Sometimes, there just aren’t words enough to explain how bad something is – or could be. And that, i fear, is the case not just with yesterday’s appalling sentence handed down to Chris Wilson – the trans guy “brought to justice” for speaking the only truth he knew about his gender – but in respect of an alarming high profile rash of such cases being brought, of late, south of the border.
The end result looks likely to be the murder of a trans individual, or indeed, of some member of the wider LGBT community – in turn, the result of a genuinely disgusting double standard now being operated by police and prosecuting authorities in relation to t’tranz.
The words thing
Writing today in the Independent Voices section (and restricted to 800 words) i could barely graze the surface of this topic. My focus, though, was the hypocrisy of police and CPS in bringing these prosecutions, which are essentially debates about how far consent is invalidated by untruthfulness in the sexual arena, while utterly failing to face up to the consequences of this approach more widely.
Pretty much everyone lies to some extent in order to “win” sexual favour. True, some of those lies may be of little consequence. But others are massive in terms of their impact on the person lied to. The individual, for instance, who seriously values their virginity, wants their first sex to be with someone where a meaningful future is at least a possibility, and has succumbed to physical engagement on the promise that their partner is not married. When they are.
That happens – and while many may shrug and move on, there are some for whom that lie will be traumatic.
Equally, lies about age, income, job, children, fertility, religion….the list is endless.
Its a strange place to arrive at. In preinciple, i agree wholly with the right of the trans individual, of whatever gender or none, to self-identify: at the same time, i do not want to end up in a position where we, as a community, seem to be riding roughshod over the sensitivities of those who feel deceived. Stating – as politics – that someone is “wrong” to feel abused, assaulted, feels, itself, incredibly wrong and not something i want to see the trans community doing.
Part of this, i am sure, is about dialogue, understanding.
Towards “trans panic” and murder
An argument i did not have time to develop is that the legal establishment are now skirting perilously close to legitimising “trans panic” as a defence in trials for assault or murder. Worse, i can see how this might be acceptable to the courts in a way that “gay panic” is not.
How so? We-ell, to accept a “gay panic” defence is to accept, at some level, that there is something less valid, more transgressive about gay sex than straight. As if, after murdering a black guy, the defendant were to claim: “But you Honour: i suddenly realised he was black and in that moment of panic i just HAD to smash his skull in”.
We can all see how ridiculous that is. As ridiculous as going: “this guy offered to sleep with me and suddenly, the only way i could think of to say no was to …bash his brains out”.
No. Thankfully, while some defendants may try that, the argument that they did it BECAUSE of who the victim was does not run.
But “trans panic”? Or, as it could soon be known, “trans self-defence”? Let’s follow thru the logic of the police and CPS approach. Without full disclosure of birth gender, no consent is valid.
Ergo, any sex, any sexual touching is an assault. And as we all know, you have the right to use reasonable force when defending oneself against an assault. What? You just happened to be unreasonable and your assailant is dead? Shame. And their family claim they know them better than that and they’d NEVER have tried it on without full disclosure? Yeah: but they are no longer here to explain themselves – while you, you vicious little git: yhou are here to claim that “ooo – the nasty tranny tried it on and, and, and…he didn’t tell me he was really a man and….i just lashed out and i am so-ooo sorry”.
Liar! Liar! Liar!
But that is what the legal authorities are now seriously endorsing. And it can only be a matter of time before such a case happens.
If you’re L or G, be very afraid
And for this last point, i am indebted to the Scottish Transgender Alliance. During one of the recent cases on this subject, the question of one of the “perpetrator’s” fingers going where they had no right to go was raised in court. This led to one of those funny-if-it-weren’t-so-serious exchanges in which the legal authorities decided, apparently, that lesbian finger sex is totally different from straight finger sex.
Now, i’ll agree that women may display a certain amount more sensitivity below the belt than men do. On account of having direct experience of the hurt that may be caused if they don’t. But really?
That’s another of these outwardly bizarre points that may yet come back to haunt the wider LGBT community – and why, therefore, these recent decisions (Chris Wilson,Justine McNally, Gemma Barker) raise concerns way beyond the trans.
Because in reality, what the court appears to be saying is that sex is not just sex, with orientation determined by whether you happen to like your own gender or t’opposite.
No, sex comes in at least two different varieties: straight sex, and non-straight sex, depending on what bits you are using and what bits you are touching. That is…bizarre. Also, essentially essentialist, in the sense that it seems to delineate and define orientation in ways that defy common sense.
Like: m’learned gents now appear to be saying that a lesbian with a strap-on woman is having essentially different sex from a straight with ditto. That’s unhelpful.
Though its about what i have come to expect from a legal establishment that never emerged grew up much beyond the middle of the last century.