The haters admit, lesbians support trans

Where could I find evidence of the support of lesbians and feminists for trans people? Oddly enough, the whining of haters. “There are very few public stories of lesbians on the ‘cotton ceiling’” said a transphobe, Angela C Wild, who worked with a named transphobe organisation to try to get more, but failed. While QAnon and other conspiracist groups can get 200,000 in a facebook group, Wild’s energetic attempts to find transphobic lesbians found respondents from three continents, but only resulted in eighty responses to her questionnaire.

“The sample does not claim to be a representative sample of the lesbian community,” Wild writes. Rather, her eighty respondents show an extreme view. “Would you consider a transwoman (sic) as a potential sexual partner,” she asked, and though lesbians will, all but one of her respondents said no. Wild uses the word “transwoman” though she does not consider it appropriate, preferring to think of us as males. This is valueless as research, but some of the stories are interesting.

The haters were members of lesbian or LGBT groups online or IRL. Though 58 of them were part of groups excluding trans women, they still felt “silenced” or unable to speak freely. Allies of trans women had excluded forty of the haters from LGBT groups. One hater had been sacked- perhaps it was Maya Forstater. The pressure came from “other women” (that is, not trans women) within their groups.

Online, it is easy to find your own kind. Facebook will suggest groups for you. So, some of the respondents had left their LGBT groups and joined hater groups, where they could be sure their views were not challenged. They prefer hater groups even though they say “how much more difficult it has become for them to meet lesbians”- the hate they share was their main focus. One said in a city of a million people all the lesbian groups included trans women, at least potentially.

On dating sites, in getting messages from trans women, one is quoted as saying “she has never felt coerced or intimidated”. While others claim to be pressured, they admit that the pressure comes from cis lesbians. Despite her repulsion against trans women, one had had a relationship with one, but they judge us on our looks, claiming we were not “making an effort to pass”.

This document cannot be dignified by the term “research”. For example, Wild misrepresents Dhejne’s research, though Dhejne has refuted Wild’s interpretation, and in her “references” cites tweets, youtube, and a Medium article. Though facebook radicalises people, by suggesting extremist groups to anyone who might do a search, Wild has found few people, and they tell of the pressure from cis women including cis lesbians to accept trans women.

Wild’s account makes a number of serious allegations, of threats and even assaults, but these come from a prejudiced source, from anonymised obsessives who would rather leave a lesbian group than accept the possibility that a trans woman might join. Most lesbians understand that if hatred against trans women spreads, lesbians will be next in the firing line. Now, with this Tory government, we need LGBT solidarity.

For example, there is this statement on the Pride in London website, when such haters disrupted the Pride parade in 2018:

The lesbian board members at Pride in London made their anger towards the unsanctioned group clear and our organisation as a whole condemns their actions. The protest group showed a level of bigotry, ignorance and hate that is unacceptable.

We reject what this group stands for. They do not share our values, which are about inclusion and respect and support for the most marginalised parts of our community.

We are proud of our trans volunteers, proud of the trans groups that are in our parade, proud of our trans speakers at events and proud of the trans people who take part in our campaigns and proud of those who cheered even louder for them yesterday.

While The Times and other powerful right wing forces seek to spread hatred of trans people, and internet contacts ensured her questionnaire reached Canada, Germany and New Zealand, Wild’s “research” shows this has little purchase among lesbians.

Kristie Higgs

Kristie Higgs was sacked not for her religious lack of belief that anyone can change their biological sex/gender, but for the way she expressed them, on facebook. The language of the posts was standard facebook: as the tribunal put it, “inflammatory and quite extreme… florid and provocative”. Posts which express outrage, moral condemnation, or strong emotion are more likely to be shared on social media.

Higgs wrote, “Please read this! They are brainwashing our children!” Then she repeated a post, saying (transphobic- select text to view) “The LGBT crowd with the assistance of the progressive School systems are destroying the minds of normal children by promoting mental illness” and “the far-left have hijacked the learning environment and they insist on cramming their perverted vision of gender fluidity down the throats of unsuspecting school children who are a government mandated captive audience”.

The school considered anyone who read that might conclude the writer and sharer “not only felt strongly that gender fluidity should not be taught in schools but was also was hostile towards the LBGT [sic] community, and trans people in particular.”

Mr Conlan, the school governor who chaired the disciplinary hearing, said that had her belief been stated in a less inflammatory way, as she stated them in her claim, the school would not have taken action against her. In her claim she wrote her beliefs included “lack of belief in ‘gender fluidity'” and “lack of belief that someone could change their biological sex/gender”. The tribunal decided that these beliefs were protected by law, in that she should not suffer discriminatory treatment at work because of them, because “there was no reason to believe she would behave towards any person in a way such as to deliberately and gratuitously upset or offend them,” unlike in an earlier case.

As the tribunal says, if rights “only extended to expressions of belief that could upset no-one they would be worthless”. To decide whether the belief was protected, the tribunal had to “carry out a balancing act between those who hold the beliefs in question and those who oppose them”.

So she cannot be dismissed for believing that gender fluidity does not exist, or for saying that, but she could be dismissed because the way it was expressed reasonably led someone to conclude she was homophobic and was hostile towards LGBT folk, and trans people in particular. No-one could read this case and conclude they would be safe to express disbelief in gender fluidity in a particular way, but any emotive language might be risky.

Kristie Higgs supervised students excluded from class for being disruptive, and managed work experience. Had she been a teacher, I would have been more concerned about her “belief in the literal truth of the Bible”- the idea that the Earth was created thousands of years ago rather than accreted billions of years ago involves contradicting plain facts, and means seeing much of academia as suffering demonic delusion. As an adult supervising children, she might be approached by a child uncertain of their sexuality, and even if she had no facebook account she might be a risk to that child. She also might be more tolerant of bullying of that child than more rational people were.

In Forstater’s case, she was offensive to a nonbinary person, and said she might be to others. In Higgs’ case, someone who saw her post reasonably believed she might be offensive. Anyone who works with children or the public should be very careful about expressing such views, and that’s a relief. However that is not because of the law, but because other people object, and employers often take their side. Our protection depends on public opinion.

The Tribunal said she was not sacked for being Christian, so this was not religious discrimination. Christians have a wide variety of beliefs. I consider God is fine with gender nonconformity, the Bible contains poetry, fiction and argument and very little literal truth, same sex marriage is absolutely fine, and children should have age-appropriate education about it.

I take my religion very seriously. My identity as a Quaker is more important to me than, say, my identity as British.

A target for our feelings

A Chinese man apologised for The Virus. Case closed? Unfortunately not.

He appeared sincere, and unleashed a wave of sympathy. No! Don’t apologise, people said, it isn’t your fault. You are not to blame. Do not feel bad. I can’t see how it would be his fault, unless he took the particular pangolin to the Wuhan wet-market. He is just Chinese, as if all Chinese people are responsible for the “China virus”. I hope not, because if so I am responsible for the British Empire.

He seemed sincere, though he could just be zoom-bombing, to find out how people would react. I had not seen him there before.

If he was sincere- it is possible-

we have all- seven billion of us, perhaps, or a good proportion of that- lost a huge amount this year. We have lost human contact, jobs, family, our understanding of the world and our place in it. Imagine, the whole world in mourning. Imagine waves of grief of people who have lost a colleague and suddenly their job is dangerous in a way it had never been before, or people who bought a house then lost their job, or people who have lost a child, or have brain-fog from long covid. Their pain is explicable. Now imagine people who are a little less secure than they were, who are not good with change, who don’t like the feel of masks on their face. They are mourning too, waves of grief, and their feeling is less explicable.

Feelings are best responding to the moment. You see them in animals. A dog gets angry, fearful or amorous and it deals with the problem immediately. The whole body responds. Two hundred million years of mammal responses, those etched-in brain pathways, and a few thousand years of civilisation do not equip us for emotional stimuli without a clear, immediate response. Angry- do a dominance display- other backs down- sorted. Sad- stop, rest, accept, move on. Now, instead, we get stressed.

Bad things have happened this year, and everyone is affected. Loss we cannot regain. Fear of loss we cannot certainly avoid, or not by some instant act like a mouse fleeing a predator. So we attach it to something. Anti-maskers attach it to Bad Law: there is a conspiracy to take our freedoms away, the virus is either a hoax or wildly exaggerated. I know one. Suddenly all that feeling sloshing about inside is explicable, and has a righteous outlet- shouting in Trafalgar square once a week, for the moment, it must be liberating.

We all know this. In other circs it’s called “kicking the cat”. A lot of HoBiT rage is misplaced emotion. You can’t shout at your boss so you shout at some harmless queer. And there is so much now. We have a pandemic to rage at, and lots of rules to say that feelings should be suppressed.

The people who told him not to apologise did not help. If he finds expressing guilt to Americans makes him feel better, why should he not? It could be catharsis, and attempts to manage it- “No, don’t feel bad”- might prevent that. He could be trolling for reactions, though.

Passion can be well directed. Someone might start a campaign. Anger can be fuel. Anger which cannot be used as fuel can be felt and acknowledged.

That we are all in mourning could bring us together or drive us apart. I want that Chinese man to be comforted, but want to hold myself aloof from the feelings he stirs up.

A transgender sonnet

Forgive us if we seem to you like men.
It is a shell, it’s only how we seem
For so long our real selves were just a dream
or shame and weakness, glimpsed then fled, again
Girlish, girlishness was danger, then
the mannish act was habit, or a scheme
to fool the world, and hide, till our extreme
desire overcame us, til the moment when
we could deny no more. That was the start.
I feared too much to claim my womanhood.
Old habits stick. I cannot simply be
If you expect a man, I play that part.
The gentle, peaceful self, half-understood
will flower in time. I know I will be free.