I am a survivor of incest, childhood sexual abuse, domestic abuse and sexual exploitation who experiences ptsd symptoms around men. There are many women like me, women who are survivors of some of the worst kind of abuse from men.
We are massively over represented in places like mental health wards, disability support services and prisons, places where female only spaces are vital. What you will be interested to know is that we are also massively over represented in radical feminism. That’s right, a lot of the women who are having violence threatened against us for wanting female only space are some of the most vulnerable women who are survivors of some of the most horrific kind of abuse. We are being completely misrepresented that our speaking out about not wanting trans ‘women’ in our spaces is because we are transphobic when in fact it has nothing to do with transgender issues and everything to do with our right to be able to access social and healing spaces and be safe in those spaces.
When I am in a space with men I experience symptoms of ptsd. If I am around a particular man for too long, for too many times or he knows too many personal details about me I can experience extreme paranoia that men will kidnap me and hurt me or traffic me. If a man does anything to remind me of my abuser I become extremely frightened and unable to function. This brings me into a child like state where I have to have a friend look after me. I can have symptoms for days, weeks or even months after something like this happens to me. I get panic attacks. I become terrified and have to put all the bolts and locks on my door.
Even when men don’t remind me of my abuser and I am only around them briefly I am still very on edge and struggle to relax which I find very exhausting as someone with a chronic illness. Unfortunately I know other women who can’t even do this which makes having things like repairs done in the home very difficult, even having things delivered. I had a friend who had no furniture, not even a bed, for months because she was too scared to have a bed delivered by males, she had to make a bed out of boxes. These symptoms do not just change because a male transitions. My ptsd does not distinguish between a man and a trans ‘woman’. In fact my symptoms become worse around trans ‘women’ as I don’t know whether that person is someone who genuinely believes they are a woman or they are an autogynephile who gets off on dressing as a woman or they are a male rights activist who is dressing as a woman to purposefully sabotage that womens group. All of these kinds of people come under the transgender umbrella, this issue is not as clear cut as it seems.
Womens groups are becoming even more inaccessible for me than mixed groups where at least the men there are there to access the event not with potentially more sinister motives. If any man was allowed to just declare himself a woman at any time that would open every abuse survivor up to being stalked and harassed by her abuser. Abusers will do anything to continue their abuse and identifying as a woman is not beyond them. All females need to be able to access female only spaces that are for biological females only if that is what they need. Of course as womens sector organisations you are fully aware of the need for women only space but some of you seem to think there is no difference when the particular male in the space is identifying as a woman. You may disregard this but as I said before my ptsd doesn’t. Many survivors need to be in female only spaces before they can even feel safe enough to admit to themselves that they are survivors.
Would you have me pretend that I am not traumatised by being round biological males just because they identify as women when I am finally starting to listen to my body and be open about my feelings that as a survivor I have supressed my whole life? Compromise my boundaries when I have had none my whole life and have only just learned that I am allowed to have them?
Would you disregard my suffering in favour of transgender people? That their feelings and safety is important but that mine isn’t. That the trans movement’s complete disregard of my lived experience, to the extent I am told I deserve to die for wanting female only space, is valid but that my asking for female only space to heal is some kind of hate speech towards trans people?
Would you have me forget about my healing because I can no longer access support group? Do you think I will feel better alone stuck in my house knowing that I am helping trans people, that I am providing safe spaces for them by abandoning my healing?
Would you have me called a bigot and disregard violence threatened against me just because I think this is not acceptable, because I want a chance to heal and a chance to have a life?
Since the trans movement started attacking womens spaces I know of many such spaces that have shut down, including Michigan Womens Music Festival where many survivors of abuse say the festival helped them heal from their experiences of sexual violence. It is shocking for the trans movement to try and make radical feminism to be about them and for them to make out women wanting female only spaces to be about them when it isn’t about them it is about us. It is about survivors of male violence and our right to safe spaces to heal. When I was more well I worked in women’s refuges and met women who were terrified their cross dressing partners would follow them into the refuge.
Now we are being told that soon any man could be able to access any womens space just by saying he is a woman. That my rapist is allowed to access my healing space as long as he claims to be a woman. This is putting a lot of power into the hands of abusive males and is throwing women under a bus to be sacrificed on an alter of transgender rights. This is not acceptable. That would be the end for women like me. For us women only spaces are the only place we have to go. As a disabled woman leaving the house is already difficult. I have to rest for 2 days before and after I go out and then to can cost me up to 30 pound in taxis just to go out for an hour. I have paid £40 just to go swimming for an hour before. I am lucky to leave the house once a month. If males are allowed in women’s spaces it will make it even more difficult for me and women like me. Survivors of male violence are much more likely to suffer from illnesses and disabilities. I am already unable to access my local autism women’s group due to knowing there is a trans ‘woman’ there. I am recently diagnosed with autism but unable to access the support I need because of this.
Women like me have every right to speak out about this. To be shunned by other women and told that we deserve to die in a fire and to have violence committed against us by the trans movement just because we want access to safe space to heal from abuse is absolutely shocking. It is discriminatory and very abusive and is gaslighting us.
Are women like me bigots for wanting a space to feel safe? When many women’s organisations cannot even stand up to this or speak out this just how many survivors are too scared to speak? Some women are completely silenced about this issue. If I am struggling to speak out as someone who has been on my healing journey for several years what about the women who are newly trying to get help for the first time? It already takes survivors 7 times to seek help before they can leave an abusive situation. Do we really want to make it even harder for women to access support? Are transgender rights so important and women’s rights so unimportant that we are willing to sacrifice women and their healing?
I completely support trans people to also have safe spaces but I think it is very wrong for women to be made to sacrifice ourselves for this to happen. Trans people need to create their own safe spaces or access womens space with women who want to mix with them, of which there are many, and stop forcing vulnerable women to give up our rights and safety. No matter what people say trans peoples experiences are different than growing up as a girl child or experiencing things like menstruation and pregnancy and women need separate spaces to be able to discuss these different issues. Trans ‘women’ are able to access trans spaces, LGBT spaces (from which many lesbians including myself now feel excluded), trans ‘womens’ spaces and the majority of womens spaces. Where can women like me access? We don’t have another movement to fall back on and as a disabled woman I am excluded from disability related spaces also. I don’t think it is much to ask to be able to have spaces we can access and the fact that the trans movement is so intent on not allowing us to have or doesn’t care whether we have this is very suspiscious. It massively benefits rapists when women don’t have a space to heal from rape and abuse as they are less likely to report their rape to the police. We have to look at the bigger picture here and who is benefitting from this,
If you are a womens organisation or worker who supports the rights of biological males to be in what are supposed to be safe spaces for survivors of male violence then you are letting me and other women who may be too scared to speak out down. I urge you to support women like me in the up and coming government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act to keep our female only spaces and make other arrangements for trans people that do not encroach on the rights of vulnerable women.
We face such a long journey as women. To even be able to think we matter, that our voices matter, that it matters that we have been abused. We have a longer journey as survivors of child abuse as we grow up thinking we have no value for our whole lives. When you finally get to the point where you know your worth to be told that you are a bigot just for believing you have the right to have a safe space to heal is soul destroying. When you start to set boundaries for the first time after having let people violate them your whole life and other women are telling you that you are wrong for doing so it makes you feel that you don’t matter to the womens movement and the womens sector. I feel massively invisibilised and let down. I feel completely silenced. Please listen to my story if you care about women. Female only spaces are vital to our healing and we must not be made to carry transgender people. This is not our responsibility as traumatised women who are trying to heal from male violence.
Here is some information about how the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act could affect women’s spaces:
Here are links to the storys of two other survivors:
I am keeping this letter anonymous but I have Drs letter etc documenting my symptoms and would be willing to show this in an official capacity to organisations that are bound by confidentiality and can guarantee it. I am contactable on firstname.lastname@example.org Please feel free to use this blog piece as evidence