Approaches to the trans rights debate

Trans allies found Wes Streeting “disappointing”, but I see where he’s coming from. And, when the authoritarian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill promises to criminalise protest, David Maclean, “Lord Blencathra”, wasted a self-indulgent hour of debate railing against trans women as a danger to “women”.

The Shadow Health Secretary grew up in the East End of London. His mother’s father was a bank robber. His father, and father’s father, were working class Tories, with strong patriotism and Christian faith he still shares, even though it took years for him to accept his sexuality and reconcile these parts of his identity. Finding he was gay, members of his family would have been surprised, disappointed, and concerned for him. Aged 38, he is grateful to the pioneers of the Lesbian and Gay Rights movement, whose abuse he recounts- outed by The Sun, a brick through the window…

So there was prejudice which was frank hatred, and there was prejudice seeing itself as Christian principle, and on equal marriage he respects the Christian prejudice. That required listening, discussion, empathy and respect. Hearts and minds were changed, and now there are Methodist gay church weddings. He hopes for the same on trans rights.

In his BBC interview, now available as a fifty minute podcast or a two minute video, but initially a 23 minute broadcast, the interviewer took a strong anti-trans line. Women are women, who fought for their right to safe spaces, [meaning No Transwomen!] which should not be overturned. All of this is rubbish. Trans women have a legal right to enter women’s services, and are no threat.

The video Jolyon Maugham found “disappointing” omits that question, and starts with Streeting’s soft-sounding but pro-trans response. He says women’s rights should be respected, LGBT people should listen, you don’t win the argument by shutting down JK Rowling. He wants to win the argument, and hear anti-trans campaigners’ distress as a way to win them over. I am not sure that will work, but am glad someone is trying. He objects to “feminists” using dehumanising language about trans people. It is gratuitously obnoxious.

I had thought the podcast would give the whole interview, but the next bit from the video is edited out. Streeting talks of anti-trans hate crime and trans mental ill health, which he wants to address. So most listeners will not hear about the hate crime. This is a distortion.

Tory peer David Maclean, “Lord Blencathra”, avoided Capital Gains Tax on a £750,000 house by claiming it was his main residence, and got £20,000 parliamentary “expenses” by claiming it was his second home. Rather than addressing the anti-freedom aspects of the Police etc Bill he stuck in an anti-trans amendment and insisted on debating it on the floor. There were many moments my contempt for him bubbled over, but the main one was when he withdrew his amendment because it had no chance of success. He wasted an hour and 23 minutes of Parliamentary time on his pointless hategasm.

His amendment to this oppressive Bill would have required that trans people are ordinarily imprisoned according to their sex registered at birth, and if in exceptional circumstances they were not they should be held in accommodation specifically for trans people with no access to “prisoners of the opposite sex”.

He has had a great many letters, he says, and from the love-bombing of anti-trans campaigners he falsely deduces that his amendment has support. Tory Patrick “Baron” Cormack was also love-bombed, and quoted the words: it is so easy to “stand up for womanhood and motherhood” as a Tory, if all you have to do is express hatred for trans people.

Maclean says that “gender reassignment protection [should not be] a separate protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010”. As it currently is, he wants to change the Equality Act to withdraw protection for trans people.

He kept his foul amendment despite the teach-in organised by the Ministry of Justice. The Tory minister, David Wolfson QC, knew he would not persuade the haters, but tried in the teach-in, and tried again in the debate. He said you could find heat but no light on Twitter. He said all the trans women in women’s prisons have gone through a rigorous risk assessment, and our safety matters too. It is a balance of risks to cis women and trans women. 90% of trans women prisoners are in men’s prisons. If there was one trans women’s unit, it would be too far for most friends and families to visit. It would be “cruel”. The minister is “alive to the risk of suicide”. Before 2019 there were some sexual assaults by trans women on cis women, but “We learned the lessons of that and since 2019 there have been no such assaults”.

Former Reform MEP Claire Fox continued the hate, despite having attended the teach-in. Ignoring the facts, she demands “single-sex spaces” excluding trans women. She quoted hate from Twitter, even the suggestion, which she had just heard refuted, that “anyone who claims to feel like a woman” might be imprisoned with cis women. Fox: “I say hear, hear to that.” She ignores any threat to trans women. Instead she claims “biological reality” vindicates her, as if the fact of trans people’s existence for millennia around the world did not matter at all. She called the amendment practical, pragmatic and humane, as if our safety did not matter.

David Pannick said putting a trans woman with a GRC who had lived as a woman for twenty years (that’s me, my twenty year anniversary is in April) who has had GRS in men’s prison would be a “disaster”. I agree. I find it terrifying. If I chained myself up like a Suffragette, this bill would render me liable to a ten year prison sentence, if they could get a jury to convict. So I suppose I might be safe enough demonstrating for XR, but maybe not if I demonstrated for trans rights.

David Hope, former Scottish supreme court judge, spoke out against the “cruelty” of the amendment. “It is not a choice. They are driven.” It needs to be said, because Maclean, Fox and the rest ignore it: “The [trans] offender requires as much consideration on the grounds of safety and emotional distress as the people around them in the prison in which they are placed.”

Michael Cashman said the amendment perpetuates the stereotype of trans women as sexual predators. Edward Faulks, who had been April Ashley’s barrister, said how April Ashley had been put in a men’s prison.

Hater Michael Farmer, former treasurer of the Tory party, called for women’s rights “based on sex not gender”. That is, to him the most important thing in women’s rights is excluding trans women. With this language they can expatiate on women’s rights, as if trans women did not matter at all. By contrast Michael Berkeley, composer and broadcaster, said “effeminate” people would be “targeted” in a male prison.

Former Tory MP Nick Herbert put it bluntly: “if people’s fears are provoked and if media campaigns suggest that women cannot be safe, there will be such fervent outrage, but that is not a reason for us to depart from the facts.” That’s the answer to Wes Streeting. He can listen all he likes, and just hear the wilful distortions of the transphobes. As they rant on, they just get more self-righteous.

Jennifer Jones, a Green party member, flouted her party’s policy to play the “I’m a woman” card, objecting to men speaking against the amendment. Well, I am a woman too, and I care about women’s safety- but I care about all women’s safety. She claimed there was “sexual predation” in women’s prisons, despite the changes in 2019.

Elizabeth Barker, LibDem, spoke “as a woman who cares deeply about the physical safety of women”. She objected to media suggestions that trans allies did not care. She pointed out the factual errors in the haters’ speeches, and the polls with leading questions designed to elicit anti-trans opinions. As she said, the amendment was not based on evidence, so should be rejected.

Brian Paddick, LibDem and former police officer, quoted some of the abuse he receives as a trans ally: “You nasty little misogynist… MRA bigot”. He affected not to know that means “Men’s rights activist”, putting the hater in their place.

Frederick Ponsonby, hereditary Labour peer and fourth baron, had actually spoken to governors of women’s prisons, who assured him they could handle any problems from trans women prisoners.

The haters in the House of Lords, and their adoring admirers such as the one who sent hate to Brian Paddick, show the chances of Wes Streeting’s approach are slim. They are utterly self-righteous, and they use the language of women’s rights as if trans women did not matter. They call us men, as if trans as a phenomenon was a worthless delusion. But they have a long way to go before our protections in the Equality Act are chipped away, even with this Tory government. My right to protest is not nearly so safe.

Dominant women

I have been doing some research….

Lady Sas, or Saskia, says that the Domme should simply be calm and assertive: the loud, aggressive Mistress is outdated. She should issue commands, expecting obedience. D/s is a game, and at other times Domme and sub meet as equals. The aspirant Domme might feel nervous, so Lady Sas suggests the Silence challenge. The sub kneels, naked, in a room, and the Domme merely need walk around him, slowly, feeling how she relaxes as she realises she is in control. The game should be “safe, sane and consensual”.

Lucy Fairbourne writes for the “caring mistress”. The self-assured male craves the vulnerability of complete surrender. The woman is surprised, but soon finds the pleasurable possibilities. She does not fulfil a sub’s fantasies, who demands she commands him to kneel, or ties him up, but instead she decides what to do, for her pleasure.

The mistress shouting her contempt for the slave was the clichéd image of fem-dom I had internalised, so I googled “submissive worm”. A site tells me the “worm archetype”, wanting to be dominated by everyone, still exists. A worm might be not allowed to use the furniture. I think, yuck. Is he allowed to use cutlery? “Allowed” by whom? I read of a woman who was better educated than her partner. He objected to her using words he did not understand. He enforced control, and by the time she left him she was only using words of one syllable. That is coercive control. It is criminal.

I read of FLR, the Female-Led Relationship, and TPE, Total Power Exchange, where the sub is submissive at all times, not just in well-boundaried games. The equipment could be a way of creating the boundary: when the woman is dominant, they use particular clothes and tools which are put away afterwards.

I do not see the motivation for the games for either, and particularly the thought of dominating. Yet when my friend sends me a picture of her handcuffs, glinting in the sun, dangling from her well-manicured fingers, it fascinates me.

I am submissive. I had a nervous, difficult Quaker meeting, thinking of this, resenting it, and especially my propensity for imprinting on strong women. I thought that ceasing to fight it, coming to know and accept it, I might live better, and I still resented and struggled. By the end, I felt acceptance. This is who I am. It fits with other qualities in me, such as humility, which I find easier to value. At the discussion zoom after a Quaker said she had rarely heard someone’s voice sound so peaceful. I typed an affirmation:

I am Submissive. Nervous. Kind. Appreciative. Vulnerable. Open. All of me is beautiful. I will love and cherish all of me. Sweet. Gentle. Thoughtful. Caring. Analytical. Feeling. These are not in conflict, but so many different beautiful facets.
I love myself.
I love myself.
I love myself.
I am perfect as I am created.
Appreciating the parts I find difficult lets me appreciate my good qualities, for they are part of one whole.

The question was, what is essential to you in spiritual community. I interpreted it as asking my essence. So I read that out, and a man asked me to read it again.

A Friend said, spiritual community requires total acceptance of the person in front of you. People project so much how they think others should be, but we need to meet people where they are. I need to accept myself first: if there are parts in me that I deny, I cannot accept them in others.

Quakers and belief

What does it mean to believe?

I believe the Earth goes round the Sun. I believe in Milanković cycles, regular changes in the Earth’s orbit which affect its climate. Such rational, scientific belief involves trust in my community, in scientists who calculate such things in ways I do not know. It can be wrong, as Newton was wrong about gravity. Trying to distort religious belief to be like scientific belief leads people astray: the Flood did not cause the Grand Canyon.

I do not believe in Astrology, but observe that a magazine astrology column can give a little pleasure or something to think about. An empathetic practitioner, with a vast range of ideas related to planets, signs and sesquiquadrates, could see what spoke to their client and possibly give insight into character.

I believe in Hamlet, though the play is not historical: it portrays lifelike humans.

I have moral beliefs, which I have learned through instruction, example, experience, study and discussion. This year I intend to keep my promises better, having disliked breaking an undertaking. I also intend to promise, or not, more thoughtfully.

What does it mean to learn, and what do I need to know? As a member of a social species I need to know how to interact with other people, and how to be a member of the society that meets my needs. Much of that knowledge may be innate: babies recognise the patterns of a face. I understand others because we have things in common: I feel joy in service, and observe others do so too.

I learn through art. I contemplate images, my feelings resonating with them, so come to understand situations I have not experienced.

I learn the tradition of Christianity by reading and listening, then hone my understanding by talking about it. There is a rigid creed with nothing between Jesus’ birth and his passion, and gospels giving differing accounts of his life and afterlife. Jesus tells fictional parables, some disturbingly amoral, such as the Unjust Steward. I contemplate the mad Gadarene (or Gerasene), clothed and in his right mind after an encounter with Jesus, which may also be fictional. I find value in the Bible, Christian tradition and Christian writings, for learning how to live.

Then I learn spirituality by sitting in Quaker stillness for an hour most weeks over twenty years. I encounter unconscious processes and unravel the inner conflicts created by old trauma. I experience being given spoken ministry, and also speaking when I might have been wiser to stay seated. I know love for these people, sitting with me. I believe that meeting for worship and the business method have value. Quakers report doing different things during meeting: behind the still faces, a person might be praying, or counting breaths, or hearing God within them speak.

It is not true to say that you can believe anything and be a Quaker, even a Quaker in Britain Yearly Meeting. I believe meeting for worship has value, and that there is a wide range of appropriate things to do in the hour. Others have narrower understandings- “Thee should not have been thinking”.

Then Quakers have different metaphysical understandings of what underpins our experiences, In the Letter to the Governor of Barbados George Fox describes fairly conventional Protestant beliefs, including that Christ’s death was the propitiation for the sins of the world. We are rooted in Christianity, and many British Quakers have a radical Christian understanding of “that of God” in us. It is the Holy Spirit, which other Christians believe comes into us in Baptism and Confirmation, and we believe needs no ritual, because it is in everyone.

I might try to put into words my spiritual experience, for example, all my senses come alive, I see “Heaven in a wild flower”, usually there is a feeling of Joy with this experience, I am in the present moment not ruminating of past or future. That comes from my own experience. It feels distinct, now, from how I am at different times. My experience is evidence for my account of it, but not evidence for the metaphysical belief in God or Spirit. To say that Spirit causes such experiences goes beyond the experience itself. The experience feels like a blessing, but I could not say that Something blessed me.

I don’t believe in an Eternal Creator. I believe I am an evolved animal in a material universe, and there is no separate spiritual reality beyond baryonic matter. But the word “God” signifying particular experiences which I see in others or I share has value and meaning to me.

I would hope Quaker metaphysical beliefs would enhance our community and our practice of worship. We have a shared practice and way of life, not a shared belief system. Possibly the only belief required of someone joining us for the first time is that our practice may benefit them. Rather than asking what they believe, I would ask whether they are oriented towards growing in love in the community.

Might we have to expel someone for their belief? Only if we discerned that the belief was harming the community unbearably, perhaps because it was dogmatically held, and the person thought others should agree. We do not expel a Friend lightly.

My commitment to the community and the worship ranks, for me, above my atheist materialist beliefs. Therefore I hope that even if the Christian revelation of the Eternal Creator is true, I will not harm the worshipping community with my beliefs.

If Quakers honestly attempt to conform their beliefs to their experience, and are open to changing them, I hope those attracted to our spiritual practices will not believe anything that the community would discern to be harmful. Spiritual experience is beyond words, so I cannot produce a description in words precisely fitting my own experiences, though it is worthwhile trying to. When I do, I find similarities to others’ experiences.

We have some shared moral beliefs. We are pacifist. But we have a variety of understandings of that, and some Quakers joined the armed forces in the second world war. We have not yet reached agreement on assisted dying, and perhaps do not need to. Our moral beliefs change: when some Quakers owned and traded slaves, others began to say this was wrong.

In Meeting, I was contemplating Thomas Cranmer’s “Prayer of Humble Access”, which I said routinely as a child. It gained new meaning for me. “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table” alludes to Matthew 15:21-28. Then we ask to eat Christ’s flesh so that it will make us clean, “and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us”. That mix of unworthiness and access, humility and gratitude for the blessing I find in Meeting spoke to me. I grow in understanding, whatever I believe, or however I put it in words.

The fraud on the anti-trans campaigners

I never met an anti-trans campaigner whose ally I did not want to be. In the group, a woman said, “I’ve been called a ‘terf’,” and my heart sank.

I have heard the story so many times, with the same injustices. She is treated as a sex object, and may say how terrifying this can be if adult strangers come on to you when you are thirteen. Her intellect is devalued and ignored. She states her powerful resentment and her sense of injustice, and I am wholly in agreement. I delight when women stand up for their rights, and men stand up for justice. Society suffers if the talents of so many are sidelined.

And then their voice of grievance does not change as they tell of trans. She was a sex object, and what of all the girls who want to become men? She wonders if she were a little younger, if she would have been “sucked into the cult,” and had her breasts removed or had hormones to break her voice and grow body hair. She is a sexy woman with a beautiful body. What if it had been mutilated?

Well, I totally get the discomfort at the idea of breast removal. I like my beautiful breasts. But no-one has an operation before the age of 18, and few below 25. Waiting lists are too long. 2000 girls might be referred to the Gender Identity Development Service, but that is 0.03% of the girls in the country. Of those, GIDS refers none for operations, and only a few for puberty blockers.

Or, she says, “Women must have the right to say, ‘No’. Women’s boundaries should be respected.” And I think, well, yes, I agree, except she means she should have the right to say I can’t use a women’s loo or shop changing room.

And then the rant starts. What about women’s rights in prisons/sports/refuges? What about all women shortlists? What if a man wakes up one morning and decides he’s a woman? There are answers to all this, and they are not heard.

She is sure of her own righteousness, but her beautiful campaigning energy has been perverted from real injustices, such as the devaluation of her intellect, to blaming, scapegoating and persecuting trans people. She moves from stating real grievances to myths showing a disturbing lack of empathy and respect for trans people. She does not see the change of tone which is so obvious to me. Often, she shows a wilful refusal to understand us as human beings. Trans men to her are merely victims, trans women merely threat.

The campaigning shows no sense of proportion. On a “Keir Starmer Supporters” group on facebook, someone shared a Daily Mail article about the death and rape threats to JK Rowling. What can I do? Well, I share information, and respond as winsomely and persuasively as I can. JK Rowling said some pretty offensive things. Keir Starmer, by contrast, has been low-key but generally supportive, of trans rights. He said, “It’s not true that only women have a cervix”. A Keir Starmer Supporters group should listen to him. And death and rape threats are abhorrent, but many people receive threats. Which people are deemed entitled to our sympathy when threatened, and which are not? Why? For this, I was expelled from the group. It is not only that the group owner thinks I am wrong, she thinks I should not be heard. Just before expelling me, she introduced a new group rule against misogyny.

There are many places where anti-trans campaigners can radicalise each other and indulge in delicious shared righteous anger. Women have a right to Single Sex Spaces! JK Rowling has never said anything transphobic! We are not transphobic! We want our Rights!

And all that beautiful campaigning energy, rather than being directed at the patriarchy and rape culture is directed by the patriarchy, for the patriarchy’s purposes, against trans people.

So I want to be an ally to these women- against all the injustice, against rape culture, sexism, and patriarchy. And everyone would be better off if they left trans people alone. We are not their main problem.

The joyful, playful child

“Forgive me,” said Anna, “but you seem confused”. Well, yes. I have had a striking week. I wrote my love poem, which enabled me to say the words “I love you” to someone. Wednesday 5th I would read it in public.

Unfortunately, before that I was discussing my psychotic friend. He comes to Quaker zooms to rave. One of his delusions is how the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra is the perfect society. I wish he’d go to one of their concerts, proclaim his gospel, and get sectioned again. I wish he would realise he was ill and consent to the depot injections, but he believes he has unique spiritual truth to change the World, just like Licia did. He accepts he is hypomanic, and when he is less so he can have an initial appearance of profundity from all the Buddhist texts he quotes.

Then there was the BBC, explaining laboriously yet disingenuously that my complaints were without merit and Justin Webb did nothing wrong.

I read my poem in the Lovely Gathering. Jamie needled me a bit, and my barriers collapsed. I do not mind appearing ridiculous. That ship has sailed, I said- I have appeared ridiculous to some people since transition. But not like this. He asked if I wanted him as celebrant, and I asked if he could do the registration too. I would not want to have to go to the registry office as well. But, the barriers- I had not wanted to make claims about another, or potentially embarrass her. Jamie did not need a jemmy. He put an exploratory fingernail under my covers, and they exploded off. I felt exposed.

She wrote to me of my ethereal beauty, my blooming heart. I am grateful for the expressions of love from her deep integrity. And Thursday afternoon I spent some time wailing wordlessly and some time being listened to by my wise friend, who recommended howling.

I had given up hope that my sexuality might attract me to, leave alone unite me with, another human being and I am grateful that I now believe in the possibility. Friday afternoon I zoomed with a woman who has overcome huge challenges. She does herself down, and still I saw her humility is beautiful. She wrote to me of my generosity, receptivity, sensitivity, spirituality, thoughtfulness, beauty and desire to spread encouragement and love, and called me

a human daring to stand.

Tuesday at Morning Communion, which I experience at 1pm because of time differences, was striking. I was just feeling the feels. People would say something changing my view of what was being discussed, and my feelings changed with them. In order to hold these mercurial feelings, be present and conscious with them, I found my body flexing and stretching, tensing in different places. It was almost as much as I could bear. I thought I might look a bit weird but no-one said. I was pleased with this. I want to feel the feels and accept them, then I feel I will stop fighting myself and stand in my power.

I have been thinking of my honour, and one thing I want to do is keep any obligations into which I enter freely. So Friends asked me to do something, and I said yes, and I did not do it. I just did not respond when my fellow Friend involved contacted me. I did nothing for six months, and facing the prospect that the work was not done someone else was appointed. Then they asked me to do something else and I did not respond to the first email, or the phone message. I need to be able to say “No”, and I need my word to mean something. When directly asked I said “No”.

Another thing I want, passionately, is not to have my feelings just explode on show as they did on Wednesday evening. It makes me feel unbearably vulnerable and stupid. After, I hate myself for it. I need control.

I had an hour and 45 minutes with Anna the Samaritan on Friday morning. They did not seem particularly busy, and I had a long healing cry. Then I talked from my misery when I can only articulate words in a high wail. Then I talked from my Real Self, or whatever it is, when my voice goes higher than usual, I am fulfilling my needs telling my best understanding of truth and I feel frightened and vulnerable. I told of chasing Ulrika like a lost puppy, and how she used me to keep Luke on his toes, then chucked him away like a used tissue. I told of Jude’s girlfriend wanting him to make a man of himself, and how when they split up he was so much more relaxed. By the end I was more explaining to her than working things out for myself, so I stopped, and I have not felt the need to cry since.

F, to whom I said “I love you”, has been in touch and caring in a way making me feel cared for. I spoke at the Zoom Quaker meeting, when someone heard humility in my ministry and that felt true and fitting to me. Then there was the afternoon Quaker zoom where we addressed the question, “Who in your life enhances/encourages your connection with God, and how?”

I said I felt that God in me is when all of me is integrated and working together, and anything can either lead me towards that or drive me from it, and my attitude to it matters. So I welcome unravelling on Wednesday, making a fool of myself. I will learn from it.

I told the story of the grey corridor with doors to overwhelming light and colour. Jeannine had a new angle on it: the corridor more constrains me as I outgrow it. Ruth suggested I could open the door for a look, keeping in the corridor for safety.

So I began the lovely gathering with Emotion Detector.
Illusions are painfully shattered
Right where discovery starts
In the secret wells of emotion
Buried deep in our hearts.

What I wanted, more than anything, was to become that sane, well-boundaried person, who does not lose control like I did on Wednesday. And now, five hours later, I don’t.

The next Quaker question was, How do you hold people in the light? How do you believe that works? Well, it changes me. I think of another with love, and it enhances my capacity to love them.

Then I said words new to me, which felt true. I find loving important, and am good at it: the price is not knowing I am good at it, so striving to be better. Seeing Friends assent helps me believe this.

So now I know. The lesson I wish I had learned as a toddler, which my parents could not teach me, was that losing control was not the end of the world.

I would rather be in touch with my feelings and in control. And loss of control is not ideal, but OK. Outside the corridor becomes less terrifying.

Trans people in court

Since December, it is harder to be trans in an English court.

The Equal Treatment Bench Book is a 566 page guide for judges on how people appearing before them may be disadvantaged, and how the judge might mitigate their disadvantage. For example, it cites a study where mock jurors gave harsher punishments to fat people accused of crimes than thin people. Trans people are equal under the law, and the law should deal with what has been proved, not punish us for who we are.

There are two pages on naming systems. Mispronunciation is disrespectful, and a judge should take care to avoid it. The book explains different naming conventions. Judges should ask what is the personal name and family name. I am perturbed that there is a perceived need to tell judges not to use the term “Christian name”, but that may just indicate how comprehensive the guide is.

Judges should not reduce court users’ confidence in the court’s authority or impartiality, but act to counter how others’ prejudice may slant the administration of justice. There was a major revision of the Book in February, and an interim update in December, most of which was devoted to considering the rights of “gender critical” people against trans people.

Much of the advice on trans is designed to prevent someone in stealth being outed. This is problematic. Most people read me quickly. I am open about being trans. Yet I still do not want anyone else mentioning it unless it is entirely relevant. The judge can restrict reporting of the case if necessary. The Book quotes a senior High Court judge: “disclosure [of trans history] should not be permitted… where it is unnecessary and irrelevant to the issues”.

The book says terminology is shifting and uncertain, and some trans people may not want to be called trans, believing it irrelevant.

It is dispiriting to read in the February revision a long account of the discrimination we suffer, but I am glad judges might. The update added the Transactual trans lives survey 2021. 99% said they had experienced transphobia on social media, and I can’t see how anyone might use social media without experiencing transphobia. A TUC survey found half the trans respondents had experienced bullying or harassment at work, and 30% had been outed against their will. In a poll of 1000 employers, 43% said they were unsure if they would employ a trans person- that is, they openly stated they would consider breaking the law. The book also gives statistics on anti-trans hate crime, and suicide.

The book says nonbinary people are not protected, though it cites the case Taylor v Land Rover in the appendix on the Equality Act. As an Employment Tribunal case, that is not even a binding precedent for Employment Tribunals.

I would take issue with the President of the Supreme Court’s explanation of the traumas faced by trans people. It’s not “the overwhelming sense that one has been born into the wrong body”, it is a conviction that I am of the other sex, or a desire to be treated as or express myself as the other sex. Lady Hale refers to “the long and complex process of adapting that body”. That is surgical essentialism, and I deny it.

The Forstater case has done a great deal of damage. The Employment Tribunal decided her beliefs did not fulfil the fifth test: beliefs “must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others”. The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed. Much of the problem was that there was little evidence heard in the tribunal of the repellent nature of her beliefs. Other anti-trans campaigners express themselves freely on Twitter and there would be abundant evidence available of how ridiculous and abhorrent their beliefs were.

Because of the case, the update has made additions. It still says trans history is usually irrelevant. It explains that “revealing someone’s trans identity publicly can have serious adverse consequences on their life”. That’s not the issue for me. Calling me trans is like irrelevantly calling a Black person Black. It draws attention to the thing for which I face prejudice. So it is prejudicial. The book explains deadnaming “may be considered” highly disrespectful and may be inhibiting and humiliating to a witness. Formerly, it said deadnaming “is” disrespectful.

For the first time, the update claims a witness may have a “right” to misgender or deadname. The judge should establish this at the start of the hearing. The book gives reasons why a witness should not do this. The trans person may be stealth, may have a GRC, may not want to go to hearing if they would be outed. If trans status is public knowledge, there is less protection. Again, for me, being called a “man” in court would be humiliating, however many believe I am one. It calls the characteristic which has most affected my life, a worthless fantasy.

The example of a witness being allowed to deadname and misgender is problematic. A victim of domestic abuse or sexual violence may give evidence “in accordance with the victim’s experience and perception of the events”. But, when the witness gives evidence, the guilt has not been decided. To call a trans woman a man is prejudging the issue.

Deadnaming is like calling Muhammad Ali “Cassius Clay” to his face, indicating disrespect for his Islam and his right to self-determination. Deadnaming is insulting. A victim should be able to use the Accused’s real name, unless she has a prejudice which affects her reliability as a witness. For example, the pre-existing hatred and revulsion Maria MacLachlan showed for Tara Wolf made her misgender her.

The update explains “Gender-critical” as a belief that sex is immutable and binary, and that including trans women in the definition of women undermines protections for cis women. It often includes a belief that trans people are irrational and violent, but that is not stated. It says the belief is protected even if it offends trans people and allies, unless “they propose to destroy the rights of trans people”.

The Appendix on the Equality Act explains the Forstater case, though recommends reading it. The phrase given for an unacceptable gender-critical belief, is that it “sought to destroy the rights of a trans person”. That is helpful. Many who would call themselves “gender critical” want to roll back trans rights, which are robust in law. The addition explains that beliefs are different from behaviour. Misgendering may still be harassment, whatever the perpetrator believes.

Some additions are otiose. “The effect of the GRA does not impose recognition of the acquired gender in private non-legal contexts and it cannot rewrite history”. Well, no. Lots of people think I am a man, and I don’t want the courts to intervene unless they do something particularly objectionable about it. But the effect of the sentence is to deny reality. I am a trans woman. I deserve respect as a woman.

The update adds an explanation that “Some people feel strongly that they do not wish to be described as ‘cisgender’ or ‘cis’.” Such a belief will usually be part of a set of beliefs including repellent prejudice, which is not worthy of respect in a civilised society, but it has got into the Bench Book. I suggest people use “Non-trans” instead.

Explaining the Equality Act, the February revision said the term “transsexual” was considered unacceptable. The update adds “by many people”. Well, if there is some comprehensive legal definition of sex and gender made, then I am transsexual, and my sex is female. The psychiatrists said so, after all.

The update is a response to the Forstater case. It is just part of the slow chipping away at trans rights and respect for trans people which the right wing culture war is achieving.

I love you

I cycle on quiet roads.
Buildings cast shadows on buildings opposite.
The Light
on trees, stone, skin, purple clouds
makes me cry in de-Light,
sigh in delight.

Love is one thing.
Limerence, wanting them to look at you
Storge, family love,
all one thing.
It is radiance, and the need for it.
Darling- let your bewitching attention
Shine on me!

The hunger is terrifying. My sensitivity is terrifying.
So I have my deepest desire,
to hide away alone and not be seen.
Might I be subsumed, like a male Angler fish?
Ah. There’s the self-contempt.

Your light is an earthquake in me.
Your voice is warm as the Sun.
Broken open,
the cracks are where the light shines Out.
My breasts are full.

Love is one thing.
It flows like water
so that who gives and who receives cannot be known.
Or a dream of water in a desert
making thirst more painful.
Take every chance to express love
however mad you seem.
I love you.

Storge is an ancient Greek word, στοργή, for love within families. Part of the inspiration for this was this voice message, which you might not be able to hear as it is substack, and which led me to write a fangirl reply. Written on an exceptionally warm, sunny 2 January.

Words for atheist spirituality

I use spiritual practices as part of my good life. Through sitting in silence I bring the unconscious to consciousness, and improve my mental health. I am materialist. I believe humans evolved by natural selection in a Godless universe, and that “spirituality” is a misleading word. It implies that there is something beyond the human animal, a holy spirit, spiritual beings such as angels, demons and a God, when I believe there is none. Our afterlife is in the memories of those who knew us and in the effect we have on people’s lives, not in some other dimension of spirit.

I am not merely a humanist, as humanism does not require those spiritual practices. Possibly humanists would be more drawn to them if they did not associate them with religious beliefs.

Biblical Greek and Hebrew words for spirit- pneuma, ruach- relate to breath. A humanist might accept that “breath work” has value. We sit in silence, paying attention to our breath. We might count breaths. Being aware of breath, I begin to be aware of the unconscious processes of my body. I am more in my senses, aware of what is going on around me now. I draw my attention away from what Buddhists call the “Monkey-mind”, ruminating on old hurts and fantasies. We talk of “awareness”.

Quakers talk of “silent waiting”. Not waiting on the Spirit of the Creator, I wait on my unconscious. Growing up, I learned that aspects of my personality were not OK, and I suppressed them below consciousness. This happens in the most sane, loving families. Now, as I take time to collect myself in silence, the fear and judgment which made me suppress them fall away, and they become conscious again. Nonreligious wisdom teachers talk of “shadow work”, and other practices are available.

I hesitate to use the word “collective unconscious” as I do not know what Jung intended to convey with it, and we have a vast amount of knowledge, some of it innate, about what it means to be human in community. We do not keep it in the front of our minds but recall it when necessary. If I minister, I am bringing unconscious skills of observation and this knowledge to consciousness, to verbalise something which is for the whole meeting. Our practice is that ministry is spoken in love to build us up and bring us together.

Much Quaker language works for a materialist. Meetings can be gathered. This comes from “When two or three are gathered together I am with them,” but that does not mean that some spirit related to a man who lived two thousand years ago floats, half seen. Rather, the Christ-consciousness which was in Jesus is in us.

Wider spiritual language works too. I seek mindfulness. I am in the moment, practising so that I grow more aware of what my senses perceive is around me. I seek nonduality. The duality which is less than the best possible for me is not between mind and spirit but between consciousness and unconsciousness. I have not attained the perfect free flow of thought between conscious and unconscious. I retain blocks and introjects inhibiting it. Slowly, gently, I salve those blocks away.

While others have those blocks, one might do this work on consciousness in order to gain power to manipulate or control them. So at the centre of all true religion we enthrone Love, to build up. We will not quench a smouldering wick or break a bruised reed.

I still do not have one all-encompassing word for these things to replace “spirituality”. “Mysticism” might do. I chase the mystery at the heart of humanity and of each human, which can be known to us, so that we know and are fully known. But mysticism is replete with negative connotations, for many meaning folderol unrelated to real life.

I do not want to talk of spirituality. I am a materialist. I do not believe in spirit. All of this is consciousness work. I seek the liberation of human consciousness, in Love.

Trans in 2021

In the UK in 2021, trans legal rights remain robust, though increasingly under attack. Nonbinary as well as binary trans are protected from discrimination. From the moment we decide to transition, trans women expressing ourselves female are entitled to use women’s services. In its code of practice issued in 2011, the Equality and Human Rights Commission put strong restrictions on the right to exclude someone because she is trans, including that it should be case by case- being entitled to exclude one trans woman does not mean a service can exclude all.

Some facts are relevant. Sex is real. Without sexual reproduction the species dies out. I don’t have a uterus, and have never menstruated. And, trans is real. People have transitioned for millennia over many different cultures. We are a harmless minority, and the way the Labour government chose to integrate us, by giving us a right to be treated socially in our true gender, helps us to flourish. The government followed the lead of the European Court of Human Rights.

There is no such thing as “gender ideology”, and there is no harm to women from including trans women. Attempts to claim crime statistics on women should exclude trans women are merely silly. But fearmongering and hatred are normalised, in the BBC, Guardian and New Statesman as well as the Times and Daily Mail. Now the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons calls for a legal definition distinguishing sex from gender, and that has no purpose but to say that because trans people change gender and not sex, we should be excluded from “single-sex spaces”. That would turn our lives upside down.

We might still be tolerated, in practice, in women’s loos, but we would be even more likely to be misgendered and abused, and that would extend to gender nonconforming people. Whatever the law, whatever the attitude in the wider culture, we will always be able to find communities where we can be ourselves. Quakers have spoken out about our need to welcome trans people (pdf). I also have the Lovely Gathering.

Daily, we read of more hostility. JK Rowling is fatuously but angrily claimed to be “cancelled” even as yet another fantastic beasts film slouches towards us. The reporting is skewed. I am not particularly familiar with the Equal Treatment Bench Book, but it helps judges treat vulnerable people according to their human rights. A thief should be punished for their offences, taking into account all mitigating factors, and not for who they are- trans status, colour, gender. So trans people are treated as belonging to our presenting gender, so that we have less reason to believe the court is against us from the start.

The change in this revision is the belief that some witnesses might have a reasonable expectation of misgendering us. The example given in The Guardian is of a husband who assaults their wife and subsequently transitions. That is, they report the tale of the Violent Trans, even though we suffer more violence than we inflict. The Guardian report suggests the new thing is that judges should use our preferred pronouns, even though it has been like that for years. I checked the February 2021 edition, and the guidance on treating us in our true gender was there, but not the permission to misgender.

Tara Wolf‘s case showed a judge asking hostile witnesses at least to use neutral pronouns, in a case he said would not have been brought without media interest in a trans v terfs narrative. This is another example of emphasis on supposed rights of those who object to us, such as cis women sharing a building with trans women in prison.

Transphobia is organised and amplified in Britain. And we have allies. I love Tom Daley’s Christmas message. With hate against minorities managed for political ends, gay people should know that if you say nothing, they come for you next. And always the demonisation, as if quiet, gentle trans people were angry, oppressive and violent, and women were rightly frightened; as if the problem of violence against women would be solved if all the trans were excluded.

People will continue to transition. In 2022, more trans people than ever before will express themselves as their true selves, finding it just too painful not to.

Medical services for trans people

The parliamentary committee are not our friends, and have recommended keeping trans medical bottlenecks at the moment when trans medical care could open up. They recommend more gender clinics, when gender clinics should be shut down.

Trans is easy to recognise. Trans men are people assigned female at birth who are convinced that they are men, want to be treated as men, or want to express themselves as men. They may want bodily alteration to appear more clearly to be men, to themselves and to others. Trans women go the other way. We know who we are.

That settled conviction is in some way different from those mental illnesses which divorce one from reality. I don’t understand how, particularly, but my understanding of myself as a woman is different from my friend’s schizophrenic daughter’s belief that there is an electronic device in her head which enables the Government to know what she was thinking. My desire to express myself female is more like a gay man’s desire for a particular male partner- incomprehensible to some straight men, but not “insane” or “psychotic”.

The committee say there are huge waiting lists. 13,500 trans people were waiting as of January 2020, before covid. Their evidence was a BBC report. The report’s figure came from Freedom of Information requests to each gender clinic, but some figures date back to July 2019 and the committee heard evidence that lists have increased since then. One clinic’s waiting time was increasing by five months each year, even before covid.

A trans person should be able to go to their GP and say that they are trans, and get a prescription for hormones. If the trans person understand that hormones may reduce their fertility and sexual response, that should be enough. The GP might want a psychiatrist to make absolutely sure that the patient was not psychotic, but should be able to check that themself. They might not like the idea of a healthy testicle being amputated, but they should accept that orchiectomy is beneficial, just as they should accept that abortions are necessary.

The trans person needs hormones, hair removal and speech therapy for women, and psychological support for the transition, which can be the most stressful experience in a person’s life. They may not need medical treatment at all- if a trans person wants to transition without threatening their fertility they should be able to do so.

So NHS England funding the Royal College of Physicians to develop education in gender dysphoria medicine is a backward step (report, para 194). Physicians, medicine, not surgery. These physicians would have the boring task of giving hormone prescriptions to patients who asked for them.

In Wales, there is the germ of a new path. There are around 70 GP “clusters”, and any GP who wants can train to be the lead on gender identity within the cluster. Cat Burton from GIRES gave evidence that most people approaching their GP just want to talk to someone about dysphoria arising from presenting in their assigned gender. They might not transition socially. They might just take hormones. Whether the “tiny minority” who have surgery is a small proportion of those who transition, or of those who approach their GP whether or not they transition, is unclear from the report. How Cat knows and who she asked, whether there was a survey and how systematic it was, is not clear from the report. I had thought trans men needed chest masculinisation to transition socially.

I would love to know how many more people talk to their GP about dysphoria, than transition. That would show how terrifying transition is, because of all the prejudice.

However, the Committee recommends more “trained and specialist clinicians”, para 197. They would keep the bottlenecks, even though they admit the new pilot clinics cannot make surgery referrals (para 191) and cannot reduce the waiting lists.

If there was the political will, the NHS could cut the surgery backlog by temporarily reporting private surgeons who perform the operation across the EU.

The committee found trans people have difficulties accessing primary health care. Some GP practices make difficulties over recording correct name and gender. A trans man with a cervix still needs smear tests. Getting them is a computer problem, but the NHS should be able to sort that.

Michael Brady, national adviser for LGBT health, said GPs needed training in order to be “more comfortable” using correct pronouns and managing trans patients (para 204). In other words, GP practice is filled with prejudice.

The committee found that LGBT people are more likely to be mentally ill, but there is insufficient mental health care and GPs might seek mental health support from GICs, though they do not give it. Psychiatrists treating for other conditions challenge trans people’s gender identity.

After the LGBT consultation in 2017, the government committed to an LGBT action plan rectifying the problems it identified. The committee found the Johnson government has gone back on this. Liz Truss confirmed that, para 218. She said she was working on banning conversion therapy instead, as if doing both were impossible.

The committee considered nonbinary recognition. The government and EHRC said it was too difficult. There were complex practical consequences for public life. The LGBT action plan had committed to seeking evidence on nonbinary recognition, but even that had not been done (para 225). The committee was reduced to demanding the government explain what difficulties might prevent nonbinary recognition, but since ministers refused to appear to give evidence, that recommendation is unlikely to be followed. The committee called on the EHRC to research the area, but with Lady Falkner, Akua Reindorf and others on its board this is unlikely.

While there was a majority on the committee for all these restrictions on trans rights, anti-trans campaigner Jackie DoylePrice voted for them to be even more restrictive. Her constant ally was Phillip Davies, men’s rights activist and anti-feminist MP.