Statement by the Coalition Against Transphobia

On Sunday, 14th November 2021, the Sunday Independent published a column by Eilis O’Hanlon entitled “It’s time to say no to extremists who want to let children pick their gender”. Due to the transphobic nature of this column, TENI immediately requested a right of reply. The Sunday Independent granted this right. However, they limited the reply to a maximum word-count of 400 words. The Coalition Against Transphobia – comprised of TENI along with BeLonG To and LGBT Ireland – submitted our 400-word reply and expect to see it published in this Sunday’s edition. Below, we have outlined a more detailed response to the column.

TENI, BeLonG To and LGBT Ireland are three leading national organisations working to promote LGBT rights in Ireland.

We are appalled that the Sunday Independent would publish an article (“It’s time to say no to extremists who want to let children pick their gender”) that is blatantly transphobic and factually inaccurate. The Irish media hold significant sway over public opinion and have a duty to avoid publishing inflammatory and irresponsible statements. In this article, the columnist’s personal transphobic views are presented as facts, ignoring journalistic integrity.

To cite some of instances of inaccuracies:

1. Eilis O’Hanlon states the Government “plans to do away with” parental consent for 16 and 17- year-olds seeking to have their gender recognised in law. In fact, following the review of the Gender Recognition Act in 2018, the Government has committed, in the Programme for Government, to changing the current process, removing the requirements of medical and judicial approval and requiring a statutory declaration with parental consent.

2. The column states “the Gender Recognition Act was passed quietly back in 2015 with scarcely a peep of debate…more of a fait accompli than a conversation”. Over 240+ articles were published (including articles by Eilis O’Hanlon herself) about this issue as it progressed through the courts, with the Dr. Lydia Foy case, and as the legislation was debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas, with public records of those Oireachtas debates also published contemporaneously. TENI and other advocacy groups engaged at all levels of media at the time, including on radio and television. There was nothing in any way underhand, secretive or complicit about how the Act came about. That it secured widespread public and political support at the time merely underlines how badly needed it was.

3. Ms. O’Hanlon writes that “there have been numerous cases around the world of women being sexually assaulted in female-only spaces by biological males”. This is a deliberately misleading statement, commonly used by transphobic people in their attempt to suggest that trans women are men, block transgender rights and incite hatred towards trans people. International research proves that, across all sectors of society, the perpetrators of violence against women – including against trans women – are overwhelmingly cisgender men.

4. Ms. O’Hanlon writes “there are plenty of documented harms done to children…by encouraging young people to treat gender as a mere matter of feelings”. As experts working directly with schools and children nationwide, we know trans youth are one of the most marginalised groups of adolescents in society. We see first-hand the harm inflicted on them when they are denied the right to gender recognition and documentation to traverse life in a safe way. Trans young people are more likely to be bullied, experience anxiety, depression, face violence, have low self-esteem, navigate homelessness, or die by suicide. It is also worth noting that gender recognition does not involve any medical intervention or transition: it is simply about respecting a person’s gender identity.

Contrary to Eilis O’Hanlon’s beliefs, TENI, BeLonG To and LGBT Ireland are not “extremists” but national organisations operating in the public sphere with proven track records of successfully supporting LGBT+ people. We receive State funding and work in close collaboration with State agencies, providing much-needed life-saving services and supports.

The irresponsible, hate-filled scaremongering views expressed by Eilis O’Hanlon have a direct impact on the lives of trans people, and on the lives of their families and friends. Transphobia has no place in the pages of a national newspaper.

The Coalition Against Transphobia Comprised of:

• Transgender Equality Network Ireland
• Belong To
• LGBT Ireland