and Williams cites the girl guides, as they do not have to notify parents if a trans girl is going to be going on a camping trip.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 19: A participant holds a sign saying "Trans and Proud" during the Glasgow Pride march on August 19, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland. The largest festival of LGBTI celebration in Scotland has been held every year in Glasgow since 1996. (Photo by Robert Perry/Getty Images)

(Photo by Robert Perry/Getty Images)

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However, Barker snaps back and slams Williams for “assuming that an 11-year-old trans girl is a sexual predator”.

Derbyshire suggests that they are “afraid” of trans people, but both Williams and Ditum say that they are not.

Rather, Williams says that they are “cautious” of self-identifying trans women.

The debate then welcomes comments from viewers, and one female watcher insists that trans women cannot be women because they do not have wombs.

Another says that they must have the menstrual cycle to be a woman and so, they should not have access to women-only spaces.

However, both Barker and Root knock this idea as they ask if that means women who have had a hysterectomy or women who do not have a menstrual cycle, be it through menopause or another reproductive disease, are not women.

Root perfectly sums the poor arguments against allowing trans women access.

“You’re tarring the whole community of trans women with the brush of one or two people who are bad people and in prison because they’ve committed a crime,” she said. “It’s like saying every priest is a bad person because one or two people committed offences to one or two young people.”