Georges Burou

Georges Burou was one of the first surgeons to complete gender reassignment surgery as a matter of routine. He was a gynaecologist from Algeria who had been struck off by the French Order of Physicians for performing illegal abortions, and set up a practice in Casablanca, Morocco, where he continued performing abortions. He used penile and scrotal skin to line the neovagina.

His first GRS was on the singer Coccinelle (Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy) in 1958. She had sung and acted, as a woman, since 1953. She said later, “Dr Burou rectified the mistake nature had made and I became a real woman, on the inside as well as the outside. After the operation, the doctor just said, ‘Bonjour, Mademoiselle’, and I knew it had been a success.” After her legal name church, the Catholic Church married her to a man, Francis Bonnet, in 1960.

Burou’s ninth GRS patient was April Ashley, the first British person to have GRS, in 1960. He was said to have operated on the singer Amanda Lear, Salvador Dali’s muse, but she has always denied she is trans. Her birth date has been given as various dates between 1939 and 1950, and her place of birth given as Saigon, Hong Kong, Singapore or Switzerland. She posed naked for Playboy in the late 70s.

In 1974 Dr Burou told Paris Match, “I started this speciality almost by accident, because a pretty woman came to see me. In reality, it was a man, I only knew it afterwards, a sound engineer in Casablanca, 23 years old, dressed as a woman … with a lovely chest which he had obtained thanks to hormone injections.” What makes a man, I wonder.

April Ashley wrote that Dr Burou told her, “there was a 50-50 chance I would not come through”. I don’t believe her. There would be a fair case that death in surgery with such a risk would be murder, an intentional killing, or at least wickedly reckless. Eric Plemons however says the loss of blood was immense, and the surgery has only become safer since the 1980s. I wonder if Dr Burou performed alone, or had assistants and an anaesthetist. In 1952 there was surgery where the heart was stopped and restarted.

In February 1973, the disgrace of having been struck off did not prevent Dr Burou presenting to the Medical Congress of Transsexuality at Stanford University.

Dr Burou, a keen sailor, died in 1987 when his boat capsized in a storm.

I got much of this from Oliver Bennett in The Independent. However Bennett writes that “By the 1970s, Dr Burou had performed between 800 and 3,000 such operations, though the true numbers are difficult to measure in a semi-clandestine milieu. Those seeking GRS with him had to put in the groundwork, find out the location of the clinic and deal with the considerable logistics.” Wikipedia explains the divergent numbers: there were 800 vaginoplasties, and 3000 patients in total who may have had other surgery. Bennett tells a little of the history of GRS,

Jan Morris wrote that Burou did not bother too much with diagnosis. He said he did not ask his patients too many questions, but that he judged his patients had “a distinct feminine appearance or character”.

Femicide Census

The Femicide Census is a publication of profiles of women killed by men since 2011. Hitherto, it has included trans women, but this year it excluded us: Andrea Waddell, Chrissie Azzopardi, Destiny Lauren and Vanessa Santillan. So this post is to honour our dead. When I wrote this, these women were still named on this Women’s Aid page, but it was taken down and is not in the Internet Archive. Naomi Hersi had never been included, perhaps because she was still spending some time presenting male.

Andrea Waddell

Andrea Waddell was strangled by a man who set fire to her flat to cover his tracks. She has two beautiful tributes on line by her Quaker family.

She always showed the world a cheerful face, despite serious health conditions and repeated major surgery. She befriended homeless people in Brighton, where she lived, with food and conversation. She took one homeless woman into her flat. She was “dazzling, brilliant and cheeky, funny, intellectual and glamorous”. She was vegan, and passionate about animal rights. She was bullied terribly at her all-boys school, but she concealed this from her parents. So did the school, and the fact that she declined from maths prodigy to the bottom set. Before University she spent a year in Prague as an English language teaching assistant, and contributed to an English language Prague magazine.

While studying philosophy at Durham, she reinvigorated the Philosophy Society. Comedian Pamela Anderson spoke on the topic “Is feminist philosophy a contradiction in terms?” Her poetry book was published. There is a bench in her memory in Blagrave Park, Reading.

Chrissie Azzopardi

Unfortunately, such tributes are rare. Google Chrissie Azzopardi, and read about her murder. The BBC reports her surgical status.

She was 22. She was stabbed and suffocated over drug debts, then left in her flat for a month before the body was discovered. The murderer was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years, and the prosecutor said Chrissie “had everything to look forward to in life”.

Destiny Lauren

Destiny Lauren was strangled at home in 2011. Headlines refer to her as a “transsexual prostitute”. The BBC gives her dead name and operation status.

“More on this story: Why transgender people are easy targets”.

Vanessa Santillan

Vanessa Santillan, an escort, was strangled by her husband. The BBC thinks fit to say this was “after” he found her with a client, as if he were provoked.

In court, her family’s impact statement said, “This loss cannot be remedied or changed. It is something that has greatly affected us and hurts a lot. Our family will never be the same again without Vanessa. We cannot stop thinking how unjust her death was.”

On line, victim impact statements are often the nearest we get to some interest in the murdered woman as a person rather than as a body stabbed or strangled. When I read of these women I want a sense of the person, her value, to celebrate her, rather than indulge creepy voyeuristic descriptions of violent acts. Perhaps this is selfish of me: they have family and friends to remember them, who should not put details on line if they do not want to, but we are left with accounts of the murders and nothing more.

I celebrate the Femicide Census. It is a project I support, to record violence of men against women as a societal phenomenon rather than as isolated incidents. I just don’t see who benefits from excluding these women from the lists. They were killed by men as women. But there is one last victim to name:

Bethany Hill

Jack WIlliams and Kayleigh Woods murdered Bethany Hill. Bethany Hill, 20, had been in a relationship with Woods, 23, and hoped to have a child with her. At the time of the murder all three had shared a flat, with Bethany Hill in the bedroom and Williams and Woods sleeping in the living room. They murdered her, then tried to make it appear to be suicide. The murder weapon was recovered from the river Avon.

There was a male perpetrator, Jack Williams; but in the new report Kayleigh Woods, who was trans, has been named as a male perpetrator, under her former name Kyle Lockwood. She was in the news again in 2019: she was imprisoned in a women’s prison because she had transitioned, though she did not have a gender recognition certificate- the Mirror says she was not “legally considered a female”. But she was put in a men’s prison after sexual activity with another prisoner.

She is a trans woman. She is a woman. I don’t know of any mitigation, of any suggestion that Williams led her on, and I do not suggest her culpability was reduced. I have no wish to excuse her because of our common characteristic, any more than I would wish to excuse a murderer who was Scots. But she is a trans woman, not appropriate to be named as a male perpetrator here.

Researching trans people

If there are half a million trans people in Britain, as Stonewall says, who are these people?

When I transitioned in 2002, about 5000 people had transitioned. Now, it’s about 50,000. When I transitioned, there were two classifications, transvestites who cross-dressed, and transsexuals who transitioned, set apart from the normal people who did neither. Now there are trans people. I heard of nonbinary people years after transitioning. When might the number of people transitioning cease to increase, and stabilise? Obviously before everyone in the world transitions, but before all the 500,000?

It makes sense to me that some people are more trans than others. Dora Richter was an exceptional human being, transitioning against huge pressure. If I had not heard of any other person doing it, I doubt I would have. It was in the culture. The culture makes things possible, but there may also be new ways of being in the future, not thought of yet but obvious once some creative pioneer adopts them.

I heard of three possible motivations to transition: for sex to be better; to relate to other people better; to be more onesself. I wonder if anyone ever transitioned for the mere aesthetic pleasure of the clothes- would anyone admit that, even to themselves? Reasons not to transition might include settling for second-best: you did not have the courage, you did not see how you could, you felt you had obligations to other people which precluded it. But they might in the person’s mind, or in some objective reality, mean choosing something better. You might find you could enjoy sex, relate to other people, and be more yourself without all that effort.

Possibly, many non-transitioning “trans people” have not started transition because the motivation is too weak. Just as Dora Richter was more trans than I am, so I am more trans than they are. Somewhere around the 500,000th person or the 500,001st, the transness would become undetectable.

You are gay if you experience gay sexual desire, even if you never act on it, but are you trans if you do not transition and do not want to? You might be “gender non-conforming” or “gender-variant” instead.

Are they free? Are they happy? The question is absurd….

I took part in that research.

What were my “motivations and desires”? I wanted to be able to be myself. I got that, though it has been a long road, and “being myself” is intensely uncomfortable. The “illusions”, I think, are our illusions of what transition will mean before we do it, but people saying “Don’t join the study!” thought the “illusion” was the idea that one really is of the desired gender.

I thought, qualitative research, going in depth into experience, is mere anecdote. We need to know whether transition improves people’s lives. Who knows whether my experience is representative or outlying? When I fell in love, I told her, I belatedly realised a penis might be useful.

But now I am unsure about quantitative research. There is no control group, as if anyone does not transition after seeing the gender clinic, they are not necessarily comparable. If someone reverts, that does not mean they were necessarily wrong to transition: when I did, I thought I might revert within five years, and try presenting male again, but I could only get to that point through transitioning. Am I happier than before? I appear less successful, in work and social life, but possibly it really is as good as it could ever have been for me.

I don’t want the research to stop people being able to transition if they want to. But then, people always have, some in worse circumstances than modern Britain.

Quantitative research, then. It might help form better categories. Rather than the one size fits all “Transsexual”, what are people really like? Can we create better categories? The work will at least help the researcher, as a doctorate looks good on a CV, but she will also have more experience of trans people which may benefit future trans patients- hers, and those of people who read her thesis. She has done her literature review, and intends to complete in two years’ time.

Resilience

Keeping going is what humans do. “KBO”, said Churchill, Keep Buggering On. Now, with Covid, people keep going, put up with the ordinary things which were bugging them last year, as well as the restrictions now, the lesser social life, and worry about covid. It’s lovely to zoom socially, then I hear someone’s relative is in hospital with it. Brexit is coming: I am stocking up my larder anticipating the snarl-up in the ports in January. Will we have fresh food in the supermarkets?

So we keep our heads down, and KBO. I kept going until I stopped, and I wonder if I am still in keeping going mode, part of me trying to grimly press on even though it doesn’t reach the controls any more. I remain desperate for self-improvement. That is the point of all these churning speculations here. How could I keep going better? How can I improve myself?

This long period of not working could be relaxation and replenishment, and I still feel stressed and tired. Is it that I am not truly relaxing? I am stopped, sitting watching TV, but resenting it. I think I am getting close to an idea but not fully there yet. In some way I am not relaxing, but instead trying to press on with something which is not supporting myself but is meeting some needs.

The need is to be better, or at least see myself as striving to be better. That is the way to cope with the shame of never being enough. So I KBO, cycling or reading for self-improvement, and beat myself up because it is never enough- so I am still stressed.

When we put our heads down and get on with it, we benefit by achieving what we want to achieve. Human beings die, mostly within a century of their birth, and spend ourselves, whatever we do. So a lone parent struggling to support their children, keep them well fed, get them educated, may have little time to relax but the spending is worthwhile.

One thought I had was that to KBO you have to numb yourself to the pain of it. KBO is simply what you have to do, even if it shortens your life. Some unconscious part of your brain wants to resist, and some other part has to stop you hearing it. But the part stopping you hearing or feeling does not only numb the pain but other things too. To have a full emotional life you have to feel the pain.

This internal conflict does me no good. So I wondered, could I do anything I do because I know I want to do it? It is not, I ought to do this, but this is behovely. That however means accepting all the sadness I feel at my current predicament and the way I have got here. What I did, the self-improvement by reading thinking writing or cycling might be much the same, but the internal conflict, and so the effort of it, would be less.

Being in touch with my full emotional range might increase my power. Menis Yousry said to me, “Speak from your heart and you will touch others’ hearts”.

It also seems that it might increase resilience. I am so fragile, I have such difficulty in KBO, because I have so much to suppress.

Then I read this Atlantic article about a man whose mother kicked him out of the house when he came out, and what has happened since. It made me weep, not because I am a prodigy of empathy feeling his pain, but because of my own.

I ministered at Pendle Hill. In childhood I learned the most important thing was to deny my femininity, because it must on no account be seen. Now I am learning to value myself, “every part hearty and clean” as Walt Whitman says, and that work is worthwhile. I feel a lot of shame, including at not working for money now, not being resilient enough, and now I assert that work is worth all my time, right now.

Of course I saved the chat. People loved what I said, and said so. And Ken Jacobsen shared his prayer:

oh men,
setting out again with your rifles
this hunting season,
what is it you are trying to kill,
is it some hurt, some fear you are trying to kill?

oh men,
what if the fear does not go away?
how will you heal your hearts now?

I love these paintings by Jean-Claude Bonnefond: the pictures are still yet full of tension, potential, life and change. What will happen next?

Sabina, known as Sporus

Great trans women in history: Nero castrated Sporus, gave her the name Sabina, and married her as his Empress.

The historian Dio Chrysostom (it means “golden mouthed”, or eloquent) says that she wore her hair parted in a feminine style, wore women’s clothes, and young women attended her when she went for a walk. Nero offered riches and honours to anyone who could make Sabina a woman. Dio comments this is as impossible as flying, another miracle of the 20th century.

Suetonius records that Nero too enjoyed dressing as a woman in public, appearing in operatic tragedies in the parts of heroines and goddesses, wearing masks modelled on the face of his mistresses.

At their wedding, attended by the whole court, Nero treated Sabina as his empress, with a dowry and bridal veil, dressed in the clothes and the jewels of the empress. They rode together in a litter to every Greek assize and fair, and through the Street of Images at Rome, amorously kissing.

I wondered what the Street of Images was. Was it one of the great streets of the city, one of temples perhaps? But the only references I can find to the Street of Images refer to this story.

David Wood suggests that Nero married her because she resembled his former wife, Poppaea Sabina, whom he had kicked to death. Wood suggests he thought Sabina (Sporus) was descended from the emperor Tiberius, so marriage to her strengthened his claim to the throne. Nero dominated the descendants of previous emperors, in the same way as he had sexually assaulted Britannicus, Claudius’ son. However, Suetonius appears to believe Nero loved Sporus. Wood quotes M. Griffin suggesting that Nero had loved Poppaea so much that Sporus was an art project or dramatic conceit, so that Nero had the image of Poppaea in his palace, acting and appearing like the original. Griffin claims that Nero ‘may only ever have pretended to have sex with his Poppaea-substitute’.

Wikipedia goes further, suggesting that Sporus was fictional. Suetonius wrote during the reign of Hadrian, and Mary Beard has suggested his work is propaganda rather than history, written to discredit earlier emperors. However Hadrian was gay, so might object to Suetonius making up an allegation of sex with a “man” being uniquely defamatory. Suetonius was Hadrian’s chief secretary.

Wikipedia suggests that the name Sporus is intentional mockery, meaning “seed”, which can be used to mean semen. The name is an insult Alexander Pope used to mock Lord Hervey. Nero called her Sabina, so I will too.

We have no idea what Sabina looked like. This portrait bust was formerly identified with the original AFAB Poppaea Sabina, but her hair is worn curled.

The Praetorian prefect Nymphidius Sabinus persuaded the Praetorian guard to forsake Nero, and took Sabina to wife, calling her Poppaea. He tried to become emperor but was killed by his own guards. Nero was succeeded in the year of four emperors by Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian. Otho had been married to the AFAB Poppaea, and now took care of Sabina. Vitellius wanted to kill Sabina in a gladiatorial show, so Sabina committed suicide, perhaps before her twentieth birthday.

Three men loved Sabina. They saw her as a woman. See also Elagabala, proclaimed as Roman Emperor, who proclaimed herself Empress.

What were those regalia of an empress? Roman women would wear a sleeveless tunic, then a stola, like the one the Statue of Liberty wears. Over this they would wear a palla, a woollen shawl up to 11×5’, fastened by a brooch. Livia Drusilla here wears a stola and palla.

Stephanie Hayden

Stephanie Hayden won a significant legal victory for trans people in February. When Kate Scottow abused and doxxed her on twitter, she was prosecuted, and found guilty of “persistently making use of a public communications network to cause annoyance, inconvenience and anxiety” to Hayden. That this happened is testament to the courage and persistence of Hayden. Scottow had used the alias “Busted Wench” to abuse Hayden, but Hayden discovered who she was. Scottow established more than one twitter account, each of which was used to abuse trans people and our allies. Scottow had to pay £1000 costs and had a “conditional discharge”- that means, she must keep good behaviour in future. Hayden said, “I wish Mrs Scottow all the best for the future and hope that she will learn from this experience”.

Hayden continues to campaign and tweet. Maria MacLachlan sent her a Friend request on facebook, apparently by mistake while searching for a photo of her, and if you google Hayden McLachlan’s account is on the first page. McLachlan is abusive and mocking, of course. Hayden sued Helena Wojtczak, and Wojtczak raised £10,255 on a crowdfunder to defend the action. Wojtczak omitted to mention that Hayden claimed Wojtczak had doxxed her and other trans rights advocates, and this was a breach of data protection. Merely being sued was enough to get Wojtczak the money.

Also searching for Hayden, I found out about her conviction in 1999. She was in a confrontation in the street, it escalated, and she was sentenced to 150 hours community service, but varied to a one year conditional discharge. As she said, the conviction is long spent, but haters still write about it. Because of a human rights case, it is likely the offence would not be revealed by a DBS check.

Hayden has another action, against a freelance journalist who has been published in The Times, Mail, Telegraph and Express. She claims to “focus on news/investigations on transgender issues”, but this is from a perspective hostile to trans rights. It’s a profitable career move, as lots of propagandists want copy against trans people. I won’t name the journalist, for reasons that will become clear.

Hayden tweeted two photos of some prose which looks like a newspaper article, with headline then lede in larger print, and the final sentence “[the journalist] was unable to be contacted for comment”. However this prose has not appeared elsewhere, as was clear from the headline “Gender critical activist journalist threatened suicide in desperate bid to ‘take down’ Stephanie Hayden”. Also, though the lede referred to the suicide threat, the story should still recount it before commenting on it.

Hayden obtained 1204 pages of a transcript of WhatsApp messages, including apparent threats of suicide, which she quotes.

I love Stephanie Hayden’s courage and persistence. And revealing a conversation about suicide crosses a line, however brutal the treatment she has faced. On Twitter Hayden calls herself a “lawyer”, though I understand she is not a solicitor or barrister.

Meanwhile a man abused trans women at Leicester Square tube station, shouting rudely about their genitals, and they assaulted him. It’s one assault, like hundreds of thousands of others not worthy of reporting, but because it is trans women accused it got into the Times and Mail. The judge, perhaps seeing the journalist, commented about as sympathetically as he could:

I accept that had it not been for the alleged victim in this case there probably wouldn’t have been an incident. The four of you then were subjected to extremely offensive transphobic and racial abuse. Had it not been for that there would have been no violent disorder. However that does not excuse what you did, you went far too far in your reactions, but of course transphobic issues are particularly sensitive. It is a sign that the so-called victim realised how wrong he was by refusing to cooperate and not make any statement. I do not in any way condone your behaviour but I accept that what happened to you at the beginning of the incident was entirely wrong and people like you should not be subject to that abuse in the public domain or anywhere.

They “walked free from court”, clichéd the Mail. Of course. If all such assaults resulted in prison terms, the prison population would be ten times higher, or more: Scottow, a “mother” (a term to evoke sympathy) got the headline “Mum spared jail”. The main shocking thing about that assault is that it happened in Summer 2018, and is only being tried now. This is a result of Tory cuts to spending on justice, which afflict the guilty, innocent and victims alike.

Mental states

How could one not be “present in the moment”? I have no time machine. Humans cannot simply “be”- we are always doing something, even if only breathing and taking in sense-perceptions. When we sleep our brains are making connections. It seems there is a “spiritual state” I would call “present in the moment”, which makes me think there are other states, somehow less than that. Moulded or traumatised, I live in such sub-optimal states; or, well-adjusted, I flit between states, choosing the one appropriate to my surroundings or task.

My ideal, now, is to “flow like water”, as the Tao Te Ching has it. In that state I am doing something without consciously controlling it.

I read that spirituality is not about “states”, but of course it is. An analogy: having learned the piano I can play scales in 24 keys, but there was a time I could only play a few, and had to learn the others.

Presence is not simply immediate experience without language. I know what a “table” is, can recognise or use it, because of the word. I cannot divorce experience from language, but there does seem to be a time when I am classifying and assessing verbally, and a time when I am relating. Relating seems better to me.

Colouring in these pictures was called “a quiet mindful moment in the spirit of self-care”, where I would call it a sensual activity undertaken simply for its own sake. Such activities are a way of not doing what one has to do. They may be recreational, in which case, choose the recreation which most delights you, or addictive, in that you use them to avoid pressing duties. Cleaning your house can be self-care, showing that you deserve it.

There is rumination. Like a cow, I return to old thoughts, and chew them over again. I tend to feel there is always some progression when I return to old thoughts, but then cows ruminate to digest grass. Things recede into the past.

There is paying attention. I look at an art work or listen to music and it occupies my conscious mind. There is worship, when I pay attention to the situation I am in. Sometimes, then, the ministry which is only for me comes to mind, a new realisation, which is unconscious processes making connections.

Or I just keep clicking through the same websites for dopamine, and the less dopamine I get the more desperately I click. I don’t know why I would rather read articles than books. I want to know.

Sometimes a physical need overwhelms me, and sometimes I am conscious of it, I pause to do something else, and the need gives me an extra kick to get my obedience. Different parts of the brain seek different activity, and strive for dominance.

I pause for a moment to check what I feel. One feeling recently seemed to deserve its very own German compound word- anticipation of delight, where the anticipation was so strong it was painful. Freudeangst.

There are things going on in my brain and body of which I am not conscious. I so want it always optimised. I never trust it is. I do so little because I rarely believe it will be safe.

Suzanne Moore and Harry Styles

“I have left the Guardian. I will very much miss SOME of the people there. For now that’s all I can say.” So tweeted Suzanne Moore, a transphobe. Is Catherine Bennett considering her position there? “Gutted” tweeted Jess Phillips, who is not a transphobe.

This is a transphobia row. The Guardian welcomes transphobia, but also has articles standing up for trans rights. Moore published the names of employees of the Guardian who complained about her transphobia. Obsessive transphobes started abusing them.

In replies to Jess Phillips’ tweet, there is a lot of abuse. Some of it is from the Left, attacking her as a right-winger. Some of it is from transphobes, such as this from Loulabelle:

I don’t believe you. Prove it! Be brave and fight for women and little girls. We need more voices otherwise we won’t have any. Our speech, words, experience, rights will be gone. Then remember the part you played.

That would be heartrending, if it were related to reality. She imagines trans rights means the end of women’s rights. But some calls Phillips out on transphobia:

For someone who continually claims they are pro LGBT rights, why are you yet again, tweeting in support of a transphobe?

Then there are little squabbles about the different tweets. I wondered if Phillips could use them as a poll- count up the tweets and the Likes, and decide which side was stronger. Unfortunately, the replies seem mostly from phobes. Phobes are energised by such tweets. They get to shout their hatred. Trans people will be discouraged. It’s personal for us, our lives are afflicted by transphobia. We will retreat first. We need allies to stand up for us. And nuance is impossible in a tweet reply.

I would rather Moore had ceased her transphobia. She wrote other stuff as well. She never said anything original about trans rights, just repeating the same old boring lies arguing that trans rights in any way conflict with women’s rights. She can always go back to the Daily Mail, she never seemed uncomfortable there, writing for the “Femail” pages. The Daily Mail will allow her to write transphobia in every column if she likes.

Moore’s second-last article in The Guardian could be read as transphobic, but I read as confused. She tells her miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy stories, as these things should be generally known, not kept private and shameful. She writes,

It is not transphobic for women to name our experiences as females and mothers. To insist our bodies matter and our losses are real. It is a matter of life and death.

Well, I would not object- unless you name them specifically to score a transphobic point. Yet she also says, “Women and trans men have periods. Why not just say that?” Indeed. “Women and trans men” is one way of doing inclusive language, an alternative to “pregnant people” or “people with cervixes”. She seems to be expecting to be called transphobic, and railing against anyone calling anyone transphobic, and only being transphobic in that she is expecting people calling out transphobia to be completely unreasonable. Or, she is writing about something she does not understand.

Meanwhile Harry Styles wore a dress on the cover of Vogue, and the mad Right got angry.

There is no society that can survive without strong men. The East knows this. In the west, the steady feminization of our men at the same time that Marxism is being taught to our children is not a coincidence. It is an outright attack. Bring back manly men.

These right wing commentators seem to have an idea of a masculinity, proper to men, which can be taught, and can be subverted. All men must fit that narrow masculinity. Women must be feminine. But such masculinity is under threat, such that a singer on a magazine cover can damage it.

I love masculinity. I read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail yesterday, and it is beautifully masculine. Following the example of St Paul, Martin Luther King writes simply, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here”. He will stand up and oppose it. And I want men to be able to say, with Styles, that “real friendship stems from being vulnerable with someone”- being your true self, without masks, including the imposed mask of permitted masculinity. Meditation has helped him be more present. It changed his life, subtly. He wants to evolve, and finds the fearlessness (a good masculine quality) of David Bowie (in presenting nonbinary gender). Such fearlessness is anathema to the Right- fearless of its incomprehension, hatred and ridiculous rules- but Vogue’s male photographer observes of Styles, “It’s a good thing to be nice”. “He’s really in touch with his feminine side because it’s something natural,” says a friend.

Trans women are women. Harry Styles is a man. Ben Shapiro shows his ignorance on Twitter again, gets owned, and Vogue gets more publicity. Suzanne Moore gets into a nasty war with colleagues, loses her job, and all the transphobes erupt, whining and hating. We don’t fit gender roles, and we cope as best we may.

Transphobia and hate crime

The report on transphobic hate crime in Britain 2020 makes horrifying reading. Of 227 respondents, 42% had experienced more than ten transphobic incidents in a year. There is usually no accessible support for trans people facing hate crime. Hate crime has severe impacts, stunting people’s lives.

Recorded hate crime has doubled in the last three years, but only one in seven trans people report our experiences. While much of the hate comes from the transphobia pervasive in the Patriarchy, nearly half of respondents were abused by people radicalised in trans-excluding spaces, who may imagine that they are feminist or left-wing. Online hate has real world consequences. The report refers to such transphobes as “transphobic ‘activists’”- I call them trans excluders, who may be physically violent, or troublesome by making vexatious complaints, rather than merely whining in their own spaces. It shows that whining trans excluders may become violent or vexatious. Their enablers and proselytisers cause great harm.

transphobia & transphobic gaslighting from family, even if it is less directly violent, can be devastating for young trans people’s sense of self and wellbeing… transphobia in what’s supposed to be your safe space, from those who are supposed to care most, is devastating.

Not just young trans people. I was 36. Family reactions had a lasting effect on me.

We also experience transphobia from strangers, LGBT+ people, colleagues, medical professionals, and “friends”. Twelve experienced it from police officers. I tend to feel my bad experience of the police comes from poverty rather than transphobia, but the police can be disrespectful.

Transphobia is not just hate crime. Abuse and harassment can be horrible to experience. When someone asks what I have between my legs I am demeaned. Someone treats me as if I am unworthy of respect, and I doubt that others will respect me as I deserve. I don’t get deadnamed, but that is a claim that how I see myself and present myself is somehow unreal, that others should be entitled to define me.

25 respondents had experienced death threats, 28 threats of sexual assault, 47 threats of physical assault, 16 physical assault and 14 sexual assault. But if we have any trans acquaintances, we hear about these things happening to others, and that can have similar effects.

More than half the respondents had contemplated self-harm or suicide. Nearly two thirds were unable to use public toilets, and half were unable to leave their house. Transphobia makes us insecure about our appearance and exacerbates gender dysphoria. It makes us less likely to trust strangers or open up to people, so that we become ever more isolated. 67 had panic attacks, 87 had trouble sleeping, more than half felt humiliated, more than half stressed, more than half afraid, nearly half hyper-vigilant. Transphobia drains our motivation. It causes symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD. Two thirds said the effect on their mental health and emotional wellbeing was big or significant.

Transphobia impacts our physical health, causing drinking, comfort eating and self-neglect. We might avoid exercise or avoid seeking medical help. One said they had developed twitches, and reading that makes me feel sad, but also reassured- it’s not just me.

Transphobia makes many of us us self-censor. We don’t feel able to speak up for ourselves. Transphobia intersects with ableism and other discrimination. Part of my reason for moving house was transphobia.

97 said transphobia had made them more active in trans activism, and 61 said it made them more open about being trans. These are healthy responses. Echoes within us, from our internalised transphobia, can make the experiences worse. We need Pride. However, being involved in the struggle had exhausted some of us.

Transphobia can distort the way we see ourselves and our gender. It prevents some from expressing their identity- I know people who put off transition for years. We are badly affected by ideas of what it means to be truly trans:

Every time I am not feeling crippling dysphoria, I am terrified that I am not transgender, and I have been told that I have to hate my body all the time otherwise I am not transgender.

Transphobia affects our relationships. We are less able to meet new people, and we get driven out of groups. 43 had experienced an abusive relationship, and our relative lack of power can make this more likely; and fear of transphobia may make us less likely to seek support. We lose touch with others.

I now assume everyone is transphobic until I’m proved wrong to avoid disappointment and ridicule.

So many of us fail to reach our potential.

The sheer amount of issues is staggering. I feel in a persistent state of battle.

Only twenty had gone to the police, and most had found the police unhelpful. Possibly the Samaritans would be more helpful, at least validating our feelings.

One officer said I left myself open to being abused because I “chose to be different”. Misgendering throughout the interview then told that the physical assault, death threats and threats of further violence against me weren’t strong enough to do anything about and maybe I should “go home, make a cup of tea, and dress ‘normally'”.

There are few positives to take from this report, published by Galop. One is simply that it exists, that work is being done to expose the levels of transphobia and the effects these have. I am glad Galop, which published the report, exists:

Galop is the UK’s LGBT+ anti-violence charity. For the past 37 years we have been providing advice, support and advocacy to LGBT+ victims and campaigning to end anti-LGBT+ violence and abuse. Galop works within three key areas; hate crime, domestic abuse, and sexual violence. Our purpose is to make life safe, just, and fair for LGBT+ people. We work to help LGBT+ people achieve positive changes to their current situation, through practical and emotional support, to develop resilience, and to build lives free from violence and abuse.

The report is timely and necessary, but flawed in that it does not make a clear distinction between transphobia generally, and transphobic hate crime. It is called a “hate crime report”, but includes things which are not crimes. Deadnaming may be part of a criminal series of actions, but I can’t see a circumstance where simple deadnaming is criminal, however hurtful it is. That does not detract from the report’s evidence of the effect transphobia has on trans people: it cripples many of us.