The Real Self and the Critical Voices II

Cycling would be lovely if it weren’t for the cars. I have been writing verse in my head, coming over. It needs work, particularly changing the first few lines from only being sexual insults, but it has promise:

You’re a s–t
You’re a death-wish driver
You’re a t-t
You’re a one-hand swiver
I would be quite chilled
if your death you willed, not mine
But you place a stranger in mortal danger
you filthy swine

Overtak
-ing should not cause danger
why not brake?
Can I make it plainer…

Last couplet needs done too. I have the rhyme, there is some wit…

There’s anger there. I go into my rational mode. At the CAB we had a trickle of people who came in the day before they were due to be evicted by bailiffs, their furniture placed on the pavement, the locks changed. It wasn’t my problem and I never did get to the bottom of anything they could do in theory, but I remember the volunteers’ distress and wish to rescue them. I am almost certainly going to hit a wall. I don’t see how I can avert that wall. There are rational things I should be doing according to my culture- there are jobs for the taking, if only I will apply, if not pleasant ones. It is up to me.

I find myself deflecting my train of thought. I am thinking of taking notes on my phone and surreptitiously starting the voice recorder, though I have been told the service does not allow it.

My plan, such as it is, is to give my real self a voice. Life does not seem worth living if I cannot consciously be in this part of me which I have called vulnerable bit, real self, inner light, crushed God-

I am taking notes as I go, and I wonder what part of me does the writing.

The critical voices tell me I will make a fool of myself. And- it is me, and I want just to do. Paying attention to what I feel with my fingertips helps get me into the state of Presence which I desire.

I want to push boundaries as far as I can.

I am utterly frightened. I do not know this part I call my Real Self. I cannot predict it- in my imagination, it is merely foolish and ridiculous. It seems OK moment to moment. That teddy bear seems more for looking at than cuddling, so I ask if I can borrow Sally’s scarf. This is pushing a boundary, and she agrees. I want to enjoy its colour and its softness. It has many colours, many tones. It is viscose, so it could be softer, but feels alright.

She passes me her scarf, and I feel anguish. The critical voices are at me again: I am putting it on. I am play acting. Don’t be silly. As I realised before, the internal conflict is far more debilitating than the feeling itself: I could feel the anguish, and it would pass through me, but if I try to suppress it my resistance strengthens it.

I need to be in touch with my own feelings, or I am unable to perceive my world.

Boundaries. I want to push them, but crossing them would be against my own interest. I think of violence.

-Can I rummage through your handbag?
-I think I’d have to refuse that.
-You heard the air quotes even though I did not do the gesture.

Where does the anguish come from? To ask for something, and be given it? From past refusals?

I fear the Real Self because it is weak, overemotional and irrational. I fear my feelings because I fear the consequences of showing them or acting on them. I would act irrationally and so be under threat.

I am conscious of my surroundings. Repeatedly there is a bleep two devices make when connected, followed by the disconnect bleep. It is so expressive: the first ready and hopeful, the second an ending. I am so sensitive to this stuff. There was that DLA client whose brothers had to look after him because he was this sensitive walking down the street, and could not go out alone; but there was something attractive about him, and he had an attractive girlfriend despite his disability. I saw him two or three years later and he looked worn, on some horrible suppressant drug. For me at the time, the sensation of Presence was so rare as to seem a Transfiguration moment, and for him it was sickness. And now I want it.

I want that full sensitivity.

Cycling home in the sunshine, just above freezing, I find my final couplet:

That’s a speeding ton of metal that can kill
Maybe someday you’re this dangerous, it will.

One truth, or many?

The reason we have had enough of experts is that they tell truths we don’t care about. That you can’t articulate a truth does not mean it is unimportant. That everyone else thinks you should have a particular priority does not mean you do.

I know the truth of Brexit. Governments working together can provide a social safety net, decent health care for all, education, legal aid where someone needs to navigate the courts, a legal framework of human rights and regulation to hold polluters and exploiters in check, and the rule of law to enable entrepreneurial activity: to enable people to work together by enforceable contracts. At the moment we do not have in Britain government organising the utilities of water, gas, electricity, public transport and internet, but that can work well too. We need a fair living wage enforceable by law, not the meagre minimum wage the Tories fail to enforce. Governments working internationally can combat climate change and other pollution, limiting the wealth of the exploiters. So the exploiters object, though unchecked they would eat the planet.

The aim of the exploiters, of the Tory Brexiters, was to weaken the power of democratic government to prevent their depredations. Many Tories voted for that. How did they get Labour voters to vote for it? By lies, about what the EU does, and about what it costs; and by hate, stoking hatred and fear of immigrants. That lie about 70m Turks coming here, when there is less prospect of Turkey joining than there was twenty years ago. The Tories had the plan for an unskilled one-year visa for people from anywhere in the world, without any rights, so the immigrants taking the worst jobs will continue.

Now there is the rise of the far Right, some nebulous myth of Britishness involving the Second World War and facing down the Germans. There is Lexit, but while the EU may be coloured by neoliberalism any Tory Brexit will make things much worse, inside the EU and out.

Remain is hope in what we have built together. Leave is hope in what we might achieve some other way. I don’t just have to give hope to the hopeless, but to restore hope in something where it has been lost, and people have found illusory hope elsewhere.

Possibly if I could put the Leave arguments without mocking and undermining them, I would understand them and then could work against them. If I were open to being persuaded, then I could engage. I know the Tory government has two priorities: to preserve Tory rule, and to destroy all we have created together, privatising the NHS and education, destroying the safety net.

It is not truth against lies, but one truth among many, what is and how we understand it, what is likely and what is possible, with exaggeration, illusion and denial but also clear seeing, and not all the clear seeing is on my side. The complexity is too much to grasp so what I can grasp seems contradictory, and trying to communicate it muddies it further like a photocopy of a photocopy exaggerates the distortions. There are reasons why someone might be wrong in particular ways, and people might be wrong in an interesting way, on a path to new understanding. And then there are competing interests. I sympathise with anyone who sees a part of the whole, and clings to it as the only part that matters. We are divided into bubbles when we need to come together.

Very occasionally, there might be some good I can do, but much of the roiling national argument is like the monkey mind, going over the same things repetitively without change or growth or openness. I have no control over this. All I can do is leaflet if there is another vote. All things are transitory: my ceasing to worry over Brexit is part of the endless task of letting go. Isaac Pennington: Give over thine own willing, give over thy own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee and be in thee and breathe in thee and act in thee; and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of Life, which is its portion. “Seed”, or Real Self.

Journeying towards God

God appeared to be a monster, and I fled. I found Christianity as a framework, an understanding of good behaviour which would train or mould me into a good person. Underneath the training, held down by powerful guards but never silenced, was something I could not name, which acted through me or influenced me in ways I did not know.

I attempt to use words, and even the word “I” breaks down here: “I” in that paragraph is the “I” “I” imagine, which the part of me which is conscious conceives to be how “I” am, how it imagines my personality and character to be. Underneath there is an unconscious I, the thing I could not name.

The journey towards God is bringing what is unconscious into consciousness, so that the conscious conception of the nature of the person as a human being comprises the totality, the whole nature of that human being. For each person it is different. My understanding of it includes some theology, some psychology, but mainly is my dogged attempt to find that unknown being, to see what I could not see, to dissolve the pretences and blind spots preventing me from seeing; and my experience is of it-I, breaking through from below.

It feels like a river- however firmly the river has been dammed, eventually the stream breaks through and the natural flow asserts itself.

I am made in the image of G-d, so I may be like Christ. In Him the divine and human nature are united without separation, without mixture, without confusion and without alteration. This is Miaphysitism, the belief of the Oriental Orthodox (Churches including the Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian), a word I have just learned. I am not, yet, so united, but believe this non-dual state is possible for all people.

I want to be understood, heard, believed, accepted. That “I” is the unconscious “I”, where all my power, desire, love and creativity reside. First, in an act of self-surrender, by the conscious I. This may be aided by others, seeing and valuing the unconscious I, accepting in the moments when it bursts forth: in the counsellor’s “unconditional positive regard”, perhaps. For I, united I-I, know it.

The journey involves shedding my introjects, all the judgments of others I have taken into my conscious understanding of who I am of what is important and therefore what I should consider important and therefore what I value, which is not what

I

being the unconscious I

truly value. For the Buddha, who had fabulous wealth, and had been taught to value that wealth, it involved leaving that wealth behind, but that does not mean that anyone can learn from him that they should “give all they have to the poor”, or that ceasing to value wealth and instead valuing what elementary Buddhist textbooks teach will be liberating. The liberation, the non-duality, is in shedding whatever one is forced to value which one would not have valued without that external force.

I

state that rather it means setting aside all you imagine you think is important, and delving to what is truly important to you.

Ah. That unconscious I is speaking, more and more, which puts the conscious I in fear, excitement and delight. Sometimes- more and more- I and I unite and I am one.

Mystic language appeals to me, yet materialist language may be available. This is a healing process, a maturing process- the river will not be dammed in the end. Religion may aid devotees towards it, if it does not create more introjects to ensnare those devotees. Humans will our freedom.

Parts of the Human, which have not been loved and accepted, lie in strong chains. Vigilant guards are ready to push back when the prisoner shows signs of acting, crying “Wrong! Stupid! Meaningless! Wicked!” So my Shadow terrifies me (conscious-I). The guards are part of me too, which I created as a way of survival. I find the unconscious I, see the error of the guards, and quiet them, in contemplation and meditation.

Where is the Life? Where is the Drive? The unconscious i hurts so much, so my way to God is through all its pain. I believe the Quaker term “Inner Light” refers to this unconscious I.

I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame
The Righteous One shall make many righteous.

If any of these words speak to you, I pray they may bring you to full humanity, which may be Divinity. And let us share our words if we want to understand as well as to Be.

The good trans woman

Why do trans women hate each other?

There am I on facebook, where you must be exceptionally careful to have a pleasant experience. Someone on a trans “support” group asks if anyone has any experience with progesterone. Does it improve breast growth? I say that it gave me too great highs and downers to be manageable. Some self-appointed expert said you should only use natural progesterone, not synthetic. I asked her if she could cite journals as authority, and she said I should do the googling, it was not for her to do my research. Someone else said that we both seemed touchy- are we on progesterone? The silly facebook spat ended with her blocking me, and me announcing my delight in that because I would not need to see her comments any more.

So there.

Arguably what she said crossed a line into medical advice. Why do doctors continue to prescribe synthetic progesterone? Why should I believe her? How could I know what is best for me? And, arguably, she was trying to be helpful, though I feel she was mostly concerned to be seen as the expert, the trans who’s been round the block.

Yes, I really dislike her, after a brief interaction on facebook. I know I am being ridiculous.

In the BBC drama “Mrs Wilson”, after the hugely charismatic author Alexander Wilson dies in 1963, his widow discovers he is still married to his former wife, and then that he had a long-term girlfriend who was hanging around the back of his funeral. All three women have children. They find and confront each other. Wife 2 even forges a decree absolute, though as it is not on the register it is easily refutable. She is horrified to see a typewriter in Wife 1’s front room: Wilson spent time with her.

Each of them has an insight no-one else can have into the feelings of the others. I saw their hate, and willed them to weep on each others’ shoulders. Yet each is also the evidence of their husband’s crime, and of their victimhood and disgrace, and they hate each other, and threaten each other, and make demands trying to retain some shred of respectability at the expense of the others.

So with trans women, perhaps especially those of us long-transitioned. We know what each has been through, we can sympathise more fully with each other than any cis person can. Yet when I see her, I see myself; my failure to pass, my hurt, my vulnerability. All that I cannot accept in myself I hate in her.

I am unsurprised, though more hurt, by one’s insistence that she will defend trans rights when appropriate, and not mine.

I am unsurprised by certain trans women’s alliance with the terfs. We are men, says one. We have autogynephilia, say others. They want validation from the cis, at any price. They try to achieve a fragile respectability at the cost of the rest of us. “No, I’m not like them, the bad trans,” they insist. It does not work, but they are so desperate.

We trans women can see each other, more clearly than anyone else can. We should sympathise with each other. But that requires being truthful with ourselves.

I want you to feel what I feel

I want you to feel what I feel
I want you to see the world as I see the world
This makes me vulnerable

-How are you?
-In Heaven and Hell, I said.
-Yes, it’s like that when you feel so deeply, he said.

Though I have not yet learned to play it
I am an exceptionally sensitive instrument
which will produce beautiful music
when I learn to play it well

I rambled a paragraph, clutching at wisdom, and my friend put it beautifully:
You need to be at one with yourself
before you can be at one with anyone else.

Indeed. I need to check in with my emotional being, my real self, and know where they are before the inner monologue can have great value. That monologue has some value, it is showing me some of what I feel, achieving a small amount towards expressing what I want to express, but a lot of it is repetitive. If I am with myself, the inner monologue is less intrusive and I can see what is around me.

We are made in the image of God
so we are Loving, Creative, Powerful, Beautiful.
I have said this before

Even if they are sources of hurt, they are still gifts

“Plain speech” is speaking without ego.
-I don’t know if that’s possible, he said.
No, and if you thought you were doing it all the time you wouldn’t be;
yet it might be a worthwhile goal, you might sometimes approach it

I need you to value, even authenticate, or justify, my feelings if I cannot accept them myself.
This makes me vulnerable.
I get better at accepting them.
I turned my face from my own pain, and now it is almost too much for me to face

I am still protecting you, though you no longer need my protection.
You twisted me so I could do nothing else- as you had been twisted.
Your fears live in me.

At least, it is easier if we all feel the same.
How pleasant it is to dwell together in unity!
But then, whose feelings would we be feeling?

With Brexit, the fundamental question is whether Governments can make things better or not. Do we need general laws about contracts being fulfilled, batches sold matching samples checked, or specific laws about “abnormally curved” bananas? Can governments work together to prevent climate change and protect human rights? Or does law and government action just get in the way? The Left, arguing that Government can improve things, needs people to hope, and that hope is vulnerable. Yet governmental action is the only hope for human rights or climate change mitigation.

The great lie is the slogan “self-ID”, and the idea that the Government proposes to introduce self-ID, which will mean a flood of men in women’s spaces. Transsexual diagnosis is based on self-ID, the conviction that I am a woman or the long-standing desire I have to be a woman. The Equality Act is based on self-ID, and the trans women are in women’s spaces already. The anti-trans campaigners need to pretend that there is some new threat, or they would be forced to explain why the sky has not already fallen.

There you go. The Truth!

Maybe I should go off line. Some of those places where the people who hate me get together and reassure each other that they’re right can be really horrible when I blunder in. I know it’s not personal, and possibly someone who says awful things there would chat pleasantly enough at the bus stop; I even know my own zingers might offend their targets, who may (apart from one particular completely wrong opinion) be decent enough. The anger on line is bleeding into real life, and I don’t know what to do about it.

And someone replied, It’s often the case that those who constantly seek attention are agents of their own misfortune. How is that relevant?

“Do you love her?” she asked. Not really, not any more, not since last Summer really… Only I can validate myself. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I get past the critical voices.

We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us
The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path
And where we had thought to find an abomination
we shall find a God
and where we had thought to slay another
we shall slay ourselves
and where we had thought to travel outward
we shall come to the centre of our own existence
and where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world
. -Joseph Campbell.

Jean Hatchet

Jean Hatchet wrote about anti-trans campaigners taking money and help from far-Right American groups The Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom. Her blog post has been taken down, after being widely shared among trans people. For the moment, there’s an archive link here. I have evidence of a soi-disant “left-wing” feminist taking far-right American money here. The amount Jean Hatchet named was $15,000.

She wrote, I don’t care what these people think about trans ideology. That cannot be separated from the things they do and advocate that specifically harm women. She named opposing abortion, supporting Mr Trump, and opposing divorce because it “causes social problems”.

There is a radical feminist argument against trans inclusion. I don’t accept it myself, but I see the intellectual basis for it. However these people paying the far-right money only care about excluding trans, and their ideas why are quite different. Most people don’t delve into those arguments: they don’t care about the specific arguments why men and women are different, and the result is to affirm the hard-right beliefs about those differences, which is the intention of those right-wing groups: differences of gender, of natural and normative personality and gifts, rather than of reproductive biology. That’s why the Times, Spectator and other media devote so much space to monstering trans women. The hard right campaign against trans people harms feminists, even gender-critical ones.

Jean Hatchet’s blog still contains her speech to the “We Need to Talk” anti-trans campaign. Trans rights campaigners should read it.

For women – their experience at the hands of violent men is not science fiction. They don’t wake one day and find themselves in the wrong body. They wake up and find themselves fighting for their lives. Or being raped. Or shielding their children from attack. They wake to find they are still facing a day where they will be humiliated and degraded and shamed and stripped of their confidence and human dignity by a man who hates them. He hates them because they are – not born in the wrong body – but born in a woman’s body. Domestic violence is overwhelmingly a male on female crime. Not a “gendered” crime. A “sexed” crime.

She quotes another woman’s experience: I hope one day [my story] may help others. My first encounter with male violence was at 6 months old, my dad damaged my skull after he punched me, violence continued against me until I was 3, when he then locked me in a bedroom and set fire to our house. Thankfully I was rescued by the fire department, but was immediately put into care. Things were fine until I reached 9, that was when the sexual abuse started. I was living in a care home. One of the carers was male. He abused me until I was able to leave at 16. After that I met my husband, from the start he beat me, raped me, and financially Destroyed me. But at that point I thought I deserved it, after all that has happened through my life I convinced myself that something was wrong with me, and this was all my fault. So I went along with it, I was defeated. 10 years later, I happened to find Mumsnet, and from that I found you, you changed all that for me, you gave me strength I never knew possible, you showed me this wasn’t my fault.

I can answer the error in her speech. She says, A piece of paper – a legal document downloaded from the internet will get determined, violent men like these easy access to a refuge if they want it. Not true: Layla Moran MP refuted it. See here.

The great triumph of the right-wing has been to set left-wing campaigners against each other. We have aided it ourselves- too often campaigning groups campaign for their own rights not for those of others, and some feminists campaign about the number of women on FTSE 100 boards rather than women in refuges. Trans women need to campaign on wider feminist issues. I am grateful to lesbian campaigners such as in Stonewall who recognise that the campaign against trans people will harm all queers, not just us. My cycling speed and endurance is probably nowhere near Jean Hatchet’s, but, whatever her views on trans rights I need to support her campaign against male violence.

December 2019: I see she’s been out successfully seeking notoriety by trying a bra on in a men’s changing room!!!

Shock, Horror!!!

It seems she was treated with the same bemused tolerance as the British use to other eccentrics, even trans women.

The real self and the critical voices

The risk of imagining a “Real self” separate from the negative self is that I could project onto the negative self all the bits I don’t like. However that would not even convince me, and certainly not a magistrate. The negative self is part of me, within me, a voice, a part of my brain circuitry, part of an organic whole.

My real self has been so suppressed that I have been consciously analysing my desires from outside, rather than feeling them from within. I find what I want when I see what I do. I have desires, and carry them out, but not through conscious planning. The Real Self is where my desire, energy and motivation appear to sit. So I want to make it conscious so that I am less conflicted.

Possibly the Real Self spoke on Sunday, in immediate anger.

I realise, with Sally, that that is what I want to speak about, and that the critical voices immediately tell me I should not. Don’t talk about that, it will not achieve anything. You need this time for more important matters. It’s self-indulgent, which is their strongest word of condemnation. I realise how the critical voices inhibit me from speaking my desire, even here, in the counselling space, though they are not strong enough to change the subject, and eventually the desire gets through.

It’s wallowing, and I do not want her sympathy. I would say how miserable I am and you would say, “Awwww”.

It’s what I want and am terrified of showing that I want.

-That’s the conflict there, she says. Well, yes. The critical voice stops me speaking, and frustrates my desires.

As a child I was so squished that I was unaware of being squished. My mother believed her complete control was for my good. In my early thirties, I realised it was time to rebel against my parents and I have been doing teenage ever since. I feel it was a working out of human organic development and healing- that this phase of maturing can be suppressed, but not prevented indefinitely. The stream can be dammed for so long, but eventually it finds its way.

Mmm. Sunday. I feel wretched about that. Normally I would suppress that wretchedness below consciousness, so that it becomes a weight I keep carrying. I feel if I become conscious of it, I can let it go. Just as when meditating, if I feel an itch, but resent it because now is the time to be pious and holy, meditating- the itch consumes my thoughts, because I am trying to suppress the feeling. If I pay it attention, feel it fully, then it bothers me less and I can move on.

If I feel the feeling fully I can let it go. That’s the hypothesis, not completely demonstrated yet. I worried from my negative self that I am a bottomless pit of pain, I just feel the pain and it is neverending, but I don’t think that, not really. I can work through it.

Now I feel the desire to tell you something that makes me happy, and the critical voices say that is boasting, it is Bad. Well, that video makes me happy. It is always easier to think “This too will pass” when I am happy: I observe that in other people as well as myself. I am happy to have contributed to something which has value. I want it to be seen. I consider I have done a good thing, and that pleases me.

I am unsure about my desires, and I don’t appear to have any particular overarching desire, yet I have-

pause. The critical voices are at me again. They diminish everything my real self says, trivialise its words, take away the words’ meaning and importance. I have desires, and pleasure in accomplishing them, and frustration at not. I am not getting much of that pleasure, and the critical voices inhibit it.

Last time, I had the idea that I had to pack the real self away, be in some other part of me, in order to be sufficiently safe and in control to cycle home. Yet my real self is my own desire, rather than introjected desire, my own feelings conscious not suppressed, my real self is where the power actually is and the distrust which I have internalised for it has not led me to a better way of being.

The critical voices are far too strong, completely dismissing my Real Self. Yet they have their place, they could make a valuable contribution. They have something to do with What will other people think and it is possible to estimate that. They need balanced. My default state at the moment is that the critical voices are suppressing me, but I am coming out.

Quakers, inclusion and class

The attender who took me to my first Quaker meeting was a member of an association of working class academics. As the daughter of a miner she found that certain attitudes and assumptions in academia were less natural to her. Possibly that produced diffidence contributing to her delay in applying for membership. I know some Quakers have working class (WC) origins because they have told me, rather than because I have observed particular traits in them, and such observations are invidious.

There is a great difference between the child whose family inculcated a great respect for learning, and who progressed to the adult section of the library at the Working Men’s Institute (“The ‘Stute”) after reading all the children’s books; and the Quaker with a violent past who said to me “I grew up in a plague zone, and I caught the plague”. Possibly what they would both lack in childhood, and I had, is an idea that society is basically good, and set up in their interests, but even that is a huge generalisation. There is privilege here and it is difficult to put my finger on what it is. The generalisation has some use, but putting people into two Classes, six or seven, will obscure idiosyncrasies.

Class is wealth, status, education, attitudes and behaviour. There is strength in class diversity: with it, we able to speak directly to more people, and have more different perspectives.

At the diversity and inclusion gathering, I met someone else downwardly mobile, with middle-class origins, and working class jobs. It made me feel slightly less inadequate. I begin to think of what in my background might be thought of as “class” rather than idiosyncratic family background. I took copious notes, and can’t remember what exactly was said when I noted “Working class people can have deep rich spiritual lives”. It depends who’s saying it, doesn’t it, how you react to that. I am shocked it needs saying. It could be the amazed ejaculation of a MC Quaker seeing a WC Quaker minister: It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all. I think it was the comment of a WC origin Quaker who felt Quakers need to hear that.

How much of our practice is MC culture rather than Quaker spirituality? The Guardian and Radio 4 were mentioned as the MC indicator, but one who often cited The Guardian in ministry had I think a WC background. I don’t like “The Archers” either, but that started when I imagined myself MC.

How much of our practice is influenced by whether we are introvert or extravert?

What gets in the way of connection? People stereotype others, and judge whether they are competitors. We were told to share the joys and difficulties of our class journeys, and I have suggested that to my LM. I feel it will bring out hidden depths of diversity we already have, and help us know each other, but in the workshop we shared pain of internalised judgments and changing to fit in. A Southern child was ostracised as “posh” in Lancashire. A man lost his accent in an MC job.

Sharing the pain of these internalised judgments is a risk. I am hypersensitive to the possibility that my hearers may judge me the same way. After all, it is my judgment, so it feels right to me.

Our speaker, Lynne Cullens, an Anglican priest, found systemic barriers to achievement as the child of a lone mother in Ordsall. She said despite her degrees WC Anglicans could instantly recognise her as WC. When I met a criminal lawyer he said the clients needed to see him as on their side of the desk, with their understanding of their problems, sorting those problems out. I got better at that, doing benefits appeals with people. Lynne could see motivations MC people couldn’t. Why would you get a large telly on credit when behind with the rent? The MC social housing workers could not understand. Lynne suggested you want a sign of status even for a moment, when money was always tight and the rent arrears hardly more disastrous than other continual money problems.

In the CofE, MC people reporting on WC concerns can seem like anthropologists. We talk of hierarchy, upward and downward mobility. As a lone mum she can inspire other lone mums. People like people who are kind and compassionate. A working class church thrives with working class leadership, as with the last Anglican church I joined.

Local Friends did not like the diversity survey, with open text boxes. “If you treasure it, measure it”; but they made a quantitative result difficult. But then, Quakers might be resistant to stating “socio-economic group”, and with an open text box could give an idea quite how resistant, and produce the categories we might use later.

I got the impression that a Friend thought gender recognition reform would mean a sudden flood of “men in women’s spaces”. We are there already; whatever damage we might do, there should be evidence that it has been done; but the lie is that there is a sudden change, and a threat.

Quakers, inclusion and Trans

I feel a Concern that different views of trans issues must be acceptable in the Society, and accept that this is a risk. Just because Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness later gained the nickname “The Chuckle Brothers”, does not mean they were laughing when they first met Senator George Mitchell. It will not do to “say peace, peace where there is no peace,” or try to brush problems under the carpet.

So when I say that some Quakers, including one who has ministered movingly about the need for Truth within the Society, are lying, I should be clear what I mean. The lie is that gender recognition reform, which they refer to misleadingly as “Self-ID”, will have more than a marginal effect on women. The reason is that most of the law and practice treating trans women and cis women the same is years or decades old. We have self-ID: when an AMAB person decides she will transition to female, she is protected from discrimination, even if she has no diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a psychiatrist. The later official diagnosis depends on the patient’s own conviction and desire, which is a form of self-ID.

I got a passport and driving licence indicating I am female years before the Gender Recognition Act came into force, and a bank card in my female name six months before I changed my name officially, or stopped going to work dressed male. It would be more honest to argue against trans women’s legal rights to be in women’s space, and to be treated as women, under the Equality Act 2010 and its legislative precursors, but that would entail dealing with the fact that there have not been great problems under the law as it stands. After human rights law for gender recognition could no longer be resisted, the main purpose of the GRA was to prevent same-sex marriage, and now is to regulate how marriage is seen and prevent opposite-sex civil partnerships. Anyone who writes or speaks on the issue should be aware of this. There are marginal issues, which she might attempt to inflate, but they do not affect most trans and cis experience. For example 40,000 trans folk are a rounding error in statistics, even if we are ten times as criminal as cis women. Especially, the lie should not be asserted during a meeting for worship.

Insisting that women’s rights are suddenly imperilled foments fear of trans women. Trans women are in women’s prisons, sports, statistics, domestic violence and rape services, loos and changing rooms already, mostly harmlessly. We must abide by our testimony to Truth if we are to talk meaningfully to each other. I can tolerate being told that someone thinks I am a man, or that I should not be in women’s spaces, but not that a group including me are dangerous as a group, or that our group rights threaten women. Or that a group I used to belong to, or a group from whom I can only be distinguished by a groin inspection, are dangerous. To be clear, I think there is no real problem with me in women’s spaces and that welcoming me enhances women’s rights, and I am grateful to cis women allies putting those points. And the opinions I tolerate, some trans women will find threatening, and feel excluded.

The cis organisers of the diversity and inclusion gathering produced a trans speaker who cuts through this sterile debate. Sabah Chowdrey makes it irrelevant. They shared who they is, their mingled femininity and masculinity, reframing and subverting binaries. You can’t necessarily place someone on the gender binary by looking at them, and they said they knew people were speculating. There are all sorts of stereotypes we use: I loved Sabah’s phrase that we should

normalise uncertainty.

Then we get to meet the person not the stereotype. It is worth the extra work.

Sabah wants more than tolerance. They want to take their space. They are not ashamed and not hiding. Gender stereotypes restrict all. It is difficult to have to constantly justify my identity. They notice they are safer when seen as a man, seen more as a person, given privilege, yet the are non-binary, not a man. People should not need to pass as others. Trans people should be trusted to know our own minds. Statistics don’t add validity to our experiences.

Fear stunts everyone’s ability to explore who they really are. We should make the world a safer place. We should acknowledge and identify our power. We should show solidarity across communities. We should value being uncomfortable, Keep questioning, Listen to diverse voices.

Rhiannon Grant led an exercise in which we named words used to indicate gender, and then in pairs and small groups made sentences with them and discussed them. Naming a word did not indicate approval of it: the words indicated not a binary but a hierarchy, which needs deconstructed. I said to the group, harridan is an unpleasant word for a good way of being. A Black woman said Black girls are considered more macho than white girls, and I thought of quotes- “White folks feel, Black folks do”; “Ain’t I a woman?” These quotes are American.

I noted a difference here between participants asserting their rights, and those seeking to be allies to others, not always paternalistically. Some of course were both. Though there was little mention of disability, the woman in a motorised wheelchair was a noticeable presence, a member of our community, and we benefit if we value her.