A “nuanced debate”

What possible answer is there to “Do you condemn death threats?” but “Yes”?

Keir Starmer’s spokesperson was asked about JK Rowling’s screed on trans, and replied,

“This is a nuanced debate, a very important debate, and what Keir wants to do is work closely with all sides of this debate in scrutinising the government proposals and ensuring that we remain committed to trans rights.”

Did Sir Keir stand by the last Labour manifesto on trans recognition? “Keir stood on that manifesto and Keir has a proud history of supporting advances in human rights across a variety of areas.” He need not say, to most of his audience, that the manifesto of a party that lost is as valuable as a month-old newspaper.

Did anyone send death threats? It is loathsome if they did, but even if they were trans, I am not responsible for them any more than I am responsible for Bad Things done by my fellow left-handers.

This led to wailing and gnashing of teeth on trans facebook. “I will never vote Labour again,” wrote someone who perhaps prefers Tories. What part of “ensuring that we remain committed to trans rights” does she not understand? “Nuanced debate” allows Sir Keir to dismiss out of hand the anti-trans rantings, while denying he is doing so.

The Times, a paper which can only be trusted to Murdochian levels of truthfulness, screamed “Labour Stands Back From Gender Debate”. “Measures designed to prevent people with male anatomy using female lavatories and domestic violence refuges have also been included in a package drawn up by Liz Truss, the equalities minister.” Well, honestly. Do they expect me to carry confirmation of surgery about my person? Who would be entitled to inspect it?

Labour Shadow Ministers spoke up. The Shadow Home Secretary said, “we need to listen very carefully going forward in what is an extremely sensitive area”. The Shadow Justice Secretary said, “I’m not sure the government just scrapping plans and then leaking it out in a newspaper is the way to deal with this, you need a much better way that’s sensitive, that seeks consensus and respects everybody’s rights.” So the Times reports TV interviews. These are not positive commitments to trans rights, but there have been such commitments before.

It is beneath the dignity of the Leader of the Opposition to comment on the calculated nastiness of “A Government Source”, however prominent its platform. When a minister makes a statement, the shadow minister should make the appropriate response, which I am hopeful will be to oppose, on the side of trans recognition, with a truthful account of the actual position rather than fearmongering about claimed threats to women’s spaces.

Meanwhile, “a nuanced debate” is a meaningless phrase, saying “ask me later”. Nuanced means you can’t pin him down to one “side”.

The statement by A Government Source is froth. Johnson wants to distract from his complete failure on covid deaths, on care homes, schools, lockdown, reopening, everything. An actual statement on trans rights would be useful, but I could think of little else before Liz Truss, the responsible minister, appeared in the House of Commons yesterday, and she said nothing.

I may cut down my news consumption. Much of what Mr Trump does is distraction, and reading the breathless coverage, even the magisterial disdain of Michelle Goldberg, just gets me wound up to no purpose. Instead I have read one book, “Surviving Autocracy” by Masha Gessen, and even considered reading John Bolton’s when it comes out, though he is a monster, who joined Trump’s regime because he thought he could use it to bomb Iran. But day to day Trump coverage is no more valuable than any other reality show. There is of course Gerry Adams’ response to “Do you condemn,” but he was in specific circumstances which do not apply now.

Both the Trump and the Johnson governments are doing real harm to people, but that’s all the more reason to keep my head clear.

Who is trans?

How many trans people are there? That depends on who you call trans. The Conference of European Statisticians prepared a paper on counting trans people, which said it is too early to make firm recommendations. It even felt the need to point out that gay rights or acceptance are not the same as trans rights or acceptance. This is what the report says:

Gender has a range of possibilities, and trans and nonbinary are distinct. Some cultures recognise gender diversity, such as the Fa’afafine of Samoa. Sometimes “gender” is used as a synonym for sex, sometimes as something separate- German has only one word for both. “Gender identity” is the inwardly-felt aspect of being male, female or something else. “Gender expression” is how one presents.

In most research literature, “transgender” or “trans” is defined as having a gender (identity or expression) that is different from the person’s sex as determined at birth. Note that the word “different” is used rather than the word “opposite”. In this sense, it includes all people with non-binary gender. The opposite of transgender is called “cisgender”.

But sometimes “trans” just refers to binary transgender. And some sources call “transgender” a separate gender. Several countries have binary gender recognition, and Canada is considering the possibility of recognising nonbinary gender. In Germany there is a third category. We need statistics on trans to monitor inequality and develop policy to benefit trans people, but we still need data on sex at birth. In English, the terms are in flux and vary even between different organisations within one country.

Australia uses the label “other”, which I find unattractive. New Zealand and Canada include “gender diverse”, which could produce a higher response, as it could include people who don’t fit standard binary gender but have not decided to do anything about it. But in New Zealand, “gender diverse” includes binary trans people, while in Canada it only means nonbinary. Canada specifically defines “sex” as “sex assigned at birth”.

People have the human right to privacy. Asking a gender identity question should only be done when the benefits of having the information outweigh privacy concerns. So the Gender identity question will be voluntary.

The 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in the US asked 300,000 people “Do you consider yourself to be transgender?” Half did not answer the question. Of those who did, 0.52% said yes. The researchers said this meant 0.6% of the US population was transgender.

The California Health Interview Survey of 2015-16 asked sex at birth, then “Do you currently describe yourself as male, female or transgender?” 0.35% were identified as trans from the two questions, including some who said one sex for the first question, the other gender for the second. That is, there were 85 participants identified as trans.

Some surveys use networking or awareness campaigns to find trans people. Some countries have surveyed trans people on what questions to ask. Asked our gender or sex, we might respond simply with our acquired gender, so there needs to be a separate question about trans status. Despite this, the report recommends one question on gender, offering “male, female, another gender” as the options (though I consider male means sex, masculine means gender). There could be two questions, one on gender and a second on gender variant status.

There can be false positives, response errors distorting the figures; non-response bias and variability of samples. Before conducting the census, statistics bodies are trialling different questions. They want, they say, to “measure the full transgender population”, but some people are too scared to reveal, or are in denial. However if 0.1% of people are trans, but 1% of cis people make a mistake, the result would give a figure ten times the actual number of trans people. Unfamiliar terms could cause cis people to make errors.

Canada’s two questions ask sex at birth, male or female, then gender, male, female, “Or please specify your gender”. England is testing two questions, “Is your gender the same as the sex you were registered at birth?” and “Do you consider yourself to be trans?” with the option “prefer not to say”. They think “prefer not to say” will be trans people.

The report recommends allowing people to write in their gender rather than just tick “other gender”. They don’t address the possibility that someone might want to transition but be too frightened to- that’s the figure that, more than any other, shows the depth of need of trans people. It worries that in very detailed tables, such as for individual towns, giving a number of trans people could mean those people could be identified.

0.6% of the population is a lot more trans people than I thought, and I still don’t think they are all transitioning. And yet I feel gender stereotypes oppress and restrict far more people than would ever say in a census that they are transgender. That would mean the census might help with specific health-care needs, but not with policy around gender stereotypes. Still, that, and 0.35%, are the only concrete figures the report gives. The report recommends other countries start counting trans people, and report to the UN how they get on.

These questions don’t address the question I want to: how many people identify as trans but have decided temporarily or permanently not to transition? I know people like that, and people who have waited many years before starting their transition journey. That statistic would show how hard it is to be trans.

From In depth review of measuring gender identity.

Liz Truss Speaks

In a time of Brexit madness, a Tory government considered whether making recognition of trans people’s true genders easier would advance equality of opportunity, and decided it would. Today, Liz Truss answered questions to the Minister for Women and Equalities in the House of Commons after “a government source” was given the platform of the front page of The Sunday Times to threaten, obscurely, “big moves on safe spaces”, but state, clearly, plans for gender recognition reform had been “scrapped”. So, while waiting for Liz Truss’s slot to come on the BBC Parliament channel, which I was obsessing about all morning, I went back to the Pre-Consultation Equality Impact Assessment for the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

By law, Ministers should seek to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations, in this case between trans and non-trans people. The Government Equalities Office (GEO) thought their consultation would achieve these aims.

They said 4910 GRCs had been issued by 31 March 2018, but the “trans population” is estimated at 200,000-500,000. They made no estimate of the number of people who had actually transitioned. As 12% of trans people had applied for a GRC, most of that “trans population” would never seriously consider transitioning, or needing another gender recognised.

Trans people in the government’s LGBT survey said the GRC process was bureaucratic, too expensive, and intrusive. If the government made it simpler, the GEO said that would reduce discrimination, reduce the barriers we face, help improve our mental health and wellbeing, “reduce the stigma attached to being trans” and publicise that we are not mentally ill.

The GEO said that there would be a positive impact on relations between trans and non-trans people, increasing knowledge and understanding of the issues we face, and reduce misunderstanding and misconceptions. They said that in the 2017 National LGBT Survey in which 108,000 people participated, 39 had claimed that self-declaration of trans people would “threaten women-only spaces”. But then, the transphobic campaign to foment anger, fear and “concern” had hardly got started. The GEO pointed out,


that the Equality Act would not be amended.

The GEO promised, “We will use any insight gained from the consultation exercise to help foster good relations [between trans and women’s groups].” As I write, it seems likely that promise is being broken.

In the LGBT survey, 53% of trans men respondents and 15% of trans women respondents had begun transition before the age of 18. In Norway, children aged 6 can change gender, with parental consent. In the Netherlands, 126 people aged 16-18 applied for gender recognition in 2016. The government thought it would not reduce the age limit of 18, but welcomed responses.

“The Government does consider being trans to be a disability”- I am not sure if that is a misprint. They don’t consider gender dysphoria to be a mental illness. Some consider it a mental health problem. The GEO referred to another report saying isolation, discrimination and transphobia contributed to “88 per cent of [trans] respondents had suffered from depression, 80 per cent from stress and 75 per cent from anxiety at some time,” but that does not mean that being trans is an illness in itself. The GEO said “40% of trans men, 30% of trans women, and 37% of non-binary people had tried to access mental health services in the last 12 months.” Streamlining gender recognition “may have a positive impact on their wellbeing and mental health”.

In a time of Brexit and Covid madness, after that anonymous source spoke to the Sunday Times, I awaited Liz Truss answering Parliamentary questions hardly able to think about anything else. Kemi Badenoch and Liz Truss answered questions. There were questions on payments for self-employed people during covid, BAME people suffering disproportionately from covid, hospitality and leisure workers, the closure of child care facilities, and other matters relating to equality and women’s issues. Many of the questions were from Tories, to give the impression that the government were doing something useful. They have suspended face to face assessments for disability benefits, which they usually use to take away benefit. There were warm words about addressing unconscious bias.

Liz Truss said that conversion therapy is a vile and abhorrent practice which the Government want to stop. The Government has commissioned research on conversion therapy in the UK- they don’t even know if it is a problem, really. Specifically, they have a concern for under 18 being coerced into conversion therapy. Why the announcement on conversion therapy now? Is it to split LGB people from T people? Does it even relate to some idea that gay people are forced to transition because of homophobia? These concerns are not paranoid. All I can say is we can’t be definite this is action against trans people, yet. Probably, the announcement on conversion therapy is to pretend to advance LGB rights, even if there’s no serious risk of conversion therapy here. All the professional bodies say conversion therapy is unethical.

Truss said the government would work towards global LGBT equality. At least the T remains in LGBT for now. She said it is essential to deliver on 2018 LGBT action plan. Happy Pride, said Liz.

So, there was nothing on trans self-declaration. I will continue badgering my MP.

23 July: In similar questions today, Liz Truss was asked about trans rights. Nadia Whittome, MP, said, “Does the Secretary of State agree that her quibbling on this issue is fanning the flames of populist hate towards an already marginalised group?” Gotcha! Truss did a partial climbdown, though I see no more reason to believe her on this than Government assurances that the NHS will not be sold off. Truss said, “Let me be absolutely clear: we will not be rolling back the rights of transgender people. It is important that transgender people are able to live their lives as they wish, without fear, and we will make sure that that is the case.”

Truss and Johnson want to make us a hate group, but the British people are too canny to fall for that one, and the Labour Party is doing well in damping down any possible culture war.

Aimee Stephens

Aimee Stephens, who died in May, is a trans heroine. Her case in the Supreme Court of the US shows that discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation or gender identity is discrimination on the ground of sex, which is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Why that is, might be a surprising argument for a British lawyer, beautiful in its simplicity. The Court’s judgment, of a majority of six (Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh dissenting) was written by Neil Gorsuch.

Aimee Stephens was fired by RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes after she announced she intended to transition, and come to work in a conservative skirt suit or dress. Her employer claimed it would violate “God’s commands” to allow her to state she is female or behave in feminine ways. The case was heard together with those of two gay men. Donald Zarda was fired after he came out. Gerald Bostock was fired after his employer found out he was gay.

Title VII makes it “unlawful . . . for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual . . . because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Looking at the ordinary meaning of these words resolves the cases. “Sex” means “biological distinctions between male and female”. “Because of” means “By reason of” or “on account of”. This is “but-for” causality: but for their sex, these plaintiffs would not have been sacked. (It’s causa sine qua non, if you really want the Latin.)Those employers finding a female employee was attracted to men would not have sacked her for that. Harris would not have sacked a cis woman for wearing a skirt. “Discriminate” means treat differently, intentionally.

That means it is unlawful to sack or penalize someone, when part of the reason is their sex. Discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation or gender identity is necessarily discrimination because of the individual’s sex. A male worker was entitled to claim discrimination for sexual harassment by other men: it was different in form from the sexual harassment of women. An employer that would not hire women with young children, even though it favoured hiring women over men, was discriminating on the ground of sex, against those mothers as individuals.

It does not matter how people would label the discrimination. Aimee Stephens might say she was sacked because she is trans. It is still because she is seen as male. Sex need not be the sole or main cause of the employer’s action. And even if the employer treats men and women as groups the same, discrimination against an individual is unlawful.

The employers contended that they sacked their employees for sexual orientation or gender identity, and attempted to argue that was different from sex. But the rules are based on the sex of the employees, even though sexual orientation and gender identity are distinct concepts from sex. It does not matter that the Senate and House of Representatives have passed bills at different times to add sexual orientation or gender identity to Title VII, but these have never become law. If Congress had intended for there to be an exception- Discrimination on the ground of sex is unlawful, except when it is on the ground of sexual orientation- it should have said so.

The employers argued that no-one, in 1964, would have expected the law to apply to gay or trans people, but that does not matter because the words of the statute are unambiguous. The Court has to enforce the law’s plain terms.

That is, a conservative Supreme Court has extended protection to gay and trans people though others reading the law, including the sponsors of those failed bills in congress, did not think we were protected. The judgment is available as a pdf.

It is much more elegant than British law. Here, sex, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership, and gender reassignment are all separate headings for protection.

Be still and cool

I awoke to a social media storm. The first thing I saw on facebook was, “Woke to find the Government has declared war on my existence. Stress, shaking, panic, fear.” Oh. What’s happened now? The Sunday Times’ main front page article was about trans. It said nothing new about the government’s plans on trans recognition, in the most obnoxious way.

I read the article, and wondered whether to blog about it, or go cycling before Meeting. I decided to blog about it, and share that blog, so I did, and then felt wound up. I needed to calm down before Meeting, and knew the passage: QFP 2:18.

Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts, and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God, whereby thou wilt receive his strength and power from whence life comes, to allay all tempests, against blusterings and storms. That is it which moulds up into patience, into innocency, into soberness, into stillness, into stayedness, into quietness, up to God, with his power.

Considering that was not enough, so I phoned a Friend. She knows a lot of the Bible. God challenges Job:

Deck yourself with majesty and dignity;
clothe yourself with glory and splendour.
Pour out the overflowings of your anger,
and look on all who are proud, and abase them.
Look on all who are proud, and bring them low;
tread down the wicked where they stand.
Hide them all in the dust together;
bind their faces in the world below.
Then I will also acknowledge to you
that your own right hand can give you victory.

Job, sitting on his ash heap, cannot do these things. So Job says, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes”. Then, he gets wealthy again, with sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys and beautiful daughters. He is a bright, active man, and he does what works for him.

I still need to calm down. There is a lot to wind people up, these days: the deaths from the Pandemic, Brexit, the George Floyd demonstrations, and, for me in particular, JK Rowling’s statement and that Sunday Times article coming after Liz Truss’s statement. Others have been outraged about Miriam Margolyes. For years Donald Trump has been fomenting the outrage through Twitter, and it seems Boris Johnson is following the same route. So there were far-right demonstrators “defending statues”,

I find the source of the Fox quote, which is his letter to Lady Claypole, at p346 of Nickall’s edition of his Journal. I read it, before and during Meeting, and considered its predictions. “Looking down at sin, and corruption, and distraction, you are swallowed up in it,” he says. Ain’t that the truth. Of course I knew “Be still and cool” before, but today it speaks to my condition in the clearest way. But- “Looking at the light that discovers them, you will see over them. That will give victory; and you will find grace and strength; and there is the first step of peace.”

A Beatles song comes to mind:

Dear Prudence, won’t you open up your eyes?
The sun is out
The sky is blue
It’s beautiful
And so are you
Dear Prudence, won’t you open up your eyes?

Saturday, my personal growth workshop was about Yin. Yang goes out, does stuff and achieves things, and Yin receives, notices what is, including what is inside me, what I feel. Jamie Catto says our education is far more for Yang than Yin. Mmm. So, “I awoke to a social media storm”. Well, why? Because the first thing I did on awakening, before showering, dressing or breakfast, was to scroll facebook. One answer would be to spend less time on facebook. However, I want my voice to be heard. I shared about JK Rowling, and had 1,163 views of it on the post’s first day. I had a lot of social media love. It is nothing compared to in person friendship or affection, but it can be a delight- “Love the way you write. Hate the way you hurt,” said one person, once.

So, my voice is calling for peace, about Rowling and the Sunday Times. I feel this is worthwhile, and may even be worth the costs of “looking down at distraction”, in order to coax others from it. I might find other ways for my voice to be heard.

I am still with Victorian genre painters. Here’s George Goodwin Kilburne:

PM scraps plan to make gender change easier?

The Sunday Times has a front page article headed “PM Scraps plan to make gender change easier”. The article contradicts the headline- it will be easier, just not as much easier as hoped. The article says nothing new, in the most obnoxious way.

The Sunday Times claims to have received leaks about gender recognition in England and Wales. It claims that gender recognition reform has been “scrapped”, or “ditched”. “New protections will be offered to safeguard female-only spaces, including refuges and public lavatories, to stop them being used by those with male anatomy.” The Government Equalities Office has previously said they intend to publish the response before 21 July when Parliament is closed.

“A source”, possibly Dominic Cummings himself, is quoted. “In terms of changing what is on your birth certificate, you will still have to have proper medical approval. And you’re not going to be able to march in and find a hippie quack doctor who is willing to say you’re a woman. That’s not going to happen. The original draft was not what people had in mind so it has been rewritten. There will be big moves on safe spaces and women-only toilets.”

According to the ST, “More than 100,000 responses were received to the consultation. Insiders say about 70% of those backed the idea that anyone should be able to declare that they are a woman or a man. However, officials believe the results were skewed by an avalanche of responses generated by trans rights groups”.

Well, considering the desperation with which anti-trans campaigners begged people to respond, I would say people who cared about the issue one way or the other responded, and (oddly enough) people who didn’t care enough to respond didn’t respond. The Scottish consultation had an overwhelming response in favour of self-declaration.

“Quack” doctors. Well, giving a false assessment would be unethical for a doctor, who might be disciplined. And now there is an official list of specialist psychiatrists: you cannot get a GRC without a letter from someone on that list.

The Times says local authorities are providing gender neutral toilets, but central government guidelines will prevent that.

It says “Safeguards will be put in place to protect ‘safe spaces’ for women, reaffirming provisions in the Equalities (sic) Act…. polls suggest voters are sympathetic to trans rights but do not support transgender women with male anatomy accessing female-only facilities such as prisons and changing rooms.”

Well. At present, the Equality Act has a two stage process. First, spaces can be women only. Then, they can exclude trans women as well as all men if that “is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. It does not say anything about anatomy, and demanding that we have surgery would infringe our human rights- and demanding to check if we had would infringe our right to privacy. Stopping assaults on women, for example, would be a “legitimate aim”, but excluding trans women would not be a “proportionate means” to achieve that, or any means at all.

As the ST says, this “will fuel the culture war gripping Britain”. That will please Rupert Murdoch and BoJo Johnson.

Liz Truss has already said women’s spaces will be protected. I don’t think The Sunday Times front page splash adds anything. I wrote to my MP, who has a junior position in the government, on 19 May. On 5 June he replied that he would not see me, but that if I wrote to him with my concerns he would put them to the relevant ministers. I wrote back, twice, requesting to see him but have had no reply. The second time, I wrote, “I appreciate that, as Burke said, you give your judgment, not just your voice; I appreciate collective responsibility; but if you think I, or someone indistinguishable from me, is a danger to other women I want to look you in the eye as I hear it from you.”

After the ST leak, we know nothing more than before. The Government Equalities Offices has a list of faqs for correspondence about gender recognition and single sex spaces. It says the gender recognition process will be less bureaucratic but “remain a serious and meaningful undertaking”. So there will be some loosening, just not all we might want. It says Liz Truss’s comments on single sex spaces “were intended to reiterate the importance of maintaining single-sex spaces, as provided for in the Equality Act. If any changes were to be made to the Act – as with all legislation – they would go through the appropriate processes of engagement.” The Equality and Human Rights Commission was asked to produce new guidance, which might make it easier for women’s services to exclude trans women: now there is uncertainty, and they might not want to risk court action. However some women’s services exclude all trans women with impunity.

Towards “Towards a Quaker View of Gender”

A Quaker view of gender should work towards inclusion, particularly of people whose inclusion now is contingent or insecure. As far as possible, we should see people as individuals, rather than as members of groups, or through the prism of particular characteristics. Where there is disagreement, we should first see what we agree about and what we have in common before delving into those disagreements, which can be painful and protracted. There is deep hurt and concomitant lack of trust, so we should work to show that all the hurt, and all the people involved, matter. We need threshing, and separate spaces so that all perspectives may be heard.

Gender is a social construct, and not innate. Margaret Mead investigated societies where both sexes would appear feminine to US gender expectations of the time, or both masculine, or the men feminine and the women masculine. Within one society, gender roles, stereotypes and attitudes can vary between different social classes or by skin colour.

Sexual differences are relevant. Women tend to be smaller and physically weaker than men, though there is an overlap. However culture, convention and the language people use may make sexual differences appear more or less important. It may not be possible to entirely strip away culture, to see those sexual differences, or any human characteristic, as it would be without any cultural influence at all.

The culture that we live in is invisible to us, like the air we breathe, simply normal, unless we make a sustained effort to bring it into the light. The culture privileges particular groups, and oppresses or marginalises others. It is particularly difficult for privileged people to see the oppression in their culture, which at first seems to them to be normal, unobjectionable and unquestionable.

Apart from the gametes they produce, there is no characteristic or trait of one sex which does not exist in the other, or which is not equally valuable or admirable in both.

One person cannot write “Towards a Quaker View of Gender”(TAQVOG) which, like “Towards a Quaker View of Sex” from which it takes its name, should point out oppression and seek liberation, so that the gifts and qualities of all people may be valued, and all people flourish so that the whole community flourishes. Each individual will have blind spots, which conceal from them the oppression or the gifts of another.

So I passionately desire anyone who can to write what they would wish included in TAQVOG. There are many blogs, magazines and organisations which might publish such pieces- I’d publish you on mine, whether I agree with you or not. Personal testimony is necessary, but also there are many involved in the disputes who are well qualified to analyse from an academic perspective, but might feel unwilling to tell personal experience. All kinds of responses have value.

I am a trans woman, and my fellow-feeling is first with trans women, then other trans and gender-variant folk, then with all affected by gender- which is everybody. First with trans women, whether considering transition, transitioning, or long transitioned, whatever they look like, in all their responses and needs including intimate and personal ones: because I know the terror and isolation I have felt and can still feel. If I were to write for TAQVOG, trans would be my first concern.

If one of us does wrong, deal with the wrongdoing, but don’t punish her for being trans as well, doubt that she is trans because of the wrongdoing, or judge all of us by that wrongdoing. If one of us does well, notice, welcome and recognise that, because we have potential which is not realised because of the difficulties of being trans. Don’t speculate about our genitals! Most of us want surgery, but waiting lists are long.

TAQVOG would not primarily be about trans people and trans issues. Around 0.1% of the population has transitioned to express themselves as another gender, but gender stereotypes, attitudes and roles oppress everyone to an extent. Perhaps 1% of the population have extreme difficulty with gender, either because of being particularly distant from the stereotypes or having a strong internalized tendency to see the world in gendered terms and judge themselves and others on conformity to those roles. Many trans women, for example, work hard to conform to male stereotypes before transitioning.

Instead it would primarily be about violence, and first violence against women: physical violence and coercive control, violence in the home, the workplace and public spaces, and the way women are inhibited from full participation in public spaces by the threat of violence. This includes physical violence by Quaker men. But it would be about all the violence, the cultural and structural violence which prevents people from valuing and developing their qualities because of gendered restrictions, including on men. This needs a wide range of personal testimony, and academic analysis which I am not qualified to make.

I got the idea of TAQVOG from an article entitled “Towards a Quaker View of Gender and Sex” in the Friends Quarterly, which I condemn, as I see it as tending to promote unjustified fear and exclusion of trans women. So it is important to me to quote a part I agree with, to show partial agreement is possible even between the most apparently opposing views, and because it summarises one of the most important issues TAQVOG would address:

It is of vital spiritual importance that we explore society’s expectation of us on the basis of our sex, as well as other characteristics and experiences. It is by slowly stripping away these layers that we are able to listen to the still small voice inside.

Though some societal expectations affirm some people, if we did this we could truly appreciate our diversity, and include everyone.

The human inner light lives on despite society’s expectations, and stripping away those layers is the way we fulfil these words of George Fox, from the Journal, Nickalls’ edition p263: “So the ministers of the Spirit must minister to the spirit that is transgressed and in prison, which hath been in captivity in every one, whereby with the same Spirit people must be led out of captivity up to God.” It is the same paragraph: that is how we “answer that of God in every one”.

This freedom is in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”

JK Rowling speaks out on sex and gender

It’s four in the morning, as I write now. I really should not have gone on the internet. I have read JK Rowling’s essay, and I feel complete terror, the bottom falling out of my world. So I will start with a memory of safety, of being cradled in support and love. I was bent over, and I remember clearly my tears not just rolling down my face but dripping onto the floor, as I was held and consoled. Continue reading

Taking responsibility

This has value because it increases understanding.

I am slowly getting better. It is too slow for my liking. I am not sure I can manage it in time. I don’t know what health would look like, though at this stage too clear an idea of what health would be gets in the way of finding my true way.

I have a bleak start: Sorrow and anxiety constrain my life to Nothingness, and Nothingness exacerbates the sorrow and anxiety. I am separate from the bleakness: this is heavy, but it is better to be conscious of it, then I can question it and deal with it.

I blame myself for being in this room, for being in bleakness, for every step which has led me to this point in my life. And I have worked out that my harshness to myself is not doing any good. The other side of taking responsibility is self-blame. Taking responsibility for ones own actions is a good thing. Taking responsibility for things others are responsible for is needlessly harmful, and I don’t think there’s a magic way of hitting the precise balance and then just being OK.

Blame can be useful- I find what went wrong so it does not happen again, and also in claiming agency. And now my reflexive habit of self-blame makes me feel weak and inadequate so unable to cope with problems, makes me feel bad and drains motivation. Self-blame made the pain less:

if I am angry with other people I express it, and get squashed. If I blame myself then I keep quiet and don’t get squashed.

I am not remembering this, but it feels strongly this is where I was as a child. I now feel a tincture of exultation- it’s good to acknowledge this. I can’t name the main feeling- hurt, frustration, anger- powerlessness-

If I blame myself, if I imagine I am responsible, then I can fantasise that my actions can improve my situation. That’s reassuring. It’s not learning from mistakes, as I don’t now believe I was responsible. This may be the source of my self-image as the centre of the universe, the master of my fate.

I am partly the victim of great impersonal forces. I voted Remain, and I vote Labour. Every one of the warring factions in my brain wants my good. The reflexive self blame fails to see some of why I am here now. Meditation, contemplation might be the way to get this clear and untangled, but it’s difficult and painful so I want to avoid it.

I feel anxiety that something might happen in the next week, which is only a serious threat in the next year.

I really do create my powerlessness now. If I was tied in knots by outside forces, they are not working on me now. So it is up to me to untangle myself, and I am doing that. It’s difficult, but looking back over years of my blog I see progress, and greater understanding. But even when I have managed to get rid of most stresses on me such that all I have to do is go to the supermarket occasionally, I am still stressed and hurting.

A negative understanding comes to mind. If I have stayed right at the centre of my comfort zone, I have got out of the habit of stretching myself, which is the equivalent of my muscles atrophying, and the source of my anxiety. There’s a Chinese proverb, “A man grows most tired when standing still”. Such reflexive self-blame is not helping me right now.

My goal is to make something of my life. At the moment that only means untangling. I don’t want to tell my woes to anyone because I don’t want to see them as woes. I want to see these things as positives, that I am taking action, that I am overcoming, patiently, slowly, effectively. If I am dragging myself forward on my elbows because both legs are broken I don’t want to dwell on the fact that both my legs are broken.

I love Cardinal. The fourth series is the best since the first. A man kills people slowly and painfully in order to cause maximum hurt to their loved ones, his real victims. We see the intricacy of his plots to kill and get away with it, and the cruelty of killing by freezing to death, so there are lingering shots from a drone of frozen wastes or trees surrounded by snow. It is cathartic. We take a long journey into darkness, in the comfort of our living rooms.

I will care for each one of my warring factions, hear them out, and accept them. The snake will digest the goat eventually.

Nine years in this room. It is too slow for my liking. With nothing but being stripped of ways of being that are not working for me, and trying to find new ways of being. In healing myself I feel I am like a fly, on its back, trying to flip over, failing. I am still twitching. I will continue at least to twitch- the best I can do- until I can’t any more.

I see the difficulty of the work. Its value is not in question. I am beautiful. My light should shine, and it is for me to free it. There’s the odd flicker now and then.

I want to kiss the World better. Stand up for God’s truth and justice.

I don’t do anything for fun. I do things, sometimes, for wonder or delight.

I joined an Evangelical Quaker meeting, with a pastor, by zoom, to see what it was like. In having a pastor it seemed they made themselves lesser, by ceasing to take responsibility. I will not cease from exploration, and I will not cease to take responsibility. I will see my responsibility and what I need to do more clearly, so as to act more effectively.

These are dark times.

This is all I can do.

Here is a portrait of Edward Colston, whose statue has just been torn down and thrown into the harbour where his slave ships sailed from. Look at him in his pomp. We are still talking of the man now.


Depression manifests in me because I find my situation unbearable. Arguably it is. (That’s a bleak beginning! There is some hope towards the end.)

Judging a desire as “good” is meaningless. It can be used as a crutch: this desire is “good” therefore it is right for me; but the crutch is illusory, and it may only be “good” in my own mind. I thought, my friend should stop relying on that crutch, and then realised the lesson applied to me.

One does things out of habit, or because of rules, and there are times when I can’t find the motivation to clean my teeth- even though my mouth feels bad and would feel better if I cleaned them, even though I have worked out I clean my teeth for my own good, not because of rules or habit. Perhaps I can’t see anything will make my situation better, or my mouth hardly matters in the bigger picture. But there it is my own judgment of good, not something introjected or worked out rationally.

I have shut down my desire by judging it.

So I need to find what I desire. I thought of cycling, Sunday morning, and then I did not go. I thought, “I can do it later”. My desire is deceiving me: “later” never comes. It has to deceive me, to get round me, because I cannot accept it.

I cannot merely endure life.

Some goal or meaning might make me do things for survival, as a means to that end, but my only goal at the moment is freeing myself from internal conflicts, in the hope other goals will manifest later. We might adopt a goal which is worthwhile, but cannot demand God make us enjoy it, or take away our revulsion.

I consider my desire. It is there, and I do not know what it is. All I can say is my word of power:


I judge you from habit. I need your voice.

Carefully, I test possible words against the mute desire. Other ways of being? Loneliness??

Rajit was othered in a Quaker meeting. Someone said to him, “Your English is very good”. That’s patronising, only really a compliment to a teenager, and as I have no evidence that he was not born here, I assume he was, though I don’t know. The “compliment” makes him an outsider, rather than one of us. It is because of his skin colour. The person did not know they were doing anything wrong. That is not good enough.

I did not go cycling on Monday either. I sat outside, meditating, with a pen and paper to note ideas occurring to me.

Why would I want to go cycling? Conventional fun, the way I have introjected I am supposed to enjoy myself? Rational calculation of a need? I should exercise, after all, get my pulse up.

My introjected self hatred stops me coming into the light. My desire is possibly the most individual part of me, and I have denied it.

I must allow.

Oh God.


Immediately, out come the critical voices. They say, I have leapt to a conclusion too early. That is not really it.

I am barely conscious of huge inner conflict. I want: quick rational answers and a course of action. I want: not to judge myself so reflexively harshly. I want energy and motivation. I want need, desire and action to be one.

I went over to pick the creeper off the pine.

It was allowed to damage the tree badly, then someone stripped away most of the creeper, and it’s doing better but the creeper is coming up again.

My situation provokes long term fear. There is the slow, steady pressure and the repeated threat of disaster which so far each time I have avoided. I “do not acknowledge my feelings”? Fear is hard to bear. The situation is bad. I do what I can to better it.

Tuesday morning again I think of going cycling. The day is overcast so not too hot, there is little wind, no forecast rain, these are the best conditions I will have. I still want to continue reading. It is that I do not want to be in contemplative mode, to face the ongoing fear and other feelings. I think of a question: “What is the problem with the thing you don’t want to do?” Actually it’s the new problem, the older problems are still there to an extent.

I went cycling. My cadence is improving.

Added: Just as anxiety is fear experienced for too long, so this is not sadness but


It is a heavy weight. Sorrow can come from a single event that traumatises a person, or from a burden of many sadnesses unacknowledged. It is a burden. I told my friend I would “excavate” my depression, and she said I sounded so hard-working. I deserve better than this, and I will create better than this. Both anxiety and sorrow increase my propensity for withdrawal. I will welcome my inner light, so that I no longer need to withdraw.

The last of my William Frith paintings for now: