Extinction Rebellion VI

When the police are cutting people’s lockons, it doesn’t half smell. I watched them at it in the morning and afternoon. Several phone photographers were cranking round the police lines. “Pity she won’t stand somewhere else so we could get a better view,” said one, as the sparks flew. Those plastic shields would have protected us. I don’t know whether the police provided the protester’s visor and ear protection.

“What are Quakers then?” asked the policeman. Continue reading

Extinction Rebellion V

I start my day protesting with something beautiful. Today, I find a piano on the road south of Nelson’s Column, and play Einaudi.

I am so relaxed after this I ask someone to take a picture of me at the piano, for the blog. But this is not a holiday or festival: she says there is a need for people to be sitting in the road, to avoid police getting traffic going. I go over to see if I can do anything. Continue reading

Extinction Rebellion III

It was a bit of a shock to find Lambeth Bridge clear with traffic flowing freely. The police have been harsh. There are a few of them standing around on the corners. One says “Hello” as I come past, and there are some behind me now, with their night-sticks hanging. Someone said there were armed police about. Continue reading

Extinction Rebellion

At last, there is something I can do.

I hope to spend as much time as possible on Lambeth Bridge in the coming week. I will worship God. There is Quaker worship planned every day at 2pm for half an hour, and there will be other worship: I will sing hymns, join prayer, if I am allowed worship with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and join their call to God. There is a spiritual reality binding humanity and the biosphere. I call it God. Others may have other understanding of spirituality, but it is the still small voice that calls to every person, the Truth and Good in every heart, the source of courage and inspiration in the darkest places.

Even if you do not call it God, you know what I mean. It is the thing all humanity has in common. When we come together in Love, humans are powerful.

There is an emergency. I could reel off any number of horrors, but the Bahamas hurricane will do. I will not give you statistics- you can find them if you want. Nor do I want to justify climate science- CO2 has been recognised as a greenhouse gas since the 19th century. I have seen the wilful lies of the climate deniers, and their duplicity for financial gain repels me.

Democracy is under threat from a Prime Minister who promises fantasies- Get Brexit Done- heedless of the risk to the population. Now is the time to act.

I can give up meat, and that is nothing compared to the Amazon fires, encouraged by the Bolsonaro government, or the emissions from private jets (I am tempted to link to George Monbiot’s article, but would be tempted to go on, and just be linking to horror after horror, promoting despair.)

Instead I will say what we, the people may do. We can say No. We can act in the strength of the Spirit of God (or of Humanity, if you will). We can come together.

I love Extinction Rebellion’s simple demands.

Tell the Truth.
Act Now.
Beyond politics.

Beyond politics- they want a citizen’s assembly, to decide what can be done to save our planet separately from the manoeuvring of party politics, and the influence of big donors and propagandists.

I love their principles, in particular no. 9:

We are a non-violent network

This is the heart of my Christianity. Jesus said,

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God. . . . You have learned how it was said, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy”; but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.

As Richard Rohr says, we can live by this now.

These are my strengths. I worship. I connect to What Is, and to God within me. I am soft, gentle, peaceful, loving. In this way I can form connections with the others worshipping on the bridge, and with others who approach us. I want to meet people heart to heart, talk, listen and connect. The action may be a silent retreat amid the noise of London.

My great niece was born in 2017. If she lives as long as my father did, she will still be living in the 22nd century, when the current level of CO2 has wreaked its full effects on our climate, melting the ice, raising the sea level, killing off countless other species. I must mitigate the effects of CO2 as far as possible, for her, and even for myself as I may live past 2050. We will find a way.

Now they come for the trans people

The government has abandoned any pretense of supporting trans people’s human rights. They claim to be protecting children from trans people. According to the Daily Mail, a source said,

‘The priorities of the brief are being put on ice. Fundamentally, it is the Secretary of State’s belief that adults should be given full freedom to decide how they want to live their lives and should not face barriers to doing so. When children are growing up, they are still developing those decision-making capabilities and there is a role to be played in protecting them and making sure that the implications of decisions are fully understood.’

This is irrelevant. The consultation did not propose gender recognition under 18. It proposed a Statutory Declaration- made in front of a solicitor or JP, with the penalty of perjury for falsehood- which is for adults only.

However, there will be no rights for adults, because of the fear that trans acceptance makes children transition, even children who are not trans.

The Daily Mail said This spared No 10 a direct confrontation with the well-organised, pro-transgender lobby. If we were well organised or powerful we would have won. This is the standard tactic of demonisation- Your enemies are powerful! We must fight them! Our children are under threat!

An unnamed source said making Liz Truss Women and Equalities minister was an opportunity to “strangle the issue”. TERFs rejoicing should note that Truss is no feminist. They put this symbolic issue, having almost no effect on women, ahead of real feminist issues.

The government will not stop there. David Cameron, a beacon of moderation compared to the current lot, wanted to repeal the Human Rights Act, and the Tories are now in full on demonisation mode. They will take away our current Equality Act rights if they are not stopped.

Who will be next? Johnson wants to win an election based on hate and fear. For every fact-based objection about Brexit, Johnson has a fantasy narrative. Food, fuel and medicine shortages? Blitz Spirit. Irish border? Technological solutions. Things going wrong? Remainer conspiracy. Delay past Halloween? Not his fault, he said Get Brexit done. His experience is that if his propagandists in the press and social media shout this loudly enough, sufficient voters will echo his rage fantasies, inflamed by his fighting words- surrender, traitor.

He uses an imagined enemy- the Metropolitan Elite- as the hate figure, but also real people- immigrants, by which his dupes understand Black and minority ethnic people and EU citizens who have made their lives here. Now he is moving on LGBT, starting with the most vulnerable. Any gender variant people- including many TERFs- will be next.

We must not let him. We must talk to people, canvass, point out better ways. When lies win over truth, democracy dies.

Re-transitioning

What would it be like, to transition male to female, revert, transition again and revert again? To be living presenting male after having two periods of several years expressing yourself female?

David transitioned in Toronto in the 1980s. He said his initial motivation was transvestite. How would he know? Transvestites, or cross dressers, might dress occasionally or compulsively for a sexual thrill, but the thrill wears off and they want to dress normally again. Yet he saw a gender clinic and was prescribed oestrogen. He must have had some diagnoscible signs of transsexualism.

It seemed to me that he was being self-deprecating about his motivations. Living female, one might be motivated to express the desire to do so in positive terms: I am expressing the real me, being authentic. Having reverted, the temptation is to see it as a mistake, an aberration.

He was recommended to have vaginoplasty, but is pleased he did not. However not having the operation may have made him feel a fraud, inauthentic in his female presentation, and that might have made it less comfortable. Then he met a female partner, and reverted so they could be together. Having the operation may make it harder to revert, as you have burned your boats and can no longer present male- even though you rarely show your crotch, you are aware of the absence.

Early this century he transitioned again, and spent a few years living female and taking hormones. Then he reverted again. Now he appears to talk about his experiences in a sweater, leggings and tight wedge-heeled boots which come to just below the knee. Boots over trousers, a look I love, is out of fashion. He has an androgynous look, towering over me in his high heels. He has a full head of hair, though not thick hair, cut short. I don’t know how he would dress most of the time, but wearing one or two items of women’s clothing while presenting mostly male or androgynous is brave. He has done the work of self-acceptance.

He sounds regretful and dissatisfied. Neither expressing female nor presenting male has been fulfilling for him. He had a reasonable career as an academic and, now retired, is a councillor.

I think he wanted to fit in, and found with his feminine character he could not fit in to his satisfaction with either presentation. He will experience less respect from others than more “manly” men, often. It’s still better to be yourself than to try to put on a front, and he may be able to be himself better as an androgynous male than as a trans woman.

He came to talk to Norwich Quakers at their listening meeting, to hear experiences of people supporting a change to gender recognition law. He was ambivalent. Having your gender change recognised four times would certainly be easier if only a statutory declaration was required, rather than all the paraphernalia of two years’ documentary evidence plus a specialist psychiatrist’s letter, but vacillating like this might indicate gender recognition was a bad thing, encouraging people to waste their lives chasing a chimera (I’m being devil’s advocate here).

Whereas I take his story as supporting gender recognition. It shows the strength of the compulsion to express female full time, despite the difficulties, and if society supports that with a simple system of gender recognition, it will be easier and lives will not be wasted in the effort of transition and reversion, and all the soul-searching that involves. Certainly he is nothing like the Terf bogeyman of a pervert signing a form to get access to women’s spaces.

Also at that meeting was a trans woman who transitioned aged 54. She has a male voice, her own hair, and does not think she passes but she is accepted, mostly. She says we are harmless. She told of her operation and hormones, and stood up for the Stonewall figure of 500,000 trans people. She admired my presentation, saying I passed much better. I enjoyed the compliment, and regret that we are judged in that way. I

And there was a lesbian who organises Norwich Pride, and was robust in her support for us.

I got the train to Peterborough and cycled home, arriving just before nine. I cycled in the dark on a busy road then a quiet road with steep up and down movements. It was horrible, but bearable- the mode of transport I can afford. In intermittent light rain I was still too hot in a t shirt, jeans and sandals. I am always hot exercising, and blame the effects of the hormones.

An account of My Trans Experiences

For the edification of the Nice People called Quakers.

I went to Norwich Quaker meeting at the weekend. After they hosted the hate group WPUK, they decided to hold listening meetings to hear the experiences of trans people, and of those who “wish to think through all the possible consequences” of gender recognition reform. I could object that they are using the hate group’s language, but I suppose that they are outdated- realising that gender recognition reform will have no consequences, the hate group has moved on to attacking a Parliamentary committee report which the government has no intention of implementing, and to seek to repeal trans rights under the Equality Act.

I cycled to Peterborough and took the train to Norwich, where Quakers put me up overnight.

In Meeting the chorus This is the day that the Lord has made ran in my mind. I thought of how in Meeting one lets go of resistance and resentment of the way things are, to be empowered to take right action. I hoped to accept the Love of God, breathe it in, and so be enabled to open my heart and channel it. Invited to introduce myself I expressed nervousness of the afternoon meeting, and prayed may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

I want to tell the truth in Love.

This is more or less what I said or wanted to say.

.

Be wary of asking for personal experiences. I used to represent at benefits tribunals, where an often inarticulate claimant would be asked personal questions about their health difficulties, then the tribunal would decide if they believed them, and if it was enough. I remember Sarah Beech, the chair, leaning forward and asking in a loud, posh magistrate’s voice, “Do you wet yourself?”

I thought of various sexual assaults to tell of. Before transition I was walking across Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester to a black tie dinner in my kilt, when some men began speculating whether I wore anything underneath it. One, taller and broader than me, came over to check. He overwhelmed me. He whispered almost gently in my ear, and I did not resist, and confirmed to his friends that I wasn’t.

I tell this not to prove that it makes me a woman, or that I am entitled to be in women’s spaces, but to say that sexual assault and manipulation is all-pervasive in our society, that it is humiliating, and you should beware of asking for personal experiences because of the world of pain you will expose. I told of an incident involving a Quaker who hits his wife. At YM a Friend ministered that the only place she had been fat-shamed was amongst Quakers, and an article in The Friend referred to someone being excluded from a discussion group because she is Black. My uncle beat my grandmother, and the last time he saw her my father told me “she couldn’t stop screaming”. This phenomenon is described in The Karamazov Brothers.

When Tommy Robinson claims “Muslims are coming over here, raping our women and girls”, no-one here would call that a feminist position. When David TC Davies, the MP for Monmouth who voted to reduce the abortion time limit to twelve weeks, commented on the conviction of a Muslim of rape that “we are importing bad attitudes to women into this country” he was condemned. Now he’s claiming gender recognition reform may affect women’s rights, not out of feminist principle but to set the Left against itself and, by making that form of alternative gender expression that is transition more difficult, to reinforce authoritarian gender stereotypes. In the same way, Kiri Tunks, here in Norwich Quaker meeting house, with fearmongering and half truths, sought to inflame fear and anger against trans women. I am Scots. You would not want to exclude me because of Scottish rapists and murderers in prison, but Tunks sought to inflame fear of us by talking of a trans rapist. I share one characteristic with that rapist. It does not mean I share others.

I am not here in this rather lovely Monsoon dress to show anyone how women should be, but to express my true self. It is a paradox: at the same time we reinforce stereotypes by the way we express ourselves, and subvert them by being ourselves against our upbringing.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the anti-trans campaigners. They find gender stereotypes constraining, and so do I.

I show my calculation of 40,000 trans people protected by the Equality Act 2010 here. There are more gender variant people, but they are not protected and they may not wish to present as the other sex, or be too frightened to. My Friend has decided not to transition as their wife could not bear it and they love their wife.

What does a gender recognition certificate mean? Everything and nothing. It declares that my gender is female, and the Act declares that my sex is female, but as soon as I went full time female I got a passport and driving licence indicating I am female. That was before the Act: Corbett v Corbett or Ashley indicates it was the case from at least 1970. In 2005 my Friend got a GRC and got her state retirement pension earlier, but retirement age is equalised now. At the time it would have affected whom I could marry, but not after the Marriage Act.

It is the Equality Act which lets me compete in women’s sports subject to rules by governing bodies- the IOC requires a significant reduction in testosterone levels. The Equality Act lets me into women’s spaces, but also lets me be excluded, as I remain a person who has undergone a procedure for reassigning sex. I can be excluded if there is a good reason, a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. I have a law degree, and read discrimination law to represent in employment tribunals. I have familiarised myself with the Act.

Gender research shows that the enforcement of stereotypes is all-pervasive, like atmospheric pressure, and like the air some people hardly notice it, some are buffeted by winds. People have an idea of which characteristics are masculine or feminine, but they don’t correlate: having some does not mean you have others.

Mine is the Love that has not chosen its name. We do not call a gay man a “sodomite” any more, or even a “homosexual”, which is deprecated as quasi-scientific and medicalising. Yet the words for my way of relating are all condemning or mocking: I am a pansy, attracted to viragos, termagants or harridans- “mannish” or “overbearing” women. This is my sexuality: I am not speaking for all trans women, and not all people like this transition.

My parents were like that. My mother “wore the trousers”. They were terrified of anyone finding out. They had few friends. Relations with people outside the family were at arms length. We were terribly concerned with appearances- I still am- and I had to appear to be a real man. I was delighted when I started to grow body hair as I would not appear so runtlike.

In 2013, three months before he died, I had my first honest conversation about this with my father. It was not deep or detailed, but we acknowledged it to each other. In the late Nineties, in my early thirties, after my mother had died I decided it was time to rebel against my parents, and I have been doing teenage ever since. I was completely under my mother’s thumb. I am Scots. I have an English accent because my mother was English.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor brought up in a fundamentalist church, still reacts to other female pastors- a voice in her head says women should not teach in church. She resisted that voice, and now has come to terms with it. In the same way introjects thoughts still bully me for being unmanly, or say other trans women ought not to be that way, the way I am myself.

Transition allowed me to accept myself. I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and not seeing that as weak sick perverted disgusting ridiculous and illusory has been a struggle. My slender arms and hands are beautiful. I could only appreciate my body as beautiful after transition. I wanted transition more than anything else in the world. A woman I knew was in a wheelchair with MS, and I would have swapped lives with her.

Transition gave me a framework of ideas, words and stories which enabled me to see clearly, appreciate and value who I really am. My introjects still say I am unmanly, and that is a bad thing, but I am not so scared of them any more.

Sara Ahmed shows how hard it is for people to admit anything is wrong. So when someone complains, they may be treated as the problem. To admit their complaint is justified and someone else is a wrongdoer is too terrifying. A university may have an inclusion policy to signal virtue rather than to correct its faults.

I am a symbol. I am one every man is entitled to despise, such as the man who came to my meeting house four days before the sentencing hearing at which he was imprisoned. When he said to me “look mate, I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman” that was a personal challenge, claiming his right to contempt for me. Friends have a blind spot on that, as if it were a simple observation.

I was cycling to Meeting when a car passed me selfishly and dangerously. When he stopped because a car in front was turning right, I overtook and shouted at him. He was very angry. He shouted “I’ll kill you, you fucking poof. You need killing.” I was distressed at this, and when before Meeting (not during worship) I expressed the depths of that distress, Friends objected.

A Friend asked how can WPUK be a hate group? She knows people who give out their leaflets. It is a hate group because it spreads hate and fear through lies and half-truths.

If gender recognition reform is ever enacted, it will be merely symbolic. Few people who would not have transitioned otherwise will transition because of it. It will not affect the rules about women’s spaces and services. It will indicate that the law accepts us slightly less grudgingly. I Affirmed in a statutory declaration that I intended to live as a woman life long, and there is no serious suggestion that requirement might be withdrawn. I had to get a letter from a psychiatrist on a list of specialists confirming I am transsexual, and he charged me £100, which many cannot afford.

If my Equality Act rights were rolled back, it would also be symbolic: women would not be any safer, or feel safer. 40,000 mostly harmless trans people are no real threat to women, and the threatening ones could be better dealt with under existing law. But I will be the person every woman, as well as every man, will be entitled to despise. And one way of living out gender diversity will become more difficult, and oppressive gender stereotypes will gain more power.

I have worked hard to support anti-trans campaigners who are Quaker- to bring them together, and to help their voice be heard; to empathise with their concerns, and find common ground. I believe these Quakers should be heard in our discernment. I do this because I see in them the same discomfort with gender stereotypes that I feel myself.

And gender stereotypes are all-pervasive and oppressive. Friends should therefore support any way people have of subverting or escaping them, including transition.