‘Acceptance for trans people is going backwards – we just want to be seen as human beings’
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Entertainment, ‘Acceptance for trans people is going backwards – we just want to be seen as human beings’, Contributors Katy Jon Went and Professor Stephen Whittle spoke to Metro ahead of ., by Press24 Uk, where many people are interested in watching and following the news,‘Acceptance for trans people is going backwards – we just want to be seen as human beings’, and now to the details.

‘Acceptance for trans people is going backwards – we just want...

Contributors Katy Jon Went and Professor Stephen Whittle spoke to Metro ahead of Channel 4 documentary Gender Wars (Picture: Instagram/Katy Jon Went/Stephen Whittle)

Last month, Channel 4 announced plans for, what some considered to be a controversial documentary, that would ask, ‘Who is and who can become a woman?’

It will hear from people who believe gender is biological sex that can’t be changed, and those who see gender as an identity which can be determined by individuals.

The programme titled Gender Wars, is led by Professor Kathleen Stock, who quit her role at the University of Sussex in 2021 following protests from students and accusations of transphobia.

Kathleen, 51, said in 2018: ‘Many trans women are still males with male genitalia, many are sexually attracted to females, and they should not be in places where females undress or sleep in a completely unrestricted way.’

She also told The Argus: ‘This has nothing to do with any particular trans people – it is about a general structural issue in our society and how to deal with it.’

People were concerned about what content the documentary would include. Channel 4 responded to the backlash, and told Metro.co.uk: ‘The programme will hear from a range of voices from both sides of the debate on this topic.

Kathleen is part of Channel 4’s new documentary (Picture: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

‘The aim is to create a respectful and inclusive look at what gender means in 2023, and is an opportunity for all sides to listen and find common ground.’

Bringing other opinions to the show are Katy Jon Went, and Dr Stephen Whittle OBE. 

Katy, 56, who uses they/them pronouns, is transgender but has spent many hours engaging with people, who are against trans women and men being considered women and men, to understand why they think that way. They even have a firm friendship with Linda Bellos, who backed Donald Trump administration’s efforts to make it legal to fire LGBT+ people and said ‘the rights of women to be women is being denied’.  

The two put their differences aside and often meet up for hangouts in their mutual neighbour’s gardens, and are shown socialising in a pub together during the documentary. 

‘Some people are going to hate the documentary,’ Katy bluntly told Metro.co.uk.

‘A lot of people are going to hate me. I’m the middle ground so I am shunned by both groups – those in favour of trans women being considered women and let into those spaces, and the other side.

‘What’s going on with trans people is a literal mess. I believe the only resolution is to listen to each other and find some peaceful middle coexistence, and actually get to a place of being able to talk with the heat taken out of it. It can only improve things, it can’t make it worse.’

Stephen, 67, is one of the people who dislikes the documentary, despite being a contributor.

Stephen isn’t totally happy with the documentary (Picture: Manchester University)

‘I am happy with the way I am represented, but it feels like the Kathleen Stock show. If I’d have known this was how it would have turned out I wouldn’t have been a part of it.

‘I am disappointed,’ he stated.

Stephen is a transgender activist and the founder of the transgender lobby group Press For Change, as well as a prominent legal scholar, and he’s concerned the documentary doesn’t give the full picture.

‘In the documentary, we hear Kathleen’s narration, and it shows protestors at her university. They don’t include me talking about the protestors at my university,’ he told us.’

Stephen, who is an Emeritus Professor of Equalities Law at the Manchester Metropolitan University, added: ‘I couldn’t leave my job because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get another one. I’d won many awards for my work but never once got shortlisted for anything I applied for, so I had to just deal with it.’

He continued: ‘Kathleen says she doesn’t agree with discrimination against trans people, but then she proposes things that will cause incredible discrimination. 

‘She proposes that I would have to go to the hospital in a female ward. I wouldn’t go to the hospital. It’s simple. I would rather die at this point.

‘I didn’t want to be cruel about Kathleen. I don’t ever want to be cruel to anyone. I just wish people wouldn’t be cruel to me.’

Katy can understand some of the documentary is hard to watch, such as when a clip is shown of Kathleen telling a trans woman that she is not a woman: ‘In some aspects what she said isn’t wrong, but it certainly wasn’t nice. Equally, people shouting insults at her during protests isn’t nice.’

Channel 4 released further comment to Metro.co.uk following the criticism, stressing that it was ‘explained to all contributors’ that the programme hears from a ‘range of voices on this issue’.

After emphasising once again that the aim of the documentary is to ‘create a respectful and inclusive look at what gender means in 2023’ and is an ‘opportunity for all to listen and find common ground’, the broadcaster added: ‘All of the contributors have been shown the film.’

On her unique friendship with Linda, Katy said: ‘We tease each other, we laugh, we drink. I am able to separate a person from their beliefs.

Katy is willing to engage in conversation (Picture: Instagram/Katy Jon Went)

‘Of course, sometimes it can be emotionally exhausting to talk to people who fundamentally disagree with things that I stand for. It can feel like I’m bashing my head against a wall repeating the same things.’

Katy owns 7000 books and amongst those are gender-critical books that present the idea that we are born as a gender, and that’s what we remain even if we are trans. They read them back to front to increase their understanding, and when they are favouring something a little more light-hearted they’ll often turn to one of their favourite series – Harry Potter.

‘I love Harry Potter’, they admitted to us. ‘I don’t want to burn the books like some other trans people and trans allies did in protest to her comments. I just want to speak to JK Rowling.’

‘Her original article wasn’t that extreme, but the problem is she felt attacked when everyone piled on and has now doubled down. It became a slanging match instead of a calm discussion. Cancelling people usually backfires.’

Rowling, 57, has publicly expressed her view that biological sex should not be dismissed and shared her opinion that focusing on gender identity could harm women’s rights.

She originally came forward with her opinion in 2019 when she showed support for tax expert Maya Forstater, who was fired for tweeting that ‘men cannot become women’.  

She has since appeared on podcasts, written open letters and tweeted to reinforce her views, and denied being transphobic.

Katy would love to speak with JK Rowling (Picture: PA)

‘I would love to just get to the bottom of why she feels that way. The first thing I would say is, “How did this start for you? Where did your views come from?” Katy explained.

‘Nobody is born with views against another group in society. We develop them. There’s an experience in there somewhere. 

‘I don’t believe that anyone is 100% in their view. Better views come about through the evolution of discussion.

‘The problem is both sides feel like the victim. Both believe they’re the ones that have been invaded or oppressed. Neither wants to give up,’ they concluded.

The documentary shows women discussing how male violence has made them wary of having trans men in their space. The Sarah Everard case is referenced. 

‘She was killed by a male police officer. It has nothing to do with the trans community,’ Stephen asserted in response to the editorial choice. 

‘My wife always says, “Why are we discussing trans people? Why are we not discussing what we’re going to do about the actual problem?”

‘We need to start talking about respect, womens’ rights and equality. We need to make it so the next generation of boys doesn’t have any superiority.’

Katy believes that if more people just saw trans people as simply human beings then it would be a better society. They are able to show kindness even in scary situations.

‘When people talk to me they often realise that trans people aren’t a threat,’ they explained.

‘I once had a situation where a group of drunken guys were hurling transphobic slurs at me. Instead of reacting with the same energy, I just spoke to them. They immediately backed down and we actually had a nice conversation.

‘I had another time where I was involved in a TV debate about whether trans women should be allowed in women’s toilets. I actually ended up getting the same tube as the woman arguing against it, and we had a nice chat about other things. At the end of the journey, she said she saw that I should be allowed to go into women’s toilets. 

‘Not all of us can have 30-minute conversations with people every time we want to wee, but hopefully, it’s a domino effect of changing attitudes.’

The reason Katy feels they are able to talk to people without getting upset is due to being ‘comfortable in myself.’

‘I get stared at, but I just smile. I don’t act feminine. I haven’t changed my voice. I don’t wear makeup. I’m always in jeans, a T-shirt and Doc Martens. I own 190 pairs – I think I have the third-largest collection in the world,’ they digressed.

Katy wants us all to see each other as human beings (Picture: Instagram/Katy Jon Went)

‘I’m an individual, rather than a sex. I’m just a human being.’

Stephen is understandably done with being up for discussion: ‘I am not up for debate. I’m a person. My community is just trying to live. We want to get jobs, pay our bills and live our lives but all of those things are more difficult for us.

‘I am a husband and proud father. I’ve contributed to society in a positive way. I don’t deserve to be questioned,’ he passionately told us.

‘I’ve experienced a lot of transphobia. When me and my family moved into a new area, one of the neighbours wrote a letter and posted it through everybody’s doors arguing that we shouldn’t be here. I’ve had bottles thrown at my house, and people call me “she/her” despite living for 47 years as Stephen,’ he sadly recalled.

‘I see the TV debates and it’s hurtful. We’re not living in a bubble. We’re not immune to pain.’

The negative comments can lead to self-hatred within the trans community. Katy didn’t transition until they were 40, after resisting it for as long as possible: ‘My first psychiatrist called me the most reluctant trans person he’d ever met.

‘I went into conversion therapy by choice. I used to wish to just be gay. I knew it would be so much easier. I had huge fears of being rejected by society and thought my dating life would come to an end. 

‘I was raised Christian, so being trans was a sin to me. My dad used to pray and cry for me all the time. He warned me it would be a lonely path, and in a way, he had a fair point.’

When Katy finally made the decision to start living as the authentic version of themselves, they described it as going from, ‘a war with myself to a war with society.’

However, happily, the benefits have outweighed the negatives. ‘My life was getting very depressing, and I didn’t want to live that way forever. It felt like I had this gender tumour growing on my brain. It was growing so much that I felt like I couldn’t function. 

‘I felt instant relief when I had surgery, and transitioned. I didn’t wake up and think, “Oh I’m a woman”, I thought, “The tumour is gone”.’

Stephen told his parents that he wanted to live as a man when he was 18, and his dad responded that he’d known this was coming since he was two.

‘My parents were great. They were concerned about what the neighbours would think but incredibly supportive. They didn’t once tell me not to do it.’

Both Katy and Stephen have noticed that there has been a recent change in attitude towards them.

There was ‘peak acceptance’ in 2016 (Picture: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

‘We experienced a peak in acceptance from 2014-2016. Laverne Cox was even on the cover of Time magazine, and we passed laws to make life easier for trans people. They were the good years. We turned a corner, and everybody was accepted. It felt like the war was over but then it all changed,’ said Katy.

‘In the last five years, a new front has started up. We’ve gone backwards. I have analysed why it happened. I think to a degree, overreach, being able to self-ID, and bad choices on things like risk assessment for trans people in prison. 

‘Some people have a conspiracy theory that we have some kind of trans meeting, where we discuss what we’re going to do next. We’re not a movement, we’re instead a bunch of individuals who found that their lives were intolerable in our previous gender.’ 

Stephen adds: ‘I’ve been a transgender man for decades. I know that we had no rights in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and we fought hard for them. I put myself out there to let people know there was nothing to fear. I found the strength to do that when it would have been easier to hide away for a better future.

‘We are less than 1% of the population, but we’re made out to be a big problem. We have become involved in something that’s out of our control completely.  

‘It’s unjust, it’s unfair. You will always get one or two people in any community but don’t put that blame on the entire community. I don’t want to watch people debating trans people as a result of a crime being committed by a minority of trans people.

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‘People are seeing others say they want to be called certain pronouns, and thinking “what’s happening to the world?” It’s just changing. This is normal. The world always changes, it’ll go this way and that way. 

‘I can’t tell you what the future holds. All I can say is, we all have to commit to trying to make it better because otherwise, we’re going to be in real trouble. I don’t want to see another trans kid die.’

Gender Wars will air Tuesday on Channel 4 at 10pm.

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