This is not a blog post which explores fundamental truths of the human condition or even one which traces a pathway through legal complexities. Rather, it looks at the law in practice.
Regular readers of this blog will know that paragraphs 27-28 of Schedule 3 of the Equality Act 2010 permit a service provider to offer a single sex or separate sex service. Paragraph 28 in particular allows a service provider to discriminate on the grounds of gender reassignment. For the purposes of women-only services and spaces, it is generally understood that this means that a women only service may exclude all those who are biologically and legally male by virtue of paragraph 27, and may (if proportionate) exclude biological females who are legally male and biological males who are legally female by virtue of paragraph 28. There remains some discussion over whether “blanket” policies are permissible and whether paragraph 28 should be applied person-by-person or policy-by-policy, but the overarching principles are those.
In recent times organisations which hold their line on single sex services have been viciously targeted. The rat nailed to the door of Vancouver Rape Relief, the smoke bombs set off outside the WPUK meeting held near to Grenfell Tower, the violent and sexually aggressive imagery chalked on the pavement at FiLiA.
This is a question for those who attend, or organise, such protests. If you heard that a women-only self-defence group had refused entry to a transwoman who approached them saying she was fearful of violence because of her gender and wanted to learn to defend herself, would you protest that organisation? Would you denounce them on social media? Organise a boycott? You’d probably want to write to all of their funders to try to have their funding withdrawn, at the very least, and notify the local council – wouldn’t you? Perhaps you could persuade the Good Law Project to bring a legal case against them?
If the centre argued that their classes were for women who had suffered domestic or sexual violence, that wouldn’t change your view in the least, would it? After all, transwomen can also suffer domestic or sexual violence, and any woman who is triggered by the presence of a male-born person just needs to reframe her trauma, right?
This is not a hypothetical scenario. In 2021, the Scottish Centre for Personal Safety declined to admit Annie Bryson to their women only self-defence course offered to survivors of domestic or sexual violence. But before anyone goes to organise a protest, there’s some additional important information to know.
In 2016 Annie Bryson – then Adam Graham – raped a woman. In 2019, he raped another woman. In 2021 he tried to access this course – a course for survivors of male violence where he would presumably have learned what techniques women use to fend off rapists, while triggering a trauma response among any survivors there. (The same year he enrolled on a beautician course which involved women removing their clothes to practise spray tan procedures on one another. Would-be protestors can pat Ayrshire College on the back for their admirably inclusive policy.)
In 2023 he was convicted of both rapes. His ex-wife said that she thought he was “bullshitting” his claim to be transgender, which had only developed after he was arrested for the rapes, and even that arch-proponent of self-ID Nicola Sturgeon can’t quite bring herself to call him a woman, saying “She regards herself as a woman. I regard the individual as a rapist.”
It might be tempting to say – well, what’s wrong with that? The individual IS a rapist.
He is. But for the purposes of the criminal justice system, between 2016 and 2023 he was Schroedinger’s Rapist: he had committed rape but he was not convicted of rape.
What motive could a double rapist have for wanting to join a class for survivors of sexual violence and learn what techniques they would use against a predator? What motive could a double rapist have for wanting to join a class full of semi-clad women applying beauty techniques? The answer is surely obvious on both counts.
Now that Adam Graham / Annie Bryson / Isla Bryson has been reallocated from the women’s estate to the men’s estate, there seems to be a grudging acceptance that he isn’t “really” trans. After all, he’s a rapist.
The problem for the protestors is that he wasn’t – in law – a rapist until he was convicted.
If the protestors had their way, Adam Graham would have been welcomed in to any women only service he chose to attend. That in itself should be explanation as to why some services, particularly those where women are undressing or where they are survivors of male violence, want to exercise their right to remain female only under the Equality Act exceptions. It should take a lot more than a chalk willy on a pavement to persuade anybody otherwise.