‘Whilst registered as a candidate for the Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth, I have not been registered for any other research award. The results and conclusions embodied in this thesis are the work of the named candidate and have not been submitted for any other academic award.’
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This thesis examines the clash between transgender ideology and women’s rights in the context of female-only spaces in the male violence against women sector. Through exploring the silencing of feminist discourse regarding the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (2004) from the UK Governments of England and Wales, and Scotland, this research provides an original contribution to assess the impact and consequences of gender reform and self-identification, in both policy and legislation, on the United Kingdom’s male violence against women (MVAW) sector.
Taking a qualitative approach, 31 participants were interviewed from both sides of the gender reform debate, this was combined with online ethnographic research from the social media platform Twitter. The data was coded and categorised in a thematic analysis and seven main themes emerged which were collapsed into two chapters analysing the ‘debate’ and the impact of gender reform on the MVAW sector. The findings highlight a stark difference between the public discourse of transgender ideologues and the participant data, the former of which claim inclusion of transwomen in female-only spaces are supported by the MVAW sector. However, the research illuminated that blanket acceptance of transwomen in female-only spaces was largely rejected by both sides of the debate, and the retention of these spaces alongside specialist services for transgender victims were offered up as a solution. The research evidences the topic being shrouded in silence and fear, particularly for women who work within the MVAW sector. Through the passivity of the umbrella bodies in the MVAW sector and unwillingness of politicians to support reasoned public discourse, policy capture of transgender ideology has been enforced. This research provides an original and authentic contribution to the debate.
In the first instance I would like to acknowledge all the participants who took part, without whom the research would not have been possible: my sincere thanks.
To my supervisor Andy Williams, whose patient guidance and confidence in me has enabled me to believe from the start that I can do this, I owe you a drink!
To the many feminist sisters who bravely spoke up years ahead of me and who continue to fight for women’s sex-based rights. To all the women I have been lucky enough to support over the years, you are my inspiration and I am forever privileged that you trusted me.
To my work colleagues, who have tolerated an untold amount of brain fog since I took this on. Thanks, in particular to Heather, Lyn and Zoe, who all read my meanderings and never once questioned my motives.
For all my friends, but in particular, Sarah – who will forever be my never-ending soul sister. Vonny – whose quiet confidence and unwavering loyalty grounded me at the worst of times. And Lucy – whose tenacity and defiance is infectious. Thank you all for the belly laughter and for never questioning my 4am voice notes.
Special thanks to my family, to my steady rock Lee whose firm belief and repeated phrase “you can do this, you’ll be fine”, has finally paid off – I love you always and forever. To my Hamish, never change wee man, never falter, never conform, if they made them all like you, I’d happily be out of a job.
To my parents who never questioned my ability, particularly my Mum, whose response to the teachers who said I would amount to nothing was to instil resolute, rebellious faith in me – we showed them Mama – I love you.
Finally, this is for you Isla. Raise your voice sweetheart – you have power. Know, whatever the fight, you can lead from right out front and there will always be a whole army of sisters right behind you. Be brave! Be fierce! And if anyone tries to silence you, never, ever forget your heritage.