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What the Daily Mail got very wrong about Gay Star News’ trans sauna story

What the Daily Mail got very wrong about Gay Star News’ trans sauna story

A trans man was kicked out of a gay sauna | Flickr

Richard Littlejohn, the Daily Mail’s grand dame of the perpetually outraged, is on the war path against trans people once again.

Not learning from his errant foray with ‘He’s not only in the wrong body … he’s in the wrong job’, his new target is the Equality Act.

The Act ensures the rights of trans people to use facilities according to their lived-in gender.

Gay Star News exclusively revealed last week a trans man had been kicked out of a gay sauna in east London.

Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn goes on another anti-trans rant

Richard Littlejohn writes another transphobic rant
Richard Littlejohn writes another transphobic rant

The fact a trans man still has female genitalia is unsurprising. It’s on the scale of how the Pope is Catholic and bears do their business in woods.

As one doctor once said, it’s easier to take things away than to make things. Essentially, it’s difficult and arduous surgery to create a penis. It’s much more difficult than creating a vagina which, itself, isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

For this reason, a number of trans men decide not to pursue this particular surgical route. And why should they? Satisfying the prurience of others is not a key measure of surgical need or success.

It’s why the Gender Recognition Act was drawn up so that genital reconstruction surgery was not required. This decision rightly kept gender recognition in scope for many trans men.

The Equality Act has an even broader remit. As Littlejohn notes, the trans man in question ‘is protected under the Equality Act’. This begs the question, why pick on him in a national newspaper?

Why pick on a trans person in a national newspaper?

Someone is protected as trans if they have undergone, are undergoing or are intending to undergo a process of gender reassignment. Things like changing names, seeing a doctor, or style of dress would be indicators of that process.

The threshold for ‘intending to undergo’ is not specified either, and also for good reason. Many trans people are apprehensive about talking to medics. Historic scare stories abound. Even if you get referred to a gender identity clinic, you are likely to be waiting at least a year before your first appointment.

This brings me to another point. Genital reconstruction surgery isn’t done on demand.

You have to contend with long waiting lists at clinics. You also have to satisfy medics that you won’t regret surgery.

Generally you won’t be referred for surgery for at least two years. We’re not exactly awash with surgeons willing to do the procedure either.

This means people who have transitioned a few years ago, in terms of changing their name and social presentation, will still be waiting for surgery.

I have friends who first saw medics nine years ago who only went under the surgeon’s knife in the last month.

Don’t allow privates to become public

An older trans woman at a Pride march
An older trans woman at a Pride march (Photo: Age UK)

‘Women don’t have willies’ thunders Littlejohn. Well, actually, some women do. A ‘100% deficiency in the trouser department’, to use Littlejohn’s parlance, is pretty common for trans men.

Like most things in life, what appears to be ‘rip-roaring bonkers’ and ‘deranged’ at first sight, turns out to have all sorts of complications when you look at it in any detail.

Most single-sex facilities have included trans people, irrespective of surgical status, for decades.

I don’t really want to think about what access restricted on genitalia would mean. Are we going to have ‘pantie police’ at the entrance to loos?

Privates would suddenly become very public.

Or are we going to insist that access depends on stereotypical presentation – whether someone thinks someone else looks like a man or a woman. Peoples’ success rates would be pretty poor and, in any case, who decides what the criteria would be?

Stop writing about issues you know nothing about

Once again the anti-reform agenda is revealed as not ‘this far and no further’ but ‘it’s all gone too far’ – wanting to push trans people firmly back into the (appropriately gendered?) closet.

Generally the current Equality Act works well. Sure, there are some issues about inclusion of non-binary people and others about where it’s acceptable to exclude trans people.

The proof? The council who gave the sauna the licence said there was no legal reason why the trans man should have been excluded.

In the 1950s, people who wrote for national newspapers generally had to demonstrate an understanding of what they were writing about. Now, that would be a return to historic principles that I would approve of, and would Make Me Proud To Be British.

Helen Belcher works with Trans Media Watch to better trans representation in TV, film and journalism.