What is it about the question: what is a woman? that gets politicians so hot under the collar? The answer is simple: a woman is any person who identifies as one. Not all women were lucky enough to be born with the bodies they would select if bodies came off the peg. Just imagine this: you are perfectly happy with the gender you were assigned at birth; you wake up tomorrow in the body of the opposite gender. You are still essentially you, same thoughts and feelings, but suddenly there’s a dick hanging out of your knickers or your dick disappeared. Someone stole your dick. That is what every day is like for someone who is trans. And that dysmorphia is bad enough without also having to endure the abuse that this community is subjected to in schools, workplaces and in the media.

According to Home Office figures, the trans community is the most targeted group across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. 2,630 Hate Crimes were recorded between 2020 and 2021; if this number doesn’t sound shocking to you, it is worth noting that, one, this is a very small group of people and, two, 88% of victims do not report incidents.

If you look to Poland’s LGBT-free zones; and if you look back on Section 28, which forbade teachers to educate about different sexual orientations– surely you recognise that this kind of censorship is an attack on the basic human right to self-expression.

Could you imagine the outcry if a politician today said: “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay”? The idea that we wouldn’t want our young people to know they have this right, is unthinkable. That is how far we have come since the days of Margaret Thatcher when it comes to attitudes to same sex attraction. Why then is it so difficult to extend this same respect to trans people? Thatcher cultivated the idea that young people were impressionable and that any mention of gayness would somehow ‘turn’ them. This exact same thinking is being used to stereotype young trans people today as victims of so called ‘trans ideology’.

Let’s unpick this term. ‘Trans ideology’ basically means that being trans is something you believe, not something you are. Being trans (as with being gay or bisexual) is NOT a choice. Why would anyone choose to subject themselves to ridicule, abuse and hatred? Think of it like this: we all instinctively know when we’re handed a pen which hand we write with. We could write with the other if forced to, but it would feel ‘wrong’. Trans people know their gender in much the same way. According to a University College London study, around a hundred years ago, only 3% of the population was left- handed; today the figure has increased to over 10%. Similarly, the numbers of openly gay people has increased massively since attitudes and laws changed. One myth about trans young people is that they are following a trend or being brainwashed into thinking they are trans. The rise is in fact due to greater visibility in the media of trans identities and more awareness of the gender spectrum being taught in schools. This doesn’t mean young people are being taught to be trans. Most people that peddle this argument do not know anyone who is trans.

Sociologist Stuart Hall talks about stereotyping being far more damaging when the dominant majority group are unlikely to personally encounter members of the group being marginalised. Female stereotypes are harmful, but we all know they aren’t true because we all know individuals who are female. This is not the case when it comes to trans people. And if you have met one, don’t make assumptions based on that individual.

It is very difficult to know what percentage of the UK population identify as trans – the 2021 census did not request this information. In the USA it is estimated between 0.1% and 2%. There might be ‘pockets’ of higher instances of trans people, such as in the music industry where artists like Sam Smith and Demi Levito have paved the way for more gender inclusivity. The idea that an ex-boy-band member would publicly explore his feminine side would have been unthinkable back in the days of Top Of The Pops and Smash Hits; now Harry Styles can rock a party frock on magazine covers and no one bats a fake eyelash. There have always been individuals who pushed those boundaries, like Bowie and Prince, it just seems to be more in vogue now; most music awards have even done away with male and female categories.

Of course this is a move in the right direction, but trans stars are not representative of the trans community and the lived experiences of people who are trans. The media has created a binary of acceptable trans torchbearers and their problematic real-life counterparts. Instead of reporting on the hate crimes, mental health issues, three year waiting lists to access medical support, and the very real brainwashing of conversion therapy; the media choose to pick out rare cases of criminality or detransitions to skew public thinking and attitudes. In the last government LGBT survey, 4% of trans people that took part said they had undergone Conversion Therapy and 8% had been offered it. These numbers are almost double the figures for LGB identities. It is more likely that young people will be brainwashed out of being trans than into it. And harmful therapies are much easier to access than mental health or specific medical support relating to gender identity.

In the school where I worked up until very recently, I supported trans young people for around five years. So here are some observations based on real life case studies. There were individuals who most definitely knew their own mind and were not being swayed by ‘trans ideology’. I can think of a number of instances where I met with kids and parents and initially parents were sceptical. They clearly thought that they would ‘go along’ with haircuts, wardrobe choices and using preferred names and pronouns, believing that their son or daughter would ‘grow out of it’. Years passed and these kids did not grow out of it; quite the opposite, the longer they lived in their true gender, the more confident and assured in it they became. I have also worked with young people who would announce various different gender identities from month to month or even week to week. At times I struggled to keep up with what names and pronouns to use.

All teenagers want is to fit in. Some teenagers feel a sense of belonging among their LGBTQ+ peers, because on the whole, they are such a welcoming and friendly bunch. There is definitely a correlation between students who have experienced adverse life events (particularly domestic violence and abuse) and students who identify as trans. I do believe that some kids who have been psychologically damaged reject their gender identity as a form of dissociation – to distance themselves from the trauma they have experienced. In my experience, there was always a far higher prevalence of students identifying as trans male than trans female, despite evidence that suggests two to four times more males transition to female than females to male. Personally, I would attribute this to a pervasive culture of toxic masculinity. I occasionally had boys come to me saying they were questioning their gender identity, but it never went any further than an initial conversation. I believe there were trans girls who just wouldn’t dare come out for fear of the likely backlash from their male peers. And I believe that some trans boys rejected their female identity because of a fundamental lack of respect for girls and women. The senior leadership team consisted of seven male staff members and just one female; almost all support staff and admin staff were female; all the cleaners were female.

Please do no take this to mean that I am suggesting there are ‘real’ trans people and ‘fakes’. What is adolescence for if not to figure out who we are? Some young people will always be more self-assured than others. Some will always be strong minded, while others follow the crowd. And no, I am not saying that trans is a trend now. But, what if it was? Who does it hurt? Yes, some kids are obsessed with labels, but is this any worse than any other teenage obsession? Personally, I would argue that the obsession with porn is far more damaging. Of all the students I ever supported, not one had any medical intervention. Any changes put in place to support them was perfectly reversable: names, pronouns, toilet and changing arrangements, mixed P.E. groups.

Here are some things that are damaging society far more than trans people just wanting to be trans: big corporations not paying their taxes, systemic racism, police corruption, cuts to public services, the gig economy, the gradual chipping away at human rights (the right to protest, the right to strike, the right to speak your mind without being cancelled).

I watched a documentary recently about the changes to Canadian laws in relation to self-identification. One woman, to demonstrate how wrong this law is, films herself changing her identity. The point being: look how easy it is to scam and the implication being that men in their droves will now switch gender so they can get access to women only spaces. So, two flaws in this ‘reasoning’: fraud will always exist, and men don’t need to ‘pretend’ to be women to commit crimes against them. Because most people watching this video would not personally know anybody who genuinely wants to self-identify, they will assume that this scam is representative. If you want to get angry about fraud, get angry at the politicians claiming trumped up expenses. Get angry that the royal family continue to protect Andrew (despite being stripped of his military honours, he still clings on to his Prince and Duke titles).

Ireland (population five million) legalised self-ID back in 2015. Since then, 867 people have taken advantage of this right and one of those has appeared in court on sex offence charges. How many cis men in this time have raped women and not been brought to justice? Under the current Tory government, who now have the mandate to tear up the Equalities Act, there is no plan to introduce self-ID in the UK. The current system of Gender Recognition Certification is a lengthy and agonising process in which trans applicants must: provide a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, provide a medical report of all treatment received, provide evidence of living in their ‘acquired gender’ for a period of two years, and if married, obtain consent from their spouse. The GRC was reviewed last year and the only changes made were to move the application online and reduce the cost from £140 to just £5. It is all very well making the certificate affordable, but many trans people cannot access medical facilities (as of 2018, 25% of trans people have experienced homelessness).

The Equality Act, while we have it, is about protecting vulnerable minorities and showing them the same respect we would anyone else. Do we only respect People With Disabilities if they were born that way? Do we only respect people with a faith if they have been lifelong believers? As with the issue of Citizenship, it is the person that matters, not a piece of paper or physical attributes.

In 1988 performance artist Rick Gibson ate donated human tonsils in the middle of a London street. Cannibalism is not illegal in the UK (although killing your meal first would of course be murder). In 2019 anti-vegan protestors turned up to a plant-based market and ate raw squirrels. Back in 2015, the British press reported that a man in Guangdong, China, had been entering women’s toilets to eat their faeces… for eight years. Individual people do some heinous, disgusting things. But these rare instances are obviously not representative of society on the whole. When it comes to trans people the media need to start telling the stories of the many not the few.