The “LGB Alliance” and charitable status

LGB All Liars, the campaign group against trans rights, has applied for charitable status, which would entitle them to apply for grants. I went digging. What is a charity? How can trans people oppose the claim of a hate group to be a “charity”? Update: they have been awarded “charitable” status: decision discussed below. 1 June 2021: there is a court action against this, showing LGB All Liars is clearly not a charity. Continue reading

Being a Trans Activist

How can I cope as a trans activist with all the hostility to trans people, especially in lockdown with all the uncertainty?

Someone shared an Etty Hillesum quote: Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world. In Occupied Amsterdam under the Nuremberg Laws, she put that into practice.

Someone wrote, And to claim peace, we must excavate our shadows, make the unconscious conscious, reclaim and accept all parts of self.

Contrast Hilary Mantel’s description of Stephen Gardiner: Master Stephen resents everything about his own situation. He resents that he’s the king’s unacknowledged cousin. He resents that he was put into the church, though the church has done well by him. He resents the fact that someone else has late-night talks with the cardinal, to whom he is confidential secretary. He resents the fact that he’s one of those tall men who are hollow-chested, not much weight behind him; he resents his knowledge that if they met on a dark night, Master Thos. Cromwell would be the one who walked away dusting off his hands and smiling. I know resentment. I know threat and conflict, even fleeing down unknown streets at night. Resentment is curdled anger. Anger may do something about a situation, resentment cannot. Resentment focuses on the “things we cannot change”, but the “wisdom to know the difference” is hard practice, especially if there are few things we can change.

I read that rights for trans women are rights for sex offenders. I object, and read that the statement is unobjectionable, even though I feel anxiety in the supermarket, partly feeling fear, unjustified at the moment, that I might be abused as a trans woman. Etty Hillesum bought toothpaste in a pharmacy, and a public spirited citizen challenged her: as a Jew, was she entitled to buy that? She replied she was. And there are public spirited men wanting to stand up for the rights of women against perverts, by which they mean me, and so far I only meet them on line.

I sat in the Quaker meeting, on Zoom, in my exercise. It is possible to challenge an ASA ruling: can I do that? I want the people who pay to tell everyone that I am dangerous, or might be so that no-one should take the risk, rebuked. And I can’t face doing the reading or the writing to make that happen. The answer comes: I can do it, if I can let go of attachment to outcomes. Taking advantage of a video call where I can mute the microphone, I repeat that to myself aloud. “You want to cling to it, and you stop further messages,” my friend said. Perhaps; and I want to accept it, take it into myself, and act on it, because surrendering the need for a particular outcome is difficult. I have seen that with benefits appeals: if people could accept the loss, and make the appeal because it was the thing they could do at that time, they would be far less stressed; and some of them won their appeals! But that is easy for me to say, and instead, often, they resented. I have seen that expressed as a Law of Change: The individuals and the group may have goals, but they may not have cherished outcomes. It is a hard lesson.

So I wrote my challenge, and sent it off, and now see that it would have been better had I spent more time on it, and read it over and revised it before sending. But I hated it too much to do that. I hated the advert and my hate extended to the work I did against it. I would rather not have to do that work. Or I hate my work because I anticipate it will be inadequate, it will not achieve the goal I desire. I will not work well if I hate what I do, only if I can pour love into it. I read that there is an infinite fountain of Love, which I can bathe in, draw strength from, send to wherever I see needs Love. For example, Etty: I should be quite unable to do the work were I not able to draw each day on that great reservoir of peace and maturity. I read that, but I am not sure I trust it or have learned how to do it yet.

Etty Hillesum is of course my teacher and not my comparator. On 15 July 1942 she was given a job with the Jewish Council, and wrote, Tomorrow I must betake myself to hell, and if I am to do the work properly, I shall have to get in a good night’s sleep… Despite the deadly fear I saw in all those faces. All those faces, my God, those faces! And later, They are merciless, totally without pity. And we must be all the more merciful ourselves. I love her ironic prayer: “Have You any other plans for me, O God?”

A last GĂ©ricault. Though this woman is in a room, her desolation is hardly less than the shipwrecked man’s.

Covid moodswings

The weather is beautiful. Living in the country, I can go cycling, and afterwards I sat in the back yard and had lunch. I met my new neighbour and his daughter, who is four, as they played together with bouncy-balls. He is an essential worker.

I sat in the sun yesterday as well. My upstairs neighbour, whom I have not met yet, occasionally kicked tiny stones off the flat roof. None landed on me, some landed near, and I wondered about going up and telling him off. I don’t know if he knew I was there. Especially after my friend was burgled for food4fuxache! Burgled for food!- this led me to paranoid thoughts appearing reasonable. It is the covid 19 lockdown, I thought, people will be angry and will be looking for a cat to kick, and the first resource will be us queers. Thank God simply being queer is no longer an excuse as it was in the nineties, but they will imagine excuses for hostility easily.

After the isolation was announced- only essential workers can go out to work, others can work from home if they can, I can go out for one period of exercise a day, and once for essential shopping as infrequently as possible, and as far as I am concerned my common yard is staying at home- I thought, well, actually, I feel quite good. There are rules, which give a false feeling of certainty. My comfort is old male Doctor Who. It’s not that I have anything against Jodie Whittaker, but I find Chris Chibnall mean and repulsive- I like mild threat and horror, but his situations are horrid rather than horrific. Spoiler for the latest episode: Time Lord cybermen in the wreck of the citadel are the last straw.

I want to talk to people. My friend proposed a video chat this morning then could not, as she had crises to deal with, and I was disappointed. So I went cycling, and paid attention to the beauty of grass, trees, sunshine- the sun sparkling on what I will call a brook by the road, though some might call it a drainage ditch. The rapid change of experience on these back roads, as they go up and down over the downs, among trees then open farmland. I paid attention to my momentary experience rather than fearful projections of what might happen. There was the effort of climbing hills and exhileration of descents.

Added: next day I went to the supermarket and got spaghetti, rice, fresh meat and fruit, bread and milk. I felt anxious, queuing up at the checkout. One of my anxieties was being picked on as trans. I stood and noticed the anxiety, and consciously accepted it, and then it bothered me less.

I took a lot of photos at that camp in 2012, and one of them has resurfaced. At the time, it might have been thought unflattering or uninteresting, but now it contains just the right level of seriousness.

And now, here’s today’s little drop of sunshine from ThĂ©odore GĂ©ricault.

Dinosaurs

What is a dinosaur?

A child could answer that question. It’s a huge animal that died out millions of years ago. As a child I could have named brontosaurus, triceratops, stegasaurus and, of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex, just as I could name nine planets in order. I would have included pteranodon. Then I read the “very basic concept” that “pterosaurs are not dinosaurs”, but birds are, so decided to look up a more scientific answer. Much of this comes from Wikipedia, which I will call Wrong.

I did not understand the first sentence, Dinosaurs are a diverse group of reptiles of the clade Dinosauria, because I did not know what a “clade” was. A clade is a common ancestor and all its descendants. The ancestor can be an individual, a population, a species, a genus, etc, as recent as you like: mammals, placental mammals, primates and great apes are all clades.

Because dinosaurs, properly and scientifically speaking, are a clade, birds are dinosaurs. To me as a child, the idea that a chirpy little thrush was a dinosaur would have made no sense at all, and as I write now I am wondering whether to still assert that common sense notion. (“Common sense” is what everyone knows, or almost everyone, even if it is wrong.) It makes sense to me to imagine a group of organisms sharing a set of characteristics, and one of those characteristics was Died Out at the end of the Cretaceous period or Mesozoic era. As a child I would have known the names of a few periods or eras, but not like my autistic friend the names of all eras and periods in order. And not the Hadean: the usage was only coined in 1972, and even now the International Commission on Stratigraphy calls it “informal”.

Still, the end of the dinosaurs, definitely the end of the Cretaceous, was the end of Interesting prehuman life for me, when I was a child. Eohippus, or even a sabre-toothed tiger, was not a patch on Tyrannosaurus Rex. I am unsure how widespread such a feeling is. I am interested in everything, but some things more than others. You can easily buy model tyrannosaurs for wee bairns to play with, and the bairns play enthusiastically, going

RWAARRRH!

as loudly as they can. (“Easily buy”- I meant, in shops! How old-fashioned my thinking is!) I only recently learned that Stegosaurs were long extinct before Tyrannosaurs arose, as that fact would not have interested me. As a child they were both creatures of fantasy, and that fantasy continues in adulthood though it is less important to most adults than to children.

When I was a child the theory that the Chicxulub impact had ended the dinosaurs (even excluding birds) had not become widely accepted, and now I understand it is scientific consensus with some sceptics still challenging the evidence and the reasoning. That too, an asteroid almost destroying life on Earth, is a powerful image, widely known outside the scientific community as it speaks to people, a dreadful horror beyond all others.

Are Pterosaurs dinosaurs? If I had had a rubber toy pterosaur it would have flown in my hand over the tyrannosaur attacking the stegosaur, and I would have conceived of them as one class of animal- big, extinct. Pterosaurs were an order existing from 228-66mya. (Million years ago, but you knew that.) Dinosaurs were named by Richard Owen in 1842, after evolution, the changing of species through strata, had been observed, but before Darwin had published the theory explaining evolution by natural selection. I don’t know if Owen was aware of pterosaurs, or whether he would have called them dinosaurs, but now dinosaurs are Ornithischia and Saurischia, not including Ichthyosaurs either.

So, I use the word “dinosaur” much as I would in my childhood, from a vague understanding of time, ending 66mya, starting, I dunno, maybe 200mya. Scientists are researching the exact origin now, of the clade. Clades are clearly more important to them than to me. I find the idea of a “Kingdom” useful: plants, animals and fungi are Kingdoms. There is another Kingdom, Protists, being eukaryotes not fitting in the other three, and Wikipedia tells me Some recent classifications based on modern cladistics have explicitly abandoned the term “kingdom”. I wrongly but belligerently include ichthyosaurs and pterosaurs as dinosaurs, and find “Protist” a useful new word even if it does not describe a clade. I might even (shock!) treat “pterosaur” and “pteranodon” as interchangeable.

Classifications change as people find out more, and the research continues. If Richard Owen returned to life now, I imagine he might support the cladistic definition of dinosaur, to include birds not pterosaurs, after it had been explained to him. Common sense goes from imprecise understandings and old ideas which are now discounted. I am happy with the idea of a dinosaur as a potent myth of a terrible lizard, because I do not systematically follow the latest research. I am delighted with occasional striking ideas, such as scientists examining fossils under the microscope and postulating what colours dinosaurs were.

I take a middle position between common sense and “modern cladistics”, myth and imagery and precise classification. Both are useful at different times. A tomato is a fruit and a vegetable. I see the point of asserting that birds are dinosaurs, but I will stick with the common idea of dinosaurs as Jurassic or Cretaceous reptiles, including pterosaurs, for most purposes.

I am writing about this partly because people were worried when I did not post for four days. I had not posted because I felt a bit down: less interested in posting, and not wanting to write too many “Oh god life is awful” posts like my recent My Life, and Trans Politics, posts seemed to me. I am interested in it. I have now formed a view, that a precise scientific understanding and an imprecise general misunderstanding of the concept “dinosaur” both have value.

I wanted a cheerful Gericault to contrast with yesterday’s picture, but see Gericault was not the most cheerful painter. I notice the wikimedia file looks much better when the screen is too bright for my eyes, so I have brightened it.

It could be worse…

The header picture, and the picture below, are The Raft of the Medusa by Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault. We are in lockdown, unable to leave our homes, and they are on a raft. The Medusa sank off the coast of Senegal, and 147 crew were stranded on a raft, without any means of navigation. After the first night, they had no food. I have food, at least for the moment.

The picture is 7m x 5m, so in the Louvre it is overwhelming! But we can enjoy it in our homes, on our computers. Who needs to go out anyway? I might go food shopping on Wednesday but I might not need to. On the raft, they were reduced to cannibalism.

The picture was not popular when first exhibited in France. French people eating other French people is not a good look.

But we are British! It was hugely popular exhibited in Greenwich just after Waterloo, as it showed our moral superiority to our cowardly foes, especially when HMS Alceste ran aground in 1817. Captain Murray Maxwell maintained discipline, evacuated all the crew to a nearby island, and repelled attacks from Malay pirates.

We can bear lockdown in our comfortable homes: there are 167 episodes of Doctor Who to watch again. I have a translation of À la recherche du temps perdu on my e-reader.

Let us encourage each other.

My song is love unknown

These are interesting times.

If I get breathless so that I need oxygen, I have no friend with a car who could take me to hospital, so would need an ambulance. It is harder to believe I have a chance of getting one if I need it, after seeing the fresh meat shelves of Aldi almost empty. I am not that far over fifty, and my normal lifestyle is pretty much social isolation anyway, and I wonder whether the death rate percentages I read apply to a fully functioning hospital system when there is O2 and intensive care for everyone who needs it.

And others have more to worry about. If you are going for chemotherapy, you are immunocompromised, and you get it in a hospital where there are lots of sick people, including some with covid 19.

I was thinking of writing a post on if I disappear for a bit. I am extremely unlikely to disappear because I have died, though it is possible. Most people have mild symptoms from 19. I could of course have an accident. The longest time I have been off the air was a gap of ten days in March 2013, when I simply stopped having anything to write about. When I came back, four regular commenters commented, one saying Good to have you back Clare I was worried. Please, please don’t worry. With less social contact I have less to write about, and if I am even slightly more depressed I can’t see the point always: I could do yet another post summarising an article with my own take on it, but I feel more and more repetitive.

I get a lot of my self-regard from blogging. When people read me and comment positively that makes me feel good. And I keep checking the stats for a tiny dopamine hit, which is addictive. So I try to get more views for such hits, and that seems unhealthy to me: it seems more unhealthy when I feel more depressed.

My writing was going to appear in print- yes, print, not on line, how old fashioned. Now I wonder if it will be printed, if the printer will do the job or be shut down. (I am pessimistic when I am depressed.) My words being printed would not prove to the world, or even to me, that I had value; and it was one of those acknowledgments that I like. Something to look forward to that makes me feel good. In the uncertainty, when I am stripped of those, and other things to look forward to- I will meet her for lunch, I will meet him for coffee- I feel more pointless, even worthless. How can I do anything of value?

I do not know myself. Paul wrote I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Many people buy veg they will throw away uneaten, books that sit on their shelves unread. I thought of cycling about seven miles this morning, in the sunshine, and wondered what in me might not want to- some negative, depressive, heavy grey toad squatting on my life, preventing almost all activity, perhaps. Or worry: to cycle I have to make some small decisions. I need more motivation than the joy of the thing itself to get me out of bed: I need to talk myself into it and consider what might be the objections from that part of me which objects, which I refuse to see as merely a toad.

A hymn came to mind.

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh, and die?

I do not believe in God. The loving eternal creator, numbering each of my hairs and seeing me as a daughter, who created the World, makes no sense to me. Yet emotionally the words make sense, and I cling to them.

Well, I did go cycling. The sunshine is beautiful, and as I passed the church its Church Open sign was in the slot, so I went in and looked up that hymn. It is beautiful, written in 1664. It has little to trouble an atheist. There is a frank assertion of the doctrine- He came from His blest throne/ Salvation to bestow– but that is only two lines. There is also an elegant expression of the unfairness and randomness of life, and the lack of relation between suffering, luck and deservingness- A murderer they save/ the Prince of life they slay.

The Christianity I have rejected is not as poisonous as that of my blogging buddy Sirius Bizinus. I can be in that church and experience it as having the energy of Love. On that quiet country road, Love kept it open. I read the hymn aloud to the empty church, weeping. Christianity has some truth in it, for this atheist materialist: there is something in me which some call God, which has value and which I may unite with and express, something of inestimable value, which values me when I allow myself to hear it, that I might be lovely.

So I went to my Quaker meeting by Zoom, sitting by the south-facing window, with a Bible and QFP to my left. I also took my Scottish Book of Common Prayer, as I thought that hymn would be in it. It isn’t- the book has “Hymns Ancient and Modern Standard Edition” from 1916. I still held it in my hands as I sat in Meeting, one of my few objects associated with my parents. I could see it negatively- without the hymn I wanted- or positively, as a symbol of their imperfect love.

Sitting alone in my house, I can suffer deep miseries and find strange consolations.

Powerful words

I saw passionate, self-righteous loathing of me, everyone like me and all that we stand for, distilled into one word. It took me aback. Non-trans people may get some echo of my feeling, seeing the word; trans people should beware reading this post because I quote it. I fear quoting it because I fear that some cis people might read it and have a revelation- that is why trans women are so objectionable!

The word is “Womanface”.

I type the word and start to weep. I feel decades of agony. I have wanted to die, much of the time, since my mid twenties and now Covid bothers me less than it bothers others, perhaps, because, well, it would mean it would all be over. So I will unpack that word. It echoes Blackface- so for this campaigner, whatever I have done, hormones and surgery, facial electrolysis- hours of pain- and voice training, is the oppressor’s mockery and appropriation. I am the oppressor and must be resisted, though it does not feel like that from where I am, right now.

For some women, trans might seem repulsive because of their principled politics and personal bravery. In January I saw a woman tell a familiar story: she is lesbian, was a “tomboy” as a child, was uncomfortable with bodily changes in puberty and worried that had she been born a few years later she would have been sucked in by internet forums and had a double mastectomy, a beard and a baritone caused by T injections. In her twenties she became comfortable with who she is, a lesbian, not wanting to appear conventionally feminine. There are variations on this story: one friend told me of four pregnancies, of the paps where she gave suck, of the meaning of the woman’s body so different from a man’s. There is pain and even threat to life in uterine problems. I get it, I really do.

And, Patriarchy exists. There is male privilege: often men are heard, women silenced, men celebrated and women judged for ordinary human reactions, and feminists resist it, and others seem just to go along with it. Would all women be feminist if only their consciousness could be raised? But how? I read that for Black, Indigenous, and communities of color (and among other marginalized groups), silence has been a form of oppression that cuts us off from sharing our voice and agency and more. For me it’s complicated. In some ways I am confident, and I know that I have worthwhile things to say and skill in saying them, and I expect to be heard.

I appreciate a feminist perspective- how are women wronged?- even though I see how it skews perception. The concern of some feminists about trans people is skewed. On trans men, they hate the thought of mastectomy and mutilation, though that denies that trans men can make their own decisions or see their own interests. On trans women, they hate the thought of penises in women’s space, threatening women, so that a post-op transsexual might be more acceptable, or they fear-monger about trans women allegedly with penises.

If the trans woman becomes the symbol of oppression, trans women are screwed. Some feminists say trans women are the first and most important threat to women’s human rights, that we poison women’s space like a drop of ink in a litre of water, and negate the very meaning of woman- a woman is someone who feels like it rather than someone with a female reproductive system, and that destroys women’s solidarity, women’s rights, women’s campaigning. Though I see it differently- we are an anomaly, a few more or less ridiculous individuals, scared and scarred in our own ways, rather than a threat a potential ally.

So my solution is this. Recognise that we don’t fit gender stereotypes any more than you do, and this is our way of coping. We are so alike! We face similar problems!

I have said this before, and I don’t feel heard.

I am writing now because of sensed discomfort in yet another encounter, where my attempt at empathy may have got it entirely wrong, where our attempt at fellow-feeling may yet establish commonality of experience and interest. I don’t want to write about that encounter so I write of previous encounters. Words like “Whiteface” may make people impervious to finding that common interest, might stop them seeing my humanity, make them see me only as threat. Words are powerful. When I was at university I saw on a toilet door the most disgusting joke I have ever seen, in twenty-two syllables elegantly and expressively constructed to work like a joke. I have always remembered it, only once shared it, and felt that because I know it a tiny part of me is sullied.

---

Who is the oppressor here, and who the oppressed?

I saw that word used by Dr Julia Long, radical lesbian activist and academic. On self-isolation, she asked “would I be… forced to accept a man in womanface bringing my shopping?” Objecting to trans women in loos is bad enough, objecting to a moment’s interaction with a worker or perhaps another person in a mixed sex self-help group is- out of proportion? I don’t know if Dr Long originated the word which horrified me and made me cry while “Tranny!” hardly bothers me, but she uses it habitually. I saw it in a trans activist space, shared to show how extreme anti-trans campaigners can be. If I complained, they might tell me to spend more time in support groups and less in activist spaces.

I could make a fair case that Dr Long is the oppressor. She is highly articulate, with a number of platforms including at times the Guardian and Channel 4, and she devotes a great deal of her time and energy to monstering trans women with speech and writing at all registers from academic to dehumanising mockery, in alliance with Rupert Murdoch and the Heritage Foundation. And at the same time she is oppressed- I do not know her or her history at all, but am quite sure she will have experienced unwanted sexual attention, probably sexual violence, and may reasonably believe that her career has been held back by anti-lesbian or sexist prejudice.

I have no wish to recite the arguments why I would be seen to be the oppressor, but it does not feel that way from where I’m sitting. As Dr Long says, “Even while isolating yourself in the midst of a global pandemic, it seems there is no escaping this shit.”

Any way of escape has to involve seeing the oppression of the other. All oppression has to be recognised, as well as all the good in it: the cleverness in its creation, the comfort that it brings.

Covid 19

How my life is affected by the coronavirus, so far.

It has moved quickly. On Sunday 15th I made a plan to go into London on Sunday 22nd. I would go to the Quaker meeting, have lunch with a friend, then go round the National Gallery, to the 16th century section. That Veronese was so beautiful! On Monday I thought of asking if the friend still wanted the risk of lunch out, and on Thursday we agreed to cancel it, as the pubs and restaurants closed, the Quaker meetings closed, the National Gallery closed. A lot of people have been trying online meetings for worship with Zoom.

There are 22 cases in my county though how they know, what testing is being done, I don’t know. On Tuesday evening I saw an ambulance go down my street, the sole entrance for the small estate, its lights flashing but its siren off. I have not felt fear seeing an ambulance before. After an age, it returned to the main road, again lights flashing but siren off, progressing slowly, more slowly even than a car would, there, as if it was trying not to frighten anybody. This had the opposite effect on me. Blue lights mean Emergency Now. I don’t know if they found a Covid sufferer on my estate or not.

A friend is self-isolating because his son has the symptoms. On Monday a friend came round to pick up some stuff. He is seventy, and will be self-isolating for the foreseeable future, as a heightened risk. I am worried for him.

On Wednesday 11 March, with jokes about panic-buying loo roll, I noticed there was no spaghetti in the main supermarket. Next day I bought almost the last spaghetti in Aldi. I got more than I would normally. By Tuesday 17th Aldi were restricting customers to four of any item, and there were no oatcakes. I have enough loo roll. I am frugal with loo roll, and had bought it as I would normally.

Yesterday I thought I could probably do with UHT milk and there was none of that; and I did not see any onions, the first fresh food I have noticed not available. In the supermarket people were making Blitz Spirit jokes- one said “You’ll have had a good childhood if you can remember rice”. A man chatting outside spoke of how long the queues were. I got a fresh pizza and read just after they were shutting their pizza counter.

I would feel a lot safer with a Labour government. We would not be careening towards an Anarcho-Capitalist Brexit. In Priti Patel, we have an incompetent but enthusiastically authoritarian Home Secretary. She was sacked for her personally arranged meetings in Israel, and here she is back. The Coronavirus special powers Bill authorises compulsory detention, and is being nodded through. With Labour the financial stimulus for the economy might prop up the income of the poorest. This is sensible- they would spend the money immediately, locally. With Tories I worry the stimulus will go to preserving capital values. I got an email from the letting agent- if you can’t pay the rent, please contact us, we will sort something out.

I did not mind the BBC suspending filming EastEnders, but was sad In Our Time was not recorded. They are now broadcasting repeats.

Being depressed, self-isolation is not much different from my normal lifestyle, but I look forward to the social contact I have. So I have not been blogging, and a friend emailed to ask if I was alright. Yes; just a little more depressed. I did not see anything to blog about. Not coughing and with a fever. Over fifty, the risk level is slightly raised, and I considered getting a thermometer a couple of weeks ago but still have not- and this is how the depression works, I imagine something I could do, that would be good to do, I do not do it. That friend said social isolation is how a lot of trans people live, and several I know do live like that. I am not the only one.

Another Veronese, which I saw last month. The Allegory of Love is in an octagonal room, hung at eye level though clearly designed to be viewed from below. I had liked galleries to hang paintings in one row, but these are paintings which would benefit from a higher row. I sat on a stool to look up at them, then on the floor, which improved them. I hope to see them again soon.

The law and trans people

Anti-discrimination law protects far more trans people than it says it does.

The Equality Act protects you from the moment you decide to transition. However, you have a right to privacy, so no-one should ask you if you are transitioning, or have transitioned. There is a statutory code on discrimination in services, which says providers should treat transsexual people according to the gender role in which they present. If you are a man cross-dressing for fun, and you go out, you should not be forbidden to use a women’s loo or changing room. If they ask you if you are transsexual or have decided to transition, you can refuse to answer such an impertinent question. There is no need to lie.

The code has a ridiculous example. Before going to a party in a local hotel, a guest lets it be known that he intends to come dressed as a woman for a laugh. However, the management says he cannot attend the event dressed as a woman as it would create a bad image for the business if there was bad behaviour on the premises. The management also tells a transsexual woman that she can’t come dressed as a woman as they don’t feel comfortable with the idea, notwithstanding the fact that they know she has been living as a woman for several years. The guest would not have a claim for discrimination because he does not intend to undergo gender reassignment and because the reason he is told not to come dressed as a woman relates to the management’s concern that overly boisterous behaviour would give a bad impression of the business, not because they think he is a transsexual person. The transsexual woman would have a claim as the reason for the less favourable treatment was because of her protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

The answer is don’t “let it be known”. Just turn up. Some AMAB people cross dress for pleasure, and some because we intend to transition. The hotel staff looking at you can’t tell which is which. I wondered if they might try to guess, if someone passed particularly badly, but that does not mean that they are not transitioning. We all have to start somewhere.

I don’t like that they say cross-dressing is “bad behaviour”. “Overly boisterous”- some cross-dressers can be meek souls, behaving quietly and respectably. The code is saying the hotel could forbid behaviour not because of how it affects other guests, but because of the motivation. They can’t forbid transitioners, but they can forbid cross-dressers. Not all businesses would: I liked an Italian restaurant in Oldham, and when I asked about going cross-dressed, they were fine about it. I did not want to draw attention to myself.

You might even make a legal claim if you are a cross dresser, refused access to women’s loos. You have to prove that the hotel believed you were transitioning. Unless they know you personally, they have no reason to believe you are not. If they have no firm belief that you are a cross dresser, they are discriminating against you though they may believe you are protected. It is discrimination if you are perceived to be trans: A woman with a medical condition that makes her appear ‘masculine’ is wrongly perceived to be undergoing gender reassignment and refused entry to a women-only sauna session at her local leisure centre. This is likely to be less favourable treatment because of gender reassignment.

If you clearly parody women’s clothes, you might be excluded, but trans people’s dress sense can be pretty bad, so you might get away with it. You may still face street harassment though. If it’s enough to put you in fear, it may be a crime. My street harassment reduced by a great deal when I completed electrolysis.

The code has this example of discrimination: A group of women complain to a health spa manager that they feel uncomfortable around another member of the spa who is a transsexual woman. In response, the manager apologises to the transsexual woman but tells her that she will not be able to use the spa again. This is less favourable treatment of her, as it puts her at a clear disadvantage compared to the spa’s other clients and will not be lawful if the spa’s conduct is because of gender reassignment. Transitioning or transitioned women have the right to be treated like other women.

Trans women have been protected by discrimination law on access to services since the Sex Discrimination (Amendment of Legislation) Regulations 2008. We have self-ID already: all you have to do is dress up. The campaign against trans women in women’s spaces pretends that there is some great change suggested, but that is a lie.