NUS Women’s Campaign condemns transphobia in the Equality Act

Student representatives at the annual NUS Women’s Campaign Conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion that condemns transphobia in the Equality Act and within the women’s movement yesterday.

The motion in question – entitled “Transmisogyny in the Equality Act” – addressed the horrific exemption which ensures that:

“A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a gender recognition certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.”

The trans community has blogged about this exemption at length, exploring how it could result in trans people being denied access to numerous public services, and how it massively undermines the Gender Recognition Act. We’ve also discovered that the clause in question was pushed by certain individuals representing Rape Crisis Centres.

It’s really positive that a feminist organisation is keen to unite behind trans rights. It should, of course, be a given that this is the case since we fight the same fight against patriarchy and gender essentialism, but the attitude of those women’s groups who pushed the offensive clause in the Equality Act shows that we cannot take trans-positive feminism for granted. I was therefore really pleased that NUS Women’s Campaign policy now includes a commitment to lobby the government on changing this unfair law alongside the aforementioned condemnation.

For those who might be interested, the new policy is as follows:

1. To condemn the offensive clause within the Equality Act 2010 in the strongest possible terms.
2. To lobby the government for an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 that ensures that trans women have fair and equal access to women’s shelters and rape crisis centres.
3. To support campaigns which seek to persuade transphobic women’s shelters and rape crisis centres to revise their approach.
4. To oppose any campaigns that seek to shut down transphobic shelters and rape crisis centres.

Full details of the motion can be found here.

I take this commitment entirely seriously because the NUS Women’s Campaign has demonstrated many times that it is fully behind trans rights during the last two or three years. This is a feminist campaign that refuses to share a platform with Julie Bindel (and was prepared to face legal action from her after doing so), supported a trans block at Reclaim The Night London, and ensured that trans individuals were included in groundbreaking research on women students’ experiences of harassment and violence. It’s a women’s organisation that broadly “gets” non-binary gender identities, and has a permanent trans representative on its elected committee (two people are holding this position as a jobshare this year).

I also noticed at this year’s conference that a number of cis women were keen to mention trans issues in relevant speeches. Meanwhile, prominent trans activist Roz Kaveney was invited to participate in a panel on intersectionality.

This post has turned into a bit of a positive gush but I honestly only have good things to say about how this liberation campaign has dealt with trans issues, and that’s a rarity that deserves celebration. I can only hope that the campaign sustains this momentum in future years, and wish its members the absolute best for this future.

5 thoughts on “NUS Women’s Campaign condemns transphobia in the Equality Act

    • The wider NUS has a “no platform” policy for racist and fascist groups, including the BNP. Bindel (wrongly) claimed that the women’s campaign policy was equivalent to the resulting NUS no platform for the BNP, meaning that the NUS was comparing her to the BNP. This, of course, meant that the NUS was besmirching her good name. Is that convoluted logic or what?

  1. Pingback: NUS Women’s Campaign condemns transphobia in the Equality Act « Women Born Transsexual

  2. This is, of course not the first time that transmisogyny has been proposed as legislation by feminist separatists representing Rape Crisis Centres. The Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada , Rape Relief of enacted in 2005 does the exact same thing in its exclusion as in the Equality Act of 2010.

    I think that it is understood by most anyone that victims of sexual assault or molestation are traumatized and are going to be vulnerable and sensitive to any reminders of the perpetrator and the horrific event.

    To this end, it is assumed that since almost all perpetrators are men, that this is the reason why men enjoined from engaging in the counseling of rape victims and why secure, women-only spaces are created as a safe haven for such victims.

    However, there are no small number of male victims, men and boys, of sexual assault and molestation and their perpetrators are almost all men. What kind of a counselor is a young boy entitled to? And what if the victim is one of those rare ones who has been molested by a female? Or in a rape by a male perpetrator aided and abetted by a woman? It does happen. What kind of a safe space is a boy or a man who has been violated and/or brutalized?. Who will give him rape relief and who will protect him from reminders of his victimization. Probably it will be a woman.

    In the Equality Act the counselor might

    “… have to be a woman and not a transsexual person”

    This effectively declares transsexual women as something other than real women.
    The assumption is that a transsexual woman is in some way a reminder of the perpetrator.

    Why? It is important to remember that the operative word in the legislation is “transsexual”.

    An operative word like “pre-operative” or “post-operative”. The word transsexual is chosen to preclude all possible transgender women so that no one who was born, assigned, and raised as a male would ever be allowed as as counselor of female victims because regardless of whether she has had or not had sex reassignment surgery, she is a person who used to have (or still has) a penis. There is an assumption that the victim/ client will learn the history of the counselor or that she will perceive by “reading” the counselor in some way that she used to be identified as male.

    So the victim panics and screams because she is reliving her assault and imagines the counselor assaulting her and accuses the counselor of being a man and a symbolic perpetrator, a “rapist in sheep’s clothing”!

    And if the counselor is a “pre-operative” or “non-operative” woman, she is deemed guilty as charged because of having a concealed penis. And the client knows it is there.

    And if the counselor is a post-operative transsexual and legally a woman and a female, what is her crime? That she used to resemble the perpetrator? Or is it that she is still not legally a woman in full because she can be legally declared to be the equivalent of a man for the purposes of this Act.

    I, for instance, had sex reassignment surgery 34 years. Is the Equality Act
    a lifetime ban on doing what I have done as a counselor for women? I was a counselor at a Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center in Orange County, California in the late 1980s. I was allowed to co-lead a group of Lesbian incest survivors. Usually, they had been molested by adult male relatives. I co-led this group for two years. I was allowed to do this by the lead counselor, a lesbian who invited me in to do so.
    Damned progressive woman she was!

    After being the sole caregiver for my mother with Alzheimer’s Disease for 6 years in the late 1990’s. until she passed away, I moved from California to Seattle, Washington
    in 2000 and I ran out of money and couldn’t fin d a job fast enough. I became homeless
    on my mother’s birthday March 14, 2000 and I was to be homeless for almost 7 years until February 10, 2007.

    I was fortunate to live in a state that has non-discrimination laws of accommodation enacted since 2004 as part of Washington State Civil Rights Law and one of the best and most accepting of shelter systems that had this policy of non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity in place as a policy in 2000.

    So unlike the Equality Act, which might exclude me as a counselor, or even exclude me as homeless woman from shelter and safety I never had to worry.

    The right to exclude transsexual women from counseling is the right to exclude homeless transsexual women from accommodations at a women’s shelter which may have sexual assault victims there. And if transsexual woman can’t go to a safe women’s shelter, will she be forced to go to a men’s shelter where she could be sexually assaulted or worse or will she be turned out in the cold in the night to her uncertain fate?

    And what about transsexual women who are sexually assaulted?
    While I was homeless, in 2003 I had a man who attempted to rape me at a bus stop in broad daylight in Downtown, Marysville, Washington. I escaped him when a bus came. He was later captured and convicted on 7 counts of rape with victims age 7 to 57 and sentenced to 28 years. So apparently I met his eligibility requirements for a rape victim. I had to be a real woman.

    I suffered from post-traumatic stress after the rape attempt for months until he was caught and convicted. But I never went to a Rape Crisis Center. I was almost raped. He never touched me. It was like almost being hit by a car and going to an emergency room. There were no tests to be done, evidence to be collected. If the police had followed up with me I could have been put on trial by the perpetrator’s defense attorney for being a transsexual where I would lose my privacy and I would be blamed for enticing him. So I never knew if a rape crisis or relief center would have been the comfortable place for me to go. I only know that in Vancouver, B.C. I would never see someone like me as a counselor. Even if I needed someone like me.

    Today, I am a respected woman among women as an advocate, writer, facilitator and speaker in Seattle, Washington in a women-only, women-focused grassroots organizing group, the Women’s Housing Equality and Enhancement League (WHEEL) which is comprised of homeless and formerly homeless women in our seeking empowerment, dignity, safe shelter and housing for all homeless people. I also work with the Antioch University (Seattle) Women’s Education Project and Real Change News and other partners in the homeless community.

    Homelessness does not discriminate on the basis of gender identity and neither do we!

    I didn’t have to have a certificate or a chromosome test to prove to the Women of WHEEL that I am a real woman. I have been able to prove to them that I am a highly trained, skilled and experienced woman that they can trust.

    Damned progressive women, they are!

  3. Hello! I work in a Rape Crisis centre and am deeply unimpressed with the organisation’s cissexism, and am trying to change it. It breaks my heart that such an otherwise awesome movement is so oppressive. So far I’ve found quite a mix of views, though, some women quietly for trans inclusion, some women naively assuming that services are accessible, some rabid transphobes and most people just really not wanting to have that conversation. So I would be really interested to know how you found out who lobbied for this, and who they are, if you would be happy to share that information with me privately. Could you drop me an email at ephemeradical at gmail if so? Thanks – it would really help me know who I have to watch out for, and target my arguments at. Keep up the excellent work!

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