Awaiting the new trans law

On 23 July 2017, Justine Greening promised a consultation on making gender recognition easier for trans people. I had understood the government response was due by Wednesday 22 July 2020, three years later. But on 20 July Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, the worst prime minister since Anthony Eden if not since Lord North, said, “On the general issue of our response to the Gender Recognition Act, we’ve said that we’ll be responding over the Summer and that’s what we’re gonna do”. To include the ers, ums and repetitions were to double the length of the quote, and Mr Johnson appears unaware of the distinction between the Act, from 2004, and the consultation, from 2018.

It had been like awaiting a sentencing hearing, for a crime I did not commit. The postponement does not feel like a reprieve. Meanwhile JK Rowling, the most prominent anti-trans campaigner, continues to tweet– here a quote about detransitioners, from the Sunday Times- “I fear that the detransitioned women I interviewed are canaries in the coalmine. Not only for detransitioners, but for womanhood. They all, in some combination, found being a woman too difficult, too dangerous or too disgusting.”

In September 2017, there was an attempt to hold an anti-trans campaign meeting, where soi-disant feminists wished to foment fear and anger against trans women. Trans people and allies persuaded the venue to cancel the meeting, and the aggrieved haters proceeded to Speaker’s Corner, where they shouted for a bit. Trans people went to make a counter demonstration, and Tara Wolf assaulted Maria McLaughlin. Tara was fined, and produced a self-justifying rant on social media.

On 19 July 2020, Kellie-Jane Keen-Minshull, another anti-trans rabble-rouser, went to Speakers’ Corner and shouted for half an hour. Her placards fell to bits, and an entirely disinterested critic said, “She’s no public speaker, that’s for sure. What a drone.” She may have pledged to go back once a month. I saw one or two keen folk urging a counter demonstration, but this appears not to have materialised.

That’s a good thing. Trans people need to win friends, including among the anti-trans campaigners. Idiots like Tara Wolf did more harm than good. And yet I am sad about it. Three years ago there were hotheaded trans women with the confidence to go out and shout down the haters, and now we are cowed by the hatred. We win friends by persuasion, that a few thousand trans women can be accommodated, and only the patriarchy wins if we are excluded. Why else does Charles Koch fund anti-trans campaigns?

Now I feel a bit like I did when representing at tribunal. There were times when I expected a quick decision, a loss, and when it took longer I began to feel hopeful. Against all chances might we have convinced them? There is no chance we have convinced Johnson, a buffoon, or Liz Truss, his Minister “for” (sic) Women and Equalities. They want a great culture war to distract from the 60,000 covid deaths they have caused by their incompetence, and their complete lack of care to provide good government. However they may not be getting one. Mr Starmer appears quietly supportive while trying to take all the heat out of the situation. I love the #whyimatransally tag. One example: “the answer to this question honestly ought to be ‘because I am a human being and trans people are human beings and it is the bare minimum of basic humanity to believe we all deserve equal access to resources, safety, and respect’.” Respect? Right now I would not mind a slight reduction in the obsessive hatred.

I confess I have read much of a Sunday Times article on “knowledge resistance” by the “ideological left”. It is entertaining. It contains no nuance, and no resistance- it slips down easily like the best propaganda. It includes the line “If the ellipse identifies as a circle, why hurt its feelings?”

Also today I have heard a harrowing article on the abortion debate, on Audm. It puts what the writer calls the two best arguments, for and against. Also on Audm is Jonathan Haidt arguing that grandstanding on social media makes public debate impossibly toxic. And I read I am a threat, over and over again, but strikingly here: “America is doomed, Europe is doomed, Western civilization is doomed- and immigration, political correctness, transgenderism, the culture, the establishment, the left, and the “Dems” are responsible.” If only we were so powerful!

22 July: in Parliament today Nadia Whittome MP gave a proper classification of Liz Truss’s machinations: “Leaked reports of a potential roll-back on trans rights have understandably caused alarm. With hate crimes against trans people up nearly 40% on last year, does the Secretary of State agree that her quibbling on this issue is fanning the flames of populist hate towards an already marginalised group?” Truss was forced to climb down. “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.” When? “Over the Summer”.

The point is that now, gender recognition can rely on diagnosis by a specialist psychiatrist, because the International Classification of Diseases calls “Gender dysphoria” a mental illness. However after 2022 that will no longer be the case, and medical treatment will be inappropriate unless we want hormones or surgery. It would be as ridiculous to require a trans person to get a diagnosis from a psychiatrist before getting gender recognition, as it would be to require someone to get a medical certificate of homosexuality before allowing them to marry someone of the same sex. Because our human rights require our gender to be recognised, without the need for surgical alteration, we cannot be required to produce a diagnosis.

“Overt homosexuality provokes concern”

“The Fawn has a back room to which an admission was charged and where as many as 70 to 80 deviates had parties on Friday and Saturday nights. Most of the patrons were males, but on occasion police found women dancing with women.” There were 19 police visits in 1963, and a warning system to stop dancing when an undercover policeman entered. In December the State Liquor Authority revoked The Fawn’s liquor license, and the New York Times reported that on its front page, with a long feature article on p33. Police Commissioner Michael J Murphy said,

Homosexuality is another one of the many problems confronting law enforcement in this city. However, the underlying factors in homosexuality are not criminal but rather medical and sociological in nature. The police jurisdiction in this area is limited. But when persons of this type become a source of public scandal, or violate the laws, or place themselves in a position where they become the victims of crime they do come within our jurisdiction.

Even when they are victims, he blames them. He promised them “special attention”. Without “direct proof”, he suspected crime syndicates ran the gay bars. The bars charged outrageous prices, and hoodlums pretended to be rent boys, to beat and rob them, the journalist Robert C Doty reported. That couples dancing were sometimes women is his only mention of lesbians.

Doty proceeded to analyse the medical and sociological factors, like an anthropologist in a murky underworld, talking to “city officials, physicians, social workers and [gasp!] homosexuals themselves”. He calls them “sexual inverts”, and quotes psychiatrists saying 27% of those treated achieve heterosexuality. The psychiatrists blame “ill-adjusted parents”- “a close-binding, intimate mother and/or a hostile, detached or unrespected father, or other parental aberrations”. That is, when the offspring is gay, the researchers seek out something in the parents to blame.

The psychiatrists want public education to “improve family environments and reduce the incidence of sexual perversion”. “A single homosexual encounter would be unlikely to turn a young man toward homosexuality unless a predisposition already existed”, but strict enforcement of the law was necessary to protect “borderline cases”. Because a cure was possible, psychiatrists should not try to “adjust even the more recalcitrant patient to a homosexual destiny”.

Doty interviewed “a homosexual who had achieved good progress toward cure under psychoanalysis”, and quoted a psychiatrist claiming that gays “receive sexual stimulation from women”, but are so “crippled psychically” that they fear them.

Doty wanted to entertain readers with tales of “the dregs of the invert world- the painted, grossly effeminate ‘queens’ and those who prey on them”, or magazines with “photos of scantily-clad, heavily-muscled men”. He said there was a “homosexual jargon” but only explained the word “gay”. His attempt at a full account includes quotes from priests, that religions condemn gay sex but offer support to penitents.

The “organized homophile movement” campaigned for an end to discrimination on the basis they were born that way, and that they should be tolerated as a minority. No-one knew how many gays there were. The Mattachine Society, a gay rights organization publishing an intellectual magazine and educating the public on “the problems of the sexual deviant”- their words- estimated 600,000 in NYC. They thronged Greenwich Village, a restricted area around 42nd St., and holidayed to Fire Island and Jacob Riis Park beach. A gay man could live openly, almost exclusively among gays. Many pretended to be straight, and got married.

In New York City, around a thousand men a year were arrested for “overt homosexual activity”, most for soliciting (or trying to find a partner) but around 250 for “sodomy” and around 60 for sex with young men in their late teens, a felony. Gay men sought the repeal of law against private sexual acts and an end to entrapment. The Wolfenden report had recommended repeal of legal penalties, and Illinois had done so.

Doty finds gaydar fascinating. “Most normal persons” believe they can spot gays, but only the “obviously effeminate type”. They were in all levels of society, even “the corporation executive”. Many were actors, dancers, artists and in women’s beauty and fashion, where influential gays could employ gays rather than straights.

“Many homosexuals dream of forming a permanent attachment that would give them the sense of social and emotional stability others derive from heterosexual marriage, but few achieve it.” They are condemned to promiscuity and police harassment.

One psychiatrist thought public acceptance “based on the concept of homosexuality as an illness” could reduce the incidence of homosexuality, but another said social acceptance would prevent them from seeking treatment.

“Confronting these generally accepted scientific conclusions is the strange, ambivalent attitude of the homosexuals themselves.” 83% of gays said they would not want their son to be gay, but 97% would not seek a cure. Why? Doty quotes a gay man. With “no history of normal dating, I would be lost in the world of heterosexuals”.

Many people are still like Doty- bemused, tolerant, pitying or disgusted by turns, thinking being gay is less than being straight, being trans is less than being cis, not wanting to be cruel but revolted by us and what we do. “Surely they are not really trans,” they say to themselves of children undertaking the hard road to transition. So we have to prove ourselves with hormones or surgery, or we rebel against their control and seek surgery when social transition might be enough.

I want social transition, hormones and surgery to be a choice based on the trans person’s needs, not the hostility of others, either the need to prove ourselves or the belief that after surgery we will be accepted. Doty, the police commissioner, and the psychiatrists, all thought themselves decent, liberal men. In the article you can see their staunch efforts to preserve that self-image, and Doty’s attempt to foster it in his readers. They oppressed gay people. They should have known better. There are still persecutors, especially of trans people, who imagine themselves liberal and should know better.

Self-acceptance, social feelings, and my own feelings

Self-acceptance is liberation. If you can accept yourself, you are free.

Something put me into a state of complete terror today. It was so frightening that I don’t want to allude to what it is. Then I saw I had made a mistake, and felt relief. I wept like a child. I wanted someone to hear me. I would share about it on social media. Or I would phone the Samaritans, to say this had happened, and I felt terror. Then I realised I did not need to. I could accept the feeling myself. I was terrified, and I understood that I was terrified, accepted that terror was completely the right reaction, and felt the terror. As a result I did not need to tell anyone. I am only telling you now to show how self-acceptance makes feelings so much more bearable and useful, not to process the terror. I don’t know how I would be if my initial impression, which terrified me so, had been correct.

Had I been unable to accept the feeling in myself I would have needed validation from someone else. “Yes,” she would say. “I can see why that might make someone feel like that. I would have been terrified too.” And I would feel validated. This might cause problems if she was bored with validating me, and did not want to, or even worse was controlling me and using intermittent validation as a way of maintaining control. It might have been different if the terror could have been used, in fight or flight, but as so often it could not. I envy my friend, who reports that for her anger is usually an instant thing. She responds to the provocation and the anger ends, its job done.

I am glad to discuss these things. When you agree with me I trust my perception better. It seemed to me that I am not properly alone with my computer. I scroll through social media or news media, and feel the appropriate thing, which society dictates. I read about masks, and I feel resentment of those bad people who refuse to wear them. Or I read about Brexit and feel fear. There are socially acceptable feelings. I am plugged into society, and feel those feelings.

In worship it is completely different. I sit in silence, and whatever comes up comes up. Then I am with my own bespoke feeling, as it is, not some off-the-peg feeling I “ought to feel”. I do not want to be alone with myself. Difficult feelings may come up. I far prefer to plug myself into the television or computer and feel feelings which are safe, because they are prescribed.

It had seemed to me that when fear is not accepted or processed, it remains, and curdles into anxiety. Anxiety is fear from the past, and it makes up horrible things which might happen, but won’t, to explain why I feel fear when I ought to feel safe. (That ought may be introjected.) Then it seemed that sorrow is curdled sadness. What was curdled anger? A conversation with a friend revealed it is Resentment.

anxiety is congealed fear
sorrow is congealed sadness
resentment is congealed anger

With time, courage and acceptance, these ancient feelings may be processed. Anger and sadness are two sides of the same coin- anger is appropriate when a quick flash of action will correct the problem, sadness when it will not. With practice, perhaps a balance of anger and sadness would help with the conundrum of the serenity prayer- “knowing the difference” is difficult.

As so often, Artemisia takes the standard female subject and makes her a woman with power and agency. Here is St Lucy with the palm of martyrdom and two eyes in a goblet.

Gender Recognition and the Rights of Transgender People

MPs and others knowing little about trans people, but wanting an in depth briefing, might turn to the House of Commons Briefing paper. It gives undue weight to transphobic falsehoods. It follows a previous paper on gender recognition.

It quotes “Fair Play for Women”, a transphobic, trans-excluding and anti-trans campaigning organisation, as saying “ordinary, everyday women. Any woman.” can be attacked as transphobic for “asking questions or voicing concerns”. This is a direct echo of Enoch Powell‘s “decent, ordinary working man”. It then quotes the Westminster Hall debate. At the end, it quotes the Minister:

Domestic abuse services, including refuges, have robust risk assessment procedures and may exclude anyone who might threaten a safe environment for victims and their children, as well as signposting sources of support for those people whose needs they might not be able to meet.

This is clear and obvious. Even if there were no specific rule for excluding trans women, they could exclude anyone dangerous. So why quote David Davies’ fearmongering?

It gives links to articles about the issues. Some attempt to appear balanced, some are for trans rights, but some are ridiculously phobic. After Rachel Bowyer refutes Rosa Freedman, why link to Freedman’s discredited blog post?

Many readers may not get beyond the summary, which says,

Those against self-identification are concerned, for example, about creating a system which might be abused, and about the potentially negative impact for safe single-sex spaces.

That is refuted in the paper itself, but the summary leaves it there.

I don’t have the law memorised, and could not fault the account of it, but was surprised to see a reference to “Genuine occupational requirements” in Equality law. That’s outdated by more than ten years. The word “genuine” is superfluous, and no longer used.

The summary defines gender dysphoria as “a sense of unease”. That minimises our distress, and the relief transition brings.

The results of the Scottish consultation have been published, but they have not even been summarised in the paper. They would show that people who took the time to respond were strongly pro-trans, despite the desperate campaigning of transphobes to get people to answer. Many of the responders were in England.

The summary says trans people object to the requirement for a diagnosis, as being trans is not an illness. However “the removal of the requirement for a medical diagnosis was one option on which views were sought,” rather than a recommendation. The section on the Equality Act clarifies that there is no need for us to undergo a medical process to be protected: that should have been made clear in the summary. We have our rights, and gender recognition will not affect them: it is only a symbolic legal acknowledgment of our value- or something to campaign against or withhold, to show we are despised.

The account of the background starts with useful quotes. “Being trans is not a mental illness. Despite this, and despite the progress that we have made in recent years, trans people continue to face significant barriers to full participation in society,” said the 2018 consultation paper. Exactly.

I learned useful things about hate crime, which is

Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person’s … transgender identity or perceived transgender identity.

This means a stronger punishment. However hate crime based on race or religion is an aggravated offence: that is the offence, not just the penalty, is greater. And stirring up hatred based on race, religion or sexual orientation is a crime, but not hatred based on gender identity, or some of those “everyday women” might be liable to prosecution.

The paper then covers the background, including Christine Goodwin’s case, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights considering the Gender Recognition Bill in 2003: “They advance the aims of certainty and help to ensure that the Government’s flexible approach to the stage at which an acquired gender should be recognized will not degenerate into giving legal recognition to lifestyle changes.” We know that a change of name and gender expression is a huge change, whether or not you have diagnosis or medical treatment, and deserves gender recognition. The committee was concerned about effects on other people. Our rights come last.

The section headed “Gender Dysphoria” goes into detail on NHS treatment of children and adults, but not diagnostic criteria, which reveal we have self-declaration already.

The section on the Equality Act quotes a legal textbook, saying the guidance on the Act makes it appear too easy to exclude trans women from women’s spaces:

It would be inadequate for a provider of services to assume female victims of sexual assault would necessarily object to a trans-woman attending group counselling sessions. A degree of canvassing of opinion would surely be required… There are very real concerns that such guidance is too categorical and fails to emphasize the lengths an employer … would need to go to in order to demonstrate proportionality as an adequate defence to discrimination.

The chapter on young people says the government did not plan to reduce the age below 18, though as the minister said,

Social transition, such as changing the name you are known by, and the pronouns you use, can be done by anyone at any age, and is often subject to a discussion between a child and their parents if it happens before age 18.

Legal gender recognition is the icing on the cake, with only symbolic significance. My bank card establishes I am female, and I have only shown my GRC to friends. I am glad I have it, but I don’t use it.

Chapter 6 at last addresses gender recognition reform. The criticisms of the current regime are listed: it is medicalised, intrusive, burdensome and expensive. There is the spousal veto: there are things I had not considered, such as “Spousal consent may not be possible, for example if the spouse cannot be contacted or lacks mental capacity”.

In Scotland, a married person applies to the Sheriff Court for gender recognition, and gets a GRC, but the court informs the spouse, and “That gives the spouse the grounds, at any time in the future, to seek a divorce.” Though, no-fault divorce will start in England in Autumn 2021. In Scotland, parties have to be separated for two years before one can get a divorce without the other’s consent.

Most people who take an interest in gender recognition reform will pick up things they did not know from this briefing paper. It has a dry style, and attempts to appear dispassionate. However it gives far too much weight and prominence to the anti-trans campaigners, and is not appropriate to inform anyone who does not know about the issues.

Detransitioners

Trans children will face more and more barriers to treatment unless there is a better way potential detransitioners can be protected from it.

My heart goes out to Max Robinson. She started T aged 16 and had chest masculinization aged 17 with parental consent, but by age 22 in 2018 identified as a woman, though her facial hair meant she is often seen as a man. Also in 2018, Carey Callahan claimed to have met seventy detransitioners, and corresponded with a further three hundred. The Detransition Advocacy Network does not give figures but claims to have local chapters around the world. Threateningly, they claim to campaign for “expansion of detransitioners’ … legal options”.

There is a great deal of sympathy for such people. JK Rowling and Julie Bindel among others have said that if they were aware children were transitioning, they might have wanted to. Max tells a common story: she was a happy tomboy until puberty, when she had awful experiences of being sexualised. Around 14 she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She explored gender identity on line, and convinced her parents who had been sceptical at first. Her therapist referred her to an endocrinologist, who she said was reluctant, but whom she persuaded. When she had the surgery which she now calls double mastectomy, “I was convinced it would solve a lot of my problems, and I hadn’t accurately named a lot of those problems yet”.

She did not feel happy in the trans scene. She had felt clarity of identity when she started hormones, and again when she had surgery, but that feeling receded. Possibly some unwise transitioners are fixated on the next point in their transition journey, when at last they will feel complete: but that completion never comes.

Ideally, I want trans children to get the treatment they need, but children who desire transition when it is wrong for them not to progress to hormones or surgery. There will be people in a grey area: there is such transphobia in society that even a child who is certainly trans may have periods of extreme discomfort, which may manifest as regret. I don’t know if, in a society without gender norms, people would transition or not. Gender norms have some basis in human nature: otherwise, my feminine sexuality, which I have had such difficulty accepting, would not have persisted.

At this point my relentless inner persecutor speaks up. Ah, it says, your mother accepted you were a pansy, she did not expect anything else of you, she only made you pretend to be a real boy. If you had been brought up as a real boy you would be presenting male now. I write this to show the contortions I go through even now, how hard it is to accept myself. I know I would be no happier detransitioned, but societal transphobia keeps my internalised transphobia simmering. If only it were not this hard!

Detransitioners say that it is too easy to get hormones and surgery, and there is insufficient exploration of their other issues. On exploration, I agree. I don’t want a trans child to wait any longer than necessary for treatment, but if there were more psychiatrists available there could be a more in-depth assessment and greater confidence that the decision was correct. WPATH says “Before any physical interventions are considered for adolescents, extensive exploration of psychological, family, and social issues should be undertaken.” Detransitioners say that does not happen in practice. I want to ensure that there are as few mistakes as possible, because otherwise there will be an outpouring of anger- against “trans ideology”, against trans people saying our experience of transition is a good thing, and against all trans treatment, including that which benefits actual trans people. Some will never believe there are true trans people, only seeing us as mutilated simulacra, and detransitioners angry about their mutilation will make such people more convinced.

Both detransitioners and trans people could agree that to avoid mistakes we need, not greater suspicion, gatekeeping and delay, but more intense diagnosis, and treatment of any mental health problems. Possibly a trans child will have a supportive family and no mental health problems, and can progress immediately to hormones. A psychiatrist could gain a better picture of a child from their family, and even their teachers. That needs more funding, but surely such an important decision, which could lead to a lifesaving transition and a fulfilled life in the true gender, is worth the money? The alternative is detransitioners and anti-trans campaigners in an unholy alliance, making treatment for children unavailable.

I want trans children to be able to find out about transition from trans people, but detransitioners see them too. Claire saw the youtube channel of Miles McKenna when she was twelve, and began to wonder if she was trans. She researched it, including looking into binders and hormones. She struggled with mental health problems, and this article by Jesse Singal clearly implies the distress was exacerbated by her investigation of trans. If only she could have been protected from trans ideology! Fortunately, by age 14 she is certain she is a girl.

How do parents and the general public find out about trans children? How do children find out- peers who we want to support and accept trans people, trans kids themselves, and potential detransitioners like Claire who felt she was trans before rejecting the idea. Singal blames the youtube algorithm.

We need proper diagnosis on a humane timescale. Psychiatrists will suffer for every trans diagnosis they make when the person detransitions. We need to be talking about protecting detransitioners too, or anti-trans campaigners will persuade the general public that transition is too risky for children.

Psychotherapy

I want a heroic failure rather than a paltry success.

I want to heal my hurt. Analogies which seem useful include digestion: old emotion needs experienced, valued, worked through, digested, so that it can pass through me and heal. Dumbledore drinking a cavern-ful of poison, and processing it, comes to mind. I do not cling to my analogies: when they cease to be useful and make reality appear other than it is I want to let them go and find a better one.

My life is quiet, and as you see I am fighting for my life. I could say that, sometimes, to some people, and the judgment that this was ridiculous, which is projected but may be echoed within them-

I want to stop treading water. As you see I am fighting for my life, and I want not just to be fighting, which is wearisome, but to fight better so that I can do something, anything, else as well.

I want to speak from the heart. It is the Real Me. It is my Inner Light. It is truthful. It is strong and beautiful. And something in me judges it as useless, worthless, stupid, unrealistic, totally unsafe.

I expect of you the skills to be like a physiotherapist would be with walking- to see what is precisely the right exercise to take, so that I develop as efficiently as I can. Under your guidance I would push myself in the right way, so that I get stronger, without retraumatising my damaged psyche.

With you, I want to speak from the heart and explore the possibilities of that- to state desire, I said, and look what I am doing now in the hour following. I want to explore the restrictions on that, the judgment, and find ways of lessening them.

The judgment and the hurt exploded in me this morning, and you helped me with that. So, what happened? You asked me to talk about my life beginning with my childhood, and I did not get far.

I want something I can build on.

I said, “My parents loved each other very much. They fitted together beautifully. My mother wore the trousers, and was terrified of anyone finding out. I want [positive language for that, rather than mocking language, language so that I can accept my [pansiness] in myself].” The bit in brackets is the bit I could not say.

If I had a complex fracture of the ankle, such that I moved along on my right foot and my left knee, with a walking stick, and had developed particular muscles to execute this “walk” as quickly as anyone could, we might admire the muscles and see how they might be used better, and note the weakness in unused muscles. The aim would be to walk normally, possibly even to run, but not to put weight on the ankle immediately before finding what it needs. Here the analogy breaks down. We can take the ankle to bits and put it together. We might heal it one bone at a time (not really possible with a real ankle).

So there I was in my state of inner conflict, wanting to use the time profitably and communicate what was needed, needing to hold the pain down in order to do so, barely able to hold it, paralysed. And you told me to open my eyes which would bring me back into the room, because with my eyes closed the emotion would build up (or something. That’s why I want to record this, to analyse, to understand completely.) I thought making eye contact would be good too. And later I turned away and closed my eyes and cudgelled my upper back to open my eyes and turn towards you. And after that I turned away and coaxed myself to turn back.

I thought, OK, that’s a useful tip. I want more like that. Your particular presence may help me with it and I want to trust the world and myself-

Oh fuck. Trust the world and myself??-

and do it generally. So I want exercises and I want homework and I want more tips.

You saw “enormous pain” in me and said “You are living with that all the time.” I don’t know what should be hard or easy, and want together to see that, so that I do it myself better. Most of the time I am not conscious of any pain, really, but always tired, and do little.

There is a beautiful real self, fey, playful, mercurial, hurting and untrusting, and held down by- self-protective impulses in me which want more than anything that nobody sees that self. It’s far too dangerous. I don’t see it myself, properly. I don’t know what it can do. I want to find it, to know it, to value it, to liberate it, to be that mad dancer (and at the same time to negotiate a world of other folk, many lulled to sleep by convention, oppressed by kyriarchy in the interests of kyriarchy, where I may trip up or hurt someone). There are strong impulses in me that fear it and want it to shut up, and it feels those impulses and the Self are diametrically opposed, futilely using all my energy against each other.

In “A Beautiful Mind”, John Nash played by Russell Crowe does mad things prompted by imagined personalities within himself, then takes drugs to suppress them which suppress everything else in his life, and then goes without the drugs learning to ignore those personalities. Possibly I can do that with the impulses. There is just enough evidence at any one time to keep those impulses working, to make their desires seem worthwhile. Possibly with your help I could find better evidence that they are not.

I want to learn to be myself in society, and go out my own front door.

Naomi Hersi

Content: murder. Who was Naomi Hersi?

Naomi Hersi was a woman. The photo on that page shows her Black, smiling, beautiful, vibrant. It’s a good photo. She lived in Mill Hill, North West London.

You can read about her brutal murder, that she was “openly transgender”, what her “legal name” (that is, male name) was. You can read the words of her murderer given in evidence at his trial: “I felt open-minded, liberal-minded”. All sorts of details. Here you can read about her dead body. She was in no position to respond to her killer’s attack. Ms Hersi’s family described her as a “sweet and trusting” person who was “funny and carefree”. “Our lives will never be the same. The grief has swallowed us up. It’s consumed us. Maybe one day it will not be so painful but the violence of [the] death haunts us,” her father said. Did the BBC use “[the]” to cover up “his”? I don’t know.

This article, on the woman who tried to help her killer evade justice, and got a suspended sentence and 150 hours of community service, includes the murderer’s description of Miss Hersi, which I do not believe.

So much for the BBC. MTV had a documentary entitled “The Body in the Bathroom: The Murder of Naomi Hersi”. The photo of her there is of her, still alive, and by coincidence with a red patch on the wall behind her head.

After the conviction The Independent reported her “legal name” and that she was an “openly transgender woman”. It reported that her murderer (whose photo, often repeated, is not attractive) “was a former grade A student”. The link is “transgender-murder-sex-drugs-[killer’s name]-naomi-hersi-heathrow-airport”. Almost at the end of the article, it quotes a detective inspector saying she “will be much missed by all those who knew her, especially by her family”. Someone from the Crown Prosecution Service said her death was “tragic”.

The Mirror headline is “Web of lies that snared university drop-out for murder of transgender woman”. The page starts with a video from Channel 5, “The Body in the Bathroom”, then invites the reader to subscribe to “free email alerts from Mirror – Celebs”. The murderer was “a gifted tennis player”. There are three images of Miss Hersi, captioned “(Image: Naomi Hersi)”- the one with the coincidental red stain, and one with her presenting male. There is a long account of the murderer’s lies, and nothing about Miss Hersi at all. Of her family, the Mirror says, “their grief still goes on”.

After the murderer was sentenced, The Guardian published the same unattractive photo of him, and a Press Association report. She was 36. There is one of her photos: the caption again describes her as “sweet and trusting”. The murderer mixed fact and fiction, disregarding anyone but himself. Miss Hersi’s sister is a “hospital doctor”- Registrar? Consultant? Junior doctor? Her father said the grief has “consumed us”. The murderer had been at the LSE but his “promising academic career” was cut short.

The Sun reported on the sentencing of the murderer’s girlfriend. It described Miss Hersi as the murderer’s “transgender lover”. There is nothing about Miss Hersi at all, just about the murderer, his girlfriend who believed his lies until their trial and then had a breakdown, the murder, and how Miss Hersi met the murderer, on a “dating app”.

The Press and Journal of Aberdeen, famed for the “Aberdeen Man Lost at Sea” headline reporting the Titanic sinking, has a tag page for “Naomi Hersi” but no articles now tagged.

I thought the Daily Mail had interviewed her sister Amina, but it appears they only watched “The Body in the Bathroom”. The article refers to Naomi as “he” and by her male name, shows her photo presenting male, and describes the murder in detail. Naomi never showed herself to her sister: she only saw her presenting male. If Amina said anything about what Naomi was like as a person, the film or the Mail don’t consider that worth recounting. Perhaps that’s a good thing: if Amina had only seen her sister presenting male, Naomi had not really shown who she was.

So much for the mainstream media.

A week after the murder, Stonewall commented “Media coverage of Naomi Hersi’s death is a disgrace”. It wrote of the abuse trans people suffer, but nothing about Miss Hersi. Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity, issued a statement on the press coverage of Naomi Hersi. “The media reporting may be unsettling for trans communities…. We are here if you have been affected.”

I had not heard of Fumble, “Your handy guide to sex”. It has a large headline “Black Trans Lives Matter”. It says “It’s time we listened and believed the voices of the trans community”. It then quotes the start of Travis Alabanza’s article in Gal-Dem, a news site with Black women and non-binary journalists. This is that article. As a black nonbinary person Travis apologises to Miss Hersi, that things happened to her that happen to other Black TGV (Trans and Gender Variant) people.

Travis reports “This killing hits particularly hard”. The Times, which reports the most trivial thing if it can make trans people look bad, did not report the murder. They write searingly of anti-blackness: would there be a similar silence for a white trans woman with class privileges? As I said, I am glad I am that trans woman. I am not dead. I say it because it is true: I am not trying to be nice, I just could not bear the additional discrimination. From her still visible Twitter, Travis found out that Miss Hersi was “a tennis enthusiast, a music lover and a chocolate addict”.

Research Naomi Hersi, they said. After an hour and the top twenty articles my Google search finds for her name, I know she was sweet and funny, trusting and carefree, a tennis enthusiast, music lover and chocolate addict, that she at least once used a “dating app”, and that she lived to age 36. I know a bit about her murderer, and her murderer’s deluded accomplice, and a lot about his lies and the crime. I have seen the lovely photographs, and that’s all I know of Naomi Hersi. There may be a tribute on line to Naomi Hersi the person, describing her joys and dreams, but I have not found it. Instead there are reports of the crime and the murderer’s attempts to get off.

Lower down the google rankings, Isabelle Ehiorobo anatomises how the murderer’s story plays on transphobic and racist tropes to portray Naomi as a threat. Sometimes such “Bad Victim” tactics result in acquittal. I look at Isabelle’s photo, see she is Black, think she might be trans, and wish it was a white cis bloke explaining these things, that we did not have to explain them to people, fearing we were not believed. There was a lot of evidence against the murderer, such as the lack of defensive wounds on either party, indicating he had surprised her, and she had no chance to defend herself; and there was CCTV of them together. Without that evidence, might he have got off with it?

Should trans women ask permission to enter women’s space?

We never asked permission to go into women’s spaces. The only permission I had was from men, and that was after I had started. A trans ally said, women don’t object because women are conditioned to expect, and ask for, so little. I see positives in the feminist campaign against trans inclusion- women are encouraged to speak up, speak out, say “No, I do not consent”.

There are not that many of us. In 2000, it was estimated 2000-5000 had transitioned, in 2011 it was estimated 7,500, now I estimate about 50,000. One in a thousand people, and there was one ahead of me in the queue when I picked up my prescription. I am as likely to see a trans woman as anyone else is. If someone sees one of us, whether they object or not may depend on social pressure. Is it part of their self-image as a good, progressive person that they accept trans women? Have they been taught that trans women in women’s spaces is a symbol of women’s oppression? We don’t affect most people at all, most of the time, and even though our numbers are rising quickly it is from a very low base. Trans inclusion is not a real issue in most people’s lives, but it is being made a potent symbol.

Whose permission would we ask? I don’t want a referendum on trans inclusion, leave alone for any woman to have the right of veto. 57% of women agreed trans people should be able to self-identify our gender. Only 21% were against. That may be because women are conditioned into niceness.

Well, some women aren’t. Many women like caring roles. You can’t find whether this is nature or nurture, just as you can’t unbake a cake. With my nature going so much against childhood conditioning into maleness, I feel it is not just nurture, and I feel for women whose nature also does not fit. My sympathy with the trans excluders is fellow-feeling. I just wish they would not pick on trans as their feminist issue. There are more important feminist issues.

Might a cis woman resent a trans woman being there as of right? They never consented, we went in, first stealthily, now more openly. Is that the poison at the root of trans rights, an insult to women? No. The Labour party enacted the Equality Act, consolidating our rights, but from 1998 there were specific anti-discrimination regulations protecting trans people. I would say that cis women should not, because of the legitimacy of human rights treaties and tribunals. It is international law that trans women are entitled to be treated as women.

Because of the value of law in general and human rights law in particular, trans women should get a pass for being in women’s spaces. Any trans woman should be ejected if she does something objectionable such that any person would be ejected. Human rights law has to protect the weakest and most despised.

And, as Bayard Rustin wrote,

the racial problem, like most other problems which we face in our time, springs from an emotional rather than a basically intellectual source. When one is dealing with human attitudes, longsuffering, perseverance, and consideration for those who disagree with you is a very necessary step. Our aim must be to place ourselves in the position of others and to see that if we had had their experiences we would be very much as they are. Once we have faced this fact we can then struggle against injustice with that spirit which in the long run takes away the occasion for injustice.

Awaiting Liz Truss’s promised proposals on trans rights, three years after Theresa May promised them, I am moved to share paintings of St Lucy or Lucia, a martyr. There was popular devotion to her as protector of sight, as her name means “light”. Sometimes she is portrayed with a pair of eyes on a plate. I saw one picture of her with an eye removed. The palm branch is a symbol of martyrdom and victory over evil.

Trans women, simply explained

Non-trans friends:

Predatory men pretending to be trans in order to attack women is a myth. It could happen now, if they really wanted, as the Equality Act 2010 in the UK allows those who appear to be trans women to enter women’s spaces, but it does not happen because there are so many easier ways of attacking women.

That myth is transphobic. It creates fear of trans women. Someone might think: “Is that a genuine trans woman? Or is it a predatory man?” They might even feel an enhanced sense of suspicion- “Will there be a predatory man in a dress there?” Yet people who spread the myth often imagine that they are not transphobic because they don’t think they are hostile to “genuine” trans women.

Please, if you see or hear this myth anywhere, challenge it. State the facts. Call it what it is- transphobia. Explain why. Transphobia is spread by people who imagine they are not transphobic at all.

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Any attempt to exclude trans women from toilets and changing rooms requires policing women’s femininity. Do you want any woman to reconsider her hair or her clothes to avoid misgendering? What about the tall woman, or the broad shouldered woman? What about the woman who has ceased her public feminine expression and always wears DMs and a crew cut, because she is traumatised by predatory men who won’t take no for an answer? Whatever anyone thinks of trans women in women’s refuges, prisons, hospital wards or sports, excluding trans women from loos and changing rooms would hurt all women, and subject them more to patriarchal control.

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So what about refuges, prisons, hospital wards and sports? Women’s Aid helps fugitives from violence, and includes trans women fugitives from violence. No prisoner should be subject to violence: let us work for the reduction of the prison population and the humane treatment of prisoners, not for housing trans women in vulnerable prisoner units with male paedophiles. In hospital all deserve dignity, even trans women. In sport, the IOC requires drastic reduction in the male testosterone level in all trans women competitors. No man would endure that. These women should be able to compete.

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I am terrified. After The Sunday Times reported a “government source” promised to “safeguard female-only spaces, including refuges and public lavatories, to stop them being used by those with male anatomy”, and overturn the consultation, where 70% of respondents were in favour of trans self-declaration, I fear legal restriction and public hostility inflamed by public discourse where trans women are conflated with predatory men. Trans women are not the main threat to other women.

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What do you say when a cis straight educated white man says “Why do we need labels”?

Because the first time people are labelled is always pejorative. It may be scientific, classifying, othering us. It may be legalistic, regulating our behaviour or expression. It may be abusive, short and cruel to shout in the street. Then choosing our own labels is an act of resistance.

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There is no such thing as “trans ideology”. I am a trans woman. I do not seek to define womanhood for any other woman, or deny that sex is real. I don’t define women’s sexuality, or how women should dress or behave. I want freedom for women to be who they are, because I need that freedom myself. When we say “my gender identity is female” or “I am a woman” we are psyching ourselves up to do what we do not understand but want more than anything else in the world- to express ourselves as women. When we want inclusive language for trans men and nonbinary folk it’s just like women wanting inclusive language- “chairman” becomes “chairperson”. When that seems ugly, we work together to improve it: “chairperson” becomes “chair”.

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Keep it simple. Conspiracy theories flourish when people are drawn in by all the information available. QAnon addicts relish Q-drops, telling New Information about how wonderful Q+ (Donald Trump) is, and how threatened he is by the Deep State, and “Do the Research” in between drops, analysing. Anti-vaxxers memorise lists of ingredients of vaccines, and their alleged harm. Flat-Earthers study the Bedford Levels experiments. Transphobes and anti-trans campaigners learn about the few trans people who can be made to look bad, and all sorts of detail about sports and shelters and prisons and hospitals and changing rooms, and share it on forums and twitter. Cut through their crap.

Trans women are women, socially, legally and morally. Trans rights are human rights.

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin, organiser of the March on Washington in 1963, was a Quaker who schooled his monthly meeting in pacifism and prison warders in non violent resistance and direct action. He might accept tactically delaying racial integration in order to reduce resistance to it; he would not accept delay caused by white people’s hurt feelings. In prison, he addressed the Warden as an equal.

In 1942, he was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, for refusing to sit in the back of a bus.

He was the assistant to Martin Luther King who may have brought King to non-violent resistance and direct action; he had to resign as assistant when he was accused of an affair with King. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. concocted the story fearing civil rights marches would embarrass the Democratic party. Rustin supported gay rights all his life: “no group is ultimately safe from prejudice, bigotry, and harassment so long as any group is subject to special negative treatment.”

He recognised how injustice is interconnected, and supported poor whites. King eventually followed Rustin’s argument, for example in the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968. Rustin led the A. Philip Randolph Institute, forming alliances with the white labor movement. He was a singer who released albums and entertained fellow prisoners by the prison pipe system.

He was brought up by his grandmother Julia, a Quaker, and joined Brooklyn MM when he moved there. The Meeting was considering providing US soldiers with hospitality services. Rustin argued that soldiers’ morale was important to make them effective in war, and as “war is wrong”, “It is then our duty to make war impossible, first in us and then in society”. Yet it would not be fair to men committed to taking part in the war to admit them to meeting for worship, where pacifist messages might cause them anxiety. Co-operating with the military might make it more difficult for Quaker conscientious objectors to avoid conscription.

Rustin was a youth worker for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which worked on nonviolent direct action for peace and human rights. He observed, “The suffering which the Negro has already endured fits him well for the disciplines necessary for nonviolent direct action. . . . The use of violence by a minority group is suicidal.” In a few months he travelled in twenty states and spoke before more than 5000 people, including in seventeen colleges, and counselled many men and boys considering conscientious objection.

He was a Communist who left the party when war broke out and the party told him to focus on defeating fascism rather than the liberation struggle of African Americans.

Jesus was his exemplar in nonviolent direct action. Jesus practiced civil disobedience (He deliberately violated the Sabbath laws), noncooperation (He refused to answer ‘quisling’ Herod when questioned by him), mass marches (Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem with a large procession of his followers shouting revolutionary statements), and even personal nonviolent direct action (He drove by drastic action the exploiters from the temple).

Rustin refused to go to a camp for COs, as COs there had restricted contact with the outside world, and so went to prison. “But when the will of God and the will of the state conflict, I am compelled to follow the will of God.” He said he would attempt escape from a minimum security prison, so had to be sent to a higher security prison. The warden begged his superiors to send Rustin somewhere else. He immediately sought to work with the warden for the racial integration of the prison.

I have had difficulty, sometimes, remaining in the Light in a Quaker committee. How much more in the violence of prison? Rustin wrote, “Though joyfully following the will of God, I regret that I must break the law of the state. I am prepared for whatever may follow.”

I have been taught a great lesson since coming here—namely, that there is such suffering in this world that not one penny should be misplaced or one moment wasted by men of social concern. I shall see many fewer shows and drink many fewer beers when I am free. And this not merely for discipline of self, but because these pleasures pale into the distance as one is brought face to face with the suffering . . . in lives here. I say this to indicate that we, all of us, must be very careful to search ourselves and our enterprises to make certain that we are using our resources wisely.

When the warden allowed him to mix with white prisoners, a man attacked him with a mop handle, with force sufficient to break the handle and Rustin’s wrist. Rustin did not resist, and insisted that the attacker be not punished, perhaps heaping burning coals on his head.

I certainly am convinced that there is need of a spiritual revolution if we are to avoid complete moral degeneration. I am equally certain that some totally dedicated and spiritually radical group, giving itself constantly and wholly to a life of the spirit, will (by its virtues) usher in the forces that will make genuine change possible. Whether I am to be of that group I doubt.

My own wish to be part of that revolution blanches before this modesty.

When one works to relieve racial tension (an area in which progress is slow, in which a life’s work can be destroyed by one hasty or unfortunate incident, in which the principle of ends and means must be observed faithfully) one must develop along with patience and a real consideration for the conditioning and point of view of others an easy sense of humor. Be able to laugh! Be able to laugh at yourself first. Only then will you have perspective, that middle ground “between tears and laughter” in which you will be forced to work for many years yet.

He would not force a white man to integrate. “It is, indeed, the most basic tenet of my belief: to force is to destroy.” But, giving white objectors the option of moving to another wing meant that they were not forced. The Warden should also consider the Black men: “There are 19 men in lower E who may appear to be content but who constantly are warped and embittered and made to look upon themselves as inferiors (as you yourself have noted) by the system of separation. The line of segregation, as every enlightened social worker, doctor, or teacher knows, touches every aspect of these 19 black lives.” Rustin thought the warden might be delaying, and wrote, “May I hear from you today.”

Instead the warders found prisoners who told of Rustin propositioning them sexually, or said they had seen him engage in oral sex, and had him placed in administrative segregation. Rustin resisted being sent there; but later wrote, “As a personal discipline I intend to … concentrate wholly on my own share of guilt; to refuse to discuss the administration’s share.”

From “I must resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters,” ed. Michael G. Long.