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Lawyers speak up for “biological reality of sex” in trans debate

Trans rights: Ongoing debate

Some 60 solicitors, barristers and academics have joined forces to speak up for the “biological reality of sex” in the face of the heated ongoing debate about gender identity and trans rights.

Organised by Legal Feminist – a collective that provides feminist commentary on the law – the open letter [1] to the government argued that there were circumstances in which it was “necessary to draw distinctions between (natal) women and trans women”.

Earlier this month, the government decided against amending the Gender Recognition Act to remove the current requirements – such as a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria – for people who want legal recognition of their acquired gender.

But the letter noted that self-identification was nonetheless being widely implemented in practice by public and private bodies, “and any questioning of such policies is increasingly framed as hateful”. It pointed to the Liberal Democrats’ newly published definition of transphobia [2].

The authors stressed that they were “personally opposed to arbitrary discrimination” and that all people “should be able to live their lives free from unlawful discrimination, abuse or harassment”.

They continued: “We also believe that sex is biological, and (in humans) immutable: we do not believe that it is possible for a human being literally to change sex.

“We think it self-evident that biological sex has material consequences. We think there are circumstances in which it is necessary to draw distinctions between (natal) women and trans women…

“We are surprised that any of this needs saying. But in the face of escalating efforts to make these unremarkable beliefs a matter for shame and secrecy — or loss of livelihood, party discipline, public or even judicial opprobrium — we wish to make it public that they are our beliefs.”

The signatories are mainly but not all women and include QCs Simon Myerson and Tim Pitt-Payne, as well as professors Rosa Freedman and Alessandra Asteriti.

Similar views expressed by author JK Rowling in recent months caused a huge blow-up on social media.