You probably think I’m a little bit absurd, self-identifying as a man to make a point, going into men’s single sex spaces to make them feel uncomfortable, let me tell you the story of how I became a radical feminist activist.
The first time I was sexually assaulted I was 12.
It was lunch time, I stood chatting with my friends and some older girls outside the music room waiting for our lesson to begin when I suddenly felt something enter my vagina. I screamed and jumped looking behind me – I still remember him, his name is Christopher, he was 13 at the time and after 23 years I still remember the curled grin on his face and the look in his eye as he looked down at me and smelled his fingers.
That was the first time I was sexually assaulted it would not be the last.
This is the first time I have shared that story, in this public forum, not even my husband has heard it. Too shocked, ashamed and in my naivety unaware of the seriousness of what had just happened I said nothing and I told no one.
As a woman if you haven’t been sexually assaulted you’re probably in the minority. Most of us have experienced it in some form or another (I wish I could say during our adult lives) during our lifetime.
One of the things as a woman you learn to take for granted is the availability of a safe space; a space where men can’t enter or if they do must justify their presence. Women’s toilets and changing rooms have always been a refuge for me, a safe place in a club to escape the leery guy with the wandering hands or an escape during work hours in my male dominated profession, however that space is now under threat.
The proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) will enable men to enter women’s spaces, they won’t need to transition, they won’t need to don a dress and a face full of makeup, they won’t even have to shave, which is why #ManFriday isn’t about Trans people because it adversely affects them too.
Self-identification will mean a man, presenting as a masculine male, beard and all, can identify as a woman and not one person will be able to question them – you will not be able to ask them to leave.
Advocates for the GRA will say “well, if a man is going to sexually assault you he will, he doesn’t have to put on a dress to do that” and I agree; my experience backs that up. I was sexually assaulted in a public corridor with several people around, he decided what he was going to do and he did it.
Now imagine for a second, that I wasn’t with a group of friends in a public corridor with my back turned when the opportunity presented itself for this individual to insert his finger inside my vagina; imagine we were in a private room – a toilet with several lockable cubicles, a changing room with rows of lockers or hidden spaces, showers with frosted doors that hide the occupant.
If a man can insert his finger into your vagina in a public corridor without anyone noticing in less than a few seconds what can he do in a few seconds or more in those private rooms with all those nooks, those obscure corners and lockable doors.
Now tell me that your rights as a man or a self-identifying woman are worth more than the rights of that 12-year-old girl, tell me they are worth more than the rights of your mother, your vulnerable differently-abled sister, your 80-year-old grandmother, your terminally ill aunt, your best mate that had a few too many drinks; tell me your rights are more important than their right to safety and dignity.
The problem in this debate, in so many debates is male violence, the solution is not to erode the rights of women and girls rather we should look to eradicate male violence.