Antisemitism, transphobia and the Labour Party

I welcome the report into antisemitism in the Labour party. Its recommendations should apply to transphobia as well. The transphobe MSP Jenny Marra and MP Rosie Duffield have faced no sanction for their transphobia. The transphobic document the “Labour Women’s Declaration” has received no condemnation from the Labour leadership. Transphobia is rife in the Labour Party.

I have taken paragraphs from the report, and substituted “transphobia” for “antisemitism”, “trans people” for “Jewish people”. I do this because I find transphobia in the Labour party quite as offensive as antisemitism.

The Labour Party must acknowledge the impact that years of failing to tackle transphobia has had on trans people. Rebuilding trust and confidence with its members, the Trans community and the wider public will be crucial for the future. A transparent and independent transphobia complaints process, which ensures that all cases of alleged discrimination, harassment or victimisation are investigated promptly, rigorously and without political interference, must sit at the heart of this. (p3)

Politicians on all sides have a responsibility to set standards for our public life and to lead the way in challenging HoBiT in all its forms. What politicians say and do matters. Their words and actions send a message about what is acceptable and what is not. (p4)

The Party has shown an ability to act decisively when it wants to, through the introduction of a bespoke process to deal with sexual harassment complaints… it is hard not to conclude that transphobia within the Labour Party could have been tackled more effectively if the leadership had chosen to do so. (p6)

An effective and transparent complaints process is critical to building trust with members and the general public, yet the Labour Party’s response to transphobia complaints has been inconsistent, poor, and lacking in transparency. (p9)

There is:
no clear, publicly accessible guidance for members on how transphobic conduct is sanctioned
no clear guidance for decision-makers on how to decide on the appropriate sanction
a continuing failure to provide adequate reasons for sanctions, and
poor record-keeping, implementation and monitoring of sanctions. (p10)

There was a failure to deliver adequate training to individuals responsible for handling transphobia complaints. The approach to training for antisemitism is in stark contrast to the training provided for those handling sexual harassment complaints, for whom the Labour Party has implemented a comprehensive training scheme. (p11)

We expect the Labour Party to have practical training in place within six months of publication of this report. We also found that the resourcing of the complaints process was inadequate. (p11)

Why can’t the EHRC recommend this for all discrimination complaints?

The Party should… Engage with Jewish stakeholders to develop and embed clear, accessible and robust principles and practices to tackle transphobia and to instil confidence for the future. (p12)

[and] commission an independent process to handle and determine transphobia complaints. (p13)

[and] Publish a comprehensive policy and procedure, setting out how transphobia complaints will be handled and how decisions on them will be made. This should include published criteria on what conduct will be subject to investigation and suspension. (p13)

[and] make sure the complaint handling process is resourced properly so that it can deal with transphobia complaints effectively and without delay. (p14)

The EHRC says Jewish stakeholders should be consulted on training programmes. I want trans members consulted on transphobia and training for all with positions of responsibility within the Party.

In the introduction to the report, the EHRC says,

Under the Equality Act 2010, the Labour Party must not discriminate against, harass or victimise its members, associates, guests, or those wanting to become members, on the basis of a number of protected characteristics… Leaders and representatives of political parties should uphold and defend their right to speak freely, but they also have a responsibility to conduct debate responsibly, and to lead others in doing so. They should create an environment where discrimination, harassment and victimisation is not tolerated, so that all party members feel valued and respected.

There is no excuse for the Labour Party not responding to transphobia as it has committed to responding to antisemitism.

Evidence for gender recognition reform

The Women and Equalities Committee is seeking evidence on gender recognition reform. This is torture. The WEC in 2016 took evidence and decided that trans legal rights should be improved. Then the Tory government said no. Then Theresa May, then Prime Minister, in 2017 said trans legal rights should be improved in this small, merely symbolic way. Then they delayed and delayed and delayed. Then Liz Truss said no. This phrase Truss used, “kinder and more straightforward”, while retaining all the unkind and Byzantine bits, was particularly cruel. It’s an attempt at gaslighting, failed in my case as I am clear about my own perceptions, and it is painful, hope given then slowly withdrawn.

The deadline is 27 November.

Trans and LGBT+ groups can give evidence on the effects on trans people as a whole. Lawyers can debate the meaning of the various provisions. For individuals, the main evidence is personal experience. No, the system now does not work, and this is why. Any number of trans people, all saying why the system is unworkable and humiliating, might help. Why should the Gender Recognition Panel be entitled to know what is between my legs? “Have you had the operation?” It’s the question the tolerant, curious members of the public ask trans women, to find whether we are “real transsexuals” or not. It is humiliating.

How does it make you feel?

How has it affected you? With Theresa May tantalising us in July 2017, and the hate campaign waged ever since by anti-trans campaigners in The Times and elsewhere, what experience have you of anti-trans hate? Some certainty, with the law reformed and not going to be reformed again, might help. When have you been excluded? When have you been unwelcome? When have you felt unwelcome?

If I give evidence about the humiliation, it may be published on line under my name. I can ask for my name to be withheld, or for the evidence to be considered but not published, and I have no idea whether they would do that. I hope the committee would not put my name, which could be found by google, next to an account of my experiences. However, putting my name might make my evidence stronger. I am prepared to put my name to this.

There are eleven MPs on the committee: six Tory, four Labour, one SNP. None are out as trans or nonbinary, and two appear to be men, the rest women. I have not heard of them. Caroline Nokes, the chair, appears to be an ally. I assume they have researchers to assist.

The questions are lengthy and detailed. They give scope for trans people to give our personal experience, to show why the system is not working.

Some can be given a clear answer. “Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?” Of course. When the ICD changes in January 2022, gender dysphoria will not be classified as an illness, and it is not an illness now. Some people are trans. We know we are trans. There should be no requirement for psychiatrists to be involved, any more than you need a psychiatrist to certify you are gay before you have a same-sex marriage. That this is so clear says something about Truss’s refusal to reform the system. Doctor’s letters are expensive and unnecessary, yet she retains the requirement.

I am not ill. ICD 11 confirms I am not ill. To require me to get a letter from a specialist psychiatrist saying I am not ill in a particular way is ridiculous.

Some of the questions are very wide. “What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?” Design your own system.

Unfortunately, there is the question “Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?” It gives transphobes an excuse to vomit their hate.

These are my answers to the questions. I have not decided whether to give evidence. Evidence should not be published elsewhere. If it is longer than 3000 words you should give a summary.

Will the Government’s proposed changes meet its aim of making the process “kinder and more straight forward”?

No.

Should a fee for obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate be removed or retained? Are there other financial burdens on applicants that could be removed or retained?

The fee should be no greater than for a duplicate birth certificate. Doctor’s letters cost money. If you have a GRC, tell of the worry and expense. If not, say what has deterred you. If you can’t yet, say what difference it might make.

Should the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria be removed?

Yes (see above).

Should there be changes to the requirement for individuals to have lived in their acquired gender for at least two years?

It should be possible to get a GRC before living in the acquired gender. Though the NatWest bank had a policy allowing change of gender, the ignorant man who served me did not know it, and demanded that I produce a passport in my new name before he would change my name on my account. I had to complain about him. The time I need a GRC is when I change all my details. So, giving evidence:

What is your view of the statutory declaration and should any changes have been made to it?

It should record only that I am trans, and what my gender is, in the words I choose.

Does the spousal consent provision in the Act need reforming? If so, how? If it needs reforming or removal, is anything else needed to protect any rights of the spouse or civil partner?

If the spouse or civil partner objects to gender change, the marriage is over. Either the objection or the change could be construed to be “unreasonable behaviour” so there is grounds for divorce for either party. The other party should not be able to block gender recognition. Again, the call is for “evidence”- I might leave that question for those who have had a spousal refusal of consent. If you have had that experience, give evidence.

Should the age limit at which people can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) be lowered?

Yes. Again, if you have had the experience of transition before age 18, or knowing you wanted to, tell the committee about it.

What impact will these proposed changes have on those people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and on trans people more generally?

Virtually none. Here is the Ministerial statement. The changes are to “place the whole procedure online”, which makes no sense- you swear or affirm a statutory declaration before a solicitor or magistrate, and cannot do that online. And to reduce the fee of £140, which is not the main expense.

What else should the Government have included in its proposals, if anything?

Remove the requirement for evidence of living in the acquired gender. My word should be sufficient. Giving evidence to the committee, explain what difficulty you had getting the necessary documents. I sent off wage slips. Not everyone has them.

Does the Scottish Government’s proposed Bill offer a more suitable alternative to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004?

Yes. I wrote about the draft bill. It is better in that it removes the requirement for evidence of living in the acquired gender, and the need for a diagnosis, but the waiting time is unnecessary.

Wider issues concerning transgender equality and current legislation:

Why is the number of people applying for GRCs so low compared to the number of people identifying as transgender?

Expense, delay, and the ability to get passport and driving licence without a GRC. I have not shown my GRC to anybody. It did not change my rights, my self-perception or others’ understanding of me in any way. If you do not have a GRC, say why not.

Are there challenges in the way the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 interact? For example, in terms of the different language and terminology used across both pieces of legislation.

Getting a GRC does not affect trans women’s rights to be in women’s spaces. The relevant provisions are in schedule 3 of the Equality Act. Paragraphs 26-27 allow services to be for one sex, and paragraph 28 allows trans women to be excluded from women’s services. Lawyers can interpret the provisions. For evidence, write of any time you have been excluded, or felt uncomfortable or unwelcome. For example, I have been stared at in the changing room of swimming pools, and felt uncomfortable, though I have a right to be there. Quakers have been divided.

Are the provisions in the Equality Act for the provision of single-sex and separate-sex spaces and facilities in some circumstances clear and useable for service providers and service users? If not, is reform or further guidance needed?

The thought of complaining or raising court action about exclusion terrifies me. Evidence would be useful if you have been excluded, or have complained.

Does the Equality Act adequately protect trans people? If not, what reforms, if any, are needed

No. Remove the ability to exclude one or all trans women from women’s spaces. We can be excluded, just like any other women, if we behave in an unmanageable or objectionable way. Write of your experience of being excluded, or of being unwilling to access a service.

The Equality Act should ban discrimination on the ground of gender, not only of sex and “gender reassignment”. If there were a protected characteristic of gender, no-one could enforce gender stereotypes. That would please the TERFs, as well as trans people. For example, you could be required to dress to a certain standard at work, but not required to wear skirts.

What issues do trans people have in accessing support services, including health and social care services, domestic violence and sexual violence services?

Are legal reforms needed to better support the rights of gender-fluid and non-binary people? If so, how?

Give evidence of your experience.

Can you affect the committee report? The Women and Equalities Committee reported on trans rights, and recommended worthwhile reforms. I fear those six Tories want to roll back the recommendations. Trans groups will reply. I will too, for what it’s worth. But again, I will be required to tell my deepest anguish, and possibly have it published under my name, with little chance of any good coming of it. The government batted away the last WEC report. I have, nevertheless, sent in evidence.

In praise of feelings

Is being trans just a “subjective feeling”? If so, does that matter?

Someone asked me to define “woman” “in a way that is not circular (a logical fallacy) and does not reduce it to a subjective feeling (which cannot be evidenced)”. She may be trans, asking for help in argument, but I feel she thinks this a knockout blow- once women accept her feminism, there will be no trans people ever again.

“Subjective” may not add much, describing feelings. What would an “objective feeling” be? We can observe people looking at art, and from their movements and facial expressions see they are deeply moved by the beauty, or bored. Objectively, there is a person who reports a feeling, delight or boredom, and others who observe them and believe they hold the feeling, and know from their own experience that art works can bore or delight them, perhaps depending on their mood.

Some people are frightened of spiders. Some people are not. I know the fear in my friend is real, and I want to alleviate it. I kill the spider because rescuing it would take too much time and prolong my friend’s agony. Others would, because of feelings, rescue the spider and object to my cruelty. If one person feels the death penalty for murder is appropriate, and another feels it abhorrent, there can be a decision, but not necessarily persuasion, and probably not rational argument about the issue.

It’s rare to find a feeling everyone feels. At a severe earthquake, most will feel fear, but some may feel exhileration.

Feelings are perceptions. Like the amoeba, humans are creatures drawn to what will benefit them, repelled from what will harm them. The desire may be one only one person feels, but the desire is still real for that person.

If being trans is “a subjective feeling”, it can be evidenced that people have felt it all over the world, and for millennia. Do you believe it exists? If you are not frightened of spiders but believe some people are, you should be able to believe that the desire to transition exists. It is long-lasting, often for decades. It can be more important than anything else in the world, as it was to me. This is subjective in that it is my feeling and no-one else’s, and it is a feeling, if you don’t accept there are differences in brain structure between men and women and trans women’s brains are in some objective and relevant way the same as cis women’s, but feelings should be respected. Love brings happiness and makes procreation possible- it is “a subjective feeling”. Some feelings should be acted on, others not, but even if being trans is only a feeling does not mean it can be discounted by anyone else.

Is my definition “circular, a logical fallacy”? I defined woman to include trans woman, to my own satisfaction.

What is a “circular argument”? Wikipedia tells me it is an argument where there is no need to believe the premises unless one believes the conclusion. It relates to deductive logic. But deductive logic never tells us anything new, for all conclusions are embedded in the premises. Socrates is immortal, in that as long as there are human beings we will tell each other about Socrates. Definitions are not logical argument. There is no clear line between red and orange on the light spectrum, and other cultures define colours differently and see them differently, but the word “red” still has a useful meaning. The concept of “species” comes from the early seventeenth century, before evolution was observed to exist. Now we know of speciation, where one species divides into two, and there is a moment in that process where it is unclear if there is one species or two. So the definition of “species” is clear, but whether a group of animals fits it may be unclear.

If trans excluders believe “We’re women! They’re Not!” that is a strong feeling. “Trans women are women,” say Labour MPs, equably, and trans excluders are enraged, resentful or contemptuous. They encourage these feelings in each other. It’s only a subjective feeling. They want it not to be- three hundred held a zoom meeting last week on the “materialist feminist analysis of sex”, where many were no doubt delighted by the apparent objectivity of their cause, but human beings are too diverse and strange to be crushed into such neat categories. Trans women are women. Whether we should be admitted into women’s spaces or not cannot be answered by objective definition.

Reading, writing, feeling, living

I have just read a wonderful article, in which a woman tells of her upbringing, and mingles it with an account of a theatre director. She lived the first twelve years of her life in the US, and then her parents took her home to Japan, where she was educated in Japanese and English, with the aim of being fully at home in both cultures, but loyal to Japan. Her title Let them misunderstand is a quote from Yukio Ninagawa, who directed Shakespeare in Japanese.

“The British will often say something like, ‘Oh, we sense pathos in the falling petals of your cherry blossom trees,’ and I would think: that has nothing to do with it. But I’ve come to say, eh, let them think that. Let them misunderstand.”

Well, if you see change as loss, you will see pathos- beautiful blossom falls. If you see change as progress, or as cyclical, you won’t. Before the Hokusai exhibition, I learned I should read his pictures right to left, rather than left to right as I habitually did with European landscape-oriented paintings. It changes the way you see them.

Speaking to this Japanese woman, often, “a white man starts offering their humble, lengthy thoughts on Kurosawa” rather than asking to hear her expertise. Whole articles could be written around such experiences, but here it is just one sentence, which introduces Ninagawa. There are so many points like that in Moeko Fujii’s article- alien to me, beautifully expressed, making me stop and savour them.

I will not subscribe to The Point magazine because the other two free articles I read, though interesting enough, did not come close. Rather, I read the New York Times and The Guardian. Yesterday, Nicholas Kristof wrote of Covid in America, and Andrew Rawnsley wrote of the US/UK relationship. Both are good articles, bringing details together, and both writers know things I hadn’t: in October 2019 Joe Biden tweeted, “We are not prepared for a pandemic”. Rawnsley writes of an international conference of foreign policy experts. But what I take away from them adds little to what I knew or thought before- the US Covid response was disastrous, Johnson is ideologically offensive to and ridiculously unprepared for a Biden presidency, though Kristof also quotes a facebook shared conspiracy theory that would, if believed, make Trump’s supporters more resolute to work for him.

I am worried for the world about 3 November.

Medics for social security might say my concentration was fine, because I could read Rawnsley’s, and even Fujii’s, article through. I am concerned, though, that I spend much of my time scrolling facebook, and I don’t think reading Guardian or NYT op-eds is much better for me. The NYT has a wider political range, but both, in general, go into detail on things I know already. I have, though I don’t live there, read many Covid in America articles, where the mistakes are similar to those here.

I feel the articles raise in me the same narrow range of feelings every time- concern, anger, irritation, contempt. They distance me from my own experience. Events in the wider world affect me, but I do not learn of them, particularly, from any one article. There is a much wider range of emotion in me, much of which I have not named. I could read Stalingrad, and resonate with a great deal more human experience, but do not: instead, I keep returning to a few websites.

Rawnsley’s contempt for the Prime Minister shows through, and encourages my own. It is a paradox: contempt makes one turn away, and pay less attention, but here I return again and again, to contempt for the same con-man vandal. It does not increase my power. It may enervate me further- “The Struggle Naught Availeth!” I think, miserably.

Feeling those conventional feelings in tune with articles is addictive. So is commenting- the more contempt for the government in a Guardian comment, the more upvotes it gets, the more attention.

I want to know why people think what they think, and Anne Applebaum’s article gives another piece of the puzzle. Allegations don’t have to make sense, they just have to be what the audience wants to believe. That would mean the utterly amoral liar has an advantage over the truth-teller (or at least, the normal politician who stretches the truth sometimes) and I hope that is not true.

Even reading The Guardian, I can take away a misleading impression. Why are so few rapes successfully prosecuted? Guardian articles had a brilliant example of phrasemaking, the “digital stripsearch”, where the police take the victim’s phone, download its contents, and disclose them to the defence. Who could bear that? Yet when I spread this falsehood on facebook, quoting the memorable phrase and falsely explaining it, a barrister friend said it was far more nuanced, of what the police would record and the prosecution disclose. The phrasemaking gave me a false impression, and heightened my resentment, and probably the definiteness of my false opinion.

When I tried to tell the story to call people to calm and an appreciation of nuance, it was taken the other way. The phrase “digital stripsearch” stuck in people’s heads, and they had the false view I had sought to show was so easily taken, and so wrong.

Someone spoke appreciation of me, and I was overjoyed: literally, unable to control my expression of delight. I want to control it, of course. Someone else found me on a zoom group, and asked if she could stay at my house. I don’t believe her family would kill her if she returned to Italy. I have met fantasists and think she is one. She has no money and no way of getting any, she said, and indeed she may not be able to claim benefits.

To live normally in this society, one sticks with that narrow range of feeling, and to conventional feeling, which society deems appropriate in any particular situation. That is unbearable to me. I want to feel my own feelings, name them, know them, use them as a guide to what is going on around me.

1929.6.87 004

Honour. Value.

What do you love? What do you find beautiful? What should be valued? What is worthy of honour and respect? What is winsome and appealing? All these are feeling questions, which can give life meaning. Working things out rationally never will. Rationality is for finding how to achieve what you want, not to decide what you want.

Be broken to be whole.
Twist to be straight.
Be empty to be full.
Wear out to be renewed.

That’s where I am at the moment, after my psychotherapy sessions, clinging to hope from the Le Guin version Tao Te Ching, because I just feel broken. “Wise souls hold to the one, and test all things against it.” I am not sure about the bit in between- “Have little and gain much. Have much and get confused.” I choose to interpret it, have a complete understanding of the world based on ego, and get confused. Lose the ego-understanding and gain the Real Self understanding.

Hold to the one, and it seems the one is frightened too. There’s no escaping fear.

I considered seeking further funding, but did not. This is in part rational- what can I do to seek funding? But the decision not to is still a matter of feeling. One rationalises. I approached your question of how we would say goodbye in a rational way. I thought I would have no problems in saying goodbye to a professional who had, done a conveyancing on a house or even who had won a discrimination case in the ET and then I thought of what I called transference calling you Mum.

The word “rational” should be used for thinking which is emotional, based on desire, and then considering how wants might be achieved with clear-eyed seeing the world as it is. “Rational” includes “emotional”.

I am alexithymic: I have a reduced “ability to identify and describe emotions experienced by onesself or others.” I was maimed. Perhaps as a toddler, but I believe it was before I could walk: I felt anger or fear, showed it, suffered for it, so suppressing anger and fear became the most important thing in the world for me, and even now, my primary fear- fear of a real thing in the world- is far less a problem than the secondary fear, my fear of my own fear, fear of admitting it to myself, fear of its existence, so that I must suppress what I cannot suppress and become paralysed.

What is “broken” is the protected ego, the part that believes I do not fear, because it is the block to my fear flowing freely, like a clogged artery. When that ego is broken, I may become whole, I hope.

I feel I have done the work between the sessions, and over the past few months I have grown better at recognising feelings. On internal conflict, when I acknowledge the part opposing what the ego wants to do, when I see it as feeling and reason and not mere resistance, inadequacy, or Lack- lack of motivation, energy, gumption- making choices and taking action become easier.

Those feelings in me, sometimes perceived as mere resistance, or sulk, are worthy of honour and respect.

I am capable of sustained effort sometimes. That NEC post was effort. And I could only go to work in a fight or flight mode, I must do this to survive, that I could never sustain. I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, and that is not mere laziness, but fear. Omniphobia. The lesson learned that what I want I cannot get. Though as the main thing I want is not to feel fear that lesson may be based on the wrong experiences.

The route through is “be broken to be whole”. Take the simplest decision or action out of fast thinking and bring it into slow thinking, use the necessary respect and care to discern what are the reasons not to, which would otherwise seem mere lack, and thereby find some elusive positive desire.

It’s the last line of King Lear. “What I ought to say” has become so vile to me that I cannot say it.

How do I see the next few months? Well, there will be hours when I just switch off, reading but not taking in political articles and their miasma of Acceptable Feelings, or slumped in front of the telly. I can read- “A Song of Ice and Fire” which has a very narrow range and a lot of fear and anger, or “Stalingrad” which has all human emotion, including Love, but takes more concentration. Human kind cannot bear very much reality. And there will be the Silence, the fixed times of worship with Pendle Hill, Woodbrooke or Friends House, when it is me and God.

I want the Breakthrough to Authenticity, and there will be slow patient work climbing a hill, or like an archaeologist removing five feet of packed earth painstakingly, with a brush, to get to the beautiful mosaic- or the bones- underneath.

And there is desire. There is florid way-out showman me, whom I fear. That came out in ministry to Quakers.

My goal is to move into the feeling self where motivation lies. Possibly to find a middle level of suppression where I am aware of it and others are not, which comes if I accept it. If I do not accept it, others are aware and I am not. Keep practising, like learning to ride a bicycle. Breaking through the shell will be a series of continual setbacks.

She told me not to, and I recorded her. “The journey goes on, I hope it comes to your expectation of where you are in five years, you will be in a place you have never anticipated, a better place, it’s good to be, you have used the word honouring a lot today, I feel you have been honouring yourself in your work over the past few weeks, being able to go into those places and with immense courage being able to honour that you aren’t shutting them down, you are acknowledging that they are there, it takes a lot of courage, being yourself.”

“Lovely to get to know you, I appreciate how hard you’ve worked, and how difficult some of that has been, and I really enjoyed meeting that authentic you, being able to be who you are, nobody else, it’s been a real gift. I hope you can- if not love yourself in the right way but learn to accept yourself? I was really pleased that that inner conflict shifting and changing, I hope that continues.”

Imagine Mum saying that.

-Have you any final words?

The human being tends towards health. We are evolved to recover from wounds.

Two days later, Thursday 22nd, I was reminded that people respect and care for me, and felt get-up-and-dance joy.

NEC nominations and trans rights

Update: the 2022 candidates, and their positions on trans rights, are here. This post is on the 2020 elections.

Updated 13 November 2020: the results of the NEC elections have been announced. Candidates in bold were elected. Most have spoken up for trans rights or against transphobia.

Labour Party members voted for National Executive Committee CLP representatives. Every eligible member could vote for nine CLP reps and one treasurer. What are the candidates’ positions on trans rights? The Labour Party LGBT Network asked a long list of questions, mainly about trans rights. Most candidates have spoken or written in favour of trans rights, or against transphobia. The ballot closed at noon on 12th November, and the results were announced the following day.

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Accepting the unruly self

Writing here, I only need persuade myself. Others get something from it: if a post has 27,000 views it appeals to people, but I can write a post if I like that might just get thirty, to clarify something for myself. And, I want to explain this to people, because I think it valuable. I tried, and met resistance, because it is counter-intuitive. So now I try again:

Moderately depressed, I can stay in bed until midday, and I have done so, periodically thinking, I ought to get up. I have to do X. X might be going to the supermarket, or doing some housework. I have to get up! I think to myself, panicking a bit, berating myself, then I go back to scrolling facebook. Then at midday I think, oh well, I am not going to do that today, I’ll spend the afternoon with the telly. And I do. This is not a way to endear myself to human society.

Mindful presence is part of it. Put down the laptop, it is just a distraction. I want dopamine, but facebook is a bad way of getting it. Put down the laptop, and I am alone with my thoughts and feelings, that shame, misery and desperation that I will not just GET UP! and do what I have to do. These are not pleasant feelings to face. Yet there are other feelings, not just about my inaction but about the desired action itself.

For a time in the Summer when I found this, I simply needed to acknowledge that I do not want to get up! And that, for me, was enough to get me up. There was some desire, some motivation, to get up and do the thing. Acknowledging the feelings stopping me, valuing and accepting that part of my inner conflict, was enough to make those feelings less insistent. “I do not want to get up!” I would say to myself, joyfully, and get up. The feelings affect me whether I am conscious of them or not, to the extent that I find consciousness overrated. I am not, primarily, a conscious being but an animal being. Somewhere else I have seen the simile consciousness is like a mahout on an elephant, and it’s not entirely clear whether the reins the mahout holds actually do anything.

Now I find I might make a better decision if I ask what, precisely, am I feeling about the X that I “ought” to do. That is, fully and completely acknowledging why I do not want to do it, or at any rate do not want to do it now. Unacknowledged, the feelings are too strong for me, demanding to be heard. Acknowledging them pacifies them. Therefore the counterintuitive suggestion, ask yourself all the reasons why you don’t want to go, what you feel and why you might feel like that, begins to make sense.

Now, I have no idea whether this is a common idea, which community psychiatric nurses routinely suggest to their patients, a more out there idea which has been the subject of an obscure TEDx talk, or completely original. That I have not heard of it is little evidence. Had I a name for it I might google it, but someone might have a different name. A name helps to get an idea accepted. It’s something like radical self-acceptance in the moment. I’ve just come up with the title for this post, thinking as I write, but there may be a better term for the technique. It’s a way of allowing feelings about the medium or long term take precedence. Feelings about Right Now are more insistent, and if I do not know what they are I have no tools for making decisions beyond the present moment. My post title says what I do, but a name expressing pithily what that achieves might be worthwhile.

I bring together the committee of the self, including the bits I don’t like, so they can decide together what to do.

I suggested this to someone, and she dismissed it out of hand, without even the need to explain why it was so wrong because that was obvious. Why would you think about why you don’t want to do something? That only makes you less likely to do it! Well, because those reasons or feelings are in fact stopping you from taking action, and examining them might help you address them. That the idea is hard to explain might show that it is less widespread.

Sixteen years ago a counsellor told me that “ought” is very poor motivation to do something. That is part of this idea.

Single issue campaigners

Some Labour Party members hate trans people, and in particular trans women, so much that they do not think any other political issue is important. Such single issue campaigners are a blight on the resources and prospects of the Party, causing division and driving members away. We would be better off without them. For example,

I am preparing to leave the Labour Party. I have never voted for anyone other than the Labour Party throughout my life but now feel unsure of what I can do in the next election. If the Labour Party does not support women’s sex based rights then it does not support me or any other woman.

“Sex-based rights” is code for expelling trans women from women’s spaces. According to these people, I should not even be allowed in a shop changing room to try clothes on before buying them, even if the cubicles have walls and lockable doors stretching from floor to ceiling, however long I have transitioned, even if I pass. To win this right to be there without the possibility that a trans woman might enter too, which the Labour Party opposes but many in the Conservative party would support, she will relentlessly abuse and diminish the Labour Party.

It is a lie to speak of Labour’s “silence on women’s rights”. Labour supports women’s rights, having introduced the Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act, and the Equality Act. However, in these people’s view it seems only the “right” to be in a space where trans women are guaranteed never to enter matters.

The level of abuse is appalling.

  • “Please put some grown-ups in charge so that I can vote Labour again.”
  • “I have always voted Labour but am disgusted at the direction they are going in”
  • Anyone opposing transphobia is abused as “simpletons, misogynists and the deeply ignorant.”
  • “The Labour Party are a misogynistic disgrace.”
  • “Shame on the Labour party and shame on Keir Starmer.”

For these people, expelling trans women from women’s spaces is treated as the only political issue, more important than the pandemic or the corrupt contracting out of public services by the Tory government; and the only feminist issue, more important than VAWG or street harassment. Nothing Labour does in campaigning for women and women’s rights matters to them.

One asks, “Is Labour losing support because of the silence on women’s rights?” Nothing Labour does for women matters to her.

We can’t know that these quotes come from Labour supporters rather than trolls or even bots, because there is no verification done. And, they are writing on a social media space where the greater hostility to trans people, particularly trans women, is glorified, and any dissenting voice quickly silenced. In that space, they get more little dopamine hits from Likes, the more hostile they are.

The comments are completely out of proportion. If they do not think Kier Starmer, Anneliese Dodds and Marsha de Cordova are adults, who would be better? They are aggrieved, and see themselves as victims, even while imagining they are more knowledgable and intelligent. They encourage each other, and get more extreme.

How many people think like that? Hundreds; but their voices are magnified by such as The Times, with its anti-Labour and anti-trans agenda.

Some of these people claim to activism in the past, canvassing or getting out the vote. However, now, they are simply a burden on the party, abusing its leader, policy and membership. All their claims of loyalty and long-term adherence are only made to try to strengthen their voice against Labour policy. They do no good for our party. They set back the cause of women’s rights and LGB rights by stoking division. If they cannot develop a sense of proportion, they should leave.

A Song of Ice and Fire

I have now read three novels of the Game of Thrones sequence, having only watched one or two of the TV series. I gave up on the TV series when a man pushed a boy out of a high tower, wanton cruelty which I found distasteful, and the boy survived, which I found too unlikely. That’s the furthest serious spoiler I will give, because I don’t want spoilers of the fourth and fifth books. The sixth has been awaited for ten years.

I got the five books in one kindle ebook, and at the very start people have highlighted commonplace moralisms, such as, “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.” Tyrion the dwarf says that to Jon the bastard, and this trans woman knows the truth of it. The highlighting stops early in volume one- fans haven’t been reading far.

The books do not follow Letitia Prism’s dictum, “the good end happily, the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” The honourable suffer, and subject lords are kept in check by hope of advancement, or betray their overlords. There are few suspense scenes in the heroic mold, where the brave hero creeps into the darkness, eludes the guards, and rescues her friends; no, she gets captured. In such fiction I like a “good” character I can sympathise with, who has more good breaks than setbacks. Generally, battles get won by the stronger side, fights by the stronger warrior. Each chapter is written in the third person from the perspective of one character, and I checked the contents page occasionally to see if they survived. Goodness or kindness is weakness. Some characters are monstrously sadistic. Second sons, who have less chance of power, can be decent sometimes.

I wonder, in these worlds, what people eat: crops are burned or stolen, so there seems too little to keep a country going. There seems little or no progress, whereas in the real Mediaeval world there were always scholars advancing knowledge. The story seems not to progress much, either: characters meander round from South to North and back again, fall in with others, get in fights, live to fight on. They are also mostly shut up in their own perceptions, so that when two are brought together and I feel they might open up to each other, reach a common understanding, they never do.

Westeros is a dark place to be. Consider the vow:

“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”

The prose ticks along pleasantly enough, but that vow is the closest it gets to poetry. It does not get close to wit, either: “I am growing strangely fond of you. I may kill you yet, but I think I’d feel sad about it”, perhaps.

“In life, the monsters win.” Certainly in Westeros. Sometimes they are killed by someone equally monstrous. Life is brutish:

“Men fish the sea, dig in the earth, and die. Women birth children in blood and pain, and die. Night follows day. The winds and tides remain. The islands are as our god made them.” Gods, he has grown grim, Theon thought.

“There are no true knights, no more than there are gods. If you can’t protect yourself, die and get out of the way of those who can. Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don’t ever believe any different.”

There are trans masculine characters, apparent women who are fighters.

There are magic, reanimating corpses, and monsters, flying dragons and Others made of ice, so the games of the humans may have little value. I don’t think the fire god of Mellisandre is any pleasanter than those Others. I find no beauty in the books at all.

Embarrassment

Is everyone like that? “I don’t know how long to look, or what to say,” said the man in the art gallery. Look if you are captivated, look away if you are uninterested, “say what you feel, not what you ought to say”. I imagine him trying to think what others who knew more than he would say, getting it wrong, and being laughed at. If you say what you feel, it is not wrong- at least, not in a gallery. “Normal is what everyone else is and you are not.” It’s hard to imagine other people trying to think what the cognoscenti would say, and trying to imitate it, and failing. It’s only me that could possibly do that. It’s only me, that anyone would ever laugh at.

And yet, there he is, saying he does not know, and pride has stopped him learning. Or self-effacement. His wife’s an artist! Would she never have told him what she saw in art? The horror at appearing not to know, that embarrassment, stopped him asking. Perhaps she never thought he would listen to her, because that would mean appearing not to know.

I went to art galleries because I knew that was the cultured thing to do, and it was good to appear cultured, then more and more I went to galleries because I love them. I don’t care what to say. Sometimes, “Wow” does. Possibly, “That smile looks enigmatic because the eyes and the mouth are expressing different emotions”. I have ticked off the Mona Lisa from my list, while I was going round galleries from an idea that I ought to, that that was the cultured thing to do.

Needing to appear to know makes doing the work to know unbearable. Curators know the power of some images, and will give a vista: you look through an opening, it catches your eye on the far wall of the next gallery, and you have to go and look- a bit like love at first sight. Art galleries can do that. You know so little about art you don’t even know what you like, and then you are captivated.

It’s easier to write this post when I think- other people might be like that too. Not everyone, around every situation- sailors know ships, artists know art, parliamentarians know parliament- but around most situations where there might be expertise, some people will know, and some will be uneasy, because they don’t, and imagine everyone else does. I’ve tried bluffing and been caught out.

There must be a sensible thing to do in this situation and I don’t know what it is, and when I do something else, people will laugh at me, or despise me, or exploit me. Who? Well, the Normal people, that is every single other person. But if only I felt like that there would be no word for it, and there is. It’s called embarrassment. I understand the oldest use of the word is for a debtor, who is embarrassed when they cannot pay. Pause to look it up. No, apparently: that use is “L19” and the play “Embarras de richesse” was performed in 1753. But the definition “perplexed” does not capture the harsh pain of it. “I will be found out!”

Embarrassment is the obverse of false pride, never wanting to be seen wanting. If I can admit ignorance many will be willing to teach me. I might give an exchange, teaching them something, or might accept the gift.

Fear of Embarrassment is one reason I fear to go out. The normal people- everyone else- will see me, and despise me. Pride, shame, stop me taking action, for fear of embarrassment. I think I inherit it from my mother, with her fear of her weird sexuality being found out.

That thing I could do is good enough. No-one will see it and despise it, because they won’t know the details or care enough to try to puzzle them out. What if it does not work? It will work well enough. It will be over soon enough.

I know a bit about art, enough to bother reading that Paolo Caliari, painting in Venice, was known as Veronese, the man from Verona. But who could not look up at this and see drama in it? It may help to know the cherub with a bow is Cupid, not necessarily to know it was commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II for Prague Castle. If your response is simply, “Wow”, your friends will not feel the scorn you fear from them, and no-one else will care.

I have been wrestling with the thought of this post all day. How can I express the pain of embarrassment, and not write something which is unbearable to read? By dancing round the pain, and making a joke of it.