Without the mask

If I were to appear without my mask, I would appear almost exactly as I do now: serious except when humorous, caring, determined, sometimes deeply moved. Heaven and Hell are so close I almost cannot tell the difference, except for the pain of it.

I was unable to speak again, and as always it surprised me. After we discussed his wedding at the weekend, he asked why I volunteer here.

I have emotional problems, I thought. I am (or part of me is) happy to be open about that. And I could not say it. I closed my eyes trying to gain control, feeling tears rise. It is not that I consciously feel overcome. And then suddenly I was over it, as if there was a barrier to speaking and then there wasn’t. And later when D asked the same thing I had no problem saying it, in that higher voice which feels the more authentic me.

I do not know what I am feeling, much of the time, but today I realised how anxious I am. I wish I were not, but the need to be perfect is hard.

And I do not realise what I want, often. I wrote, “I want”,  then put the paper down for some time. Then I picked it up and wrote,

“to take a full part in my AM. I want my service valued there as it is elsewhere.”

When I got home, I called the Samaritans to talk of that paralysis or barrier. I don’t climb over the barrier, I let it go.

I want to be high-functioning, I said, and saying it I know it to be true, and so learn the fact and realise how much I want it.

I want to appear competent, so there is a barrier to saying things like “I have emotional problems”, because a competent person should not; yet achieving competence requires that I am able to admit it is it is true. Competence does not mean pretence.

She asked, why do you wear a mask? Because I am frightened of showing what is underneath. What would happen if I did? Utter humiliation equivalent to death. And yet I showed myself this morning and was met with sympathy and understanding.

I don’t climb over the barrier.
I let it go.

I may learn this fully, then the barrier (fear, need to keep up appearances, whatever) will have no more power.

Then it is a paradox: the need to appear competent in my own mind prevents me from being competent. My fear of being unable is the only thing preventing me.

Then we talked of suicide. I have been suicidal, and am not now though I feel incapable of looking after myself, and my income is inadequate and precarious. I tell the safety harness story. Jess said, “The thing I learned about you is you are a really hard worker,” and that is how I learned it myself. I had not known it before. And now I realise how much I am hurt by that.

I am seeing how hard I am working now and what I have had to overcome. I would have said ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ Perhaps I would still: me without the mask looks very like me with it. Yet I would no longer believe that.

Jessica Yaniv

Does any trans woman support Jessica Yaniv? She is suing several Canadian beauticians for refusing to wax her scrotum. She demands several thousand dollars each from them in compensation, and some have gone out of business.

She pretended to be someone else when approaching them,  using the profile of a pregnant woman.

Wedding cakes are symbolic of equality. If a baker can refuse a wedding cake, a landlord can refuse an apartment. The same might apply to waxing, except that it is an intimate service. Some traders are happy to wax a penis and scrotum for payment, some are not. Also, it is different from waxing a vulva. The hair lies differently and the surfaces to be waxed are more complex. Jessica may have a woman’s genitals, but she does not have a vulva. Arguably, a “Brazilian” is a vulva wax. (Added Oct 2019- This was part of the grounds for the decision against Yaniv.)

For me it is not the appropriate cause for activist litigation. Punch up, not down.

I heard about it days ago in strident Facebook comments from anti-trans campaigners. “What would be a good enough reason to force someone to handle someone’s genitals against their will?” They put the case as shockingly as they can, of course, but it is an open goal.

Then it got into The Guardian, in a popular piece which was about as little transphobic as possible, I suppose. “It’s not a hate crime for women to feel uncomfortable waxing male genitalia” said Arwa Mahdawi. I agree, though I don’t think the case tells us anything interesting about trans rights, or equality legislation, except that some trans women are unpleasant people. I don’t want to be so vulnerable that I am unsafe to be unpleasant, and I also don’t like the press drawing attention to people whose only newsworthy characteristic is that they are an unpleasant trans woman. It increases transphobia.

Mahdawi points out that right wing media which usually campaigns against women’s rights and immigrants are now hypocritically using women’s rights and immigrant rights to hammer a trans woman. But then she states Yaniv is a “troll, not an activist”. I agree, because I feel there are reasons to sympathise and argue for Yaniv’s victims.

Catriona Stewart in The Herald used the case to campaign against trans rights. “The case encapsulates the concerns of feminists around self-id”, she writes. No, it doesn’t. There is a clear distinction between a vulva wax and a scrotum wax. Possibly it “Disregards women’s boundaries and dignity”, but in a unique way. I don’t expose myself in a loo, I use a cubicle. It is easy enough to make the distinctions and see where trans rights are justified, unless you want to make a transphobic point.

“There is a bitter divide between trans allies and women’s allies,” she writes. That is the hideous lie. It is not all cis women against trans women, many support trans rights. I am glad of the female politicians Stewart quotes taking a stand, though she mocks them.

Stewart writes of another Canadian case in which a cis woman would not share a room in a hostel with a “masc-presenting” trans woman, that is, one with a beard and men’s clothes, and so was evicted. That’s a difficult case. I don’t think UK law would require the trans woman to share with a woman. But then my voice does not pass as female. There is a line to be drawn, and if it is at stealth then I don’t measure up.

So liberal media plays the conservative game, drawing attention to problematic trans women, which has the effect of making us look bad. Yes it’s transphobic to judge all trans women by a few onjectionable trans women, just as it would be antisemitic to judge all Jews. It does not mean people don’t do it.

People often think of issues in terms of individual stories. The relentless focus on unpleasant trans women turns people against us.

To end on a positive, here are those female politicians Stewart quotes. Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, says “trans women are women”. Mhairi Black, Scottish MP, supports us. And The Herald is on both sides like the Guardian, with an opinion piece saying Scotland must introduce gender reform.

October 2019: This is the tribunal’s decision and reasoning.

Paula Rego

The woman’s face shows calmness and certainty. She is richly dressed in a full long gold-coloured skirt and black close-fitting jacket. We look up at her, not only at the picture hung on the wall but in the world of the picture, whose perspective suggests a view from her waist height. In her right hand she carries a sword. She is an angel: of vengeance, it seems. That crease at the right of her mouth, turning upwards: she has no malevolence, just one clear task.

In her left hand she carries a sponge, which the caption refers to the sponge held up to dampen Jesus’ lips at the crucifixion, but I more prosaically think of as cleansing. I love to gaze up at this strong woman.

She is part of a series, after a novel. The next picture is of a paedophile priest, face and body twisted on a bed. The caption indicates he is in sexual arousal, I would not have imagined that explanation. Rego is angrier than I, not clinging to comfort, clearer seeing. There is no avenging angel in the novel.

There are women at the backstreet abortionist’s, anticipating the treatment or curled in a ball after it, with faces and postures that could be completely broken or in grim determination.

The exhibition starts with works from the time of the Salazar dictatorship, with an intense anger in “when we had a house in the country we’d throw marvellous parties then we’d go out and shoot negroes”, or “Salazar vomiting the homeland”. A host of solitary figures on the canvas are twisted and distorted, not relating or related.

And then there are the men. Her husband had MS, and ran her father’s business into the ground, and she portays him curled on a bed in a skirt, with women in control. Or two girls dressing a dog. The dog has no fight or resistance left. They control him.

Or, “The Maids,” based on a play. That’s a man’s face, not an “androgynous” one as the caption says. He sits, in women’s clothes, unaware or acquiescent of their knowingness and control.

The exhibition ends with a picture of the artist painting a sleeping man. The caption suggests that this reverses the usual order, but she might be read as femininely attentive, carefully looking up at him. On her face I read professional absorption, calmly executing a task. Her calf is firmly supporting her, and is emphasised in my view. I look at that strong calf in the court shoe with slight heel.

Strong women, without illusion, doing what must be done, and passive or useless men. I find these women intensely beautiful, as role model or imagined partner.

The works, mostly in pastel on paper mounted on aluminium, are wonderfully smooth of surface. I chatted to a worker at the gallery. Normally, she says, hanging an exhibition, you just get on with it, fixing the pictures to the wall like a carpenter on a building site; but here they unwrapped the pictures and were increasingly overwhelmed, delighting in them.

Ignoring women

The report, chaired by a woman, seeking evidence from women and women’s organisations,
“ignored women,” she said.
She meant, ignored her.
Did not repeat her views.
Perhaps I should tell her the ways of the world.
Even I ignore me.
I said to the paedophile
(Of course he is more than that-
hopes, fears, dreams, love, aspirations
Achievements- and yet a paedophile
And so, a paedophile)
“Look mate, I get it. I am someone the meanest of men can despise too.”
You’re never invisible when they want to hurt you.
Do these feminists take their equality so seriously
that they think they can despise me like men do?
When she says “I was raped. I was traumatised. I was sexually assaulted”
I hope she inspires sympathy, anger and resolution
but against rapists, not trans women.
“for the crime of asking if it was a female only space”
(That is, pure of trans women
Who pollute like a drop of ink in a litre of water
even if we are not actually there)
“I was spoken down to!”
By Women!
Women abet the Oppression of Women!
What greater loneliness could there be?
Woman’s voices are being suppressed! Misogyny!
She will preserve her standard of Integrity.
As for me, I wheedle, “Why can’t we all get along?”
How feminine is that?

Woman’s Place UK Manifesto

Woman’s Place UK has published their manifesto. There is a lot of good stuff in it, that I would support, except for the core demands, sneaked in in coded language. But we know what the code means, don’t we, ladies?

No trans women!

They start with barely a hint of transphobia:

We are united by our belief that women’s hard-won rights must be defended. We are against all forms of discrimination. We believe in the right of everyone to live their lives free from discrimination and harassment.

They don’t say here, or anywhere, that “woman” does not include trans woman. Or that excluding trans women from women’s space could ever be discrimination.

On economic status, they want caring work valued, and benefits restored. They want better enforcement of the Equality Act 2010. Careful what you wish for: that’s the Act that protects trans rights.

They oppose violence against women and girls. Here is the tragedy of their position: all their campaigning energy, and mine, is diverted onto their campaign

No trans women!

Implement the abolitionist model, criminalising those who exploit prostituted people (including pimps and sex buyers) and decriminalising the prostituted, providing practical and psychological exiting support.

That’s code too. Sex workers oppose it. They are “Sex worker excluding radical feminists” or SWERFs.

On health care, they demand Implement the NHS strategy of Elimination of Mixed Sex Accommodation in hospitals. Commit to uphold right to request a female clinician, carer or support worker and to have that request respected. But they don’t see me as female.

No trans women!

On education, they want An end to the provision of education by lobby groups and untrained or unregulated providers in all state schools and colleges. They really hate Mermaids, the charity supporting trans children and their families.

No Mermaids!

I entirely agree when they demand, Introduce a duty on schools and colleges to challenge harmful gender, sex and other stereotypes. That would benefit everyone. But Robust defence of the human right to freedom of speech in academia is because of students angry at ignorant and transphobic attitudes of some academics. Free Speech is not threatened when the media is relentlessly transphobic, and while students have campaigned, no academic career has been threatened for reasonable writing.

On Law, they say, Strengthen the Equality Act by restoring the statutory questionnaire; the duty to protect from third party harassment; and the power of tribunals to make wider recommendations. Enact Section 1 to compel action to reduce socio-economic disadvantage. As a former employment tribunal representative, I agree wholeheartedly. And with this: Enforce Public Sector Equality Duty and Equality Act, though they’d better watch out: the Equality duty was the reason their meeting in Leeds was cancelled. There are a lot of assorted demands, such as, Overhaul aggressive immigration laws and end the hostile environment policy. Many on the Left would agree.

Where women are housed in the prison estate, accommodation must be single-sex to protect their privacy, safety and dignity. So trans women, however long we have been transitioned, however harmless we are- me, perhaps, if I campaign too hard for Extinction Rebellion or pacifist causes- must rot on male vulnerable prisoner units with the paedophiles.

Participation in public life: Defend the use of sex-based mechanisms such as all-women shortlists.

“Sex-based” is of course code for you know what.

Here’s a radical demand: Action to end sexist, demeaning, objectifying, stereotypical images of women and girls throughout society and in particular in media, arts, advertising and the political sphere. Yet I agree: the campaign against “page 3” should only be the start. It would be a huge step towards abolishing the Patriarchy. It would however require them to devote their entire campaign to it. Many who support trans rights will not join them while they are anti-trans. Fully implemented it would mean censoring Shakespeare, but there is no suggestion here where they might start.

Support for sex-segregated sports. No-one seriously opposes having separate women’s competition, it’s just how you define “woman” on the margins. Caster Semenya is a woman who should be entitled to enter women’s competition. So are trans women compliant with the IOC rules.

Women should be supported to pursue their right to freedom of association. That is, hold feminist meetings excluding trans women. Weary sigh. If the debate were not so charged, trans women might leave them alone, and go to women’s groups only by invitation. I don’t want a feminist gathering suddenly to focus on me, where my presence is the only issue. But the WPUK campaign has done a great deal to inflame the debate.

So there’s a lot of good stuff here, but throughout there is the coded demand:

No trans women!

And the rest has not the slightest credibility, because they have not held one meeting, or posted one video, except to campaign against trans rights. They could put radical feminism on the national agenda, but instead they campaign against us. It is a tragedy. We should be allies.

I found the profusion of developing pine cones beautiful:

Jesus in Milton Keynes

To meet H in Milton Keynes. Can Christ encounter a trans woman?

It’s 2 1/2 hours on the bus, but I have Audre Lorde’s poetry to read:

it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

A woman at a bus stop had left her husband after 22 years. Will you go back to him? asked the man emptying the bin. No, he beat her up. I congratulate her, and she says her family are helping her get stronger. Though he still lives in the town, and when he sees her gives her a dirty look as if she had wronged him. That’s worrying.

Milton Keynes has some really poor public art, I say. For example,

“What’s it meant to be?” H asks. An abstract sculpture. I suppose it is best in bright sunshine like today, with those contrasts between bright and dark. It would look different from hour to hour. (But I am writing after my encounter- I was sniffier before.)

After the Paula Rego exhibition we go into the park. I am still mocking, but beginning to take an interest. This is the Milton Keynes rose:

This, though, does not seem worth its prominent position:

But then we read that the Light Pyramid is sometimes lit to commemorate local or national events. On the way there we see the amphitheatre:

We sit in the shade of the beacon, talking of the good life and looking out over this heavily landscaped park.

I noticed the woman before I heard what they were saying. I got out my phone to take notes. Each chants a phrase several times, and sometimes in another language:

I cover this diamond in the name of Jesus.
This diamond is causing people sickness.
MK is covered in the name of Jesus.
Walk around in praise.
I soak this place with the blood of Jesus seven times.
Break every chain.
Holy Spirit have mercy on MK.
Grey Grace and Jeremy are praying to save Milton Keynes from Satan. I ask them for a photograph, and they ask why I want it. I pause for a moment. I want to say, because I too am a follower of Jesus. I wonder if this will mislead them, then decide to say it. They high-five me.

After, Grace prays over me. It is powerfully affirming. Though people gossip about me or I am confused, Jesus is with me. She speaks urgently, her hand on my shoulder.

We go back to the Rose, and notice the inscriptions. Some monoliths are blank, others inscribed. The stone is beautiful.

May 24th is Heartwarming Day, when John Wesley recorded “I felt my heart strangely warmed”. The second Saturday in June is Knit in Public day.

I find the art gallery beautiful, inside and out:

I love the primary colours, the steel, concrete and breeze blocks, the detail of it.

I am a little sad that Grace might not recognise my way of following Jesus, but do not want her to change hers, but to grow in it.

In the bus back I read a little, and practise my presence meditation:

I am here. This is. I am.

Paula Rego was wonderful. On the bus I read Richard Rohr quoting Peter: “He has given us something very great and wonderful . . . you are able to share the divine nature!”

Is Quaker dialogue on trans rights possible?

A friend has just shared,

Keep my anger from becoming meanness.

Keep my sorrow from collapsing into self-pity.

Keep my heart soft enough to keep breaking. Keep my anger turned towards justice not cruelty…

Keep me fiercely kind.

So I would have said, no, dialogue is not possible with the anti-trans campaigners, they will not give any ground, just demand my exclusion from the spaces I have been in since 2001. But wearily I try to imagine the possibility.

This is the problem when seeking dialogue with those campaigners who oppose current trans rights. They do not see any value in my position, but are unswervingly for my exclusion.

Yet I have been reading Amos Oz, on the terror of the Jews of Jerusalem as the British were about to leave. I sympathise with those campaigners.

The Law

They dispute what the law is, and I feel dialogue is impossible without a common understanding of that.

The Equality Act protects people who seek gender reassignment from one sex to the other. To be protected you have to decide to transition. I don’t just declare myself to be a woman, I take a female name, dress as a woman, take steps to speak in a higher register, and commit to this life long. Unless you commit to this you are not protected, with no right to be in women’s space. Dressing up at weekends does not get you protection. A trans woman can be excluded from women’s space if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, even after she has a gender recognition certificate.

There was a report by the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons, recommending that people with a GRC could not be excluded from women’s space, but the government rejected that. There was a proposal to make getting a gender recognition certificate easier, but three years on nothing has been done. Trans women can be excluded from women’s space and there is no proposal to change that.

I could refer to Schedule 3 of the Equality Act and the government responses, but thinking of the fear of those Jews, I don’t know that the anti-trans campaigners can be convinced. Certainly their videos express fear of the enquiry’s recommendations being implemented, despite the Government’s response, and failure to act.

So an independent party should enquire into the law, reports, consultations and government statements, and permit no exaggeration of trans rights or possible law reform.

Victims.

Who are the victims here? Certainly the anti-trans campaigners. One has told me some of the domestic, sexual and other violence she has suffered. There is pervasive violence against women and girls in our culture. My uncle beat my grandmother. My friend was rescued from her abusive son. You need not dig far for tales of extreme yet quotidian violence against women.

Yet this pain is below the surface. They usually express only the determined campaign for “sex-based rights” (trans exclusion) not their own hurt. That is understandable. Expressing hurt makes us vulnerable, and they feel no certainty of sympathy and solidarity to remove the wrong; but I would love to campaign against violence against women together, if only we could get past this threat to my way of life.

Hear the feeling. That is how we communicate, not by implacable demands.

And we trans women are victims too. Not to be mocked as “ultra-vulnerable” and unable to tolerate contradiction, but worthy of consideration. I too have been assaulted, and sexually assaulted. The anti-trans campaigners have a tactic of referring to shocking individual cases, to make all trans women look bad. This is a standard dehumanisation tactic, aided and abetted by the press who portray ordinary trans women as ridiculous or vile and newsworthy. I would want such tactics blocked. Or see what such cases mean: Karen White sexually assaulted two women in prison. That means that prisons should be properly funded, not that all trans women should rot in vulnerable prisoner units in men’s prisons.

Positives

I would want the conversation to focus in part on positives of trans recognition. It is a paradox: I both reinforce gender stereotypes by following female gender norms, and subvert them by not following the norms of my upbringing. I want the second part recognised. That is why Charles Koch and The Heritage Foundation fund some anti-trans campaigners, not caring that they are mostly on the Left: they know opposing trans recognition decreases the space available for being gender non-conforming.

There should be recognition of what might be realistically achieved. If trans women were banned from women’s refuges, there might be an 0.1% increase in the spaces available for cis women. Is it worth it?

Could we not rather campaign together for more funding for refuges? The government has reduced the money available.

I recognise that there are hard questions for me. I know that some women are repulsed by me. This makes me sad. My colleague, who admitted that she found my transition repulsive, accepted the office diversity policy and we kept out of each other’s way.

And losing male privilege can be a shock for us.

The anti-trans campaigners seem a small determined group. Possibly no dialogue is possible. They would not be satisfied, but Quakers could simply enforce the law, allowing trans women in women’s space unless there was a reason not to, on a case by case basis. Quakers could accept the expertise of the specialist psychiatrists in the case of children, few of whom receive any medical treatment beyond counselling. But if there were listening sessions, Quakers should be aware of the difficulties.

Are Norwich Quakers transphobic?

Norwich Quakers allowed their meeting house to be used by a hate group which foments fear against trans women. Will they apologise and pledge not to condone work against trans rights?

The hate group, calling itself “Women’s Place UK”, has published videos of the meeting, which may be seen on YouTube. They are a tissue of lies, half truths and exaggerations, which Norwich Quakers should take time to assess.

The first video is by Kiri Tunks. To someone completely ignorant of the situation, she sounds mostly measured and reasonable. At the end, she calls for dialogue, and a pragmatic solution that works for everybody. She has five demands which on the bare text of them I would support, except that they bear no relationship to her cause:

  • Women have the right to self organise
  • The law must work for women
  • An end to violence against women
  • Nothing about us without us
  • Sex is not the same as gender.

Unfortunately her reasonable words cloak unreasonable demands, hinted at in her rabble rousing speech.

She starts by thanking Quakers and praising Elizabeth Fry, and her prison work. The prison case Tunks’ group cites is Karen White, an appalling case; but meanwhile scores of trans women are held in men’s prisons, often in Vulnerable Prisoner units because of the risk of violence they face.

She then refers to the assault on Maria McLachlan. Her group has gained a great deal of mileage from this assault, which the judge said might not even have been prosecuted but for the context.

“Any law not properly consulted on is bad law,” she says. She appears to be referring to the enquiry of the Women and Equalities Committee of the House of Commons, chaired by a woman, to which Women’s Aid gave evidence. Yet she says “the enquiry did not include women”. She is using the word “women” to mean only women with her trans exclusionary views.

The enquiry recommended some increase in trans rights, but the government has not responded positively. A year after, Theresa May announced a consultation on gender recognition reform, but that consultation was not published for a year after that and the government has not yet responded to the consultation. The Scottish government has announced they will postpone any action on their separate consultation.

The government response said, “we believe that existing international and domestic legislation provides adequate protection for transgender people, and that those mechanisms already in place for ensuring effective implementation are adequate.”

In other words no change to Equalities law is necessary.

They pledged,

 A review of the Gender Recognition Act to tackle unnecessary bureaucracy and to assess the need for medical checks contained within the 2004 Act;
 Conducting a cross-government review on removing unnecessary requests for gender information, including in official documents;
 Improving the way people are supported by gender identity services through new training of NHS staff;
 Tackling harassment and bullying in higher education by working with universities;
 Assessing how to measure the size of the UK’s transgender population so that policy can be more evidence-based and we can track the impact of our work;
 Measuring and monitoring public attitudes towards transgender people.

So only Gender Recognition reform was ever on the table.

Gender Recognition reform is not widely understood. A year after WPUK started their campaign, one of their regular speakers texted me to ask,

“Quick question to you. no one seems to be able to know the answer With current GRC one can have birth certificate changed? I think this is the case? If so, Is it possible to have changed birth certificate without a GRC? ( I am only asking questions about things as they currently stand)”

The answer is that a GRC means almost nothing. I got a passport and driving licence indicating that I am female before the Gender Recognition Act was passed. My right to enter women’s spaces depends on the Equality Act 2010, and that specifies that I can be excluded if it is reasonable. Possibly, WPUK have ceased to emphasise gender recognition and turned their fire on the Parliamentary report because they realise the reform proposed has only symbolic and no practical effect. However the Government refused to carry out the law reform the committee recommended.

I can still be excluded. So Tunks’ claim of the “removal of sex based rights” is a lie. My friend’s GRC got her her state retirement pension early, when women could claim it earlier than men, but all mine has got me is an extract birth certificate no one else has seen. Originally it affected marriage- it meant in 2005 that I could marry a man, though not in church, but after marriage reform that no longer makes a difference.

Tunks is fear-mongering. The only change which even reached the consultation stage was GRA reform, on which no proposals are likely two years after the consultation was announced. Yet she uses an obscure report on which the Government will not act to foment fear and anger against trans women.

When Tunks complains of the “removal of sex based rights” she is lying. I can still be excluded from women’s spaces, where I have been on suffrance since 2001, harmlessly. She complains of changes in such strong terms, when no changes are happening.

Tunks goes on to complain about widespread hostility to her hate group. She mentions Leeds city council cancelling their meeting, which Leeds did in pursuance of their Public Equality duty, to further the aims of the Equality Act. She mentions a few publications which have opposed her group, such as Red Pepper, but acknowledges that the Times, Spectator and the tabloids enthusiastically support her position. She complains that the Guardian does not, and indeed the Guardian has published some articles in favour of trans rights, but also the most transphobic article I have seen, comparing us to a murderer.

She tells falsehoods to spread hate and fear. This is not an organization you should tolerate in a Quaker meeting house.

In a long rambling speech Linda Bellos, previously my feminist hero and exemplar, makes a number of false allegations. She claims she will uphold rights of gender reassignment under the Equality Act, but then suggests the law may be changed. There is only the slightest possibility of a law change as I have explained, but she does not acknowledge that. Perhaps she does not understand the position.

She makes specific allegations about lesbians. “Lesbians have been taken out of LGBT.” “The government was minded to make amendments to law detrimental to lesbian well being.” “LGBT has dropped the L.” This is not what Diva magazine says, nor Ruth Hunt, chief executive of Stonewall.

“I will fight,” says Bellos. “I am treated like a n—er.” What can I say? Many lesbians and lesbian organizations support trans rights. There will be no change to the law affecting women’s rights, and I can be excluded at any time from the women’s spaces I have entered harmlessly on suffrance since 2001. Yet these people foment fear of me and people like me in a Quaker meeting house. I hope the meeting will apologise and undertake to spread the truth of the matter.

In June the meeting stated on Facebook, “we acknowledge that the proposed change to the Gender Recognition Act is both important and divisive,” which suggests they do not understand the legal position. WPUK appear to recognise it is not, which is why they have dug up the earlier report.

So, are Norwich Quakers transphobic? Possibly some are; but the meeting has condoned a hate-filled anti-trans propaganda session on their premises. Their ignorance is no excuse: many Quakers can inform them of the nature of that group, and Brighton Quakers apologised a year ago for considering letting a room to them. When I went to Norwich Quaker meeting house to explain my experiences, this is what I said.

This month Norwich Quakers published this image. I wish they would live up to it. 9 March 2020: Unfortunately, they have published a screed about their experience of hosting WPUK, which is epically transphobic.

Fun

“What do you do for fun?” asked Tina. Dunno, really. Usually some joy might be found in any situation, but I rarely do anything simply for the fun of it. I am either seeking self-improvement in some way, or vegging out.

What do I gain from my comments on the Guardian website? Up votes, and the pleasure of expressing myself. Same, here: likes, page views and the pleasure of writing. I am analysing. I value that.

I wanted to recite my Summer Fruit poem, and Cupid and Psyche, before that group. I want to shine, and be admired, and that was my best way.

I want to be seen and valued. Jenna heard my two souls poem and valued it. Communication, seeing and being seen, is too-

majestic

to be called mere fun. Possibly I don’t do anything to get out of myself, let my hair down, giggle, but rather want to be myself, without a mask. Or possibly Britain is indeed divided into Cavaliers, who enjoy life, and Roundheads, too serious for fun, and I am a Roundhead.

That was a misunderstanding. No, I do not want a biscuit. Really. Not even one of those expensive ones, larger and more airy, with chocolate chips. “I am a Roundhead,” I said, and you took it as a judgment on you that you were a cavalier, or wrong in some way to have one. I thought after it was my unwonted scoffing of ten ginger biscuits last night that stopped me wanting one now, and certainly consulting my own desires rather than choosing “virtue” or even “self-control”. Can anyone enjoy something no-one else likes?

I very much wanted to do something just now, which you might not understand. “Why would you want to spend time with these people?” asked Tina. They have made it so clear that they want me elsewhere. “Because I want to be readmitted, and then to leave them,” I said, but that’s not it. I want them to see my beauty. I will continue expressing myself, and when they realise what they are missing they will welcome me back. The only ministry was that in lively conversation in the car one group had missed the satnav’s instructions, and gone the wrong way. They should listen to wisdom. I take this as suggesting that excluding me was a human decision, and Spirit may find a better way. Possibly that is not what is meant.

I was glad — was not there, I thought, my own internalised transphobia is more than enough for me to deal with, then thought of Audre Lorde noticing that she was harshest and most divided from other Black women. We should be allies, and it is tragic that we are not.

There were incidental beauties in sitting still for an hour. The smirl under thick cloud diffusing the high sun, on the millions of different greens of the trees and meadow, reminded me of Argyll. I watched teenagers try abseiling. They were creeping nervously backwards, possibly it was too much to ask in the rain, then one gave a joyous leap away from the tower, slipping down the rope, and I saw she had discovered the wonder of it: trusting the ropes and herself she gave herself to it fully. That spontaneous acceptance of the beneficence of the world may let her live more fully in it.

The wind whistled loudly over a tube like a pan-pipe, and children called excitedly- “Does anyone need the toilet?” asked a sensible adult. Some thought the meeting gathered.

Do I want this to go on? They place me on the spot, so I give a Plain Speech answer. Do not do this out of a perceived generosity to me, I have places I may worship and be welcomed not tolerated. Do this if you want to, if you want to see me.

As for me, possibly oversensitive to the possibility of condescension, I valued seeing these people and the conundrum we have created together. Might we reconcile? Sitting with the unknowing may get us a good outcome, and even is valuable for its own sake. So I desire it, however far it is from “fun”.

Bullying myself- or inspiring myself

No one bullies me. I bully myself.

I get early to the office, and there is no one there. I can do scanning. However there is no scanner on M’s computer. I try S’s scanner, but M’s computer does not recognise it. As I move it, the paper feed mechanism falls off. I put it back, finding that tricky. I use S’s scanner on S’s computer but it chews up the paper. I swear at it.

D’s computer does not recognise my smart card. I use K’s computer: it works, but then she comes back and needs it herself.

I look at the paper feed and see how I did not put it back properly, so I fix it. After fifty minutes, I scan my first document.

I am upset because I am bullying myself. No-one else is expecting anything of me. The Wrong Thing I did was to swear, but apart from that I have behaved creatively and determinedly, dealing with each problem in turn. Yet I have internally berated myself, telling myself I should be able to deal with this with no problem, far more quickly than I do. J said if all that had happened to her she would just of gone home.

This is perfect, I decide. My purpose in being here is finding my blocks to work, and my bullying is such a block. How do I feel now? Hurt by my own bullying, and sad, and frustrated by the difficulty. Others complain of friction at work, problems with the processes that take much longer than they ideally would. I suppose that would be more stressful if I had more to do and only an ideal time to do it.

So I reassess my response to the morning’s challenges, decide that I responded well, and get on with the scanning.

I don’t know how I managed any work at all, bearing this taskmaster within. Especially as I was not fully conscious of it, just feeling bad because of it and feeling always inadequate. Finding it and seeing it has been a long journey, and I still have to think about it, take time to observe what I am feeling and consciously decide that I am working well enough.


Tina sees it differently. If I make an introject, part of me agrees with its view. It comes from the culture as well as my parents: it feels Scottish to her.

I did not ignore my emotional response, being sad at being bullied, but saw it as work and difficulty. My emotional being is something to cajole and manage, rather than to value as useful feedback. I am practised in exercising my intellect, but my emo side is hurting, lonely and distrusted.

The “bully” criticises, showing its terror. I think of it, too,  as a problem to be managed. When it orders me to “Get on with it” that is pain and loss. It makes my emotional side crumple. In fact it does not inspire or energise, but it tries. It wants to express my values of diligence and taking responsibility. It wants me strong and successful but the more it says the more crushing it gets.

If someone who takes no responsibility is 1 and sane responsibility is 8, I am 15: overwrought. I need dialogue with it so that it inspires rather than crushing.

Mmm.

Balance and dialogue.

I would hear and value and support the slave-driver (or inspiration, or sense of responsibility) and the emotional part.

She thinks the problem might be that I have been unable to show my intensity, there is no space for it. When we feel we cannot express some things we restrict ourselves. She asks,

What thrilled you as a child?
What made you giggle?
What did/do you do for fun?

I don’t know. However my task now is to perceive and value these lost, damaged parts.

Later, I wonder if the “bully” could ever be brought to inspire me. It seems to take no account of any difficulties I have.