Amongst the many possible motives why a man might wish to magically transform himself into a woman, being able to contract the highly painful womb-related disease of endometriosis is not one you may think ranks highly amongst them. Yet this was the initial impression given by medical charity Endometriosis South Coast (ESC), which last week announced the appointment of a transgender woman now known as Steph Richards as its new head.
Alongside a fetching image of Steph in a dress, ESC also posted a short quote: “Isn’t it ridiculous that I’ve got to my 40s, before any medical professionals even mentioned endometriosis?” The natural conclusion most readers may have drawn would be that Steph himself was asking this, and that the answer to his question would in fact be: “No, it’s perfectly logical, as endometriosis is primarily a disease of the female womb, which you don’t have, because you are a man.”
However, it turned out the quote in question was really from an authentically female member of “the endo community” who had previously made use of the charity’s services, not 71-year-old Steph at all. Apologising for the “misunderstanding”, ESC explained Steph had been hired due to his alleged past background in the general field, not “because they [sic] have their own endo journey”. But, according to critics, Richards allegedly has no meaningful medical background, apparently being an ex-hairdresser and beautician. Still, a nice new haircut and some lipstick are all you need to become a woman these days, aren’t they?
Endo the Line?
In response to widespread criticism, ESC released this statement: “Helping those in need has nothing to do with ‘sex’ – proven by the fact there are thousands of cisgender male gynaecologists and midwives based in the U.K. and beyond.” Besides the fatuous use of inverted commas around the word ‘sex’ there – implying such a crude phenomenon no longer even exists – this is not a wholly unreasonable point. As Steph further explained, the CEOs of homeless charities “don’t live in tents”.
That isn’t really the main problem here, though. If you read ESC’s PR material, the charity was willing to call a man like Steph Richards a ‘woman’ (there are some inverted commas of my own), but actual women were merely called ‘people’ by it: it is as if Richards is considered more authentically female by the organisation than, you know, actual females, or something. Indeed, its website specifically carries material saying that using “gendered language” like ‘woman’ in relation to the disease is something “steeped in racialised and heterosexist stereotypes of female passivity”.
Steph Richards called criticism “transmisogyny”, but the true danger is the perplexing mixed messaging being sent out. If Steph had been quietly appointed purely because of his ability to perform an effective job, with no reference made to his transgender status, then it may not have been as much of an issue. However, his self-evident constant campaigning stance could end up overcomplicating actual health messaging, thereby harming the charity’s actual main supposed purpose: to help women suffering with endometriosis.
The head of his own organisation, TransLucent, Richards is also a Women’s Officer for Portsmouth Labour Party, which says everything, and formerly operated a ‘safe space’ where grown men could come and dress up as schoolgirls or brides in wedding dresses without being laughed at by the general public. As ESC’s current Chief Executive, Jodie Hughes, a (real) woman with her own personal ‘endo journey’ herself, also has a background in trans activism, it seems highly likely Richards’ appointment possessed some deliberate political purpose to it. After all, Steph has in the past posted tweets like this:
I’d rather not “see you in the loo” if it’s all the same with you, Steph, thank you very much. Back when you were still called ‘Stephen’, I might have expected to have seen you occasionally standing around using a urinal, though.
In a subsequent interview on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour – which, despite its name, does allow male guests – Richards defended using the generic word ‘everyone’ to describe sufferers, rather than the word ‘women’, as this was more inclusive of the “something like 5,000 to 5,500 trans men [i.e., women pretending to be men] who have endometriosis who probably feel rather left out”.
His boss Jodie Hughes, meanwhile, a self-declared “cis heterosexual woman”, told Woman’s Hour that “I was brought in… to raise awareness of endometriosis full stop. … It’s pretty amazing that within five days [of ostentatiously appointing a transgender person] I have achieved that and the vehicle that’s done that is transphobia”. That sounds perilously close to saying Steph Richards’ whole appointment was a publicity stunt. But, even if Steph’s appointment did “raise awareness of endometriosis”, in what precise way did it do so? If it did so in a fundamentally inaccurate and confusing fashion, then that’s not actually much real use, is it?
Womb for Confusion
Plenty of people – including many women – don’t know what endometriosis is, allowing unsympathetic doctors to dismiss patients as neurotic, a successful diagnosis sometimes taking years. They need to know it is a condition where womb-like tissue grows in places it really shouldn’t, like the fallopian tubes or ovaries, causing symptoms like period pain, discomfort during vaginal penetration and difficulty getting pregnant, symptoms that can only ever be experienced by actual women.
Yet some generic symptoms – generalised abdominal pain, queasiness, etc. – can be felt by men too, during innumerable other illnesses. So: can you actually join up with ‘the endo community’ if you’re biologically male? According to this online guide from U.S. “queer sex educator and wellness journalist” Gabrielle Kassel, who also has a sideline in “reviewing pleasure products” (which I think means she gets paid to use dildos), such a miracle is actually possible.
Kassel explains that “prolonged exposure to oestrogen therapy”, traditionally during prostate cancer treatment, can sometimes give a man endo. And yet, despite this fact, “it can be tricky [for a man] to get an endometriosis diagnosis” – even more so than for a woman.
Can this be true? Sort of. See this genuine 2018 medical paper, where it is shown that, on extremely rare occasions, “endometriosis has been found in the lower genitourinary tract of men”. How often, though? Well, at point of the paper’s publication, there were 17 known such cases in all of recorded history, whereas perhaps one in 10 women of reproductive age on the planet currently have it: about 190 million women vs 17 men. This is clearly characteristically a female disease.
Possibly transgender ‘women’ of tomorrow, pumped full of oestrogen not merely for an unavoidable condition like cancer, but as part of their voluntary and medically unnecessary gender-transition, may one day begin to muddy the waters a bit. Indeed, may it not be guessed that the current boom in sex-changes might actually fuel an unwanted future increase in endometriosis amongst males? By promoting transgenderism, misguided bodies like ESC could well end up inadvertently causing a rise in cases of the condition they ostensibly seek to abolish.
The whole situation gets worse when we consider the even greater impossibility of male periods and related problems. I well remember some schoolboy bullies once convincing a particularly effeminate male classmate of ours that they had all had their first period already, and wanting to know if he had too, and if not, why not? Eventually he caved in and ‘admitted’ he had, to much cruel laughter all round. These days, an activist teacher might have stepped immediately in to affirm the poor boy’s delusions with a box of free Lil-Lets.
Cases are now on record of transgender women claiming to suffer common PMS-like symptoms like sore nipples, mood shifts, irritability, tiredness, bloating, cramping, nausea, headaches and so forth. What is unclear is whether these have any genuine physiological basis, perhaps triggered by some male-to-female wannabe sex-changers being fed HRT doses, or whether they are purely psychosomatic in nature. Such broad indicators could be simply self-imagined due to a pathetic desire to undergo an imaginary period on any such individual’s behalf; I’ve had most of the above-listed symptoms myself at some point in time, but I’ve certainly never needed to wear a tampon.
Nonetheless, you can now easily discover bizarre Blue Peter-style online guides for men in dresses who want to fake having heavy periods using spoonfuls of food-colouring and Ribena, despite this being wholly impossible: “Here’s a mess I made earlier.” According to one online trans activist – who also speaks of men he knows who have had “a lot of really bad period shits” too – “periods aren’t just for vaginas any more”.
Neither is endometriosis, it would appear. Apparently, this is called ‘medical progress’. They said that about lobotomies and leeches once, too, you know.
Steven Tucker is a journalist and the author of over 10 books, the latest being Hitler’s and Stalin’s Misuse of Science: When Science Fiction Was Turned Into Science Fact by the Nazis and the Soviets, which is out now.