In Defence of Women’s Aid

 

Women’s Aid, like all organisations in the charitable sector faces a daily battle. The first facet of that battle is concerned with money and funding – put simply how to maintain the same level of service for those women and children it helps with less money in the face of savage Government cuts brought about by austerity.

Furthermore it faces an ideological battle with the kind of masculinity that says it is okay to hurt abuse and be violent to women.

Overall it would be fair to say that Women’s Aid is facing challenging times. The last thing it needs is another battle to fight as well. According to this piece, there may be one looming however.

The trans community is angry once again, this time over the need to provide a Gender Recognition Certificate if you are a trans woman wishing to work for Women’s Aid. The same burden of proof however is not required to be provided by trans men.

This is yet another example of the trans community being in conflict with women. Women’s Aid is in a fairly unique position in that it helps women and children who are in extreme danger from violent partners and may be very vulnerable. It is likely that women presenting to Women’s Aid requiring assistance will be doing so after a great deal of personal trauma, abuse and chaos in their lives.

Therefore, they and their children require the maximum protection possible.

The headline also shows a very vague understanding of what Women’s Aid actually is there to do. It is not there to be a safe haven for trans staff, but rather a safe haven for the many women and children it supports across the UK.

A Gender Recognition Certificate would in this case demonstrate to Women’s Aid that the person applying for the job had lived in their chosen gender role for a certain period of time, thus demonstrating commitment to it. It would also show that the person in turn had no thoughts of returning to a previous gender role.

I believe that the trans standpoint and that of Women’s Aid clash in this instance. On a deeper level what we see is a conflict between respect for an individual’s identity and the wider interests of women as a social class.

I believe Women’s Aid have been unfairly maligned in this instance. They are merely trying to safeguard the interests of a vulnerable subgroup of women whose needs up until the point when they chose to seek help will have been minimised or ignored altogether. Understandably, they may fear men as a social group. Therefore it is vital that Women’s Aid have every single possible safeguarding measure and litmus test in place to ensure the safety of women in their care.

Too often the wants and desires of trans women seem to be in competition with the safety of women. Such competition is dangerous and must end for the benefit of women and trans women.

If I, as a trans woman wanted to work at Women’s Aid and was asked to provide a gender recognition certificate I would have no problem with this. It is unproblematic to me because my dedication to and passion for the work of helping the vulnerable would override any concerns I had about legislation.

As Women’s Aid told Gaystar News;

‘Victims of domestic violence are at the centre of what we do, and there can be no compromise on the safety of the women and children we work with.

‘Decades of experience working with women escaping perpetrators of domestic violence has taught us that there is nothing perpetrators will not do to gain access to their victims.

‘Perpetrators hack into computer records, break into buildings, and will tell any lie that they think will allow them closer to their victim. We therefore take steps to ensure all of our employees and volunteers, cis [non-trans] and trans, are who they say they are and do not pose any risk.

‘We ask all potential employees and volunteers for proof of identity to ensure we can meet our safeguarding responsibilities.’

So we can see from Women’s Aid’s statement that they are just doing their job. In essence meeting the needs of the women they work for, and do great work with.

Decades of experience are not to be dismissed or treated in a cognitively dissonant fashion. They should be embraced and listened to wholeheartedly.

People are becoming more tech savvy, and with the social media revolution, the downside of it is that it makes victims more accessible to perpetrators.

As such organisations such as Women’s Aid need to be vigilant, ever more so as new technological developments come to fruition. Therefore I do not see any issue with somebody being asked for a Gender Recognition Certificate. Whatever its imperfections, it is a legally recognised document by which Women’s Aid can be doubly sure that an individual is who they say they are if they present wishing to be employed.

In my view, the Gaystar news piece was extremely deaf to the issues which domestic violence organisations battle with on a daily basis. The issue here is not trans discrimination, but rather safeguarding women.

Too often in society, women’s needs are ignored and place too far down the food chain. I applaud Women’s Aid for putting them first. I am saddened that this causes such controversy for the trans community. Women’s Aid is uncompromising because the women who seek its help have been compromised enough and have had to make compromises and concessions to violent partners just to keep themselves safe and alive. I do not think Gender Recognition Certificates are  not a big ask as an additional burden of proof. Let us remember that it is the safety of women that is at stake.

Finally with regard to what Sarah Brown says on toilets and cliches, what is cliche to Sarah may be personal safety to another, or even the violation of that personal safety in a worst case scenario. Let us remember to that whilst having to produce a gender recognition certificate may be mildly irritating for a trans person, it is not tantamount to punishment.

Women’s Aid is merely protecting the interests of the client group it serves. We have seen the vulnerability of domestic violence victims through the lens of Maxine Minniver and Patrick Blake in Hollyoaks recently. Yet for many, this is more than a soap opera storyline. This is their lived reality.

I am angry that the issue of Gender Recognition Certificates is distracting from Women’s Aid’s important work. Producing a gender recognition certificate to do work you are passionate about is a mild inconvenience, and is disproportionate to the trauma experienced by women whom Women’s Aid help. Domestic violence and how it needlessly debilitates women psychologically, physically and emotionally is the only punishment we should be talking about here.

If you are experiencing domestic violence and require help, advice and support call 0808 2000 247

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