IT'S impossible to solve a problem if you don't know what the issues are and, judging by some of the commentary around new Glasgow Life inclusion policies, people are really struggling to wrap their heads around the issues - at least when women are trying to explain them.

But women being disbelieved and silenced? No precedent for that, eh?

Recently it emerged that Glasgow Life had introduced a trans-inclusive policy in 2016 that was so broad-ranging as to include cross-dressers. The policy essentially allows anyone who doesn't identify as a man to join women-only sport sessions and use women's changing facilities and toilets based on their own say-so.

That, incidentally, is another of the complaints from women: that new trans inclusive policies inadvertently mean that women are back to defining themselves in relation to men, something feminists have been working for decades to end.

Feminists expressed concerns about this, pointing out that women have a right to define their own boundaries and say who they want to share spaces with and that this policy is open to abuse.

In a misconception, people seem to think this suggests that feminists are saying trans women are, at best, a problem and, at worst, predatory. No.

Women are saying that men are a problem. Let me define what I mean by man: a person born male who identifies as a man. No one is suggesting that trans women are the problem here. They are saying that they are at threat from men: this is a long established fact.

At Tramway, the ground floor toilets have been made mixed-sex in order to be more inclusive. There is nothing inherently wrong with mixed sex toilets when they are designed properly and take safety and dignity into account: so, individual, self contained toilets. Tramway, in Pollokshields, has merely changed its signage.

The formerly women's toilets have now a sign saying Cubicles, while the formerly men's toilets now are labelled Cubicles and Urinals. Women are unlikely to choose to use the toilets with urinals and so all this does is open up a women's space to men. Essentially, you now have a men's toilet and an everyone else toilet.

There are, Glasgow Life is at pains to point out, single-sex facilities. Anyone who doesn't want to share a toilet with someone of another sex or gender can use the accessible toilet - thus getting in the way of any disabled person who needs the loo - or they can go upstairs.


Lack of complaints over Glasgow Life policy

And that's quite a neat analogy for Glasgow Life's inclusion policy as a whole. If women complain about sharing a space with someone who is male bodied, they are to have it "sensitively explained" that they are in the wrong.

Again, the issue here is not trans women or trans people. The issue is men. The issue is that by opening up women's spaces to anyone at all, you leave those spaces open to abuse.

An FOI request reported on by the Evening Times last week detailed that there have been no complaints about trans people's behaviour at women only sessions. In fact, two of the five complaints reported since 2015 have been that the women-only sessions exist at all. Let me guess - were those complaints from men?

The premise of the FOI is problematic. Firstly, it didn't ask how many trans people had used the women-only sessions. I asked Glasgow Life and was told, as expected, that the organisation doesn't record such data.

This renders the statement "no women have reported any issues with trans individuals" completely meaningless because we cannot know from the FOI information given whether there were any trans people to complain about.

But more than that - it is utterly besides the point. The complaint about the Glasgow Life policies is not about trans people.

And, in fact, the policy itself, now that people know about it following media coverage, has received complaints - six complaints and eight FOI requests, which Glasgow Life says are being responded to.

It's really important that everyone - absolutely everyone - has equal access to sport and leisure facilities and as part of its work, Glasgow Life has also developed sport and physical participation programmes specifically for trans people.

Equal access can't be at the expense of women's safety. We know that women find it difficult to report adverse events, so the lack of complaints doesn't really tell us that no unpleasant events have occurred on Glasgow Life premises. If they have, and have been reported, have they been recorded properly? And if they have been recorded properly, have they been collated?

Is the intent of asking about complaints around women-only sport sessions to check that women are ok? Or is the intent to provide a "gotcha" that will shut women up? I haven't seen any expression of relief from those talking about the issue that women - as is their reading of the figures - haven't been put in threatening or uncomfortable positions.

What this feels like, to many women, is just yet another excuse in a long, long, centuries old tradition of shouting at women. Of telling women they are wrong. Of disbelieving them. Of not allowing them to define themselves.

I see many men online who I've always viewed as being decent, thoughtful feminist allies. And yet it increasingly feels like they haven't really been on board at all. It feels like they have had a pool of misogyny bubbling away under the surface and now, finally, there is an excuse to let it stream out while still be on the side of "right".


Row over new mixed sex toilets

Finally an excuse to chide women, silence them and still be the "good guy". Pretty perfect all round. I wonder if they ever stop to think why it might be that the women they know who hold these views, women who they also previously thought of as decent, intelligent people, are suddenly hateful, phobic bigots.

Perhaps it's not they are hateful or phobic. Perhaps men need to stop and listen.

The last time I wrote about the issues with the Tramway toilets, a man who I have always known to be deeply involved in the fight for equality and who is a senior member of Glasgow Life staff, mocked women's concerns on Twitter. When I responded to his tweet he said he wasn't mocking women's concerns, merely "making light" of them. So, even men who are really engaged with the issues still struggle to really get it.

These are all complex issues of safety, dignity and rights on which there is very little consensus - between trans people, between feminists, between women and between men. It will take work and compassion to untangle.

The one thing it is very easy to be clear on, however, is that trans people are not the issue.


Predatory men are the issue and it would be appreciated if the men using their energy to chide women could instead turn it towards the actual source of the problem.