Black Lives Matter UK

Black Lives Matter.

On 4 August 2011, Mark Duggan was followed by firearms police from a meeting where he reportedly had collected a gun, according to the controversial “Operation Trident” focused on gun crime in London’s black communities. Three cars executed a “hard stop”, forcing his minicab to a halt. Duggan came out of the car. A police officer was shot during the incident, and officers told journalists that there had been “an exchange of fire”. The Daily Mail called Duggan a “gangsta”. However a week later the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) admitted one police officer’s bullet had passed through Mr Duggan and injured another. Two days after the killing, the police had not met the Duggan family, and they led a protest march to Tottenham police station. Police continued to refuse to meet with the family, and the protest became confrontational, eventually with rioting. In 2013 a coroner’s inquest interviewed dozens of witnesses, and in 2014 the jury concluded it had been a lawful killing, but also that the first bullet fired by an officer at Mr Duggan had injured the other officer. A year later, the IPCC published its report, saying Mark Duggan had thrown a gun onto grass seven metres away from the mini-cab.

The detailed Forensic Architecture report concludes that Duggan could not have thrown the gun. No officer gave evidence that he had seen Duggan throw the gun. Their video shocked me. My vague recollection of the case was that Duggan had had a gun, but there was no DNA link from the gun, wrapped in a sock, with Mr Duggan. I noticed in myself an initial desire to exonerate the police, and challenge the evidence which eventually led to a large settlement in the family’s unlawful killing action against the Metropolitan police. This is the desire to see society as basically well-functioning, documented by Sara Ahmed, which causes difficulty for complaints against the police, or about authority in any institution.

Sean Rigg wrote, performed and produced his rap album Be Brother B Good and volunteered at the Franz Fanon community centre in Brixton. He suffered bouts of mental illness. On 21 August 2008 he was arrested and restrained by Brixton police, and died shortly after. The inquest reported four years afterwards, and the family’s Justice and Change campaign site does not seem to have been updated since 2014. Rigg was fit, healthy and forty years old when he died. The inquest in 2012 concluded the way he had been restrained, “more than minimally”, had contributed to his death: his heart stopped after “unnecessary” and “unsuitable” restraint while lying face down. However in February 2019 the Metropolitan Police exonerated five officers of charges of failing to identify Rigg’s mental illness, excessive restraint, and giving false evidence to the IPCC and the inquest. In The Guardian, his sister Samantha Rigg-David described her “anguish”, says the subhead, and her courage in campaigning.

A man claiming to have Covid 19 spat and coughed on Belly Mujinga, a railway worker, and her colleague at Victoria Station in London. The British Transport police took no further action having decided there was insufficient evidence. She died on 5 April from Covid 19.

Naomi Hersi, a trans woman, Continue reading

Lloyd Russell Moyle, the Labour Party, and trans rights

“Labour must stand with trans people against a new section 28,” wrote Lloyd Russell-Moyle in Tribune. It’s a good article.

Recently, of course, we saw people like JK Rowling using her own sexual assault as justification for discriminating against a group of people who were not responsible for it. Trans people are no more likely to be rapists; in fact, they are more likely to be victims of sexual assault themselves. That’s why, despite JK Rowling’s hate towards them, hundreds of trans people wrote to complain to The Sun when it trivialised her domestic abuse on a recent front page… Those who try to weaponise women’s rights as a tool to push transphobia are hurting women and trans people, and we should not be quiet in calling it out.

JK Rowling’s hate is well documented. Her ex-husband’s violence does not excuse it and is entirely irrelevant to innocent trans people. However Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, told Russell-Moyle, a shadow junior minister for the Environment, to apologise. When I searched for him, Google was quoting wikipedia as saying he is a “politician and men’s rights activist”, though the lie had been deleted from Wikipedia when I went there. He is a politician who has a reasonable view on trans rights.

However Russell-Moyle apologised on twitter.

I want to apologies unreservedly about the comments in the article that I wrote last week in Tribune regarding Trans rights in which I mention J.K. Rowling. J.K. Rowling’s first disclosures of domestic abuse and sexual assault in her recent article on Trans issues were heartfelt and must have been hard to say. Whilst I may disagree with some of her analysis on trans rights, it was wrong of me to suggest that she used her own dreadful experience in anything other than good faith. I have asked Tribune to remove the line in question.

The paragraph is still there. Tribune explain, “It is against Tribune’s editorial policy to amend the contents of articles after publication in the fashion requested,” but they publish the apology.

As Moyle says,

While it is sickening to see trans people being caught up in a lazy attempt by the government to gain headlines, we must also know that their existence was threatened day in and day out even before this latest fiasco. Socialists must not only defend their rights, we must stand with them against exploitation, intimidation and mistreatment by the state.

On Monday morning, Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, was interviewed on The Today Programme (from 2:10:04 on the recording). He said “The PM is good on promising and bad on delivery”- mentioning the broken promise to build affordable housing- but the interviewer wanted to ask about his sacking Rebecca Long-Bailey, former shadow Secretary for Education, and Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

On Rebecca LongBailey, he said he will “take the action that is necessary on antisemitism… we can move forward with a clearer view of what needs to be done to rid the Labour Party of any sense of antisemitism”. Good. I have followed the equivocation, a little, what Amnesty International said, what Maxine Peake said, what Long-Bailey actually tweeted, and equivocation just perpetuates the smell of antisemitism.

JK Rowling was clearly in bad faith. To describe her experiences of partner violence would have been brave and valuable in the struggle for women’s rights. To describe them and then go on to express vile prejudice against trans people is using them in propaganda and demeans her. However as the interviewer Nick Robinson pointed out, she is a life long Labour supporter, and as we know very rich with a huge platform.

What did Starmer say? He said social media is never the best guide to public opinion.

[Moyle] was wrong to say that and he has apologised for it and I have accepted that apology… that was my judgment call and I’ll be judged if you lead a political party you have to take responsibility for the decisions you make.

The interviewer framed the question in exactly the most damaging way, saying “the conflict between two sets of rights trans rights and women’s rights to safe space How do you as Labour leader choose which side you come down on?” He gabbled in the way people do in these interviews, never pausing for fear of interrupting, producing a stentorian monotone.

I think that’s the wrong question, and that’s the problem: people are saying which side are you on this. I think the trans community deserve more protection than they’ve got. I don’t think the legislation goes far enough. That then takes us into difficult questions. Let’s take those difficult questions in a mature calm way without taking sides. Treating this as a political football which is what’s happened over the recent months is completely the wrong way forward. There’s a better way, and that is to reflect, and to do it in a mature, I would hope cross party basis, because the entrenchment is no way- that doesn’t protect the trans community, it doesn’t protect some women who are completely concerned about safe spaces. Let’s have the conversation.

I am convinced there is a way forward here if everybody is prepared to stop chucking bricks at each other, have a mature conversation, not treat it as a political football, and I think the sooner we get to that the better.

Well. He often says “trans rights are human rights”- trans people are human, I hope no-one would disagree. It could be completely neutral, even anti-trans: transphobes claim to support trans rights when seeking trans exclusion. “I don’t think the legislation goes far enough” to support our rights. He isn’t taking sides, he says. I trust he is a progressive. Here he was neutral, and with the storm of Government transphobia that is hard for me to hear; but his words before have been supportive.

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On Good Morning Britain, the same day, Keir Starmer got friendly questions about the PM and the polls, and transphobic questions about trans rights. Piers Morgan ranted:

There is a creeping sense that the transgender lobby is being so aggressive that it’s actually beginning to damage women’s rights? … I mean can somebody who is born with a male biological body simply say I am now identifying as a woman and be afforded full respect do you think that’s right… and have all the rights a woman should have?… JK Rowling is trying to defend women’s rights, she’s not transphobic, from anything I’ve read, she says she supports transgender people, she supports their rights to fairness and equality… is it right that people born in male biological bodies should be able to compete in sports against people born to female biological bodies given that there is in almost every case a massive physical advantage…

Susanna Reid backed Morgan up.

RLB does not actually write the words over which she was sacked but she retweets an interview, but LRM had actually written the article in which he criticised a woman for talking about a sexual assault that she had experienced.

Keir Starmer did not state a personal view. He said Moyle was right to apologise.

Well what I’ve said in this because it is a sensitive issue, trans rights are human rights, the legislation we’ve got doesn’t go far enough and we all have a cross party consensus about it to look at it and see whether it can be developed. But what concerns me here is that this whole issue has become a political football. There must be a space for a mature discussion about how we improve the rights of the trans community, obviously preserve safe spaces. I’m very conscious of the experience of women that have gone through sexual assault, sexual violence, I worked on it very hard as DPP with women’s groups, I do absolutely understand that, but there is two sides here. Let’s stop the political football and have a mature debate about how we improve-

I think we need to respect the right to self-identify, but we need to look at the framework that goes around that. That’s where the legislation needs to take place. That’s where the broad discussion needs to take place. I really don’t want to get drawn in to doing the opposite of what I’m suggesting here which is treating it as a political football. It’s complicated, it’s sensitive. I don’t think that hurling things at each other is the way forward…

I think we can go forward on this if we have a sensible debate about it without just drawing hard lines in the sand. On both sides we need mature reflection on it. We need absolutely- There was a cross-party consensus about this on the discussion that needed to take place and that’s fallen away and that’s a great shame. I actually think these are practical issues there are good questions, let’s reflect on them and find a consensus on the way forward because just chucking mud at one another is not going to help.

Starmer played a straight bat on this. ITV’s article under the video quoted at length stuff they had got they found interesting, but on trans they only quoted “[Moyle] was right to swiftly apologise and he did.” However he said some reassuring things for trans people. “The legislation does not go far enough”. “We need to respect the right to self-identify”. I consider he means there needs to be an advance in trans rights. It might not be as far as we wish. He says we should not draw hard lines. I don’t think a consensus is possible with the hard line anti-trans campaigners, but it might be with some people.

I don’t like the interviewers at all. Anti-trans campaigning was portrayed as reasonable concern, and Morgan played up the alleged threat of male bodies.

Stonewall and the transphobes

Stonewall gets much of its money from its Diversity Champions Programme. It helps more than 800 employers ensure that all LGBT staff have “Acceptance without Exception”. A transphobe, who attempts to foment fear and anger against trans women, is seeking to take away this source of funding for Britain’s leading LGB charity, even though she is lesbian and claims to support the rights of lesbians. However, she uses extreme right slogans in her campaigning.

Allison Bailey is a barrister with Garden Court Chambers. Their first statement on their About page is “We are committed to fighting injustice, defending human rights and upholding the rule of law”. They are part of the Diversity Champions programme. Last year, Bailey took part in setting up LGB All Liars, a group committed to fighting against trans rights. According to Bailey, Stonewall complained about her because of her links with All Liars, and the chambers investigated her. So she is suing them. Her claim is that they investigated her because of her “gender critical beliefs”, and because she claims more women than men hold such beliefs, this is indirect discrimination.

Transphobia whited out. Select text to view. “This was an attempt by Stonewall to intimidate and silence me and others critical of what we see as its malign influence in British life”- “malign” because it supports trans people- and she claims that she “criti[ises] and investigat[es] notions of gender identity that are in conflict with, and doing harm to, the interests, safety and rights of women, children and LGB people”. I got those quotes from a screed claiming martyrdom for her anti-trans campaigning.

Indirect discrimination is justified if it is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. The claim is worthless. Maya Forstater’s similar claim, heard in the Employment Tribunal in January, failed- or else we would have heard the result by now. The legitimate aim is promoting trans rights, and it is proportionate to complain about and investigate an anti-trans campaigner in order to do that. Such an extremist in chambers might make LGBT people less willing to use the chambers. In her statement she does not claim any action was taken against her beyond the investigation of complaints, and she is still a member of the chambers.

However, litigation such as this might make employers less willing to enter the Diversity Champions programme, choking off a main source of income for this LGB charity.

Extreme right slogans: the headline for her screed is “I am suing Stonewall to stop them policing free speech”. “Policing free speech” is meaningless. You are not free to shout “fire” in a crowded theatre. I am embarrassed to quote that, it is so well known. “Free speech” is never licence to escape consequences: if you preach hate, people will condemn you. The extreme right: I mean this attack on higher education.

Bailey’s crowdfunder reached ÂŁ60,000 within three days, despite being suspended by CrowdJustice because of serious complaints. It is now closed to further donations.

Bailey has also challenged the Equal Treatment Bench Book, guidance for judges which says that trans women should be treated as women. She wants trans women not to have a fair trial, because the trans woman would be fighting prejudice as well as assessing the evidence. Defendants, innocent until proven guilty, should not have to face that. Most people would not have been able to withstand the level of discrimination that Ms. Oger faced during the Tribunal’s hearing. They should not have to, said a female judge who does not share Bailey’s prejudice.

The threat to free speech comes from Bailey. Another quote many will be familiar with:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

Bailey writes, “I have always been an advocate for transgender rights. I believe passionately that transgender people must enjoy protection under the law from discrimination and abuse.” She means, our human rights apart from the ones that let trans women share women’s space. That’s not what international or British human rights lawyers mean by our human rights. Bailey is lying, by twisting the ordinary meaning of words.

It does LGB rights no good to defund Stonewall. Bailey’s hatred of trans women means she is doing LGB folk lasting harm.

February 2021: Stonewall attempted to get Bailey’s case thrown out, but it will proceed to a full hearing in June. Bailey’s campaign to defund the main LGB charity in Britain, for daring to support trans rights, continues.

April 2022: The twenty-day hearing was supposed to be taking place, but it has been postponed after Bailey went into hospital. I wish her a speedy recovery. She should recognise the damage she is doing to lesbian rights, and back down.

Catherine Bennett

What do you do when you like a transphobe?

Catherine Bennett, who writes in The Guardian, is a transphobe. Consider this article, which claims entirely reasonable women with reasonable concerns about men pretending to be trans- not about trans women at all- have sincere political meetings, and activists demonstrate outside. She wants the concept of transphobia limited to hate-crime. Trans people and “veteran campaigners for gay rights” support LGB All Liars and WPUK. Trans people campaigning against transphobia are “disturbingly undemocratic”.

The article is deliberate distortion, with half-truths used to pretend the reasonableness of transphobes, and ordinary trans women demonised.

Here’s another, in which the word “transphobe” is called bullying, an “imputation of backward irrationality”, “the progressive way of telling women to shut up”, and “hate speech”, and transphobes are called brave people who think, wonder or have reasonable concerns. Her article comparing trans activists to incel murderers I discussed here.

I have no wish to defend her, but as a lawyer come up with some semblance of a counter argument. She is proudly feminist, aware of male privilege and hostile to any sense of women being silenced. Her instincts are with other feminists. She sees WPUK campaigners as feminists- indeed, many of them have made names for themselves as campaigners on feminist issues- and stands with them. However, she sees trans women as men, and spreads the myth of predatory men patiently waiting on a change in the law to pretend to be trans in order to attack women.

I found three articles in four years. There may be more, and she may allude disparagingly to trans rights or trans people elsewhere, which my search has not picked up. I have no wish to go through her twitter for the last ten years. She is a committed transphobe, but not an obsessive one, thinking about nothing else. (20 September- here’s another. The transphobia is pungently expressed, and repetitive- reasonable women with reasonable concerns against vicious transactivists; misogyny should be a hate crime. Yawn.)

Then I read this. I like it. It is a strong attack on the Tories, who, having caused tens of thousands of extra deaths by their mismanagement, as if they did not have any conception of what good government could look like, now show little concern about the covid deaths. It is selective and unfair: she writes of the health secretary’s elation over horse racing: “wonderful news for our wonderful sport” (30 May, 215 more deaths). That sounds worse than it is: I knew he was MP for Newmarket, actually his constituency is West Sussex which includes that town, famous for horseracing, but checking this found he trained as a jockey.

She is not a writer to give a balanced, even handed account of anything. Her word “disgusting” of government attitudes brought me up short. I want balance, and I love her style. I thought of adjectives for it: “Attack dog”, “stormtrooper”- don’t compare her to an animal or a Nazi, but those had the right shocking level of bite. “Tribune”, perhaps, the fearless defender of the people. I think she is right about the government. So she marshalls facts against the Tories and expresses them acidly. She arranges them in a melodic way- she takes us through different emotions, so notes of sympathy and sadness make our righteous anger stronger. I noted a sign of lack of self-belief: “For once… I may have some vaguely relevant experience”. I read this as disparaging her own style, a sign of female lack of privilege, and feel sympathy.

I could be sad because she, with her writing, has made me sad, with tales of heartless Tories interspersed with stories of death, bereavement and loss. Or because of her self-deprecating line. I want to deny it, saying “That doesn’t matter. You’re brilliant.” I am a fan of her writing though I cannot imagine writing like she does. But really I am sad that one of the battles she fights is against people like me.

3 October 2021: the latest is a diatribe against David Lammy, who objected to anti-trans campaigners, then to police responses to the death of Sarah Everard. The subeditor gave the title “You can’t opt in and out of taking violence against women seriously”. That shows where the disagreement is. No, you can’t; but you can disagree that trans women and trans inclusion are not a particular threat to women. Lammy always takes violence against women seriously; but he does not think that trans inclusion is a threat to women, and Bennett cannot see that position as having value.

I have been sharing pictures of Athena, or Minerva. It is striking how few of them make her look like an actual goddess, with power:

Dropping “Trans women are women”?

“I’m really focused on the idea that we don’t have to convert everybody to our way of understanding gender,” Nancy Kelley said in her first interview since taking up the position as head of the UK’s leading gay rights charity. “For Stonewall to succeed, it doesn’t have to make people believe as it believes. What it has to do is make people support changes that make trans lives easier.”

Kelley said that her priority was to reach a broad consensus that trans people need protection and that reforms to the administrative process – “which makes little difference to anybody apart from trans people” – are treated as just that.

“There is a lot of debate on the theory of gender and sex, it’s all terribly interesting and there are a million PhD theses to be written about it,” said Kelley, “but for the experience of trans people’s lives to be more positive, and for them to have lower levels of hate crime, better access to health services and more inclusive schools and workplaces, we don’t need people to agree on what constitutes womanhood.

“We must come back to the basics of building empathy for the idea that we want our fellow humans to experience a dignified, positive life,” said Kelley. “And there are things that as a society that we can change to make that more likely.”

What does that mean? I fear it means making trans people more uncomfortable. I don’t think it means taking the edge off hate groups’ campaigns against trans people, or necessarily off Stonewall. It may confuse the general public.

In theory, I could agree. However when I say “trans women are women” I mean we are socially women, not necessarily that we have women’s brains or women’s souls or are in some way intersex, just that society grudgingly tolerates transition. Hate groups hate that simple phrase. Graham Linehan has just been kicked off Twitter for tweeting “Men aren’t women”.

What is “Stonewall’s way of understanding gender”? I searched Stonewall for “transgender” and did not find the page “the truth about trans”, though that page does not use the longer word. I fear Nancy Kelley is going to be changing the website, or changing their campaigning.
In their “glossary of terms” I found

Transgender woman
A term used to describe someone who is assigned male at birth but identifies and lives as a woman. This may be shortened to trans woman, or MTF, an abbreviation for male-to-female.
Gender
Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth.

I would like Stonewall, and Nancy Kelley, to make people believe that definition of gender, but I find the definition of “transgender woman”- not a phrase I would use- fairly non-threatening to trans excluders. We “identify and live as women”. This is alright so far as it goes, but does not say we are actually women. However on “The truth about trans” they say “Being trans isn’t about having (or not having) particular body parts. It’s something that’s absolutely core to a trans person’s identity and doesn’t alter – whatever outward appearances might be.” We don’t need to have surgery. I find that an absolute minimum on trans rights, as a demand we have to have had surgery excludes all those starting transition, but trans excluders fearmonger about our surgery. It also says,

So, could a lesbian have a trans woman as a lesbian partner, or a gay man be with a trans man?
Of course. If they fancy each other. First and foremost, we need to recognise that trans women are women, and trans men are men. After that it becomes a matter of who you are attracted to. Adults are free to have relationships with other consenting adults, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What would reforming gender recognition mean?

If you’re a cis person, it will barely affect you. All that will happen is that trans people in the UK will have a slightly easier life. However, it will mean you and your family are living in a fairer society, one where people – maybe including some people you love and care for personally – are free to lead the lives they want to live, without the abuse and discrimination that’s an everyday part of life for many trans people at the moment.

It says trans children should be supported, and trans women should be in women’s toilets, women’s refuges and women-only shortlists. It does not mention sport, but that may be an oversight. It’s fairly clear “The truth about trans” is written by a trans person, or an extraordinarily sensitive ally; the glossary probably not.

Having trans women “experience a dignified, positive life” means treating us for all social purposes as women. I am happy to say “Sex is real” as long as that is not taken as some sort of denial that socially I am a woman. I would like Stonewall to campaign against rigid gender stereotypes, as that would help free lesbians, gay men and even straights, as well as trans people.

I don’t know whether Stonewall under Ruth, Baroness Hunt, had one way of understanding gender. Gender is complex and can mean different things when discussing trans people and when discussing wider society. I am happy Nancy Kelley, another lesbian, wants to “make trans lives easier” and get widespread support for that. But I don’t know what changes Ms Kelley might make in trans campaigning, and fear the fairly meaningless words at the start of this post will encourage trans excluders and dispirit trans people. I would love there to be less heat in the trans debate, for anti-trans campaigners to build bridges with trans people and for both groups to find how we could work together, but at the moment both sides have a “with us or against us” mentality, prone to analysing the words of prominent campaigners like Nancy Kelley like theologians analysing the words of Jesus. It ain’t like working for the National Centre for Social Research, as Kelley formerly did.

“I don’t know if the government is stoking a culture war,” said Kelley, “but they’re certainly not reassuring the trans community that they will make positive steps, and the trans community is incredibly distressed and worried.”

She is on our side. Cut her some slack. I am not sure she is ready for this, though.

I was bothered by this because trans people are worried by Keir Starmer. Rather than saying “trans women are women” he now says “trans rights are human rights”, and we get wound up. Recently LGBT Labour’s campaign for “progressive reform to the Gender Recognition Act” (as anodyne a name as anyone could ask for) was published under the heading “trans rights are human rights”. No trans person could disagree. Trans excluders might have difficulty disagreeing with the phrase, even if they might disagree on what our human rights should actually be. Maybe that’s the point.

Bearable anguish

I was speaking from my feminine self. It is delightful, and also frightening. I feel vulnerable. There have been moments when my voice goes into a higher register and I say something I know with my whole heart. At last, my mask slips. It is an iron mask, put on to protect me, now constricting and rubbing at me.

Speak from your heart, said Menis, and you speak directly to the hearts of others. It is the most direct way to touch someone apart from a kiss. Five years later, I speak from my heart. I spoke at Jamie’s zoom workshop, and then his zoom get-together, where I said the government’s threats to trans people frightened me. And I felt the love:

You’re also warm and wonderful
I feel like I want to give you a huge long hug Abigail xxxx
I love those words, I am scared…I am mostly harmless. : ) A poem could come from that…..Your voice is so important. Don’t give up hope. Be the poet that you are and spread yourself into other people’s lives. Get writing girl!!!
Sending long, warm hugs m’luv xxx
Really feeling that Abigail ❤
🧡💛💛Love you Abigail
Big Love Abigail ❤

And I spoke at the racism zoom. “I want to move from guilt and embarrassment to action”. I don’t know precisely what the mask is- ego, or the sense of “What will people think?” I know there are feelings around taking it off, fear, which I don’t want to feel so I don’t even consider taking it off. And then I pass through the fear and talk from my heart and people hear me and value me.

I loved the zoom Quaker worship on Sunday. Some people sat outside the meeting house under a mulberry tree, some people joined by zoom, and I sat with my eyes closed listening to the birdsong. I wanted to be at the meeting house.

I am not alone at home. I have all these books, magazines and sites on my computer, which give me a war. There is always something to react to, so I am in the reaction, much of which is habitual, rather than in simple wordless perception which is generally delightful. I look up, and consider my curtains. I find the colour glorious, this soft, gentle green.

The simple wordless perception is delightful, I think, then in comes the challenge: what about cycling uphill when too hot? I have wanted to cycle that thirteen miles, but not enough actually to go. What weighs against it is fear of perception, of being with my actual feelings, or with truth, manifested as fear of going uphill when too hot.

Pure happiness rarely gets through my defences, and when it did my first thought was all things will pass. Momentarily happy now, considering those curtains, then considering where I am now, worrying, questioning, comes in immediately.

It is anguish.

The anguish is bearable because I am worthy. Happiness and anguish co-exist. They may be separate brain circuits firing off at the same time. I feel a passionate desire to understand which may be different from my usual desire to keep in control. It could be a desire to see truth in all its complexity and to understand for its own sake.

Reading of that Quaker meeting’s racism, in 1948, and then discussing it, I felt embarrassment and a deep desire not to exaggerate the racism, to be clear about its precise bounds, which is difficult when I cannot remember the details of the paragraph in which I read about it, and in any event that paragraph is a secondary source and the writer of the primary source might not have been there. Layers and layers of fog, and my embarrassment and discomfort, white guilt, and a desire not to accuse that pastor of any more than my knowledge clearly supports. Or, cut through the white guilt, let go of my shame and embarrassment, and just be clear. They were racist. This is bad.

It feels the same way as taking off the mask and speaking with my female voice.

Quakers can be gentle. We rarely say something is wrong- only when called to stand against it. We exhibit polite interest, and of an idea which is clearly wrong, guarded neutrality. I may refuse to do something to support another when I don’t see that it is right, but may investigate to see the good in their position. We don’t directly confront unless we can’t avoid it. That makes it difficult when someone is suffering the ongoing emotional pain of discrimination, anti-trans, racist, sexist, against disabled people, whatever- and others just don’t see it. There is the general perception that Equality in the UK is pretty much alright, and Quakers share this. My guarded neutrality in me, with inquisitiveness- what is going on here?- it is a virtue in me, but it can get in my way if I expect it from another, perhaps another who is howling in pain.

Possibly the embarrassment I see on a wife’s face when the husband stands to minister is similar. Breaking through the shell or mask is difficult. It does not necessarily mean she thinks he is wrong to minister.

There is truth and clarity in the Now. There is safety in vulnerability.

Cecil Hinshaw

I heard of Cecil Hinshaw in ministry on Sunday. An older man said Hinshaw had inspired him to be Quaker, and had integrated the Quaker institution William Penn college in Oskaloosa, Iowa, with black and white students and faculty. I thought the 1940s was late to be integrating a Quaker college, but the pastor of the local Friends Church objected to black people in his meeting, quoting “birds of a feather”. The church appointed a committee, then decided all races were welcome at worship.

Hinshaw, a former Quaker pastor, sought to make the college a training ground for radical pacifist activists, involved in nonviolent direct action against the militarist state. With a theology of holiness and perfectionism, he sought to convert society following the example of Gandhi. He said, “Words from the Bible ought to shock us, stab us awake so fiercely that we could hardly sleep at night.” Instead we repeat them piously and meaninglessly. He became college president in 1944. The college was near bankruptcy, and suffering low enrollment because of the war. Iowa YM had already welcomed minority students to the college.

Hinshaw recruited students and faculty from pacifists in Civilian Public Service camps, and prisons. He encouraged racial integration, which caused friction with the town. Racial equality was his attempt “to practise the principles of pacifist living”. It was an embarrassment to most Friends Church members who supported the peace testimony but lived in small towns and wanted less publicity. In 1948 seven students or recent graduates were sentenced to eighteen months in prison for refusing to register for the draft.

A community council elected by proportional representation made decisions for the college. Military veterans and conscientious objectors mixed and worked together for justice and peace.

In 1948, 10% of the enrollment were from ethnic minorities: Japanese Americans, Hispanics and Jewish refugees. The 22 black students and reports of interracial dating troubled the town. When Marian Anderson, a black singer of classical music and spirituals, gave a concert on campus the local hotel refused to let her stay. Hinshaw recruited the first woman African-American professor in Iowa, and the first African American woman to teach in a predominantly white college. A mob threatened Cecil’s children if she remained, and she had to move onto the campus. The debate team boycotted a tournament when their black teammate was not allowed to compete.

Hinshaw resigned in 1949 after losing a vote in the Trustees. His resignation devastated his supporters- faculty shrank from 33 to 19, and only 7 of the 1948 faculty remained in 1950. The new interim president was quoted as saying “I am hopeful the number of Negro students will be reduced”. Divisions caused by the conflict lasted a generation within Iowa Yearly Meeting. The college fell away from Hinshaw’s radical pacifism, and in 2003 students demonstrated in favour of the Iraq War.

From “Penn in Technicolor” by Bill R Douglas, published in Quaker History. The title comes from an editorial in the Monroe County News, from a place just south of Oskaloosa, mourning Hinton’s departure: “If man is to be saved for something other than sizzling to his death under the bomb, the Penn idea must bloom again”.

Lenna Mae Gara wrote in Friends Journal of her experience and fellow students there: when Hinshaw left, Oskaloosa got what it wanted, a bland little community college. But when Kazuko Arakaki, from a Japanese-American internment camp, arrived as a student in 1944, it made her fellow students question the racism and war hysteria that made the camps possible. Julian Winston, a black student, became an attorney in Washington DC.

Joining the “Black Lives Matter and Racial Justice” course from QPSW, I was referred to the Friends Journal article in 2014 by Gabbreell James, telling of feeling unwelcome among Quakers as a black woman, and an article from 2011 on white fragility by Robin DiAngelo. She has now written a book with the same title. I recognise it. In small groups men were told not to monopolise the conversation. I am rarely short of things to say, but have not wanted others to monopolise so much since my first AM nominations committee meeting. My guilt and embarrassment are part of that white fragility, which gets in the way of work for integration, peace and equality. Speaking possibly from my inner light I said I want to move on from guilt to action.

Reni Eddo-Lodge, currently enjoying a windfall from white guilt after the death of George Floyd, says debates about racism are a game to some, a form of entertainment where writers and controversialists can take a position and argue. “We all know… all the stuff people have been saying for years,” she says.

I’m not looking to tell people what to do. People are very willing to give up their agency and look for leadership when they feel impassioned about something and I don’t want that at all, I want them to use their critical thinking skills to challenge racism and I can’t tell them how to do that.

Imagine you had a partner who you were hoping might be able to improve their perspective on something, and instead they say, “just tell me what to do”. That tells me that person isn’t willing to take on any level of responsibility and I guess what I’m trying to do is prompting people to take responsibility for racism. That takes initiative and using your own brain.

The threat to free speech

Rowling is Right! thundered the Sunday Times, a Murdoch paper. She is “justified in conscientiously stating opinions on issues of public interest without being deterred by fear of causing offence”. Trans people who are offended are “not entitled to sympathy”. Well, that’s me told. If she says the Scottish government is “playing fast and loose with women’s safety”, and stout defenders of women’s rights attack trans women because of it, I am not entitled to sympathy, and nor are the victims.

Once a society allows that people who feel emotional anguish are entitled to apology and moral restitution, there is no limit to the abridgment of free speech it will allow in the name of compassion. Radcliffe should think again. His comments are, to coin a phrase, offensive and hurtful to those who cherish liberty.

The emotional anguish I feel is fear. The repeated allegations in Rowling’s piece that trans people are dangerous, and women are terrified, may lead others to violence against us: possibly physical violence, possibly just social shunning, which is hurtful to a social animal. Rowling encourages transphobes.

This is not the standard “Free Speech!” argument easily answered, that you have free speech but no right to a platform, and no right to avoid condemnation for odious views. It is that it is oppressive to liberty to assert that trans people or our allies are entitled to an apology. Now, I don’t know what trans people would feel about an apology from Rowling, either now or in a possible future in which an entrenched hard-right government has gone on from hate of trans people to all LGBT, but the debased platform of the Murdoch Times

(oops, a bit of rhetoric there, I should not have read the Times article, its moralising tone is catching)

condemns Radcliffe for this:

To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you. If these books taught you that love is the strongest force in the universe, capable of overcoming anything; if they taught you that strength is found in diversity, and that dogmatic ideas of pureness lead to the oppression of vulnerable groups… — then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred.

The “sorry” comes from him. There is no demand that anyone else apologise. He acknowledges that many people around his age have been deeply affected by Rowling’s books, and the positive message in those books remains despite their author’s views.

Is there any abridgement to free speech? Rowling put her anti-trans rant on her blog. There is no obligation on anyone to read it, but many did, including me. While some people may have distanced themselves from her or deprecated her views, that is also free speech. If the Times is entitled to condemn Radcliffe, then Radcliffe is entitled to condemn Rowling.

Oddly enough, I got the Times text from an anti-trans website which probably believes its readers would resent paying money to Murdoch, from a left-wing standpoint like mine. Sorry. If you agree with the Times and quote it approvingly, that says something about you, however much you might want to distance yourself from Murdoch propaganda.

Rowling’s remarks did hurt a lot of her fans. They were profoundly affected by her books, and it is hard for them, to see she is a transphobe and a person detached from reality when it comes to trans issues. Radcliffe’s sympathy for people who are hurting is the thing that most offends Murdoch.

The Times also had an article by Neil Oliver: “JK Rowling outrage is a load of hufflepuff that misses her point: Harry Potter author seeks fairness in women’s and trans issues”, starting with warm words about his love of her books. Condemning speech Mr Murdoch dislikes is permitted. Only condemnations of his dupes will be criticised. Of course he has a right, as the world is organised now, to use his billions to persuade people of anything he wishes; but he does not promote any recognisable or valuable concept of free speech. The threat to free speech is the control of so much speech by Murdoch. Rupert dislikes nothing more than sympathy. He loves outrage, disdain and hate.

Frequently Asked Questions

“The Government believes that transgender adults should be free to live their lives as they wish, with dignity and free from discrimination.” It appears that the Government believes trans people are a useful hate-group, to divert attention from their disastrous mismanagement of Covid, Brexit and the economy. That’s what the Sunday Times article indicates. When the first sentence after “Thank you for your correspondence” bears no relation to the facts indicated by Government statements, I feel queasy unreality and my fear is heightened, not damped down. Some of the answers are slightly reassuring.

“We are currently dealing with an extremely high volume of enquiries about the Gender Recognition Act, the single-sex exemptions under the 2010 Equality Act and about healthcare for transgender people.” Well, that’s what happens when the minister makes a statement indicating she will trample on trans rights- trans people, allies and phobes start writing.

“Changes are intended to make the process of applying for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) less bureaucratic.” The Scottish government proposed granting one on affirming a statutory declaration before a solicitor or JP. That would be considerably less bureaucratic. Not having to provide evidence of using your real name for two years would be a start. Not having to provide medical evidence would be an indication that the government realised no-one does this on a whim, and no-one would do it to attack women. They want to ensure applying is still “a serious and meaningful undertaking”- well, the Scottish proposals achieve that.

Is the Sunday Times correct? They’re not telling. “We intend to publish our response to the consultation before Summer Recess, which begins on 21 July 2020.”

On the Equality Act 2010, they write, “Exceptions in the Act also allow for the exclusion of transgender people from single-sex facilities where this is necessary and proportionate… We are looking into how we might provide greater clarity in this area as part of Government’s response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation.” “Greater clarity” might mean that excluders felt more able to exclude trans women.

This Government is committed to improving services for those undergoing gender reassignment and to challenging transphobia in the NHS. NHS England have funded the development of specialised training through the Royal College of Physicians’ accredited credential on trans health.

There are not enough specialist psychiatrists, so the waiting lists are huge and growing. They say the NHS is working to make trans care more local, and “establishing a more modern and flexible care model”.

What did Truss mean when she said, “I think it’s very important that while people are still developing their decision-making capabilities that we protect them from making those irreversible decisions”? The FAQ is placatory. “We are clear that protecting young people is about ensuring the appropriate processes are in place, rather than withholding support, and we will be exploring what this means with the Department for Health and Social care who lead in this area. We are absolutely committed to making sure all young people have access to appropriate and timely psychological and medical support. The wellbeing of all young people is our priority.” Truss in her statement gave credence to the paranoid myth that young people need “protected” from doctors. She should make a public statement if she does not believe that myth, not rely on this FAQ.

“We know that transgender young people are more likely to experience poor mental health than people who are not transgender. The wellbeing of all young people is our primary concern. We are taking action to improve mental healthcare for LGBT people and we are working with DHSC to develop plans for reducing suicides amongst the LGBT population.” One quick and simple way would be to stop “Government sources” and ministers from making statements indicating a crackdown on trans women in women’s spaces.

“Will the Minister for Women and Equalities speak to both transgender health experts and children’s rights experts before making any decisions around access to healthcare? Yes…” Well, that is the minimum required by administrative law- decisions must be based on adequate knowledge and consideration of relevant facts. That does not mean that Truss will not consult her own prejudices and the benefits to an incompetent right-wing government of establishing out-groups to hate. “Clinicians should continue to provide support to people accessing Gender Identity Clinics [for adults] and the Gender Identity Development Service [for under 18s] in the same way as they have done till now – based on clinical need.” That they have to state doctors will continue to provide treatment indicates how toxic the government’s shit-stirring has been.

The FAQ does not reassure me at all.

Language and transphobia

What’s the difference between a trans woman, a transwoman, and a transsexual?

Well, “a transsexual” could be a trans man, but that’s not the main thing, which is, that we don’t like it. We are entitled to specify how we should be described, and how we should not. “Woman” or “man” does for most purposes, “person” might be better, but if you really need to specify, “trans woman” or “trans man” is it.

Saying “transsexual is an adjective”, or that it sounds like a scientific classification, is explaining why we don’t like to be called that. There should be no need to explain. That we don’t like it should be enough.

It does not matter if someone gets it wrong, unless they intend to get it wrong. You can normally tell. Some even get it right, writing about “trans women” then saying something appalling about sexual predators. Some insist on “transwomen”- a seahorse isn’t a horse, they say, transphobically- and some use worse language.

Language can draw attention to our trans status or not, and be more or less respectful of us. There are transphobic terms designed to erase us, people who want to erase us, people who want to support us but are unsure how, and people who just don’t care. We can normally tell which of these someone is.

Trans excluders don’t like being called trans excluders. They claim they are not excluding trans women, as men should not be in women’s spaces. TERFs coined the term TERF, but now object to it. They are not “anti-trans campaigners”, they say, because they want trans people to have the human rights they are willing to assign to us. Just as I don’t think they should be called “feminist campaigners”- most feminists campaign for trans rights- I don’t think they should be called “gender critical feminists”. I am a gender critical feminist. I find gender norms and stereotypes oppressive, particularly to women. But there is no term for their campaigning which would be acceptable to them and to us. That means you can’t describe what they do with a neutral term, and so you state your opinion about them every time you refer to them. Sometimes I call them “gender critical feminists”, but always with scare quotes.

This means that we cannot talk to each other. The two sides only address themselves. The trans-excluders obsessively write about “women’s rights”, as in their Manifesto, yet every part of what they work on has to do with excluding trans women, who they do not mention there. We tell ourselves stories in order to live: we tell ourselves that we are women, that we have women’s brains, souls or personalities, as a way of plucking up courage to transition. We interact sometimes on twitter, with zingers honed on one side then lobbed at the other.

There is no sound if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no-one to hear it. There will be a pressure wave, and perhaps an animal will detect that pressure wave with its ears, but a “sound” is a human concept which cannot be divorced from human experience and understanding. Language is how we create the world, because the world of people being with each other is more important to us than the whole rest of the world combined- or we would not have damaged it as we have. You might see something without naming it, but you can’t tell anyone else about it without words, and the words are all that we know in common about that thing.

The Communist party says Truth is what is in the interests of the working class as a whole… we have to come to a correct position which serves our class. In Russia that became what is in the interests of the Revolution, then the Party, then Stalin alone. In the USSR, there were events called “elections”, or the “free expression of citizen will” where there was one candidate and the Party and state apparatus took notice if anyone did not vote for that candidate. They were not elections in any real sense, but there was no other word to describe them.

So words are powerful. When we can choose our words, we control their connotations. A “trans woman” is a kind of woman. How people think about trans people depends on the words used for us.

Here is Diana and her Companions, only attributed to Vermeer in 1901. Proust has Swann, convinced it is Vermeer, wanting to examine it at The Hague but unable to leave Paris while Odette is there.