Gender dysphoria in intersex people

You have to be transitioning between two genders, you’re not allowed to be in between. An intersex person told me that intersex people could experience gender dysphoria because of the hormone treatment they received. She/they did not refer me to any blog posts or accounts of it, but said the experience is shared on closed facebook groups. I did a bit of googling.

In congenital adrenal hyperplasia, where the clitoris exhibits signs of penile development, but the child is 46,XX (46 chromosomes, two X sex chromosomes) there was a literature review in 2005. 250 of the children were raised female, and thirteen had serious problems with gender identity. Some of the most “severely masculinised” children were raised male, and four out of 33 had serious gender identity problems. The authors therefore recommended that the children be assigned female, even when they were most masculinised.

That is, the children were closeted from birth. You will be raised as a “girl”, or in some cases (I don’t know whether studies would be more likely on people with CAH raised male) raised as a “boy”, rather than as a “child”. There is a decision here. There may still be eugenic ideas in some people that CAH is in some way shameful. Parents should be open with a child, as far as that child may understand, and there is a decision to make about how far to be open with the wider public, in nurseries or schools. But definitely closeting, making a decision on which gender to raise a child and sticking to that, should not be the default position. Things may have changed since 2005.

Trans people would tend to think of hormone therapy as testosterone, oestrogen, and blockers. This protocol, also from 2005, says for CAH hormone replacement therapy is life-saving, because hormones necessary for survival, cortisol and aldosterone, are replaced. Androgens are secreted in excessive amounts due to an enzyme imbalance, so the therapy is to suppress them. That too involves a judgment, as to what is an “excessive amount” for an androgen. There are different normal amounts in boys and girls, men and women, and during adolescence.

That protocol admits that patient advocacy groups debate with the medical profession their decisions about hormones, and laments that some “harbour a sense of outrage about their life or treatment experiences”. Being visibly in between genders is not easy either, and I can imagine someone with CAH allowed to have a masculinising puberty might object to that later. The answer is public advocacy, so that greater variation is accepted.

We don’t know what effect hormones have on gender dysphoria. A consultant was shocked that my GP would take me off oestrogen, but the risk he named for that was osteoporosis, a physical disability not anything psychological. I know that hormone level changes can affect my mood and how emotional I get, but not what effect oestrogen and goserelin, the testosterone suppressant I used, had on my mood.

I was committed to transition. I knew I wanted to change my presentation from Stephen to Clare. Starting hormones, and suppressants, was a step on the path to it, and an affirmation from the medical profession that it was right for me. So the hormones could have affected my mood as a symbol that I was doing the right thing, and advancing towards my goal, rather than by some physical action. I heard it as, “Yes you are really female and because you are female we give you oestrogen”. I can’t see how a study might distinguish psychological or placebo effects from physical effects- and possibly the effects are so intertwined that these words, suggesting that they could be distinguished, mislead and reduce understanding.

In adolescence, it would be different. Testosterone has masculinising effects, on body hair and voice, at whatever age you take it (or if, in CAH people, it is not suppressed). But I was initially told that I could get hormones after I went full time, so I went to a private psychiatrist who would give me hormones before. That gatekeeping role increases the desire for hormones: they become affirmation.

What is preferable? CAH people who did not have their testosterone suppressed might be masculinised, and as many are raised as girls and appear happy enough with that, the masculinisation is not cost-free.

I want a society where gender and sex differences are seen as completely normal, rather than this one where we so rigorously differentiate between two sexes that those physically in between may be treated to make them more clearly one or the other, trans people are protected in law if we intend to transition from a clear classification as one to a clear classification as the other, and those who are non-binary, physically or psychologically, are seen as weird. Now, though, it is safer and pleasanter not to be seen as weird. This pressure to conform, so serious that people alter their bodies or have their bodies altered for them, harms us all, but for children with CAH, either medicalised conformity or allowing the child to masculinise could hurt a child, and be resented.

In complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, 46,XY children appear to be girls until they fail to have a normal female puberty. Of 156 brought up as female in another literature review, none changed sex in adulthood. Of 89 children with micropenis, 79 brought up as boys and ten as girls, none changed sex, and that might indicate how powerful an upbringing can be in creating a gender identity. Of 99 brought up as boys with partial androgen insensitivity syndrome, nine changed gender. I knew one, who identified as M-F trans, and later identified as non-binary.

Living on the edge of chaos

What they were saying aloud was, “We need strong [Trans] people”- but what they were also saying was that their ideas of what strong was had come from our oppressors and didn’t jibe with their feelings at all.

I have always had the sense of Armageddon and it was much stronger in those days, the sense of living on the edge of chaos. Not just personally, but on the world level. That we were dying, that we were killing our world- that sense had always been with me. That whatever I was doing, whatever we were doing that was creative and right, functioned to hold us from going over the edge. That this was the most we could do, while we constructed some saner future.

What about the effects of white racism upon the ways Black people view each other? Racism internalized? What about black teachers going into ghetto schools? … Not just in terms of expectations, but of self-image, in terms of confusion about loyalties. In terms of identifying with the oppressor.

The black mother who is the poet in every one of us. Now when males, or patriarchal thinking whether it’s male or female, reject that combination then we’re truncated. Rationality is not unnecessary. It serves the chaos of knowledge. It serves feeling. It serves to get from some place to some place. If you don’t honour those places then the road is meaningless. Too often, that’s what happens with intellect and rationality and that circular, academic, analytic thinking. But ultimately, I don’t see feel/think as a dichotomy. I see them as a choice of ways and combinations.

I’m saying that we must never close our eyes to the terror, the chaos which is black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is sinister, smelly, erotic, confused, upsetting-

The way you get people to testify against themselves is not constantly to have police tactics and oppressive techniques. What you do is to build it in, so people learn to distrust everything in themselves that has not been sanctioned, to reject what is most creative in themselves- to have them reject it to begin with, so you don’t even need to stamp it out.

But I’m used to associating a request for documentation as a questioning of my perceptions, an attempt to devalue what I’m in the process of discovering.

I have a difficult enough time making my perceptions verbal, tappng that deep place, forming that handle, and documentation at that point is often useless. Perceptions precede analysis just as visions precede action or accomplishments. It’s like getting a poem-
That’s the only thing I have to fight with, my whole life, preserving my perceptions of how things are, and later, learning to accept and correct both at the same time, and doing this in the face of tremendous opposition and cruel judgment. And I spent a long period of time questioning my perceptions and my first interior knowledge, not dealing with them, being tripped by them.

Quotes from A Conversation between Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich. I hope to inspire you to seek her out, as her writing is liberating.

Drive

I realised that the most important thing for me is suppressing my emotional reaction, at least my conscious feeling, rather than dealing with the issues making me frightened, frustrated and angry. Irresistably I am drawn to thinking of the low-status chimpanzee, who cannot show he is angry as it would attract the alpha-male’s attention. The feeling will continue until the situation causing it changes, and that could take weeks- when it could be much worse.

Counselling session. I am frightened of telling Tina this, the most sympathetic listener I can imagine, and I don’t want to say it. I want to make a joke and avoid saying it. Rather than acting, I reach for facebook and my blog stats pages, hoping to get a kick, though the returns are variable. I can feel unconsciously, but instinctively I see conscious feeling as the most important problem. Rationally I know there are things I must do, and I put them off. Holding feelings out of consciousness takes energy leaving me feeling lassitude.

There is the addictive rush of responses on facebook and the blog stats page, but the returns are variable. I reach for the computer in the morning hoping to get a hit big enough to get me out of bed, and often it is not there. At best it is borrowing a boost that has to be paid back later. But, suppressing genuine feeling, I can spend hours with half an eye on the TV and half on the computer, not writing or doing anything, and feeling rotten about my worthless inactivity.

On a facebook group, a man said he was leaving, because I had driven him out, and that I was “manipulative”- a high compliment, I have wanted to be able to manipulate people all my life. He calculated he would get enough “Oh Alex, please don’t go” comments to shame me into leaving and continue posting his drivel, or “inspiration of the Spirit” as he put it. Had I not gone on facebook that morning I would not have seen his post, as it was deleted. He had raised a serious matter in a solipsistic and frivolous way, and I had called him on it. Storm in teacup. This is not good for me, and it is most of the social interaction I get.

The woman had not needed a wheelchair a year ago. It’s a lot to process as people crave independence. She can roll up to the Quaker meeting and be welcomed, but she wanted to get out of her chair into one of the ordinary seats so that she would not be obviously the woman in the wheelchair, the disabled person, just for a short time. Three times, Quakers meaning well took away the seat she was wanting to get into, thinking that she wanted to wheel her chair into that space. I saw the effort she put in to getting out of her chair. She WOULD NOT GIVE UP.

Ah. That story comes to mind, as an illustration of determination and frustration. It illustrates what I am feeling, unconsciously. It helps me understand how I am now.

The medical term for neuro-diverse folks passing as neurotypical is “masking”. Women, particularly, mask symptoms, at the cost of crippling anxiety. One came to the notice of the doctors because of her anxiety, her high intelligence predicting neurotypical behaviour when she could not read it “normally”.

Quakers are my main face-to-face social outlet. I have written a report for Quakers on my last weekend away. Still procrastinating, I did it probably the last moment I could, on Monday evening. Had I been politic, I would make it a serious report about the serious business of the weekend, and instead I made it entertaining, with jokes, and my own concerns: as H would say, I was “pissing about”. What I wrote has my passion, emotion, my Drive to achieve, my desire to do what is good (as I see it) for the World rather than for me.

There is a huge depth of motivation in me. When I want to do something and persuade myself that it’s possible, out comes my drive. My drive is powerful, and it is frustrating that I can fritter an afternoon with half an eye on the television and half on my blog stats page or facebook.

-This drive, strength, creativity, can it not hold and help the part of you that is distressed? Are they too separate?

I think it does, and I am bringing my separate parts together.
slowly, too slowly-
I think I am pulling myself together, reconciling myself within, writing and suppressing less, conscious of more-
I see how important it is to me not

not to feel a feeling and yet

I am more- feeling the feeling.
Seeing how hard the barriers are and taking the barriers down.

Transphobes deny reality

You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. What has Woman’s Place UK achieved? Nothing that they should feel any pleasure in whatsoever. They have made Rupert Murdoch quietly satisfied, and enabled his organ to print as many as four trans-bashing articles in a week. They have made David TC Davies very happy- after trying to rile feminists in service of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant nationalism, he has finally managed to rile some of them against trans people, to further his far-right, hate-stoking ends. This is the MP who voted to limit abortion to 12 weeks, so making him happy is not a feminist cause.

What do they think they have achieved? They think the consultation on gender recognition reform is thanks to their agitation. Yet Justine Greening announced it in July 2017, two months before WPUK was formed.

They don’t understand the proposal, even after completing the consultation. Who is allowed to go into women’s spaces is governed by the Equality Act. That will not change. A gender recognition certificate is almost entirely symbolic. And yet they claim any man will be able to go into women’s spaces. They seem to think that men will either declare themselves female without being transgender.

That’s a matter of muddled thinking, partly because of the way people have become more extreme as this debate has gone on. Most on the side of WPUK seem to recognise the category of true transsexual, a person who has a diagnosis and medical treatment and probably should be accepted in the acquired gender. In their need to exclude men from women’s spaces, some might extend the requirements: they must have had surgery, so excluding people on a path to surgery; they must pass, to avoid distressing women present; their motivations may be suspect, and “Autogynephilia” is a good excuse to exclude trans women with a diagnosis and surgery.

There are two clear, principled positions: trans women are women, and should be treated as women; trans women are men, and women’s spaces and privileges should be for women born women only. Between these views, it is hard to draw a line, and can just lead to confused argument between allies rather than Opposing the Enemy. So there is the assertion that men will come into women’s spaces. They mean different things by that. Some mean post-op transsexuals, some claim to mean men who are not really transgender but are using the system.

So there is a dispute about what is likely to happen. I say no man will declare himself to be a woman unless s/he is trans. I say no man will enter a woman’s loo or changing room without presenting female, and generally that will be fairly clear- no beards, for example. This is not a question of fact- we cannot be certain of likelihood- but I find their fears ridiculously exaggerated. I also feel some risk should be tolerable, for the sake of us well-intentioned trans women. They seem to accept no risk at all.

They overestimate the numbers involved. I put it at 40,000, about 0.1% of the population will transition. More may want to but not, for various reasons. I think that’s a manageable problem, not deserving the great scrutiny they give it. I say they are ignoring the hard Right’s delight in fomenting conflict on the Left and prejudice against trans people, and enforcing strict gender stereotypes. They seem to think that just because they are Left themselves they have no responsibility for the hard-Right causes they further.

Suddenly disclosed gender dysphoria

Just because someone has only just noticed signs of a person’s gender dysphoria does not mean that it has had a “rapid onset”. A parent might report that the child had appeared happy and gave no sign of gender dysphoria, but the child might have had distress which s/he could not name, or even known their own gender identity for years. A child might suddenly disclose because they have decided to take action on their gender dysphoria, which they had concealed because they did not know what they could do about it. And just because someone has not noticed signs of gender dysphoria, does not mean they were not obvious to anyone open to seeing them. Some children repress their gender identity when they know they will gain only grief for it.

There is the suggestion that teenage children, especially those assigned female at birth, may suddenly decide that they are trans and seek treatment. There is a conviction where there was no sign of it before. Those asserting this tend to find the thought revolting.

Those who assert that “ROGD” is a thing, rather than a name for childhood gender dysphoria, say that it might be a social contagion brought on by suggestion, as some say anorexia can be. There are pro-ana groups promoting anorexia as a lifestyle, though it can threaten health and stop menstruation, just as testosterone might. If transition revolts you, you might be prone to see it as a way of fleeing independent adult womanhood akin to anorexia. These feminists know that womanhood, and fertility, can be very scary. Men come on to teenage girls, follow and assault them, do not take “no” for an answer- only “I have a boyfriend”, perhaps, claiming to be some man’s property rather than being entitled to decide and refuse in my own right- and this is dangerous. Claiming to be a man is a way of escaping that.

So they claim that teenage “girls” are “mutilated and medicalised”, rather than treated. The child wears a binder, which constricts breathing, and craves chest masculinisation surgery (“mastectomy”). This revolts the ROGD theorist. Why should you want a healthy part of yourself cut off? We are sad for women who have to suffer lumpectomy for cancer, and the NHS offers reconstructive surgery. I sympathise. I like my breasts and would not want to lose them. But I can empathise: chest-masc surgery changes the way others look at you, and I can understand someone might want it. I have seen the delight people have in it.

If there were a theorist who believed that ROGD was a thing, a phenomenon distinguishable from other types of childhood gender dysphoria, who was not also repulsed by current surgical treatment for female to male gender dysphoria or gender incongruence, I would be more likely to believe in it.

There is a place for people who want to resolve the distress of gender dysphoria by some means other than transition, hormones and surgery. A patient might explore their personality and character with the aim of casting off restricting inhibitions and accepting themselves. Transition is not the only treatment for people who find “femininity” constraining. However, transition alleviates distress and enables people to accept themselves, in a way they could not before.

Those who advance the hypothesis are revolted by “girls” transitioning. They think the “girls” should be supported into accepting womanhood, and supported in subverting restrictive feminine roles as women. They are not fit to research their idea, unless they can accept that sometimes transition is right for a person. Rather than supporting a teenager in becoming an adult, they want to restrict the way the teenager knows he can thrive.

I am told that gender dysphoria can have a rapid onset, where someone with an intersex condition receives a new hormone treatment. That is not what the transphobic campaigners are exercised about.

Trans women in prison

When will trans women be placed in women’s prisons in the UK? Having a gender recognition certificate does not mean we will be put in a women’s prison, but it helps.

Before sentencing, you might disclose transgender status so that a proper pre-sentencing report can be prepared and sentencing take account of it.

The prison authorities should attempt to determine the legal gender of a prisoner at the first point of contact. They don’t trust prisoners, oddly enough, so asking the prisoner is not the only way of deciding. If a prisoner shows a GRC that is proof; the authorities may ask the prisoner to produce a birth certificate, but not a GRC. Like cis women, trans women with a GRC can be placed in men’s prisons where the risk posed to other offenders and/or staff prevents location in the female estate. That is, the rules for trans women with a GRC, and cis women, being placed in men’s prisons are the same. Women, cis or trans, in the male estate must be held separately “according to a female prisoner regime”- under the rules in the Prison Service Order on women prisoners, PSO 4800. I can’t find specific rules on assessing risk, or what risk is sufficient for such a decision. There may be claims under human rights law.

Trans men who do not have a GRC should stay in women’s prisons if they ask to. The guidance does not say trans men with a GRC can ask to stay in women’s prisons, for example if they fear the men’s estate.

Trans women without a GRC must be allowed to present according to their gender identity, and the prison authorities must ensure the opportunity. They are allowed to change their name on the system if they have not gone through any formal name change procedure before, but may be kept in men’s prison.

Female prisoners are allowed to wear their own clothes, and the guidance allows trans women (even in the male estate) to do so too, explaining it’s necessary to ensure they can live in their true gender. They are not allowed suits, which might imitate the management team. They are allowed breast forms and wigs, and Make up that is vital to presenting in the gender identified with, such as foundation to cover facial hair, may not be restricted.

To get into women’s prison they must wish to live consistently in the gender with which they identify, and there are two choices, male and female. The word now is “transgender”, referring to “mannerisms, appearance, pronouns etc.” “Transsexual” is no longer used because it refers to sex and anatomy. So someone who wants surgery is included, but no desire for surgery or hormones is necessary.

They are asked for evidence of living in the gender role outside. Strong evidence includes a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, hormones or surgery, but that is not full evidence. Consistent gender expression is strong evidence, shown by ID or bank cards. The document suggests “counter evidence”- that the decision to transition is precipitated by the sentence, any evidence that the prisoner seeks to buck the system, or diagnosis of personality disorder or narcissistic traits. Trans women are not immune to personality disorder, so this may be unfair. It even says “transitioning decision may be linked to gaining access to future victims”. And that at someone’s lowest point, being imprisoned, they decide to transition, taking control of this vital aspect of our lives, makes complete sense to me.

A Transgender Case Board must be convened within three days of reception in prison. It decides where to put the prisoner, based on evidence of living in the gender identity and on risk factors. A local Transgender Review Board can review new information or evidence. There is also a centrally managed Complex Case Board for offenders who present a significant risk of harm, to themselves or others.

So, on paper the system seems reasonable. However trans women commit crimes and suicide in prison, and are victims of violence from male and female prisoners, even from staff. Prisons are dangerous and unfit for human habitation. They are underfunded, privatised and poorly staffed. The danger to prisoners comes from these facts and not from anyone’s trans status. Trans women and all other prisoners should be safe in prison because the regime protects them, and that is not the case.

Heaven, Hell and Reality

I wrote that I am in Heaven and Hell. The beauty of the world overwhelms me. The threats I face terrify me.

CS Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce, The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.’

Lewis related Heaven and Hell to the afterlife, but also to acts and experiences in life. I treat them as metaphor. Hell is the pain I cannot bear, Heaven the delight that seems incredible or impossible. Not my acts, but the world that surrounds me, other people doing their thing which I might not influence. For Lewis, my own acts, in Love or meanness create my place.

What is the name of the golden mean between selfishness and self-abnegation?

What would it mean to take responsibility for my brokenness? Not denying it. My complete loss of confidence just stops me acting. I should do this, I say to myself, it is a simple thing, and I find myself not doing it.

I do not see others for what I can get out of them. Instead, I see them generally as implacable, unsatisfiable. So I do not act, not out of fear of failure but fear of destruction.

I might find simple things to start on, I will take just this one step, but find myself not doing it. Or, having done it, I think, well, that was nothing, no-one would have had any problem with that. I have difficulty assessing how difficult any particular act will be for me, because I have imbibed others’ judgments of what should be easy or difficult and my own different judgments have been suppressed.

Marlowe’s Mephistopheles said, Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. But then he goes on,
Think’st thou that I who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
In being depriv’d of everlasting bliss?

After Heaven, everything else is Hell. Of course he is a deceiver and predator, seeking to destroy Faust, possibly incapable of truth even to himself. One wonders what his experience of Heavenly bliss was, if he left it, or thought there could be something more.

What is Heaven, for me, here, now? Standing in front of art and relating to it, especially with my dear friend as our feelings and words together reach critical mass and explode. And feeling my pain, knowing my pain, for it is me and I will not deny any part of myself.

Audre Lorde, in her conversation with Adrienne Rich: One thread in my life is the battle to preserve my perceptions- pleasant or unpleasant, painful or whatever…
AR: And however much they were denied.
AL: And however painful some of them were. When I think of the way I courted punishment [throughout my life], just swam into it: ‘if this is the only way you’re going to deal with me, you’re going to have to deal with me this way.’

Heaven is acknowledging the feeling self I denied. Heaven is being a whole human. Not just delight, but also pain fully felt and owned. Or Heaven is freedom and Hell oppression.

Having habitually denied my feeling self, and got on with it, whatever the it of the time was, I don’t know how to be my doing self and feeling self both at once. It’s like having to carry two large bags of groceries without handles. I can embrace one and carry it, but if I try to embrace both things fall out the top and the bags slip through my arms.

And, I am in Reality. Heaven and hell are not future states, or even metaphors for possibilities now, but an expression of the range of my experience, of delight and terror. This world now is bigger than both, containing things more Heavenly and more Hellish than I can imagine.

So I will release my feeling self. I will permit myself to feel, and to experience the feeling, whatever the feeling is. I practise this in the Quaker meeting and in the Silence in my own ritual space at home. I am carrying her, or needing to learn to walk again, in a new way- but it is getting easier.

Why I am a Christian

Christianity is wonderful and beautiful. At its heart is Sacrament: regularly we meet with God and are loved and accepted. And Story: we are told myths which enrich us, such as: We are created in the image of God. Therefore we are

Loving
Creative
Powerful
Beautiful

The root of Christianity is the person of Jesus: a human being who is God. We are followers of Christ- the anointed one, his brothers and sisters, who tells us to be our full selves in our power, and act in Love. The Spirit is in us, and when we are our full selves, self-actualised and self-defined, we can shed the small person we learned we were, and follow the guidance of this indwelling Spirit.

Christianity is a Way, of becoming our best selves. Albert Einstein: Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison [of ego] by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. We are part of all that is.

Christianity also provides community. We are followers together. We can bring up immature persons, who want a clear framework of rules to regulate their own behaviour in order to feel safe. More mature Christians can give guidance, but we are all followers, all on the Way.

Christian spiritual practices can facilitate universal human spiritual experiences. In contemplative prayer or in the Quaker meeting we enter immediate communication, through our senses rather than through words. Art can give us this too: if I sit with an art work it communicates directly to my feeling self. We know we are a part of the Whole. We are not alone. I can experience this in nature, seeing a tree or a wild animal- this is why some people hug trees- and there are stories separate from Christianity expounding this, as in William Blake’s

see the world in a grain of sand
and Heaven in a wild flower

-there are other spiritual Ways to full humanity- but Christianity is my Way, the Way I have walked since childhood.

Through art, nature and my Quaker meeting I can be Opened to reality. The world is magical, more beautiful and real, and I am myself as God created me.

Christianity must Change or Die, wrote John Shelby Spong, Episcopal Bishop of Newark, and though I have not read that book I agree. Christianity is infected with exclusivity, the thought that only Christianity will do as the Way to God, even that those outside the Christian community are damned. Partly this can be dealt with through translation. Jesus said,

I Am is the way, the truth and the life. No-one can come to the Father except through I Am.

That is, it is through being ourselves as created by God, not attempting to conform to some set of rules drafted by men (non-inclusive language intentional, “the white fathers” is Audre Lorde’s phrase) that we are able to relate to God.

For too many people, Christianity is a belief system, so what we believe is more important than what we do or how we relate to each other. It is how we relate that matters, not believing impossible things. If a virgin giving birth is impossible, that should not be a barrier to being Christian. We can be gentle with each other- because relating is more important than believing- hearing others’ beliefs in a gentle spirit. For scientific enquiry, rigorous clear explanation may work; for religious truth, mystery and paradox fit better. Even for scientific enquiry, mystery and paradox may be inescapable: light is a wave, and a particle.

And Christianity is disfigured by too close a relationship with the apparatus of State power, as with the Emperor Constantine, President Putin wooing Patriarch Kirill, or the Queen as the head of the Church of England. Christianity has been a State ideology, enforcing obedience on the subjects. It must free itself from all such temptations. “My kingdom is not of this world.” That has made it emphasise personal morality, especially sexual morality which prevents us from connecting with our deepest selves, who are Free and powerful and feared as a threat to rulers and the powers of the world. Part of the reason I assert I am a Christian (rather than simply “on a spiritual path”) is to stand in the face of those who say you cannot be trans, or LGBT, and Christian.

My power is not a threat to the powers of the world, for it is a power of love and service; but overweening State power may feel it as a threat because it is independent. Over two thousand years, Christianity has held so much darkness, from arguments for enslaving Africans and supporting colonialism to oppressive power structures within individual parish churches; and yet at its best it is a Way for humans to reach our full potential in loving relationship.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms,” said Jesus, and Christianity at its best expands to fit what humans need. The Sea of Faith movement includes as Christians, even as priests, those who think God is metaphor rather than reality, and churches have always welcomed those who doubted the core beliefs yet wanted to remain in the community.

Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde gives the consolation trans women need. I feel seen by her. I am reading Your silence will not protect you, a new British selection of her prose and poetry, of her most timeless works.

“We have been raised to fear the Yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings. But once recognised, those which do not enhance our future lose their power and can be altered. The fear of our desires keeps them suspect and indiscriminately powerful, for to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond endurance. The fear that we cannot grow beyond any distortions that we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our oppression.”

-from Uses of the Erotic: the Erotic as Power.

To gender-critical feminists opposing AFAB non-binary people whom they so resemble, from the point of view of everyone except themselves, I would quote from Scratching the Surface: Some notes to barriers to women and loving:

“The distortion of relationship which says ‘I disagree with you, so I must destroy you’ leaves us as Black people with basically uncreative victories, defeated in any common struggle… This kind of action is a prevalent error among oppressed peoples. It is based upon the false notion that there is only a particular and limited amount of freedom that must be divided up between us… so instead of joining together to fight for more, we quarrel between ourselves.”

Why do trans women not enjoy each others’ company more? StS: “For so long we have been encouraged to view each other with suspicion, as eternal competitors, or as the visible face of our own self-rejection.”

This is prose so rich and poetic that I feel moved to read it aloud, feeling each syllable in my mouth. From Poetry is not a luxury:

“That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.” I know that. Truth comes to me as poetry before I know it intellectually. Here is her definition of the erotic, from UotE:

“The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognising its power, in honour and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.”

From The transformation of silence into language and action:

“In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. And I began to recognise a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into a perspective gave me great strength.”

Audre Lorde speaks for me and inspires me. Yet this is Black experience, lesbian experience, which is not my own and is in so many ways alien to my white, educated understanding. That shows me why we white people must be allies to Black people, because they see things we do not see, they can lead us to our own freedom, and her words “I am not free while anyone is unfree” is simply fact.

George Cruikshank

At the end of British Black History month, I present this cartoon by George Cruikshank.

Here is a larger version on the British Museum website, which claims copyright.

The cartoon, from July 1826, calls the slavery abolition campaigners “canting humbugs”. In Cruikshank’s view, the Caribbean “planters” host happy, well-fed, fat black people, who are portrayed making music, dancing and drinking rum. The Abolitionists are deceiving decent British people to take an interest in slavery when there are poor whites in Britain, needing charity but ignored.

Oh, George! Cruikshank’s cartoons are still worth looking at, and I note his sympathy with starving people- a genuine concern- but the lies about slavery shame me now. Britain made a vast amount of money from slavery and colonial exploitation. Loving the Tate Galleries, I have just checked they are not directly contaminated by slave profits, which is a relief; but all over Britain the legacies of slave ownership remain. I am not free when anyone is unfree, even when their shackles are very different from my own. It is imperative for me to be an ally, and develop as an ally. I found the cartoon through David Olusoga’s documentary Britain’s forgotten slave owners.