Respect for diversity of opinion

This is Part 3 of our letter to candidates in the May 2019 Brighton & Hove Council elections. Part 1 is about rape crisis and domestic violence services and Part 2 is about safety, privacy and dignity for girls in local schools.

As a feminist group, we disagree with some of the concepts promoted by organisations who provide training for professionals in the city. For example, the Trans Inclusion Schools Toolkit includes the following statements, without acknowledging that they are controversial:

“Developing a positive sense of gender identity is an important part of growing up for all children and young people.” (page 6)

“Cisgender Person –a person whose sex assigned at birth matches their gender identity. In other words, a term for non-trans people” (page 8)

“Gender identity, sex, sexual orientation and gender expression are all spectrums and are all different” (page 10)

Our view is that gender is not an internal sense of self, but is a system of differing social expectations and roles imposed on people according to their sex. This system is damaging to both male and female people, but overall acts to the disadvantage of female people.

We do not agree that sex is assigned at birth, but think it is determined at conception and is simply observed at or before birth. Sex is not a spectrum – all girls are equally female, regardless of how they dress or behave.

These are views which have been held and put forward by feminists throughout the 20th century, and which have empowered women to work together to gain legal and political rights. We are happy to debate openly and respectfully with people who disagree with us.

We think we have a right to expect that our sincerely held beliefs about gender and sex should be treated with respect in the city where we live.

However, many of us feel unable to openly express these widely held views, because any disagreement with the concept of gender identity has become identified as transphobic. We have no quarrel with transgender people and positively support people of both sexes who wish to dress and behave in ways that are contrary to the gendered roles expected of them. But we think it is important that the specific discrimination and violence experienced by women and girls can be named and discussed as such.

If you are elected to Brighton & Hove Council in May, will you publicly support respectful discussion and debate around sex and gender?