Appropriating violence

In the Welsh Government’s LGBTQ+ Action Plan we are presented with the idea that trans-identifying males are at risk of violence, even uniquely so. This is a familiar position within trans-activist discourse. Munroe Bergdorf has solemnly declared that, as a trans person, he was as at risk of dying before the age of 35. Yet this frequently asserted figure ultimately turns out to refer to trans-identifying males in South America involved in selling sex – and to be no more than an estimate proffered by an activist, with no basis in any formal research whatsoever.

Some trans-identifying persons are themselves clear that the risk to them are hugely inflated, in ways that are damaging to their mental well-being. As Verity Lambert writes:

Not only have we been living in this fear, the same fear which told me I wouldn’t live to see 36, but we have been appropriating a violence which is not happening to us.

As another researcher (who also indentifies as trans) observes: ‘The overall homicide rate of transgender individuals was likely to be less than that of cisgender individuals.‘ The focus on trans-identification as a risk marker obscures the vulnerability of a particular sector: those people, both female and male, working in prostitution.

This is a key manoeuvre of the trans idelogy. By removing the context of violence against trans-identifying males, perpetrated by men (in this case, within the context of prostitution), it is presented as emanating from women who refuse, non-violently and within the bounds of the law, to accept the fiction that gender identity overrides the materiality of the human body, and the history – as old as civilisation itself – of male violence.

The LGBTQ+ Consultation launched by Welsh Government reiterates the supposed vulnerability of trans-identifying males. It states:

[H]ate crime against LGBTQ+ people continued to rise, most notably against trans people (more than doubling since 2017 to 106 per cent)

This gives the impression of a vertiginous rise, but in fact it is not incommensurate with the increase in hate crime reporting across all populations, and is as likely to reflect increased reporting as much as increased incidence. Violent crime, meanwhile, is not increasing in the UK.

By my calculation, there was a 57% increase (from 1,615 in 2017/18 to 2,540 in 2019/2020). Meanwhile, over the same period, the definitions of what is, and is not, a hate crime has become increasingly subjective and politicised.

Using the same period, from the same source, there was an increase of around 48% of hate crimes against people based in same-sex orientation (from 10,670 to 15,835) – not so very different from the increase in hate crimes recorded against trans-identifying persons over the same period.

The determination that trans-identifying persons are at a higher level of risk cannot be made with confidence, because the population of people identifying as transgender is likely to have expanded from 2017/2018 to 2019/2020. According to GIRES estimates the population has increased by 11% per year. This means that no direct comparison can be made. With no reliable statistics for the numbers of trans-identifying people, we cannot state whether a rise in reporting indicates an increase in the per capita likelihood of any individual trans-identifying person reporting a hate crime, or not.

According to the same dataset, 86% of hate crimes against the various categories of the LGBTQ+ are against same-sex attracted people. The bulk of hate crime and victimisation is against same-sex attracted persons, not trans-identifying persons. Particularly, bisexual women are at high risk of intimate partner violence, a phenomenon which gets no mention in the Action Plan.

The wide currency of this myth of trans vulnerability speaks to a wish to generate political empathy. As political psychologist Cory Clark explains, although the political left vaunts the importance of empathy in politics, it delimits that empathy to ‘mainly or perhaps only for relatively low-status groups.’ Thus, exaggerated claims to victimisation may be a tool for gaining political ground, particularly within leftist-oriented politics.

Claims to the unique vulnerability of trans-identifying males must be treated with extreme caution. There is no evidence that males who identify as transgender are in any way less dangerous to women than those who do not. It is important, therefore, not to allow a false perception of the vulnerability of trans-identifying persons to justify the erosion of those safe spaces created – often by women – for the protection of women and girls. Nor is it healthy for trans-identifying people to be given a false picture of the hostility of the world around them which is likely to damage their mental health.

Welsh Government needs to review the Action Plan in its entirety, paying close attention to research which has been used to justify a highly ideological set of policies.
Merched Cymru and LGB Alliance Cymru are working together to respond to Welsh Government’s LGBT+ Action Plan. See our page here.