This week it was announced that a transgender weightlifter from New Zealand, Laurel Hubbard, will compete in the women’s category at the Olympics.
Depending on your point of view, this is either a stunning victory for trans rights; or a woeful betrayal of women’s.
Speaking as what some would call a ‘cis’ woman — others simply a woman — I bear no enmity whatsoever towards trans women.
The few I have met have been charming, thoughtful individuals. There is one I sometimes bump into at my specialist hairdresser.
We are both there for the same reason: hair loss, she because she was once a man; I because — well, because I guess that’s just my bad luck.
Ironically for both of us, our affliction is known as ‘male pattern baldness’. Luckily, we can laugh at this. That, and the fact we both have ridiculously big feet.
This week it was announced that a transgender weightlifter from New Zealand, Laurel Hubbard (pictured), will compete in the women’s category at the Olympics
It’s one of those jokey conversations that women tend to have at the hairdresser. But I can see how hard it must be for her sometimes. And I know she would not put herself through it if she had any kind of choice.
So that was partly why when, a few years ago, I was asked to be a judge for the 2015 Woman’s Hour Power List, I suggested we include Caitlyn Jenner, who that year had appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine looking fabulous.
A lot of people were shocked by her transition from Bruce, former Olympic decathlon gold medallist, to the statuesque Caitlyn. But I confess I rather admired her, and still do.
I was also curious. As I said at the time, I felt it could only be to the good for people to understand her experience. I couldn’t conceive of wanting to change sex myself; but I was interested in knowing more about someone who did.
I could see that someone like Jenner has a right to live as she sees fit and that, rather like the gay rights movement, this is about universal acceptance as well as individual freedom.
But since then a lot has changed, and the debate around trans lives has soured. What began as something rather amazing has morphed into an angry, intransigent movement, and its more extreme elements seem intent on using their new-found power to take away the rights of others. Namely, women.
Breast-feeding must now be called ‘chest-feeding’; mothers are ‘birthing persons’; we are encouraged to refer to ‘people who menstruate’.
All these things that are part of a uniquely female biological experience are slowly being taken away from us. And it’s not OK.
Which brings me to Laurel Hubbard. Quite simply, it’s not her right to take part in the Olympics as a woman that most concerns me. It’s the fact that by doing so she is taking away the rights of other women to compete as female athletes against other female athletes on a level playing field.
SARAH VINE: A lot of people were shocked by her transition from Bruce, former Olympic decathlon gold medallist, to the statuesque Caitlyn. But I confess I rather admired her, and still do
And that is because, having once been a man, and having undergone puberty before becoming a male weightlifter and competing (not terribly successfully) in that category, she has an inherent and indelible physical advantage over biological females. She is taller, bigger and stronger.
There are certain sex characteristics that happen in puberty that no amount of hormone jiggery-pokery will ever do away with.
Take me, for example: I am a post-menopausal woman who does not take HRT. I am to hormones what the Gobi desert is to rainfall.
Yet I still have the sexual characteristics of a female, and will do until the day I die.
Does that mean I am no longer a biological woman? Of course not. Likewise, the fact that Hubbard no longer has the hormone levels of a man does not take away her basic male blueprint.
It doesn’t matter that she ‘fulfils the Olympic criteria’ of having less than a certain amount of testosterone in her blood. The fact is, she has the bone density and the musculature of a man. Which means if she competes against biological women, they may not stand a chance.
This is not prejudice, it’s simple biology. And that, really, is where the problem lies.
The trans rights movement is not the same as the gay rights movement, as many often argue. They are not asking for the right to live how they want to live and love who they want to love without being oppressed or discriminated against.
Extremists among them want to change the very nature of reality — and force us all, as Orwell said, to admit that two plus two equals five. It doesn’t, and it never will.
I will leave the last word to one who knows, from personal experience, what this feels like: Caitlyn Jenner herself. When asked earlier this year about the question of biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school, she simply said: ‘It just isn’t fair.’
On the one hand, there are the men who put their own safety on the line to protect our troops in Afghanistan. On the other, a British national who grew up in the UK and left to join Isis. Afghan translators vs Shamima Begum. I know who I would rather offer refuge to.
Dignity marooned on Love Island...
Love Island is back. Any channel with half a shred of decency would long ago have axed the show out of simple respect for its former presenter, Caroline Flack, and the two contestants, Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis, all of whom died by their own hands. But not ITV.
This year they’re trying to mitigate the general tawdriness by dressing the whole thing up as ‘middle class’ on the basis that one of the contestants is a civil servant. Nonsense. It will be the same old not-so-soft porn as ever.
At a time when the conversations around sexual abuse of young girls in schools and concerns about body image, eating disorders and self-esteem have never been more concerning, it beggars believe that this soul-sapping trash still has a place on our screens.
Analysis by Cambridge University of more than 2.7 million Facebook and Twitter posts has revealed what we all already knew: the nastiest ones get the most traction. The authors of the study point to ‘perverse incentives’ that govern a ‘social media ecosystem where animosity is rewarded’. There, in a nutshell, is everything that’s wrong with modern life
Some people commit acts of charity out of a genuine desire to help; others wear their philanthropy like a badge.
If it really is true that the Duchess of Sussex cut short her visit to a market in Fiji because the organisation involved — UN Women — had unwittingly snubbed her by asking her to be an ‘advocate’ instead of the more glamorous role of ‘ambassador’, then one can’t help but fundamentally question her motives. No one who really cares about improving the lives of others who are less fortunate than themselves would mind a jot about such nonsense.
Martyr Meghan? Some people commit acts of charity out of a genuine desire to help; others wear their philanthropy like a badge, writes SARAH VINE
Like Rishi Sunak, I, too, have one of those super-swish exercise bikes at home.
Sadly, that is where the similarities end. While Sunak’s gets a daily workout, mine is mostly to be found draped in assorted items of discarded teenage outerwear. Basically, it’s a very expensive coat-stand.
M&S woke underwear campaign is just pants
I wonder, did a single person in the marketing department of Marks & Sparks question the wisdom of conflating its range of flesh-coloured underwear with George Floyd? The man was murdered, for heaven’s sake. Don’t use his name to flog knickers, however woke they may be.
SARAH VINE: I wonder, did a single person in the marketing department of Marks & Sparks question the wisdom of conflating its range of flesh-coloured underwear with George Floyd?
I hope the parents of Babis Anagnostopoulos, who confessed to killing his wife, Caroline Crouch, don’t fight her mother and father for custody of the couple’s baby, Lydia.
Bad enough that their son murdered Caroline. The least they can do is spare the Crouches the pain of also losing their grandchild.