Written by Dr Ruth Livingstone
Gender ideology and trans activism is an overwhelmingly broad topic, with elements increasingly infiltrating multiple areas of everyday life. You may want to know more about the issues but it can be hard to know where to begin. So, here’s a quick overview of the basic terminology.
The difference between sex and gender (according to gender ideology)
To understand much of what is said in this debate, you need to understand the words used by trans activists.
You might think the words sex and gender mean virtually the same thing. You might believe the dictionary definitions that state a man is an adult human male, and a woman is an adult human female. But, in the world of gender ideology, these traditional meanings have been changed.
To gender ideologists, sex and gender mean different things entirely.
Sex = the biological reality of your body, and your sex as either male or female.
Gender = the feeling you have internally about the sex of your body, and this feeling might be different to your actual sex.
You may think the above distinction between sex and gender doesn’t make sense. Surely your gender feeling can’t be different to your bodily reality? We agree with you. More on this later.
In gender ideology, a gender identity is a feeling held inside yourself of maleness or femaleness. If you perceive yourself, internally, as female, then your gender identity is of a woman, even if you are biologically male. And vice versa: a woman can declare her identity to be male, even if she is biologically female.
Having the strongly held opinion that your gender identity is different to your bodily sex is something traditionally called ‘gender dysphoria’.
Just to confuse things further, people can be ‘gender fluid’, popping between male or female, and sometimes being neither. A person who feels they are neither male nor female may be called ‘non binary’.
Believe it or not, some people claim you can identify as animals: as a cat for example, or a wolf, or even as inanimate objects such as a cartoon character or a cake. (Yes, all these claims have actually been made: details in the references at end of this article.)
If you think this is beginning to sound a little bit weird, even a little bit crazy, don’t worry. We agree with you.
What does ‘trans’ actually mean?
‘Trans’ is shorthand for a number of other words. It can be used to describe transwomen, who are men but identify as women, or transmen who are women but identify as men. The term ‘trans’ can mean either of these. It can also be used as an adjective to describe this whole debate, e.g. the trans debate, or trans ideology, or trans agenda. And it can be used as an adjective to describe those people who are pushing this ideology – the trans activists or trans rights activists (TRA for short).
If we take people who identify as transmen or transwomen, one of the biggest issues is that there is no single definition of what a ‘trans’ person actually is. If you were under the impression that trans people have all undergone surgery to change their genitals, you are in for a bit of a shock when you find out that most people calling themselves ‘trans’ have undergone no surgery at all, and have no intention of having surgery.
The terms ‘trans’ and ‘transgender’ have become catch-all umbrella terms to encompass a variety of different groups. These include:
Transsexuals: a word often now used to describe people who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery, in other words, who have had their breasts and/or genitalia altered to resemble those of the opposite sex.
Non-binary people: those who don’t wish to be categorised as either male or female.
Transvestites or cross-dressers: men who choose to dress in a feminine way - or an appropriation of a feminine way - but who retain their male genitalia.
Drag Queens: who dress up as exaggerated forms of stereotypical women, usually for the purpose of entertaining others.
Fluid gender identities: people who can be a woman one day, and a man the next.
Men with autogynephilia: who get sexual stimulation by pretending to be a member of the opposite sex. This can include dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex, wearing wigs and makeup, indulging in role play, etc.
The above isn’t a full list of all the various groups that can be considered under the trans umbrella, but gives you some idea of the variety that is included.
Where’s the harm? We should just be kind and let trans people live their lives.
Trans activists and gender ideology tell us that anyone can be anything they say they are.
So, men are women, if that’s what they say they are. And, women are men, if that’s what they say they are. “Acceptance without exception”, declares Stonewall, one of the foremost charities speaking for trans acceptance. No debate is allowed. Everyone must be believed. Nobody can be challenged
This is hammered home in the statements often used, that ‘transwomen are women’ (TWAW) and the less-commonly used statement that ‘transmen are men’.
Let’s follow these mantras to their logical conclusion. If anybody can be anything they say they are, then all the safeguards for women are swept away. If anybody can be a woman, then men can invade women’s spaces – toilets, changing rooms, refuges, prisons, and hospital wards. Rapists can claim to be women and access these spaces. Women can be raped by men who say they are women.
This isn’t a theoretical danger for women. Attacks and rapes have actually happened. A Facebook group has collected numerous examples ( This Never Happens | Facebook ) and Baroness Nicholson has spoken in the House of Lords about women who have been sexually assaulted, and details of one woman who was raped, by men posing as women on NHS hospital wards.
Children are at risk too. If anyone can be anything they say they are, men can say they are women to get access to spaces where women with children should believe they are safe from men. This is what happened in the infamous Wi Spa incident. (The Wi Spa ‘woman’ later turned out to be a man with a string of sexual offences: Wi Spa suspect...history of indecent exposure (nypost.com) )
We know that people can’t really change sex. If we pretend to believe men can actually become women, we allow predators to gain access to vulnerable women and children in spaces that should be safe.
There are plenty of other reasons why allowing men to call themselves women is detrimental to women. These include the implications for women’s sports, for women’s ability to meet and talk about themselves, for women-only shortlists, women-only jobs, and competing for women’s prizes.
If we can’t restrict the word women to exclude men, then we can’t even begin to talk about women’s rights without including men.
What does ‘gender critical’ mean?
Gender critical people believe that biological sex is fixed and immutable. In other words, we believe people can’t change sex. We are critical of the very concept of a ‘gender identity’, and reject the idea that people walk around with a nebulous feeling in their heads of whether they are a man or a woman, a feeling that is completely separate from the reality of their bodies.
For women, the social construct of gender oppresses us, as it forces us to comply with stereotypes of what a woman is and what a man is. It is something feminists have been fighting against for decades.
But, declaring yourself to be gender critical is a dangerous business. You will be called a TERF (a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) and you will be bullied, harassed, accused of hate crime, called a bigot, transphobic and worse. You can be threatened with actual bodily violence, including rape. Some of the rape threats will come from men who call themselves women, but who still have their penises.
Do you find that hard to believe? Here is a collection of threats on Twitter, all directed at gender critical women (or TERFS): Thread by Claire Bear | Twitter
Wanting protection and privacy for women does not make anyone a bigot. Protecting women’s biological rights is not being unkind. Stating scientific facts is not transphobic. The world is not flat. We refuse to accept this new wave of misogyny that relies on gaslighting women.
There is good news. We are fighting back and making small wins in what we hope will be a turning point in this fight. Gender critical beliefs - the belief that sex is immutable - was ruled in court as being “worthy of respect in a democratic society”, thanks to a brave woman called Maya Forstater.
Sporting bodies are beginning to wake up, and are starting to change their rules, so that men who call themselves women can no longer compete in women’s sports. FINA, the international body that organises world swimming changed their rules recently. FIFA, the international body that controls football is reviewing its transgender policy at the time of writing this blog. We hope others follow.
People are finally beginning to speak out about the insanity of allowing anyone to be anything they say they are. The era of ‘no debate’ is well and truly over.
Why not join us. Speak out. Help stop this dangerous ideology and make this world a safer place for women and children.
Take a look at our blogs - Women's Words - and follow us on Twitter.
Dysphoric: YouTube is a four-part documentary and makes a good starting point
For a fast-paced 90-minute documentary, watch Terf Wars.
For a deep dive, immerse yourself in the detailed and thoroughly researched 15-part documentary Gender Ideology by The State Media.
For more definitions take a look at GCritical.org
Dictionary definitions of man: Man definition and meaning | Collins
Dictionary definition of woman: Woman definition and meaning | Collins
Dictionary definition of gender: Gender definition and meaning | Collins
World Health Organisation definitions of sex and gender: https://www.who.int/health-topics/gender
Gender Fluid: What Is Gender Fluid? (verywellmind.com)
Non Binary: Being non-binary | LGBT HERO
Cat gender Catgender - Taimi wiki
Wolf gender everyday is pride (tumblr.com) is mentioned here along with many other genders.
Cake gender, described in a TikTok video: People are identifying as cake gender - Twitter
NHS description of Gender Dysphoria: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gender-dysphoria
Transexuals: Transsexual definition and meaning | Collins
Transvestites: Transvestism - Wikipedia
Crossdressers: Cross-dressing - Wikipedia
Drag Queens: Drag queen - Wikipedia
Autogynephilia: Autogynephilia: PubMed (nih.gov)
TERF: TERF - Wikipedia