Your silence will not protect you

When I did not see myself, I felt alone; but now I see myself, I see myself everywhere.

When they bully you, they cut out a part of you. They so mock and deride it that you think it shameful, and try to hide it. You deny it is you. But everyone sees through your pitiful attempts, and knows how to reduce you to a quivering wreck: they point out that part of you that shames you. We are told by healers to be “vulnerable”, but we are no less vulnerable hiding the part that shames us. Hiding it, we have the work of hiding it, and we carry it for all to see.

I face my terror. I will not hide my shameful part any more. It is frightening not to, but trying to hide myself does not work. When I stop trying, my failure ceases to matter. When I fight myself it is a burden, but when I accept myself I find strength in what I denied, hated, sought to expunge.

When I am seen and accepted, I am enabled to see myself, in my power and beauty. We are told by healers to be “vulnerable”, but they mean, come into our power.

I read Audre Lorde, and feel accepted. When she writes of herself, I see parts of me within her, and am enabled to see their beauty. As a child, she wrote poems which expressed what she felt. Poetry was her language, to communicate to others. She had difficulty comprehending how other people thought- it seemed to be in a logical progression, but for her non-verbal communication was more important. Her feelings were chaos and confusion, anchored in poetry.

The words were deceit, misleading her because they misled the speaker. Still the human communicated, beside or alongside the words. “I used to practise trying to think,” she says. She could not learn without a teacher she liked, to feel the truth of what was taught rather than pick up facts.

The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet-whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free.

Without her mother, she felt alone and worthless because only her mother could see her and accept her. I do not generalise from what she says to people of colour here, now, as she was in America, growing up in the ‘forties, writing in the ‘eighties, but it echoes what I feel, now: “White people [others] feel, Black people [her critics and mine] do.” White people have the luxury of feeling, in her world, but Black people had to just get on with the drudgery of mere survival.

I feel stung by the allegation that I do not Do. I ought first to Do, to earn, to produce, to support myself, before I can take time out to feel, but my feelings cry out to be heard and give me no quarter, they will not be silent until I hear them and honour them.

I feel more stung. Black women could not hear or see or love or accept or nurture or honour one another because they saw themselves in the other, she says. I am suspicious of trans women: Audre writes of the struggle, the need for Black women to confront and wade through the racist constructs underlying our deprivation of each other. When I see a trans woman, I see all the things I ought not to be, and I turn away in shame. I see her through a haze of transphobia; I see myself mirrored in her, and all that has been stolen from me, called shameful, all that I attempt futilely to hide, I see in her and therefore in me, and feel that imposed shame.

I am myself. I can be no other.

We are ourselves. We are beautiful, and when we see our beauty, when the mists of transphobia and bullying disperse, we come into our power.

Audre’s mother loved her, and showed her that, accepting her, nurturing her to be herself, then teaching her how to be herself in white america which never wanted her to even be alive. My mother loved me, but seeing herself as worthless could not accept me; she sought to force me into a mould so I might survive (even if only as an automaton) not knowing the mould would kill me. And yet I survived.

I feel seen. I read Audre, and she explains myself to me, and she validates and values and thereby nourishes and enriches me. I feel and therefore I can be free.

It ceases to be vulnerability when I accept those parts of myself that I sought to hide, and becomes dignity.

Now, I see myself everywhere. I see myself in the deep rich authentic feeling of my beautiful friend, in stories and portraits and cultural artifacts valuing cherishing and honouring people just like me, even in God who made me in God’s image, in all people who are part of me as I am part of them.

I am not alone.
I feel seen.

Baltimore welcomes trans people!

Baltimore Yearly Meeting has issued a statement in support of the civil and human rights of trans and non-binary people. They mean well, that’s part of the problem; but when something written about trans seems off, try replacing with “people of colour” to see why it is objectionable:

Baltimore Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) rejoices in the presence of transgender people [people of colour] in our midst including non-binary [mixed race] people. Our transgender members enrich our community and deepen our worship. We believe that there is that of God in everyone [even people of colour and trans folk] and everyone has gifts to bring to the world. Whenever anyone is excluded, God’s ability to work in our midst is diminished.

It should not need to be said. It makes me wonder if some Friends balked at it. If Quakers feel the need to state that I am welcome in their meeting, it shows that could be doubted: at best because trans people are generally wary of transphobia, at worst because we have experienced it among Baltimore Quakers. They may know this, so have chosen the words “rejoices in” rather than “welcomes”. This is just saying the same problematic thing, more effusively.

We commit ourselves to support transgender people in our meetings

Ah. There’s the issue. I want everyone supported in our meetings, to learn the full beauty of the Meeting for Worship. We welcome enquirers. Why would we need specifically to commit to supporting transgender people? Perhaps because Friends are best at welcoming people who look like them, and sound like them- in Britain, mostly though not all white, educated, prosperous. Everyone needs support, to learn what centring down means, what being moved means, but trans people might need additional support, to show that those who are unwelcoming are balanced out by the particular welcome by some. That is, this others trans people.

and the civil and human rights of our transgender members and all transgender people.

Yes. Because our civil and human rights are not recognised by some, including the US President.

We also commit to enlarging our understanding of the experience of being transgender.

Um. Well. No two trans people are alike, and no two have the same experience. The risk is that we are classed in one type, the trans people, who have to be welcomed and managed in a particular way. The “trans expert” of the YM might be called in, when one of us becomes particularly problematic. Yes I’m being a bitch. You’ve admitted you have had problems welcoming us in the past, so I am suspicious of you. I will hold you to what you say, and point out where you fall short of a proper welcome: for there is that of God in me, and my leadings and service are as valuable as the next Quaker’s.

No one should face discrimination in employment, housing, health care, or otherwise, or have their dignity assaulted and their human rights curtailed because of their gender identity.

Indeed. What are you doing to do about it? “There is an injustice,” you say: will you oppose it actively, with your time and resources, or be satisfied with merely pointing it out?

What would I want instead? What I say is affected by my understanding, that there is not a single group of trans people, to be distinguished from cis people who have no problems with gender. I use the term “non-binary” as a permission rather than a description of a particular group: when it is too much trouble to attempt passing as a woman, I say I am being non-binary. Others see these things differently. Here is my attempt at an inclusion statement:

We recognise that gender stereotypes are oppressive to many people, and that people are damaged by that oppression.

I am traumatised. That will make me behave oddly occasionally. I want all of me welcome, not just when I pass as normal. I tried to make a man of myself. I suppressed my feelings. I don’t mean that I want to be some sort of parasite on the Quaker meeting, which becomes a support group for me; I have responsibilities as well as rights; but I want to be safe enough to show my hurt, and be valued for my gifts.

We recognise that gender stereotypes have no place in God’s Kingdom, nor among Quakers, but that Quakers are infected with worldly standards of what it means to be masculine or feminine. We pledge to search out whatever in our lives may contain the fruits of those stereotypes.

That’s a reference to Britain YM’s Advices and Queries paragraph 31: Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war. I like religious language, but would not insist on it- only on the underlying sentiment.

Our aim is to welcome each person as a unique, precious child of God, without judgment or stereotype.

A&Q 22. All this is generalisable. People of colour are affected by racism. Disabled people are stereotyped, and many of their difficulties arise from a society made for a stereotype normal/healthy.

We recognise the right of all to escape or subvert those stereotypes in any way they choose, using whatever theory or belief most works for them: we welcome transgender, non-binary and gender-critical people and pledge to learn from them, to grow in mutual understanding and acceptance. We recognise that they are part of our community, like any other Quaker.

Advices and Queries 18: How can we make the meeting a community in which each person is accepted and nurtured, and strangers are welcome? Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another. As we enter with tender sympathy into the joys and sorrows of each other’s lives, ready to give help and to receive it, our meeting can be a channel for God’s love and forgiveness.

As part of my research writing this post, I came across BYM’s statement on spiritual unity. BYM split in the 19th century, as many US meetings did; and in 1964 they came together. I find that beautiful. They did not minimise the difficulties, but found value in them: We usually find ourselves richer for our differences… From the stimulus of dissimilarity, new insights often arise. That can be true of all human diversity, not just religious disagreement.

This is my 2,500th post.

Liberals support transphobia

Trans people are rigorously policed by transphobes, who define what is acceptable: how we might express ourselves, what we can do, where we can go. Liberals make it harder, not easier, for us to be ourselves. Partly from internalised transphobia, we go along with the transphobes, and the liberals do not help.

We are surrounded and formed by transphobia. There is the concept of what it is to be a man- physically fit and emotionally stoic- and we do not fit it. I still find it difficult to see my qualities as strengths, rather than missing the mark of what a man should be. Then there is the concept of the trans woman, which transphobes police. There is extreme transphobia, as with vile abuse in the street, and more subtle transphobia, being treated slightly differently because I am trans. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the relationship seems odd. Many of us go on a quest for the acceptable trans woman, fitting the stereotype in a way the transphobe will find acceptable, except nothing is really acceptable and they will keep moving the goal posts.

So the liberal, who “takes people as she finds them”, “treats them as individuals”, “quietly lives her own life”, “engages with people on the basis of who they are not what they are” meets the trans woman. The trans woman is nervous, having had bad experiences with cis people before, and the liberal is oblivious. What an unpleasant person, she thinks. Why was she so unforthcoming? Why could she not look me in the eye?

(like my friend Barbara, who did not look even me in the eye, apart from the occasional nervous glance up. Like me, I notice when I am hurt and cannot look someone in the eye even if I have sufficient courage to name my hurt)

If the standard of racism in this country is the neo-fascist who screams abuse at strangers in the street and tells people to “go back where you came from”, the ordinary liberal can imagine she is not racist. She may not notice how “taking people as you find them” reinforces their subjection. I am the only trans person in the room.

If you recognise that privilege exists you work to avoid it. It is not the job of the trans person to point out to the “liberal” where it is; if we do, we may be ignored; if we don’t, we suffer for it.

This is not a matter of learning the language we speak, knowing the precise term a trans woman wants to name gender surgery, but of seeing how we are ground down, and making absolutely clear that you will not grind us further. We don’t know if you will come out with something transphobic, so we are wary.

How can you “take people as they are” anyway? You can’t see their differences, always. We make assumptions about people, and normally those assumptions fit the Kyriarchy. The difficulty is to shed the assumptions. You can’t always see how people are, so we don’t surprise you because you don’t notice.

The Bad person

You made an adult cry, and then you gloated about it. “She cried like a small child,” you said. “She had a woman with her with her arm round her, comforting her like I would comfort a child.” You mocked them.

I have cried like that, I said. Cried like before the Abomination of Desolation, as if my heart had been ripped from me, wordless, screaming, unconsolable.

I am not here to share my hurt. I would tell of the time I was crying hysterically– by which I mean, in the way a rational husband and a rational doctor, a man, would see as a reason to put a woman in a lunatic asylum, diagnosed as sick, so not to be listened to. When I was curled in a ball weeping on the floor. When I was screaming at the floor. I would tell of these times and they would put their most concerned-sympathetic face on, lean forward, put a hand on my knee and whisper softly “How shit it is to be you.”

“They”, here, are everyone but me, everyone outside my skin, the undifferentiated chorus of condemning humanity circled around me mocking, berating, ignoring. They are individuals. You know who you are.

You made them, “her,” cry, and they won’t talk to you again, or interact with you. And it happened fourteen months ago and it lives with you. It affects your life and important relationships now. You both are hurt, but their hurt is heard because they cried, like a small child, and were heard and comforted, and you will not cry, because too often others have made you cry and been pleased: it is their victory, proof of your worthlessness, proof of your abasement and irrationality. Why should they listen to anything you say?

I love your strength. You will not cry. I have been able to cry and be comforted, and able to cry alone, and I have cried and been abased, amazed at my own tears, proof to me of my worthlessness. Such strength, to stare back dry-eyed, at the man, a foot taller than you, perhaps twice your weight, and resist him.

So they are the expert, speaking to audiences of good, thoughtful, decent people of their experience and understanding, and you are the person who must be controlled. Your hurt becomes anger. It becomes fuel. Audre: a boiling hot spring likely to erupt at any point, leaping out of my consciousness like a fire on the landscape. How to train that anger with accuracy rather than deny it has been one of the major tasks of my life. You use it. And you have Sisters, people who love you, and support you.

You, with humanity circled around you since the age of twelve, to use you, blame you, touch you, hurt you, only your cleverness (not any human custom or rule) to protect you.

And I, a man in women’s clothes, terrify women who see me in women’s spaces, as I remind them of violent men where they are told they should be safe and their safety is an illusion, the unspoken rules contradict those spoken. “Do this and you shall be safe” say the con-men. The internet is a pain: I hear all the anger against people like me, which in the street or in my curtailed life I might have been able to avoid. I was not there, but I saw the video, of a hall of women, whipped up, their necessary anger permitted so unleashed against “dangerous men,” and how could I not take it personally?

The rules say you should be safe, not hurt or crying, so when you are hurt it must be your fault. What were you wearing? What did you do to provoke it? Don’t be so sensitive!

You made them cry, and you became the Bad Person. I am not a bad person, I say. “You’re a man,” you say, reasonably, rationally, incontrovertibly. We are divided. I see your hurt and my heart grieves, and yet you are made my enemy and I might use your hurt against you, as proof of your irrationality, you should not be listened to, and proof of your Badness, as you made them cry.

Audre: Why does that anger unleash itself most tellingly against another Black woman at the least excuse? Why do I judge her in a more critical light than any other, becoming enraged when she does not measure up? And why is our anger channelled against each other?

I hate you because I see myself in you. You are my enemy because you want what I want, though perhaps in a slightly different way. The people circling will never let up, never concede anything to you or to me. We are in the ring together, in that circle, and cannot but fight.

Gender dysphoria in intersex people

It takes courage to be between genders. Many people won’t accept that is possible, the law won’t protect you, and intersex people are assigned a sex at birth rather than let the child decide later. An intersex person told me that intersex people could experience gender dysphoria because of the hormone treatment they received. She/they did not refer me to any blog posts or accounts of it, but said the experience is shared on closed facebook groups. I did a bit of googling.

In congenital adrenal hyperplasia, where the clitoris exhibits signs of penile development, but the child is 46,XX (46 chromosomes, two X sex chromosomes) there was a literature review in 2005. 250 of the children were raised female, and thirteen had serious problems with gender identity. Some of the most “severely masculinised” children were raised male, and four out of 33 had serious gender identity problems. The authors therefore recommended that the children be assigned female, even when they were most masculinised.

That is, the children were closeted from birth. You will be raised as a “girl”, or in some cases (I don’t know whether studies would be more likely on people with CAH raised male) raised as a “boy”, rather than as a “child”. There is a decision here. There may still be eugenic ideas in some people that CAH is in some way shameful. Parents should be open with a child, as far as that child may understand, and there is a decision to make about how far to be open with the wider public, in nurseries or schools. But definitely closeting, making a decision on which gender to raise a child and sticking to that, should not be the default position. Things may have changed since 2005.

Trans people would tend to think of hormone therapy as testosterone, oestrogen, and blockers. This protocol, also from 2005, says for CAH hormone replacement therapy is life-saving, because hormones necessary for survival, cortisol and aldosterone, are replaced. Androgens are secreted in excessive amounts due to an enzyme imbalance, so the therapy is to suppress them. That too involves a judgment, as to what is an “excessive amount” for an androgen. There are different normal amounts in boys and girls, men and women, and during adolescence.

That protocol admits that patient advocacy groups debate with the medical profession their decisions about hormones, and laments that some “harbour a sense of outrage about their life or treatment experiences”. Being visibly in between genders is not easy either, and I can imagine someone with CAH allowed to have a masculinising puberty might object to that later. The answer is public advocacy, so that greater variation is accepted.

We don’t know what effect hormones have on gender dysphoria. A consultant was shocked that my GP would take me off oestrogen, but the risk he named for that was osteoporosis, a physical disability not anything psychological. I know that hormone level changes can affect my mood and how emotional I get, but not what effect oestrogen and goserelin, the testosterone suppressant I used, had on my mood.

I was committed to transition. I knew I wanted to change my presentation from Stephen to Clare. Starting hormones, and suppressants, was a step on the path to it, and an affirmation from the medical profession that it was right for me. So the hormones could have affected my mood as a symbol that I was doing the right thing, and advancing towards my goal, rather than by some physical action. I heard it as, “Yes you are really female and because you are female we give you oestrogen”. I can’t see how a study might distinguish psychological or placebo effects from physical effects- and possibly the effects are so intertwined that these words, suggesting that they could be distinguished, mislead and reduce understanding.

In adolescence, it would be different. Testosterone has masculinising effects, on body hair and voice, at whatever age you take it (or if, in CAH people, it is not suppressed). But I was initially told that I could get hormones after I went full time, so I went to a private psychiatrist who would give me hormones before. That gatekeeping role increases the desire for hormones: they become affirmation.

What is preferable? CAH people who did not have their testosterone suppressed might be masculinised, and as many are raised as girls and appear happy enough with that, the masculinisation is not cost-free.

I want a society where gender and sex differences are seen as completely normal, rather than this one where we so rigorously differentiate between two sexes that those physically in between may be treated to make them more clearly one or the other, trans people are protected in law if we intend to transition from a clear classification as one to a clear classification as the other, and those who are non-binary, physically or psychologically, are seen as weird. Now, though, it is safer and pleasanter not to be seen as weird. This pressure to conform, so serious that people alter their bodies or have their bodies altered for them, harms us all, but for children with CAH, either medicalised conformity or allowing the child to masculinise could hurt a child, and be resented.

In complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, 46,XY children appear to be girls until they fail to have a normal female puberty. Of 156 brought up as female in another literature review, none changed sex in adulthood. Of 89 children with micropenis, 79 brought up as boys and ten as girls, none changed sex, and that might indicate how powerful an upbringing can be in creating a gender identity. Of 99 brought up as boys with partial androgen insensitivity syndrome, nine changed gender. I knew one, who identified as M-F trans, and later identified as non-binary.

Living on the edge of chaos

What they were saying aloud was, “We need strong [Trans] people”- but what they were also saying was that their ideas of what strong was had come from our oppressors and didn’t jibe with their feelings at all.

I have always had the sense of Armageddon and it was much stronger in those days, the sense of living on the edge of chaos. Not just personally, but on the world level. That we were dying, that we were killing our world- that sense had always been with me. That whatever I was doing, whatever we were doing that was creative and right, functioned to hold us from going over the edge. That this was the most we could do, while we constructed some saner future.

What about the effects of white racism upon the ways Black people view each other? Racism internalized? What about black teachers going into ghetto schools? … Not just in terms of expectations, but of self-image, in terms of confusion about loyalties. In terms of identifying with the oppressor.

The black mother who is the poet in every one of us. Now when males, or patriarchal thinking whether it’s male or female, reject that combination then we’re truncated. Rationality is not unnecessary. It serves the chaos of knowledge. It serves feeling. It serves to get from some place to some place. If you don’t honour those places then the road is meaningless. Too often, that’s what happens with intellect and rationality and that circular, academic, analytic thinking. But ultimately, I don’t see feel/think as a dichotomy. I see them as a choice of ways and combinations.

I’m saying that we must never close our eyes to the terror, the chaos which is black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is sinister, smelly, erotic, confused, upsetting-

The way you get people to testify against themselves is not constantly to have police tactics and oppressive techniques. What you do is to build it in, so people learn to distrust everything in themselves that has not been sanctioned, to reject what is most creative in themselves- to have them reject it to begin with, so you don’t even need to stamp it out.

But I’m used to associating a request for documentation as a questioning of my perceptions, an attempt to devalue what I’m in the process of discovering.

I have a difficult enough time making my perceptions verbal, tappng that deep place, forming that handle, and documentation at that point is often useless. Perceptions precede analysis just as visions precede action or accomplishments. It’s like getting a poem-
That’s the only thing I have to fight with, my whole life, preserving my perceptions of how things are, and later, learning to accept and correct both at the same time, and doing this in the face of tremendous opposition and cruel judgment. And I spent a long period of time questioning my perceptions and my first interior knowledge, not dealing with them, being tripped by them.

Quotes from A Conversation between Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich. I hope to inspire you to seek her out, as her writing is liberating.

Drive

I realised that the most important thing for me is suppressing my emotional reaction, at least my conscious feeling, rather than dealing with the issues making me frightened, frustrated and angry. Irresistably I am drawn to thinking of the low-status chimpanzee, who cannot show he is angry as it would attract the alpha-male’s attention. The feeling will continue until the situation causing it changes, and that could take weeks- when it could be much worse.

Counselling session. I am frightened of telling Tina this, the most sympathetic listener I can imagine, and I don’t want to say it. I want to make a joke and avoid saying it. Rather than acting, I reach for facebook and my blog stats pages, hoping to get a kick, though the returns are variable. I can feel unconsciously, but instinctively I see conscious feeling as the most important problem. Rationally I know there are things I must do, and I put them off. Holding feelings out of consciousness takes energy leaving me feeling lassitude.

There is the addictive rush of responses on facebook and the blog stats page, but the returns are variable. I reach for the computer in the morning hoping to get a hit big enough to get me out of bed, and often it is not there. At best it is borrowing a boost that has to be paid back later. But, suppressing genuine feeling, I can spend hours with half an eye on the TV and half on the computer, not writing or doing anything, and feeling rotten about my worthless inactivity.

On a facebook group, a man said he was leaving, because I had driven him out, and that I was “manipulative”- a high compliment, I have wanted to be able to manipulate people all my life. He calculated he would get enough “Oh Alex, please don’t go” comments to shame me into leaving and continue posting his drivel, or “inspiration of the Spirit” as he put it. Had I not gone on facebook that morning I would not have seen his post, as it was deleted. He had raised a serious matter in a solipsistic and frivolous way, and I had called him on it. Storm in teacup. This is not good for me, and it is most of the social interaction I get.

The woman had not needed a wheelchair a year ago. It’s a lot to process as people crave independence. She can roll up to the Quaker meeting and be welcomed, but she wanted to get out of her chair into one of the ordinary seats so that she would not be obviously the woman in the wheelchair, the disabled person, just for a short time. Three times, Quakers meaning well took away the seat she was wanting to get into, thinking that she wanted to wheel her chair into that space. I saw the effort she put in to getting out of her chair. She WOULD NOT GIVE UP.

Ah. That story comes to mind, as an illustration of determination and frustration. It illustrates what I am feeling, unconsciously. It helps me understand how I am now.

The medical term for neuro-diverse folks passing as neurotypical is “masking”. Women, particularly, mask symptoms, at the cost of crippling anxiety. One came to the notice of the doctors because of her anxiety, her high intelligence predicting neurotypical behaviour when she could not read it “normally”.

Quakers are my main face-to-face social outlet. I have written a report for Quakers on my last weekend away. Still procrastinating, I did it probably the last moment I could, on Monday evening. Had I been politic, I would make it a serious report about the serious business of the weekend, and instead I made it entertaining, with jokes, and my own concerns: as H would say, I was “pissing about”. What I wrote has my passion, emotion, my Drive to achieve, my desire to do what is good (as I see it) for the World rather than for me.

There is a huge depth of motivation in me. When I want to do something and persuade myself that it’s possible, out comes my drive. My drive is powerful, and it is frustrating that I can fritter an afternoon with half an eye on the television and half on my blog stats page or facebook.

-This drive, strength, creativity, can it not hold and help the part of you that is distressed? Are they too separate?

I think it does, and I am bringing my separate parts together.
slowly, too slowly-
I think I am pulling myself together, reconciling myself within, writing and suppressing less, conscious of more-
I see how important it is to me not

not to feel a feeling and yet

I am more- feeling the feeling.
Seeing how hard the barriers are and taking the barriers down.

Transphobes deny reality

You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. What has Woman’s Place UK achieved? Nothing that they should feel any pleasure in whatsoever. They have made Rupert Murdoch quietly satisfied, and enabled his organ to print as many as four trans-bashing articles in a week. They have made David TC Davies very happy- after trying to rile feminists in service of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant nationalism, he has finally managed to rile some of them against trans people, to further his far-right, hate-stoking ends. This is the MP who voted to limit abortion to 12 weeks, so making him happy is not a feminist cause.

What do they think they have achieved? They think the consultation on gender recognition reform is thanks to their agitation. Yet Justine Greening announced it in July 2017, two months before WPUK was formed.

They don’t understand the proposal, even after completing the consultation. Who is allowed to go into women’s spaces is governed by the Equality Act. That will not change. A gender recognition certificate is almost entirely symbolic. And yet they claim any man will be able to go into women’s spaces. They seem to think that men will either declare themselves female without being transgender.

That’s a matter of muddled thinking, partly because of the way people have become more extreme as this debate has gone on. Most on the side of WPUK seem to recognise the category of true transsexual, a person who has a diagnosis and medical treatment and probably should be accepted in the acquired gender. In their need to exclude men from women’s spaces, some might extend the requirements: they must have had surgery, so excluding people on a path to surgery; they must pass, to avoid distressing women present; their motivations may be suspect, and “Autogynephilia” is a good excuse to exclude trans women with a diagnosis and surgery.

There are two clear, principled positions: trans women are women, and should be treated as women; trans women are men, and women’s spaces and privileges should be for women born women only. Between these views, it is hard to draw a line, and can just lead to confused argument between allies rather than Opposing the Enemy. So there is the assertion that men will come into women’s spaces. They mean different things by that. Some mean post-op transsexuals, some claim to mean men who are not really transgender but are using the system.

So there is a dispute about what is likely to happen. I say no man will declare himself to be a woman unless s/he is trans. I say no man will enter a woman’s loo or changing room without presenting female, and generally that will be fairly clear- no beards, for example. This is not a question of fact- we cannot be certain of likelihood- but I find their fears ridiculously exaggerated. I also feel some risk should be tolerable, for the sake of us well-intentioned trans women. They seem to accept no risk at all.

They overestimate the numbers involved. I put it at 40,000, about 0.1% of the population will transition. More may want to but not, for various reasons. I think that’s a manageable problem, not deserving the great scrutiny they give it. I say they are ignoring the hard Right’s delight in fomenting conflict on the Left and prejudice against trans people, and enforcing strict gender stereotypes. They seem to think that just because they are Left themselves they have no responsibility for the hard-Right causes they further.

Suddenly disclosed gender dysphoria

Just because someone has only just noticed signs of a person’s gender dysphoria does not mean that it has had a “rapid onset”. A parent might report that the child had appeared happy and gave no sign of gender dysphoria, but the child might have had distress which s/he could not name, or even known their own gender identity for years. A child might suddenly disclose because they have decided to take action on their gender dysphoria, which they had concealed because they did not know what they could do about it. And just because someone has not noticed signs of gender dysphoria, does not mean they were not obvious to anyone open to seeing them. Some children repress their gender identity when they know they will gain only grief for it.

There is the suggestion that teenage children, especially those assigned female at birth, may suddenly decide that they are trans and seek treatment. There is a conviction where there was no sign of it before. Those asserting this tend to find the thought revolting.

Those who assert that “ROGD” is a thing, rather than a name for childhood gender dysphoria, say that it might be a social contagion brought on by suggestion, as some say anorexia can be. There are pro-ana groups promoting anorexia as a lifestyle, though it can threaten health and stop menstruation, just as testosterone might. If transition revolts you, you might be prone to see it as a way of fleeing independent adult womanhood akin to anorexia. These feminists know that womanhood, and fertility, can be very scary. Men come on to teenage girls, follow and assault them, do not take “no” for an answer- only “I have a boyfriend”, perhaps, claiming to be some man’s property rather than being entitled to decide and refuse in my own right- and this is dangerous. Claiming to be a man is a way of escaping that.

So they claim that teenage “girls” are “mutilated and medicalised”, rather than treated. The child wears a binder, which constricts breathing, and craves chest masculinisation surgery (“mastectomy”). This revolts the ROGD theorist. Why should you want a healthy part of yourself cut off? We are sad for women who have to suffer lumpectomy for cancer, and the NHS offers reconstructive surgery. I sympathise. I like my breasts and would not want to lose them. But I can empathise: chest-masc surgery changes the way others look at you, and I can understand someone might want it. I have seen the delight people have in it.

If there were a theorist who believed that ROGD was a thing, a phenomenon distinguishable from other types of childhood gender dysphoria, who was not also repulsed by current surgical treatment for female to male gender dysphoria or gender incongruence, I would be more likely to believe in it.

There is a place for people who want to resolve the distress of gender dysphoria by some means other than transition, hormones and surgery. A patient might explore their personality and character with the aim of casting off restricting inhibitions and accepting themselves. Transition is not the only treatment for people who find “femininity” constraining. However, transition alleviates distress and enables people to accept themselves, in a way they could not before.

Those who advance the hypothesis are revolted by “girls” transitioning. They think the “girls” should be supported into accepting womanhood, and supported in subverting restrictive feminine roles as women. They are not fit to research their idea, unless they can accept that sometimes transition is right for a person. Rather than supporting a teenager in becoming an adult, they want to restrict the way the teenager knows he can thrive.

I am told that gender dysphoria can have a rapid onset, where someone with an intersex condition receives a new hormone treatment. That is not what the transphobic campaigners are exercised about.

Trans women in prison

When will trans women be placed in women’s prisons in the UK? Having a gender recognition certificate does not mean we will be put in a women’s prison, but it helps.

Before sentencing, you might disclose transgender status so that a proper pre-sentencing report can be prepared and sentencing take account of it.

The prison authorities should attempt to determine the legal gender of a prisoner at the first point of contact. They don’t trust prisoners, oddly enough, so asking the prisoner is not the only way of deciding. If a prisoner shows a GRC that is proof; the authorities may ask the prisoner to produce a birth certificate, but not a GRC. Like cis women, trans women with a GRC can be placed in men’s prisons where the risk posed to other offenders and/or staff prevents location in the female estate. That is, the rules for trans women with a GRC, and cis women, being placed in men’s prisons are the same. Women, cis or trans, in the male estate must be held separately “according to a female prisoner regime”- under the rules in the Prison Service Order on women prisoners, PSO 4800. I can’t find specific rules on assessing risk, or what risk is sufficient for such a decision. There may be claims under human rights law.

Trans men who do not have a GRC should stay in women’s prisons if they ask to. The guidance does not say trans men with a GRC can ask to stay in women’s prisons, for example if they fear the men’s estate.

Trans women without a GRC must be allowed to present according to their gender identity, and the prison authorities must ensure the opportunity. They are allowed to change their name on the system if they have not gone through any formal name change procedure before, but may be kept in men’s prison.

Female prisoners are allowed to wear their own clothes, and the guidance allows trans women (even in the male estate) to do so too, explaining it’s necessary to ensure they can live in their true gender. They are not allowed suits, which might imitate the management team. They are allowed breast forms and wigs, and Make up that is vital to presenting in the gender identified with, such as foundation to cover facial hair, may not be restricted.

To get into women’s prison they must wish to live consistently in the gender with which they identify, and there are two choices, male and female. The word now is “transgender”, referring to “mannerisms, appearance, pronouns etc.” “Transsexual” is no longer used because it refers to sex and anatomy. So someone who wants surgery is included, but no desire for surgery or hormones is necessary.

They are asked for evidence of living in the gender role outside. Strong evidence includes a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, hormones or surgery, but that is not full evidence. Consistent gender expression is strong evidence, shown by ID or bank cards. The document suggests “counter evidence”- that the decision to transition is precipitated by the sentence, any evidence that the prisoner seeks to buck the system, or diagnosis of personality disorder or narcissistic traits. Trans women are not immune to personality disorder, so this may be unfair. It even says “transitioning decision may be linked to gaining access to future victims”. And that at someone’s lowest point, being imprisoned, they decide to transition, taking control of this vital aspect of our lives, makes complete sense to me.

A Transgender Case Board must be convened within three days of reception in prison. It decides where to put the prisoner, based on evidence of living in the gender identity and on risk factors. A local Transgender Review Board can review new information or evidence. There is also a centrally managed Complex Case Board for offenders who present a significant risk of harm, to themselves or others.

So, on paper the system seems reasonable. However trans women commit crimes and suicide in prison, and are victims of violence from male and female prisoners, even from staff. Prisons are dangerous and unfit for human habitation. They are underfunded, privatised and poorly staffed. The danger to prisoners comes from these facts and not from anyone’s trans status. Trans women and all other prisoners should be safe in prison because the regime protects them, and that is not the case.