Women’s Aid has released its position on the inclusion of trans women in the single-sex services within its membership.
As Women’s Aid points out in its statement, the violence against women and girls sector, and the services it provides to support women and girls who are victims of domestic abuse, have been built by and for women over the last five decades – and some of the women who have worked and volunteered to create those services have been trans women.
Trans women have always been part of this movement, both as service users and service providers. They must not be erased from this narrative and we are mindful of the impact this statement is likely to have on those trans and non-binary people who are currently working in or accessing these services.
Galop supports the ongoing commissioning of specialist services, including those run by and for all women, and we do not see trans inclusion as being in conflict with this. We are concerned that, in approaching trans-inclusion in this way, Women’s Aid is inaccurately conflating trans women with perpetrators of abuse and violence, and is doing so as a voice of power towards a disempowered minority group with far less influence and platform.
These positions often fail to acknowledge or understand the realities of the abuse and violence faced by trans and non-binary people in the UK, or how those victims are left in the wake of that abuse. Every day, Galop works with trans and non-binary people who are victims of domestic and sexual abuse. What we consistently see through both our frontline work and our research is that trans people do not have safe, trans-inclusive spaces to go to when they need to flee. There is a narrative that trans people in refuge spaces and other women’s services are a danger to other service users – whereas what we see is that trans women are often at risk of victimisation and assault in those accommodation services that are open to them.
As a result of this lack of safe provision for trans and non-binary people, we see trans people that we work with having to choose between staying in dangerous and abusive situations or facing dangerous and damaging alternatives, including homelessness. The current system is failing trans people in this country, and this statement by Women’s Aid is a reflection of that failure.
Domestic abuse services exist in order to support and protect victims of abuse. Women’s Aid represents the vast majority of these services across England, many of which we know are already not open to trans women and non-binary people who are victims of abuse and violence. If these services remain closed to these victims, and no other services are provided as an alternative, then this approach condones and is complicit in leaving trans people without a way to reach safety.
We agree with Women’s Aid that all survivors should have access to services that are right and safe for them, based on their needs. There should not be a hierarchy of victimhood and there should be provision of enough high-quality, survivor-centred, safe, and specialist services for all victims and survivors of abuse and violence in this country.
No one should have to choose between having a place to live, and living free from abuse. No one should experience sexual assault or transphobic hate crimes in hostels because they had nowhere else to go. We urge those who speak of their desire for trans people to live in safety and dignity to push for the provision of trans-inclusive specialist services in light of Women’s Aid’s statement today.
Updated 23.03.2022 to remove reference to Wales.