In today’s overly PC, gender neutral world, any voice of dissent is labelled ‘ignorant’

Fay Weldon, who has just published a sequel to her 1983 classic novel The Life and Loves of a She Devil, told a BBC reporter this week tht she thinks some men transition to women 'for the sake of fashion or the clothes'

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The Independent Online

I love dear old Barry Manilow – after a 39-year relationship with another man, the curiously youthful 73-year-old crooner has finally reached for the closet door handle and bravely stumbled into the brave new world of gender politics.

Times have changed, Barry darling. Far from “disappointing your fans” by revealing you’re gay, you’d have probably pleased them more if you’d claimed your sexual preferences, or perhaps your gender identity, were “fluid” – that’s so much more contemporary. Ask Miley Cyrus and Cara Delevingne for starters. 

What a confusing world Barry Manilow has cautiously stepped into. Supposedly everyone is equal and all sexual preferences are to be respected, but as soon as one set of barriers has been torn down, another bunch of people start complaining. In 1969, the Stonewall riots on the streets of New York led to Gay Pride marches around the world to fight harassment and legal persecution and win respect. Thirty-eight years on, who would have thought that a toilet would be the new battleground in the battle for sexual freedom?

Following the brave step taken by my bank, HSBC, who jumped on the bandwagon by offering clients a whole heap of ”gender neutral” titles from Mre (mystery) to Ind (individual) – I’ll just settle for any old name as long as my account charges decrease – the Barbican Arts Centre in London have decided to get in step and offer patrons facilities “gender neutral toilets”. This means a line of cubicles, some with urinals and some with toilets.

Fay Weldon says trans people become women 'for the fashion or the clothes'

Women have reacted furiously, saying now they are queuing longer than ever as men hog the loos, probably adjusting their makeup and remodelling their hair. It’s obvious that if everyone is going to be equal, then some people will be worse off – and those people should not be women who have heavy periods or weak bladders. And why do men need urinals anyway? Why can’t they just use the same toilets as women do?

A spokesperson at the charity Stonewall commented, “It’s encouraging that businesses want to make trans people feel safe and welcome.” Am I missing something here? The Barbican is an arts centre, not a war zone. Why should trans people need to be welcomed more than anyone else using galleries and concert halls?

At the moment, we are reminded daily that the trans community has a whole range of organisations vociferously campaigning on their behalf. In 2015, the Government agreed that driving licence holders could use the title Mx, for example. Now, Stonewall want passport holders to have the choice of labelling their sexuality ‘X’ – it’s part of their five-year plan to achieve equality for the 650,000 people they say identify themselves as transgender in the UK.

That’s fine, but sometimes those promoting gender neutrality can appear as narrow-minded as their critics. It’s as if there’s only one way of entering this brave new fluid world: it’s on their terms, or not at all, in which case you will be shunned and derided as a reactionary bigot.

Feminists of a certain age – Germaine Greer and Jenni Murray, most prominently – have dared to voice reservations about transgender people who claim to be “real” women, attracting rabid condemnation and threats of “no platforming” at universities which should be promoting free speech.

Now, they’ve been joined by Fay Weldon, who has just published a sequel to her 1983 classic novel The Life and Loves of a She Devil. Weldon told a BBC reporter she thinks some men transition to women “for the sake of fashion or the clothes”, and that it was “easier to be a woman” these days than a man.

She added that she had huge sympathy for women who transitioned to men: “They have a really hard time.” You might not agree with the writer’s comments, but she is entitled to an opinion, not to be derided outright by a leading transgender charity.

In our gender neutral, politically correct world, you are “ignorant” if you express a dissenting opinion. But isn’t this falling into the same trap as the old stereotypes, i.e. macho men who felt threatened by rabid feminists?

Golf commentator Peter Alliss is a terrific specimen; this week he claimed that “women are more delicate than men... I don’t care for macho women and they’re more prevalent today”. Goodness knows what the transgender spokespeople will make of that gaffe, but in the interests of sanity, can we live and let live?

The story of Patricia Davies gives cause for hope: she’s lived her whole life as Peter, served in the army in the Far East during World War Two, got married at 21 and remained with her wife until she died. Now 90, Patricia is wearing women’s clothes and has started hormone treatment. She says, “I feel quite relieved… Nobody seems to bat an eyelid, they accept me as I am.” At last, a lone voice of reason.