The ongoing toxic debate taking place around the issue of transgender rights in the UK is shutting down freedom of expression, according to the departing chair of the Equality & Human Rights Commission.
Women’s groups have gone head-to-head with trans campaigners about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, which would allow individuals to self-identify rather than require a medical diagnosis.
The groups’ concern is that such a change may impact negatively on how safe women feel in single-sex spaces.
Speaking to the Observer, David Isaac said: “We’ve been calling for greater protection for trans people, but I’m concerned, not just about the polarisation, but also the toxic nature of debate, which is about shutting down freedom of expression and stifling discussion.
“We have to acknowledge there are lots of difficult issues in relation to women-only spaces, but shouting at each other doesn’t help anybody. We need to move beyond that toxic debate so talking to each other, engaging in respectful listening even if you disagree, that’s the way forward.”
Speaking about trans rights campaigners, Mr Isaac said: “I think they need to listen to other views. Of course people have strongly held views, and of course they believe that trans women are women and they should be able to self-determine, but there are other people who don’t agree. There are lots of women who have been physically abused who are fearful, and we’ve got both groups who are anxious about being physically abused and are the subject of hate crimes, and this is currently the very thing that unites them.”
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