Melanie Phillips

8 March 2004

The sexual identity free-for-all

Published in: Daily Mail

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Almost without notice by the public, an astonishing proposal to falsify sexual identity and make criminals out of people who tell the truth about it is on the way to being approved by Parliament.

Tomorrow, the Gender Recognition Bill which gives rights to transsexuals - people who believe they belong to the opposite sex - arrives in the Commons from the House of Lords where it originated at the end of last year.

The predicament of transsexuals, who experience untold anguish from their conviction that they are trapped in the wrong sex, deserves much compassion. No-one disputes that they should be free to assume the lifestyle of the opposite sex, even to the extent of enduring surgical and hormonal alteration.

Nevertheless, the problem from which they suffer is not a physical but a psychological disorder. Yet this bill effectively denies the biological facts of sexual identity, replacing them as the basis of law by psychologically disordered feelings instead.

The bill says transsexuals must have rights in their chosen sex to marry and to claim benefits. The most fundamental -and disturbing - right of all, however, is to a new birth certificate. This will claim that the person's sex at birth was whatever he or she now deems it to be, as agreed by a panel of experts. The actual sex in which he or she was born will not be recorded.

In other words, the birth certificate - the most basic guarantee that we are who we say we are -will be a lie. It means that someone who was born a man, married as a man and fathered children as a man will have a birth certificate which says he was born a female if he so chooses.

Worse still, a wide variety of people will be prosecuted if they make known the truth. Suppose a fitness club advertises for a personal trainer and takes up a reference at another gym for an applicant named Barbara. If that gym's owner employed this person as Barry, it will be a criminal offence for him to say so. So he may be forced to tell misleading half-truths about 'Barbara's' performance.

This Orwellian situation is to come about because sexual identity will cease to be a biological given, and become instead a matter of whatever a panel of experts decides it to be.

Moreover, the criteria by which this panel will make such judgments are extraordinarily flaky. The person wanting 'gender reassignment' won't even need to have had sex-change surgery, only a statement by two doctors that the person has suffered from 'gender dysphoria' for two years, that he or she assumes the opposite sex and that the intention to do so is permanent.

So biological facts are to be replaced by the fantasies of feelings. For feeling like a member of the opposite sex does not make it true. Even after surgical or hormonal treatment, people still remain chromosomally a man or a woman, a biologically unalterable fact.

The anguish of transsexuals may impel them to seek surgery to realise their fantasy of belonging to the opposite sex. For a few sufferers, it works. But doctors say that, more often, the transsexual is left with a mutilated body while the mental torment continues unabated.

Indeed, in a number of tragic cases the transsexual has sought to reverse the treatment and return to his original sex. Are we really to believe that such a man becomes a woman and then turns back into being a man? Isn't this rather a man with a distressing psychological problem? And will his birth certificate keep changing, along with his mind?

The practical effect of the bill will inevitably be same-sex 'marriage'. The meaning of marriage as a union between a man and a woman will be destroyed, because 'man' and 'woman' will no longer mean anything other than whether someone feels like a man or a woman.

As a result, priests may unwittingly marry people of the same sex. The bill allows them to refuse to do so ( an exemption not provided for registrars at civil weddings) - but how will they know whether half of the happy couple has had 'gender reassignment'?

Even if they ask, they will have no way of checking since the birth certificate may be a lie. And when a priest asks if anyone knows of an impediment to the marriage, if an employer, public official or voluntary worker replies: 'Actually, the bride is a bloke' they may find themselves under arrest for a criminal offence.

Conversely, married transsexuals who are judged to have changed sex will be forced to dissolve their marriages, maybe deepening the already huge anguish of such couples. The government says such marriages can't continue as they will then become same-sex marriages.

But since the spouse's sex has not actually changed, other than in his or her mind or in the minds of the expert panel, the government will be forcing marriage vows to be dishonoured, and an indissoluble union in the eyes of the Church to be annulled by a legal lie about sexual identity.

Other areas will descend into gross injustice, chaos and farce. Although the bill has been amended so that sporting bodies can exclude transsexuals from competitions where they might have an unfair advantage, competitors may still have to share changing rooms with a transsexual person. And the same problem may emerge in public lavatories.

Ludicrously, the bill says that if a woman becomes a man, 'he' remains the mother of her (his?) children. Similarly, a man remains the father of his children and therefore still liable for child support - even though his birth certificate might say he was born female.

And where, pray, in all this ungodly madness is the church? The Bishop of Winchester has been a lonely voice speaking out against it. Yet no bishops voted on the third reading in the Lords, since they were at an official dinner instead. Even more startling, the Synod devoted the very next day to debating issues of human sexuality - yet managed to ignore the Gender Recognition Bill, the greatest challenge ever made in this country to sexual identity.

The government presents this bill - which has been forced upon us by the European Court of Human Rights - as an issue of rights and privacy. But no-one has the right to expect public servants to promulgate a lie. And it is hard to imagine a more public matter than redefining what it is to be a man or woman.

More profoundly, this bill continues the systematic attack being mounted upon all moral and social norms, to the extent of challenging what it is to be a human being.

It illustrates how our society is unravelling, through the substitution of irrational feelings for demonstrable facts. For the arguments behind this bill are no more reasonable than saying that, if someone believed sincerely they were a chicken, they should have a birth certificate declaring they had been born a chicken.

The general silence and acquiescence in the face of this are simply astonishing. It's as if the nation is anaesthetised. The outcome will be a sexual identity free-for-all, and a further descent into a moral vacuum.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography

Books

  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

Contact Melanie

Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
Northcliffe House
2 Derry Street
London W8 5TT

Contact Melanie