Sam Leith Sam Leith

Trans activists don’t help themselves

I’ve tried to stay out of the trans-rights conversation, honestly I have. There are a number of reasons for this, and not all of them are laziness and cowardice. The main thing is that – though it bears on some important points of principle – it directly affects a relatively tiny proportion of the population and it already gets more coverage than almost any other issue up to and including a major European war.  

Gee whiz, holding that centrist line gets harder

And for most of the people who get involved in this conversation as journalists, commentators and activists, it rapidly becomes a full-time job. There are a lot of people more willing, and better qualified, to do that job. And the conversation is so bitterly polarised that once you’re in the saddle it’s hard to climb down and say that, actually, there may be other things worth talking about. 

But, here goes. I try to start from the position that this is a conversation about competing rights and courtesies that presents real difficulties that can’t be hand waved (or shouted) away. It seems to me very obvious that housing male-bodied sex offenders in the female prison estate might be a problem, and that enthusiastic ideologues promoting irreversible surgery or hormone treatments on pre-pubescent children might, also, bear looking at to say the least. Like most people, I think biological sex is a real thing, and male violence is a real thing.  

I also think that those who for any number of a variety of reasons feel they can’t live in their original sex deserve to be accommodated as far as is possible within the constraints available to reality. I think that it’s needlessly cruel and provocative to systematically ‘deadname’ trans activists; that it gets us nowhere to smear by association as perverts, ‘groomers’ and autogynephiles the many trans people who are keen to get on with their lives with as much dignity as possible.

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