Trans: when ideology meets reality, by Helen Joyce
The trans debate has been the domain of social media and comment pages of broadsheets, and political news websites. The media has been tracking for some time now the ideological shift in equality for different groups.
Behind the scenes there is the mission creep of the issues into education, health and the public sector. What however is missing is a full discourse between both views. Part of the reason for this is that some trans activists ‘cancel’ and ‘no platform’ the critics. The debate on social media is the wild west with out sounding out the issues.
This book is an analytical examination of the trans debate from acritical point of view. This is an intellectual anlaysis rather than a manifesto. As the subtitle alludes the book attempts to take the ideology of trans identity and apply it to what is happening in reality for people who change identity, children and puberty and the societal impact of men identifying as women i.e. sex and biology versus gender and identity.
Once there was gender dysphoria which were understood, accepted and legally regulated. The discrimination faced by trans-sexuals is real and leads to a number of health and societal issues. This point has not changed. However, the creep in gender self identification has led to challenges to legal regulation, the safe and separate spaces for women, and the rights of children going through puberty.
There are disturbing ramifications for this around safeguarding for women, the physical and mental health impacts on children and gender change, and the purpose of legal regulation alongside individual rights. The numbers taking the operation for gender dysphoria was small, but, take away the regulations and only use freedom of rights then the numbers increase and the numbers who wish to detransition increase more.
Helen Joyce seeks to balance the debate by delving into the issues for those who detransition and the role of the medical industry in exploiting this.
Helen Joyce refers to this as this generation’s civil-rights battle. To get here she documents these issues going back a hundred years so there is a lot of back story in this book. There is also the argument of a powerful lobby but this does not stack up as she does not sufficiently analyse who she means. The implications against key figures like George Soros are too conspiratorial. The role of how media corporations have used the political issue for commercial gain needs attention here.
The starting point for this book is about a demand that self-declared gender identity be allowed to override biological sex. As in the subtitle Helen Joyce examines how this has become its own ideology with no debate tolerated about its beliefs. This is deeply disturbing at points when the impact on people’s lives – both detransitioners and women.
She gives examples of disturbing cases like that of Keira Bell, the 24-year-old who recently sued the Tavistock clinic for facilitating a teenage transition that she now feels was a terrible mistake. Then there is the convicted sex offender and trans woman Karen White, who sexually assaulted fellow inmates after being transferred to a female prison. And Jessica Yaniv, who sued a Canadian beautician for refusing to provide a bikini wax. Helen Joyce emphasises these are extreme cases but the law must guard against those who might.
This book pitches a critical argument which has already upset The Guardian – who don’t agree that “a backlash that will harm ordinary trans people who simply want safety and social acceptance”.
The book ends with a hopeful look at how the issues she raises are being addressed but by the number of issues going through the media this year it feels we are a long way off reaching a peaceful settlement just yet.