Social Media Activism

Almost all activism is done in real life.

Social media can organise. On social media, a group recruited trans people to record a video to campaign for trans rights. When that video gets shown to cis people it may achieve some good.

Social media can persuade: my JK Rowling post got over a thousand views on its first day, and most of them were cis people, who were listening, pro-trans rights, and wanting to learn more. Some cis people shared it, extending its audience. WordPress gave me a platform, and facebook gave me an audience.

Social media can encourage. We get together in closed groups, all on the same side though with slightly different perspectives, and we argue, and hone our views. There are support groups for people transitioning, and activist groups for people who in many cases have been transitioned longer. We hang out.

The dopamine hit you get when your posts are liked and commented on is a problem. It gets people spending too much time on social media.

Some people post negative stuff, about transphobes doing their thing. This is not activism. If reading transphobic rubbish makes you depressed, that does nobody any good. It can be worthwhile reading transphobic rubbish to refute it- there were lots of answers to JK Rowling, or Maya Forstater– but generally, only the highest profile transphobia needs directly refuted. It is better to tell the truth about trans, without bothering to give attention to transphobes. It is only worth reading the falsehoods if you are going to do something about them that will do some good: persuading others not to read them, getting the truth out, showing how the falsehoods work. The Spectator and The Times produce so much transphobe drivel that much of it is repetitive and worth no attention whatever.

Abuse on Twitter is counterproductive. Telling Margaret Atwood she is a “gender traitor”, a term from “The Handmaid’s Tale”, for tweeting something mildly pro-trans, is not going to persuade her. Phobes needle trans women on twitter trying to get us to say “Fuck off”, then screenshot it and hawk it round, saying “Look! This is what trans activists are like!”

Clicktivism works sometimes. Petitions on the UK parliament site can get a response from the government, and sometimes a debate in Westminster Hall. As they get shared over social media, the short statement why the petition should be granted gets read. People signing it make a commitment to it, and that might psychologically make them more committed to its cause. One petition got 4,150,262 signatures, and for a time watching its numbers increase by hundreds every minute was hypnotic. I sat and watched it, feeling amazement and rueful pleasure, knowing it was not enough. I don’t sign or share petitions, though. The people targetted could just ignore them. They provide data on the people signing them. I don’t do, or share, internet personality quizzes either.

Writing to your MP is more useful than social media sharing.

I am better to read books than news sites. From the UK, one account of the Trump response to Portland demonstrations is enough. The NYT and the Atlantic might produce articles on them daily. Even on issues that affect me directly, one article is enough. Possibly Mr Trump will win in November. Possibly Mr Biden will. I can’t influence the result. Reading about the relevant law, or the judges, or the voter suppression efforts, intrigues me with lots of tiny details without making me more informed on the only important question, who will win. I get the illusion of being informed and engaged without making the situation better. All it does is direct my strong emotions at something far away about which I can do nothing, disengaging me from my actual life. Learning about incipient autocracy in Poland and the threat of it in the US and UK has more value.

I enjoy protest marches, the sense of solidarity, the noise, the placards, and Extinction Rebellion, disrupting traffic round Trafalgar Square and Whitehall may have done good. But bad things are happening in the world, and paying them all my attention is unpleasant without doing any good.

Dora Richter

Dora Richter, the first trans woman to complete gender reassignment surgery, worked as a maid in Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science. Her testicles were removed in 1922, and in 1931 her penis was removed, and later a vagina was surgically created.

After the orchiectomy, Dr Felix Abraham, a psychiatrist at the institute, published a case study: “Her castration had the effect – albeit not very extensive – of making her body become fuller, restricting her beard growth, making visible the first signs of breast development, and giving the pelvic fat pad… a more feminine shape.” Dora was 31 at the time of that operation. There were eunuchs in the Ottoman Empire until 1923, and while Italy made castration for musical purposes illegal in 1861, the last Sistine Castrato, Alessandro Moreschi, lived to 1922. Dora is part of the Institute, but the psychiatrist feels able to report on her as a subject of scientific study. It seems dehumanising to me. Moreschi had higher status. The recording of his singing made me feel horror and admiration, at a glimpse of a lost world. The Sultan might not want European scientists examining his servants.

I wondered why I had heard of Lili Elbe but not Dora Richter. Lili was an artist. Dora was born to a poor peasant family in 1891 in Germany. Aged six, she attempted to remove her penis with a tourniquet, and after that her parents allowed her to dress as a girl. As an adult, she was arrested several times for cross-dressing and sentenced to a man’s prison before a judge sent her to Hirschfeld’s Institute. In 1925, Dr Levi-Lenz wrote,

It was, moreover, very difficult for transvestites to find a job… As we knew this and as only a few places of work were willing to employ transvestites, we did everything we could to give such people a job at our Institute. For instance, we had five maids- all of them male transvestites, and I shall never forget the sight one day when I happened to go into the Institute’s kitchen after work: there they sat close together, the five “girls”, peacefully knitting and sewing and singing old folk-songs. These were, in any case, the best, most hardworking and conscientious domestic workers we ever had. Never ever did a stranger visiting us notice anything.

Where to start? I am not surprised she was a good worker if she would have been jobless, and arrested, anywhere else. The Institute has too much power, but the doctor makes it sound beneficent. He is so patronising about the five “girls”. I am glad we have control of our own language now: I am a trans woman, not a transvestite. It is not about clothes. I don’t know if she was happy, knitting, or if she had talents rarely realised in peasant children.

Adolf Hitler became chancellor in January 1933, and dictator in March 1933, and on 6 May Nazis attacked the Institute, burning books. “Dora is not known to have survived this attack”. Hirschfeld had gone on a speaking tour in 1931, and been advised not to return to Germany: he died in Nice in 1935. The Nazi party was hoaching with gay men, but that did not stop them hating the gay Hirschfeld, who had been known as “Aunt Magnesia” in the gay community and established the Institute to provide a research base for his ideas that “hermaphrodites, homosexuals, transvestites, are the necessary natural link between the two poles of man and woman”.

Dora showed huge persistence, asserting that she was female, and expressing herself as female. It is because of that kind of courage that I am able to express myself as female today. I will honour her even if those who knew her appeared not to.

“You are beautiful”

My internal conflict is such that I do not trust anything, not anything in the world or anything in myself. If I think of something to say I think immediately of why it is wrong or stupid or self-serving- not self-serving in achieving anything useful at all, but self-serving in maintaining ridiculous illusion for a minute longer. But I don’t trust the judgment either.

I am glad I am alone at home after that session, as I feel destabilised, but I feel the destabilisation is useful, lifting the lid off conflicts which are going on all the time in me so that we can reconcile them.

I had felt that I was reconciling the conflicts. I was proud of “speaking from the heart”, honestly and openly rather than from behind a mask, which felt as if it were welded on. Then with Louise I did not want to. Speaking conventionally and maintaining appearances seemed as dead and worthless as it has ever seemed. Speaking openly and honestly to someone I trust but still have to maintain an ongoing relationship with felt too frightening. That was Thursday. On Saturday was Jamie Catto’s group, when I was thinking of “not sharing”- still speaking, but from behind a mask, this time for protection of myself, and chosen, rather than imposed. I wanted to Not-share, to say some conventional things, and from that thought found my sharing still heart-felt, and safer: the mask is mine, the sharing my choice. Comments from the Chat: “Love it!!!” “Ace” “Wow” “Fabulous!”

And today with Linda I am tongue-tied. Writing of it now, I feel much more integrated, choosing what to write, clear, and truthful, but in the session I felt difficulty speaking, and split. Not between a feminine protector and a driver, but between a masculine protector, practical, business-like, wanting value from the session but not wanting to be emotional, and the feminine side which I value highly- “speaking from the heart”, authentic self, real self- but right now judge harshly. And I judge them both. I want to say something, it flashes through my mind and then I judge it. Speaking gets more and more difficult, and by the end I can hardly speak: I can’t say anything without telling a story as evidence for its truth, but the evidence will never be enough. I project my judgment onto Linda. I don’t trust the masculine protector, or the Heart, and I don’t even trust the judgment, which always condemns completely and so is like a stopped clock with one answer. I can’t trust anything inside or outside me.

I say to her I am in her hands, as the professional. She says she wants a collaboration, to create something together, and I have the power to refuse. I say this is a safe space, as for her to hurt me at this distance she’d need a cruise missile, but that’s not true, exactly: she can make me very uncomfortable indeed.

Something like I asked her to say to me “You are beautiful” but I don’t know what exactly. I think I asked for it straight out. “You are beautiful,” she says. “How does that make you feel?” I don’t believe her. I think of that IB client. At the end, I gave him my normal reassuring speech, and she repeated it to him as if he had not heard it, only taking out all the kindness and respect from it.

Here is the transference. (I think I use the word correctly.)

Hello, Mum.

Putting the bin out this morning, I had a blackberry from the unkempt car park behind my neighbour’s house. The brambles poke through the fence. It is my first of the year, so I go down through the fields to the park, grazing. Most are unripe, and there is a lot of blossom still about, but there are a few, plump, soft, dark, sweet and beautifully full-flavoured. Two men are grazing, and we exchange words about how some are sour but some so sweet.

With Pendle Hill I considered unmuting and speaking on this. “I had my first blackberries of the season”- no, daffodil ministry. What about “Praise God for God’s bounty and the beauty of creation”? But I don’t know that this is right for these people. I look through the videos. Many of the same people come daily. What about sharing at the end of worship, in that strange American custom of “Joys and Sorrows”? I glad I did not, as today there are sorrows of death and terrible illness including covid. I am not speaking from the heart because of my intellectual analysis. “Praise God for God’s blessings” might have been worthwhile.

Alchemy of Breath

The heart of this spiritual experience is an hour’s meditation, concentrating on the breath. We breathe in and out through the mouth, from filling the lungs to emptying them as far as avoids discomfort, with no pause at the top of the breath or at the bottom. We lie down on our backs, perhaps with a cushion under the knees to keep the tailbone comfy. Here is a video on the technique.

However on this Zoom taster we start with a lecture on the Drama Triangle. It has three characters, Hero, Villain, and Victim. We can bounce round these three characters in our relationships, or escape the triangle into Presence. Adopt the posture you would have as Hero. Here we are expressing ourselves physically, rather than intellectually. It is a useful exercise. I learn something from it. Consciously embody each. Use your body not your intellect. Stop relying on an intellectual analysis. Be gentle with yourself and others.

The drama triangle is a trap. To move on from it, you have to enter Presence. As Abraham Hicks says, don’t slide into the ditch to rescue someone from it. In presence, you take your space. It is a state of perceiving your own feelings, and the world around you, of wonder, curiosity, and non-commitment. If you enact this with your body, with the sound Hmmm indicating curiosity, that can create a boundary to protect you from fast-thinking reaction, sucking you back into the triangle. Or you might enter presence by deliberately moving your body in a new spontanous way.

Be aware of your empathy: don’t be indulgent, or interfere with the other’s creativity. The victim does not know where their power of choice is. Ask a question, to get them to think, or see things differently. Don’t be a hero, be the Encourager. Remember they, and all of us, are


You could suggest what their options are, or ask them to state options. Providing solutions is not true friendship.

When you find yourself in the Victim role, ask “What are my options?” Do something, anything, to end the sense of powerlessness, and accept responsibility for where you are.

Then we move into the breathwork. Notice your physical sensations, and let your mind be what it is. Inhaling, allow the Universe, or supporting Love, to enter. Exhaling, let go. Notice the feelings in your body. Under anger is fear, under fear is sadness, and under sadness is unconditional Love. We are conscious, adult people becoming our own inner leader.

During the exercise, alas, listening to the music of Raphael Shastro, I fell asleep. I was also uncomfortable with the breathing technique. Reminding myself that I had chosen to start, and had a choice whether to practice the whole hour, I turned off my zoom camera and went to cook my dinner, while still listening. My mind and intellect were at work. However, doing the practice I was more conscious of being an animal, with a physical body, than I might be in Quaker worship.

The people attending comment on how they found it, and they found it mindblowing and life-changing. This teacher, Anthony Abbagnano, can bring people to a spiritual experience, which may do lasting good. Charismatic himself, he tells us that the charismatic teacher needs fact-checked, and falsehoods pollute the teaching.

Welcome the resistance you feel to the practice. Feel that resistance: it carries messages. Also welcome the Call you feel.

Is Alex trans?

Alex, aged 16, visits his psychotherapist. They discuss his relationship with his parents and friends. Alex identifies as trans and has worn a binder since age 14, but has, with his parents, chosen not to use puberty blockers as they have the side effect of lowering mood and energy. He is a high-achieving student at an all-girls school, and could be perceived as a young, shy, effeminate boy just before puberty. He suffers with fatigue, disrupted sleep, anxiety, eating difficulties, superficial self harm and mild obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms.

Will he be encouraged to transition? Will his psychotherapist examine any underlying issues which might cause him to identify as trans? Online, I read the therapist’s account of the session, then clinical commentary by two psychotherapists: Amanda Keenan, child and adolescent psychotherapist, who trained at the Tavistock clinic, and Margaret Rustin, child and adolescent psychotherapist who was head of child psychotherapy at the Tavistock for 24 years. The Tavistock runs the English Gender Identity Development Service, as well as other services. There are also maunderings from disgraced psychotherapist Robert Withers, which are more revealing about himself than the case.

Before transition, everyone thought he was really gay, really butch, but he began living as male, at first on the internet, when he felt he was being himself. He felt better, and wanted this for the rest of his life. Accordingly he socially transitioned. He tells his therapist how he hates conflict, and when someone shouts at him “My inner thoughts take the side of whoever shouts at me”, and then he thinks of himself as an idiot. He would like to talk back, but part of him forbids him to.

His psychotherapist suggests that coming out as trans gives him a narrative about what causes his problems, and wonders if the trans narrative makes a vulnerable part of him feel safer. The narrative shuts others down, and it is useful that school is “scared” about being transphobic. The narrative legitimates his feelings of hurt, vulnerability, fragility and anxiety, and there are lots of people (trans activists) backing him up.

Alex agreed when the therapist suggested his belief that he is trans prevents him from being in touch with that vulnerable part. The therapist suggested trying to find layers of meaning without intervening hormonally. They suggested his trans identification gave legitimacy to his “weirdness”. Alex agreed. They agreed to revisit at the next session.

Alex suffered years of stomach pains before his parents took him seriously, and his doctor diagnosed him with lactose intolerance. He is angry that when his brother had stomach pain after eating ice cream his parents immediately believed the brother.

Amanda Keenan says Alex is trying to avoid and defend against the challenges of adolescence. Some adolescents overachieve academically as a way of avoiding emotional conflict. Alex’s intellectualisation, thinking about his difficulties, might get in the way of learning from emotional experience. She considers his eating difficulties reinforce her sense that he finds it hard to digest emotion. His friends are like a gang, there to support and defend each other. She wonders if “Alex unconsciously provokes others to shout at him in the service of punishing himself”.

She finds him strongly defended. She says he wants control, and fears being in touch with feeling. Keenan says the therapist is in a difficult position, either to be blamed like Alex’s father, or being forced to support him like his friends?

Margaret Rustin “suggests that the dissonance between Alex’s sense of himself as a person and the perception of others was very painful to him. He is relieved when he can assert his sense of reality in opposition to what others think they see.” He assumes his therapist will be on his side in his conflicts with father and friends. She might see his symptoms “as evidence of aggression turned against the self due to anxiety about expressing it in relationships”. She notes the privilege children can get from being ill, and needing parental attention or NHS care.

At the end of the session, “the therapist suddenly notes his deflated tiredness, signalling the failure of the manic solution which a masculine identity had seemed to offer him, and which is so seductive when separation looms… I would suggest that behind the choice of a masculine identity is anxiety about femininity seen by Alex as inferior, passive, weak and depressed. His intellect (clearly a powerful one) is by contrast experienced as a male aspect of himself, able to have a voice and a position and exist in its own right, not needy and dependent.”

I don’t know whether Alex is trans, or whether he will transition. However I note that he is not on puberty blockers, and that therapists associated with the Tavistock are questioning his trans identification, and keen to find explanations of it.

What about Withers’ witterings? They are more revealing of himself than of Alex. He writes, “In my own experience, working with people who use the trans narrative to distance themselves from feelings of vulnerability in this way can evoke hard to reach feelings of hatred in the countertransference.” Counter-transference is the therapist’s feeling. Withers reiterates his false claim that ethics might prevent a therapist from exploring what is underlying a trans identification, and cites his own paper.

The whole paper is publicly available. While the heading is “clinical commentary by Robert Withers”, the therapist’s account and Keenan’s and Rustin’s comments are included. I find it reassuring. Suggestions that children are forcibly transitioned are belied by the care of the three child psychotherapists. If Alex is trans I feel he will be supported in his transition. If she is not, I feel she will be helped to navigate the difficulties of adolescence.

Robert Withers

Two trans people have had the misfortune to see Robert Withers, a psychotherapist, but he has set himself up as an “expert” in trans, to transphobes and anti-trans campaigners what Andrew Wakefield is to anti-vaxxers. If the quotes attributed to him on far-right hate-site Spiked are accurate, he has a remarkable lack of insight and self-knowledge for a psychotherapist. Perhaps the clinical supervision ordered by the UK Council for Psychotherapy discipline tribunal will help him work with his counter-transference onto trans people. After six months, the UKCP will assess a report by his supervisor and his own reflective piece summarising his learning from the supervision, and decide whether further sanction is necessary: not as a punishment, but to uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour.

He has a lot to learn. Spiked quotes what the anti-vaxxers, sorry, anti-transers love: Withers’ equivalent of “vaccines cause autism”. Withers claims he could see a patient who identifies with the opposite gender, “work successfully on a patient’s mind, who is experiencing these feelings, and you reconcile him with his body and his past”. Amazing! With the experience of two patients, he claims to do what surely all psychiatrists and psychologists involved with trans people would want to do, if only it were possible. The reason they give hormones and surgery is that transition is the vaccine, as it were, which prevents gender dysphoria from being such a misery. However, Withers has never done this: his first trans patient had decided to revert, and Withers just went along with it, and his second trans patient made a complaint against him.

Withers says there is no such “thing as a male body with a female brain. But even saying that is considered transphobic”. He lacks self-knowledge. He is called transphobic because he is transphobic. It is true that there is no proof of a biological cause for “transgenderism”, but the proof trans people exist is trans people. The proof that transition is appropriate is the experience of tens or hundreds of thousands of trans people and the clinicians who have treated us.

Withers’ persecution complex comes out: he says if he managed to reconcile someone with their birth sex he could be struck off for conversion therapy. This is to misunderstand what conversion therapy is: it is an attempt to force a person to believe they are other than they are. Withers’ reading comprehension is clearly too low for a psychotherapist. He is scare-mongering about the Memorandum of Understanding of the NHS on conversion therapy, which states, “Some people may benefit from the challenge of psychotherapy and counselling to help them manage dysphoria and to clarify their sense of themselves. Clients make healthy choices when they understand themselves better.”

The anti-trans campaigners love Withers: he makes them feel vicariously persecuted. They want to feel, as with any conspiracy theory, that they are a small minority who alone know the truth.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his income depends on his not understanding it.” Addressing the mental health issues of trans people, even possible causes for them saying they are trans, is permitted. A therapist who, from a closed mind, pretends there is some cause which, when understood, can make transgender ideation melt away, and devotes his time with his patient to finding evidence of such a cause, should be struck off.

Withers was so excited about his second trans patient that he did not ask her consent to refer to her case in his writings. She met with him and asked him to stop publishing about her, and he refused. He denied this before the discipline tribunal, but they found his evidence defensive, inconsistent, muddled and avoidant, transparently annoyed that her refusal of consent prevented him from publishing details. So they disbelieved him. This brave woman gave an account of her ordeal: “To have someone pour scorn over who you are”- in what was supposed to be therapy!- “is really destabilising”.

Having seen two patients, Withers is keen to share his “expertise”. For example, he gives “clinical commentary” on an account of therapy of a trans child. That page shows his article has zero citations- his peers see his value- but still he hawks his opinions about to the transphobes. In the paper he says that when working with his trans patient, the countertransference- the feelings evoked in him by the interaction- was “hatred”. I would not want to work with a psychotherapist who felt hatred in the sessions.

In that paper, Withers claims “Identifying as a ‘butch lesbian’ is not currently celebrated or socially affirmed.” There is a great deal of homophobia about, though there is more transphobia- The Times prints transphobia several times a week, homophobia more rarely. Not all trans children find affirming parents or schools, and if they can find others like themselves on line so can young lesbians. Despite all this, Withers suggests the patient might “drop his male identification” if he were affirmed as a lesbian.

Withers attempted to argue to the disciplinary panel that the code of conduct for psychotherapists is deficient, in that it should allow some interest in publication to override obligations of confidentiality, and attempted to call an expert witness to make that point. His witness was unable to turn up. The panel said that argument was not relevant. Withers’ arrogance before the panel, evident from their judgment, shows he would be a poor choice of psychotherapist. Perhaps like Wakefield he will end up making all his income from conspiracy theorists.

Here is the discipline tribunal decision: Robert Withers psychotherapist misconduct hearing.


From Withers’ own words, a more serious case than mere breach of confidentiality might have been made in the discipline tribunal. Withers is quoted in Spiked as saying, of his trans client, “Half an hour after the session ended, [she] came back to my consulting room in a psychotic state. [She] had been out in the world and [she] thought people were going to attack [her]… For a moment, I caused [her] to doubt [her] identity, and [she] had a catastrophic collapse in [her] sense of who [she] was.” He indicates no remorse about this. By his own words, he had endangered his client, and she says he traumatised her. Withers is not a doctor, so is not qualified to diagnose, and the tribunal enumerated reasons to doubt his word, but by his own words he showed no understanding of his obligations to her. Is he truly fit to practise as a psychotherapist? Here are some links on harm that can be done by a bad psychotherapist: The Conversation, Psychology Today. As Psychscenehub says, “A therapist that prioritises his or her own needs (exploitative, narcissistic, voyeuristic) over the patient’s needs can do harm.”

Jenni Murray

Trans people suffer whenever trans issues get media attention. Jenni Murray’s transphobia and the reaction to it shows how.

Murray’s Sunday Times article in 2017, whose text I found through this search, affected sweet reasonableness, but expressed distaste for trans women. The headline is chosen by a subeditor- “Don’t call yourself a real woman”. Her claim to be accepting is based on small grounds- “I firmly believe transsexuals and transvestites (sic) …should be treated with respect and protected from the bullying and violence”. She criticises some of the more extreme transphobic language. But then she says people calling for the no-platforming of Julie Bindel show “repulsive misogyny”. Julie Bindel has shown appalling transphobia.

She says the Rev. Carol Stone is “a man [who] claimed to have become a woman”. She felt angry because when she met Carol she told her her concerns were whether to wear makeup, rather than sexism among male priests. Carol has made it easier for women and queers to be priests, but all Murray says about this is that Carol was concerned about what to wear. Similarly India Willoughby did not object to female staff at the Dorchester Hotel being told to shave their legs and wear makeup.

The demand that trans women should be feminist is transphobic. I am feminist, and I feel everybody should be feminist, but many people aren’t. Murray uses the fact that two trans women have said some unfeminist things to attack all trans women. Then she says what matters is female socialisation from birth, and minimises trans women’s difficulties: we “simply decide to take hormones and maybe have surgery and ‘become a woman’.” She quotes an older trans woman saying she is “not a real woman” and why she is read as a man, and a self-hating transwoman- “a ‘woman’ after my own heart”- and an anti-trans campaigner saying their usual transphobe lines.

What do you emphasise of a trans woman’s journey? She gives Jenny’s male name, says she felt drawn to wear her wife’s clothes in secret, she transitioned, her wife divorced her, she opened a feminist bookshop. Murray gives unpleasant details about anatomy.

The whole is distaste and disbelief, emphasis on anything to discount or discredit our womanhood, and a few expressions of grudging tolerance. It is the transphobia of a third of the population, the kind of distaste which can coexist with politeness and imagines itself tolerant, but it is more than that as Murray has chosen to write a long article for a transphobic paper. It is designed to spread at least such intolerance, possibly worse.

No-one could read the article and be better informed. Jenny Murray does not like trans women, and writes of trans women she dislikes and aspects of trans experience commonly used to deny we are women.

Murray faced some criticism. Stonewall published a blog post the same day, by its Executive Director of Campaigns and Strategy, who is trans, saying trans is about our innate sense of self and we have a right to have our identity and experiences respected. Then lots of dullards wrote their tuppenceworth on the matter, to get clicks.  The Herald on Sunday, in a general interview the following week, failed to get Murray to say anything further but still started by summarising the juicy bits from her Sunday Times article, putting in a picture of India Willoughby.

A self-hating transwoman got her ungrammatical tweet published in The Guardian merely because she agreed with Murray. She has notoriety and a platform because, though everything she writes is badly expressed and derivative, she is a transwoman who supports transphobes. The BBC said “we have reminded [Murray] that presenters should remain impartial on controversial topics covered by their BBC programmes,” and that set off another round of pearl-clutching.

A year later, Murray was going to speak at an Oxford University event called “Powerful British women in history and society”. The student LGBTQ campaign objected, saying “The decision to offer her a platform is not apolitical or neutral, especially when her views cause tangible harm to vulnerable members of our society.” She pulled out. Murray did not comment, but the BBC quoted her as previously saying she was “not transphobic”. The usual suspects got all outraged about The Threat to Free Speech.

And now Murray is retiring from Woman’s Hour and The Guardian’s retrospective of her career brings up the “controversy” about her article. What do we get from that paragraph? Twice the phrase “real women” in scare quotes. A quote from Murray about “the most vicious, vulgar and threatening debate of our day”. Then these words:

The response was swift, with the campaigns director of Stonewall condemning her views as hurtful. She was then forced to pull out of an Oxford University talk following a backlash over her comments.

That is, reading this article you get the impression that Murray suffered because she commented about trans women. What happened is that Murray incited that “decent, ordinary” flavour of transphobia which encourages the extremist transphobes. Then there were endless articles, casually or shockingly transphobic, seeking clicks from controversy or outrage, and dull little twitterspats. Phobes were encouraged. Trans women were bullied and hurt.

8 November 2020: Murray was interviewed in The Times, and quoted saying nasty things about trans women, mainly from a position of ignorance, lack of interest, and disdain. It’s as before, common transphobia with only a little of the insane hatred of the driven anti-trans campaigners.

She complained of threats following her 2017 article, of rape and murder. They are revolting. However, I do not make such threats. Please do not use them against me and my rights. Then she calls trans women “men in skirts”. “She is confident that 99.9% of the Woman’s Hour audience agrees with her.” Well, people with vile opinions tend to think others agree, it’s how they live with themselves. It’s like “I’m not racist but”. I find a lot of acceptance. Then she claimed “I knew more about [the Gender Recognition Act] than anyone else”. She thought young women being trans allies, which refutes her 99.9% figure, “bizarre”. She said “Who would want to choose to be an often unattractive middle aged woman when they don’t have to be?… it all seems a bit odd to me.” She normalises incomprehension and disdain. When encouraged by transphobe outlets like The Times, Murray will pop up from time to time, spouting transphobia.

11 May 2022: Murray now has a column in the Daily Mail, where she wrote that “woman” means “adult biological female”- so, not people with variations in sex characteristics– and only women menstruate or give birth, so trans men don’t, or don’t exist, or something she does not spell out. There’s a war on women, she says, mentioning abortion in the US- I agree- but she gives as much space to quibbling about trans people as to abortion.

Kindness to yourself

“Practise ways of being kind to yourself,” she said. He had a way: put your hand on your heart, and make this noise: Awwww. Awwwwww. He meant it entirely sincerely, which is mindblowing: normally no-one would use such a noise to an adult except in cruel and bitter irony, but it can be an act of acceptance and healing.

We are broken to be whole. Yang, the Will, makes and does. Yin receives, hears, and is impacted by the world- it notices what is in the world, and it notices and hears my own feelings and reactions. There is no need to rescue, fix or control such feelings. There is no need to take the Spiritual Journey too seriously: stop striving, and just Be. Every twenty minutes, ask, “What am I feeling?” Often I don’t know. If I am tense, that is against my self-image, which says I should not be tense, I have nothing to be tense about. That makes me tense and stressed most of the time. Be open and curious. Welcome the feelings. This is not a struggle, breaking through, deep work, but kindness and gentleness with the self.

In 2011, I wondered how to keep the sense of being in touch with perception and feelings during action. Sometimes it happens. I feel it now.

Humans are approval addicts, and the Shadow self includes good things like our Shining. So when we are first shamed, a part of us sloughs off, remains at the same level of maturity, and guards the doors against such shame. It’s a child that age desperate to stop me shining, with all the intensity, anger and desperation of that child. If we listen to our own feelings, we can recalibrate and discharge them.

“I am now a human being who is willing to feel and be with my uncomfortable feelings.”

Something upsetting. If it was a training, what was I trying to learn? If it was a reminder to self-care, what self-care is necessary? How is it an invitation to show up more, to be more honest, visible and vulnerable? How does it hurt more because of pain in my past? What are the gifts I can share with others?

My Not Going Out is not a minor thing at all, it is not a “minor thing” at all.

With feelings, find the Heart Mountain. The mountain will not be moved. Be in the heart, and check in with it. There is the trigger, and the explosion- if it is in the mountain, I can feel the explosion, see how big it is, permit the feeling, then Respond. The wise kind part of me feels the feeling, the charge goes down, and I can be a reasonable adult.

This is difficult. My ego is always telling me to be that reasonable adult, so I mimic an idea of a reasonable adult while suppressing the feeling, then my mimicry becomes ridiculous and I break down. Many things trigger me into my protective mask.

What are the primary triggers that most knock you out of your heart? I need to consider that, but I need to practise being in my heart as well.

The self-hatred, the cry that I am Wrong, or not good enough, is all in me. My masculine protector cannot protect me. My feminine self is now safe enough. The main threat to her was that The Monster Will Get Me- my mother, withdrawing love for the child. There is no such monster now, except for my own fears.

My great desire is Safety. I beat myself up over this, quoting the Parable of the Talents to myself: “You wicked and lazy slave!” is the kind of language I use to myself; but I imagine there is a safe and sensible course of action which will produce a predictable result, and even two possible results which I can predict make me seasick.

My needs are in conflict:

The need to survive
The need not to be overwhelmed
The need to be the real me in the real world

The conflict is almost entirely unconscious. I need to bring it into consciousness, into slow thinking, perceive what is going on, work out a response, consciously, and accept all of it. I need to treat it with love or I will be unconscious and unable to see.

Under all that, everyone is lovely and generous.

Jamie Catto’s exercise was to write comic scenes where I am ridiculous because I go into my mask, my pretending self. I did not because my mask uses ridicule to suppress my real self. Don’t be stupid and don’t pretend, or act out a feeling, the mask tells the real self. However, in the mask I lose all my power.

I could not tell a history last week. With my psychotherapist I got as far as saying my parents loved each other very much, and were a strong partnership, and could not say how this damaged me. This week I told a history and noted that I could not merely assert something, I had to prove it, to my own satisfaction, with a story which demonstrated it to me. I could not say “This is how it was/is”. I felt angry with her and expressed it- “I don’t give a fuck what you think”- though in acted quotation marks. Where does the anger come from? It is anger at being judged, and the judgment is in my own head. I told of the Fauré “Song without words” and my love of its beauty.

After, I had a healing cry, over my mother’s death, over my hurt and the waste, which was exhausting. Here is the Sorrow. It is healing. From the Atlantic, I found two quotes which speak to me.

“The nature of their brokenness is incompatible with [what do I want more than to hide?] But as a man of faith I would like to believe there is transcendent grace.” As a rationalist, I might say, human resilience and creativity.

The second was about mass shooters, which fits my self-loathing. “You were owed something, or your life should have been X, but because of”- my upbringing?- “you can’t access them”. Don’t Wallow! I tell myself sternly, which only makes me feel more hurt, incompetent, and exhausted. I beat myself up so hard it makes me too much in pain to do anything. I am not kind to myself. So I may benefit from working on being kind to myself.

Man who has it all

“All men! Is your face bright and luminous? Has rose-gold hair taken over your summer? Is your neckline too low, or not low enough? Do your toenails need some TLC? Is it okay to have arms?” This on a pastel blue, pink, white background.

“I must admit I’m a fan of arms,” says Rachel. “But only if they’re toned. The guys need to keep them in shape – but not too much! They need to do the work to get that natural look. I don’t like them looking false or unnatural but I want them to be firm and perky.”

Grace says, “Look young and bright. But don’t try too hard. You should look this way naturally. No one likes a high maintenance guy.”

“Man who has it all” is a business selling t-shirts, with a facebook page subverting gender stereotypes by inverting them. My friend recommended it as a way of making unseen prejudice visible.

Women’s t-shirts say “Men! Just a little reminder to smile today, because women like positive men”, “The future is female”, “A mother’s place is in the boardroom”, “Girls will be girls: Epic, cool, awesome” (or, “Rational, objective, scientific”, “brave, strong, bold”) “No”, “Actually”, “My dream, that one day boys will become anything they want to be: men writers, male spacewomen, and gentleman doctors”, and “Lead character”.

Men’s t-shirts say “Not just a pretty beard”, “Male cyclist”, “I can do anything if I concentrate extra hard with my gentleman brain”, “Cat dad”, “My mum is a total legend”, “Male scientist”, “I’m too handsome to do maths”, “Boys will be boys: kind, caring, thoughtful”, “I’m just here to look handsome”, “Womankind, noun: A gender-neutral term referring to both women and men”, “Girly swot”, and “Supporting character”. Several of these work as hers n’ his pairs.

A comment: “Women and men are equal but different. Eg men are naturally better at smiling and knowing when to clean the bathroom and we should absolutely celebrate that.”

I particularly like the women’s comments when they are dominant. “Are those traits boys really value, though? Shouldn’t it say Pretty, Obedient, Sweet? I’m not sure there is a market for this meninist clothing.” Some are joking, some are playing the game. “It should be a much tighter fit to show off his figure so all the little girls can admire him. The sleeves should ideally be those little capped sleeves that all boys love to wear. And I don’t think it’s pink and glittery enough to appeal to most boys.” She ends, “Once these mistakes are corrected I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this,” which I find delightfully assertive.

A comment: “A natural make-up look takes no more than an hour or two and gives the illusion that they are naturally pretty. Then other women can point them out as the ideal man to their less attractive partners and prove that they are not shallow because they like a natural look. Also, ladies, don’t forget to feign horror when the men suggest it’s not actually natural – instead make them feel petty and jealous for not being able to obtain this level of natural beauty.” I love this. I want to be objectified, it turns me on. It is a problem at work or in the street, but with the right person, it would delight me. “Also: are you trim, not being demanding or taking up too much space and pleasing all the women in your life ?!” Oooh! “While i don’t think staring or too much eye contact is appropriate in a man (too assertive!), a man ought to communicate that he is aware of my presence, attentive and ready to spring into action in case i need something – a drink, attention, what-have-you. I find staring off into space like that off-putting and disrespectful – it’s like he has his own inner life. Not ok!”

Trans women and crime in toilets

Do laws specifically permitting trans women in women’s toilets affect the rates of crime in those toilets? Of course not. The predatory men who might want to attack women have far easier methods than pretending to be trans. However research in Massachusetts in 2018 shows that localities with law protecting trans women have less crime in toilets than localities without, and while there was an increase after the laws were passed, the increase in the comparable localities without law protecting trans women was greater. Massachusetts enacted a state-wide law protecting trans folk from discrimination in 2018, and malicious persons started a ballot measure to get that law vetoed. However the ballot supported the law, 1,806,742 to 857,401. I wish those 857,401 hostiles would learn the error of their ways.

There was an increase. However, as the researchers say, crime rates fluctuate over time, possibly from random variability, and the increase was no greater in localities with anti-discrimination law than without.

Of course, trans women as victims of assault do not bother the likes of State senator Buck Newton, who said the Massachusetts law was a threat to the public safety “of our daughters, of our wives”- of women as they relate to men, rather than to women generally. A 2008 survey of 93 transgender people in Washington, DC found that 9% reported experiencing physical assault in a public restroom.

The researchers found that crime in toilets is extremely rare. There were 4.5 violations of privacy or safety per 100,000 population in the localities studied. In Massachusetts, there were 32.6 rapes reported per 100,000 population. It is estimated that only a third of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police. However the study showed that a Gender Identity Inclusive Public Accommodation Non-Discrimination Ordinance, GIPANDO in their language, trans-accepting law in mine, in “public accommodations”- “public bathroom, public restroom, public locker room, or public changing room” did not alter the number of offences when compared to places without that law. The researchers concluded,

While criminal incidents do, in fact, rarely occur in such spaces, these findings suggest that concerns over the safety in those spaces should be more generally related to community safety and policing, and not related to nondiscrimination laws…

The results show that the passage of such nondiscrimination laws is not related to the number or frequency of criminal incidents in such public spaces. Additionally, the results show that reports of privacy and safety violations in public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms were exceedingly rare and much lower than statewide rates of reporting violent crimes more generally. This study provides evidence that fears of increased safety and privacy violations as a result of nondiscrimination laws are not empirically grounded.

I can’t explain the methodology completely, because I don’t know what a “one-tailed alpha” is. Someone with better statistical skills than I should have a look at the paper. However, the researchers found localities which had enacted non-discrimination laws for trans people, and comparable localities which had not. To find comparable localities, they considered “population size, the percent of the population over the age of 65, the percent of population that is non-Hispanic white, the percent of population earning more than $200,000, median income, the percent of the population living below the poverty line, the percent of the population that identifies as Born Again, percentage of the vote for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, and a composite crime score based on numerous indices.” They concluded that “the distinguishing factor between these localities is the existence or absence of a public accommodations-specific nondiscrimination law that applied to gender identity.”

They then made public records requests of the localities with anti-discrimination law, and the comparable localities without, for the period of two years before and after the law was enacted. They concluded that anti-discrimination law for trans people did not have an effect on victimization, mainly because there are so few of us: other research shows “The cumulative addition of legal inclusion of marginalized groups may, however, reduce victimization rates.” The more people are protected by law, the less victimisation there is.

They found that in the localities with anti-discrimination law, there was an increase of violations of privacy or safety from 0 to 0.62 per 100,000. However, in the comparable localities without anti-discrimination law, in the same period there was an increase from 2.54 to 4.50 per 100,000.

The hard right whips up hatred to conceal that it does nothing of value for its voters. Buck Newton and Dominic Cummings are concerned to persecute harmless trans women rather than to protect cis women, and that their handmaidens who are anti-trans campaigners assist them to distract from actual threat or harm to women.