Frances Marsh | Comment Editor
Last month, despite being ranked one of the safest cities in the UK for queer people, Cardiff was home to an annual conference celebrating hatred and violence towards transgender people. The conference itself claims to focus on feminism, but it’s incredibly clear that it is a safe haven for TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) to express their views that the existence of trans women is an attack on the rights of cisgender women. Several panels at the conference were hosted by notoriously transphobic speakers, and during the conference The Queer Emporium, one of Cardiff’s main queer spaces, was targetted with anti-trans propaganda being posted on the door.
The TERF movement is a concerning and growing trend, and it continues to be legitimised for many people by one prominent figure. JK Rowling has expressed quietly anti-queer views for years, it’s a suspicious coincidence that her pen name Robert Galbraith is also the name of a conversion therapist, but it still came as a shock for many when she wrote her now infamous anti-trans essay. Her continued vendetta against the trans community, thinly veiled behind a guise of feminism, is a sign for many that this behaviour is not only acceptable but that the information spread by these groups is true. According to JK Rowling and those who hold her beliefs, trans people are dangerous. They are ‘men dressing as women’ in order to target women and girls and attack them in places such as public bathrooms.
This information is spread as though it is fact when in reality there is incredibly little evidence to back up the claims. A CNN investigation into the topic found that within the regions surveyed, there had only been one reported incident of a male sexually harassing women in a public bathroom who stated gender anti-discrimination laws as his motivation. Furthermore, the National Center for Transgender Equality told ‘Mic.com’ that there is no evidence of any instances of transgender people attacking cisgender people in public bathrooms. On the contrary, a 2019 study found that in schools which restrict bathroom and locker room access aligning with students’ gender identity, 36% of transgender students reported being sexually assaulted in the last 12 months. Furthermore, two-thirds of transgender people surveyed in a UK study said that they cannot use public bathrooms for fear of a transphobic attack, and half of the people surveyed reported being victim to a transphobic attack in the last 12 months.
All of this points to the fact that the claims made by ‘gender critical’ groups that transgender women are dangerous are, on the whole, simply not true. In fact, transgender people are far more at risk of being attacked physically, verbally or sexually by a cisgender person than the other way around. People who claim to be feminists by promoting these false views are not doing so out of a desire to protect women, they are using this as a weak excuse for their bigoted views and it is important for the safety of trans people that these myths continue to be dispelled. As long as someone with as large a platform as JK Rowling is allowed to express these views unchallenged, transgender people will continue to live in fear.