An Irish Woman speaks

First of all, thank you so much to A Woman’s Place UK for giving me the chance to talk about this. I feel like I am going mad. I’m Irish and I live in Ireland. We introduced self ID in 2015. At the time, I was supportive of it, because I believed what I was told: that this had no implications for women; that it would only benefit trans people.

I didn’t think about it again until I saw men I know on Twitter, bullying and insulting women that they called ‘terfs’. I assumed that the women were in the wrong. But I don’t think you persuade anyone by insulting them, so I went on to some website or other to find out what they really thought, so I could engage with their arguments properly. I found a list of questions written by a gender critical feminist: What is a woman? What is gender identity?

I believe that a woman is an adult human female. I don’t have any gender identity that is separate from that fact: I experience being a woman because I have a female body and because that female body means that society treats me in a particular way. So in what way did I believe that trans women were women?

I listened to and read what a lot of trans people were saying in the hope of finding out what a gender identity was, but it always came down to stereotypes. Then I read about what was meant by ‘cis’, and I resented it. Not because I hate trans people, but because I do not identify with society’s idea of women, I have always been disgusted by it.

I saw people who were, in every practical sense of the word, men, say that they were women purely because they said so. And I started worrying what this meant in practical terms.

A while ago I was in my local swimming pool, and a man swam across the pool from the men’s rooms and entered the women’s changing rooms. I was there on my own. I ran to get the gym staff and they got him to leave. I spent the next few hours afraid he would spot me and recognise me as the woman who had got him thrown out. 

But now, I don’t know if I could get him removed. I don’t know what the law means, and nobody will tell me. I know that a barber was sued because he mistook a trans man for a woman. When I write to TDs (Teachtaí Dála – members of the Irish parliament) they ignore me. I’ve stopped using the pool and the gym.

The worst thing is, I can’t talk openly about any of this. The same men who say ‘When women tell you about sexual assault, listen to them’, will call me a terf and say I should be punched if I say I’m afraid of male people when I’m vulnerable and there’s nobody else around. In fact, even if I say trans women are biologically male, I will be accused of hate speech.

I wrote a post on Facebook about what it’s like walking home at night alone when you’re a woman. How it is, seeing one other person on a lonely road. If it’s a woman, you feel relieved; if it’s a man, you feel scared. The same men who liked that post and shared it, think that women who say they are afraid of self ID should shut up, that we deserve any abuse we get.

They don’t know that I think this way. I don’t say any of this publicly.

On Twitter I am followed by men who comb through people’s Twitter likes, looking for people to denounce. Men who openly threaten women – sorry, ‘terfs’ – while also, without irony, calling other men misogynists and retweeting things about #MeToo and #IBelieveHer.

#IBelieveHer… unless she tells me she’d afraid of male-bodied people, then I tell her she deserves to be punched.

There was an open letter from some Irish feminists a while back, which said that gender critical feminists weren’t welcome here. It was an ignorant letter, which painted British gender critical feminists as bizarre colonialists. It ignored the fact that some of them are only British because their grandmothers or mothers were escaping the Magdalen Laundries; it ignored the fact that for decades British women supported Irish women who had to cross the sea to have abortions.

The people who signed that letter don’t speak for me.