JANET STREET-PORTER: I'm all for trans people getting equal treatment

JANET STREET-PORTER: I’m all for transgender people getting equal treatment but please don’t make me sacrifice my breasts in the name of political correctness

If someone – whatever their gender – wants to have a child, that’s fine by me.

I chose not to, but it’s a source of celebration that so many people are eager to take on the challenge of nurturing a baby.

But now, what should be the joyful act of giving birth has become a battle ground.

Under pressure from the transgender lobby, traditional terminology is being radically re-written, eradicating gender-specific words which might upset some new parents.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospital NHS Trust has published gender-inclusive terminology renaming the maternity unit as the ‘perinatal’ unit, for starters.

JANET STREET-PORTER: A transgender man (who was born female), Freddy McConnell, lost his battle in the High Court to be registered as ‘father’ on his child’s birth certificate

They’ve stopped short of banning the use of the word ‘woman’ but suggest other options like ‘person’.

Worse, ‘mother’ should be replaced with ‘birthing parent’.

And they suggest Father could be replaced with ‘parent’, ‘co parent’ or second biological parent’

‘Breast feeding’ is being renamed ‘chest-feeding’ and breast milk has become ‘chest milk’ or ‘milk from the feeding mother or parent’

But changing language does not change facts. Breasts and chests are two different things – one contains the glands that produce milk, the other does not.

JANET STREET-PORTER: It’s political correctness gone mad to marginalise the traditional role of mother by replacing it with the neutral word ‘person’ or ‘parent’. Many see calling our breast ‘chests’ another blow against womankind (file image)

And it’s political correctness gone mad to marginalise the traditional role of mother by replacing it with the neutral word ‘person’ or ‘parent’.

Many see calling our breast ‘chests’ another blow against womankind.

The description woman still applies to about half of the population, and yet it causes many in the trans lobby extreme stress and anxiety.

According to feminist Suzanne Moore, who quit her job at the Guardian after falling foul of the trans lobby, women may lose the capacity to name their own body parts.

She said ‘I don’t see there is a massive demand to call breasts chests – I think it’s an insanity.’

In our gender-fluid world, using the right words to address people can now be confusing and anxiety-making for ‘cis’ or straight people. 

JANET STREET-PORTER: According to feminist Suzanne Moore (pictured), who quit her job at the Guardian after falling foul of the trans lobby, women may lose the capacity to name their own body parts

It can sometimes seem as if straight people are being talked down to as if we do not understand the trauma and anxieties of those who are unhappy with the sex they were assigned at birth.

In reality, most people are extremely tolerant. They want everyone to lead the best life they can, whatever sex they identify as. 

(Obviously, these sensible souls may not live in Iran, where one cleric has said the Covid-19 vaccine turns people gay, or in Turkey, where the President has ordered schools to stop children painting rainbows to comfort Covid sufferers because ‘it’s an international plot to turn children gay’.)

But I firmly believe, in spite of bigotry like this, almost all people accept all the different versions of modern sexuality.

So why do so many cis-gender (straight) women feel under attack?

J K Rowling was pilloried recently for complaining about a headline which referred to ‘people who menstruate’ rather than ‘women’.

The subsequent furore threw up a massive generation divide, with many feminists and older people confused, while many of those under 35 couldn’t understand what the fuss was about.

Harry Potter stars like Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe were quick to bite the hand that had once plucked them from obscurity, vociferously disagreeing with Rowling’s point of view.

But was she right? How can men can have periods and give birth? Well, people who were assigned female at birth and who subsequently identify as men most definitely can have babies and periods, if they have not undergone surgery (and retain their womb), and if they slow down or stop taking testosterone.

Equally, it’s possible that in the not-to-distant future people who were assigned male at birth but who subsequently identify as female could be enabled to give birth by medical advances. In 2014, a baby was born from a transplanted womb in Sweden.

JANET STREET-PORTER: J K Rowling (pictured) was pilloried recently for complaining about a headline which referred to ‘people who menstruate’ rather than ‘women’

A transgender man (who was born female), Freddy McConnell, lost his battle in the High Court to be registered as ‘father’ on his child’s birth certificate.

Freddy (a journalist) transitioned, but did not have his womb removed, and wrote about his journey in a series of pieces for the Guardian. The documentary, Seahorse, followed his progress. According to English law, the person who gave birth must be described as ‘mother’ on a birth certificate. That to me seems unfair.

Activists claim that traditional terms like ‘breast feeding’ and ‘fathers’ offend transgender people, who – they insist – endure mockery, discrimination and physical and mental abuse every day.

Perhaps, but are trans people more at risk than anyone else in a maternity unit? 

You could argue that vulnerable people expecting a child might include the poor, the physically and mentally challenged, the homeless and those with no money and no support network.

But the trans lobby is vocal and organised – and with the backing of organisations like the charity Stonewall, they have been campaigning for equality of treatment in every aspect of life. They have almost totally succeeded in promoting gender-neutral toilets, which many cis-women find completely unacceptable.

They have already persuaded doctors to change how they addressed their patients when – back in 2017, the British Medical Association decreed that expectant women should be referred to a ‘pregnant people’. 

Public Health England has also published special guidance for trans people attending public screening for health issues like cancer, in order to reassure them they will be treated fairly – as of course they should be.

But please allow us to describe our mammary glands as ‘breasts’ without fear of entering social siberia.

Because in my house, a chest has four drawers, and is stuffed full of clothing that doesn’t fit since the lockdown sour dough diet kicked in. It doesn’t make milk and it needs a polish.

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