Quaker unity

The idea of Unity is at the heart of Quakerism, yet we rarely try to define it. Instead we use the word as if we all know what it means. There are about seventy uses of the word in Quaker Faith and Practice, and from the context of each we might gain an idea of it.

In the Bible, NRSV, it appears seven times:

Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life for evermore.

Here unity is in our common life, and it makes that life bright and beautiful. It is God’s anointing, and life-giving water.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Ephesians 4.11-13 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

I read this as having maturity, the same faith and knowledge that Christ had, which will bind us together in unity. If we are in touch with what Quakers call the Inner Light, as Jesus was, we will live in unity together.

It was a Quaker word from the beginning. Edward Burrough wrote in 1662 of making decisions in love, coolness, gentleness and dear unity. All these words are aspects of one way of relating. Isaac Penington might find unity with anyone he meets, when he found the spirit and life in them. Francis Howgill repeatedly echoed the new testament in his description of worship, including 1 Peter: We met together in the unity of the Spirit, and of the bond of peace, treading down under our feet all reasoning about religion. George Fox wrote of our “unity in the Spirit” and Margaret Fell of “peace, love and unity,” both to people outside the new movement: it is a common English word, and Christians would understand it just as they understood Christian love. For William Penn, when someone ministered in meeting the rest, recognising the leadings of Christ, would adhere with a firm unity. Elizabeth Fry feared the snare of spiritual pride in the sense of religious unity.

Unity is a state of our being in eternity: Job Scott wrote of everlasting unity shortly before his death; we are in unity with the living and the dead. And unity is a process. We continually achieve it, in our meetings for worship as they gather, (when two or three gather together I am with them) and our meetings for worship for business. It is not in words and doctrines: We have sought unity through agreement in doctrines and institutions; and the track of church history, like some new road through the desert, is strewn with the parched skeletons of our failures. For John Punshon, we might find it with Methodists in communion- I am like you, and we share one faith in God- though Friends might disapprove, or counsel against. It is from God, and it is part of our wordless human, primate, mammalian way of being with each other when our words and our conflict fall away. Our differences are always present. How we deal with those differences is our continuing work, with God’s help. Iain Law feared breaking unity and his friendships if he ministered of his experiences in his meeting.

In business meeting we sometimes all join together in a certainty of immediate rightness and sometimes one will acquiesce in the discernment of their Friends, after they have been heard. As a worshipping community, particularly in our local and area meetings, we have a continuing responsibility to nurture the soil in which unity may be found. John Woolman found Quaker work best done with the discerned assent of the Meeting.  The Yearly Meeting struggled to find unity on sexuality in 1994, and found it sixteen years later. There is unity in the search and the struggle together.

In the struggle to find unity, in finding the beauty of what one other has found and valued, we may grow. One Friend’s boldness leads us on. We might seek a feeling of safety from uniformity of outward practices and observations, or from creeds, but that is not true unity, which we find in Jesus.

Our differences persist, though mostly unexpressed, so in considering membership we need trust and a sense we are safe enough, for the moment. Rufus Jones wrote of the “hidden seed of God”, and for me our current exploration of privilege becomes relevant: we have differences of culture and of personality, and worldly ways of enforcing hierarchy come naturally and mostly unconsciously to us. We recognise we are at different stages along the way. We don’t require great achievement but sincerity of purpose. Boundaries are sketchy, because they cannot be defined beforehand in words but must be known in relationship in the moment: there are broad principles of belief and conduct on which unity is essential… even though precise agreement on every point is not required. Thomas Story wrote, The unity of Christians never did nor ever will or can stand in uniformity of thought and opinion, but in Christian love only.

Unity, and the sense of the presence of God, is our experience outside meeting: Anne Hosking found it kissing her children, and from the earliest days of Christianity we might find it in coitus. It is in our shared humanity- with everyone- so might be found in our most painful experiences such as bereavement.

Janet Scott wrote, This is the truth which we know and try to live … that every person is capable of response to the divine Spirit; that this Spirit, or Light, or God reaches out to each one directly and freely; that if we follow the leadings of this Spirit faithfully we are led out of sin into unity with the divine will; that this unity leads us into love of and care for all humankind, who are our kin; that what the Spirit shows us is living truth which cannot be fettered by words.

Two chapter headings include the word. Chapter 25 is Unity of Creation, arguing that All species and the Earth itself have interdependent roles within Creation. Humankind is not the species, to whom all others are subservient, but one among many. And, This is a marvellous world, full of beauty and splendour; it is also an unrelenting and savage world, and we are not the only living things prone to dominate if given the chance. In our fumbling, chaotic way, we do also make gardens, irrigate the desert, fly to the moon and compose symphonies. There is a unity of the human species, and of the biosphere.

Chapter 27 is Unity and Diversity. God’s truth is too wide for one person, or even perhaps one religion. John Woolman found it among the “Indians”, and Robert Barclay in the Turks. Henry Hodgkin, a Quaker missionary, wrote in 1933 I believe that God’s best for another may be so different from my experience and way of living as to be actually impossible to me. I recognise [a change] to have taken place in myself, from a certain assumption that mine was really the better way, to a very complete recognition that there is no one better way, and that God needs all kinds of people and ways of living through which to manifest himself in the world. We might also find truth among other Christians, for example in Thomas Merton’s contemplative prayer, but these things may be too close to us, and QFP does not say this. We value the Bible, and the Spirit which is above it. We have our reasons for rejecting specific consecrated sacraments, and ordained ministry.

Seven Samaritans

I am scared of phoning the Samaritans. I have an idea of what I want to do with the conversation, which terrifies me. My judgment that I am worthless, without the most basic resilience or intelligence, is mine, and I feel that it comes from my childhood. However from the same place comes my judgment that I had an unexceptionable childhood, and that no-one would be affected negatively by it except someone who was worthless, stupid and disgustingly fragile.

“You were tortured,” Liz said, referring to how hurt I appeared in 2011.

I had the thought that I would talk about my childhood with the Samaritans. I would project my judgment on them that there was nothing wrong with my childhood, so saying it would take my courage. Then, in speaking it out loud I would advance towards believing my childhood really was difficult. I was not in this position because I was worthless. Unfortunately, I could not have the conversation I desired.

I explained to the first what I wanted, and he took control, asking questions. When in answer to a question I said I noticed I felt worthless when I was twenty, he asked “Did something happen when you were twenty?” Yes; but something to make me notice the feeling, not something to cause it for the first time. I was fed up with his questions. I was afraid of addressing the question: I would talk about my childhood, and believed he would find nothing wrong with it. As I was psyching myself up to start, he filled the silence with distracting questions. So I rang off.

The second wanted to explain his role to me in great detail. He listens because he makes mistakes himself, he said, though he should not have told me that, he said. Everyone suffers with depression and anxiety, he said. If you’ve locked your door then gone back to check it’s locked that’s obsessive-compulsive, he said. There’s no stigma here.

The third wanted to explore the fact that I might get help anywhere else? Have you had counselling? he demanded. Yes. “Has it helped with strategies?” Oh, you mean like cognitive behavioural therapy. No, I am trying to get to the root of the problem, why I feel the feeling so I can lay it to rest, not how I can tell it it’s stupid and drag it around with me. “Are you on any meds?” No. “Have you spoken with your doctor?” Erm. “How are you feeling today?” “Is it an especially bad day?”

-You’ve just asked two questions, I said. Which do you think is the most important?
-Is it an especially bad day today, he said. No.
-How do you think we can help?
-I am frightened of you, and I want to face my fear.
-Why?
-Because I am projecting judgment on to you. Does that make sense to you?
-No. We don’t judge.

I rang off again. I find women Samaritans more useful, so when the fourth to answer was the fourth man in a row, I rang off immediately. (Hello! Any Samaritans reading this?)

The fifth was a woman, called Samantha, who thought we had spoken before. I felt mild embarrassment at that, but when you phone them as often as I do it’s possible, I suppose. She said they try not to remember calls. In a brief moment, facing my fear, I thought, I want to convince them it was unbearable, but not by showing pain or distress in my voice. I want to talk rationally, as if communicating my feeling by tone of voice would not be an acceptable way of convincing them. That is, I devalue my emotions, at least for this purpose. I want to persuade by rational argument, and as I am projecting judgment it is that I need to persuade myself. As I faced my fear, she interrupted to tell me to get on with it. They have lots of callers to speak to. Have you had help?

Yes. Counselling over decades. Sorry to trouble you.

I ring off again.

With the sixth I realised I did not just fear judgment, which I was quite clear I was projecting, but also incomprehension, which was only partially projected. I needed to convince myself of the difficulties of my childhood leading to my ongoing feeling of worthlessness.

I am not just calling to confuse Samaritan volunteers. I am in need, and have nowhere else to go. My seventh call was to another Liz. I said I needed to make a declaration to another human being. I started by saying good things people have said of me, and that I believe them: in fact when someone pays me a compliment I write it down in order to squeeze every last drop of affirmation from it. Friends have called me “bold and brave and honest and open”, and see kindness, gentleness, tenderness and tenacity, courage, authenticity, insight, integrity, and concern for others in me. I do too. And I felt worthless, because of the difficulties of my childhood.

We discussed my childhood for a bit.
-Your feelings were not appreciated, she said.
-No.
-That must have been tough.

The relief I feel hearing that is great. I am understood. She sympathises. Perhaps in her eyes I am not worthless.

-How do you get on with your parents now?
-They are both dead.
-How did you feel about that?
-Relief. (That’s not the whole of it, but a large part of it. I can love them now they can’t hurt me any more.)

-Are there people now who make you feel worthless?
Enough to keep my old conviction simmering.

We also establish that my desires were not appreciated, such that I did not know what I wanted. I had no particular friends, and was not given choices. We ate meals together, and talked of current affairs: there was one right way to see current affairs, that Thatcher was Britain’s saviour, which is not an opinion I cleave to now. I say how devoted my father was to self-improvement, reading and treating high culture as work, which he must concentrate on to gain appreciation. I say my mother wore the trousers, and this was something we could not discuss.

Liz wants me to look in the mirror and affirm myself. She keeps mentioning this. “Look in the mirror and say, ‘I am not worthless’.” I want to say it to her, and I want to say it with my whole being, with all of me accepting and believing it. I am not there yet. However, in continuing conversation I say with a part of me, in a soft voice, “I am not worthless”. Then with a rational, conversational part of me I say “I am not worthless”.

I have faced a lot of challenges. I tell her of Dr Patel. I did not just want to be invisible, not to be noticed because it was a threat. Nor did my father. I wanted what I saw to be right. This comes from integrity.

I called the Samaritans this afternoon, and eventually had the healing conversation I had wanted. And this evening, I am not saying “I am not worthless” but, sometimes calmly and confidently, sometimes repeatedly,

I have value.

Smiling, and even believing it!

I had a dreadful childhood. I was kept warm and well-fed, and pushed to academic success, and my feelings, desires and even my very nature were so systematically devalued by my parents especially my mother that I could not value, or even perceive them. I was taught to hide my nature in terror and pretend to be normal, and not even to realise that was what I was doing. I could not have typed this paragraph yesterday, and even now it starts with the positives, reducing the weight of that word “dreadful”. The positives are there and they do not begin to mitigate the depth of the trauma. Acknowledging it is a step to healing it.

Uppity trans

I don’t want to ask for permission any more. I don’t want to tell my hurt in a desperate quest for sympathy, because if they sympathise with my hurt they might not be so horrible to me. Rather, if I tell my hurt I am written off as hysterical, emotional, not worth listening to.

I ask you to tell your hurt so you will cease to be the expert social scientist and become the hysterical woman, and people will laugh at you.

I ask you to tell your hurt so that people might genuinely be sympathetic, and be motivated to take action against the wrongs you have suffered.

I am ambivalent about this.

The Jews who called for a vote to defeat Labour at the last election appalled me. They would pick on some evidence that Mr Corbyn is anti-semitic, rather than pacifist and supporting oppressed groups, and so boycott Labour giving a boost to the racist, homophobic and probably anti-semitic Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a psychopathic liar. This article offends me in so many ways, particularly this bit: [Jonathan] Sacks wrote his book as an eloquent critique of multiculturalism, and a plea for Britons to find a way to build a common culture predicated on respect for difference. What Sacks does not describe is the one form of unity that arose from multiculturalism: intersectionality, where diverse groups have come together in a shared culture of victimhood and a shared hatred of Jews. As Sohrab Ahmari wrote in these pages: “Precisely because it is a theory of generalized victimhood, intersectionality targets the Jews–the 20th century’s ultimate victims.” No, intersectionality is about seeing people’s disadvantages, so that we may work together against them. You are not the only group suffering victimisation, and your insistence that you are repels me.

I don’t like members of disadvantaged groups pretending that theirs is the only disadvantaged, or the most disadvantaged, group. It just sets groups against each other. I don’t want merely to dismiss arguments for such a position- some speak to me, for example this one“The older generation in the African American community, they kind of bristle at the fact that same-sex marriage is being compared to the civil rights movement,” says Maryland Delegate Keiffer J. Mitchell, who represents part of Baltimore and voted for gay marriage. “People would throw bottles, cuss at us, say all sorts of names, just because of the color of our skin,” Derek McCoy [a pastor and campaigner against equal marriage] recalls about his childhood in the South. “So I can’t imagine that we can equate the redefinition of marriage to the civil rights struggle.” I hear your pain. I do. And gay people have also suffered violence, even murder, and daily abuse.

When I use the word “uppity” in my title, I am alluding to Black people’s struggle, as it was a word used to condemn them. I am nervous about claiming the word. Yet I am claiming it.

I abhor the selfishness of that Jew. How dare he pretend his victimhood is greater than others’? It’s not just the Holocaust, of course, it’s the exile from England, amongst other things- the oppression of English Jews was shocking, and the persecution and murder runs throughout the ages- yet that does not entitle him to dismiss the suffering of gay people Black people Muslims or others any more than an Eton-educated white straight non-Jewish man should.

Yet I love this bit.

This electoral result is truly a source of jubilation and celebration; but what occurred in Anglo Jewry before the election is worth celebrating as well. The stand taken by Rabbis Sacks and Mirvis, and others in England, should inspire Jewish pride everywhere. After centuries as guests in an English “country home,” and decades as targets of the multicultural left, British Jews spoke as equals in their country.

Of course he is delighted. They stood up and said loud and proud,

THIS IS OUR RIGHT!

I would like to speak in that way too. Anyone may be broken by prejudice. That’s why we don’t play oppression olympics: however little it seems to other people, you may be crushed by it. I need the hate to bounce off my shield of righteousness. “Fucking poof!” that man screams at me, and I laugh at him, because he is laughable, a dimwit consumed by his hate.

There is a time for apology and circumspection, and “if the rest of you don’t mind”, and a time for assertion. This is who I am. If the assertion is honest, confident and unforced, we might even be accepted on our own estimation!

Are women the victims of prejudice amongst Quakers? Just because there are 66% more female members and attenders than male, does not make this impossible.

Language, truth and reality

Winston Smith wrote in his diary, Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4. That means there is a shared reality, where we all know that 2+2=4, and each person has the freedom to state it. Someone riposted no, freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=5. Powerful people state what reality is, for example We have always been at war with Eastasia, and the rest of us have to go along with that.

People on the moderate left tend to believe in reality humans can investigate, where, say, climate catastrophe is being caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and Mr Trump is wilfully denying that, but who knows what Trump believes? He really might believe something because it is in his interests to do so.

When I was a child there were nine planets, and there are now, as far as I know: but Pluto has been redefined as a dwarf planet and Konstantin Batygin’s planet nine has been hypothesised but not observed. I could not assess the weight of Batygin’s evidence, and I could not say whether there is some agreed need to observe it before declaring it exists though there appears to be. When I was a child, a kilobyte was 1024 bytes, and now it is 1000. 1024 bytes is now a kibibyte.

A sacked writer about taxation issues, echoing Winston, wants the freedom to say “Sex is real”. Of course it is, but not all the implications she wants to make from that follow. I don’t name her because her power comes from her notoriety and I call it notoriety rather than fame because I disapprove of her. Here I am, trying to mould reality with the words I use. I say “Trans women are women” and you agree with me, and freedom and human diversity and flourishing are enhanced, and she and her ilk say “transwomen are men” and they are not disagreeing with us, they are using language differently. It is a power struggle not a search for truth.

Michel Foucault said, We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it ‘excludes’, it ‘represses’, it ‘censors’, it ‘abstracts’, it ‘masks’, it ‘conceals’. In fact power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth.

You wanted to tell me something was going to happen that I would find difficult. You called me up and asked me not to tell anyone, and I said I was minded to promise but would not do so yet. You explained slowly and carefully why, and I agreed that was brave and possibly the right thing to do. I then promised, and started trying to explain something (I hope my allusions here are sufficiently nebulous not to have broken that promise). I was concerned I might be telling you things I had told you before, and I wanted to tell quickly a lot of information, and I became incoherent. A sentence might make sense by itself but not with the one before or after, then the sentences broke down. I don’t know what I said.

Richard Rohr says the myths of heroic sacrifice or redemptive suffering can prevent us from rebounding from rock bottom. I don’t know what keeps me here. Possibly the prejudice of others, possibly some error in me, wrongful desires or misperceptions. Evolution says that if we are more likely to reproduce if we don’t see reality, then we won’t see reality.

I felt that I wanted to play the Chopin A major prelude, and wondered if it would be too much work, my wrist and finger strength, my dexterity having faded, even the brain structures necessary having atrophied with lack of use. (The plastic brain is another truth new since my childhood.) It is beautiful. Those leaps in the left hand when the first melody comes back fortissimo are difficult. Could I learn it again? Could I apply myself, which would mean trusting myself?

I have difficulty knowing what I want, especially when it makes no sense to me.

I wanted to write, just now, thinking this would get me somewhere. I was weeping while hand-washing my towels. I thought, and the thought seemed like a huge revelation, if I can realise when I am incoherent possibly I could realise when I was resisting the world, rather than acting to change it?

And, perhaps, if I stopped trying so hard to mould reality, I could see it?

After, I read in Richard Rohr: Humility is the truth. That is to say, humility is the capacity to accept whatever happens, peacefully. Then you can decide whether God is calling you simply to accept the situation, or to do something to improve or correct it. Humility is a constant and permanent disposition that puts one in tune with the universe and with whatever is happening in the present moment.

Not quite a love letter

Possibly I never see another person at all, just echoes of myself. If someone’s experience is different from my own, understanding it would be hard work. I could break it down into the most archetypal experience- loneliness, desire, desperation, determination- or perhaps run into one of my blocks against seeing some quality I found too threatening.

In one of my many personal growth workshops we were told to observe qualities in each other, then told that we saw it in others because it was in ourselves. Paul saw “grace” in me. I was asked what I wanted to say to you. I suppose it is this:

I know you. I know your brilliance, your bravery, your integrity, and I know some of your hurt. I don’t require you to share your hurt here, in front of a crowd, but I feel that if you did it might help us to move forward on the issue you have been speaking about (I don’t know a name for that issue we could necessarily agree on) and possibly on the matter of women’s rights and women’s oppression as well.

I supported you as long as I did because of those qualities. I don’t ask for your feeling, because that is obvious: revulsion at others’ choices, disbelief rooted in shock. It is quite clear this is personal: if you could say why, we might get somewhere. You try to save others because you could not save yourself.

Here I am talking to myself, perhaps. I am the one who imagines I know the answer, that I can work it out rationally, that I can explain why it is the right answer rationally so that everyone will be persuaded. Or, I am the one who thinks it’s all about feeling, all about me, about people so similar to me that your fear or revulsion of them is indistinguishable from being of me. If you cut her, I will bleed too.

My certainty, and perhaps yours, is the block. Perhaps, perhaps I do not see at all, perhaps I am whistling in the dark. Others have said something similar- “I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope” and all that.

Possibly you are just right and I am wrong and I should just give up. Yet, ridiculously, I hope that there might be something we could both agree on. I think you, and I too, give too much weight to real or imagined threat.

I want to say, we are alike! But if you can’t see it, perhaps we are not. Alike in that our weirdness is complementary. Is everyone oppressed by gender, or are some particularly so? Surely, no-one could like the feminine gender stereotypes. You saw I was oppressed by male stereotypes. I don’t know if you make the further leap: if I can like femininity, then cis women might too. But then, the concept of femininity is incoherent.

This is not a love letter because “What I would say to you” relates to the disagreement, to your public position on trans issues. There is nothing else now. Yet that so much relates to who I see you to be that it remains as personal as a love letter would be. You have not betrayed me but I fear you betray yourself.

Wait without hope, because surrendering the clearly set out rational case to get the actual human encounter (Oh! Not you and me! I don’t presume to that!) one cannot know what will come out of it.

Authoritarian transphobia

Are anti-trans campaigners fascist, authoritarian, or all right-wing? Arguably.

What is fascism? This source says, ultranationalism, illiberalism, a strong impulse to regiment society, and the forcible suppression of opposition. Roger Griffin defined fascism by its core myth, national rebirth achieved by revolution, which he called palingenetic ultranationalism. Fascism in Britain opposes immigration, and claims rights for “indigenous” white people against others, saying the people or the culture are diluted by immigration. It might be possible to argue opposing transition is fascist like opposing immigration, but seems a bit of a stretch.

I don’t want to call them fascist, because of the monstrosity of fascist regimes in Europe and South America. The “strong impulse to regulate society”- well, they claim transition is a threat to trans men and to children, and that trans women are a threat to cis women- is not enough to be fascist by itself.

Are they authoritarian? Bob Altemayer defined authoritarian as right-wing, being three attitudes: (1) authoritarian submission –a high degree of submission to the authorities who perceived to be established and legitimate in the society where one lives (2) authoritarian aggression –a general aggressiveness, directed against various persons, which is perceived to be sanctioned by established authorities (3) conventionalism –a high degree of adherence to the social conventions that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities. I found that here. However Britain is still part of European human rights structures, which mandate self-declaration of trans people, though the Conservative party now entrenched in power on a minority of votes cast last month proposes to change that. We have a strong strain of social liberalism in this country, that people should be able to choose our lifestyles, or live authentically as we are.

Again, their desire is to create a group against whom general aggressiveness is sanctioned, rather than follow an authority. In the past, society as a whole was prejudiced against LGBT people, and has grown more accepting; anti-trans campaigners want to roll that back.

So they are right-wing, promoting or entrenching a hierarchy, rather than left-wing, promoting equality. Even there they might demur- they are fighting for women’s rights, they say. The right wing trans excluder says women are different from men, socially, so trans women are not women. The left-wing trans excluder says women are oppressed, and that the only relevant difference is the reproductive system. I have some sympathy with that: women are oppressed, by sexist attitudes and by sexual harassment. However trans exclusion will not benefit women’s rights, and the far right is funding TERFs.

The anti-trans campaigners want to create a hate group. They say trans women are a threat, mock us, and claim to fear us. In that, creating a hate group by themselves, without following an authority, they might be seen as hard-right insurgents or even fascist, moulding social attitudes in an authoritarian direction, but that diverts debate onto whether they are authoritarian, right wing or fascist generally, and what these things mean. Many anti-trans campaigners will be liberal and left-wing concerning other opinions.

Claims that free speech is under threat are mainly on the right. Winston Smith said Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4– to state obvious truths, or to state what I see as truth even if widely denied- and they want the freedom to say “sex is real”, “trans women are men”. However, again, this is a means, not an end: the end is to make trans people an excluded group, mocked and vilified. Use of right wing tools in one instance does not make them right-wing. They want to stop us using our language. They claim they are not anti-trans, just for trans people to have the same rights as everyone else, for example that trans women, being men, should not enter women’s spaces. They refuse the words TERF, cis, trans woman. Control of language is a source of power, but creating or forbidding words and phrases as a way to promote or suppress particular ideas is a tool of right and left.

So I would not say that the anti-trans campaigners are authoritarians, or fascist, or right-wing; just that they want to create a hate group. That is bad enough. That cuts to the heart of what they are doing. Women will be no safer and no better off if all trans women are excluded, and trans people will be considerably worse off. Feminist campaigning energy is being diverted from punching up, and seeking reform which might do women some good, towards punching down at trans people.

If my freedom to live my life as a trans woman is denied, everyone is less free. That should be enough to condemn the anti-trans campaign.

How gender recognition could change society

Gender recognition may cost people. An increase in the numbers of people obtaining legal gender recognition might increase the likelihood that a business would encounter a transitioned or transitioning employee or customer. This may require such organisations to incur costs in formulating policies. Or indeed costs in training staff.

I was black affronted at that. No-one should profit from blighted lives. If gender recognition encourages people to transition and live as ourselves, we will flourish and live better. So we will contribute more to the economy, incidentally. And if businesses encounter more transitioned people, we become familiar. People realise our eccentricity does not really matter. We might buy more from them.

This was from the business regulatory impact assessment for the Scottish Government’s gender recognition consultation. Yes, these things are dull, and occasionally they show us how others see us, as a potential problem. What if an employee says something rude? I might be liable to a court case! Oh, mercy-me…

The impact assessment on the Registrar General for Scotland, which would take over from the English-funded Gender Recognition Panel, suggests set-up costs of £300,000-£350,000, running costs of £150,000, and annual applicant numbers of around 250, extrapolated from Irish and Danish numbers. Scotland has around a twelfth of the UK population. In Great Britain there were about 2,500 applicants last year, a huge increase: in 2016 it was about 250, and there were only 4910 GRCs issued from 2004-2018. So even though we have to pay high fees and get medical certificates, and even though there was a promise of a simpler system, and even though it is purely symbolic and entitles us to nothing at all in itself, we are still seeking GRCs, and have reached the levels the Scottish government expects on a self-declaration system: this means the numbers expected all have specialist psychiatrist’s diagnoses. The idea that anyone seeking a GRC would not be a “real transsexual” is a myth.

The Scottish government is willing to spend £1000 per applicant for three years (factoring in the set-up costs) falling to £600 per applicant after that.

Under the current scheme there have been two appeals against a refusal to grant a gender recognition certificate, one in the High Court in England, which was successful. I have not found the Court of Session appeal.

Widows and widowers can get a pension from their deceased spouse’s pension scheme. When civil partnerships started in 2005, this right only applied to pension contributions made after 2005. Similarly with equal marriage: a gay marriage survivor of a deceased partner would only get a pension based on contributions since 2005. Less money if you’re gay.

However the Supreme Court reversed that in 2017. Pensions for surviving spouses are equalised.

Trans people are disadvantaged, but the Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment cannot state how many more of us are homeless or jobless than the general population. They do say that 53% of trans people, and 42% of cis people in Scotland, have an annual income less than £20,000. And among 35-44 year olds, 6% of cis people are not in education or employment, but 21% of trans people.

National Records of Scotland are proposing to include a trans status question in the 2021 census. TERF Joan McAlpine, MSP, intervened to ensure the question did not “conflate sex with gender identity” when the Bill was introduced in June, and TERFs are still huffing away about it now. The question is apparently not yet drafted, though “A binary sex question with self-identification guidance therefore supports participation for all people with the census and clarifies to data providers and data users the basis of the question.”

Having different fees for a GRC, for people with different income, could cost more in administration than the higher bands raised. If the Registrar decides to charge fees there will be yet another consultation.

There’s a Data Protection Impact Assessment on how data on gender recognition will be stored, at which point I finally glazed over.

all that there is of me

I was acting as if I still had male privilege- as if, after seventeen years, I did not know what transition means.

It is a vicious spiral. Once I lost my temper, that became the only important thing for them. I would not promise not to do it again, because having done it once I am not sure I am capable. This is humility rather than arrogance: I am saying “I don’t know I can” not “I don’t feel the need to try”. However it stops them listening, and makes it more difficult for me to feel understood, which is the thing most likely in the world to get me worked up.

Then, I am not sure. “I will try not to do it again” might not be good enough for them. I could ask them to think of it in terms of behavioural psychology: after I lost my temper, do they think behavioural psychology, preventing that response in the future by applying a sanction, works with me?

Mmm. I don’t think they trust me. I may be projecting.

“If I still had male privilege”? I have seen bullying amongst Quakers, and people refusing to be corrected even after others have pointed out where they are wrong. It’s always been by men, of high status in and out of Quakers.

So I offered to resign, and the next stage should be two people visiting me to try to restore unity. I suppose it depends what unity means. If they don’t think unity is restored, then they accept my resignation.

They could use my blog against me, I suppose. Even if I think, I have a high concept of truth, truth is complex and I cannot understand it so I write to find facets of it, they might ignore that and say, she wrote this so she must believe it, like a normal person, and therefore she is unacceptable. I write to try to find out what I think, or even to put an idea in words to push it as far as it will go, even to contradiction, and still.

I want- of course- to get away with as much as possible, I thought, but that is not quite it. I had the idea of the cardboard Quaker, who sits quietly in worship, is calm and polite, and never says or does anything that surprises or offends anyone else in the slightest. I think that is pointless.

I still see myself as a Quaker, so I take part in Quaker gatherings- I even hope to go to the yearly meeting gathering. I probably won’t be organising the Quaker worship at Greenbelt this year, but I wrote to a few people with the intent of ensuring it happens. Possibly, someone will organise it just so as to ensure I don’t.

I see myself as a good person! It is a good thing, and if someone else organises it all I get is some confirmation of my judgment. I think my judgment has value, that what I work on has value. I serve, and I want to continue serving. I fear that will indicate to them that I have not sufficiently taken to heart how bad I am.

My hurt was hard for my Friends to bear, but it was unbearable for me. And then in autumn 2016 I thought I should be bearing it, and not putting it on my Friends; and in autumn 2018 I made huge steps towards bearing it; and then I lost control, yet again, and that was the last straw.

I have apologised.

Should they have to bear the possibility that I get angry again? But then, can I guarantee not to?

I would rather be right than happy. What do you hope for? Possibly the wrong thing, because I can’t hope for anything better: isolated moments when I feel really, really right, even if isolated even more, rather than ongoing relationship. I am not sure what ongoing relationship would look like.

Again this is blogging! I say things to see where they go. This is not a final statement.

I think the problem with that Quaker meeting could be said to be another person, probably more than one, but I seem to have provoked a widespread agreement that the problem is me. I don’t know how not to be that which they find uncomfortable and problematic. I feel if they really knew me they would know I was worth all the aggravation.

I could have that on a t-shirt. I’m worth the aggravation! But they don’t want aggravation at all. I would say it is an inescapable part of human relationship.

There are degrees of connection, of relationship. Some people see each other very deeply and rawly, but most people don’t want that and couldn’t cope with it.

Can they cope with my authentic self? Am I ever my authentic self? I am always in some mask or other, perhaps. Am I ever not my authentic self? I can hardly step out of myself and hand over control of my body to something which is not an aspect of me.

I can come out with phrases which I call wisdom-bollocks: short enough for a meme or facebook share. For example, One should take time to respond rather than reacting. That is simply true, and it is not always helpful to point it out. It misses something.

I can say that I know losing control is a bad thing and I don’t want to do it.

I know I cannot promise never to feel wronged. I might find better ways of dealing with it, more effective for me as well as more acceptable for others.

-You are too much for some people. You must find the ones that can actually hold the diverse parts of you.
-I can’t do that myself. But I will reject none of it.

I am drawn to the wisdom of much younger women sharing wisdom with their own age group. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.

Trans and politicians

The Labour Party leadership contest is on. What are the candidates saying about trans people? What would we like them to say?

There is a principled position- trans women are women, trans people know who we are, including trans children. And there is a “principled position”- sex is real, gender is meaningless; there should be no men in women’s spaces; trans women are men; children are under threat from trans ideology. It’s nasty, it’s unrelenting and it is unwilling to compromise.

So what I want is pragmatism. I want politicians to affirm certain clear truths: it is wrong to judge a class of people by one or two individuals. It is a propagandist way of fomenting hate. Even if someone can name a trans rapist and several trans people she dislikes, most trans people are decent folk trying to live ordinary lives. Trans women are mostly harmless, and mockery and hatemongering is wrong. No man will pretend to be trans in order to assault women: rapists don’t need to. Yes “sex is real”, but gender is all-pervasive in the culture and some people deal with gender nonconformity by transitioning. Children below puberty may identify as trans, and allowing them social transition in school improves their mental health. All children should be supported and bullying is unacceptable. Children above puberty are not a threat until proved so, if they are trans they can be accepted in schools in their true gender. Children who feel safe, valued and respected will thrive and seek their own best interests. With an increase in child referrals, child gender clinics need more funding and more training for professionals.

You have a right to free speech, but if you claim the right to insult someone you may suffer consequences. The law, which says trans women can enter women’s space but be excluded if that’s reasonable (a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”) is good enough.

Then we could get over the drama. There is a huge amount of abuse: when Jess Phillips tweeted “I was one of the MPs who wrote the report on improving trans rights” an anti-trans campaigner made an excellent point: “Nothing you do or say will ever be enough”. Exactly. He meant for the “Trans Rights Activists” who s/he thinks make unreasonable demands, but the transphobe who tweeted that she is a “traitor to her sex” won’t be satisfied by anything less than total ideological purity either. And some oaf tweeted “Can’t wait for you to lose embarrassingly”: twitter is a place for hatred and spite where opposing groups meet, and for extremists to encourage each other into even more uncompromising positions.

There will be more direct questions. Keir Starmer said something worthwhile, and a video is circulating: We have instinctively to protect and defend, and we mustn’t make a political football and I’m really worried on this particular issue that a particularly vulnerable group is being used as a political football across the Labour Party and we have to deal with it in a much much better way than that and the Government has effectively now abandoned this and any legislative change I think won’t come under this Government so we’ve got to make the argument on this loud and clear and start with the proposition that this is a group, a small group of people who have been subjected to incredible abuse and discrimination for a very very long time.

Precisely. He did not say what “the argument” was, so he could weasel out of challenges from the transphobes, but it’s pretty clear he is not condemning the small, vulnerable group (us).

And, let them move on! Jess Phillips worked in women’s refuges. Of course she is interested in, say, the Weinstein trial. As the Weinstein trial begins I am reminded of the bravery of those who spoke truth to power– neatly including her slogan for the leadership, Speak Truth. Win Power. Trans women should be too. Violence against women and girls is a women’s issue, so a trans women’s issue, so everyone should be concerned with it.

Lisa Nandy put it well: see her video.

More Simeon Solomon: the androgynous beauty of Bacchus.

Gender Expression Deprivation Anxiety Disorder

Transition is hard. Not transitioning can be harder.

These people are sad, depressed and deeply resentful… the more the individual struggles to rid themselves of gender dysphoria by increasing social and physical investments in their assigned sex, the greater the generalized anxiety and the harder it becomes to restart life sexually reassigned. I found Anne Vitale PhD on A Life Merely Glimpsed, whose writer identifies as a man who dreams of being a woman. There I also find Third Way Trans has stopped blogging, and made his blog private. Dr Vitale has reached her conclusions after decades of providing psychotherapy to gender variant patients. Now 71, she still maintains a website as a psychologist offering appointments by video call.

Dr Vitale says gynephile gender dysphoric AMAB people have an awful life, when they don’t transition. The androphiles have little difficulty expressing their femininity, dress androgynously and then transition successfully young. The gynephiles try to make men of ourselves. She was writing in 2003, and reporting childhood experiences in some cases from many years earlier. I hope no six year old boy would now be shamed for playing hopscotch with the girls- Arlene was brought to the front of the class, who were encouraged to laugh at her. The teacher had tied a broad pink ribbon to her. Now, some children transition.

Dr Vitale at first appears to blame intra-uterine hormones for gender identity- insufficient or inappropriate androgenization of the brain– but later says in some cases a “gender identity misunderstanding” can be “corrected” in some children. The explanation someone has for phenomena can affect their observations, as can any preconception. But I recognise the stories told. The children generally seek to fit in and follow the rules. They may be solitary, spending a lot of time reading or in solo sporting activity. They pray to God for transformation. In adolescence they cross-dress and masturbate.

In early adulthood many AMAB people present desperate to be told they are not transsexual, they fear transition so much. They can be particularly sexist- thinking negatively about women helps them fight the desire to be one. They think marrying, and then having children, will make their desires lessen.

Between 28 and 33 people generally reappraise their dreams and aspirations, and then gender dysphoric people may change sex or fight harder to stick to their assigned sex. In middle age those who have not transitioned may find the gender dysphoria gets worse as transition seems impossible, leading to depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks, despair and thoughts of suicide. One would close his office door, curl into the foetal position and weep- I only did that at home.

While Dr Vitale was aware of someone having GRS aged 71, other older people had low self-esteem and loathed their deteriorating bodies, though when aging reduced their testosterone levels that was a relief. Had they known their dysphoria was going to last, and be so dreadful, they say they would have transitioned when younger. They are depressed and resentful.

Written in 2003, this article anticipates the DSM V principle that the desire is not the mental health problem, rather the distress it causes is. Treatment should mitigate the distress. Dr Vitale observes hormones and surgery in most cases eliminate the anxiety. She says gender identity disorder is a continuum: some people will be satisfied with cross-dressing and do not need to transition.

This is an old article reporting twentieth century experience. Yet there are still older people who have not transitioned, who live closeted, who experience the distress and depression described. Younger people fighting against acknowledging their gender dysphoria, and terrified of transition, should consider how they would feel with similar desires in old age. Those who advocate against transition should be made to demonstrate some other treatment or course of action will produce better results.

Aware of mirrors in art in the Arnolfini portrait and Las Meninas by Velasquez, I magnified this mirror- but Simeon Solomon does not appear.