Conversion therapy

What is conversion therapy? For gay people, it attempts to stop them acting on sexual attraction, or even to create other sex attraction. For trans people, it is less clear. “Conversion therapy” aimed at changing the character of the person, to “whip the sissy out of” a trans girl, is clearly vile.

Human rights law recognises it should be our choice whether to have surgery and hormone therapy. Gender recognition should not depend on whether someone has been sterilised. In the same way therapy should explore what gender dysphoria means to this person, and what is the best way to proceed, which may be transition with hormones and surgery, and may not. It should explore mental health problems which arise because of the stress of dealing with gender dysphoria.

So the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ position statement on supporting transgender and gender diverse people is insufficient. It defines conversion therapy as Treatments for transgender people that aim to suppress or divert their gender identity – i.e. to make them cisgender – that is exclusively identified with the sex assigned to them at birth. That has no meaning, because it conflates gender and sex. Expressing their gendered characteristics need not mean presenting as the other sex. Certainly a psychiatrist should explore whether sterilisation is necessary, or may be avoided. Often, trans people do not transition: a trans woman feels her size would make it impossible, a partner would not accept it, and we all bear the costs of being read as trans sometimes. Sometimes the costs of transition are too high. But whether the person can accept themselves as a feminine man or masculine woman, is a different question. That is, are they transgender- not fitting gender stereotypes for their sex- or transsexual, needing to express themselves and function as a person of the other sex?

That feminine man may not be open to considering living as a feminine man, if his attempt to make a “Real Man” of himself has failed, he sees the possibility of being able to express his character as a woman, and has a fixed idea that a “real trans woman” craves hormones and surgery. Psychiatrists need to see people before we are desperate, and need the time to explore with us. They claim gender-affirming medical interventions improve wellbeing and mental health in transgender and gender diverse adults– which is again confused. What is the difference between transgender and gender diverse? There is only one mention of non-binary, where they define gender identity as Self-identification and/or social identity as male/female/other gender. Other gender identities may include gender neutral, non-binary, fluid, and genderqueer.

When a psychiatrist sees someone presenting with gender problems, it is not conversion therapy to explore whether they are trans or non-binary. Possibly, these are not separate syndromes but merely differences in how we see ourselves, not underlying nature but the products of different experiences, not immutable once formed but malleable. Only the stress and anxiety of being gender non-conforming makes the identity seem fixed. The psychiatrist should not impose a course of action but enable the patient to see the best course for themself, including considering courses they had not imagined. Yet it can be unbearable not to know– if transition seems the answer, I just want to get on with it, and cannot see it is not right for me until it is completed.

The College supports psychiatrists in fully exploring their patient’s gender identity (involving their families where appropriate) in a non-judgemental, supportive and ethical manner. That involves considering options- transition, and non-binary expression both in the external symbols and expressing ones underlying qualities. It involves valuing those qualities.

Gender is a spectrum, we say. Some people conform to their gender stereotype with comfort, some reject the gender stereotype but not their sex, some are non-binary, some transition. If it is a spectrum, there are no clearly defined boxes, that someone is non-binary or is transgender, immutably and diagnosably by psychiatrists.

Grayson Perry

I am a transvestite; I am turned on by dressing in clothes that are heavily associated with being female…How can I, brought up as a man, know anything about the experience of being a woman? It would be insulting to women if I thought I did.

This is enough for some people to write Grayson Perry off as a transphobe- it implies that trans women insult women too. He speculates about how his mother, venting her rage about men, or her partner, the Minotaur who could be the only masculine one in the household, might affect his gender- it’s nurture, not just nature. Then he refers to his “gender dysphoria”. Later he says boys fear that putting on a dress will turn them into a girl. (If only!) He may be a trans woman who cannot admit it even to himself, but the truth keeps leaking out. Or, loathing makes him express it negatively- cross-dressing is “childish”, a “fantasy of femininity”- but also he (p52) calls it “adopting femininity”. He wears little girl dresses, the clearest transvestite fetish opposite of the serious trans woman in women’s trousers, and finds women dote over him like they would over a little girl, drawn into the narrative of the costume despite the incongruity of the wearer.

He conflates things we would differentiate, and states etiologies we would dispute. He boasts of using the men’s toilets “even” when wearing a dress, “out of respect”. Most say “cross-dresser” rather than transvestite. Yet he challenges Masculinity, which has poisoned us and which we flee. I would go beyond the failure to see trans as we see it, to his whole view. We can’t impose an orthodoxy on everyone. Many people will say “Trans women are women”, still, thank God. Does anything he says advance our cause?

Unfortunately, his book The Descent of Man is confused. It seems he has thought a lot about masculinity, as a transvestite, but not read widely or systematically. Parliament being half women would bring in consensus, steady debate and empathy in leadership. So women are other, and I don’t get the same sense of women’s variation. High-achieving, ambitious men revel in the status quo. “Sexually promiscuous,” he calls them. That could be envy, though he is married. Men lower down the pecking order still benefit from the patriarchy. But “those who lose out”- probably “unmanly” men like him, have nothing to lose and might rise up alongside women. How many? “A lot of them,” that is, no idea.

Later, he writes “A lot of men are sold the narrative of male domination, but lead lives of frustration and servitude”. So the macho men who dropped out of education and have no job, but who beat up their partners, might rebel? They would rebel in quite a different way. Men compete unconsciously, talking of their achievements, possessions, and strengths. I have noticed that sometimes I do not feel the need to compete, sometimes I compete, and sometimes I can add nothing to a conversation, as if invisible (once on Saturday). I am aware of it. Not feeling a need to compete is a relief, but perhaps it was that I did not see the man telling me his boastful story as competition.

The props, gestures and script which signal gender are temporary social constructs. Yes. I would like a discussion of how our symbols relate to our underlying qualities, real or feigned, but it is not here. But he has interesting things to say about passing. He mimicked the “pimp roll” of older boys, being keen to pass as a real man. All men do, he argues. Authentic manhood, merely expressing ones inner qualities, is the ideal, and men have ways of pretending to that, such as leather biker jackets. We work at passing in many ways: sexuality, class, race, occupation or nationality. However for me, we imagine our interior selves fit our ideal. We do not know ourselves.

What “self-ID” means for women

I am a trans woman. And I have great sympathy with anyone who finds gender roles and stereotypes in our culture restrictive, however they react.

Two responses people make to feeling so oppressed stand out: one is to transition to the other gender, and another is to insist on their sexual identity. In both cases we are finding ways to value ourselves as people, despite the subtle depreciation we suffer because we do not fit in. People have been expressing themselves in the opposite gender for millennia: Elagabalus, Emperor of Rome, proclaimed herself Empress and married a man; Deuteronomy forbids women to wear men’s clothes. People transition despite the threat of death or destitution.

At least by 1970, the Government was treating trans women like other women, for example by agreeing they could pay national insurance under the different rules then applying to women. Before the Gender Recognition Act passed I got a passport marked “Sex: F” and a driving licence indicating I was female. By the Gender Recognition Act my gender and sex are female.

By the Equality Act, an employer or provider of services can refuse to employ or provide services to a “transsexual person”, including those who have gender recognition certificates, if it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

In October at the Pink News awards Theresa May promised to consult on self-identification. The consultation, promised in the Autumn, has not been issued. The Scottish government has produced a parallel consultation which finished in March. It proposed that anyone who swore a statutory declaration that they intended to live in the acquired gender until death could obtain a gender recognition certificate. We would no longer need to prove ourselves with a letter from a specialist psychiatrist. Both the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the International Classification of Diseases give as a diagnostic criterion that we have a steady conviction that we are really of the other gender to that assigned at birth. Transition, with that fixed intention, demonstrates that we are trans.

This is a small change. No-one who did not express themselves full time in the acquired gender would be granted gender recognition. The legal procedure and the evidence requirement would be streamlined, but the thing to be proved- that we have transitioned, and intend to stay transitioned life long- would be the same. Transition is a radical act. No-one does it lightly. When female Labour MPs and Mr Corbyn say “trans women are women”, and agree we should be treated as women, they are following the practice of society for decades.

International human rights law- the Yogyakarta Principles– and EU human rights law according to a recent report to the European Parliament are that gender recognition should be granted without the need for surgery, but that we should be able to obtain surgery or hormone treatment if we required it. We should not suffer social pressure to alter our bodies. Many of us choose hormones and surgery.

People on the hard Right seek to foment division in the Labour Party. David TC Davies, the MP for Monmouth, not to be confused with David Davis the Brexit secretary, is not a feminist. He has voted for the reduction of the abortion time limit to 12 weeks. He seeks to incite feminists against progressive causes, so after a man of Asian heritage was convicted of rape Mr Davies commented that “we are importing bad attitudes to women into this country”. He was universally condemned for that; but has had more success with self-ID. Twice he has invited feminists to Parliament to speak against self-ID. The Spectator, a hard Right magazine which shares writers with Breitbart, speaks out against self-ID. On The Sunday Politics, a Spectator writer claimed there were questions around women’s rights, even though the Spectator is not notably in favour of women’s rights otherwise.

In response to the Scottish consultation, Women’s Aid in Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland, with other women’s organisations, made a statement that trans rights do not conflict with women’s rights.

The Labour Party has all-women shortlists, women’s forums, women’s conferences and rules under which additional women delegates may be appointed to conference. Now, women who have transitioned from male may be admitted to these roles. That is reasonable. No-one transitions on a whim. No-one, to quote a guest on The Today Programme, “wakes up one day and declares I am a woman”. We take months or years to prepare, or psych ourselves up, for that.

Compared to the number of women members in the Labour Party, the number of trans members is tiny. Trans women will not exclude other women from these roles.

We cannot allow the hard Right to foment discord within our Party. If the issue is framed as a zero-sum game, trans women and gender non-conforming biological women are pitted against each other, though our interests are the same: the loosening of gender norms and freedom to express our gifts and qualities without gendered expectations. Conservatives know that gender transition threatens gender norms, but that human rights law demands it. So they seek other ways to restrict transition. The longer we wait for the consultation, now it has been announced, the more polarised people on the Left become.

Canvassing II

“People might not open the doors because the Jehovah’s Witnesses are out today,” said Ian. They might say the same about us. With the candidate and eight others, I am canvassing in the town. Some people might not hear a knock because they are in their gardens, though it is a grey day; but I would not have thought that so many people are out.

We need people to be hopeful. The county council going bankrupt is Tory mismanagement, but based on Tory cuts. We want people to believe that the people together, through government, can do worthwhile things- look after the most vulnerable, give children a good start and a good chance in life, provide public space where people can congregate, give an efficient health service, give a universal postal service, manage the trains more efficiently and cost-effectively, even imprison criminals humanely. We need to show that we can do better than the cruelty, incompetence and inefficiency of this Tory government. Unfortunately, as Tories ravage the State locally and nationally, people lose hope.

One said “Not while that Putin stooge is in charge”. It seems likely Russia is behind the attempted assassination of the Skripals, but also that the UK should be careful of its evidence and observe international niceties. “Putin stooge” is a tabloid reaction. I tend to feel “don’t get into arguments” is good advice: we want people to enjoy meeting our candidate and have a positive experience of us, and it may not be possible to get them to change their minds.

Lots of doors have stickers saying “No cold callers”. Doorstep fraudsters, pretending to sell goods and services, can predate on the elderly and we are not like that. I knocked unless the sign said explicitly “No Canvassers”. One old lady called through the door, who is it? I shouted back at her, and eventually she opened the door. We are doing a listening exercise and introducing our prospective Parliamentary candidate, I explained. She looked worried, and said she would ask her daughter.

One started to explain to me that Socialism meant inefficiency and no choice. He talked about the Attlee government nationalising coal and steel, as if Labour had not moved on since then, as if he was satisfied with an understanding gleaned from The Road to Serfdom. “I want to stop you doing any more damage,” he said. Well, I said, “at least we both care about politics,” seeking common ground. He had no rejoinder to that. He is wrong in too many ways to be persuadable, and he is only one man.

Beth, charming and enthusiastic, charmed people. She may have swayed some. We want her name known: implant the name in people’s minds, and they will feel more positively towards us. I had a good day, cycling between villages- only about ten miles in total, having lunch with enthusiastic and interesting people. Generous, too, one told us after he had paid the bill. It gives me hope. I am doing something worthwhile. When we remind people of democracy and our faith in it we sway them to the Left: we are the people who believe Government has purpose and value.

Gender is meaningless

Gender is a confused concept. The idea that there are two genders, one relating to all women and one to all men in any sort of meaningful way, either as how they should be or how they actually are, is patently absurd.

Gender is a fuzzy concept. If either “gender” were rigorously defined, it would be plainly unrelated to reality, so it is not.

Gender is a dangerous concept. As children grow up, trying to find who they are or should be, it oppresses them. As we consider another person, using our perception of their sex to try to predict them, as one of the stereotypes we use before we get to know them, it is worse than useless.

It makes some sense to talk about the “opposite” sex, but none at all to talk of the “opposite gender”. Gender might have some value if we could conceive of several, but none if we think of only two. That concept encourages transition, if we imagine that because we are not Masculine we must therefore be Feminine, or vice versa. You should simply be yourself, without the need to cross-dress, leave alone to have hormones and surgery. Having transitioned, you may find that while the concept of “feminine” fits trans women slightly better than that of “masculine”, it is still ridiculous, and gets in the way of self-perception. Before transition, you tried to make a man of yourself, seeking to conform to “masculine”. Now you seek to conform to another ideal, which is slightly better but still not you.

People should be seen as valuable in their own right, as individuals. They should be encouraged to develop their positive qualities and attributes, whatever they are. The concept of gender makes others demand particular qualities someone does not have, or deny qualities they possess.

There is no attribute, quality, virtue or vice which is not equally good or bad whichever sex possesses it.

You may notice this contradicts my post Gender is Innate, published nine days ago. I don’t know. A woman says “I like pretty clothes and power-tools” as if this implied a contradiction, or as if this truth undermined the whole foundation of society, whereas it is a sign of freedom women have. It seems harder for men to express “feminine” interests, and this oppresses both sexes- what pertains to women is shameful for men, devaluing women’s stereotyped characteristics and suppressing them in men. I observe that many people rub along more or less happily with ideas of gender. I know some find it oppressive, but it would collapse if it had no value to anyone.

When I say “Everything in this blog is true” I mean that it contains an aspect of truth, sought as carefully and rigorously as I am able. I feel better able to get glimpses of truth if I can bear to be inconsistent. If I can enter another’s frame of reference I may see truths I could see no other way. If I can argue against my own position I may improve it.

Solidarity with gender non-conforming people

Women’s jeans are nicer than men’s. They are not cut for the shape of my hips, and jeans look fairly alike across the sexes; but I still prefer women’s jeans. It took a leap of empathy when a trans man told me he preferred men’s.

But-
surely-
oh.

Loos were more of a stretch. The smell is worse in men’s, it’s more likely there will be puddles on the floor, and even considering the chance of queues women’s are much nicer. Still he prefers men’s. This is a person whose experience is complementary to mine- in some ways the same, in some ways the mirror-opposite. In part I can simply feel with him, because I know exactly what that feels like, and in part I have to step back, think about it, make an adjustment, and see. I do that because understanding positive motivation of others makes them more comprehensible to me, and makes it easier to associate with them.

For a woman who experiences Patriarchy as restricting women in general, and feels it most keenly restricting her, it must be hard to see men’s freedoms as restricting some. Images are pernicious. I just image-searched “scientist”. The first pictures show a man, a woman, and a man and woman together, and are gender balanced. There is a row of options across the screen: click physics or chemistry, and the images are of men. Even in biology, which was seen as a “girl’s subject” at my school, the first pictures are all of men. Girls are not expected to be rational or put themselves forward. Girls are not given the tools to defend themselves from sex pests. Girls are expected to be demure and accommodating, passive not active, listening not speaking when important matters are discussed. Even if it is not always that bad, it can seem that way: any exceptions in treatment make the bad treatment more objectionable.

And if I say, I could not express my feelings, she might say well you can. Hurt, expressed as anger or resentment, is expected of boys and suppressed in girls. I feel released by transition, and she just cannot understand that. I feel able to be more expressive, but stating precisely how is difficult for me, especially if I have to communicate that to a sceptical other.

So when you said you understood how I had felt restricted it was salve on a chronic wound, the temporary lifting of a burden. I want to be understood, especially by you. I felt distorted, shoved into a box that did not fit me, confronted with demands I could not meet. And when I said “I am not that person” even to me it felt like weakness and inadequacy rather than otherness: my real gifts, not encouraged and so not developed, I did not see as gifts.

So much is pulling us apart. These women share alternative explanations for our transition. We are perverts, they say. It is autogynephilia. They have few privileges, and women’s spaces are important. We are a threat, men in women’s spaces, men exploiting programmes designed to overcome a few of women’s disadvantages under Patriarchy, such as all-women shortlists. These things should be for women born women, not males.

The dispute is primarily between trans women and women born women who insist they are women, that gender is oppressive and we conform to it, that transition is wrong. They see the issues in terms of lack, costs or risks for women: girls should not bind their breasts and make themselves sterile! Girls should not be forced into life-long dependency on dangerous drugs! Men should not pretend to be women! If you do not fit the expectations of your “gender” and demand to be accepted as yourself, as your sex and with all your qualities used and valued, transition appears a monstrous distortion.

If you feel restricted by society yet trenchantly assert your sex, you may feel society is pushing people into transition, a monstrous distortion serving gender myths. The leap of imagination is seeing transition as a response that people make, under the same oppression you suffer, even though it is not a response you could ever consider, even though it revolts you. I experienced gender expectations as restriction, rejection, devaluation, just as you did. Just as you should be supported in the way you respond, so should I. There is oppression. Let us work together against the oppression, rather than fight amongst ourselves about the different responses of oppressed people.

Two leaps of imagination are required. Those born men are oppressed too, are gender non-conforming too. And transition is a reasonable response to that oppression, even if it is not yours. And then a third- even though you may feel your allegiance is to women born women who refuse to transition, it is worthwhile to work with trans women, for by working together we can defeat the oppression. Even though our immediate interests may appear opposed- access to women’s space- our long term interests are the same.

Becoming a woman

When should a trans woman be considered a woman or girl? It depends for what purposes. Never, if being a “woman” means not being guilty of rape; from the moment of uttering the thought to another human being, for the purposes of being nurtured, understood, and assisted to thrive. Am I a woman? Should I be treated as a woman? That depends on what “being treated as a woman” means.

I was a trans woman when I was still presenting male at work. I had decided I would transition and was working towards it. For most purposes then it does not matter if I am a man or a woman, but I had two credit cards and two bank cards, one in each name, to avoid embarrassment. Had I used the female one when dressed male I might have been challenged, because people should not use someone else’s credit cards, and anyone might assume one in my female name was not mine; a friend did that, and got sectioned. They would not be “treating me as a man” so much as considering misleading evidence.

When dressed male I would not have dreamed of using women’s loos, but I did when dressed female. I had to spend more and more time “living as a woman” before I gave up my male identity completely. But when I was arrested for drunk driving, I was searched by a man, and gave my male name. (I was below the limit.) I feel that is reasonable. People hate being searched by whatever sex.

“Are you a man or a woman?” Well, why does it matter? I am me, my name is Clare, I like people to use female pronouns when referring to me. At the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, there was a concert where every woman in the audience was handed a rose. I took one, pleased, yet wondered if that was fraud- if I would not have received one if I were perceived as male. Possibly I was read, perhaps the man giving the roses out was in too much of a hurry to really notice, possibly I was “treated as a woman” though perceived as a trans woman.

I would not enter a woman’s refuge as a woman before transition. There are some services for women which are not appropriate. I am glad not to have needed to, and unsure that all trans women would agree. I feel I would be entitled to use their services now I am transitioned, though, if I were escaping domestic violence. They help women. I am treated as a woman, as a matter of international human rights law and long-standing practice in Britain.

The Labour Party has all-women shortlists for parliamentary candidacies, women’s forums, additional woman delegates to conferences in certain circumstances and women’s conferences. There are women’s officers on constituency party committees. When should trans women be admitted? To some, the syllogism is clear:

Lily is a trans woman- even though she is presenting male under some circumstances
Trans women are women
Lily should have access to women’s privileges.

To me, though, it is a matter of what will the straights accept? They might go along with me at women’s conferences, now I have transitioned, but perhaps not before.

But what should I say to younger trans women who are clear they are women even though they are presenting male some of the time? “Don’t rock the boat! Go full time first!” It is another way of saying I am more trans than they are, they should not spoil it for the real trans people. I am not going to say that to anyone. Transition is a baptism of fire- perhaps it would be better if we could be accepted as women while still presenting androgynously, and able to present male if necessary.

Other people might think transition proves you are really a trans woman, rather than a fantasist. I am willing to take someone’s word for it, on the grounds that this is a scary and disadvantageous thing to be. No-one claims it falsely. I would not positively campaign for trans women pre-transition to be treated as women, but if they are accepted I would quietly cheer.

If it is an advantage to be seen as a woman- different terms for insurance or pensions, say- I am more wary. They should not be different, as a matter of Equalities rights.

Wherever I am, I am dependent on the tolerance of others. I cannot always know what might increase or decrease that tolerance.

Ain’t I a woman?

We say we are women and have always been women, even before transition. Don’t deadname me. Apart from a vociferous minority, most on the Left, or anyone with respect for human rights or common politeness, will call us “women”. What does the law say?

In Corbett v Corbett, a case for nullity of marriage where a cis man married a trans woman, Mr Justice Ormrod said to establish whether someone was a man or a woman you should consider psychological factors as well as chromosomes, gonads and sex organs. A doctor said, We do not determine sex- in medicine we determine the sex in which it is best for the individual to live. Doctors are not concerned only with objective facts, but helping people to function as best we can. However the judge was deciding the case in a marriage, which he said required straight sex, and there can be no straight sex with a woman whose chromosomes and pre-operative gonads and sex organs were male. I am not concerned to determine the ’legal sex’ of the respondent at large, said the judge. April Ashley was paying national insurance, then different for men and women, as a woman. The judge saw no objection to that. So we could not marry, but we could be treated as women for all other purposes.

Then came the Gender Recognition Act, in 2004. At the time there were Civil Partnerships for gay people, which were not called “marriage” but were more or less similar. Equal marriage came in 2013. The GRA provided that a marriage must end before a gender recognition certificate was granted, which implies that was because two people of the same sex cannot be married. Now, a civil partnership must be converted into a marriage before a GRC is issued, apparently because two people of the opposite sex cannot be in a civil partnership.

Before the GRA, we could get our passports changed, to indicate we were female. Even married people could. We can get that change before getting a GRC. When a full GRC is issued, (s.9) the person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender (so that, if the acquired gender… is the female gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a woman). My sex is female. My gender is female. Sex offences legislation in Scotland says that it is rape if a penis enters a vagina without consent, whether those are surgically created or not. But the GRA says a GRC does not prevent a woman with an unreconstructed penis from being found guilty of rape.

Before my GRC I was treated as a woman, with the clear exception of marriage and possibly other exceptions. After my GRC I am a woman for all legal purposes; but the father of a child is still the “father”.

We need to be treated as women when dressed as women, even when for most of the time we are still presenting male. My psychiatrist gave me a card to show people if I were challenged in a woman’s loo. The Equality Act protects us from the moment we propose to undergo… a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex. Physiological is clear- hormones and surgery. Other attributes include social relations: if I intend without hormones or surgery to express myself female, then I seek to be reassigned.

I am protected from being treated less favourably because I am seeking gender reassignment- in employment, services, public services, premises, education, and clubs and associations. I would be treated less favourably if I were made to use a man’s loo. There is no law preventing people being treated less favourably because they are cis.

There is an exception (sch. 9, para 1(3)(a)) if it is shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim to require a worker not to be a “transsexual person”. That applies whether or not I have a GRC.

In some cases, services can be provided only to people of one sex. Women’s refuges might argue that. It is not discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment (sch 3, para 28) to exclude someone from a single sex service if that is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. So a women’s refuge might treat me as a man even after I get my GRC: they are discriminating on the ground of gender reassignment, but that is lawful.

Law only matters when there is a dispute. A man can go to a woman’s toilet if no-one challenges him, They tend not to, as they anticipate a challenge, fear mockery for lacking manhood or accusations of being a sex predator, or feel it would not be right. So first what matters is what society considers reasonable: if I, before transition, dare go into a woman’s toilet, dare anyone challenge me? If, after transition, I seek help from a women’s refuge, do they think it reasonable to exclude me? If there is an all-woman shortlist, do we go along with it using the normal definition of “woman”, which includes trans women?

Before I went full time, I went into women’s loos when dressed female. The Labour Party can decide that I can join the women’s forum, and if it is not clear from their rules I can go along, and no-one has objected to my face. Many people say that is right. The State has been giving us passports saying F and driving licences saying we are female long before the GRA. Even before I transitioned, I had a credit card with the title “Miss”.

The Scottish parliament has just enacted a “gender representation objective” for a public board [which] is that it has 50% of non-executive members who are women. The Act specifies, that “woman” includes trans women if we are living as a woman. That would apply immediately we went full time. Other matters may be disputed on a case by case basis.

Trans rights activists

“Cisfeminism is appropriation” Valerie wrote. What? Are you from the Internet Research Agency? Are you trying to cause a fight?

“This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards,” possibly because I said I found it threatening. It could easily provoke a backlash against trans people. When David TC Davies sets women against each other, the Left loses. Most feminism is cisfeminism, and feminism addressing concerns which only cis women have does not thereby stop being feminism. Mine seems to be a reasonable position, hers an extreme one- which could make cis women antagonistic to us where they were not before, or more committed to the fight against us.

Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel have largely lost the fight to keep the cisfeminine monopoply on estrogenic bodies. I am not sure of that one. What are they fighting for, exactly? Some want to stop children taking puberty blockers, and many assert that we are not women, but whether we can take oestradiol is not in their control.

What is an estrogenic body, apart from a cis woman’s? Subject a cis woman to regular testosterone injections and wait to see how long it takes for her neurochemistry to shut down — that is, for her to slip into depression and even suicidal ideations. That’s because her neurological sex is incompatible with that exogenous endocrine intervention, or EEI for short. That’s what trans people face. Every day. I am not so clear on the effects of cross-sex hormones on depression. I feel more depressed now. Initially I felt much better. “My female brain needs female hormones”- we might say that, but how might a study demonstrate it?

Valerie has taught me a new acronym- I am always behind the curve- CAMAB. I get “assigned male at birth”- Correctly? Catastrophically? It is “Coercively”, which may apply to intersex folk, who suffer operations, but I am not sure it adds anything for trans people. All people suffer pressure to conform when brought up as boys or girls.

This article (which I found by searching for CAMAB) criticises the Feminist Women’s Health Center for not treating trans women. I fear being reduced to another statistical Tyra Hunter, she writes. Tyra, who died in 1995, had an 86% chance of surviving if treated properly but instead the ER staff and paramedics withdrew care and made derogatory remarks after cutting open her pants to reveal a penis.

Should Tyra Hunter be brought up? She is an extreme case, surely. I expect proper medical care, even though my GP seemed dismissive over my concerns about retrograde ejaculation. Should we pick on the Feminist Women’s Health Center for excluding trans women, when it does useful work for cis women? Why can’t we all get on? I am swithering, here. If I have to pick a side, I pick the trans women’s side over the cis women’s side- of course. If Tyra is an “extreme case” for me, is that racist- I know my whiteness will protect me from her fate? I am Tyra Hunter. As you treat the least well regarded of these, so you treat me. But I might keep quiet about it.

The one uniting characteristic of all women is a female neurological sex which lends itself to experience with misogyny. I don’t believe I have “a woman’s brain”. Culture is involved too, our ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman. And that belief may bring us allies, whom I might alienate.

I want to keep mainstream cis feminists on side. That means not being too provocative. I choose my words with care. I don’t assert I need oestrogen for my woman’s brain because I can’t prove it with scientific evidence: that’s a higher standard than feeling it to be true. I know that many different groups are being polarised, in part by Russian trolls, and that decreases our ability to work together for the common good. I need cis allies.

What would I say to Valerie or Patience? Er- please don’t make trouble for me, surely we can all get along-

Reporting on trans

There you are on Sunday morning, a bit hung over, slumped in front of the telly, and The Sunday Politics starts reporting about trans people. The link is live until 16 April, the report starts at 28.30.

The host, Sarah Smith, starts by telling us that the Government had backed calls to simplify the gender recognition process, but the consultation has been delayed. Then there is a film, which starts promisingly with Heather Peto, who wants to be one of the first trans MPs. “I’ve always been a woman,” she says. The best candidates will always get through, so trans women on all women shortlists (AWS) is not an issue. The anti-trans lobby make it an issue.

The reporter says Labour has always welcomed trans women, self-identified, on AWS, but this is recently under attack. “Enter the self-described radical feminists.” I like the parallel, though I accept their self-identification, as a return to the theoretical roots of feminism has value and meaning.

Venice Allen, self-publicist, says she has tried to meet Jeremy Corbyn about this. She refers to “trans-identifying men” and calls Heather Peto “he”.

Reporter- Labour delayed announcing its position on AWS after being told that over two hundred female members would resign. There’s a clip from Theresa May speaking at the Pink News awards, promising to update the Gender Recognition Act by no longer requiring a medical diagnosis. Trans “is not an illness and should not be treated as such”. But that was in October, and we still don’t have the consultation. The Governement told the programme that “the consultation will be published in due course”- sometime, never.

James Kirkup of the Spectator is next, a hard right ideologue calling himself a “journalist”, hating diversity and the Labour Party. He says, I am a journalist, I know politicians who have questions about this, who have doubts about this, who don’t dare express those doubts, raise those messages, because they are worried that if they do they will be screamed at they will be accused of bigotry, transphobia, simply for asking questions. The vicious, powerful trans lobby is a Threat! How, James?

There are questions about access to safe spaces for women, domestic violence refuges, there are questions about the collection and collation of statistics on crime, on pay, there are questions that should be asked, debated, discussed and answered. No, there aren’t. Rape Crisis supports trans inclusion, and a few thousand people will not meaningfully affect statistics. On pay, we get paid less than other women.

Heather gets the last word: I have the self confidence that I am a woman and always have been and people should just accept me for that. Fair enough- but it’s two strongly anti-trans campaigners, and one trans woman to answer them.

Back to the studio. Sarah Smith says it seems the Labour Party’s got itself in a terrible tangle here.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, former adviser to Jeremy Corbyn, says it’s just seeking a form of words that trans women are eligible for AWS. He’s minimising the problem in the Labour party.

Isabel Oakeshott, Tory journalist, says there are probably less than five trans women applying to AWS. It must be difficult to be trans, she would not disparage that, but so much energy should not be going into the debate. Then the kick at Labour- “It would be simpler not to have AWS and select the candidates who are the best for the job”. Do we really need to explain why AWS are necessary? Women don’t come forward, all people favour less capable men.

Lucy Fisher of the Times, who has published articles fomenting the dispute, says Labour jumped the gun by accepting trans women on AWS and as women’s officers. The radical feminists are asking to be heard.

Oakeshott: It is more complex and sensitive than gay marriage. It is so easy to get the language wrong. There will be many people against self-ID in the Tory party.

Zarb-Cousin says 2-3000 women resigning- I hope he’s out by a factor of ten- would be a rounding error.

Oakeshott says the process of gender recognition can be streamlined, as was done in Ireland, Malta, Argentina and Columbia. So, surprisingly, the Tory is neutral to in favour of us, the Labour commentator is minimising the issue, and there were three people strongly against.

Has the hung-over viewer who does not know or care about trans learned anything? That there is a dispute about all-women shortlists, and that some people are angrily against trans people. They have heard a trans woman talk about always having been a woman, and three others alleging there are serious problems, including with angry trans activists and women’s safety. The BBC gives these people a voice, and we are painted as violent and dangerous. Our vulnerability is slightly greater after the report than before.

On Thursday, The Today Programme weighed in. It likes to have strongly opposed views, combatively expressed. The link is live until 19 April, and the report starts at 2.38.40. Emily Brothers, Labour’s first openly trans candidate, came over as reasonable, defending the status quo, which Lucy Masood of the Fire Brigades Union attacked. She had far more of the time, and mocked and denigrated trans women. Opening up shortlists to men simply because they feel like women whether or not they have had a sex change or not would be a huge step backmen will wake up one day and declare I am a woman… women are threatened and attacked…

As Emily said, that is ridiculous and transphobic, but the more people get the chance to say that, the more they will grab the chance to be nasty to us.