Gender

The smallest slice of the pie: how Black women are harmed by trans activism

When it comes to dividing up the rights pie, it looks as if Black women – not for the first time – have been allocated the smallest slice, says Kim Thomas.

Stowers’s story illustrates another disturbing aspect of trans ideology, namely the disproportionate impact it has on Black and ethnic minority women and girls… 

In the normal run of things, 20-year old weightlifter Feagagia Stowers would be a hero for the progressive left. An Indigenous Samoan woman who grew up in foster care and survived childhood sexual abuse, Stowers’s determination and talent enabled her to put her past behind her to take gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. 

The plaudits go not to Stowers, however, but to her rival, 42-year old New Zealander and Olympic contender Laurel Hubbard. (Samoa has withdrawn its weightlifters from the competition because of Covid-19.) The privately-educated Hubbard, whose father is a multimillionaire businessman, feels like an odd kind of role model for liberals. But Hubbard’s trump card is that she is trans: bravely overcoming the disadvantage of having grown up male, Hubbard beat Stowers to the gold medal at the 2019 Pacific Games. For that, she is, apparently, a trailblazer. A podium picture showing Stowers and bronze medallist Iuniana Sipaia casting their eyes down in dismay tells a different story. 

The arguments about why trans women have no place in women’s sport have been well rehearsed. But Stowers’s story illustrates another disturbing aspect of trans ideology, namely the disproportionate impact it has on Black and ethnic minority women and girls.    

“Rights are not a pie” is a frequently-heard claim from trans activists. But when certain groups have opportunities taken away from them to make way for another group, then they very much are a pie. Sport has provided a route out of poverty for countless young Black women, so it’s no surprise that some of the most robust advocates of keeping women’s sport single-sex are distinguished Black female athletes such as Dame Kelly Holmes and Tessa Sanderson

In the criminal justice system, too, the demands of trans activists are having a disproportionate impact on Black women. In both the US and the UK, Black and ethnic minority women are vastly overrepresented in the prison population. These women are exceptionally vulnerable – more than half of female prisoners have experienced domestic violence. Yet they are at the mercy of judicial systems that have decided to house prisoners according to their gender identity, not their biological sex. In California, for example, the prison service has been inundated with requests for transfer from the male estate to the female estate. Male-bodied prisoners who have committed viciously violent crimes are now housed with women, many of whom are themselves the victims of violent crime. This approach is not confined to the US: a judge recently ruled that the Ministry of Justice’s policy of housing trans women in women’s prisons was fair, despite it having resulted in the sexual assault of a female prisoner. 

The liberal left, which you might expect to stand up for the most disadvantaged groups in society, has been strangely quiet on this issue. It has been quiet, too, on the impact on minority women of demands for trans women to be allowed access to single-sex female spaces (including toilets and changing rooms). Women-only swimming or gym sessions give Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women the opportunity to exercise away from the male gaze; once single-sex becomes single-gender, that opportunity is taken away. Refuges and domestic violence shelters that admit people with male bodies effectively become a no-go area for women whose religion doesn’t allow contact with men. A vital, life-saving service becomes inaccessible. 

The harsh consequences of allowing men to self-identify as women became apparent when Jessica (formerly Jonathan) Yaniv attempted to secure the genital-waxing services of British Columbian beauticians, most of whom were immigrant, religious minority women who worked from home and did not, understandably, want to handle male genitals. Yaniv, who had a history of making racist comments, lost the case, not, worryingly, because the women had the right to turn down male customers but on the technical grounds that scrotum-waxing wasn’t part of their advertised portfolio of services. 

The Yaniv case is often touted as a one-off, but in fact forms part of a pattern of hostility towards ethnic minority women. The Muslim anti-FGM campaigner Hibo Wardere found herself under attack from trans activists for daring to use the phrase “female genital mutilation.” (“Female” is transphobic, apparently.) Language is important: FGM survivors need to name their oppression, which becomes impossible if words such as “female” and “women” are forbidden. Wardere, not easily cowed by threats, responded with a spirited video concluding with the words: “I’m a woman – get over it.”  

Yet trans extremists brazenly claim allyship with Black women, falsely making an equivalence between racial discrimination and single-sex policies. One article, for example, attacking a policy of excluding trans women from women’s sports makes the following comparison: “There is a long history of similarly painting Black athletes as ‘genetically superior’ in an attempt to downplay the effects of their hard work and training.” Women’s desire for single-sex toilets is offensively compared to the Jim Crow laws that banned Black people from using white people’s toilets. As Helen Joyce has explained: “Males entering women’s spaces are nothing like black people claiming their place in society; they are like white people denying black people spaces where they can shelter from the minority of white people who wish to do them harm.” 

It comes as no surprise that much of the fightback against trans extremism is being led, at no small personal cost, by a number of brave Black women, among them the barrister Allison Bailey, a lesbian who is taking legal action against the wealthy lobby group Stonewall for bullying her out of her job; Keira Bell, a young mixed-heritage woman who won a victory against the Tavistock gender identity development service (GIDS) for rushing her into life-changing hormones and surgery; and Sonia Appleby, who has also taken action against the Tavistock, where she is head of safeguarding, for being vilified after raising concerns about the safety of children treated by the service. 

So where are the social justice warriors standing up for Hibo Wardere, a survivor of FGM? For Allison Bailey, a working-class woman who overcame the trauma of childhood sexual abuse to become a barrister? For Feagagia Stowers? For the immigrant women sued by Jonathan Yaniv? They are nowhere to be seen. When it comes to dividing up the rights pie, it looks as if Black women – not for the first time – have been allocated the smallest slice. 

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Kim Thomas

Kim Thomas has been a freelance journalist for more than 20 years, writing for national newspapers and magazines on topics such as technology, education and health care.

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One Comment

  1. A superb, well-argued riposte to the Trans-Activist position that transpeople are the real victims of discriminatory and unfair actions which seek to preserve women’s safe spaces. That black women are the genuine victims couldn’t be clearer.

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