George Cruikshank

At the end of British Black History month, I present this cartoon by George Cruikshank.

Here is a larger version on the British Museum website, which claims copyright.

The cartoon, from July 1826, calls the slavery abolition campaigners “canting humbugs”. In Cruikshank’s view, the Caribbean “planters” host happy, well-fed, fat black people, who are portrayed making music, dancing and drinking rum. The Abolitionists are deceiving decent British people to take an interest in slavery when there are poor whites in Britain, needing charity but ignored.

Oh, George! Cruikshank’s cartoons are still worth looking at, and I note his sympathy with starving people- a genuine concern- but the lies about slavery shame me now. Britain made a vast amount of money from slavery and colonial exploitation. Loving the Tate Galleries, I have just checked they are not directly contaminated by slave profits, which is a relief; but all over Britain the legacies of slave ownership remain. I am not free when anyone is unfree, even when their shackles are very different from my own. It is imperative for me to be an ally, and develop as an ally. I found the cartoon through David Olusoga’s documentary Britain’s forgotten slave owners.

Lies and vilification

The outpouring of hatred against trans people in the UK is based on lies and distortions. The right-wing press has conducted a campaign of vilification against us, mocking and dehumanising us.

The facts are these. International human rights law says trans people are entitled to recognition in their true sex without any need for treatment to reduce our fertility. The Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons recommended that trans women should be treated as women, and for example not excluded from any women’s space. However, when the Minister announced the consultation in July 2017, she only proposed amending the law on gender recognition certificates, so that we would not be required to get a letter from a specialist psychiatrist saying we are trans, and prove two years’ expression in the acquired sex. The GRC has only symbolic value. Its only effect is to change your gender on your marriage certificate, if you get married afterwards.

Trans women can be excluded from women’s space, even after getting a GRC. That is covered by the Equality Act, which the Government has repeatedly confirmed will not be changed.

The gender critical campaign has focused entirely on women’s spaces, alleging a threat to women. Sometimes they are explicit that they mean a threat from trans women, sometimes they suggest that men might pretend to be trans women and they are not really against “genuine” trans women. For example, Sex self-ID would allow any man in Britain to get his birth certificate reissued in the opposite sex. Just like that. No delay. No change to his body. No medical supervision… spaces reserved by law for women and girls- changing rooms, domestic violence refuges and rape crisis centres- will find it impossible to remain male-free.

A lie. Or at best a stupid misunderstanding: campaigners do not always know what a GRC is or what it does.

For the purposes of expressing ourselves female, or even seeking a diagnosis, we have always had self-ID. The diagnostic criteria include our own belief that we are of the acquired gender. No-one ever goes to the doctor and has this conversation:

-Doctor, I think I’m a woman!
-No you’re not, you have testicles and a penis.
-Oh thank goodness, that’s such a relief.

Instead, the doctors are the gatekeepers for the hormones and surgery we want so much.

A search for trans self-ID meme finds some trans-friendly images, but also some pretty horrible stuff. The Times, a Rupert Murdoch paper once thought of as a newspaper of record, has hideous headlines:

Stonewall backing transgender bullies

Feminist’s poster removed after complaint from transgender activist

Obsession with gender identity goes too far

Transgender muffin exercise sends wrong message– alleging that cis children are being told they are trans.

That’s just the first four headlines from a search today, on Google. A search on The Times website finds

Lecturer’s job fear after raising trans concerns– 30 October

Activists thwart [academic] work on gender law reforms- 28 October

We’re on a slippery slope over hate speech- 27 October.

Labour members punished over transgender facebook debate- 24 October

Trans extremists are putting equality at risk- 22 October.

The Spectator, meanwhile, has It’s not transphobic to question transgenderism and Is transgender ideology making the UK’s mental health crisis worse? Five articles in the print magazine since April, and seven more since September on their website. How Caroline Lucas fell foul of the transgender thought-police– as if we were the powerful ones, oppressing everyone else. Bullies, thought-police, punishing, getting people sacked, suppressing free speech. And yet I’m the one who gets shouted at in the street.

When people call me a threat, they incite self-righteous, “defensive” violence against me. They put me in fear.

Resurrection II

My friend did not think the new debt initiative was necessary. People get themselves into muddles. Why not talk to the CAB or the landlord if you can’t pay your rent? I found myself agreeing with him. When I was with the CAB we helped with bankruptcies and insolvency agreements, and with debt budgeting. One or two were on their third bankruptcy, and a trickle of people would come in with a document saying that bailiffs would evict them the following day.

I went into the meeting room and sat down, wondering why I had agreed. People don’t talk to landlords because of denial, powerlessness and shame. If I didn’t go out again and say that to him it would get to me all Meeting. So I went out and said that, and he agreed; and he talked of a good landlord he knew of, helping people through their Universal Credit difficulties.

My landlord is a cheery chap, and he comes round to prune the bushes in the back yard, or poison the tarmac. And just before he moved my neighbour had lost the key to open the windows, so his windows could not be opened. He told me the landlord had said, oh, that’s alright, they could replace the windows and take it out of his deposit. He borrowed my key.

My friend agreed. We are not on opposite sides of this. We both have a nuanced understanding; but he names the possibility of talking to the landlord.

In meeting, I thought that is where I am, a sense of denial- not dealing with the problem- powerlessness- unsure how I can- and shame- it is My Fault! I have a crushing loss of confidence. I don’t have faith I can sort myself out, and Know that if I attempt things the other people I need to work with will block me, even though intellectually I know that is ridiculous. Last year, something happened to extricate me, which I could not have expected: this is not Micawber’s “Something will turn up” but something may turn up.

And I had an image, shadowy to me now, of Resurrection.

I am still at war, opposed extremities battling within me- “denial, powerlessness and shame” v Resurrection. I am simultaneously in Hell and Heaven, both part truth part fantasy, together a wider view of Truth than I can compass altogether so I divide it. Hope and Love, rage and terror. Meditation may help. Spoken ministry, not mine, was of being in community, bringing our entire selves, emotions, even tears, to Meeting.

More Burne-Jones. This object, of silver and bronze leaf overpainted with gold, is fabulously beautiful. I sat looking up at it, seeing the light reflecting on metal which the picture cannot reproduce. The “grey ladies” are young and beautiful, apart from their eyelessness, which is clearer, and more disturbing, on the original.

The Latin is a synopsis of the Perseus myth. That greave is impossible- showing the beauty of the leg’s shape, in shining silver.

Being misgendered

-Are you finished with these, sir?
-I’m female.
-I apologise.

I am still irked by that. She could not see my face, I think. My waterproof jacket is fairly unisex but fastens the feminine way. That wig, again, is clearly a woman’s wig, the woman’s side of the line, even if it’s fairly close to the line. It’s a well-marked line.

Now, I am thinking some day I will have the energy for the follow-through:

-I apologise.
-Well, don’t “Sir” people unless their gender is clear! There’s no point in having “All-Gender Toilets” if you misgender people!

It didn’t really- well not really really– bother me until later, when I was in the Turner Prize exhibition, which this year is all video. They are close to documentaries, in parts. Naeem Mohaiemen’s work is a history of the Non-Aligned movement, worth seeing from beginning to end, though it is on three screens and has the feel of looking at an art work. To me; some commenters said that’s not art that’s documentaries.

Charlotte Prodger’s work is 33 minutes long, and consists of video taken on her phone, with bits of her diary read as voiceover. She had had a job near Banchory, and I wondered if anyone else in the room had been there, or at least through it, like me. She is lesbian, at least sometimes she presents Butch, and part of the voiceover says how at the ferry terminal she was washing her hands in the toilets and a party of women came in, and one went out again to look at the door, then said “I thought I was in the wrong one for a moment”. And how wearing it was when people asked her who her girlfriend is. “Is she your daughter?” Eventually she said “She’s my friend” and thought, now I’m closeted as well.

There is paradox here. She (I checked her pronouns) is misgendered repeatedly, and the thought that a woman could be her partner is seen as remarkable, yet she is up for a huge accolade, notoriety in the right-wing press, and £40,000 if she wins the prize. Highbrows like me, and the odd idiot who goes out and writes the comment “That’s not Art!” on the comments wall, (Actually that’s so stupid, surely it must be irony?)-

onywye, I am watching this Installation feeling intense powerlessness exacerbated by her frank admission of failing to respond to being misgendered, and the middle-class white straight men, well, it might just go over their heads. What’s this wumman on about?

On the comments wall, I took two pieces of paper marked in large letters

Power

and scrawled, “Charlotte was misgendered in the CalMac lavs. I was misgendered in the Tate Gallery Members’ Room” on one and “I have the

Power

to say I exist” on the other. Then I took lots of wee pins and stuck them all over these pieces of paper, skewering the word “Power” and each of the “I”s.

So there.

Waiting for the film/installation to start, I sat by a low table leafing through the books there. One is on queer art, another is a selection of the poems and essays of Audre Lorde specifically for the British market called

Your silence will not protect you

So now I have a book of Audre Lorde, to help me be an ally to ethnic minority people and, perhaps, help me survive.

What if I had shouted out in the showing that I had been misgendered? There were workers in the Duveen Gallery working with children, with suggestions as to participate in art, and when I said I too like to be playful the man gave me a pair of drumsticks. I noticed how the sound they made was different hitting with the tip or the middle of the stick, and investigated the sounds. I could break people’s absorption in the art work, and that distraction would be like Brecht’s alienation technique, they would see it in a new way. But the rooms showing the videos are carpeted, and I just hit the sticks together occasionally, very quietly. And if I had shouted, people would be too well-bred (or something) to show they noticed.

I had a fabulous day. I also spent hours with the Burne Jones exhibition. Pieces here come from the ordinary displays a few rooms away, and from as far as Stuttgart or Melbourne. Is not Madeleine Vivier-Deslandes utterly beautiful? There were so many beautiful things. There’s Perseus stealing the Graeae eye, on oak, and his armour is silver, and their dresses gold. The grey sisters are young, here. One has her pretty face and empty sockets turned to us. There’s a huge tapestry, of Gawain contemplating the Holy Grail and his two companions blocked by three angels from approaching. The trees are dark, and the wild flowers Botticellian. So, the Pre-Raphaelite descent into myth and fancy, before Freud, how ridiculous- except Madeleine is, perhaps, “chimeric, disordered and suffering”. All those buttons on her cuffs undone, and that bodice, so easily ripped. I went in ready for my irony to be exercised, and was entranced- and just a little disturbed. Just now and then.

Spiritual exercises

To love others, you must love yourself.

I have a lack of confidence, and a deep desire to heal it. I deserve more confidence than I have. Over the last month I have produced a detailed concept of part of myself I now call the Pain-bearer, that part of me that holds the feelings which are too strong for me to bear consciously, and which then stew inside me. Feelings can be fuel, the energy to deal with my problems, or a burden making those problems more intractable.

Perceiving or imagining the Pain-bearer, the ideas came from my unconscious. First I saw a part of me curled in a ball, cowering, broken, head down, hugging herself. I imagined myself sympathising, getting her to uncurl, or perhaps uniting with her. The feeling part of myself is in control. The rational part can offer suggestions but not give orders.

Later I saw her as the Pain-bearer. She is not curled up, but standing, bearing all the burden of my unacknowledged pain without being broken by it.

This morning, I cleaned my living room and especially the rug where I kneel in meditation, my Ritual space, in preparation. I was not clear what would happen, but I was clear that it was important.

Two nights ago my dear friend suggested I join a Zoom webinar spiritual exercise for the Hunters’ Moon. After a visualisation Tina H. asked us to write down the feelings we were bearing, and needed to release. We would then recite the mantra,

I see you, I hear you, I feel you, I thank you
But now it is time to let you go.

Um. I wrote down, Anger Frustration Resentment Fear Rage Terror HURT
Loss of confidence

but did not feel these were the real issue. I was just writing what I had perceived my feelings to be in the past. Even more, I felt that I could not yet let my feelings go; that I had escaped feelings by pushing them onto the Pain-bearer, so if I were to “let go” or even release feelings I would be loading her further. First, I had to integrate the Pain-bearer into myself, to be one, and then when I let feelings go they would be taken from her burden and we/I would be rid of them. I tried to explain this to Tina, but then left the webinar to avoid disrupting it for others. The moon was beautiful, in a clear sky.

This morning, I knelt. I had not thought of writing out my feelings as Tina H. suggested, but did. They came to me in the form of stories. The advice for meditation is to see your wandering thoughts as passing clouds, and let them pass rather than fixating them, but I found my thoughts relevant. They were stories from which the feeling became apparent. For example, as the pre-bought train fares are much more expensive for the next two months, because of Christmas shopping, I imagined myself working out how to come home from London on buses. This revealed confusion and feeling out of control. Some of these feelings were my mother’s too. I wrote:

Terror of not being accepted: Withdraw.
Rejected- Worthless.
Confusion- desperate scrabbling for Plans.
Sadness- now alone from own doing.

I realised that forcing pain onto the Painbearer is clinging on to it. One may bracket feelings, storing them away to be dealt with later, but I do it all the time, and never release. It makes me think of Richard Handley [the link is appalling].

I know what I must do. I wrote,

Cleanse her
Feed her
Warm her
Love her
She is Me.
I am Alive.

Love


Possibly, later, I might consciously release, but right now I am feeling content. I spent a quiet day reading, after tidying my books to make my room look better. And- I made a pigeon!

Understanding, empathy, solidarity

Debbie [Hayton] understands the reality of who she is and the relationship that can exist between women and transsexual women if we have understanding, empathy and solidarity with each other. Understanding, empathy and solidarity are valuable. You cannot require them from anyone else.

Here’s an example. In Prospect magazine the former editor of The Tablet complains of anti-Catholic prejudice in Britain, and I sympathise. We should condemn the belief, not the person. Free speech of a Catholic kind is outlawed, she thunders. She is referring to anti-abortion campaigners handing out leaflets to women entering an abortion clinic in Ealing.

Those Catholic, Evangelical and perhaps agnostic anti-abortion campaigners are not just stating their beliefs. They might just hold out a leaflet, or they might thrust it at a woman in need. Some women’s lives could be ruined if the embryo inside them became a child. Some women carry deformed foetuses, for example anencephalic monstrosities that will die almost immediately if brought to birth. The campaigners seek to shame women and make them fear. This is not just a matter of freedom of speech. Catholics thunder against abortion in pulpits and publications ad nauseam, and here, in the sometime-progressive Prospect.

I know of no-one who seeks a termination frivolously. Perhaps some empathy is possible. I don’t know where it might start. I had a Catholic friend who was repulsed by abortion- we did not discuss the morning after pill or anencephaly, but at least I know she did not agree with the current laws restricting abortion, and wanted them stricter. Empathy can go so far. We can say yes, we find terminations unpleasant, not least for the risk to the woman and the unpleasantness of the procedure, and want easily-accessible birth control and a proper understanding of Consent and personal responsibility to reduce the number of terminations necessary, but if the “pro-life” side thinks that misses the point we can’t go much further. And if they say their empathy is for the Child being killed, and they imagine there is suffering greater than the woman’s, we can’t communicate further.

Understanding and empathy can go so far. Whenever I go into a loo, there is a risk that someone in it will read me as trans and be revolted or scared. I don’t know how big that risk is. I do not want to scare anyone and the thought that I would revolt someone makes me utterly sad. I might ask to join a particular women’s group, and would not push if refused, even if explicitly because I am trans, but I am not going to stop using toilets. I don’t know if that commenter’s empathy means requiring me to use the men’s, and a vague sense of regret if I am assaulted there. It is one or the other. Empathy cannot decide. I have been challenged, commenting in The Guardian: am I certain no woman was ever frightened by my presence? That is a fairly neutral space, where she would have been trying to appear reasonable and persuade undecided people. There is a time when I assert, “I exist”. I cannot make myself into nothing, for anyone.

I am aware of the gender wars in which I participate unwillingly. “Rape culture” and “Patriarchy” are meaningful to me, descriptions of the world as it is with the oppression of women, which matters intensely to me. I know it is nothing personal if a woman is frightened of me for what I symbolise rather than who I am. And yet, still, I exist. I cannot consent to a world which makes no space for me. Transition is a thing people do, however difficult it is.

“I am male” says Debbie Hayton, in the post that commenter admired so much. Well, that does not take us very far. I am a human being in a very complex culture, with particular gifts and qualities which have led me to transition- and she is the same. I imagine she goes to the loo when she needs, even to the women’s. For some people, it would not be enough that she reverted and never presented female again, as she had for a time claimed to be a woman.

“I accept women’s boundaries,” she says. Well, again. I accept the boundaries of some women. I cannot accept boundaries which would change my life completely, especially not from someone on the internet whom I will never meet. Even Debbie probably transgresses someone’s boundaries, simply by calling herself “Debbie”.

Being controlled

I was completely under her thumb. I had no thought of my own. She decided everything, as if I were hollowed out and her idea of what I should be poured in to fill the gap.

I am sorry if I have brought you here on false pretenses. This is not a sexual fantasy, but reality, just how it was. It was trauma: Trauma is the experience of being powerless to establish a boundary between our self and that which is about to inflict, or is already inflicting, serious harm or even death. It is one of the most acute forms of suffering that a human being can know. It is the experience of imminent annihilation, writes James Finley.

So now I have lost my confidence, completely. Something bad will happen that I will not understand, or be able to predict, or avoid. I will face- the employer, the monster, the person with power, and I will die. That I know this conviction is totally irrational does not take away any of its power.

My mother was completely controlling. She had me because that was the conventional thing, not because she wanted me. It was very hard for her, but convention was important. I recognise that she did her absolute best for me, as parents do.

I had some control over what I ate, but only to refuse. So almost every night I ate rissoles beans and chips (not always chips) separately from what my Mum, Dad and sister ate. These things are negotiated. I have no memory of how this came to be, but remember that when I was about fourteen my Mum went off to look after my grandfather, my Dad ate my diet while she was away (my sister was away at school) and said how dry and horrible it was. When I went to University I quickly came to eat anything, and now I say I would eat anything any culture would offer honoured guests.

Clothes: Of course parents get clothes for children, and living so far from shops it was difficult, but my mother made shorts for me until I went to secondary school. The other boys were in long trousers in winter of course. When I said it showed I could stand the cold my sister was derisive: “So you’re the wee toughie, are you?” I wore shirts and ties at weekends.

I had the sense of us being apart from the community, with my parents. My sister was part of it (the school was comprehensive, boarding, the nearest that had a fifth and sixth year of secondary). My father, a teacher, allowed me to sit in the classroom and read rather than go outside during breaks. Normally, children get their accent from their peers, but I got mine from my English mother.

Attitudes, beliefs, understandings, ways of being: all from my parents. In my thirties I decided it was time to rebel against my parents, and I have been doing teenage ever since, that is, thinking for myself, or at least absorbing ideas from other sources than ones they approved.

My mother was distressed when I was very small, when I did not respond well to all her hard work. The trauma began then for me, her inner critic creating my own. What I remember is the outworking of the control, not its initiation. And it came because she so rigidly controlled herself, as she had been controlled, the sins of the fathers visited on the children.

I watched The Cry on BBC1. Episode 3 is a compelling portrait of coercive control: every line counts. I could hardly bear to watch it, feeling all the horror. Perhaps because of that, I am able, now, to state that I bear that trauma: the inner critic saying what I say is simply ridiculous, no-one would possibly believe it, is quieter, or perhaps I believe it less. And, adult experiences have damaged my confidence; but it is that small-child reaction, the terror of imminent death, that prevents me acting.

My Quaker belief

In his last book, Stephen Hawking addresses the question, “Is there a God?” I would say no- or rather, that’s not a useful question.

My belief and my understanding come from my history: what I have read or been told, what people important to me have believed, what experiences I have had- and that I call some of them “spiritual experiences” is a product of my understanding. After some particularly wonderful spiritual experiences I reformulate what I believe, for myself as well as for you.

I was baptised a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and taken to worship weekly throughout childhood. I left home and continued worshipping weekly. When at University I went to St Andrews Cathedral, Aberdeen, and served at the altar, and was also in the Christian Union so exposed to Evangelicalism. I read the whole Bible with commentaries, repeatedly, over a period of about ten years. I said the creed weekly without any sense of being untruthful, though I doubted the virgin birth.

In 2001 I told my Anglican vicar I could no longer bear to worship God disguised as a man, and he was so negative about that I decided to leave his church. I had been introduced to Quakers by two friends, so knew I would be welcomed as a woman in a Quaker meeting; and had found value in the silence of Quaker worship. I continued worshipping just about weekly, with Quakers rather than with Anglicans.

I was aware that there were “non-theist” Quakers, and I rather disapproved. With my then partner, who took the point very seriously, I would have asked “Why should anyone who does not believe in God join a Religious society?” Then a Friend said, “It’s not why we join: it’s why we remain” and I understood, with my heart. From verbally challenging her membership (not directly about her but saying things which implicitly included her) I went to passionately desiring her to remain.

In 2009, I realised that I did not believe in God. It was a long, painful process. It was a change to my identity as Christian, a challenge to my relationship, possibly a breach with my Meeting, (though it included non-theists) which was the place I experienced acceptance as a trans woman rather than toleration. In February 2010 I accepted that I do not believe in God, finally. A day or so later I was touristing along the south coast, and went into a church: and was brought to my knees by a sense of holiness.

Being good at producing clever phrases, I said “I am rationally atheist and emotionally theist. I have a strong personal relationship with the God I do not believe in”. More than thirteen billion years ago there was a big bang, and the universe will not end but in trillions of years particles at absolute zero will drift apart, too far apart to influence each other, in cold blackness forever. We have evolved, over billions of years, over about 55m years as primates. So now my beliefs about God relate to my beliefs about myself as a human. I am an organism that, just as it takes in food, takes in sense-perceptions and ideas and moulds them into an understanding of the world; and I am a social being, incapable of survival without my social group, moulded by them. So I thought, God is Reality: when I worship, I relate to something greater than myself, which is human society, the biosphere, the entire world. And, being a social animal, I conceive of that as a matter of relationship. I am a tricksy soul. I love paradox.

After some rather wonderful spiritual experiences this month, I adjust what I think, returning to Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Shall be to return to where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Because I am a primate, I have a primate understanding of all-that-is, all that I could know or perceive. It is pre-lingual. I access it in the spiritual state called “mindfulness” or “awareness” where my words fall away and I know immediately rather than mediated through words.

And, so that I can communicate with other people, but also so that I can get the kind of grasp of an idea that makes me feel more comfortable, I put these things into words. I am a writer. Words are important to me.

My verbal and non-verbal (which, by a series of accidents, I call “spiritual”) understandings dance around one another, leading each other on. Eliot’s “Where we started” is the non-verbal understanding, always influencing our conscious belief. And, merely because by accident I have read Carl Rogers- “On Becoming a Person” and other books, and books about him and his ideas- I call that verbal understanding of myself my “self-concept” and underlying it my “organismic self” responds to its surroundings like an organism does.

That dancing may be as in “The darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing”.

Occasionally I am inspired to write poetry, by YHWH, Erato, or my unconscious mind, and around 2005 I wrote,

It hurt so much and it’s stopped.
Who I am is who I ought to be.

I kept rejecting who I am. It is my way. And last week that changed from poetry to prose for me. I would say it as a thing I believe, around thirteen years after it was given to me.

With that immediate, direct perception, not mediated by words, an understanding which feels ghostly when I am with my words and True when I am present as a perceiving animal everything seems more real and more alive. When I see clearly without trying to impose words and explanation, everything is more real. It is imbued with- magic? Or, perhaps, God. It’s not “There is a God” but “There is God”. God may be the One that is greater than all things or merely a metaphor.

I shall not cease from exploration, and my words will change; and I shall know fully as I am fully known.

Pride, shame, honour, desire

Everyone must understand trans pride- queer pride- for themselves.

Shame relates to who you are, guilt to what you do. I feel guilt about particular actions, shame about what they reveal about me. And queer people are systematically shamed, made to believe who we are is shameful. You look inside yourself and find effeminacy when you should be masculine, when you can only be valued if you are properly masculine, and you feel shame. And I thought, my shame is overwhelming, like an over-exposed photograph, all white. If I am ashamed of everything, I cannot see what to change. I am simply shameful, entirely.

Shame is a tool. It has been used against me, and I can still use it to my own advantage, by claiming it as mine, by seeing what is another’s choice of what I should be ashamed of, and substituting pride.

I am who I am. Who I am is a good thing to be.

I keep going round in circles. I wrote, more than ten years ago,

It hurt so much, and it’s stopped.
Who I am is who I ought to be.
I can be me.
I can be free.

But that was in a poem, and I find things through poetry before I find them through prose.

Shame then becomes a tool, for my use and not for others to impose upon me. If I value myself and have a sense of my own worth, my own dignity, shame becomes a feeling I feel occasionally, for something indicating a departure from what I value, some course correction needed. So, where I was shamed for not being sufficiently masculine, now I feel shame where I attempt to put on a masculine persona, rather than being myself unmasked.

I tried to make a man of myself, in the past. I am not ashamed of that. It was the best I could do at the time.

Pride is called a deadly sin. We know it has value, an appropriate self-regard protecting us from shameful acts, and the word “Pride”, claiming what is a sin, shocks those who ought to be shocked, rubs in their faces that they cannot shame us with false shame any more. But generally I prefer honour. Pride is a sin in that it holds me above others, devalues them. So, honour, as a noun and a verb: I have honour, and I honour others. I will accord myself, and others, their proper value, according to my own honour. “I-it” relationships devalue me as well as the other.

Honour and shame become tools for achieving what I desire, actualising my humanity. I came to this conscious realisation through meditation, but it has been sitting inside me for a long time. I knelt in my ritual space, and it came to me. Shame and desire are my tools not my oppressors’: I must want things for myself, not just to fit to the rules of others. I need to find better treats than checking blog stats on my laptop. What I have wanted is just to withdraw. Unrequited desire continues to hurt. So far, this is all about seeing myself, being myself: being this in relationship with other humans is much more complex.

I may be the most screwed-up person you will meet, outside a prison or mental hospital. I am the human curled in a ball, traumatised, and the human reaching out a sympathetic hand- and I am also the whip, the human seeking to drive myself onwards for things I did not desire and were not proper to me as I truly am. The internalised parent, perhaps. I am the hurt, the carer, the drive; the traumatised being, the angel, the whip; these three parts dance around each other, coalesce and divide, at some times are two, others three. All are in me. I will value and integrate them. I will bring myself to birth.

Why I’m talking to white people about race

Because I am a trans woman.

Because when I was about to transition, I was representing at about a hundred tribunals a year, and decided the tribunal members should be told, so that my change did not distract them from my client’s case. After one hearing I went back in to tell the tribunal I would transition, and ask how to notify other panel members. When I explained, the doctor on the panel said that tribunals do not discriminate on any ground, and I saw the shutters close behind his eyes as he said it.

You can see their eyes shut down and harden, wrote Reni Eddo-Lodge, in Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race. It’s precisely the same experience. Because there are quotes from people on the back endorsing the book, and all of them are people of colour, apart from Paris Lees, a white trans woman- who is also the only person allowed to be herself, a recognisable name, “Paris Lees” not “Marlon James, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015”. In that list of endorsements, the men come first, then the women.

Because all that stuff about telling people before we transition is problematic. Human Resources might get an expert in, to give training to the staff members- “Stephen is going to transition. From 25 April, she will be known as Clare”- as if this was something weird or unusual which no-one had ever heard of before, or the correct pronoun to use was in some way difficult or complicated. To give people a chance to ask the intrusive, insulting questions, so that they would not have an excuse to for months afterwards- “Are you going to have the operation?” If you want to find out about trans, there’s this thing called the internet. There are even books!

Because we know this stuff, and yet we still face it. “People talk to my husband over my head,” said the woman in the wheelchair. Oh, God. “‘Does he take sugar?'”- disabled people have been complaining about this, framing it, mocking it, pointing it out, with simple phrases to lodge in people’s heads, for decades, and it still happens. Or my friend suffers this:

-Where are you from?
-Wolverhampton.
-No, where are you really from?

Wolverhampton. Really. We have been getting closer to mere courtesy for some time. We said Asian people, then Asian origin, now Asian heritage– because they were born here, as were their parents in many cases, so they are not Asian nor do they originate in Asia. We do need to label these matters still, because people of colour can’t be colour-blind, they notice that they stand out, that white is the default normal- just as trans women stand out. She still gets “Where are you really from?”

For so long, the bar of racism has been set by the easily condemnable activity of white extremists and white nationalism, writes Eddo-Lodge, and I feel yet again the recognition I feel, over and over again, reading her book.

There have been black people in Britain for millennia- the first colonists, walking over Doggerland, were black, there were Roman soldiers from Africa, black sailors in our ports-

slaves

and lots of black immigration in the 1950s, because the mill-owners of Lancashire, rather than investing in new plant and equipment, wanted to keep costs down by employing immigrants. There were century-old looms working in mills closing in the ’90s. So the hard work for diversity and acceptance of all people came from people of colour first, and GSD (Gender and Sexuality Diversity, I still feel the need to explain that abbreviation and wish I did not have to, straight publications even spell out LGBT) rode on their coat-tails.

Because everybody benefits from acceptance of diversity.

Because I see people being wronged, and their fight is my fight. The book is excellent. It gives history. Muriel Fletcher, reporting on “The Colour Problem in Liverpool” in 1930, said white women who married black men fell into four categories: “the mentally weak, the prostitutes, the young and reckless, and those forced into marriage because of illegitimate children”. That’s vile. Her use of the word “half-caste” has contributed to its use today.