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22 year-old Em Shanahan worries for the safety of other transgender women as it is a “very high year for the murders of trans women” due to “just how visible anti-trans rhetoric is in the media at the moment.” An EHRC report published yesterday found that women were significantly more likely than men both to say that prejudice towards transgender people was wrong and to describe themselves as not prejudiced at all.
Yesterday, the Equality and Human Rights Commission published their report on attitudes towards transgender people. The findings were largely positive, but there was a more “nuanced debate when it came to specific circumstances, such as women’s refuges and the use of public toilets.” EHRC Chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, said we need dialogue that “challenges prejudices, calls out abusive behaviour and is open about the rights and needs of everyone involved”.
The report found discrepancies between the number of people who believe prejudice against transgender people is always or mostly wrong (76%), although people found issue with single-sex places that affect their own gender. The report found that most women (66%) said they would be very or quite comfortable with transgender people using the same public toilet as them (men at 58%), while 17% of women and 18% of men said they would be very or quite uncomfortable.
Shanahan worries that media coverage of transgender people may cause a spike in hate crimes towards the community. She said: “I remember the same thing happened in 2015 when Caitlyn Jenner came out. Transgender murders spiked.”
Within the last few months, there has been controversy with high-profile figures, like JK Rowling and more recently Labour’s Rosie Duffield, tweeting rhetoric which has been deemed by some as exclusionary to the transgender community. Many have dubbed these gender critics as TERFS (trans-exclusionary radical feminists), although this can be perceived as an offensive term.
Shanahan said: “I think with the whole JK Rowling ‘saga’, it has been going on for years – following and liking all this very antagonistic, violent rhetoric that is so prejudice and so oppressive against trans women.
“It’s along the same lines of straight men not wanting gay men to be in the changing room because they are gay. It’s very similar to that in that TERFS* don’t want to go in a toilet with a potential trans woman because they think they will get raped.“Em Shanihan
Labour MP Duffield recently tweeted: “only women have a cervix” when referring to cervical cancer screenings, which was met with backlash. UK charities Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and The Eve Appeal have reminded the public that their advice is trans-inclusive and anyone with a cervix should have access to information and support regarding cervical cancer and smear tests.
LGBT+ Labour have expressed their disappointment at Duffield’s tweets and released a statement which read: “with already rising levels of hatred towards the trans community, the bare minimum to expect from Labour MPs is full solidarity and support.“
Rowling similarly was accused of anti-transgender sentiments, following her retweet on June 6th. The tweet captioned an article about “people who menstruate”, finding issue with the fact the story did not use the word “women”.
Shanahan said Rowling’s views are not a new phenomenon, but “people don’t realise that.”
Tweets and retweets from Rowling have created controversy with her fandom and even brought into question how damaging “cancel culture” could be after she was considered “cancelled”. Defined as “the popular practice of withdrawing support for (cancelling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive”, cancel culture is primarily “performed on social media in the form of group shaming.”
One article by The Times summarised the problem: “The Potter division is indicative of a broader generational chasm: that while many young people — including feminists — are vociferous advocates for the rights of trans people (less than 1% of the population), there are many, mostly older feminists who believe women’s rights are being forfeited by a movement seeking to erode the idea that women are a separate political and biological group.”The Times
With her love for Harry Potter, Shanahan doesn’t want to “think about the money she’s put into that woman’s pocket.” But her views on cancel culture have shifted.
Shanahan said: “I used to be a staunch supporter of cancel culture – one strike, you’re out. Then I realised that’s not how life works, it’s very much online and very performative. It’s like ‘yeah, we won the battle, but the war is this person is still being a supporter in real life’. Nowadays, I believe you can give people chances if they have the sense to apologise and acknowledge their wrongdoings to whoever they’ve wronged.”Em Shanahan
Views remain split on cancel culture, with Rowling and 150 writers, academics and activists, signing an open letter objecting to “cancel culture”. It remains to be seen whether vital changes to the UK’s Gender Recognition Act (GRA) will be processed within the coming weeks.
Charities that can support transgender people: