Changing gender

Who would want a gender recognition certificate, anyway?

I did. I was more or less OK with the law calling me a “man”. I had a passport and driving licence which indicated I am a woman. I was not thinking of marriage or civil partnership. But when the law offered the chance to be declared a “woman”, I wanted it. I can’t think of any way it affects my legal rights. It makes me almost certain to go to a women’s prison if imprisoned, but I have not committed that sort of offence.

Should someone with a penis be sent to a women’s prison? It is a grey area. Whichever prison we go to, we are going to have a tough time. In the cause of protecting themselves against us, people are violent towards us. If a trans woman has committed a violent crime, she is capable of violence; and if she has transitioned before she was charged, and wants to go there, I would send her to a women’s prison. If she were violent or threatening there, I would subject her to prison discipline- though that requires a sufficient number of prison officers.

Now, under the gender recognition act, I needed to show I had lived as a woman for two years, which I proved with wage slips, and I needed to show I was likely to live as a woman for the rest of my life. The evidence required for that was letters from two doctors, one on an approved list of specialists. I am not faking this, or trying to prove a point. I am sincere. This is my life.

Under the consultation, which has not yet opened, Proposals to streamline and de-medicalise the process for changing gender will be part of a broad consultation of the legal system that underpins gender transition.

Why should I need a doctor’s diagnosis? Why should I need any written evidence beyond my bare assertion that I am a trans woman, and I intend to live as a woman for the rest of my life? To stop anyone getting a GRC insincerely, and to protect others from us, if we might harm them. Provisions on evidence and length of time have to be justified, but can be if a good case can be made that people would be harmed.

There might be policy on trans women in women’s prisons. Any restriction is subject to Human Rights challenges. I tend to feel we should be placed in women’s prisons and the system should work to prevent violence, by us or against us. That depends on having sufficient prison officers. Perhaps there could be restrictions on getting a GRC, for people who had been in prison or charged with an imprisonable offence. Prisoners seeking gender transition have psychological assessment, and also have hormones. Taking hormones would deter most men.

I feel most men would not like to sign a form saying that they are women. I doubt anyone has had a second GRC for a reversion. I would have heard of it. It would have been reported. Google would find it. People do not transition lightly.

Another suggestion was that men go to great lengths to get into women’s refuges. Well, former partners whom women have fled often try hard to track them down, and sometimes the refuge’s security fails; but I don’t see how a GRC, and the attempt to prove he needs domestic violence services, would help a man find his former partner.

So there are a lot of scare tactics about theoretically possible, highly unlikely scenarios where a determined man might lie to get a GRC then use it to attack women. There are so many other ways men can attack women, without all that effort, why bother? The advantage we gain is that we would no longer have a long drawn out, expensive, intrusive and humiliating procedure in order to get a GRC. There is no real cost to anyone in granting self-certification. None.

Taunting God

Why should a conversation turn into a competition?

“Free Archaeological display” said the sign on the trailer, so I wandered in. Before I had got to the top of the stairs a pretty woman in her twenties came over and asked how I was doing. The display is about Umchester, only a couple of miles away. There is a video and some display boards. What do I think? A man of about the same age followed her.

I tell her of the mosaic at the Lakes. Not a picture of a God, or anything, just an abstract pattern- but still quite impressive, we agree. I am interested, I say. I watch the odd documentary on the TV.

-Don’t believe everything you see. If it’s [name] switch off immediately. Later, it emerges that his documentaries are about alien beings building the pyramids. A little hurt, I protest that I can trust BBC4. Channel 5 is a little dodgy.

She works with the public engagement team in London. She does not know much about Roman Britain, she is an Egyptologist by specialisation. I feel the need to show I know a little, to move the conversation to a higher level.

-So if I dropped a name like- I don’t know how to pronounce it- Khasekhemwy…
-That’s early dynastic period, isn’t it? asked her colleague doubtfully.

She starts telling me of Unas. He had unique poetry in his Pyramid Texts, saying he would use the bones of the Gods to scour his pots if they did not obey him. I said I would Google, and I have:

397: Unas is the Bull of Heaven, who (once) suffered want,
and who has decided to live on the essence of every god,
who eats their entrails when they come from the Isle of Fire with their bellies full of magical charms (HkA.w).

398: Unas is a well provided one, who has absorbed his spirits (Ax.w).
Unas has appeared as this Great One, lord of those who are at hand.
He sits with his back turned to Geb.

413: Lo, their soul (bA) is in the belly of Unas, their spirits (Ax.w) are with Unas as the broth of the gods, cooked for Unas from their bones.
Lo, their soul (bA) is with Unas, their Shadows (taken away) from those to whom they belong.

Fuckyeah. Badass or what? I can’t think of any other literature about Gods treating them with such disrespect. “Later kings are back to grovelling,” she said. The ceiling of his tomb is covered in lapis [lazuli] with tiny golden stars for the night sky, she says, with the awestruck tones of one who has seen it.

-Does that survive in the Books of the Dead?
-No, they are very respectful. She quotes a bit. I should read Miriam Lichtheim, she tells me. She loved those works, with transliterations, literal translations word by word then prose translations. “Is it Licht [as in “loch”] or Lisht?” she asks her colleague, but he does not know. Her teacher said Lisht. I google again, and find these are substantial academic works.

I like Gilgamesh, I said. “There is nothing new under the Sun”.
-You can quote it? said the man, impressed. Well, it is a fascinating quote, “Nothing new” in the oldest story we know.

In London many of the objects unearthed are Victorian. She finds them quite interesting. Her colleague is not interested in anything newer than Georgian, he says. He drifts off.

I look down at the displayed objects. There is a coin, a black disc I would not have thought was metal without the context, and the broken pin of a brooch. “You should volunteer!” she says brightly.

-Mmm, in a ditch with a brush.
-Not really, a trowel more often. Though there might be human remains, we would use a brush then. Sometimes people use mattocks. It is very good exercise, she says, winningly. I imagine volunteers with mattocks and archaeologists like her with brushes doing the interesting stuff, sometimes showing it to sweaty, muddy volunteers.

I don’t know how this one started, but we were on Romans in Britain including black people, from Africa, and I remarked that there were Emperors from all over the Empire, but not from Britain. She said there were rulers in Britain. I made myself clearer: there were Emperors from North Africa, or Syria, Emperors of Rome, but none from Britain. She said Britain was a Roman concept, not a concept from before Roman rule.

-I don’t know how I am failing to communicate. There were Emperors from all over the empire, Emperors of Rome, from Syria or North Africa, but not from Britain.

She tells me that was about being closer to trade routes. And when I say that the tribes before the conquest had no writing she said just because none survives does not mean that Boudicca could not write her own language. On African soldiers on Hadrian’s wall, she says the concept of black slaves is a modern concept, we think of slaves coming from Africa; but I meant that the population could move around the empire, and would not all be white.

I want to share poetry with her so ask if she has heard of Hafiz. She has not. I quote some. It is translated by Daniel- but I cannot remember “Ladinsky”, his surname, until later. She goes to talk to a man who nearly fell on the stairs. “You could go down the ramp,” she says helpfully. He had not seen it.

Jewish translator, I say, but she is engaged elsewhere.
-Jewish?!

Self-confidence

Do trans women have male privilege?

I avoid actions, and ways of being or responding, because of disapproval in the past which no longer exists. I acted, I sensed another’s disapproval, I absorbed the judgment that I should not act that way, I internalised the judgment that I, my instincts and actions, were wrong. Internalised transphobia is internalised self-phobia. Even if the judgment is my own, and no-one else’s, it still paralyses me.

There is a deep well of rage inside of me. Rage about how I as an individual have been treated…; rage about how others I know have been treated; and rage about the conditions that I’m sure affect many women and minorities, … and have caused many others to leave. Well, my own rage is there, but fruitless: I still am fearful of certain expressions, and the fear holds me down. I am depressed and lacking motivation. The rage could be energy for action, but my own judgment holds it down.

Women live in a society that presents as “natural” what they experience as arbitrary constraints. This can provide them with a particular sensitivity to injustices that are due less to individual ill will than to the structures of established practices and institutions. And I don’t. I accept the judgment on my femininity as weak and as less than masculinity, not an arbitrary constraint but the natural order of things, not historically constructed social categories. I find the quotes in italics, about feminist philosophy, here.

That feminist understanding of her own worth is an attitude I could learn from. The elephant could break the chain on its ankle easily, but remembering infancy when it could not, it imagines the chain as effective a restraint as it was then. My chain only exists in my imagination, but a chain there is strong.

This is the answer to the allegation that trans women have male privilege. The feminist says that my upbringing, encouraging me to act assertively, should benefit me. I argue, against that, that their internal qualities, allowing them to reject the arbitrary constraints on them, place them in a better position to be themselves and overcome the structural injustice. I could not assert myself, only assert a masculine act, which tortured me and which eventually I fled from.

Beside that masculinity which society values, my femininity seemed weak and worthless, even to me. We project our own judgments onto others. Others may read our lack of self-confidence and downgrade their judgment of us. So I am paralysed in acting. That article quoted a definition of “woman”- S is a woman [if and only if] S is systematically subordinated along some dimension — economic, political, legal, social — and S is ‘marked’ as a target for this treatment by observed or imagined bodily features presumed to be evidence of a female’s biological role in reproduction. I am systematically subordinated, at least. Or maybe I would be a woman if I passed as a woman rather than a trans woman. Because our oppression is so different, I could sympathise with a feminist caring more about hers than mine, or even not seeing mine as oppression.

Presence may be the answer. I still the critical voices in my head, and act from a single volition rather than my conflicted state. Others suffer from Imposter syndrome, and still act. Living in Presence does not mean not setting goals or seeking to achieve them, but being present to one’s atelic activities. “Atelic” means non-goal related, from Greek “telos”, purpose, I read here. One might also be present to telic activities. One might develop self-confidence, I theorise.

Presence II

I can be present, and when I am it feels like I am conscious and the rest of the time I am asleep. That is the ubiquitous metaphor: Wake up! various groups shout at other groups, spiritual leaders at their willing audiences, people of strong political views from all parts of the spectrum at everyone else. And it really feels like that. I am asleep. This morning in the Quaker meeting I felt I was there, present, conscious, open to myself and the world, Continue reading

Tiredness, energy, depression, motivation

I cycle badly because I am ashamed. That is, I do not want to switch down a gear because I am ashamed of needing to; so my cadence, the number of times a minute I revolve the pedals, is too low. People with a faster cadence cycle more efficiently. I rebuke myself that it is not what I see that should decide what gear I am in, but how my leg muscles feel. Wind, but also temperature, affect me, I may be feeling tired, and I can have good days when it feels like I am flying, and less good days. I am pleased to cycle up that steep hill, and glad for the work it makes my legs do, and I might do it more easily in a lower gear. I drive myself hard, and it makes me less efficient.

I feel tired all the time. That is so common it has a doctors’ abbreviation, TATT, but also is fake-reassuring: if only I got enough sleep, I would not “feel tired”, yet somehow I always feel tired despite dozing in the afternoon. And generally if I do something in the morning, I just want to watch TV in the afternoon. Today is quite a good day, actually (strike through the words I habitually use to minimise such things): I did a post this morning, I have done a washing and a little cleaning, and am not writing again. And there are bad days when I just read on the computer in the morning, and watch TV later.

I am tired, and sometimes have energy, sometimes have none; or I am depressed, and sometimes have motivation. I need to go to buy food. Maybe later, not now. I know I need it, and have no motivation to deal with that. Or, yesterday I was in the caff with R and I realised that now I feel energised and motivated enough to go to the supermarket, but soon I will not and it will be too much effort. That’s useful. I do the minimum, usually, and I need to know when I can.

I don’t tend to bully myself with the word “lazy”. I choose “useless” or “no good”, words which do not even say how I might improve, instead. “Get on with it,” I tell myself. “Action,” said Ann, and that generally seemed to work for her, but I heard little joy in it. I like the idea of behavioural motivation, that I would praise myself for the little actual amount I had done, be happy with it, and so be motivated to more, but I have not got round to that.

Perhaps sometime I will not feel tired, or will have motivation. I hope it is a carrot rather than a stick which makes me feel that. Sticks have the opposite effect, in my experience. I wonder if a different way of conceptualising it would make me feel better. Bullying myself does not. I must no should (hang it) might “come to delight in every tiny fragment of good” or something. Or face reality – no, that’s judgmental too, that is saying I don’t, now.

I am a good person.
I do my best.
This is where I am

I am frightened

Knowing you are trans

I am sailing close to the wind on that facebook group. I asked them how does being a woman differ from being a man? What does it mean that a trans woman is really a woman? What does it mean to be a woman? I feel that is different from knowing that transition is right for me: I have found a role I want to play, but do not have the essence of a woman. To say that I am a woman, I first have to say what a woman is.

A difference: not every woman can have children, but every woman deals with issues around female reproduction. A similarity: every woman has the experience of men coming on to her and not taking no for an answer: that is about fucking not romantic attraction. Mentally disabled women suffer more sexual violence than the general population. Trans women have that experience, and it is horrible, though it would be worse aged 13. We have the experience of being heard and respected less, and also the experience of being suspected of male violence, and potential victims of it- when someone says “I would never hit a woman” I can’t know he applies that to me.

That is seeing “being a woman” from a particular feminist perspective, in terms of restrictions. In terms of positives, we might think of being adored, Cat-called, Beautified, Idealized, but that does not happen to every woman and is less likely for us. Beauty is a lot of work, rather than a pleasant state, for most.

Someone said “Read Whipping Girl by Julia Serano” and others said don’t play the TERFs’ game.

People talked of hating breasts or of feeling that they ought to have breasts. That is trans as body dysmorphia. One said what it means to be a woman differs by culture. We can’t say what it means to be a woman, just be the best we can be. Women may have any human characteristic or quality.

My feeling is that the desire for bodily alteration arises from desire for the cultural role. That means that the desire for bodily alteration or hatred of ones body as it is does not indicate that I am a woman, but that my way of being is wrongfully despised.

I knew. I was in Russel Reid’s consulting rooms when he said I should have the Operation. I remember the delight I felt. It is one of my memories of intense happiness, relief, joy, affirmation.

I had intended to transition in September 2002. That was the date I had fixed on in 2000, when I decided to transition. I wanted to prepare. Then in March 2002 I woke in the night thinking how much I envied Vicky, who had multiple sclerosis without remission, and less than two years after diagnosis needed help to move from her wheelchair to a chair. I am thinking of a horrible struggle I saw, of two people failing to get her from her wheelchair onto a stair lift. I don’t know whether the look on her face was pain or mortification. It was not my place to interfere. I don’t know how long she survived after that, we were never close, I knew her as a volunteer at work.

I would have swapped lives with her! No-one doubted that she was a woman! I realised I had to transition as soon as I could.

So, there was the absolute conviction, and intensity of desire, which others now say is proof they are trans, or even proof they are women, and now I have changed my mind and concluded it was about social roles, and valuing my qualities, not about being a woman or even being trans. It was only about doing trans, as the best route I could see to self-acceptance.

That facebook group has just expelled someone for making transphobic statements. Any posts that deny the validity of transgender itself are not accepted in this group. I am close to that line. Trans is about roles, or culture, and not about essence. I acknowledge it exists, even that with the culture as it is that it is necessary. I wish that it didn’t.

Gender and sexuality

I read a gay man conflating his gender and his sexuality. He said that all his interactions with other people were influenced by his sexuality. It made him a good nurse, non-threatening to vulnerable people and unobtrusively efficient in caring. His sexuality suffused his whole character. This was several years ago, when homophobia was normal in large sections of society. His was a winsome way of appearing non-threatening, as well as a courageous coming out. He also made his sexuality acceptable, part of everyday life rather than some weird exotic perversion. It is a tactic that could win over a thoughtful conservative, brought up to see “homosexuality” as disgusting.

We would say gender and sexuality are completely different. Gender is not sexuality, because lesbians can be femme. Trans women’s idiosyncrasy is a matter of gender, not sexuality, so the word “Transsexual” is no longer acceptable, and it is nothing to do with sexual desire (because female embodiment fantasies are so shameful). Gender and sexuality are different aspects of being human.

I want to conflate them again. I relate to a partner as my whole self. My sexuality is not some abstruse, separate part of me which I get out only with partners or potential partners but part of my way of relating to anyone. Some people may preserve professional detachment, I never managed it, but if in the office I sought to put people at ease I would reveal my humanity, which means my personality.

Transition is not a sex thing, we say. I do not transition because I have a particular sexuality, but because I have a female gender identity. I am female rather than male. This does not mean I can bear children, and transition means I cease to be able to father them. What does it mean? There is no gift, talent or virtue which one sex has and the other does not. Feminists observe that their gift of leadership may be rejected by men, and even by other women, and call that an aspect of Patriarchy, a system of oppression. I observe that gifts are more valued in one sex than the other, and different ways of being or expression are welcomed, tolerated or deprecated in each, and therefore I am culturally a woman, seen by my culture as a woman because I fit the ways of being and expression welcomed in women by my culture.

Though it is normal, and normative, for a woman to be attracted to men, and I am not.

But for that man, his gayness was part of his essence, which also made him a good nurse. Being a nurse is good. Therefore being him, which includes being gay, is good. Being a nurse is good for a woman and bad for a man is a social norm he does not recognise or value.

Being like me is right for a woman and wrong for a man is disputed, and why should I assent to it? Because it relieves social pressure, but now I say the cost is too great. I always wanted to fit in, so I transitioned, because I thought I could accept myself and yet fit in. It did not work.

It is my sexuality. It is the way I relate to others and express myself. My gender is feminine, not “woman”.

Transgender medical care

I am on several trans facebook groups. One is for activists, and discusses trans in the media. Another is a support group, and there are two strong themes there- how long the poster has to wait for my psychiatric referral, and how wonderful it is to have their operation at last. Often people give daily updates when they are in hospital: they are so happy! You would see your GP and say “I am trans.” You want NHS psychiatric referrals to confirm this, because that is the way to get hormones and surgery; anyone can change their name and clothes. You see a psychiatrist locally, who refers you to a specialist gender clinic. Before you see the gender clinic, you are certain of what you want. You are trans, and you need a medically supervised transition. Your friends online, and perhaps IRL too, tell you that is what they want and how wonderful it is finally to have it.

You have the idea transition is the answer to your problems, and then you join trans groups which confirm that. All you hear is confirmation, and the idea that true trans folk need Gender Confirmation Surgery is still strong even if we also hear that not all trans folk have it.

Problems with dilation come up now and again, but not enough to convince pre-op people that there are serious difficulties.

You see a psychiatrist and say you know you are trans, and have known this for years, or for all your life. Ideally that psychiatrist would explore with you- who are you, really? Why do you want this? What is it in you that you call “trans” or “female” or “feminine”? But you see them for an hour once every six months, and that is impossible in the time available. It needs a depth and direction of psychotherapy they are not equipped to offer, even if you were in a place to participate in it.

There are also psychiatrists who will see patients privately. Mine used hormones as a diagnostic tool: he would prescribe them to every patient who consulted him. He said fantasists would balk at taking them, and never come again. I feel desperate people would know that this was what they were supposed to do, and take the hormones.

I, being desperate, knew this was what I was supposed to want and took the hormones. If you transition, they help you pass.

I transitioned in April 2002 at work. I thought, even though I don’t know if in five years I will be trying to live as a man, I need to do this now. I did not want The Operation immediately. I found I wanted it more and more as time went on. I had it in February 2004. In Autumn 2003 I was depressed, and my GP gave me more and more Citalopram. In February I ceased being depressed, and remained not depressed though the GP steadily reduced the anti-depressant. I thought that was proof that the operation was right for me.

And now I say I was poisoned and mutilated, the operation is a sham, a con, we want it because of social pressure and minimal medical intervention confirms we can have it because we really want it. There is no place for a psychiatrist to probe beneath the desire for the operation, even if they wanted to. We resent the delay, and resent the “gatekeepers” who might stop us having the operation we want. I did.

This is the way to happiness and acceptance! I knew I was not a man, I repeatedly curled in a ball on the floor weeping “I am not a man, I am not a man, I am not a man, I am not….” At the Sibyls we talked of it. We knew transition was terribly difficult, and we might not make a go of it, but there was no question that it was the difficulty stopping me, not any doubt that “I am trans therefore transition including surgery is right for me”.

How could I refuse the way to happiness and acceptance? I knew I wanted it, at a time when I was unclear about wanting anything else.

The social pressure is still there. There are a variety of messages- here I read Gender non-conforming kids – such as boys who like dolls or girls who hate dresses – aren’t trans. Trans people feel a disconnect between the person they’re seen as and expected to be and the person they actually are. What neat boxes! Why should anyone imagine they really knew which box fitted them?

I was poisoned and mutilated. Transgender medical care did not protect me from that. It could not.

Self-discovery while presenting male would have been difficult. Transition without hormones would too. I would not have passed as well. The operation removed my depression, and meant I could swim and wear trousers comfortably. It was good for me, and so this second-best, good enough is so enduring. We know what we want, and are desperate to get it.

Memories and reflections

Two memories from my employment tribunal practice stand out. In one, the Respondent forged three letters which, if believed, were a defence to our claim. We sought a notice payment, and he forged the contractual statement of terms and conditions, to show the notice should be less. But the Claimant had retained her T&Cs, showing the date she started work there.

He would rather go to a hearing, spending considerably more on solicitors, than pay her her due under the law. He lied and cheated. And through her responsible action, I wrote a delicious letter to his representatives- we will settle now for payment of the claim in full, but if you go to hearing we will seek costs and press for perjury to be investigated. He paid up.

She had angina, and he had sacked her after six weeks’ sickness absence. Had he left her to cope with the changes, and learn how a GTN spray affected her, she could have gone back to work shortly after. The stress of the tribunal application stopped her recovery.

And the other: usually a defence to a claim would be accepted late, as it is in the interests of justice: the Claimant’s loss is only a few weeks’ delay, but if the defence were refused the Respondent loses their right to be heard. The motion to accept the defence late is usually a routine, with a pretty apology for lateness enough. I found the arguments why it should not be accepted late. I wiped the floor with them.

As I typed that paragraph I spoke two of the arguments I had used aloud into the empty room, with passion in my voice, controlled contempt suitable for the tribunal room. I remember them in detail. Eight years later these things still matter to me.

I am occupied, in my retreat, in my reclusive existence, with the nature of humanity. How do I see myself in my world? Those stories form a huge part of it. The wicked will fight like rats in a sack, without humanity, quarter, or thought of justice, for their own wrongful interest; but sometimes through luck and brilliance Right can win. A recent story I heard of a court action confirms that: a man resisting to the last moment, only caving when he saw the right must win.

I retreated from the monsters. I could create the brilliance and have the luck only intermittently, and the losses that I saw as My Failures, My Inadequacy, My Wrongness crushed me.

I am concerned above all with safety. There are monsters out there, which can hurt me. I sought safe spaces. Quakers seem nice enough, and I formed an ideal of what a Quaker meeting should be, a false view less and more than what it is really, of people conforming to an ideal humanity rather than being their whole humanity. Quakers were my safe space, then I found during the election campaign that Labour party members, campaigning, were good people too.

I am safe, day to day, retreated to my living room, but not month to month. All I have to do today is buy food, and if I do not I can do it tomorrow. And I am not providing for myself, so I am not safe. My income could be stopped any day now. And I find the safe spaces I sought are more complex than I knew, inhabited not by people following rules I thought I understood but human beings behaving in complex human ways.

I cannot predict what is going on. I can only see it. Or not see it, blinded by my understanding of what should happen.

So I look back on my experiences, and my perceptions, and try to force them into another framework of understanding. I face repeated set-backs. It could be recovering from my childhood, if I cease to see set-backs as I saw them then, as proof of my worthlessness, as the failure which kills me. The monster will get me and I shall die. Instead, I might see what I have lost, if I have lost anything. I have to see what is rather than react to what I imagine out of my complex internal illusions.

I have lost nothing. I have time, and my human gifts. Try again, fail again, fail better is the fashionable Beckett quote, now Keep calm and carry on, parodied from the beginning, is forgotten. Once more into the Breach! I am terrified, because it was so ghastly. I am depressed, which for me means seeing what I clearly must do, and having no motivation for it. Come on! I admonish myself. Action! Get on with it! I am crushed by my experiences. That was a source of judgment for me, proof of my worthlessness, though I assert- it really does not matter whether I underwent experiences which the most courageous, gifted and resilient person would find unbearable, or experiences a worthless, useless weakling should find unexceptionable- I am crushed by them. Can I create a new world?

I put the bin out this morning. It is sunny, and sunlight glistened through a long string of raindrops on the washing line. There is so much beauty outside my living room!

Condemn violence

I read attempts to justify violence at Speakers’ Corner. I condemn it.

First, the victim was videoing trans protesters. Maria MacLachlan has claimed she got out her camera to video Julia Long, but this twitter thread shows her videoing protesters, even approaching them to intimidate them. This is a threat. We can be outed. The threat could be exaggerated: the opposition are not the police, with access to facial recognition software, but some coincidence might lead to a person being identified. A video shot in that way could be edited to pretend non-violent trans protesters are in some way threatening, but what they did was worse.

The violence starts with an attempt to snatch the camera. Filming is provocation but not itself violence.

Second, as the camera was attached by a strap to MacLachlan’s wrist, there was a scuffle. MacLachlan has a woman in a head lock. Defenders say the punch was an attempt to defend that woman. But, the violence started with the attempt to snatch the camera. So it’s the headlock that is self-defence.

Third, the punch was thrown by a provocateur, with TERF sympathies. This is highly unlikely, difficult to organise, and will not be believed. Someone wanted not to condemn before she was convinced to her own satisfaction that the punch was definitely thrown by a trans woman. Ordinary people, without much understanding of the issues or sympathy for either side, will see that as condoning the violence.

The provocation mitigates, but does not justify, the violence against MacLachlan.

There is a practical reason for condemning the violence. It makes us look bad. There are TERFs saying that this shows that trans women are men, even “men’s rights activists”, violent against women as all men are violent, and all trans women are men who are that violent. I hope reasonable people will not judge me by that punch. Trans woman condemns violence is not news, but just possibly trans woman justifies violence is.

Then it is ineffective. Even systematic State violence does not prevent committed individuals who feel they are right from resisting. Our violence can only encourage our opponents.

Violence makes reconciliation even more unlikely, brutalises aggressor and victim, turns disagreement into conflict, makes us physically more unsafe.

I understand in theory that non-violence is possible: an ideal, where from a position of self-knowledge, understanding and acceptance of the whole situation, and developed Love for the world in all its messy complexity, one might stand up for Truth without violence. And knowing that ideal, it might be worth attempting it, even while knowing I will fall short. I am afraid this is in theory.

There was to be a talk by two anti-trans speakers. Perhaps there was no point in demonstrating against that. There is a small group of people who are passionately TERF, and they are not convincing people generally. Showing up in a non-violent way might show our humanity. We are more difficult to hate, as individuals. The TERFs are not persuadable, though, seeing themselves as victims and us as persecutors. Finding a way to talk to them just might work, one person at a time, but even shouting, leave alone a punch, just convinces them that they are right.