Righteous anger

When I go to see my doctor, I hope we will be discussing my issues rather than hers.

I told her I was tired all the time, and she sent me for blood tests. The practice wrote to me telling me to make an appointment, so I did. I was ambivalent about discussing antidepressants. I have not found them useful in the past, and feel that my depression is caused by circumstances rather than any brain chemical imbalance, particularly by a series of traumas.

-Why have you come to see me today?
-The practice wrote asking me to make an appointment.

She looked blank for a moment. “Well, you remember I told you that your thyroid reading was slightly lower than normal range.” It took me several tries to convince her. Eventually I said, “I have not seen any doctor at this practice since the blood tests. I made the appointment after getting a letter from the practice. Perhaps you wrote a note of what you were going to say, before requesting the letter.”

That got through to her. My thyroid is very slightly below normal range. It could cause various symptoms- heavy periods was one she mentioned, she knows I am trans surely. Not regulating temperature. Putting on weight. She recommended another blood test in 3-4 months, and if it showed a similar result she might try me on a very low dose of thyroid medication.

No, I don’t want to discuss depression after that. She, however, has something to ask me. Her lesbian friend, who she trained with, asked on facebook whether friends thought the word “queer” had been reclaimed or not. She commented, “Yawn,” and some disparaging reference to “political correctness”, and all the queers piled on her. She wondered what I thought, she said.

Well, I feel the word “queer” has been reclaimed: we do “Queer Studies”, after all. But that’s not what she’s asking: she wants me to say the queers should not have rebuked her.

-You’re straight, aren’t you?
-What’s that got to do with it, she blazed. I am taken aback. She says they would not know that. I am too nonplussed to explain that she does not get the nuances around the word. It has been used to belittle and attack people, including some who might be on that facebook thread.

She says being Jewish she understands all about being part of a minority. Now, me being queer means I want to be a good ally to Jews, BAME etc, and I might say that, but she is saying something different, that being Jewish is enough to understand. Her children are so terribly left wing and right on. She wants pensioners to get enough benefit so that they can afford food, rent and heating, but her children are concerned about things like transgender bathrooms.

“Well, I would love to stay chatting but I have patients to see,” she says, dismissing me.

What would be the point of complaining? I don’t really want to make trouble for her, and I don’t think it would achieve useful change.

I was being sympathetic, but the moment I started to hint that they might have reason to object to her comment she became immediately defensive and struck back. Why should it matter that she’s straight? She does not want an answer, only to be assured that she is right to be aggrieved; and perhaps to take out her grievance. I love her righteous anger. I wish I could do it myself, instead of being quiet then resenting.

-Where’s the hurt, you ask, and I answer in that quiet voice which I think shows my most vulnerable self in our conversations.

It’s just hurt. I don’t think it’s anger, or resentment. There’s some perplexity. I feel disrespected and this feels unfair, and my sense that it’s unfair I immediately judge as pointless, worthless whining. I admire her going on the offensive like that, I don’t think I would.

I noted how easily my mood can go up and down. I was worried about that conversation, “you don’t seem depressed”, and then meeting Mr Corbyn got me feeling so much better. Then something happened and I got down, then I started talking about something I was looking forward to- I said “I will do that well”, and knew in the moment that what I said was true- and felt good again. Being able to say to myself that it was just a mood, like dreich weather, would be a good skill.

Love, truth and trans

Love without truth is… It is such a tempting rhetorical formula that there have been several tries. Love without truth is sentimentality, hypocrisy, cowardly self-indulgence. Truth without love is either brutality, harshness or perhaps imperious self-righteousness. Evangelical Christians, who think Love may be tough, aimed at correction, not sparing the rod, might say Love needs grace as well as truth. The balance of love and truth is the conflict between liberal and conservative Christians, who emphasize one or the other.

Possibly over-influenced by the company I keep, I am nearly able to use the term the “trans cult” for trans theorists, in anger and blaming, but not quite. I am persuaded that humans are divided into two different sexes, but that gender is cultural. Patriarchy devalues some aspects of humanity and projects them onto women. Jung said the man must recognise his anima, the female soul within, and the woman her animus- for the qualities are not divided between feminine and masculine, but all human. The answer is to cherish the qualities of each individual. That is the minimum for love, respect, the I-Thou relationship treating all people as ends not means… there is no truth without love, for only love really sees.

Trans fits people in society as we are now. No, I am not a woman: I am a trans woman, a product of the culture, trying to find my way as best I can, find peace, find a place I might fit. Some people make a success of it: after a period of drifting they transition and make their way in the world. I don’t think it should involve surgery, perhaps not even hormone treatment. I see no point in surgery. It makes us infertile, and if it makes us more acceptable to others it is by proving we are sincere rather than proving we are women, or proving we have the doctors’ confirmation, which I don’t think we should need. Surgery seems the final stage of transition, the Holy Grail. It holds out hopes to at once make you a woman, win acceptance from others, and complete the transition journey. Your life will be wonderful. It is a thing to celebrate: we send each other cards marked “It’s a Girl!” Yet it’s still you with your same problems, and the problems of dilation and recovery from surgery as well.

While trans people have surgery, we will want surgery. Of course some of us will be able to make a go of life post-op, and some might even imagine it’s because of the op. But it does not do anything for you. A woman with a penis makes no sense, but me with a penis does. You are born in your own body. We will want surgery the more if we are aware of hostility in society, because we will want to prove ourselves. But genital surgery is only a symbol. If you want to wear a swimming costume or tight jeans, tuck.

Top surgery for trans men is quite different. It means you can stop binding- breathe freely, free of discomfort- and is essential for passing. I do not criticise any trans man for wanting top surgery.

Yet, we exist. Trying to live with my gifts and characteristics, I find presenting female more congenial. The qualities patriarchy devalues and projects onto women, I have. I have no wish to revert. I am a trans woman. So trans women should be treated and accepted as women.

That’s too subtle for many. If, as the Labour party asserts, trans women are women, we should be accepted and treated as women. If we are not, then we should not.

To avoid surgery and hormone treatment, trans women should be treated as women. We have transitioned. We are not dangerous, and should be treated as individuals, not blamed for each others’ wrongdoing.

Cross-dressing and gender queering should be welcomed, to subvert gender expectations, which harm both sexes. When someone wants to transition permanently they should be helped to value all that they are, for everything that is, is holy. Perhaps then transition will not seem necessary. This is the opposite of conversion therapy. The only problem with all this is feminism and the rights of women- and the wrongs women suffer from others.

Don’t have GRS

Personal stories of why people wanted genital surgery, and why they regret it.

The way transgender is understood in Anglo-American culture, in the theory and practice of law and medicine and in the way trans people understand ourselves (until it’s too late) puts overwhelming pressure on trans women to have genital surgery which is not in our interests. When we regret hormone treatment and surgery, there is pressure on us not to say that in public. I regret surgery, so I have an interest in this- to save others from my mistake, as I cannot rectify it- but I am not alone, evidence of regret is suppressed and evidence of satisfaction exaggerated.

The circumstances of MtF and FtM around motives for surgery are completely different.

The diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria in the DSM and gender incongruence in the proposed ICD-11 both require a strong desire to be rid of primary and secondary sex characteristics and to have the characteristics of the opposite sex. The Equality Act protects people who want their sex reassigned, or have had their sex reassigned, though the heading is “gender reassignment”.

At the time I changed my name and went full time, I was ambivalent about surgery, but a year later I passionately wanted it. Why would you want surgery? I believe I wanted it at the time because I wanted social acceptance, or possibly to accept myself. Where a person male by genes gonads and genitals wants to dress as a woman, there were two categories they could fit- transvestite and transsexual. The transvestite is considered to be a sexual fetishist, which I found unattractive, but the transsexual had a medical condition, which I found more congenial. I felt my personality was feminine, a concept which now I consider meaningless.

If there were more acceptable categories, protected against discrimination by law, not involving surgery, perhaps I would not have wanted surgery. Medicine tends to categorise health problems which require the intervention of doctors to cure, but possibly we could reconceptualise gender dysphoria. Gender incongruence type 1 is a desire to live in the role of the opposite sex. The treatment is to live in the role of the opposite sex, using an appropriate name and clothes. Gender incongruence type 2, a distinct condition which may or may not co-exist with type 1, is a desire for hormones. Type 3 is a desire for surgery. Type 4 is a desire to subvert gender, by not fitting any particular gender role, and the treatment is to be allowed to present as you want, male, female, androgynous.

There should be the freedom to present as you want anyway, without the need for medical affirmation, but I did not feel free and medical affirmation, or a category defined by doctors, might have helped me accept myself. The health problem would be shame and distress rather than cross-gender behaviour, and the treatment to alleviate the shame and distress rather than to change the behaviour. As the medical model is about desiring cross-sex characteristics, the GICs can’t cope with non-binary people. They still demand change of name, as Charing Cross did when I first went there in 2001.

I would have said, I want surgery because I am transsexual. I am a woman and my penis distresses me (it did). In the bath I want bubble-bath to hide it (I did). I now feel I wanted surgery to be classed as transsexual and so to be socially acceptable, as demonstrated by the available legal and medical categories. If there had been different types of gender incongruence recognised by medicine and protected by law, I might not have wanted surgery or hormones.

Transsexual support groups enforced the desire for surgery because it differentiated us, the real TSs with a medical condition, from all the weirdos and perverts, just as law, medicine and the wider culture did.

Hormones can reduce fertility, possibly permanently. I wanted to reduce my sex drive because my attractions shamed me. Self-acceptance would have been a better way.

Surgery is irreversible. I mourn being mutilated, and the pain is keener because it was my choice. That choice was socially constrained, and I am moving from self-blame to rage against those constraints.

A great deal of research reports high degrees of satisfaction with treatment, and low rates of regret of surgery. I am unsure why. Possibly it involves people surveyed shortly after surgery, when I and others experienced euphoria; possibly people feel shame about our regrets. I certainly do. People are unwilling to score below Neutral in a satisfaction survey, marginal people are less likely to complain of bad treatment, and while we might open up to a qualitative researcher we might not on a survey. In my case, I have been loath to speak out because I don’t fit the accepted understanding of trans women, and might spoil it for those wanting surgery now; and I want to maintain links to trans groups. Though Johns Hopkins stopped doing GRS as they decided it did no good.


Sylvia Morgan undertook qualitative research, trying to find difficult to reach trans people rather than using the customary routes of gender clinics and trans support groups. Post-op, most people lose touch with those sources and that might be a reason why some research reports such high satisfaction rates. Four out of thirteen post-op trans people expressed regret. That is a huge figure.

People report long waiting times to see gender clinics, and long waiting times for surgery referral once there- perhaps seven years. A friend waited longer. Another friend said the psychiatrist kept challenging her desire, saying that it won’t grow back once it’s cut off, as if she did not realise that. Of Dr Morgan’s research subjects, Lady G who wanted penetrative sex had to wait many years because she had to work in male role, as a lorry driver, and the protocols demanded the “real life test”. She also refused to fit the stereotype of a “woman trapped in a man’s body”- “I don’t know how women feel. I just know how I feel. I’m definitely not trapped. All I want is the wee operation down there.” She passes as a woman, unlike most of the MtF research subjects, and has a strong sense of being one.

Kylie, though, felt hurried. She was not sure how she felt and questioned the conclusion of her first half-hour consultation that she had “insight” and an “excellent understanding” of the transition process.

People used The Script, saying they felt trapped in the wrong body, felt they were not of their assigned gender from very young. “People play the game to get what they want.” Dr Morgan reports that discussions in support groups are dominated by medical procedures and visits to the GIC, and I observe that on facebook, with regular delight at getting surgery or despair at the delay. It is a way of getting status in the groups, that you are seeking surgery. Four said they had never considered medical procedures before joining support groups.

Phoenix felt pushed through a process. She had said she did not particularly want surgery, but had it three years after her first referral to the GIC. She drifted through the process and does not know how she got where she is, post-op.

Vida first went to the GIC in March 2010, and had surgery in October 2012, having pushed for it. She was processed quickly because she demanded progress. There appears to be little consistency in procedures and protocols. Waiting times appeared arbitrary. One psychiatrist was described by many participants as condescending, patronising, clock-watching. Trans women felt disrespected, as I did.

We want medical recognition in order to get legal recognition, so we have surgery as that is what the medical model requires. The participants wanted a vagina in order to “feel fully female”, rather than for what one would do with it: gynephile trans women still go to surgeons who can give depth. The psychiatrists generally did not attempt to dissuade them. (We would hate it if they did, denouncing them as cruel gatekeepers.) Yet the surgery is a symbol of being a woman or truly transsexual, rather than a choice because of what the penis and testicles can do, or the neo-vagina can do.

Dr James Bellringer, who does NHS vaginoplasties, said the backlogs were “spiraling out of control”. In 2013/14 they received over three hundred referrals yet did 180 operations. “The nature of gender surgery is that the vast majority of these referred patients will go on to GRS,” he said.

Iain, a gender queer trans man, thought better of it. The effects are irreversible… there’s so much that can go wrong… it sounds like a world of pain and struggle and scarring and infection.

Oestrogen is a symbol too. Subjects perceived it as enhancing emotions and gentleness, but one reported that her powers of concentration were a lot worse, another that she was considerably weaker, making her job more difficult.

As hormones and surgery are primarily symbolic, that one is really trans, entitled to legal recognition, others as well as I feel euphoria after finally having surgery. But then Carina reported that reality hit her like a big sack of potatoes. Surgery does not mean social acceptance, necessarily, and the body has to heal its effects. The neovagina is in effect a wound, so you have to fight the healing process with dilation.

Vida felt recovery took two years, and had further depression ten years after surgery, “because there is no aftercare or support”. Dolores said she had not understood how difficult and time-consuming dilation would be: “A lot of girls just don’t bother with the dildo, they just let the vagina close up”. Lily agreed. “Nothing really prepares you for what happens afterwards.” I think when some people go for the gender reassignment there is a hope for changing your life, starting a new life, but then it’s still just you with your same problems, and after the surgery you have more to worry about… Some of them just give up, they stop dressing in female clothes and everything.

Sally hoped surgery would give her psychological relief and social acceptance, but it brought neither. She had had profound ongoing depression since transition. Trans support group organisers told me not to talk about my personal problems, not to talk about being depressed since my surgery.

People determined to get the surgery are kept in the dark and fed on bullshit. Nine out of 28 participants had attempted suicide, some more than once.

While people are taking hormones and having surgery for validation as a true trans person rather than for the actual results treatment will provide, there will be inappropriate treatment, and social pressure to have treatment. I know what the desire for the operation feels like. I felt it. Now, I feel betrayed.


When T-Central linked to this post, Calie wrote, The last two T-Central featured posts were based on very successful transitions. One from Halle, who has transitioned, and the other from The Transgentle Wife, the spouse of one who has transitioned.

This post is from Clare Flourish who has regrets. It is important to read both sides.

I will add that I know many who have transitioned and are happy and I know some who are not. In all cases, it seems that the lack of love in the life of those with regrets, or the lack of a job, is often the case.

Clare mentioned in a comment to her post that there is pressure to physically transition. I have seen this and know several who gave in to that pressure. Some are happy. Some are not. Clare is one of my favorite bloggers. She is just lovely in her pictures and I do hope things will turn around for her.

I am grateful for the link and kind words, but I am glad I transitioned. It was how I found myself. I feel transition could mean something different, that it does not need the monolithic full-time + hormones + surgery. I feel people should be encouraged to find those parts of transition which work for them, without imagining they must come as a package.

Some of the comments below go into these issues in depth.

The idea of the Real Self

A concept of a “Real self” could get in the way of being real. If it is a virtuous concept, and I want to see myself as virtuous, it might nudge me to take action I otherwise wouldn’t; and that could be “The practice of Virtue Ethics” (good) or Hypocrisy (bad). How would I know? More likely, it would make me deny qualities. The idea of onesself as “depressive” rather than “having depression” makes depression harder to heal, I read.

Or again my female/ feminine self must be the Real Me, to make transition as irresistible as it was. I had resisted cross-dressing for a year, once, and then started again. I drew comfort from Carl Rogers’ idea of the Self-Concept and the Organismic Self, but that does not mean the Organismic Self is fixed: it could be responsive, in the moment.

Meeting Jeremy Corbyn made me more hopeful about politics than I have been.

That thesis. The experience of violence or control makes it difficult to maintain an individual identity, and as a child I felt controlled, and now I feel my personality was subsumed in my mother’s, for her desires.

I’m feeling malleable, that my feelings, desires and acts can be moulded by others, and that would be fine if I felt myself part of a supportive community, but a threat when I feel marginalised and of low status. If I am moulded I feel it is not in my interests.

The need to preserve a self-concept will get in the way of other needs, eventually undeniably. That could be part of the Waking-up, Rock-bottom moment: you give up trying to pretend that you are who people told you you were, and seek your own interests. Suffering is the origin of consciousness, wrote Достоевский.

If I am malleable, there is no way of escaping the pain. Not in integrity, I am merely, always, confused and hurt.

-One of my trans friends who is exuberant and bubbly most of the time and withdraws from contact with people at other times fears therapy because she’s frightened there’ll be nobody there. You keep taking the skins off the onion. Take the muddle away and there’s nothing underneath, it’s muddle all the way down.

But it could be freeing. If I have integrity, if I am a lump of iron I need a me-shaped hole to fit into. Being mercurial means I can always fit, just flow into the hole available.

Or that I can’t get a complete handle on it using my own language and conscious understanding does not mean that there is no- I’m using too many negatives. EVEN THOUGH I cannot understand myself that doesn’t mean there is no self to understand, but that self includes


I so want something to rely on!

And I had set my heart on having a self-understanding, and relying on that. And having it fixed, rather than having to keep updating it in the light of new information.

Being malleable. That could be bad- there’s no real me and no end to pain, or good- being fluid and able to react.

There should be a Truth, which is comprehensible, except there isn’t.

I see everything in a binary way, and judge it as good or bad. Innate quality is not contrary to social construction, we are nature and nurture. I am a different person in a work situation, and with different friends.

I seek safety, and often it seems to me that I am seeking safety from illusory threats in illusory protection which might be more threatening. I’ve got loads of three dimensional blocks and I’m turning them round and thinking, they must be able to fit together somehow. I’m really intelligent and I must be able to do this. Maybe it does not matter if they don’t- I have partial, inconsistent, and changeable understandings of the world and that is the best I can do, and it’s good enough.

We only assert gender if it is challenged. Most people don’t have their gender challenged. I say I am a woman, and others say no you’re not. But cis women get moulded by the beauty myth into trying to look a certain way.

And if cutting my bits off was a mistake, I have got to get over it sometime.
-OhmyGod that was stupid I can never trust myself again

My Rock would be an unquestionable view of myself as trustworthy, always doing the right thing in the moment, and that is illusory. Rather, I do my thing in the moment and do not understand it, but I have survived, so far. I might trust my reactions more than I do, if I did not second-guess them so much. But if there is a Real Me, I do not know her- or at least, cannot describe her with words.

(c) The Foundling Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Poststructuralism and trans

Transition makes sense if there is a “real me”, a feminine being with feminine characteristics, ideally really a woman but if that becomes unbelievable at least a personality which fits the ideal of femininity better than the ideal of masculinity. This fits with the experience of trying to conform to masculinity but eventually admitting this was impossible and freeing myself to be feminine; always finding expressing myself female much pleasanter than presenting male, until presenting male became unbearable. If there are no innate characteristics seen as feminine, then I can only explain it by sexual addiction, associating cross-dressing with arousal so dressing to be aroused. But now, I cannot imagine presenting male, though I am rarely if ever aroused by my clothes or presentation.

An Enlightenment Human, thought to be a coherent, stable consciousness with agency, autonomy and rationality, producing language and meaning, gave way to a Modernist idea of an authentic self. Poststructuralism says the self is fluid, fleeting, fragmented, continually formed and reformed by social construction, produced by language and systems of meaning or understanding, and determined by historical, economic and cultural contexts. So says Sylvia Morgan, who appears to accept that Poststructuralist view. I don’t know how it could be demonstrated, any more than nature v nurture. Even if her subjects’ understandings of themselves changed, that might simply mean that they had developed a better understanding, shedding self-concept conventions and better seeing the real personality.

Morgan discusses feminist theory and uses the word patriarchy in explaining it, but it is not clear whether she believes that theory. Elsewhere in her thesis, she discloses 10/28 participants were raised by parents forty or more years older than they are (like me) and most regarded the dominant parent in their family as being their mother (like me). I set myself to write about her explanation of poststructuralist theory, but keep getting distracted by details like that. I might see the submissive male as “feminine”. I only came to see my father as submissive after I had surgery- that is, my understanding changed; but that does not mean the dynamics I was understanding changed.

So I consider the theory of poststructuralism unproven, but interesting enough for me to seek to understand it, which I start by blogging about Dr Morgan’s thesis.

We construct identities and self-understanding through performance. Also I think through others’ understandings- if enough people tell me I am not a woman, I have to take refuge in the idea that I am a transwoman. It is a way of having a sense of self. We exist within society, and use symbols to communicate or demonstrate we belong to particular groups. We desperately need to belong, in order to survive. Morgan describes trans women learning to present as more feminine, for example by consciously making our faces more emotionally expressive, while trans men practice being inscrutable- personally, I still resent how expressive my face is of my emotions, so that others might read them before I am conscious of them.

Pierre Bourdieu produced the concept of habitus, a way of behaving which fitted your background, how people like you behave with others. It could be understood in terms of class, as he was socially mobile from working class to the heights of academe he developed a cleft habitus, different modes of being with parents and with peers. My friend, daughter of a coal miner and a junior lecturer, was in an association of working class academics, whose residual working class presentation might prevent them advancing as far as their talents might justify; many British people speak with the Queen’s English, but revert to a regional accent when they return to their home region. Morgan’s idea that trans folk retain the habitus of their gendered upbringing, unable entirely to fit the gender we choose to express, applies differently to different trans folk. Some, she admits, pass in stealth. I only know the working class origins of some friends because they tell me of them. That some people manage to pass as upper middle class, or as women, does not mean that it is easy.

Dr Morgan writes, Foucault’s revelation was that, rather than being a natural innate human property, sexuality is actually a constructed category of experience and knowledge, with historical and social origins. His focus was on the role of institutions and discourses in the production and functioning of sexuality in society (although he did not totally rule out a biological dimension). Foucault’s work exposed how knowledge claims are simultaneously claims to power – they are inseparable. The question to be asked is: what is at stake in the production of knowledge? Why are certain categories constructed? Whose interests are served? Much as Foucault’s investigations into sexuality revealed constructed categories of knowledge rather than discovered identities, this analysis can also be applied to gender categories. Sexuality and gender become inscribed onto individuals as a function of their practices, and classification and the creation of identities serves the development of regimes of power.

Well. There is biphobia, and possibly most people’s bi attractions are suppressed by rigorous propaganda for Straightness. Then the few people who are solely same-sex attracted are shoehorned into cultural constructs- camp, gay, bear, etc. Elagabalus, the Roman Emperor who proclaimed herself Empress, was not a “trans woman” like I am, she came from a different culture, but she may have had a “biological dimension” which I share. That said, transsexual women’s support groups rigorously enforced the necessity for GRS, and possibly we have it due to our cultural understanding rather than anything biological. A woman with a penis makes no sense.

Or, we have some biological reality, but how we can express it is constrained by the culture.


Trans politics is pretty messed up atm. Someone used the abbreviation HPW, which is hard to google- it did not mean, in context, High-Performance Working or the Highways and Public Works department of the Government of Yukon, but Hairy Panty Wearer. Someone referred to a hierarchy of trans from post-op at the top to HPWs at the bottom.

Googling eventually led me to this PhD thesis, by Sylvia Morgan: Constructing identities, reclaiming subjectivities, reconstructing selves: an interpretative study of transgender practices in Scotland. Someone identifying as a “cross-dresser” looked down on a HPW: A guy who has hairy arms, chest, legs and he slips on a pair of pants. Some of them really scare me…to me that’s kinky. And in my opinion, perversely sexual… the HPW is odder if you like than I am…I don’t pass judgment any longer. Really?

I wonder how a HPW would feel if he woke up in hospital. I don’t think anyone would identify as a HPW, which is why I don’t like the term. Possibly, underwear fetishist, or even bloke who wears frilly knickers. And, why ever not, if he wants to? And, unless he wants the rights of trans women without any desire to feminise his appearance in any way, what’s the problem?

That hierarchy, though- it could be either way up. HPW at the top- “I may wear panties but at least I don’t go out dressed female, that’s perverse”, “I may live full time female but at least I don’t want my balls cut off”- or post-op trans at the top, validated by the doctors, really a woman. Either way could be validated by how much the person wanted to fit in with normal society, either as a man or as a woman. If they are ordinary human desires, each group would be separate, and seen as better if they had managed to realise their wishes- so a HPW or post-op woman would be above a person who wanted to wear panties but never had the courage to acquire any, and someone who wanted to transition but hadn’t. If they are suspect human desires, you would be judged harshly if you had given them priority over acceptable wishes like family and career. It’s easy to find people to look down on, if you feel you must.

A twitter account called “Transsexual Voices Matter” said only people with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria who have had genital surgery are entitled to legal and societal protections, and transgender people are spoiling it for them. Or something like that. I went there to quote them verbatim, and find the account gone. Here’s a bit quoted somewhere else: GRA reform would only result in the increase in crime and litigation, make our society less safe for everyone and cause a tremendous damage to the hard won good social reputation of the decent transsexual women. We should try to fit in, that is. I suppose, up to a point…

Dr Morgan writes, many participants perceived themselves and their gender identities to be authentic, coherent and consistent over time, even while this was simultaneously being destabilized by the evident ambiguities within their narratives. Participants’ understanding of their identities mostly challenged the notion of the postmodern self as decentered, multiple, the subject fragmented.

That contradicts the post-structuralist view of “socially constructed and constrained subjectivities,” though a phenomenological viewpoint would treat people’s subjective experiences of their own identities with respect. I have just watched H’s video in which she identifies as post-structuralist, and it occurs to me that her repeated averral that “You know I see you as a man, don’t you” is an actual attempt to mould my conception of myself.

Though Tina says non-trans people don’t have to suffer others challenging their gender, saying “no you’re not”. They might say you’re not doing it right.

H talks of “performing” gender, with her long hair and her skirts (I don’t think I have seen her in trousers) but I think of it as “signalling” gender. That could be a matter of trust: she performs, so that men underestimate her and don’t know what’s hit them, I signal and imagine that they will respond in a correct co-operative fashion, that they will play with me in a way I find pleasant.

I need to come back to this thesis. Scrolling through looking for something else, I found There were several post-GRS participants who thought the GRS referral process was inadequate and haphazard, and four who thought their diagnosis and treatment had been wrong. Oh dear. That’s out of a sample of thirteen who have had GRS. Yet A reiterated criticism from participants was that in Scotland the GIC referral process for medical treatment can drag on frustratingly for several years, as experienced by many of the research participants; whereas only three participants said they felt pushed too speedily through the process. She recommends that Referrals for GRS should be made as soon as possible after the first GIC appointment. Does that mean 4/13 regretting surgery, or something else?

Quakers and trans people

All this century, Quakers in Britain have supported trans people. This support is based on our fundamental principles and ways of seeing reality and human beings, drawing on our support of gay people against the prejudice of the mainstream churches since the 1970s. Our position comes from the courage of gay and trans people and the enthusiastic support of cis straight people speaking up for what they know is right.

Added: Britain YM in 2021 minuted,

With glad hearts we acknowledge and affirm the trans and gender diverse Friends in our Quaker communities, and express appreciation for the contribution and gifts that they bring to our meetings, which are communities made up of people with a diverse range of gender expressions.

Quakers supported the original Gender Recognition Bill in 2003. As a religious body which has testified to equality for over 300 years, we are glad to support the main proposals in the Bill. “The Quaker understanding of Christianity includes the belief in the equality of all human beings  of whatever sex, race, class or age ……….The spirit of God includes and transcends our ideas of male and female.” Our issue with the Bill, the matter we did not support, was the idea that marriages where one partner sought a gender recognition certificate would have to be dissolved. We saw no need for that, and were lobbying for gay relationships to be recognised.

My own article in The Friend magazine on 26 September 2003 helped our increasing understanding.

The decision to support the Bill was taken by Meeting for Sufferings, by representatives of Quaker meetings all round the country, by people who knew trans people personally as friends, based on our testimony to the equality of all people. It followed in depth work by Quaker Life, the committee of Quakers supporting the pastoral care and vivacity of Quaker communities. Quaker Life asked the Yearly Meeting to support the Bill. Our committees restrict their approaches to government to those issues on which we speak from experience. Here, we had the experience of pastoral care.

Quaker Life wrote, We are challenged to develop our ability to handle uncomfortable questions…How can we build a community in the yearly meeting which is open to change and takes account of everyone’s true needs? Action often seems to stem from pressure, passion or even anger from section of the community, by which, as individuals, we can become transformed. We learn from experience.

Diversity is a treasure; inclusion is a spiritual discovery; difference is the truth at the heart of the human condition. If we live up to this we give ourselves the opportunity to change and grow. We need to reaffirm the testimony to equality as a firm foundation which lies at the heart of Quaker spirituality.

Because of these minutes, the official Quaker position is supporting gender recognition.

On 18 February 2017, North East Thames AM produced a minute in favour of trans and nonbinary inclusion.

Some Quaker meeting houses have hosted meetings organised by Woman’s Place UK, a transphobic organisation. Meeting houses are generally hired out to people who pay the fees, like other buildings with meeting rooms for hire. WPUK sought to conceal their true nature from the Quakers. They refused to publicise the venue of their meetings in order to prevent cis and trans campaigners for trans rights from explaining why the venue should not provide a room for the meeting.

When Brighton Quaker meeting found out the nature of the room hire, they cancelled the meeting before it was held. WPUK had to go to another venue in the city. As they said, WPUK events have resulted in acrimony and discord… We do not believe that a meeting of this kind will enhance the wider debate or a mutual understanding… We think it more likely to aggravate the situation.

Any organisation will have a number of transphobes, but the Quakers opposed to trans human rights as defined in international law tend to believe that people should be able to be gender diverse without needing to transition or alter their bodies. Not accepting trans people’s right to choose chest masculinisation or other surgery is clearly transphobic, but their aim is to allow greater gender diversity. They do not oppose our rights on some idea of the God-given differences between men and women. Trans people are welcome in Quaker meetings, and take positions of leadership among Quakers.

The Quaker Gender and Sexual Diversity Community supports trans rights. Here is their statement: We strongly challenge the misrepresentation, misinformation, disrespect and intrinsic antagonism towards trans people by Woman’s Place UK and others in pursuing their stated aims around gender identity legislation (including the GRA), and want to highlight the hugely negative effect this is having on trans people in Britain, including trans Friends.

We believe peace starts with us, and would be interested in seeking a peaceful way forward with those who are open to doing so. For dialogue to be fruitful each party has to commit to ending behaviour that is likely to kill, hurt or antagonise, and thereby clearly demonstrate a change in attitude. If it can be done in Northern Ireland and South Africa it can be done anywhere.

We don’t think Twitter, Facebook or any other social media is the place to do this work: it’s too easy for feelings to become heightened and for a situation to escalate very quickly, as demonstrated this week.

QGSDC continues to be a community of support and solidarity for trans people, and a resource for the wider Religious Society of Friends.

We believe that focusing on, and responding to, that of God (or good) in the other, however hidden, is key in all of this.

North Pacific YM, in the US, is ahead of Britain in expressing its support for trans people: North Pacific Yearly Meeting understands that the Divine Source is leading our Meeting to honor the gender identity and expression of each person, as understood by that person. We affirm that gender expression and identity may be fluid and changeable. We recognize that when we embrace the Light within the full spectrum of gender identities on our Meeting, our worship deepens and our community is enriched.

As part of our evolving struggle to live our testimony of equality, North Pacific Yearly Meeting minutes our commitment to becoming an affirming, safe, and nurturing place for everyone to live fully that which the Spirit is leading them to be.

We extend our loving care to people of all genders, including, but not limited to, transgender, genderqueer, cisgender, gender-fluid, agender, gender non-conforming, and intersex persons, their families and friends. We will continue to educate ourselves and our communities and take appropriate action to bring about a more equal world.

Young Friends General Meeting, for Quakers from 18-30ish, support trans and non-binary inclusion and rights.

Meeting for Sufferings wrote a minute in July 2019:

MfS/19/07/06 Gender Diversity We receive and note minute 2019.2.3 of Young Friends General Meeting and the initial statement regarding Trans and non-binary inclusion; and Quaker Life Central Committee’s initial statement ‘Quakers and Gender Diversity’. Friends are encouraged to reflect on the Quaker Life Central Committee (QLCC) initial statement and the Young Friends General Meeting (YFGM) minute, and to work together to explore the issues. We are aware that we need to listen to those people affected by discrimination of any sort (to listen deeply, with open hearts); and we want Quakers in Britain to be welcoming and affirming of all people. Each individual is a child of God and we all seek to know that Love which is eternal.

We uphold all Friends in this exploration. Working in small groups may make it easier for Friends to share more deeply. We encourage everyone to listen carefully to the Spirit through each other. We hope to return to this later in the year.

In their covering letter the clerk explained,

The key items are: 1) A consideration of the documents received from QLCC and YFGM and for us to try to understand the issues involved in the current debate around gender diversity. We heard that working in small groups to consider this may be a good way forward and that QLCC would like to receive further comments – please send your comments to gender@quaker.org.uk We hope that when we return to this we may be able to articulate more clearly what specific Quaker contribution there may be to this issue, remembering that the basis of our response is love and the recognition that each person is a child of God.

Unfortunately, MfS has not yet returned to the matter, partly because of Covid disruption.

Here is a record of some American minutes on trans rights. Baltimore YM supports trans rights.

Jeremy Corbyn

To the Pen Green Centre, Corby, to see Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party and of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. I had not heard of Pen Green, but it was set up in 1983 and the prototype on which the Children’s Centre network was based, created by Labour, vandalised and vitiated by the Tories. It teaches courses from the first introduction, preparing to work with children, to PhD level: Jacky tells me of a professor of midwifery (?) she knows who left school without qualifications but just kept going once she was encouraged. “It is better to put a fence at the top of the slope than spend money picking up the broken people at the bottom.”

Beth Miller, our candidate, introduced Mr Corbyn. She gets more and more confident, speaking spontaneously, working the crowd. He speaks of the Tory disaster of Northamptonshire County Council, bankrupted by Tory councillors cutting the council tax and contracting out services, with the problem exacerbated by the Tory government cutting the central grant, supported by the county’s Tory MPs.

Jeremy has been round 74 marginal constituencies, targets, this year, getting members involved. He says Labour would end the rote learning and stress on children and teachers, and develop children’s personality through art and music. Education should be a right not a commodity: they would increase corporate taxes for tertiary life-long learning. Labour would support the principle of the NHS against privatisation, looking after the whole person: suicide is the main killer of young men. We would have a proper plan for social care: it is a scandal when people cannot get a care place, so stay in a hospital bed. I note that he does not use the terse, coarse phrase “bed-blocking”. It is a waste when people, mostly women, give up their careers to look after relatives. Rough sleeping has doubled since 2010. He has spoken to rough sleepers, hearing their stories of job loss or relationship breakdown, it could happen to many of us. The empty investment properties in London are a scandal, he would build council houses.

He wants a gentler, kinder Britain. He knows the media is “unkind” to him, attacking because he is determined to change the country for the better.

He wants to hear our ideas for the council, and how we will suffer from the £70m cuts in services. I fear for British politics. With the former foreign secretary fomenting hate against Muslim women with mockery, and the Brexit secretary wanting to “unchain Britannia” by ending all workers’ rights or public services, making Margaret Thatcher look like Shirley Williams, my neighbour, who rents privately and whose son lives with her is concerned about the “benefit fraud”, all the people on the estate not working. He says he does not hear such arguments often. The way to get hope is through campaigning, such as the judicial review of the closure of the Corby Urgent Care Centre. Yes.

I need not ask him about trans: he, and many female Labour MPs, have said unequivocally “Trans women are women”.

I fiddle with my camera. “Would you like a photograph?” he asks. Of course I would. You can see how delighted I am. I get depressive about politics, and now feel much better.

I chatted to John Prescott’s son, who is going round with the leader.

Outside, in the warm but not blazing sunshine, a man plays a pan raga, a light, gentle sound.

I put that photo on facebook, and someone wrote, “Well, he looks like a nice guy. Are you going to see him again?” Alas, I did not give him my phone number, nor get his- but the photo has that vibe about it.

Deferring gratification

Children who can defer gratification do better in later life. Children were offered one marshmallow immediately, or two if they could delay eating the first for an unspecified time. The ones who managed to delay for the longest, did best at college and in finding jobs later. The ones who delayed the shortest time were most likely to go to prison.

My friend said this was a matter of employing reason to overcome emotion. The rational mind thinks things through, the emotional mind follows impulses. But here the only motivation for wanting two marshmallows rather than two would be emotional, a desire to eat something sweet. If the children had been offered ice-cubes, unless it was hot and they were thirsty, they would not have bothered.

So it is a matter of having a particular skill- deferring gratification- rather than being “rational”. He found another false way of denigrating emotion: impulses are emotional, but so are long-term desires.

The way we think of these things affects how we can respond to them. Application is a skill to be developed, laziness is a vice to conquer, impulsiveness is a bad quality, these are things to be altered not personality traits. Brains are plastic. I feel seeing them in terms of developing and practising skills is useful, but also note that these things are difficult and take energy, and can be more difficult if you are tired. And motivation matters: if I have a clear understanding of how an act will benefit me, I am more likely to do it. Often, we do things because they are conventional, or because someone else wants us to.

Here I read a tactic to resist the temptation of a particular pleasure: think of a different pleasure. Children told to think of the marshmallows as fluffy clouds resisted temptation longer than those told to think of them as sweet and chewy, but those thinking of crunchy pretzels resisted longest. Thinking of the pleasure you could not have helped resist the temptation of the one within reach. Children who resisted the temptation also chose to distract themselves.

However that too might work for avoiding an immediate impulse, but not for doing something irksome. It would be better to find pleasure in the irksome task, or imagine what good it will accomplish. Think that you will have the pleasure in the future, rather than merely of having it.

Trans picnic

Content: self-harm.

Above us in the park four flags proudly flew, the transgender blue pink white pink blue on a pole and three others on a rope between two poles. One was lilac white green, which I identified as the colours of the Women’s Social and Political Union, and which I now see is the genderqueer flag. Should there be separate symbols for genderqueer, genderfluid and non-binary? It would only be a problem if anyone pledged allegiance to one over another, and saw the other as definitely a different identity. These ideas and symbols will flourish or wither, as people find ways of transcending gender rather than defining themselves against it, or across it.

I thought at the time it would be good to get a photograph of me with the flags in the background, to associate myself with them, and trans rights campaigns. We curate our image on social media, and that would be me claiming my allegiance. I could have asked someone to take a few on my phone. Now, I wish I had. I didn’t: the sky was grey, but colours can be tweaked; I would have had to ask someone, but they would have; I don’t know why I didn’t.

Someone wants a pronoun circle. What’s that? You say your name and pronouns. We did not do it; but again that is stating who you are, before witnesses, which can be affirming or terrifying.

There were some good looking young trans men there, some with beards, one small for a woman and still binding. There was one on an afternoon out from the mental hospital. He had scars all the way up both forearms, and dressings the whole length of both arms, which he would run his fingers over, perhaps to feel the pain of the wound. He was in a general ward, at first, and now psych, where he has his own room: among the men, which pleases him.

He’s the answer to the Mumsnet crew wailing that their distress requires trans exclusion. A feminist would argue that women suffer from patriarchy, that “femininity” restricts them and that male privilege benefits trans women. So women need women’s space, and men should not be allowed in whatever we are wearing; and women should be able to be themselves without having their breasts removed. My answer: we exist. He knows he is a man. They patronise him by wanting to enforce their solution on him. His distress should matter to them: I can sympathise if mine does not.

We exist. If gender diverse people are allowed to work out our own way, including transition if we want it, we will explode a bomb under patriarchy which will demolish it. If transition is restricted, we have hormones and surgery to prove we are real trans. If it is permitted, we feel less pressure.

A man came over from the friends of the park and wanted to take photos for their facebook page. We demurred, not all of us would want our pictures associated with those flags. Even I did not: I did not have that photo taken. I am glad I was there, glad I was with my kind, and still ambivalent. The image is not the same as a photograph.