NOTE: This is a translation of a statement by the Spanish Socialist Party. The definitions used in the piece do not necessarily align with those used by this campaign or within the UK. We are publishing this as a faithful translation of the Spanish statement and the language it used to describe these complex issues.
On 9 June 2020, the Federal Executive Commission of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) released a statement titled ‘Arguments Against Theories Which Erase the Reality of Women’ directed to all the internal structures within the party, clarifying its position on the conflict which arises from sex-based rights (acknowledged within the Spanish constitution) and ‘gender identity’ theories being proposed by left-wing sectors of their Government coalition, and in broader society.
The statement opened with the following introduction:
As you know, there is a growing polemic regarding the use and confusion, sometimes with a hidden agenda, of some fundamental feminist concepts, such as sex and gender. There are some theories (specifically queer theory) which are gaining ground around the academic and activist world, and which deny the existence of biological sex, given that they blur and obscure the material realities of women. If we deny the existence of sex, we deny the inequality which is measured and constructed on the basis of this biological fact.
Which is why we have created this document in which we have synthetised the arguments and our position, as a political party. We hope you find it useful.”
Spanish-speaker and Dominican writer Raquel Rosario Sanchez volunteered to translate this document, in an effort to broadcast to our English-speaking audience, the direction of travel this political topic was taking in some socialist political parties of our neighboring countries.
Sex is a biological fact and gender is a social construction
- Sex is a biological fact. It refers to bodily characteristics, biological and physiological, which define and differentiate humans as men and women. The sex with which women are born determines their place in the world. From there, the space they occupy and how they do it is constructed and delimited. Sex determines the rights and the degree of citizenship that women have, and in the most extreme cases, it even determines whether they are attacked, harassed or killed.
- Gender is the social construction of the biological sex with which one is born. That is, the set of social and cultural roles, tasks, stereotypes…which are assigned to men and women in a differentiated manner, and which configures expectations and opportunities. It sets the sexual division of labour (productive for men and reproductive for women), and of spaces (public for men and private for women), and assumes a preponderance of the masculine over the feminine.
- Gender is an analytical tool that is now being exploited by certain movements to replace the very concept of sex. If gender replaces sex, then the situation of structural inequality of women with respect to men is blurred. It is a category of analysis which implicitly carries the oppression, the inequality and the subordination of women compared to men. This is why us feminist socialists seek its abolition in order to achieve the emancipation of the women.
- Women are killed for being born female, girls have their genitals mutilated, on the basis that they are born female, they are socially assigned the responsibility of care. Because they are born female, women are subject to forced marriages and they are denied their individual free will. Because women are born female, they have been denied the right to vote, prevented from accessing resources and made to suffer the highest rates of poverty and precarity, etc. It is this structural inequality linked to sex, upon which discrimination, male violence against women, and the absence of full recognition of the citizenship of women and girls is based.
- If we deny sex, the inequality that is measured and constructed on the basis of this biological fact is also denied.
The interested manipulation of “sexual or gender identity”
When the biological sex and the sex with which the individual identifies do not correspond, this is known as transsexualism.
- Gender identity is a more recent term, which is peripheral to biological sex and does not imply any mismatch with it. That is to say that an individual can feel like a woman with a man’s body, or vice versa.
- These terms have been used in different legal frameworks: Law 3/2007, of 15 march, regulates the registration rectification of the mention relating to the sex of people, and speaks of “gender identity”. The Constitutional Court ruling (99/2019, of 18 July 2019, Question of unconstitutionality 1595-2016) speaks indiscriminately of “sexual identity” and “gender identity.” Similarly, some laws within the Spanish autonomous regions relating to equal treatment and non-discrimination, use both terms. In the European Union, it appears in the Istanbul Convention (article 4.3), and UN Women includes it in several of its texts.
- Although the concepts of sexual identity or gender identity are not strictly equal, they have been used in an undifferentiated way in legal texts, and other documents, at national and international levels. While this is true, in recent times an interested usage is being generated (by queer activism), which is gaining ground in academia and certain social movements; around the use of both terms and with the incorporation of new ambiguous concepts. The consequences of confusingly manipulating these terms are putting at risk the very legal concept and political subject “women.”
- Therefore, it is important to differentiate between its use as a condition of non-discrimination and to guarantee the free self-expression and dignity of individuals, and the legal scope of the interested usage of these concepts which are carried out by certain groups that feel attacked by the word “woman”, and who even try to eliminate it, denying the reality of women.
- The Socialist Party’s commitment to transsexual people and their fight for the achievement of their rights is unquestionable. We adopt their demand for the full revindication of their citizenship and non-discrimination rights.
- This is not about questioning whether an individual feels like a man or a woman, independent of their biological sex or the physical appearance they wish to present as. It is about how a feeling and its expression are transferred – especially when it is not stable over time – to the legal system, and what are the implications of enshrining this into law.
- How are we to legally acknowledge and accredit the precise expression of a feeling? Respect for the individual rights of trans people must to be considered within the framework of the legal principle of certainty.
- We are against positions which defend that the feelings, the expressions and the manifestations of a person’s volition, must automatically grant them full legal effects. The so-called “right to the self-determination of sexual identity” or the “right to sexual self-determination” lacks legal rationality.
- To have full legal effects, there must be a “stable situation of transsexuality”, duly accredited, as has been established by the Law 3/2007, of 15 March, regulating the registry rectifications of the mention relating to the sex of people, and other more recent autonomic laws, relating to the rights, the equal treatment and the non-discrimination of the LGBTI collective.
The practical risks of theories that change the definition of women and deny their reality
- If it is enough for a man to express, at a certain moment, that he feels female, without any other consideration:
– How would this affect the collection of statistical data? We disaggregate statistics by sex, and this is fundamental to understanding problems (labour and wage inequality, the feminisation of poverty, the glass ceiling, sexist violence…) and determining the public policies needed to tackle them.
– How would this affect the law on gender violence? Could an abusive man claim that he feels like a woman and therefore not be tried for this crime?
– How would this affect equality policies and balanced political representation?
– How would this affect access to resources and services such as women’s refuges and detention centres?
– How would this affect sports participation and competitions?
Women are not an identity
- Women are neither an identity nor an essence. Nor do they constitute a collective. Women represent more than half of humanity. The sex with which females are born determines their position in the world. And it is from that position, that the space they occupy, and how they occupy it, is constructed and defined. Sex determines the rights and degree of citizenship women have, and in the most extreme cases, even if they can live life without being beaten or murdered. Feminism fights for equal rights for women and men, for the full citizenship of women and for their emancipation. The political subject of feminism is women.
- The struggle against discrimination and in favour of inclusion policies represent an obligation for democracies. And they cannot be exploited torturously or as an alibi to undermine the gains of equality between women and men. As socialists, we defend that equality and respect for diversity make better democracies.
- Queer activism blurs women as a political and legal subject, putting at risk their rights, public policies of equality between women and men, and the achievements of the feminist movement.
- From the Socialist Party, we express our consideration and respect towards transsexual people, and our commitment to provide coverage and legal certainty to their needs.
- As socialists, we will defend feminist positions and we will transfer these positions to legislative initiatives during this parliamentary processing period.
16th July 2020