Irish lawmaker dodges question on definition of 'woman' by invoking trans rights

The Northern Irish leader of the opposition, Matthew O’Toole, faced tough questioning during a BBC interview recently when he was asked to define what a woman is and whether he believes a man wearing a dress should be allowed access to the private spaces of women and girls.

O’Toole’s appearance on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show took an awkward turn when host Stephen Nolan brought the topic around to trans issues. Nolan asked O’Toole whether he thought biological men dressed as women should be allowed to use communal changing rooms with teenage girls.

O’Toole made a valiant attempt at dodging the question by first claiming not to understand it, but Nolan pressed the issue, rewording the question to make it plain and clear.

“If someone with a penis is dressed as a woman, can that person, with a penis, walk into a teenage girls’ changing room?” asked Nolan.

Calling the premise of the question “slightly strange,” O’Toole then replied that “there have always been people who are trans,” followed by much stuttering and talk of the gender binary and genders being assigned at birth.

Then the Irish Social Democratic and Labour Party Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) suggested that society needs to get to place where the rights of transgender people are better protected and where they have access to proper healthcare.

“If you’re asking me is it unthinkable that a trans person, in a particular context, might make use of gender neutral toilets, for example, or changing facilities, it depends on the specific context but I don’t think that’s something that should be ruled out because this is about properly esteeming people and giving them their, acknowledging their gender,” O’Toole blundered on, completely ignoring the actual question.

“And just to be clear: I think we can achieve this without getting in the way of other people’s rights and ensuring that people feel reassured about questions about safety,” he added, failing to elaborate on how awarding men the right to female spaces could be achieved without infringing on the right of women and girls to single-sex spaces.

“What’s your definition of a woman?” Nolan then asked.

“In general, clearly, most women are women who are biologically female. There are also trans women, and I don’t think that should be a shocking statement. I don’t think it should be a controversial statement,” replied O’Toole.

He explained that he has no problem saying that trans women are women and that he thinks they should be acknowledged as such. Then came some incoherent rambling about how “a lot of this stuff is new to people” and perhaps for “women who’ve experienced life, and a huge part of that experience of life has been around the physical experience of menstruation,” this issue might take time to discuss.

O’Toole then called the question a “gotcha.”

Image: Title: O'Toole