A Woman’s Place

Woman’s Place UK is a transphobic organisation, hosting public meetings where transphobic speakers are cheered on by transphobes. It is also highly confused, misunderstanding or wilfully misrepresenting the current law and the proposed changes. It is transphobic because it peddles falsehoods about trans women and trans rights with the purpose of inciting fear, and mocks trans women with the purpose of dehumanising us and fomenting hatred.

A room full of women cheering and applauding when Pilgrim Tucker says, around ten minutes into this video, if you have a dick you are not a woman, are being incited against us whether or not you agree with the sentiment. The vast majority of transgender male to female trans women don’t have what are called bottom surgery, she says. By no means all of us have it, but it is not “the vast majority”. I have heard over 40% have it, though many of us are on waiting lists.

The whole speech sets us out as potentially violent abusers, and the audience as our victims. It is a single argument. First, she defines self-ID: at 4.40, Any man can be a woman just because they say they are one… just literally a signature on a form. This is inaccurate.

5.00 She deals with the Equality Act. Trans women can be excluded from certain spaces for women only. Even though those men [trans women] are legally seen as women. Exclusion is important, she says, 6.00 because men are much more violent compared with women, much more sexually intrusive and predatory towards women. She calls us violent and predatory. 9.00 Trans women have a conviction rate for sex offences that is very much higher than for biological women.

She denies she is calling us all violent- 9.30, Now of course as with men we are not saying by any means that all trans women are rapists or sex offenders. Then she says women should be frightened of us anyway: Just the fact that they are much more likely to be than we are.

She claims the Equality Act exemptions are not being used, not because they are unnecessary in most cases, not because rape crisis centres and shelters want to help people in need and can cope with trans women, but because of 12.00 pressure from the Trans lobby. Would that we were so powerful! We can’t achieve that without the support of those services.

12.50 And there are predatory men who will use any means to gain … access  to women’s spaces when they are vulnerable -yes, she means trans women- and all they have to do is sign a piece of paper -misrepresent the proposed change again.

Then, referring to the debate AWP has manufactured about this small administrative change, she claims to be the victim: but we are not being allowed to talk about these facts… 13.25 Trans Rights Activists are lobbying campaigning bullying threatening manipulating. With the full-hearted support of Rupert Murdoch’s platforms, she can hardly claim her position goes unheard.

Frightening men. Women as victims. She attempts to stoke fear and anger against trans women, who are mostly harmless. That is simple transphobia. In a loo, theft is more of a risk than assault, and a man wanting to commit a sexual assault in a loo would hardly bother dressing as a woman first.

She wants women, stoked with this transphobia, to view themselves as righteous, justified and heroic: 16.00 for every single time each one of us is speaking up, even with shaky voices, even in fear we see more and more women speaking up and standing up.

The enemy are coming for you. You  are righteous: defend yourselves (I paraphrase). It is clear rabble-rousing to hatred and fear. It is transphobia.

More analysis of their videos showing their misrepresentations here.

The “women’s place manifesto” says women’s rights are all about excluding trans women.

A socialist feminist view of what gender recognition means for women.

There’s a shocking transphobic article in The Guardian. Under the headline “Violent misogyny is unfortunately not confined to the internet’s incels,” Catherine Bennett writes, a red bespattered T-shirt reading: “I punch terfs!” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists/women who disagree with me), may have struck a chord with anyone following the current UK debate about the government’s self-ID proposals. To date, threats, from one side, which echo, inescapably, some of those in the pro-Rodger playbook (“die in a fire terf scum”) have yet to generate comparably widespread concern, even after a woman was punched. Her assailant had earlier expressed the wish to “fuck up some terfs”. Tara Wolf did us great harm; but it is not “one side” of the debate, it is a few violent angry people. To link that to murderers is fomenting anger and fear against us.

“Genuine trans women”

The concept of the “genuine trans woman” promotes transphobia and transphobic violence by suggesting that some people are merely pretending to be trans women, for misogynist, immoral or criminal purposes, and must be opposed. Then no trans woman can be safe, because anyone might judge we were not genuine enough.

From facebook: We oppose any rules that will open up women’s spaces to opportunistic, predatory males. We are not suggesting for a moment that trans women fall into that category, though our argument is often wilfully misrepresented as such. We believe that the best solution for this is to have dedicated spaces for trans women, as they are also at risk of male violence. So all trans women should be excluded, in case one of us is an “opportunistic, predatory male”. This is a verbal formula to justify excluding trans women from women’s spaces, where we have gone for decades.

Lucy Masood, a firefighter, spoke at a Woman’s Place event in London: For me this isn’t about genuine trans women having access to our spaces, this is about men. Men who do not have gender dysphoria, are not women, have no intention of physically becoming women yet believe they have the right to be accepted as women.

Men demanding to be included in all-women short lists, demanding to be woman’s officers, demanding to compete against women in sporting events and now, of course, demanding to have access to women only spaces.

Trans women competing in sporting events have to comply with rules about testosterone levels. She is against people who are clearly trans women, and suggesting that allowing our presence is a threat to women.

Who are these men? They don’t have gender dysphoria, she says. How would she know? Perhaps they do not have a gender recognition certificate under the current rules. That is, they have not produced a letter from a specialist psychiatrist to prove to the Gender Recognition Panel that they have gender dysphoria. That does not show they do not have gender dysphoria: many of us have not seen a specialist psychiatrist because we are on the waiting list, or because we are terrified of transitioning and have not quite admitted that we are going to do so, but nevertheless are testing the waters and going out in public as women. I did that. I had gender dysphoria.

I want those of us considering transition to be able to go out in public and use the loo. They are not currently protected by the Equality Act until they have made the decision to transition. If, without a diagnosis, I could tell Lucy Masood that I had gender dysphoria and she would believe me, there might be little problem; but if I need a doctor’s letter to convince her she is more suspicious than I would like. Disbelieve me if you have clear reason to do so. I should not have to prove myself to anyone, unless what I say is contradicted by what I do. There has not been any great influx of “predatory men” pretending to be trans women in Ireland.

Some people of course will see contradictions and threats anywhere.

Lucy also mentioned people who “have no intention of physically becoming women”. I was ambivalent about that until about a year after I transitioned at work. My intact penis was less prone to erections, as I was taking oestradiol and the testosterone suppressant Goserelin. And yet I was going to work expressing myself as a woman. Clearly, Lucy would exclude a lot of trans women who are currently allowed to go about our ordinary business unmolested, and use loos without trouble.

So while she might claim to include trans women, or not oppose our inclusion, in fact she worries about “men”, and would call a lot of genuine trans women men. It is still transphobia. If you don’t accept that “trans women are women” you should at least accept that “trans women are trans women”- and that includes people considering transition. Nobody seriously considers it without being trans- it is just too costly and difficult.

The Mythic Archetypal Feminine

“In most mythologies and archetypal psychology, the feminine principle has greater interest in the inner, the soul, the formless, intuition, connection, harmony, beauty, and relationality in general; it is more identified with lunar subtlety than the over-differentiating light of the masculine sun god or the literalism and linearity of the left brain. … Jesus himself illustrates these feminine qualities…and God is variously described as a compassionate mother, a hen protecting her chicks, and even “The Breasted One” or El Shaddai.

“The masculine principle, as I experience it and have observed it, is more interested in the outer, the mental, exterior form, idea, the movement or action of things, the naming and differentiation of things one from another; solar clarity of individual things, as it were, as opposed to the relationship of one thing to another. It prefers the ascent of mind to the descent of soul. It often moves toward “agency” and action before relationship or intimacy. Just watch little boys play, and watch how men love to fix, build, and also demolish. It is often a more “focused consciousness” than the “diffuse awareness” of the feminine principle, as Carl Jung noted. We see examples of these characteristics in Moses, the Hebrew judges, the practical, eager disciples, and in many images of God as lion and king.”

That’s Richard Rohr. I find his comments harmful. People need to experience both to be fully rounded. He is clearly more comfortable with the masculine principle than the feminine: he ascribes the masculine specifically to boys and men, but not the feminine to girls and women. With the possible exception of the judge Deborah, he does not name women- even, he implies that Mary Magdalen was not a “disciple”. In describing the feminine, he specifically contrasts the masculine, in negative terms, but describing masculine he alludes to the feminine as “descent of soul”: he is frightened of critiquing what he calls feminine.

What he calls feminine is necessary to serve what he calls masculine. It is all very well to “fix, build and demolish” as long as you are not in conflict. The “feminine” relationality means we can co-operate, and eases the self-doubt of the man when he fails. I see female architects building, which creates a shift: the work of supporting is for all of us, not just females. Monks and male priests, men of peace, ideally take on that feminine role, using intuition, compassion and connection.

The “descent of soul” is a matter of maturity, not just femininity. We learn who we are, and come to accept the whole in unity rather than just the active, confident mask. Men have to learn to do this for themselves, without women supporting them. Then we can support each other, and move between soul and intellect, intuition and action, as necessary. We can be co-operative rather than hierarchical. We will have diverse voices and so greater collective understanding.

In “The State of the Art”, Iain M Banks’ character observes that a particular Holocaust memorial is a cave to walk into, “a cunt rather than a prick”. The man approves, but they are two parts that fit together, not symbols of discrete roles. One might think of the active yoni “enveloping” the phallus, and of monuments being just that, stone symbols of commemoration, not penises.

The result is a union of archetypes. Each person’s gifts are valued. Couples may be partnerships without “men’s” and “women’s” roles. These separate archetypes have value, but as active and contemplative, or nuanced and decisive, rather than masculine and feminine. God may unite them as of equal worth without being seen as mother or father.

Other people’s anger

I don’t really like “gay panic” killings to be part of entertainment. Two TV dramas I have seen this month included a gay panic killing- one might even have been a trans panic, as the murder victim was female in Virtual reality but male in real life. Yes, I know they exist, and there was no sympathy for the murderer in either, but someone I could identify with was bludgeoned to death. Women complain about the number of women murdered in such dramas- it always begins with the death of a ‘girl’…

Why should a gay pass be such a provocation, anyway? Both dramas showed it raising uncomfortable echoes in the murderer. The organismic self, feeling attraction, comes up against the self-concept, furiously asserting “I’m not gay”. All the rage and terror that elicits is projected outwards, onto the nearest possible victim. If that gay man is disgusting, then the murderer can ignore his disgust for himself. And he makes his disgust and anger indisputable- surely he cannot be gay, when he feels so strongly.

Such cognitive dissonance, the conflict between who I am and who I ought to be, is painful. Turning the anger outwards may reduce the pain, but cannot address the problem. Neither can my instinctive method, which is to turn the anger inwards. I beat myself up for not living up to who I ought to be. Well, I am not that person, and so the anger only hurts me; but turning it inwards has the advantage, for me, that it does not manifest in conduct which others may find objectionable, until it means I have no motivation to do anything at all.

So now, having drained away my motivation and my self-respect, the anger still turns inwards. I beat myself up pointlessly. It’s other people’s anger, which I feel because I have taken it into myself from them: so as not to suffer it from others, perhaps. So as to fit in. It may be old anger, from my parents’ generation or even before, which no-one would feel now except me.

Who I am is who I ought to be.

The problem is changing my self-concept, so that it matches my organismic self.

The gay panic comes not just from the murderer’s homophobia, but from society’s. His self-concept would not be straight but for homophobic messages from the wider society, or from his upbringing, that straight is better than gay. Concepts of how people ought to be get in the way of anyone seeing who they really are, even the people themselves.

I hope my explaining who I am, here, may help anyone who shares my characteristics. If it brings out a strong emotional reaction- even one of revulsion- it has something to tell you.

The anger is merely destructive. Not all anger is- we get angry against injustice, and that may give energy to end it- but this anger either turns on an other who has innocently drawn the angry man’s attention to a characteristic he must deny, or on the angry person themself. His anger at the other does not change his organismic self, only allows him to deny its reality. It blocks him from seeing himself clearly, and prevents self-acceptance. My anger hurts me, and changes my perception of my real attributes from gifts to weakness.

Perhaps I could consider the anger. Why was I angry? What characteristic am I angry at? How could I see it differently? Self-acceptance is my work. How can I see something in myself, which is so frightening I use anger to prevent me seeing it?

Trans feminism and the Toronto murders

A murderer drove a van down the street in Toronto. The van killed ten people and injured fifteen. Just before, it appears there was a post on the suspect’s facebook page, praising a murderer who had carried out a mass shooting in Isla Vista, saying the Incel rebellion has already begun. We will overthrow all the Chads and the Stacys. It appears he identified as an “involuntary celibate”, whom I wrote of before.

Men on 4Chan and elsewhere identify as incels, unable to find a partner, creating ridiculous misogynist fantasies about why, and praising murderers like that Isla Vista murderer. Emer O’Toole in the Guardian Opinion section gave a feminist response. The Toronto murderer appears to have been motivated by hatred of women, out of a feeling of entitlement to sex. O’Toole reasonably calls this “violent misogyny”. She complains that others use mental health or childhood trauma to explain away such murders, and so it is necessary for feminists to keep feminist analysis central to the conversation.

Well, the Guardian reported that facebook post in its News section. The NYT used a male journalist to explain what an “incel” is. O’Toole argues that we should not name the Isla Vista murderer, because that gives him the fame he craves, but the NYT article uses a bizarre photo of him in a car so that his face is in sunlight and the background in shade, as if he had a halo.  Who are incels? Incels are misogynists who are deeply suspicious and disparaging of women, whom they blame for denying them their right to sexual intercourse… at their most extreme, incels have advocated rape. With O’Toole, I would mark them down for the photograph, but I would give them a pass mark overall. The takeaway from the article is that misogyny is the likely cause for the murder. The NYT also did an article on how the police officer who arrested the suspect de-escalated the situation, where an American police officer may just have shot him. Their main Opinion piece talked of how Toronto is so peaceful, generally, and how the murderer’s motives are not yet determined, but it was published on 24 April.

The Telegraph, though often offensively right-wing, began its article The Toronto van attack suspect praised [Isla Vista murderer] and referenced a misogynistic online community of angry celibate men in a facebook message. Then it speculated on his mental health- “a social or mental disability”. He was a “loner” said someone who knew him. These are the kinds of things such people always say, and are always quoted. He was a murderer. The feminist point is that he is at one end of a spectrum of violent misogyny, egged on by men who might be too weak to be so violent, even though they were chaotic enough to desire to be.

The link to misogyny is clear, here. Should Emer O’Toole be satisfied? No. For her, the murders are the extreme edge of the Patriarchy, different from cat-calling, slut-shaming and everyday sexism in degree but not in kind. So the Telegraph article, with those commonplaces about the murderer being a “loner”, would not get a pass mark: it makes him a freak, rather than one end of a spectrum.

I see the feminist anger, I see the justification for it, I am on side. I started writing wanting to give an answer, but I am left with a question: what do you think the trans feminist’s response should be? Please comment. Possibly he did have mental health problems, but ascribing the murders to that might be seen by gender critical feminists as evidence we were on the side of Patriarchy, rather than against it. In a cis woman, that would be evidence she needed her consciousness raised; in a trans woman it might be another reason to reject us. So, I can hardly answer, I cannot work out an answer separate from how people might see me. Is patriarchy really all-pervasive? Are the women who say, well, he could hardly be entirely sane and balanced, of course mental health and even being a loner is relevant, wrong? If someone thinks patriarchy is all pervasive, do they think me part of it?

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them, said Margaret Atwood. If not kill, then rape, or strike, or disrespect, or merely see through the distorting lens of patriarchy and act accordingly- always with the threat of escalation even as far as murder if she persists. And my fear of men is different, as I am read as trans- that I will be assaulted or disrespected- or killed- as a weirdo pervert rather than as a sex object.

I feel my position, as a trans feminist contemplating these misogynist murders, is as an ally rather than as one of those affected. As I identify as a woman, it is my fight alongside my sisters’; but not as someone under the same threat. Then I let go of what people will think of me.

Distress

The amount of distress you carry is enormous. That is what is exhausting you- not low energy or motivation.

“How can I mitigate it?” I asked.

The question is, what is at the root of it. Stop trying to prove to yourself that you are loveable.

I see you appreciate some of your strengths. I know you appreciate your brain and your aesthetic appreciation of life but I’m not at all sure that you know you are loveable. You seek people’s happiness. I think you have enormous capacity that is utterly disabled by distress. You said something about vulnerability, you described one of your friends as “A fairly chaotic individual, generally means well, quite easily hurt,” and you laughed and you said “Who does that remind you of?” And the laughter went straight into utter distress.

It’s that fragility, that vulnerability- You have tremendous energy, but it’s distress that saps you. To be in such distress for so long, it’s like living with pain. It is living with pain. And with the strength of your intellect and with the depth of your emotions and with the power of your aesthetic appreciation and with your generosity you should be able to get the pain out, but how I have no idea. Part of you is screaming, and it’s been screaming for a ruddy long time. Possibly life long.

And I know that you can get on in spite of it, I know that you can distract yourself from it, I know that you can focus on lots of different things, but it hasn’t stopped screaming, and you need to tend to it.

Part of you is always in panic. You have such an appreciation of beauty and of love and awe and such an intellect, but the letter from the benefits office must have knocked the knees out from under you, again. I think if all of you believed that you were loveable the part of you that is screaming would stop. It might be worthwhile then letting it speak and giving it a cuddle.

Well, there’s feedback, from someone who knows me well. And even naming it “distress” is difficult: I call it “self-pity”, or inadequacy, or a sense of entitlement, or weakness. That I might be worthy of my own care surprises me sometimes. Does the feedback fit? I don’t know. I might call it “discomfort”, but then label it mild, and the superego which rides me so hard, or the transactional analysis “Parent”, would say “Everyone suffers discomfort, what are you complaining about?” It would make “enormous capacity” into an accusation: What are you doing with it?

I lay in my grave, and my mother said to me, “I didn’t want you”. No, really. The exercise was to imagine myself in an open grave, looking up at people passing by, and my unconscious rewarded me with that vision. Of course I believe it. The subconscious knows.

What does distress achieve? It might make the sufferer uncomfortable, so that they realise there is something wrong, which needs fixed. It might make them stop what they are doing. I did not immediately think of, but added later- it could prompt care from another- though I do not believe I could deserve it. If I am right about my mother it is childhood distress, or even inherited distress. She was frightened of the world, and yet still managed to keep a job, but she had me not because she wanted me but because that was the conventional thing to do. I can see my anger, frustration, resentment and fear in her, and if she had accepted my distress as a child I would know I was loveable and would not feel this way.

And now those inner voices are saying, don’t be stupid and self-indulgent, of course it could not be life-long, stop complaining. And they are projecting onto you, my reader(s)- you will think me a self-indulgent, inadequate, ridiculous, self-pitying etc etc fool. Yet I am a human being, and am at least worthy of my own love.

Understanding Neurotypicals

I feel qualified to explain Neurotypicals. After all, I am one.

As many neuro-diverse people will have realised, neurotypicals are not good at empathy. The neuro-diverse person will listen to words spoken, place themselves imaginatively in the speaker’s position, and know what they feel. A neurotypical will expect the speaker to “emote”. So it is not enough to hear the words “My dog died last week. He was only four years old” and realise that the speaker is sad: the neurotypical will expect the speaker’s voice to sound different, and certain facial muscles to move in a particular way, for that is how neurotypicals communicate that they are sad. If your face and voice do not do these things, neurotypicals may insult you. Please do not blame us for this. We do not know any better. For example we might call you “unfeeling”. And we expect a particular kind of reply, in wordless sounds like “aw” or “oh” and particular facial muscle movements. If you reply in words, to show you understand that way, we might become irritated or angry with you, and insult you with words like “unreasonable” or “weird”. This is because we are extremely sensitive, and many different stimuli will make us behave rudely to you. Please forgive us. We do not know any better.

A neuro-diverse friend asked, when speaking with neurotypicals why do they not take turns in speaking? Why do they ignore him when he listens courteously and then object when he takes his turn to speak? By now, many neuro-diverse people have learned that neurotypicals imperiously change the conversation from an enjoyable one to a weird neurotypical one. The neurotypical might say, “You’re infodumping. Stop.” Then they start talking to someone else. Infuriating as this is, it helps to realise that the easily-hurt neurotypical’s attention span is short, and many suffer from a lack of courtesy. Neuro-typicals are simply not as good at conversation as neuro-diverse people are.

Neuro-diverse people will take turns in conversation. Neurotypicals often won’t. Male neurotypicals especially often treat conversation as a kind of competition. They interrupt when you pause for breath, and want it to seem as if they know more about the subject than you do, even when they don’t. Some neurotypicals object to this behaviour, and call it “splaining”. However the neurotypicals who splain will never admit they are doing it, and some even deny splaining exists. Imagine a neuro-diverse person denying that info-dumping exists. As soon as anyone explained what info-dumping was, they would understand, and do it only with people who welcomed it. However, the more you explain splaining, the more the splainer splains.

Sometimes neurotypicals make rules for conversation, such as that one speaker has five minutes to speak and the other will listen, then they will change roles, so that the previous speaker listens, and the previous listener has five minutes to speak. That we need rules like this shows how competitive we are, and how poor at listening. Typically in such settings, there is a group leader who will explain the rules slowly and carefully, and even then the neurotypical will fail to keep to them: and such neurotypicals using these rules imagine that they are being particularly “spiritual”!

Neurotypicals can have different speaking styles. One told me he always knew what he would say before he said it. Yes, I said, because you can think a sentence in an instant. Actually I didn’t, I said because you can think a sentence like that, and snapped my fingers: we find our ways of communicating without words useful sometimes. Another said he knew what he thought when he said it: trying to explain it to someone else helped him get it clear in his head. But it needs to be clear that we are having such a conversation, or someone else might just interrupt and change the subject when he paused to think. In that way, neurotypical conversation can meander from subject to subject without ever saying anything new or meaningful. This is because neurotypicals are poorly understood, and badly educated. With thought and practice, some neurotypicals can be brought to have conversations which are almost useful. However, often there is one dominant individual who just tells everyone else what to do. This explains the work environment neurotypicals prefer, with managers who have never done the job they are managing.

I wrote this post for Barry, who asked how neurotypicals negotiated conversations. He reported that most neurotypicals do not know, having never thought about it. This shows the need for more neurotypical education. With patience, study and understanding, some neurotypicals can be brought to live almost normal lives.

Wolf-whistle

I was wolf-whistled yesterday. Even though I switched my irony detector off, it still glowed red: Sarcasm! Sarcasm! Strange how you can read these passions in length, and variations in volume. We are communicating creatures.

The gender critical feminist might resent wolf-whistles. The woman is seen as a sex object, the property of men to express their judgment of her, rather than a whole person. So it’s not a compliment, but part of a range of activities including groping strangers on a train, and worse. Then they snark at trans women. “They like wolf-whistles, it makes them feel affirmed.” Another reason we are not real women and harmful to real women. But I would feel differently about a wolf-whistle, if I thought it genuine. I would be relieved. The sarcastic one said I was remarkably unattractive, and possibly that I was read. There’s the threat of violence. “I would never hit a woman, but I would hit you.” The genuine whistle sees me as a real woman. I judge the threat of assault in that slightly less.

I am not a cartesian dualist. We are animals, and chimpanzees, rats and even invertebrates can be useful analogues for humans in research. My brain developed as part of my body, and continues to be changed by my experience. Brain, meet testicles: they were a centimetre apart at week 8, already communicating with hormones.

Partly I argue trans folk should not have surgery because we should not bear the cost of our difference, and partly because we are an integrated whole. Much of the queer theory used to justify surgery is dualist: female brain/soul/spirit/whatever “trapped in a man’s body”. If “I” am feminine, that would appear to apply only to my brain if anything, and not to my gonads, skeleton, even fat distribution.

Yet, before surgery I was estranged from my body, having suffered shame over it since childhood. After surgery, I came to love it. As I chew over all this stuff, blogging meaning thinking as I write, I wonder if I could have been brought to value it without transition. I feel keeping the body whole is a better way, yet surgery freed me to value my body.

I am for trans rights because we exist. We can’t be argued out of it. We transition under threat of death. We might be loved out of it- of course a man can be like that. And if gender stereotypes lost their force, we might not transition. The man cannot carry a foetus but can nurture a child. While we exist, though, we should be treated reasonably.

The trans woman’s belief that she is a woman is a falsehood, but convincing her of that may only make her unhappy. I want to speak the truth, but that involves communicating what people can hear, and also loyalty: my loyalty is to gender non-conforming people, and especially gynephile trans women. Saying trans women are men is not true, because it denies that fragment of truth that trans women hold about being human.

This photo is an almost-photo, a lovely background. The sun on the tree in the foreground brought out rich colours which my phone did not quite capture. The reflection is not quite good enough for interest. It really needed a bird doing something to make it, and so I sat on the wooden floor, waiting for something to happen. Had I waited longer, there might have been more. And there, for an instant, was the bird reflected in the water. We had coffee, then Richard got the bus home and I cycled in the sunshine on the dismantled railway, in the sun with the birdsong, in the beauty, feeling bliss.

Liberation II

“You’re looking very good today,” said the beggar. Just in case I did not understand the compliment, he continued, “I think you’re very brave.”

I had stopped when he asked me for 35p. “I’m not on the street or anything,” he said. “I can give you 35p,” I said, and started rooting around for the exact change. I had only looked at him so we would not collide on the street. I was feeling good, striding along in the bright warm sunshine, in a summer dress I love.

When he said that, I sprang backwards and put my purse away. I turned my back on him and was walking away as he protested, hurt: what was the problem, he was trying to be nice, he has a friend going through the same thing, he thought I looked good. At that I turned round, facing from a few yards away, and explained.

“Because it’s my thing, and I don’t want it remarked upon. Because it is a source of pain and misery for me, and a great deal of work.”

He continued to expostulate, but I had stopped listening.

On the platform, three people were Signing. I did not tell them how brave they were, going out on their own, and showing off their difference. Even had I known more Sign than the word for telephone, which has entered widespread use, I would probably not have interrupted.

Or the black woman I sat beside on the train, who reminded me to pick up my book on getting off- I had indeed forgotten it, so that was not impertinent of her. She is checking up for Lambeth council what services are still running, and which will take self-referrrals. I overheard her phone call, and might even have remarked on the closure of public services had we been going further. But not on her blackness and how that must give her special insight and sympathy with the Windrush immigrants so cruelly deported.

Sitting on the train, I wondered if I were taking the wrong approach. I should stand and say “Hello everyone, I am a trans woman.” And they would all feel better for my bravery, and empowered to accept their own idiosyncrasies. After, a little huddle would form of people wanting to praise me, and come out to me about the secret shame they had never shared with anyone before. I would absolve them, they would gain instant self acceptance, and then start writing their one-person shows about what it was like to be a person like that. Then ripples of self-acceptance would disrupt the Space-time continuum, and no-one would vote Tory ever again.

Lucy got it. “It’s privilege,” she said, which is hard to imagine in a beggar. He is arrogating to himself the right to define my existence, and comment on it. He has no right. Or, he is putting me in my place, and patronising me. I am so much more than “a trans woman”. Yet, if we could share our secret shames, how much freer we would all be!

I got the late bus home, leaving Swanston at 11.05pm. After years when the last bus left at around six, and given that the bus service is so quiet, so much of the time, I joked I won’t believe in it until I am sitting on it, and perhaps not even then. The bus from Nupton was ten minutes later than I thought the timetable said, and I don’t think I am that bad at reading timetables, so I feared missing it, and sat in miserable resignation, unable to affect my fate. But I closed a window with a satisfying snap, which motivated two women on the other side of the bus to close theirs, and then go down the bus closing the others. I caught their eye and smiled.

Avoiding transition

-Doctor, I am a trans woman. I want to transition, and I want your help and support to do that: I want testosterone suppressants and oestrogen, and I may want surgery at some time, I have not completely decided on that.

-Many people transition, and find it makes them happier and better adjusted. You can certainly transition. Why do you want to?

-I knew there was something wrong before I went to school, and when I went to school I worked out what it was. I was a girl, and I am a woman. I did not feel as the boys felt. I did not want to play with the boys. Now, I do not like to be with the blokes. I much prefer being with women.

-What does it mean to be a woman? When you say you are a trans woman, what is it that you are?

-I am feminine, by which I mean I am sensitive. I have strong feelings, and I like to express them. I am good at reading the feelings of others. I loathe conflict, and like reconciliation. I want people to be happy. I have a strong aesthetic sense: I love beauty, and enjoy flower arranging.

-I wonder if that could be a description of a man. Have you ever heard Alfred Brendel play Beethoven, or Maurizio Pollini, Chopin? Can you hear the strong feelings, the sweet yearning gentleness, expressed there? Or have you seen the paintings of Henry Raeburn or Allan Ramsay: there is strong feeling. The painters well those passions read, which yet survive on the living canvas. Both painted women as well as men. As for wanting people to be happy, Jesus would not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick. Jeremy Corbyn, always speaking out for peace- is he not a man? Or Carl Rogers, who founded person-centred counselling? Why is being a man so difficult for you? What does it mean to be a man?

-Rudyard Kipling’s If. The Scout Law. Self-reliance. Rationality. Preferring things over people, rationally organising. Relishing conflict, and overcoming.

-These are difficult for anybody. If all around are losing their heads, and only one is keeping his, are the others not men, or not real men, or what? What should they do? Give up their Man card? Can you think of anyone who is like that? It seems to me your difficulty is not with being a man, but with your idea of what a man should be.

-Well, in my case I want to transition. I am happiest when I am Clare, and when I go back to being Stephen it is horrible.

 ♥♥♥

The lightbulb must want to change. By the time you see the gender psychiatrist, you know who you are, and what you need. No-one goes to the psychiatrist because they might be transsexual. Now, years afterwards, I am well aware of the breadth of male and female emotional expression and rationality, relish for conflict or desire for reconciliation, interest in things or people. I can value my gentleness. Now, with the new concept of gender-schematic, I can see that imagining some concept of manhood separate from my own gifts and inclinations is poisonous rather than idealistic, pointless and harmful, and while one might escape it into transition it would be so much better to escape it into appreciation of onesself as a rounded human being.

As for “femininity”, women are not all like that, and to some extent neither am I. So often in a group, the trans woman is the only one in a skirt, the cis women are far more spirited than our passive ideal. One sees that “femininity” is often oppressive. Equality is better than subordination- By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: the very being and existence of the woman is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband, wrote Blackstone (quoted by Rebecca Solnit). Concepts of femininity might be closer to who I am than the concept of masculinity I grew up with, but still require me to deny parts of myself. It seems such a long way round to self-acceptance.

People will continue to transition. Many people are satisfied with the result of their operations, and others’ dissatisfaction as well as my own goes with poorer results- pain, and lessened sensitivity. If I advise people not to transition, that may fall on deaf ears. Yet there are better ways to health. How to unpick the desire? I do not advocate conversion therapy, but self-acceptance: yet acceptance of body as well as character. “Why are you so unhappy?” might be a good question.

On trans rights, having transitioned I am entitled to be treated as a woman. So are any others who go through this. It is hard enough to be trans, without the covenant we have with liberal human rights, by which we are members of the acquired gender, being overturned.