Celebrating difference

Different is bad. Difference means not belonging, otherness, threat. The different are seen as less, as lacking our qualities, unable to fit in. Difference means hard work, labouring to understand- far simpler to reject it out of hand.

Twenty years ago, Andrew Wakefield started a lie that vaccines cause autism, and as well as the damage to herd immunity that has done and the consequent deaths and maiming from measles and other diseases, it is a vicious caricature of autism, unmoored from reality. It portrays autism as damage or lack, where it is difference. My friend can quote great screeds of Paradise Lost, and that is a gift. Not all the responses of a neuro-diverse person will be the same as neuro-typicals, and we NTs have valuable gifts, but so do they.

I was stuck in the radical feminist idea that there is no gift, quality or characteristic in one sex which is not in the other, and of equal value in both, as a way of not denying women’s characteristics; but there is a great variety of gendered behaviour in both sexes. An equally valid feminist response is seeing and valuing the differences between the sexes, not in terms of women being less or lacking but as women being more likely to have particular valuable gifts. These differences may come from culture or evolution, but more likely a mixture of both. The radical feminist refuses to be seen as Lacking by others, and the other feminists see things to celebrate. Femininity is beautiful and valuable.

It feels like my feminine self is so different from the masculine ideal inculcated into me that it is nature v torture rather than nature v nurture. That inclines me to the radical view: I am far from Masculinity, yet still observe I have a Y chromosome and had a working male reproductive system. Yet for some straight people it was nurture, leading out their natural gifts.

I watched the ITV popular current affairs programme Tonight on trans kids, and it seemed the adult trans-feminine people were obviously men, though with long hair. I feel that is the way forward: we should not have to have hormones and surgery, be poisoned and mutilated, in order to transition. We should just wear what we like, which is a signal of the sort of person we are, and be that person. That would mean using men’s loos rather than women’s. I feel we go through medical transition as a way of seeking legitimacy, out of social pressure, because that is the understanding of what gender dysphoria is and gender dysphoria is how we differentiate ourselves from cross-dressers. Most people would disagree, though, especially at the time they seek out medical treatment. They want it because they have gender dysphoria, not because that is what society expects.

Trans women have had a history of trying to make men of themselves, in dangerous, manly jobs like police firearms officer, fireman, or in the armed forces. Therefore, our attempts to realise our true selves will be painful, difficult and distorted, rather than flowing naturally. How might we be supported, if the descriptor “woman” was taken away? It is our way of saying, “No, honest, I’m not a weirdo”- but does anyone actually believe that, even us? Weirdo is good, of course, ideally society should celebrate difference, or at least rub along with it, but is still frightening.

complexity, fragility

The fascinating complexity but also the heartbreaking fragility of human existence. That phrase from the Guardian fit my thoughts today, in the strong sunshine and Siberian air. The extremes at once of the weather perhaps provoke it. The chaos of thought and passion, all confused and contradictory, is becoming clearer.

I am stubborn. I don’t give in until I am dangling on the end of a rope. The things I am most proud of are when I have dug my heels in and fought on, against discouragement. I judge myself harshly, and often see things negatively.

I fear myself more than anything else, fear my fear or anger, when these are not important, or even beneficial if I permit them. That means much of my fear is illusory, of things which don’t really matter. Things pass, and I am not dead. The fear feels existential but is trivial.

I am still alive. Weird, no? You are too- hooray! I can grimly fight on, but also-

I take things to heart. I worry. Bad stuff has an impact on me. She argued that trans women were propositioning lesbians and not taking no for an answer saying they were prejudiced for not accepting a penis as a female organ, and that Stonewall was ignoring lesbians. That is unlikely, given that Ruth Hunt is Stonewall CEO. I worried that she was persuading the others. Then I worried that one of my rhetorical flourishes in answer had completely failed, indeed perhaps been misunderstood as the opposite of what I intended. I was catastrophising.

Because everything is so important to me, everything is too difficult to face.

She will despise me! There is enough evidence to support that, in my mind, but it is not necessarily true. There is evidence against it, both in what she has seen of me and how she has reacted. My negativity paralyses me, and there is enough from outside to feed it.

I don’t know, ever, what others think. Catastrophising, thinking the worst, can be reassuring- it can’t be worse than I think.

I can grimly fight on. I cycled to Corby for the Labour Party meeting then to Kettering for the pub, down the main road in the dark. It was not too busy, because of the time of night. I nearly collided with a cyclist on a path in Kettering, who had no headlamp. It was unpleasant but bearable, and I would do it again because I was motivated to get there. I need to find out- what will motivate and encourage me? Then home, at midnight. The rear light had come off the bicycle. I will need a new one, and they are so expensive. A lot feels like grimly fighting on. People say, getting outside is good for depression.

In the Quaker meeting, though, someone quoted “Bring the whole of your life under the ordering of the Spirit of Christ”. I was thinking of my contradictions, and wanted to praise- perhaps because of the weather. Hymns and songs went in my mind-

Lord of All, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

I stood and said, “If Christ is the great outpouring of the Love of God, then we are loveable.” I had looked around the group, and seen strength and beauty, and also possibly some wrestling with difficulty. And now I worry that she thought I was claiming that for myself, or even trying to reassure myself I am loveable, against all the evidence.

The sunshine is beautiful. The snowdrops are beautiful. The wind turbines are majestic.

Living as a woman

To get gender recognition, you must swear that you intend to live in the acquired gender until death. How? The range of tolerated gender expression for cis women is wide. If I never wear makeup or skirts, is it enough? There are cis women who don’t. I am thinking about what I say rather than how I present, and my voice pitch drops- do I have always to mind my voice? Or if I always wear skirts, high heels and make-up I may be called “a ridiculous caricature of a woman”- “No-one is as feminine as that”. What a performance gender is, writes a cross-dresser in The Guardian, with pictures from the 1880s to the 1980s.

Do I have to wear my wig all the time? A friend wore one, even in bed, as she could not bear to look at herself in the mirror in the morning with her bald head. Either you lie very still while asleep, or that quickly ruins a wig.

I live as a woman. My clothes are from women’s clothes shops, I pay some attention to my voice, I use a woman’s name. And, I cycle in a helmet but no wig, and go into the small shop in Marsby in that helmet. It’s pink, with a floral pattern.

I never try to pass as a man, though I am seen as one. That must be part of it- I am in good faith. Certainly at the time I affirmed the statutory declaration I had that intention. Fair minded people who imagined the phrase was not impossibly constraining would probably give me a pass mark. That is, anyone might deny it if they wished.

Yet I use a woman’s name, a female gender-marker- the title “Miss”. I use women’s spaces. Requiring anything further means specifying what clothes, or even perhaps jobs, are sufficiently feminine, so the law cannot do it. However, to maintain sufficient public acceptance, I must appear sufficiently feminine in the eyes of enough beholders.

“A man,” she said. “A middle-aged man“. “A married man“. “He“. She looked at me for a reaction, but I am not going to object. I sold the pass the first time I tolerated this, I knew it was not a mistake then. And I sympathise with her, I feel she has been wronged by this trans woman. We are women because we are accepted as women, and we are never accepted as women by everyone. I can’t force anyone to use particular pronouns, and the best I can do is to not overreact or get too upset about it. It is not news to me that I am seen as a man.

Withdrawing acceptance because someone has done something you object to is an easy trick. Calling her a “man” is a way of showing contempt, but also a way of controlling us: good trans will be tolerated, bad trans, who do anything someone objects to, will not. Then almost everything I do can be unacceptable, calling down the threat of rejection implicit in “he”.

And tolerating me in women’s toilets because I have had the operation- that gives people the incentive to have the operation, hoping to be tolerated; yet arguing that trans is wrong because it involves mutilation and lifelong dependence on synthetic hormones-

together, those leave no space for us. You are a Man. A man. He. I am not going to let it get to me, I insist, but it is wearing.

What do you think it means, to “live as a woman”?

Breathing space

I need space to survive, and being trans restricts that. I need to be able to move through the world, with a home to live in, means of transport, meaningful work, streets I can walk down without fear, places I can go for help, ways of participating in social life. As I am trans I may face hostility, prejudice and discrimination limiting me. If I am out I will need lavatories.

I do not assert a right to be in any of these spaces. It feels as if I am there on sufferance, on the toleration of other people which is never guaranteed and may be withdrawn at any time.

I did not find another way of being. I tried to make a man of myself, to fit cultural masculinity because it seemed that otherwise I would be shunned. Then I found the delight of being my true self in the gay village in Manchester, and it seemed possible to be who I am as a trans woman, as a transsexual as I called it at the time. “I am not a man,” I wept, meaning that cultural masculinity did not fit me. It never seemed possible to live openly as a pansy, or soft male. I thought soft men were gay. My father, who might have been my pansy role model, used the word as an insult. He was my role model in hiding my softness away.

I fit into the world as a “trans woman”, mostly suffered or tolerated with some mockery, misunderstanding, hostility. Even with the hostility it is better than presenting male. Society tolerates me in women’s spaces. I use women’s loos and changing rooms. If gender neutral space- clothes shops, toilets, shelters- is to be carved out, a lot more people will have to identify as gender neutral than currently identify as trans.

I am gender critical. Gender is cultural, and not somehow related to evolved sex characteristics. After the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act we see that women can work as barristers and solicitors as well as men, and increasingly we see women in STEM. Women can vote without going insane, contradicting concerns expressed before 1918. Gendered responses are strongly conditioned in our society, enforced by most people from small children up. A man in a pink shirt was told he would have to give up his “man card”. Gender is orthogonal to sex, ideally: Jung said men must discover their anima, or inner feminine, and women their animus, and was right, but it is such a struggle achieved so late in life because of that conditioning.

Mumsnet TERFs started paying attention to my blog, and I have had 186 clicks from there, hundreds more page views. More people read such threads than comment on them, but the commentary on me is hostile. They judge me. I wrote on autogynephilia to show it cannot exist, but my words were used as proof of it. I hope I might have persuaded some who read without commenting, but they are interested in trans issues and reading TERF threads so it’s not certain.

They say, It is an issue of men’s right not to be inconvenienced.
AGP actively impedes the ability to empathize with women.

The issue is that I  need space. I am excluded, and they seek to exclude me further. If I see distress or hostility, my instinct is to back away, to seek a work-around rather than to provoke. I am empathising. I am there, due to forces I cannot control.

They doubt I am gender critical: being gender critical means conceptualising gender as an external imposition, not a spiritual identity.
I don’t understand how a MiT can call themselves a gender critical feminist… Without gender surely we remain with biology – a man being male and a woman being female?

I observe that people have gender, just that it does not correlate with sex. It is part of human variation. I object to procrustean attempts to constrain gender expression, not gender expression itself.

I observe that there is a great deal of unthinking enforcement of gender, and ways to subvert it: trans and non-binary, “gender-critical feminist” as an identity, building resistance, and attempts such as Natasha Devon’s challenging of stereotypes. She was the former “mental health tsar” and spoke to the Girls Schools Association conference- she has platforms.  The comments on this thread show thoughtful support and mindless hostility. There is movement.

How can gender stereotypes be subverted from where we are now? Partly through visible trans folk, living out our radical rejection of the gender norms fitting our birth sex. When I see gender neutral space, I will go there.

One says, Not every male has a sexual motive for transition (ie, gay males wanting to sleep with straight men aka HSTS, third gender etc; straight males getting off on feminine presentation aka AGP). There are some people with catastrophic body dysmorphia and some people who are genuinely in retreat from masculinity. But these people have nothing whatsoever to do with transactivism or transactivists and the reason we don’t hear from them is not that they’re the silent majority – it’s that the population is tinier than tiny.

She understands that body dysmorphia and being unManly are motivations, but divides the motivations into discrete categories, so that anyone who has ever been aroused can’t be in that “tinier than tiny” group. But no-one will transition M-F unless they feel themselves unManly. (Tell me a better word- “effeminate” really isn’t it.)

I am so sad that this has made me feel less compassion for trans people. I am sorry for them but I’m angry that their cause has been hijacked by cross dressing men… But I think I want to develop a ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists’ stance. The trouble is that we have made a zero-sum game together. If she sees the problem as men in women’s space, I am in unwilling confrontation because I have nowhere else to go. The problem is, The Patriarchy. The problem is, gender conformity and gender enforcement. These problems we could attack together, but for the zero-sum game.

I managed to peak trans them [centre-left 30 something blokes] instantly with the sports issue. That is, Hannah Mouncey using masculine size competing against other women. They are “live and let live” people, like anyone they don’t show hatred for minorities easily, but she managed to make them hostile, and exults in this. Competitive female cyclists are far faster than I am. It isn’t relevant for most trans women. Some people go to Mumsnet to radicalise themselves, then go out to radicalise others.

Self ID

Who should have their gender recognised? The Scottish government proposes,

3.31. A requirement to submit a statutory declaration would demonstrate that applicants intend to permanently live in their acquired gender. Therefore, the Scottish Government considers that applicants under the proposed system of legal gender recognition should have to provide a statutory declaration stating that they:

  • are applying of their own free will;
  • understand the consequences of obtaining legal gender recognition; and
  • intend to live in their acquired gender until death.

3.32. The Scottish Government’s research into countries using self-declaration systems of legal gender recognition has not identified evidence of false or frivolous statements being made by applicants. However, under the proposed self-declaration system for legal gender recognition, if an applicant were to make a statement in a statutory declaration that is false in a material particular, this would be an offence.

Now, you can change your passport without a gender recognition certificate, if you provide a letter from your doctor or medical consultant confirming that your change of gender is likely to be permanent, and evidence of your change of name such as a deed poll. You need a similar letter to change the gender marker on your driving licence, which is encoded in the driver number.

I changed my bank account fairly easily, after showing my change of name document, but could not find how to do this with my bank on line even now. Googling produced a report of the bank apologising when staff demanded a GRC. Ignorant prejudice, and an unwillingness to research sometimes liberal policies, makes our lives difficult.

It is a big thing for a man to declare they are a woman. It was intensely important for me. I could not move on with my life without doing it. It was what I wanted more than anything else in the world. I do not do it frivolously. I might be able to pass as a normal man, except that I would find the attempt too distressing. We change our presentation, and make ourselves vulnerable to transphobic violence from strangers, casual prejudice on the street, and discrimination in work and all aspects of life. We do not do this flippantly. We do not do it to get access to women’s loos.

So there are sufficient safeguards in the Scottish proposal. You promise to live in your acquired gender. When I transitioned, I thought I might revert, either because I decided transition had been wrong or because I found it too difficult, but I had to try. I express myself female, and while there might be questions about someone expressing androgynously it is a question like, how many hairs make a beard. You can’t produce a number which is a beard, but one less is not a beard; but you can make a decision fairly easily in most cases that someone is presenting in the acquired gender, and take a bit more care on more difficult cases.

Perhaps someone will do this frivolously, but I hope they will be frightened off. A JP swearing a stat dec could reasonably object if they did not think a person was presenting in the allegedly acquired gender. There are taboos against cross-dressing in public, and someone who is not trans will not like to do it. In 2016/17, 318 GRCs were granted in Britain. Fifteen were refused, and two applications were withdrawn. 4506 were issued to March 2017, and a further 206 in April to September.

The change to be made is that we will not need a specialist psychiatrist’s diagnosis. Having put myself at risk in this way, I want to be able to say I am Clare without the need for a psychiatrist backing me up. In any event, a psychiatrist using DSM V would diagnose me with Gender Dysphoria if I exhibited “a strong desire to be of the other gender” and “a strong desire to be treated as the other gender”. I show that by transitioning.

Inner dialogue

People have conflicting impulses and feelings in their minds at the same time. Sometimes they diverge enough to make different personalities, or have arguments in consciousness. Here’s the brilliant First Dog on the Moon cartoon, which though generally about Australian politics is universal enough to read anywhere: Relocating is pretty much the best thing we have ever done but don’t come down here I don’t recommend it at all it is terrible. We hold these contradictory ideas in our minds, all the time, in tension, and make a decision when one becomes definitively stronger. We want to be trusted by others, to present a reliable, consistent face to the world, so that tension can be painful.

Sometimes, we simply deny it: cognitive dissonance is the pain when the fight to deny it is too wearing. Living with the tension may be an answer to that pain, but is difficult. I am human, therefore I am inconsistent, I remind myself, “seeing through a glass, darkly”.

I am open, curious, gentle, encouraging, loving. I wish to play, explore, learn, understand. I seek delight in beauty, which is everywhere. I am angry, frustrated, fearful, hurt, withdrawn. I wish to escape, hide, protect myself. I seek Safety, which is a chimera.

I am angry at myself for hiding, and frightened of consequences if I am exposed. People can burn out.

Audrey Hepburn said, People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw anyone out. I believe that. It applies to me. Possibly, other people believe it as well, even of me.

This is a long article, but search in it for Rollnick: a pioneer of Motivational Interviewing, he shows that bullying alcoholics into admitting they have a problem and should bloody well just stop drinking does not work, stresses the clients, but-

ah, expressing the positive is the important bit. It’s far more difficult to see, but the only thing worth seeing. Here’s that article: rather than instigating confrontation, counsellors should focus on building a relationship of trust and mutual understanding, enabling the patient to talk through his experiences without feeling the need to defend himself. Eventually, and with the counsellor gently shaping the dialogue, the part of the patient that wanted to get better would overcome the part that did not, and he would make the arguments for change himself. Having done so, he would be motivated to follow through on them.

But “Overcome” is a fundamental misunderstanding. I can speak from my Open self or my Withdrawn self, but they are in one brain, not conveniently in different lobes as Steve Peters might have you believe. I am making judgments based on observation and experience. First Dog may loathe the spiders and love the pademelons, until an eagle kills his cat and the place becomes unbearable, or he finds more and more things to love and settles.

There are no rules. Self-image and the need to present a face to the World may make me strive and succeed, or break me. I saw myself as one who reads, for entertainment, culture and learning, but did not actually get through the books I bought. Then I started telling people that I don’t read, as I had realised that, and found myself enjoying Joan Didion and Siri Hustvedt. In the mid-life crisis, ones self-image and world maps break down, no longer fitting experience, and I must rebuild my world anew. “Rebuild the world” is my metaphor because from where I’m sitting it looks difficult.

Bloodless moralism

In First Things, Helen Andrews criticises consequentialist morality. It is no longer sufficient to know that something is wrong, one must give a reason based on outcomes, she says, decrying that. It is a long essay, and summaries of what she thinks is bad or good might be a straw man, but she made me think of One instinctively knows when something is right, which Google tells me was an advertising slogan for Croft Original sherry. One grows up in the right schools with the right education, reading the classics, drinking proper sherry as soon as one is old enough, worshipping in the Church of England, and the decency of ones elders rubs off on one.

There was a man who wanted to learn about jade, so the expert gave him a piece of jade every day to examine. After a few months he gave a green stone which was not jade, and the man expostulated, “You tell me nothing, you just give me pieces of jade, and now you give me a stone which is not jade!” Of course, he knew it was not, instinctively. Andrews praises Christopher Hitchens, who she says was not an expert in anything, but people cared what he had to say for two reasons: It was evident that he had read widely, and he expressed himself beautifully. Both of these are forms of authority.

She argues that social science research into good policy for good aims does not work. She cites the Doll tests, which she says were so flawed in their method as to be scientifically worthless. I could not comment- but if they are shown to be worthless, it is by other social scientists honing their methods, and finding better ones, or at least the pitfalls to avoid. That social science is difficult does not mean it is not worth trying.

The doll tests were used as evidence in Brown v Board of Education, mandating the racial integration of US schools. She approves that decision, but not that particular evidence. She does not say how she would have decided it- perhaps with Quemcunque miserum videris hominem scias,  a quote from Seneca, or Jesus’ teaching on who is my neighbour, to include the Samaritan, the hated outsider/foreigner. I am glad she approves the Civil Rights struggle, but judge her commitment to racial equality on her attitude to people of colour’s struggle now- this dismissive aside on “LGBTQ identity politics and black lives matter antics” may indicate that.

So her apparent belief in deontology may be naturally conservative, better at seeing when something has been recognised as right, than finding ways of improving culture. A good education is no guarantee of morality. People quoted the Bible to justify slavery. Perhaps the divide should be between those seeking to improve the whole society through moral action and those merely in it for themselves, rather than by the tools we use to find that moral action.

Or deontology works when we have an idea that something is right, but could not quite put a finger on why. It may be that I had a rule inculcated as a child, or a Great Ape instinct that this is beyond the normal behaviour of my species.

Philosophers could debate whether necessity or coercion ever justified theft without ever looking at consequences, either those imagined as likely or shown by social science evidence. People make slippery slope arguments which are later shown to be unfounded. My own morality is a mix of consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics, half understood, inconsistent, and almost certainly at least partly self-interested, but eliminating consequentialism would not improve it.

On the train, a woman could not sit by her ten year old daughter, so sat beside me. I offered to swap seats with the daughter so they could sit together, and she accepted, gratefully. It cost me nothing, benefited them both, and still gives me pleasure a week later, and I cited that pleasure when Andrew raised evolutionary arguments against altruism. “Not everyone would feel it,” he said. Those of us who do should stick together.

Bloodless Moralism.” I found it through Ross Douthat.

Snowdrops

And now, some snowdrops, seen under a tree by the roadside as I cycled home from the Quaker meeting. Unwisely, I ventured onto Mumsnet where yet another pile-on on trans rights is occurring, with allegations of threats to women and women’s rights and much offensive language, and I just can’t be bothered.

Look! Snowdrops!

First someone cited my blog as evidence of sex offenders pretending to be trans. Well, there is a suggestion of prisoners falsely claiming to be trans, but of the estimate of about eighty trans people in prison, only someone with access to their medical records and criminal records could report reliably whether they are mostly sex offenders, or what diagnoses they have of gender dysphoria, or whether they transitioned before entering prison. If an IPP (Indeterminate sentence for Public Protection) is generally problematic, it should be problematic for a trans woman. Some people in segregated units are sex offenders, but other offenders can be sent there if they are under threat in the general population, as trans women often would be. One, who committed suicide, was a rapist. Women need protected from rapists; but the arguments about whether trans women should self-ID outside prison and about where trans prisoners should be held are different. I try, here, to show the complexity of the situation, so am vulnerable to parts being taken out of context.

Then they linked to Autogynephilia, to argue I am a sex pervert, so not entitled to consideration. Women need protected from such as me. There was a long post from an androphile trans woman, and some sympathy for her being lumped in with us perverts. Well, that’s inconsistent: unless you accept the arguments of brain differences in androphiles, where feminists challenge the arguments of brain differences between the sexes, the androphile is as offensive as the gynephile. The other argument against androphiles transitioning is that the desire comes from homophobia, the thought that they must be women as they are attracted to men. I don’t know if anyone who clicked the link got the point that the autogynephilia hypothesis could not explain transition being a cure for gender dysphoria. As more people clicked than posted, possibly some did.

Then they linked to A Nurse who is Trans. A trans woman, who had not transitioned, went to give a cervical smear to a woman who had requested a female nurse to do the test. The trans woman got a cis woman to do the test, but not before blurting out that she is trans. The reason she has stubble and close cropped hair is that she has not transitioned yet.

I was angry, posting then. One mistake on a smear test appointment, quickly put right, is not news, but the Murdoch press pick on it to inflame passions against trans women. My post was used to argue autogynephiliac perverts have no empathy for the concerns of women. I have, actually. These concerns matter, though I feel Women’s Aid is quite capable of deciding whether they can employ trans women, as they are considering now, so women working full time on women’s rights for the most vulnerable don’t necessarily have the same absolutist position as some posters on Mumsnet.

I need somewhere to go. The “All-Gender toilet” in Tate Britain was formerly the disabled person’s toilet, so my choice is between risking confrontation with a carer angry at my occupying the toilet they need or a woman angry at me in hers. Fortunately the general run of society, apart from some vocal conservatives and Evangelical Christians, tolerate me in both. Even some gender critical feminists tolerate me!

We spend ourselves

She left school aged 15, and went to work in the mill, just like everyone else did. She was unhappy there, nervous, uncomfortable, and her mother took up the habit of walking her there, and being there in the evening to walk her home. Then she did not want to go, and eventually stayed at home. When I met her, she was in her mid fifties, still living with her mother. She had been getting benefits as unfit to work, but the system had stopped them, so I had to prove she was entitled. She was like her mother- both the same height, around 5′, medium build in proportion, but as if the flower, never fertilised, had wilted and dried rather than become a seed pod. She was still an adolescent, looked after by her mother.

We established that she was entitled to benefit, and after the tribunal hearing I caught the eye of the presenting officer for the DSS, one of those who acted as if it were her own money that would be paid to the claimant- but the woman had touched her heart. I said to her, “You’re glad that she got the benefit too, aren’t you?” and she nodded.

(I will add- “Not trusting herself to speak”. She said nothing. It is an assumption, pushing my observation into the realms of imagination, but one the fiction writer feels justified in, telling this story which is part fact. It rings true to me. Did the steely presenting officer’s eye gleam slightly, was it moist, or is that a trick of memory in the service of my fiction? Heightened reality, just slightly heightened-

We spend ourselves, says the stern moralist in me. The claimant had not, but guarded herself in her bower, and therefore stopped growing. It was an existence, just stopping at home. She was unrealised, possibly because the society was such poor soil, with mill work the only work.

Every day I feel the lack of my testicles, and resent it, for what it bars to me, that way of relating to another, and I am alone. The fat person might know he cannot run for a bus, his joints will be damaged by his weight, it would be better in some ways if he were lighter, and he is doing all he can to be in the world. Losing weight is another’s priority, however rational-seeming, and not his. My testicles were the price I paid for self-acceptance at the time, and keeping them would have been harder. I had them removed, and my depression lifted.

I hide myself in my bower, except when I go to London, or the Labour party. Or these daily cries for help to the ether. We spend ourselves out in the world, joints ruined by weight, testicles sacrificed to Womanhood, and even hidden away the days tick by and I have had more than half of mine. I spent as I had to, to achieve what I needed. Society was such poor soil for me. My writing may have value, an easy grace sweated over, generous, expansive and an invitation to question.

The best writers change how we think and see, and Siri Hustvedt’s essays in “A woman looking at men looking at women” challenge me. She dances around the truth, making connections and seeing from different angles, as scientist and artist for she is both. She has an exercise for the patients in the locked ward- write “I remember” then keep writing; what you write may surprise you.

Hustvedt: writing blocks are symptoms. Why have I shut out the truth?
Inactivity is a symptom. Why have I shut out the truth?
Can writing help?

Out in the world I suffered and spent myself, and now at home, in my bower, I suffer and spend myself. The consolations may not be enough. I am glad that I see things, glad that I write and speak the truth. Though I have just remembered the presenting officer’s eye glinted or gleamed, or not, in another case: that of a woman of limited intelligence, who could not calculate how many bank notes to hand over for her shopping, so trusted the checkout woman to tell her, yet who lived independently, married and brought up a daughter, who had not realised she had ceased being entitled to carer’s allowance for that daughter and might have had to repay an overpayment: a woman I admired, for achieving so much despite her difficulties, and possibly the presenting officer did too. I had sympathy for all of the claimants, but the presenting officers’ sympathy was rare.

Blindness

You should not affect to be colour-blind. The BAME person, fat person or trans person cannot be blind to their minority status.

I wondered about the use of the word “fat”. You cannot say that, said R, who is a bit fat. It is pejorative. However it is descriptive, and many words are more than descriptive- twee, like “plump”, or euphemistic, like “well-upholstered”, or judgmental, like “overeater”, which has self-control as the implicit answer to a problem, or medicalising, like “obese”. So “fat” is the word.

From my mother’s clothing catalogue I translated “classic clothes for the fuller figure” to “unfashionable clothes for fat women”. I remember that most of them were beige. It seemed to me that I could avoid the potential offensiveness of the word “fat” by not referring to it at all, unless necessary. The simplest task of ally-ship is challenging offensive language or bullying. It should not be just the fat person, or even the dietician, challenging fatphobia. I could do that. I remember a poem from childhood, where one child does not laugh at the child who fell on the floor, though all the others, adults too, found it uproarious. Why not laugh? Because “That poor little child was me”. We need allies. I should not need to be the one challenging when I am excluded. I may not find the courage to challenge when I am excluded because I fear the exclusion spreading.

A more difficult ally task is inclusion. Why are there so few BAME people here? At the CAB we talked of “difficult to reach” clients, but that has since been reframed from the client’s point of view, and I cannot remember the words. I am not “colour-blind”, I notice the monochrome whiteness of the crowd and see this as a problem- others missing out on our campaigning and us missing out on their talents. One answer is to seek out leadership of BAME people, like the Labour party committee which will include the BAME person with the most votes, wherever they come in the list, and the other person with the mo-

I find that hard to put elegantly. The two people with the most and second-most votes will be elected, unless both are white, in which case the person with the most votes and the BAME person with the most votes will be elected. I understood the concept, but how to say it is complicated.

I read that I should not expect the minority to teach me how to be an ally, as they have agency and might decide what to do with their time. I do not want always to be explaining trans issues to people, or at least while I am glad people want to be helpful, and I want to answer their questions, sometimes I don’t have the energy. Worse is speaking to a person about ones good intentions to be an ally. How should I respond to that? I don’t necessarily feel that grateful. It shows that I am at a disadvantage. But it is not me at the disadvantage, but society, because not everyone’s talents are being used to the full. This is a problem for everyone, and everyone should take part in dealing with it. Why should I be grateful, when someone is not doing the minimum necessary because they do not know what that is? You’re too late! You should have started years ago!

I enjoy advantages because of the colour of my skin. BAME people’s effort produces lesser results. The wind is at my back at least that far, though against me as a trans person. And I don’t know how to act on that.