Avoiding transition

-Doctor, I am a trans woman. I want to transition, and I want your help and support to do that: I want testosterone suppressants and oestrogen, and I may want surgery at some time, I have not completely decided on that.

-Many people transition, and find it makes them happier and better adjusted. You can certainly transition. Why do you want to?

-I knew there was something wrong before I went to school, and when I went to school I worked out what it was. I was a girl, and I am a woman. I did not feel as the boys felt. I did not want to play with the boys. Now, I do not like to be with the blokes. I much prefer being with women.

-What does it mean to be a woman? When you say you are a trans woman, what is it that you are?

-I am feminine, by which I mean I am sensitive. I have strong feelings, and I like to express them. I am good at reading the feelings of others. I loathe conflict, and like reconciliation. I want people to be happy. I have a strong aesthetic sense: I love beauty, and enjoy flower arranging.

-I wonder if that could be a description of a man. Have you ever heard Alfred Brendel play Beethoven, or Maurizio Pollini, Chopin? Can you hear the strong feelings, the sweet yearning gentleness, expressed there? Or have you seen the paintings of Henry Raeburn or Allan Ramsay: there is strong feeling. The painters well those passions read, which yet survive on the living canvas. Both painted women as well as men. As for wanting people to be happy, Jesus would not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick. Jeremy Corbyn, always speaking out for peace- is he not a man? Or Carl Rogers, who founded person-centred counselling? Why is being a man so difficult for you? What does it mean to be a man?

-Rudyard Kipling’s If. The Scout Law. Self-reliance. Rationality. Preferring things over people, rationally organising. Relishing conflict, and overcoming.

-These are difficult for anybody. If all around are losing their heads, and only one is keeping his, are the others not men, or not real men, or what? What should they do? Give up their Man card? Can you think of anyone who is like that? It seems to me your difficulty is not with being a man, but with your idea of what a man should be.

-Well, in my case I want to transition. I am happiest when I am Clare, and when I go back to being Stephen it is horrible.

 ♥♥♥

The lightbulb must want to change. By the time you see the gender psychiatrist, you know who you are, and what you need. No-one goes to the psychiatrist because they might be transsexual. Now, years afterwards, I am well aware of the breadth of male and female emotional expression and rationality, relish for conflict or desire for reconciliation, interest in things or people. I can value my gentleness. Now, with the new concept of gender-schematic, I can see that imagining some concept of manhood separate from my own gifts and inclinations is poisonous rather than idealistic, pointless and harmful, and while one might escape it into transition it would be so much better to escape it into appreciation of onesself as a rounded human being.

As for “femininity”, women are not all like that, and to some extent neither am I. So often in a group, the trans woman is the only one in a skirt, the cis women are far more spirited than our passive ideal. One sees that “femininity” is often oppressive. Equality is better than subordination- By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: the very being and existence of the woman is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband, wrote Blackstone (quoted by Rebecca Solnit). Concepts of femininity might be closer to who I am than the concept of masculinity I grew up with, but still require me to deny parts of myself. It seems such a long way round to self-acceptance.

People will continue to transition. Many people are satisfied with the result of their operations, and others’ dissatisfaction as well as my own goes with poorer results- pain, and lessened sensitivity. If I advise people not to transition, that may fall on deaf ears. Yet there are better ways to health. How to unpick the desire? I do not advocate conversion therapy, but self-acceptance: yet acceptance of body as well as character. “Why are you so unhappy?” might be a good question.

On trans rights, having transitioned I am entitled to be treated as a woman. So are any others who go through this. It is hard enough to be trans, without the covenant we have with liberal human rights, by which we are members of the acquired gender, being overturned.

Hanging

When committing suicide by hanging, I would want the right quality bit of rope: I would want the knot to slip easily as I dropped, then hold tightly as I thrashed. I would not want to “dance til noon”. The metal steps out the back would be a good place, as it would give me a longish drop to get the knot good and tight: the shock might make me unconscious instantaneously. When I got the rope, I would consider the appropriate knot.

I am not suicidal at the moment, but I gave this some thought in December. Then when I might see an NHS psychotherapist and was assessed whether my depression was severe enough, she quizzed me in detail about my suicidal ideation- or fantasy. I did not think about being found, either the shame of it or the shock for the finder. Yes I made acts preparative to suicide, in 2003 and 2009. She found my depression moderate, which might have been severe enough, but my anxiety only mild to healthy, which was not enough. I wonder if my anxiety would manifest more if I were living with someone else. Clare, you are not bringing in any money, and the house is a tip again. And I would go quakey and start to greet.

Feelings manifest themselves consciously when they need to, when the conscious mind is making demands. So I thought I wanted to go to the Quaker meeting, and then manifested anxiety symptoms. No, I do not want to see those people. And my inner rationalist looked on, perplexed but persuaded by the manifestation.

-Who are you angry with?
-The whole fucking world.
-Are there people you warm to?
-Yes, actually, including some who do not warm to me.

I am seen as someone to fear, which perplexes and bamboozles me, because I see myself as gentle, and have been at great pains to establish to my own satisfaction that I would not get physically violent. And because I find my own force of character difficult to understand, whether I constrain it or let it run free. It terrifies me how badly I can come across when I mean well.

I want to be able to sit in silence with these people and chat over coffee after. I want that to continue, and if that seemed reasonably stable I would want them to give me a task which I would find worthwhile. Quaker Voices printed my writing, but it has shut down.

-What does being Quaker give you?
Pain. But also contact with stimulating highly intelligent spiritual empathetic witty people. This is a connection I don’t want to lose, but if my becoming distressed is a Wrong that I commit, which could justify my exclusion, then I might be excluded at any time for something I cannot control. When we fall out, we fall out really badly and can be self-righteously vindictive.

I will try to come across as loving and positive, and hopeful, and not let rage and terror too much get in the way.

-Are there enough warm souls to carry you forward?
-No.

And yet when I said I could not be my whole self, that my distress was unwelcome, he denied it. Perhaps he does not know. I want our naked humanity to come out. There was some backslapping about the story-telling event, when lots of us gathered to hear a story-teller from Bedford. I felt that was a missed opportunity, that we should come together to see each other, to know and be known, not to be entertained, but the friendly togetherness and light small-talk was adjudged a success.

I value the silence. I find it hard work, to be present with my whole self, to accept my whole self, to know my whole self- sometimes I approach that, sometimes I don’t.

In December, I gave the matter of how I would hang myself some thought. I do not want to be maimed. I do not want to survive it. I want it to be as quick and painless as possible. I note that I am using the present tense, even though I do not want to do it, now.

Gender-schematic

Gender-schematic people use gender stereotypes to organise information in their world. People who identify strongly with their gender stereotype adopt attitudes and behaviours consistent with it, and use it to judge others. That seems me to fit trans folk. We imagine that “masculine” and “feminine” have meaning. Trans women I know tried desperately to fit the masculine stereotype, perhaps even ultra-masculine, and then become ultra-feminine, at least in presentation.

Cordelia Fine did not say how the Attitude Interest Analysis Survey decided what was masculine and what was feminine. Hundreds of specimen attitudes, emotions, personality traits and occupational choices were put before American school-children. Those which elicited strongly different responses from one sex were included in the survey. So it is a test of conformity: those who score as particularly masculine or feminine are those who want to conform. Trans people can report that does not mean we accurately estimate who we are.

The Bem Sex Role Inventory, made by S.L. Bem, asked adults about the desirability of traits in men and in women. It had separate scales, one for masculinity, one for femininity, and so could produce results as masculine, feminine, androgynous (both) or undifferentiated (neither). I found this pdf for the Personal Attributes Questionnaire, which indicates the scores with the questions. I scored myself high feminine, low masculine, though wondered whether others would score me the same. Would their estimation of me equal mine? For this test, to be “excitable”  in a major crisis is thought feminine, to be calm, masculine. But the weaker person with less control might be resigned, rather than excitable. Excitable might go with panic and fruitless activity or passion and directed activity. One might think it “British” to be calm, and “Italian” (well, we are talking stereotypes) to be excitable.

The source I looked at said PAQ measured “desirable” traits. I don’t see excitability in a crisis to be desirable, but then I am British, and conform to that stereotype to a great extent. Also, it said “feminine” in the test meant expressive, and “masculine”, instrumental. It says it is masculine to be competitive, but not feminine to be uncompetitive. Fine says that women can be competitive, in sports and for academic advancement.

PAQ says women are sensitive, in the negative sense that their feelings are easily hurt and the positive sense that they are aware of the feelings of others. I feel these traits go together.

I don’t know what I would have said when I was struggling so gamely to make a man of myself. I know that I was not aware of my feelings, and might have been similarly unaware of my attributes. I remember claiming not to be easily hurt, and Moira incredulously denying that. I would deny it myself, now.

I feel my self-perception now- that I am easily hurt- is more accurate than it was then. This seems a matter of learning about myself as I age, but could equally be conforming to a feminine stereotype. One does not feel as one ought to feel, but as one feels, and that can be difficult to understand. I find the idea of what feelings are appropriate can be a barrier to knowing what one actually feels. I remember being surprised in the hour of my mother’s death that none of us were crying.

It could then be that trans people are just particularly gender-schematic, that we understand people through the concept of gender. Unable to fit as men, trans women transition. This may go along with arousal at cross-dressing, not as a prime cause but as a factor making transition more likely. The end of the concept of gender, as a way of understanding others or ourselves, would liberate us to find out who we really are.

Psychology Research and Reference on masculinity and femininity.

Mumsnet

There was a suggestion that trans activists had urged advertisers to boycott Mumsnet, the parents’ forum which is an increasing centre for hatefests against trans folk. I doubt anyone pro-trans has any power to begin to make Mumsnet edit out the hatred and vitriol, but someone said there had been a few tweets. So I went back to Mumsnet, to see what it was like.

There’s a thread on boycotting the Guardian, because they don’t find it transphobic enough. I’m looking for an alternative news source and for the first time in my life I’m actually considering the Times or the Telegraph, neither of which have been allowed over my threshold till now, said the original poster. I’d support [The Times] for Janice Turner’s stance alone, said another. Poster after poster echoes this, often proclaiming how left-wing they think they are, even how they do not like money going to Murdoch, and because The Times is relentlessly transphobic and The Guardian isn’t, they change their newspaper.

They see themselves as victims. So there really is no alternative leftish news source that hasn’t turned on feminists? Well, Hadley Freeman is transphobic, but the pro-trans articles put them off.

On girl guides, one claims “a close trans friend” told her she is lesbian, trans girls can share tents with other girls despite perhaps being attracted to girls, then writes And the girls are not allowed to say anything. Please tell me this is wrong. Well, only if it is wrong for lesbians to share tents with straight girls. If any trans girl does anything wrong, deal with the problem then, as you would with any other girl. This miasma of fear of what might happen with trans girls is literally transphobic. If you’re not afraid of driving despite the statistical likelihood of accidents, don’t spread fear of what trans folk might do. One denies being phobic: That’s what I keep saying in response to the people who squawk with outrage and say “are you saying all transgirls are predators?” My answer is, no of course they’re not. But all you need is mixed accommodation and normal levels of teenage hormonally driven randiness and consensual experimentation and… et voila, teenage pregnancies. All must suffer, because of her fears.

One thread demands an email pile-on. Sue Lent, chair of governors at Roath Park primary school, held a “Woman’s Place” hatefest against trans folk. She now faces an extraordinary Governors’ meeting concerning their Equality statement: Roath Park Primary School is committed to working towards equality regardless of …gender reassignment, and to the creation of an inclusive culture. Women’s Place UK isn’t. I found a transcript on Medium. It starts with the deliberate lie, any man- for whatever reason he chooses- will be able to fill out a form and declare himself legally a woman. Not according to the Scottish consultation, and highly unlikely if England ever consults. It then fearmongers: an aggressive, ideological assault on the sex based exemptions… the aggressive shut down of any dialogue… effectively obliterate all the rights and protections women spent centuries fighting for. This out of proportion reaction- Trans rights are the Death of Feminism!- justifies any hate they spew in their eyes.

India Willoughby was on talk radio to talk about Mumsnet. There’s a thread on that. Transgender identified males have been trying to roll back women’s rights for 14 years. She means since the Gender Recognition Act, but we have been transitioning for millennia.

It does seem to be the same people, over and over again, though one says I wouldn’t have questioned trans ideology without Mumsnet anyway. When someone challenges them, “I smell MRA” says someone, and another responds I smell something. Someone open a window. They can’t bear being challenged.

Another thread is plotting pretending to be men, as if self-ID were anything like that. They want to swim topless. I live in Northern Ireland but I’d travel to London for an organised Hampstead Heath swim-in protest, says someone. They are obsessive. The longer the government delays the consultation, the louder the hatred gets.

Turning

I find it hard to admit that anything I do or think of doing is difficult. Turning my life around is like turning a supertanker, rather than turning a knob on a cooker. It is hard to say these things.

In shame, I hide away, and try to conform- with an idea of what is normal, which is not necessarily shared by anyone else. That’s why I had my balls cut off, which pleased me so much at the time, and now I am kicking myself because my ideal was not real, and I should have realised that.

I am highly intelligent, unreconciled to a lifetime of not getting it, or getting it too late. And negative. When things go wrong, I notice, and that affects my actions afterwards. My work of disentangling myself is to bring these things to consciousness, in counselling, and then to type them here.

There are things which cannot be said or acknowledged. There is a normal way of doing things which is just normal, however ineffective: trying to work out a better way is just too much work, or I cannot imagine working out a better way.

We find ways of fitting Normal to ourselves, but if we are too far from it that becomes too difficult.

-I hear you perceiving and holding your friends’ differences and hope you might not be entirely conventional with them.

Can I be without the mask with others? Can I ever say what I think or feel? Sometimes, though I would not feel the need to blog if I could do it with other people.

I say “What is interesting is delightful”. I like things which pique my interest. Let’s have a look at that. So it is not the thing in itself, it is my attitude to it which I like, my curiosity finding a loose corner and prying it open, finding out.

Then, though, I said “What is interesting is delightful” and immediately began questioning and doubting it. I think I am only saying that because it is a thing I think would be admirable or good.

I find it hard to say these things out loud, even to Tina, so I type the next bit: “Life is terrifying”. Then I could say it. As in, “May you live in interesting times”. No I don’t like interesting, I want boring. And yet now I think I find “What is interesting is delightful” admirable and good because it is my best self, my self going out to meet the world and engage, and I can do that, it is real me not mask or pretence, not a gambit in the conventional game of counselling where we both want me to take off my masks and instead I try on different ones.

And life is terrifying, whether I engage with it or not.

Mmm. The knob on a cooker, or the supertanker. Turning should be easy, should be the task of a moment, and when it is not I leap to the conclusion that it is horrendously difficult. It is as it is. Do I want to change? Then, change. Easy, difficult, that does not matter, the judgment of difficulty gets in the way, especially the judgment that I am making no progress gets in the way. That judgment, my inner critic, speaks in fear and seeks to drive me to greater effort, but I can no longer be driven in that way. Changing it to encouraging, to seeing progress, is my war.

Testosterone Rex

From the opening joke about testicles as a key-fob, Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine is a lively read. It argues that gender roles arise not from testosterone, or from our evolution on the savannahs of Africa, but from Patriarchy, by close analysis of scientific studies showing that expected gender differences do not manifest in results, and that results found do not justify the large claims made.

There lies the difficulty for me. I am unable to delve into the primary sources. I would not know where to start. Political interests drive the confirmation bias of researchers, on both sides, and patriarchy affects the theorising which makes researchers or funders choose particular projects. Fine quotes Lewis Wolpert, CBE FRS FRSL FMedSci, the author of a number of popular science books: There is no doubt that biology, via evolution and genetics, has made men and women significantly different. Fine disagrees, and has assembled impressive evidence. I am aware of Wolpert, more as an author of popular science books than for his work on intracellular positional information that guides cellular development, but he is an eminent man. Why should I believe Fine over him?

She shows that research has been based on the idea of masculinity and femininity as opposite ends of a spectrum. In 1936, the Attitude Interest Analysis Survey asked 456 questions, each of which had a “masculine” or “feminine” answer. In the 1970s, the Personal Attributes Questionnaire, with two sets of questions to measure stereotypically masculine and feminine traits separately, showed one can have both “masculine” traits of “instrumentality”, like self-confidence, independence and competitiveness, and “feminine” traits of “expressiveness”, being emotional, gentle and caring. Or, neither. But also the masculine and feminine traits don’t necessarily go together. Always the argument that women can have gifts or interests thought masculine is fighting the assumptions of researchers. The concepts of masculinity and femininity get in the way of seeing how men and women actually are.

She shows how children are indoctrinated into gender, by the pink and blue toy aisles, and by peer pressure. I told my great-niece she was strong, as well as beautiful, for standing up and learning to walk. If girls were feminine at her age of ten months, one would expect them to work on talking first, to express themselves, and boys on walking for instrumentality. There is no such clear difference. Yet there is a great backlash against gender neutral toy-marketing, as if that were the indoctrination.

She describes the White Male effect. Are men more willing to take risks? In the US, a survey showed that men are; but not ethnic minority men. Privileged men are more likely to take risks. And it depends what risks are named, for people take risks where they are familiar with the matter. A risk of high taxation might provoke privileged male fear. And the “funnel plot”, a way of excluding publication bias: where studies show greater female risk-taking, they are less likely to be published. In Sweden, men and women were equal risk takers, but again immigrants, subject to discrimination, would take less risks. Of course: they are less safe.

Are men more competitive for mates, or less likely to be faithful? She accepts that men invest less in producing a baby, a few sperm rather than forty weeks’ incubation, but not that this means men want to spread it around, which might not produce children anyway. In evolutionary biology, sexual selection is in an exciting state of turmoil.

Does testosterone make men more likely to take risks? Not necessarily. Higher testosterone levels in men who take risks is correlation, not necessarily causation. The way testosterone fluctuation in the blood affects the brain is unclear, and women have testosterone too.

She ends with a call to arms. We can continue with our polite, undemanding panel discussions about gender equality, our good intentions and gentle tinkering, and patiently wait out the fifty to one hundred or so years it’s regularly predicted to take to achieve parity in the workplace. But… maybe it’s time to be less polite and more disruptive, like the first- and second-wave feminists. They weren’t always popular, it’s true. But look at what they achieved by not asking nicely.

And look at what she promises: valuation of your gifts as a human being, separate from preconceptions about how a man or woman ought to be. We could see ourselves more clearly. Women freed to express their gifts would benefit all.

Tara Wolf

Tara Wolf, a trans woman, has been convicted of assault of Maria MacLachlan. There are estimated to be 1.2m violent incidents in a year in England and Wales, including 13,000 assaults with a blade with intent to cause serious harm; yet this minor assault reaches the pages of The Times. It was tried before a district judge, a professional lawyer, rather than a magistrate, which shows the case’s sensitivity, but still. The article starts,

A transgender activist was branded a “violent thug” yesterday after being found guilty of attacking a 60-year-old woman at a rally.

Tara Wolf, 26, who was born male but identifies as female,

Why the need to explain? Most people will understand the term “trans woman”, and anyone who doesn’t would hardly be interested in the article. Thank goodness they don’t know her dead name. Who “branded”- I think they mean “called”- her a violent thug? Her victim, who has not behaved with grace. That bit’s at the end of the article: The judge also said, however, that Ms MacLachlan showed “bad grace” for failing to use her attacker’s preferred pronoun during the trial. Ms MacLachlan, speaking outside court, told of her disgust at being forced to address her attacker as a woman.

“It was particularly offensive because he is a violent male,” she said. “I have no problem addressing some of my trans friends as ‘she’. I have made a few trans friends as a result of this incident who have been very supportive and I completely respect them.

“They are not pretending to be women. He is a violent thug.”

Well, if you want people to sympathise when someone misgenders you, don’t assault them. Tara herself showed little remorse, issuing a statement which I have only seen on facebook: Throughout the trial, the claimant and witnesses in support of her spitefully referred to Ms Tara Wolf using “he” pronouns, despite being instructed to desist in this behaviour by the district judge. These bigots were offered the opportunity to refer to Ms Wolf as “The defendant”, an inoffensive gender neutral term, but persisted in their campaign of harassment against Ms Wolf by repeatedly misgendering her, intent on continuing to cause psychological harm against the defendant.

Well, Boo-Hoo. If you’re that much of a shrinking violet that psychological harm ensues from being misgendered by people who are never going to pass up the opportunity,

don’t assault one of them!

I mean, really. It’s not rocket-science!

Tara quotes the judge as saying she had caused “low harm” by her assault, and had “low culpability”, but she was still convicted. Tara says the fine was £150, and neglects to mention the £30 victim surcharge and £250 costs, which must not be “grossly disproportionate” to the fine or a sum beyond the capacity of the defendant to repay within a year. The fine depends on the defendant’s disposable income, so it is not clear whether it is large or not. £30 is the minimum surcharge, which is not paid directly to the victim. Instead, Maria could make a claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

It’s odd that Maria’s criterion for deciding whether to call a trans woman “she” is whether they claim to be women. If they don’t, and don’t offend her in any other way, she will deign to use female pronouns.

The Daily Mail’s headline was that Tara had “walked free from court”, as if all such minor assaults should end in clink. What would our prison population be then? 1.2 million, perhaps, a greater proportion of the population than even the USA. The Mail’s report gives considerably more detail, including the judge’s statement I suspect if that was the only altercation that was recorded during that event, it would not have resulted in this trial. So far from prison, in fact, that she was only prosecuted to make an example of someone. The commenters are still disappointed.

The videos appear to show MacLachlan holding a trans woman in a head lock but the judge “rejected evidence” of that. At the verdict, Julia Long, a passionate transphobe, shouted “Guilty, guilty, violent. The man is guilty, I don’t care.” Then she and her companions went to the court’s balcony and shouted “Guilty, guilty of male violence!”

A gender non-conforming child

In “Roseanne”, the main character’s grandchild, Mark, is gender non-conforming. He paints his nails and wears skirts to school, and yet he claims firmly that he is a boy. Roseanne tells him he has to pick his battles in life, and he says this is important.

Roseanne Barr is openly transphobic: “Women do not want your penises forced in their faces or in our private bathrooms. Respect that FACT.” Forcing a penis in someone’s face without consent is a disgusting image, and shows the visceral disgust she feels for ordinary people going for a pee. The producer consulted Lori Duron, whose son is like that; both the real and fictional families support their child.

So we have two groups of AMAB children: “3G” males, by genes, gonads and genitals. Both groups dress and present feminine. One group insist that they are trans, they are girls, and want called by a girl’s name and to be treated as the girls are treated, including access to the girls’ locker room, which makes all the conservatives angry and frightened. The other group insist they are boys, and insist on their right to present as they wish, which may contravene gendered school uniform rules. That is a huge difference between two groups of children who superficially seem very alike. What could cause it?

One possibility is that they are genuinely different, even though we might not have the language to describe the precise nature of the difference. The trans girls are innately trans. The cis boys are not stereotypically masculine and want visibly to spurn “masculinity” but are not trans.

Or, perhaps the social pressures on them are different. It depends on what they tell people, and what people tell them, and in what circumstances. Then, the slightest difference in treatment might push them down these radically different paths. They don’t know the right words, they just know what they want- to express themselves as girls do- and exploring what that might mean with adults pushes them one way or the other.

Or they could have different personalities. Both groups are challenging convention, but in different ways. I hate challenging convention, myself, I just want to fit in, and calling myself a woman seemed a way to fit in as best I could.

A recent meta-analysis of studies of gender transition shows benefits from surgical and hormonal treatment for gender dysphoric individuals: Among the positive outcomes of gender transition and related medical treatments for transgender individuals are improved quality of life, greater relationship satisfaction, higher self-esteem and confidence, and reductions in anxiety, depression, suicidality, and substance use. Yet this Boy-group does not want such treatment, and to tell them they were trans against their will, far worse to foist medical treatment on them, would be unethical. Many people can relate to the idea that sterilisation is bad for a person, to be denied even if they crave it.

We cannot make deductions about one of those groups from the experience of the other. Just because Lori’s son insists he is a boy, does not mean that the trans girls are. Just because he does not want medical treatment does not mean they should be denied it. We just don’t know. We can’t have a control group, of people who want transition and are denied it, to prove transition improves anyone’s situation. Possibly, he would have claimed to be a trans girl, in different circumstances: and if he claims to be one, then he is one, for there is no other way of knowing who is trans.

My solution for this is to make it less fraught. By the time either group has gone to school in a skirt, they have worn down intense resistance from family and friends, and shown they are willing to face standing out in a way often deliberately shamed. It takes courage and determination. If boys in skirts were no big deal, playing with dolls, whether every day or only some days, we could find what they really want.

Return to Edinburgh

I am very happy. I met my great-niece for the first time on Saturday. At ten months, she is standing up, and walking round furniture or when supported by two hands- sometimes by just one hand. She stood on my knee, and I told her how strong she was, and how wonderful that was. S tells me that “great-aunt” sounds much older than “grandmother”, but I am not convinced.

That is the first time I have seen the family since 2013. I suppose I am closer to them than at any time since then. I am unused to blogging like this, I am being especially politic: I restrict what I write to my reactions and feelings, but today not even all those; yet I can share the positive ones. I am happy. I may go back, even later this year, to scatter my father’s ashes, where we scattered my mother’s. The child’s parents are getting married. I hardly spoke to him, but he seems a decent bloke, attentive to his daughter.

Peter invited me, on the occasion of his thirtieth birthday.

-You’re not old enough to have a nephew aged 30, people tell me.
-I have an older sister who married young.
“I had him when I was fifteen,” joked S.

He has moved in with Amy, and they are getting married. He is happy with his job, and believes it has prospects, which pleases me. He picks things up. His MS has got no worse since he was put on a clinical trial, and he hopes the drug will be licensed. I worry for them, more than for my great-niece’s parents, and suppose they will face the difficulties couples face, and surpass them or not. She told me several things, some of which a parent might not want to hear, which I think are alright, actually. She is older than he is, and I like older women so I think that is fine and some people don’t.

It is never perfect. It is good enough.

I like her. I like her insecurities, they show sensitivity. And she arranged a good drink. I stayed with Fran, then walked along the Union canal to the restaurant, then to a pub, then another pub, then a third pub where Amy had arranged a downstairs room which she got for free if the people spent £300 on the bar. They did. The birthday cake was chocolate in the shape of a Wookie. Then I walked home along the canal, just before midnight, lit by tiny lights each side of the path, which was uncomfortable but safe enough.

Enough, enough, enough…

I went to Fran’s house, and was introduced to her daughter’s guinea-pig. It had beautiful long soft fur, but when I said yes I would like to cuddle it, and its cage was opened, it scuttled off into its box. I felt it is entitled to its autonomy so did not insist, but back in the living room picked up a teddy bear and stroked that.

I don’t like being human. I want to be a disembodied intellect.
-I know, said Tina.

Or, I want to be a fulfilled human. This need for closeness is such a pain when I cannot satiate it!

“Concerns about female safety”

I want women to be safe. Of course I do. I am one.

Self-ID is a small administrative change on the evidence required for trans people to change their gender legally. We never need to show our gender recognition certificates, and they have little effect except on marriage, and death certificates. So why the shouting? There are “concerns about female safety”. There are questions about access to safe spaces for women, domestic violence refuges. “Women are threatened and attacked”. “Predatory men could now come into female-only spaces unchallenged.”

The story put around is that “predatory men” are a risk to women because of self-ID, and that is ambiguous- perverts pretending to be trans women, or trans women ourselves? Often the writer does not say. The fuzziness allows women who might be our allies to read such articles rather than simply reject them as paranoid, then be drawn in. Their aim is to turn people against us. Down the rabbit hole, when the transphobes compete to say the most disparaging things, they speculate on our motivations, and claim that “true trans”, a person so feminine that she has no alternative but transition, is a tiny proportion of trans women or a falsehood. They say our motivation is sexual.

Sexual motivation conjures a vision of men being aroused in women’s loos. An erection would prevent a trans woman from urinating, and is uncomfortable when tucked. The smell from ejaculating would mean discovery, terrifying trans women. These are not real threats, but the speculation foments anger and fear against us.

The Times’ barrage of articles mocks and ridicules us, so dehumanises us. We stop being a person trying to get on with our lives, so entitled to basic sympathy. First we are laughed at, then despised, then treated with contempt, then with violence.

Social rules are negotiated. People do not complain, but leave that to others. You might feel uncomfortable in a situation, but you get out of the situation rather than seek help to change it. Walking away is less costly than confronting. But if we are despised we are less costly to confront. The self-righteous woman knows the cringing trans woman will not fight back. The anger and repetition of “threat” may be psyching those who write and share such rubbish to confront us. The anger may spill over from the forums.

Angry women looking out for us could be embarrassing and upsetting for someone starting her transition. This is the aim of The Times, and those forums. The angry person wants others to feel her anger, to feel justified and powerful. It is just a small number of people at the moment, but as the fake controversy gets hyped, the numbers grow.