On 17th October 2019, Trans Action Oxford published an open letter attacking Woman’s Place UK and our forthcoming event, A Woman’s Place is at the lectern. This statement is full of false claims about our campaign which we believe to be defamatory.
We are therefore extremely disappointed to see signatories to this letter who cannot have done any research into what we stand for. We are sorry they have been so misled.
We do not link to documents which we believe to be defamatory but we have cut and pasted the contents of the letter (in italics) below along with a rebuttal of the claims therein.
“Trans Action Oxford Statement: ‘A Woman’s Place’ Meeting on 25th October 2019
Released on 17th October 2019 by Trans Action Oxford
“On the 25th October, the group ‘A Woman’s Place’ is running an event in Oxford billed as a panel on ‘academic freedom and the current issues being faced by women’. The group describes itself as a feminist organisation dedicated to supporting women’s rights.“
- That’s right. We are a feminist organisation dedicated to supporting women’s rights. Read our ‘About’ page on our website.
“In reality, it is a group whose primary aim is to erode existing rights for transgender people”
- Our primary aim is to ensure women’s voices are heard and their rights upheld. We are not campaigning against rights for transgender people. Not only is this not our primary aim; it is not an aim of our campaign at all.
“Past speakers have affirmed their desire to ‘drive [trans people] out of public spaces’…”
- No speaker has said this at any of our meetings…
“…and characterised trans women as ‘horrible, hateful, misogynistic bastards’…”
- This is a reference Anne Ruzylo made in her speech at our Cambridge meeting to specific trans activists (not all of them trans) in her local Labour Party who had bullied her out of her Constituency Labour Party (CLP).
- No speaker has said this at any of our meetings.
- Or this.
“They have also described the high suicide rates amongst trans people – almost half of trans people have attempted suicide – as a ‘myth’.”
- An analysis undertaken by Transgender Trend concluded that there are fundamental weaknesses in both studies relating to suicide rates amongst individuals who identify as transgender.
- Concern has been widely expressed at the promotion of these statistics in breach of guidance by the Samaritans which discourages over-simplification of the causes of suicide:
Approximately 90 per cent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health problem at the time of death.Over-simplification of the causes or perceived ‘triggers’ for a suicide can be misleading and is unlikely to reflect accurately the complexity of suicide. For example, avoid the suggestion that a single incident, such as loss of a job, relationship breakdown or bereavement, was the cause.” (Samaritans)
“‘A Woman’s Place’ was set up to oppose changes to the Gender Recognition Act which would improve trans people’s lives, and has since maintained a focus on undermining trans rights.”
- Woman’s Place UK was set up to ensure women’s voices were heard in a consultation to change a law that would be likely to have a material impact on their existing rights. The Government made it clear that it wanted to hear from the widest number of people in the consultation, in particular women.
We also want to be clear that this is an explorative consultation and we do not have all the answers. That is why, as we consult, we are mindful of the need to engage with all perspectives. We particularly want to hear from women’s groups who we know have expressed some concerns about the implications of our proposals. To be clear –this consultation focuses on the Gender Recognition Act; we are not proposing to amend the Equality Act 2010 and the protections contained within it. We do realise, however, that there are concerns about interactions between the two Acts and we want to use this consultation as a way of gathering these views.”
“Current members of the group are involved in a US Supreme Court case looking to allow employment discrimination against trans people.”
- We have no involvement in the US Supreme Court Case and have recently published a blog by one of our co-founders, Turbulent Times, which makes clear our serious concerns at feminist groups making formal alliances with the Far or Religious right, proposing instead that the women’s movement makes demands of the Left.
- Further, we have made it clear that we do not support discrimination against trans people for being trans and believe that the right to gender non-conformity should be upheld in law. This includes the right not to be constrained by sexist dress codes or expectations of behaviour.
- We have also published a blog, Sex and Gender: the law in the USA which provides a legal analysis of the issues around the court case.
“They advocate for excluding us from bathrooms and changing rooms, forcing us out of public space.”
- We advocate for the law allowing single-sex exemptions to be upheld, and where necessary, extended, to ensure women are able to access women-only services and spaces if they require them. These rights are enshrined in the Equality Act 2010 and exist in recognition of the structural oppression, and high levels of violence and abuse, that women face.
- Several LGBT+ lobby groups are actively campaigning to have these exemptions removed despite telling everyone that changes to the GRA will not impact the Equality Act.
“They also work to exclude us from rape and domestic abuse hotlines, even though trans women are just as likely as cis women to be raped, and far more likely to be domestically abused (19% vs 7.9%). In all of these actions, they make our lives harder, more precarious, and more dangerous.”
- We advocate for the law to ensure that single-sex exemptions are upheld, and where necessary, extended, to ensure women are able to access women-only services and spaces if they require them.
- We have never campaigned on access to hotlines. We believe every victim of domestic or sexual abuse should have access to advice and support but we recognise that many female survivors of abuse or violence will want single-sex spaces in which to seek this help and to recover.
- The EHRC gives the example of domestic violence support groups as one in which it would be entirely legitimate to seek a single-sex space.
“Trans people already face a disproportionate level of violence, discrimination and hardship. The Trans Report 2018 found that 98% of trans students at the University of Oxford had experienced mental health problems. Nearly two-thirds had experienced transphobia or discrimination within the University. There is a direct correlation between the proliferation of groups like ‘A Woman’s Place’ and the rise in transphobic abuse in the UK.”
- This claim is entirely spurious and dangerous. Claiming a ‘direct correlation’ does not mean there is one. We are campaigning for women’s rights.
“In the last year alone, hate crimes against trans people have gone up by 81%. Their rhetoric and ideas are not simply a matter of ‘academic debate’; they have tragic, real-life consequences for us.”
- We condemn all crimes of hate. Crimes of hate against women are not legally defined as hate crimes. However, crimes of violence and abuse against women are on the rise and should be a real concern for a society which prides itself on equality. Until such violence against women and girls is ended, we will need single-sex spaces and services.
“Unlike ‘A Woman’s Place’, we are deeply invested in academic freedom.”
- We are unclear what this claim is based on. We see no evidence that Trans Action Oxford are deeply invested in academic freedom and they do not cite any.
- We, on the other hand, have organised 24 public meetings all over the country, shared films from those meetings and published blogs from people with different perspectives.
“A proper commitment to academic freedom uplifts voices from all marginalised groups, including those of trans people. It recognises that freedom of expression does not extend to bigotry, and that bigotry serves to silence the vulnerable. It affirms the validity of trans voices, trans perspectives, and trans experience. Above all, academic freedom must ensure that trans students, academics, and members of staff have the freedom to study and work in an environment free from discrimination and violence.”
- Academic freedom must ensure that everyone has the right to study and work in such an environment. Universities also have a responsibility to facilitate discussion and debate, not shut down questions or concerns. We welcome the recently published guidance by the Equality & Human Rights Commission on how universities can do this. This guidance is supported by the National Union of Students, Universities UK, Charity Commission for England and Wales, Office for Students, Independent HE, GuildHE, Commission for Countering Extremism and Home Office.
“We are frustrated that groups such as ‘A Woman’s Place’ insist upon their own academic freedom, but do not extend this principle to trans people.”
- There is no need to be frustrated as we do extend this principle to trans people. We are not clear why you think we do not.
“Members of the group have prestigious academic positions and widespread respect, while trans voices are consistently pushed to the edges of discourse.”
- We are not a membership organisation. The organising team is a small group of people from a range of backgrounds including trade unions, women’s organisations, academia and the NHS. We have long records of fighting for equality and justice and have earned some respect for this work.
- We are delighted that so many prestigious and respected people want to speak at our meetings.
- We have not pushed trans voices to the edges. In fact, we have had trans speakers on our panels, and many other trans people have attended our meetings and spoken from the floor.
“Our decision to hold a demonstration of solidarity was rooted in these concerns. Rather than directly protest their event, and thus play into their narrative of false victimhood, we are looking to re-centre trans voices, and to discuss trans issues alongside cis allies in a respectful and tolerant manner.”
- We are pleased that Trans Action Oxford accept our right to hold public meetings free from intimidation and harassment and are holding their protest elsewhere. Sadly, this has not been our general experience.
- Although we do not subscribe to the notion of ‘victimhood’, we and the women who support our work, have been subjected to abuse, threat, intimidation, aggression and hate.
- We have held 24 public meetings in the last two years and almost all of them have been subject to obstruction or harassment or threat of some kind. You can read a record of the challenges we have faced on our website.
- Our most recent meeting in Brighton, was besieged by a baying mob of over 100 people who screamed abuse in the faces of our ticket holders and banged and kicked the windows of the room we were in for over 2 hours. The events of that night are now the subject of formal complaints to both the Labour Party and Sussex Police.
- We support the right to peaceful protest, although we think this protest by Trans Action Oxford is entirely unnecessary, based as it is on a misrepresentation of our campaign.
“‘A Woman’s Place’ is once again hoping to spread transphobic ideology in our city.”
- This is not what we are doing, nor is it something we have done in the past. We are speaking up for women’s rights and we will continue to do so as is our democratic right. We are astonished at the myths, slurs and lies that are circulated about us.
- You can watch films from our public meetings on our YouTube channel.
“We hope you will join us in demonstrating that their hateful views and the violence they inspire have no place in Oxford.”
- We are not hateful. We do not inspire violence.
- We have been the subject of hate. We have been threatened with violence.
- This persistent and wilful misrepresentation of our campaign, in fact, stirs up hate against us, women defending their rights in a society that is failing to address the oppression we face.
The attitude of groups like Trans Action Oxford smacks of misogyny.
We are calling it out.
Woman’s Place UK
24th October 2019