DRIVING down into Helensburgh the other day I passed an establishment I must have seen several hundred times, but never really registered. “Male Only Barber” said the sign above the door. This didn’t cause me the remotest offence, but it did get me thinking about the current stushie over female only spaces.

Social media has been a battleground of late, as we get into the home straight of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, finishing on March 17.

The principle cause of the furore is the suggestion that changes are made to the way in which trans women – i.e. those who were originally men – have their current status confirmed.

At the moment this process involves a two year wait with medics confirming a gender dysphoria diagnosis before their new identity is formally recognised. The proposals, variations on which are used in other countries, seeks only self identification after living in their declared gender for three months.

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Trans rights activists argue this is no more than a way to stop the long standing victimisation of a minority. Many women’s groups counter that this would render spaces like women’s refuges much less safe given that male predators could merely self identify in order to enter female only spaces. (And there have, in fact, been instances where women have been assaulted by trans women in female prisons.)

This is a debate which has provoked such vicious exchanges that many people have been afraid to voice an opinion secure in the knowledge that saying the “wrong” thing would earn them a torrent of abuse. To my shame, it took me a long time to put my head above the parapet for exactly that reason.

However, this is not a fence to be sitting on when we are being faced with ever dafter innovations in the name of equality. Consider loos. If you go to various theatres these days, you will find coy notices inviting customers to go into whichever toilet which they feel reflects their gender.

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Or, in the case of one London establishment, the curtailment of female loos in order to enlarge the numbers for unisex ones.

Language too has taken a bit of pasting. It seems that women born as women are actually “ciswomen”.

Confused? I certainly am. You will not find those who traffic young girls for sex, or mutilate their genitals to “respect” their culture are ever in much doubt about what a woman is.

Proper recognition of the rights of trans people should never have transitioned into hostile attacks on women and women’s rights. We are not a minority, but we’re sure as hell no strangers to discrimination.

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