Trans day of Visibility

Tomorrow, 31 March, is Trans Day of Visibility, which is the opposite of Bi Day of Visibility. On BDoV, lots of people with opposite sex partners say “I’m Bi, actually” (and some of their partners go, “What?”) On TDoV, a few trans people say, “I’m Trans!” And everyone says, “We know”. It’s also a double-dare to trans people who pass, who the gender psychiatrists would be hard-put to read as trans, to come out. That can be frightening. One trans woman I knew changed city and job, only keeping two friends who had known her as male.

Everyone who knows me knows I am trans. It could be the wig or the jawline, more likely it’s the voice. And that is mostly OK, most people who know me are OK.

Or the day is for trans people who tweet or blog about other things to come out. Then their followers will see, and perhaps feel more positively to trans people, and only the haters will unfollow.

It is a day to celebrate transition and the liberation that brings. The world seemed to change from monochrome to colour for me. Before, I hated my body. Now, I love my body. In the journey of transition, I got to know myself, and released the control which I needed to pretend to be male. I cannot imagine my life if I had not done it.

It is a day to celebrate being trans, and the gift that is to the wider community: a particular set of experiences leading to a different perspective. The difficulties of transition can produce a deep wisdom in people.

Possibly, it is a day for someone who has not yet started transition to begin to come out. You know you will have to do it. If you come out at work, in Europe and the US you are protected under discrimination legislation. Still be careful. That being said, I found most people accepting. If you come out to loving parents, siblings, partners or children, they may already know.

You can’t tell from what people have said how they will react. People who have said thoughtless, prejudiced things, if they like or love you, may accept you. People who say the right, non-discriminatory things may harbour secret prejudice. I lost a friend, when I transitioned, who was a cross-dresser.

Coming out is part of becoming yourself. Presenting your assigned gender, you are hiding. In fear, we hide ourselves and try to be what we think others expect. This is stunting and limiting. Coming out is scary, but necessary for self-respect. People need to be able to be ourselves with others. If we cannot, we are completely alone.

Stonewall has posters for schools showing trans people and their achievements.

Alec Salmond continues to build his disreputable Alba Party, with convicted perjurer Tommy Sheridan, antisemite Neale Hanvey, and two women who support the tiny but well funded hate group Four Women Scotland Limited. Why would they join Mr Sleepy Cuddles? It goes to show transphobe haters give up all feminist causes when they start campaigning against trans women. Alba stands for “All Ladies Be Aware”.

Conversion “therapy” is personality suppression

Why did people start talking of conversion therapy? Therapy is treatment intended to heal a disorder. We could call it Conversion brainwashing, perhaps, or indoctrination. I will call it Personality suppression. Psychotherapists and counsellors, spiritual advisors and exorcists, should not attempt to suppress personality.

Talking therapies help a person understand themselves, their unconscious desires and inner conflicts, and the ways they interact with the world. Personality suppression is an attempt to change the person into something they are not. When we change in therapy, we are realising our potential. We might reduce unwanted traits, such as angry outbursts, but that is because of seeing better options. The angry person gets to understand their own anger, and so is not surprised by it when it erupts but senses it, and can use its energy.

Those who support conversion therapy say they are reducing unwanted traits. The converter says that “same sex attraction” is wrong, and harmful for the person, because it stops them having children. That’s why we say we are “born that way”- my sexual orientation is simply who I am, not a diseased or deviant attribute which can be “cured”. Or the anti-trans campaigner say that an AMAB person attracted to men transitioning is “anti-gay conversion therapy”, but that is ridiculous: the androphilia is the personality, not the fact that this appears to be same-sex attraction.

It’s clearly personality suppression where a brainwasher attempts to force someone to pretend to be what they are not. The child XY attempted to conform to masculine gender stereotypes, and was withdrawn, miserable, shy and unhappy.

The brainwashers do not see themselves as brainwashers. They think having a different gender identity or sexual orientation is wrong. They say girls will grow up to be women, and despite patriarchy including male privilege, oppressive feminine gender stereotypes and sexual violence, that is a good thing to be. Well, yes, usually, but tell that to Ky Schevers. I glanced at a hate site which put “conversion therapy” in scare quotes for a different reason: arguing that it is truly therapy, and calling it “conversion” wrongly implies it is objectionable. The writer claimed “conversion therapy” was not brainwashing, but “talking to a child about their gender identity distress”. She does not understand the damage she would do. She cannot conceive of trans as just part of human diversity.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists position statement on “Supporting transgender and gender-diverse people” defines conversion therapy as attempts to suppress or divert trans people’s gender identity. When I considered it, I was completely hung up on the thought of living as a feminine man, a pansy. My father managed it, quite well all things considered. Why couldn’t I? Why did I have to pretend to be a woman? This is the kind of internalised transphobia that the personality suppressors exploit. Ky Schevers sought a butch identity, a way of being female, but re-transitioned.

It may be that someone imagines they are trans, and should transition, and are wrong. The personality suppressor believes they are always wrong, that desire to present as the other sex is an error, not really part of their true personality at all, a gender identity disorder that must be expunged. Anyone with that belief should not be a psychotherapist, and certainly should not see anyone exploring their gender identity. People with that belief are campaigning against the conversion therapy ban, or seeking to apply it to sexual orientation only.

A therapist should help the patient explore themselves and their relation to the world. Knowing ourselves better we make better decisions. We transition less fearfully or ignorantly. There will always be transphobia, in society and in ourselves, and we can learn to deal with that better. The thing which should be illegal, and which can be defined in statute to make it illegal, is personality suppression.

Liz Truss’s comment is welcome. She wants “to make sure that trans people are free to live their lives and don’t face the type of horrific conversion therapy that currently has been going on here in the UK”.

Authenticity III

Is “living authentically” possible? What would it mean?

Quakers have the example of John Woolman. He refused to make money from slavery, made enough money to support himself, his wife and daughter living simply, and devoted the rest of his energies to his spiritual concerns, especially abolitionist campaigning. He changed from being a merchant to a tailor to have more free time for Quaker witness.

Some people say things they do not believe, and I am one of them. I am thinking particularly of shit-eating in the vain hope of maintaining a relationship at my brief stint of volunteering. In a job, or a relationship, I might say what I do not believe out of fear, believing myself constrained. It might be better to take steps to leave such a job or relationship, but the person might feel unable to. Then authenticity in the sense of being free to follow your principles, and choosing to do so, would be in part a matter of luck or privilege rather than morality. Trans females sometimes, like me, and the child XY, have a period of desperately trying to fit masculine stereotypes.

It might not be possible to be inauthentic. The whole human being, conscious and unconscious, all the cells of the body intimately interconnected and interdependent, does what it does. If it did something else it would be someone else. So the liar and bully Donald Trump’s actions show who he is. He is “authentic” as Woolman was, and the concept adds nothing.

To be unchangeably the same in different situations- at work, with children, relaxing- might be a sign of inflexibility rather than any virtue of “authenticity”. To approach every situation with patience, attention, curiosity, respect- loving and alive to possibility- well, I aspire to that. “Pray without ceasing” as Paul said. One might simply be too tired.

I have great gifts of intelligence and heart, and I feel they could do more in the world. That they do not is a source of shame and misery to me.

Do I do all that I might? If I imagine myself achieving things I do not now achieve, what prevents me? These are the possibilities:

  • a physical illness, though blood tests show none
  • depression I cannot just snap out of
  • Blindness to things others might see
  • I do all I can.

Sue, a wise person whom I trust, wrote, “Thanks as ever for your shining presence Abigail and for your profoundest of wisdoms, you so often touch me deeply and I am inspired by you.” I quote that because it delights me.

Here is a wonderful and wide-ranging interview with the psychotherapist Emmy van Deurzen. There’s lots of good stuff in it, but one thing grabbing my attention was her talking of people trapped in the darkness, the morass of life, paralysed with terror. In therapy, “that can take a very long time,” she said. Yeah, s’pose.

In a Quaker group on Thursday we discussed authenticity. I got upset and, weeping, described times when I have worked hard to achieve against a great deal of push-back, and then the push-back got too much and I gave up. Someone left. The organiser said “sometimes what [I] bring feels beyond the emotional scope of [her] ability to keep the space safe and welcoming for everyone”. Well, I get that. When someone expressed emotional pain that I could apparently make better by a bit of sympathetic listening, I felt good. When that emotional pain appeared to get worse, I blamed them.

On Friday, Sue led an hour of voice exercises involving projecting at high or low pitch, and then told us to remember times as children when we were wholly and unself-consciously ourselves. Losing yourself in play. Your best holiday ever. If school was good, what were your favourite parts? If it wasn’t, what was the best release from it? Times excited about something.

Then, pick out the characteristics in you that go with these memories.

I find myself in two places. I can name good characteristics which are in me: I wrote, “Adventurous. Loving. Strong willed, great-hearted. Warm. Playful. Passionate.” Sue loved “great-hearted”: “it is so deliciously you in how it resonates who you are”. And, I am in a painful memory.

My voice therapist suggested I do these voice exercises throughout the day, a few seconds at a time, just as Sue just has. So on the stairs in the office, I was my free female self, and then went back to my desk and had to be the professional man again. It was unbearable, and so I stopped the exercises.

So there is this deeply painful memory, and I wonder what is going on.
Am I triggered?
Am I indulging my negativity?
Have I choices in this?
Should I “honour the progress I have made”?

I go with the last, and say, evenly, that this bad memory has been brought up for me. Being born middle-aged, I have few memories when I was not self-conscious. And, I believe in those positive qualities I named. I say I am feeling triggered, and I have ways of taking care of myself.

Part of that was thinking of my second great born-again moment. I saw the psychiatrist about transitioning, in June 2001. I had various intellectual arguments why I was Really Transsexual, and he dismissed all of them. My safe space, intellectual argument, was stripped away from me, and it was one of the most intensely painful experiences I have ever had. I was awake weeping in the night, unable to go to work in the morning, and I went round to a friend to weep and be comforted. What I had left was how I felt and what I wanted, and my childhood training was to deny and distrust that.

Warm. Playful. Passionate. All bad qualities which I must never give any hint of possessing. My damage is an inextricable part of me, and people will disentangle nature and nurture just as soon as we work out how to unbake a cake and remove the eggs from it. But I am healing.

I am writing this on Saturday. It has taken hours, and involved some abandoned weeping. It is part of my healing process.

Recovering from that training is taking all my gifts and all my energy. Arguably I am trapped in the dark morass, paralysed with terror, and it is hard to bear how slowly I am recovering. Am I “authentic”? I don’t find the concept useful. I am me, and that is good.

Puberty blockers for trans children

Trans children who were receiving puberty blockers before the Bell case can continue getting them if the parents consent. This win is thanks to the Good Law Project’s Trans Defence Fund.

Dame Nathalie Lieven was one of the judges in the Bell case, and says that nothing she says departs in the smallest extent from the Bell judgment. Rather, she has decided that where a child was receiving puberty blockers (PBs) before the Bell judgment, and the parents consent to continue, the NHS can prescribe them on the basis of the parents’ consent.

How else might it be managed? The court could appoint CAFCASS, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, to prepare a detailed report and the judge would make a decision based on that. It is hard to see how social workers could add anything when parents, doctors and the child involved all wanted to go ahead with treatment. A social worker would be no better than a psychiatrist in judging a child’s maturity and understanding. In this case, CAFCASS was not appointed.

The Bell case still stands, and when it is appealed in June 2021 the “expert” testimony, brought by the anti-trans campaigners, will stand. The court’s findings about the psychology of trans children are findings of fact, which the appeal court will not challenge. GIDS, the Gender Identity Development Service, should have led better evidence, and does not get a second chance.

Before the Bell case, GIDS prescribed PBs on the basis of the child’s consent. The Bell case decided the child was not capable of consenting.

XY was registered at birth as a boy. She is 15. She had always only been interested in girls’ toys and clothes. At primary school she tried to conform to a more male stereotype, but became withdrawn and miserable. She came out to her parents as trans aged 10. Once she transitioned socially at school her confidence grew, and she became much happier. She changed her name by deed poll in 2016, and had seven assessment interviews with GIDS, who also saw her parents, together and separately.

She has never been diagnosed as having an unresolved mental health issue, and she is not autistic, the judge says. An autistic child will face greater barriers to getting the PBs s/he needs.

XY’s Mum, AB, did extensive research on PBs. She was fully aware of potential side effects. The girl started on PBs in July 2019, when she was 13 and had commenced puberty, because the parents did not want her taking unnecessary medication, but the puberty changes were causing considerable distress. They decided not to undertake fertility preservation. At any point before she starts CSH, cross sex hormones, she can stop PBs and freeze sperm, but that would involve developing male secondary sex characteristics. She and her parents have continued to attend GIDS.

The girl’s GP has continued to prescribe PBs. Some other children’s GPs have not. The anti-trans campaigners, represented by Bell’s solicitors, attempted to butt in but failed, in part to protect XY’s anonymity.

The court asks, can the parents consent to PBs, and are PBs in a special category of medical treatment requiring an application to the court?

Parents have a duty in English law to protect their children. Courts can take children away or make decisions for the children, instead of the parents, if it is in the child’s “best interests”, but do not do so lightly. Doctors ask parents to make the most serious decisions about their children’s medical treatment.

The Bell case made it considerably more difficult to demonstrate that a child was capable of consenting to medical treatment, especially PBs. GIDS did not make a further assessment of whether the girl was competent to consent to PBs, so the court treated that question as undecided. If the child was still able to make their own decision, even after the restrictions imposed by Bell, could the parents’ consent be relevant?

Here, the court decides that where the child is capable of consenting, the parents cannot override the child’s decision. But they still have a duty to make a decision in the child’s best interests where the child cannot or will not decide.

The judge says the doctor can rely on the parents’ consent, because the child has not objected to it. I find it inconceivable that GIDS would prescribe CSH or PBs when the child was not enthusiastically in favour. But there has been no further assessment, by the court, social workers, or psychiatrists whether the girl is capable of consent as defined in the Bell case, so the child’s ability to consent is unclear. In that case, where the child and parents both consent, and treatment has started already, the doctors can prescribe PBs.

The court considered whether the Bell case as it stands makes PBs a special category of medical treatment which requires court authorisation, or where it is good practice for doctors to seek court authorisation. Whether it is good practice should be an issue of medical ethics for the General Medical Council. However the law depends on a line of cases on sterilization, where a pregnancy would be disastrous and contraception was not possible. Some of those cases related to women over 18, where parental consent would be irrelevant.

The court looked at two Australian cases. Previously, parents and trans children seeking PBs or CSH had to seek court approval, but after Kelvin’s case, they do not. An Australian judge said loving, caring and committed parents who are intimately aware of their children’s difficulties and deal with their concerns know their children better than a court ever will. They went the opposite direction from the English court in Bell.

GIDS pointed out they were subject to regulatory oversight, from the NHS and ethical rules. There is a review of GIDS looking at treatment of trans children, the Cass review, expected to report this year. The judge observes that whether PBs are therapeutic for trans children is strongly disputed by academic experts, and is a matter for research, not litigation.

The judge decided that PBs are not in a special category where the parents can not consent, and the matter has to come to court. The matter should come to court if the doctors think the parents are being pressured to consent or the doctors disagree amongst themselves. In practice one parent or one doctor can veto treatment, and it must come to court.

Children who had not started PBs before the Bell case are now restricted by NHS guidance.

Once a child reaches 16, the parents cannot consent for them. Bell, who was 17 when she started on T, passionately argued that she could not consent to it, and the law, at least for the moment, agrees. But children 15 or younger on PBs now can continue to get them, based on their parents’ consent, and the courts possibly will not interfere with the Cass review. It is a small win for trans children.

The Good Law Project described the case and published the judgment here.

Court actions against trans rights

Millions of pounds are being raised and spent, attacking trans rights, and public bodies that have a reasonable view of trans rights, in the courts, forcing those public bodies to defend themselves. The aim is to make defending trans rights prohibitive, and to change the language, so that the word “woman” does not include trans women.

Arcane law having almost no effect on trans people in public life is attacked. That was the case in “For Women Scotland Limited” v Lord Advocate. The anti-trans hate group, with its disingenuous name, failed in its attempt to embarrass the Scottish government over the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018. The judge, Lady Wise, in the Outer House of the Court of Session, said “This case does not form part of the policy debate about transgender rights, a highly contentious policy issue to which this decision cannot properly contribute”. The only legal challenge concerned the powers of the Scottish Parliament, and the interpretation of the power to make that Act itself.

Nor would the case, if it had been successful, have been likely to affect the life of a single trans woman. The 2018 Act provides that where a public board in Scotland has more men than women, is recruiting new members, and interviews candidates for membership who are otherwise equally qualified, a woman candidate should be preferred to a man candidate. For the purposes of that Act, “woman” includes a trans woman who is “living as a woman” and seeks to “become female”.

I don’t know how many positions on public boards there are, or how often candidates are equally qualified. Where candidates are equally qualified, interviewers can generally justify their choice by some reason to prefer one or the other, so perhaps the Act has never resulted in a choice of candidate being altered. Nevertheless, the hate group still wanted to challenge the rule, so that trans men would be treated as women under the Act, and trans women treated as men.

The Scottish Government negotiated an extension to its powers, and specifically requested power to make this Act. The Westminster Parliament duly amended the Scotland Act 1998 to give this specific power. Power to make law on “Equal Opportunities” and discrimination is reserved to Westminster, but there is now a specific exception in Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act to permit this specific Act.

The question before the court was then what was the interpretation of the Scotland Act, which refers to “the inclusion of persons with protected characteristics” on boards. Trans people have a “protected characteristic”.

If interview panels might rarely choose a woman over a man because they found them equally qualified, how much more rare would it be for them to find a trans person equally qualified with a cis person? Trans women “living as a woman” are about 0.1% of the female population.

The Equality Network intervened for trans rights, supporting the Scottish government and trans women. The judge found their submissions “detailed and helpful”. They argued that the concepts of “sex” and “gender” and the instances of discrimination relating to them were so interrelated that they could not be kept entirely separate. Many claims for cis women focus on socially constructed gender roles, such as responsibility for childcare. The Scottish Trans Alliance, a project within the Network, did the work. Here is their press release. They were supported by the Scottish Just Law Centre.

The Equality Network is a major campaign group for LGBT rights in Scotland. It won two “Campaign of the Year” awards for its campaign for equal marriage, the first in the UK. I take heart from the support of lesbian and gay allies against the bitter, but well-funded, hate groups.

The advocate for the Scottish Government stated that government policy was that transgender women are to be treated as non-transgender women unless to do so would be prohibited by law. She said that that reflected the recommendations of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. “Trans women are women.” Technically, a “policy” needs an Equality Impact Assessment, so this is not formally a policy, just the attitude of the Scottish Ministers.

When the hate group claimed to be supporting the interests of trans men, the judge said “such people are visually and socially male and so not operating as women”. They would not want to be treated as women, even when it was a career advantage.

This is not a binding precedent, even in Scotland, but the judge pointed out that EU law acknowledges that trans people are to be included as being of the sex to which we intend to reassign- even before reassignment. This shows the haters are unlikely to succeed. In the European Convention on Human Rights, “transgender women will for practical purposes be indistinguishable from non-transgender women”.

There may be an appeal, to the Inner House of the Court of Session then to the Supreme Court. The haters’ pockets seem limitless. I hope they will pay the Scottish Government’s court expenses, but this is not yet decided. Still, in this case so far, the wealthy haters have lost. It’s a victory for all queer people.

The judgment is available here.

Equality in the US

The Equality Act which passed the House of Representatives is the greatest blow for sex equality possible. It would be a far greater benefit for anti-trans campaigners than for trans people. This is because of its definition of “gender identity”:

The term ‘gender identity’ means the gender-related identity, appearance, mannerisms, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.

It includes every way human beings express ourselves, including how “bossy” (female) or “decisive” (male) we are, how “feminine” (good) or “effeminate” (bad).

Reacting to a person based on gender stereotypes would become potential unlawful discrimination. Specifically, “The term ‘sex’ includes a sex stereotype”. As I understand it, statute does not define “sex” for the purposes of discrimination, which is how Aimee Stephens could persuade the US Supreme Court to protect her based on her gender identity. But the law does not yet specifically protect against discrimination based on sex stereotype.

Trans excluders would be less keen that “in a situation in which sex is a bona fide occupational qualification, individuals [have a right to be] recognized as qualified in accordance with their gender identity”. And “an individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.” Excluders are going mad about this, now. They pretend that trans women are sexual perverts, or that we want to use women’s facilities because of sexual perversion. I want to use loos because I have functioning kidneys, and so need to pee regularly. I have little interest in other people there, indeed am happiest when toilets are deserted. But then I should not be excluded now, based on the Bostock case. All the Act does is put that beyond all doubt.

Republicans in the Senate will block it. They filibuster everything. I read that Americans do not know that they can block legislation with 41 Senate votes: only 15% of voters surveyed got that right. That’s despite the New York Times Opinion section having 81 articles in the past year about the filibuster, with headlines like “The Filibuster Must Go”. Those of us interested in politics can be shocked by how uninterested in politics, and ignorant, most people are. Voters think the Democrats control the Senate and House, so blame the Democrats for failure to legislate. Only people interested in politics would read those NYT articles.

Does the Act matter? Whether or not it is passed, some trans women will be mocked, bullied or excluded from women’s spaces, some might claim unlawful discrimination, various people will get irate, and the New York Times will put forth comment articles. I read two or three a day because I find them entertaining. Real life will go on. But, for those aware of it, the Act passing the Senate would shift the culture towards greater acceptance of difference, including gendered difference, and that would benefit everyone.

Reasons to be cheerful

Depressed by the social media war, I asked a trans group for things to cheer me up.

One shared about her covid inoculation. Though she lives some of the time presenting male, and her NHS records are in her male name, she was treated in a friendly and professional manner when she turned up expressing female, and this pleased her.

Another said she had finally seen the gender clinic psych. Well, life goes on, and people transition, however loud the hate storm gets. People talked of prescriptions and surgery consultations.

Others wanted to share how they had made mic-drops on twitter. (I understand a mic-drop is saying something so brilliant no-one can follow it. I’d be mortified if I had misunderstood and it was running off the stage shamed.) That really isn’t cheering. I’d backandforthed with someone who repeatedly demanded if I thought Karen White was a woman or not. Bloody Karen White. Well, she had an appointment with the gender psychiatrist but didn’t turn up. Prisons don’t put trans women in with the cis women without strong evidence they are trans women. This trans excluder thought she had a killer argument: if I said “no”, I would be admitting trans women might not be women. If I said “yes” I was affirming a rapist.

That shows the trouble of only commenting in forums which agree with you. I answered as if she was arguing all trans are therefore bad. Hitler was German, but that does not mean, by itself, you should distrust Angela Merkel. Then I remembered Hitler was Austrian. A formal name would label this a logical fallacy, but I can’t recall which one it is. However, Karen White is not used for logical argument, but to foment fear, to create an association. The phobe reads about trans women, and thinks of Karen White. She wants others to do so too. We don’t judge all doctors by Harold Shipman, or all cis women by Rosemary West.

I glance at the title I gave this post and see I am going off topic.

I felt really good this morning. I felt an unaccustomed burst of energy, and wiped the bathroom- I didn’t clean it, but it’s a lot cleaner- did my 13 mile cycle ride, and did a load of washing by hand. Then I attended the Quaker meeting. The sun was warm on my back, the daffodils are out, I bid a cheery hello to lots of other cyclists, and felt I was climbing the hills well. Meeting was gentle, with reminders that love circulates there. I was thinking of this before people spoke of it.

Possibly I should avoid social media. The trans group is mostly about new fronts opened by the anti-trans campaigners. On Zoom, as opposed to facebook, I find myself affirmed. I was with LGBT folk yesterday.

Or, possibly, around equinox- that was Saturday, 9.37 GMT- all reasons to be cheerful are qualified.

After the winter rain,
Sing, robin! Sing, swallow!
Grasses are in the lane,
Buds and flowers will follow.

Coming out of covid- I’ve just been invited to book a vaccine- might feel the same. We remember the bad. We know the good is ahead.

Experimenting with trans

What is happening when teenagers say they are trans, and then a few years later say they aren’t?

Possibly, they are really trans but societal transphobia is so bad that they have gone into denial again. The relentless opposition of parents may be insurmountable. The desistance myth, that they are in some way “cured”, that they have regained a healthy sense of self, is part of that transphobia.

What does “really trans” mean? Compare “really gay”. Some men are attracted to other men. Society calls them “gay”. From vilification and prosecution in 1966, there has been increasing tolerance from mainstream society and gay pride pushing boundaries, asserting gay men’s right to be who they are. Some people are born gay. Some people are bisexual. Most people are straight. And prisons alter that narrative, for some people choose to have sex with other prisoners, who were straight on the outside. Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian ideas of what same sex love or sex was don’t fit, either.

There’s a mostly accepted concept of “really gay”, so that people identify as gay, are seen as gay, are accepted as gay, share stories of knowing they were gay as young children. Teachers say they can spot them young, too. Conversion therapy is going to be made illegal.

There is some conception of “really trans” which fits some of that: knowing when young, having particular attitudes to your body. I fit that. I despised my body. I felt detached from it, as if I were a separate intellect. Then I transitioned, and I love my body, I feel it is me. Transition cured the detachment. Yet, there is fierce opposition to making anti-trans conversion therapy illegal. What if the trans identity is a delusion, and the person can be made comfortable in their birth sex, which some would call their real sex? There is even the allegation that transition is anti-gay conversion therapy: gay men transition to female and are thereby “converted” to being straight. ICD 11 says trans is not a medical condition, but many people have not got the memo.

The “detransition voices” website would have you believe trans is a poisonous myth. Rachel was born in 1990, came out as lesbian aged 22, having been molested by her father when she was four. She was homeschooled into repressive Christianity, with strict gender roles. She was raped four times, the first when she was 14.

She identified as trans aged 22, and detransitioned five years later, having taken testosterone. Now, she calls transition running away from Patriarchy and its oppression of her female self, a quick fix. It was a fantasy, it failed, she had to cope with reality, to “deal with my shit on my own”.

The detrans voices site recommends Lisa Marchiano in Quillette, who writes an easy morality tale of Carl Jung. Aged 12 he was shoved to the ground by another child, and hit his head on the pavement. Later he wrote, “The thought flashed through my mind: ‘Now you won’t have to go to school anymore’.” He started having fainting spells, which felt real to him but doctors could find nothing wrong. He had a six month “picnic”. Then he overheard his father say, “What will become of the boy if he cannot earn his own living?” Jung called this “the collision with reality”.

I met a woman who may have been like that. After a car accident aged about 12, she was still an invalid in her early twenties. Her immigrant husband by arranged marriage was her full time carer. The doctors could find nothing wrong with her. Seeing his complete subjugation, we called him “Mr Bibi”.

Marchiano says trans is “victim culture”, a way of avoiding our fate by imagining ourselves sick. Her answer is the Stoic Marcus Aurelius’: “I am rising for the work of man”. There is a happy ending- people taking control of their lives and finding health and energy- but there is also a living Hell, for those who persist as seeing themselves as victims. It’s a neat moral for Quillette: the poor have themselves to blame, the rich are meritocrats.

In your teens you find who you are. This shocks parents and the old: sometimes, what the young come up with is entirely new. Death and birth is how human culture advances. Why not try on a number of identities, to find which one fits? If gender stereotypes do not fit, that does not mean that you are trans, but exploring that identity to see if it fits might help you know yourself better. Rachel found absolute clarity about what she did not want. Someone else might tease apart the various strands in this concept of trans, and find some work for them, some don’t. Nonbinary is more capacious, variable to fit the individual. Surgery becomes an option rather than the obvious course of action for someone who fits the trans box. Experimenting is how we find things out.

If someone identifies as a “desister”, they might look with horror on the trans community, and be glad that they have escaped medicalisation into loving their bodies, genders and whole selves. If they see themselves as having experimented, they will be grateful to others who experimented alongside them, all working to find out who we are. If this is impossible, that is because of society’s extreme transphobia.

Detransitioners

Much of the detransition experience is similar to the transitioner’s. Both find solidarity with people undergoing the same thing, and allies, both find opponents, chiefly online. Both might dislike their bodies and think that some process will make their body acceptable. Both want to be themselves, and find the stereotypes imposed by ordinary society oppressive. We should be allies. Why are we not, and what might be done about this?

Some of the most vocal allies of F-M-F detransitioners are anti-trans campaigners. They think detransitioners are proof that transition is wrong, and that sexism prevents young women accepting themselves when they don’t fit gender stereotypes. Some detransitioners, such as Keira Bell, enthusiastically join with that group. Others, like Ky Schevers, find it oppressive. The strongest analogy for transitioners is those who give us grudging acceptance, but want to police our bodies- the cis person who wants to know whether you have had genital surgery. In both cases, it’s all about them. The policers prove their tolerance, when they are phobic, by tolerating us if we have had surgery. The anti-trans campaigners want to use detransitioners in their campaigns. Both groups seek to define us.

Both transitioners and detransitioners see happiness or fulfilment at the end of a physical process- medical transition, or detransition. Where physical reversion is impossible, detransitioners may blame their unhappiness on the medical interventions they had- the woman who has to shave her face and worries about thinning hair, the man with breasts needing a binder. I would be happy if-. Both undergo long stressful processes most people would never undergo and can’t really understand, in an attempt to fit in as their true selves in society.

Both find medical care patchy and doctors and therapists obstructive or ignorant.

Even when we are different, we are different in the same ways. Both transitioners and detransitioners include some people who just want to live their lives quietly, and others who want to campaign. Both groups include some who think only their path is right- the transmedicalist who thinks only those who desire genital surgery are truly trans, and the detransitioner who thinks no-one should transition- and some who see it is hard to be gender non-conforming, and those who are should stick together, and accept each others’ different ways of coping.

Both groups are trying to find a way to live in a gendered world. We should be allies.

Both groups have had horrible experiences separate from being trans. How could you not sympathise with Y, an Asian-heritage lesbian, when she writes,

the decade of sexual abuse and misogyny I endured from my step-father made me truly hate being a girl… I still have nightmares of those years that wake me up, heart racing and on the verge of tears, in the middle of the night.

I am less sure what to say about her allegation of “casual racism and fetishization” in the trans community, except that racism is endemic in Western society, and allegations of racism are thrown around by trans and anti-trans groups to discredit the other side, rather than primarily to correct racism.

Y socially transitioned aged 14, and first took hormones aged 21. She says she passed as a cis male, and I don’t know what to make of that. Possibly it is because Asian people are even more strongly gender stereotyped than whites. When she was considering top surgery she put it off for months, in emotional turmoil, until she found community on the detrans reddit and lost all her old support group, who accused her of being brainwashed by TERFs or having internalised transphobia.

Well, of course she has internalised transphobia. We grow up in a transphobic society. I don’t think she was brainwashed by TERFs, though. She wanted to make sense of who she was, and how she could be herself and be happy as herself, but in her moment of maximum confusion the trans community rejected her.

She talks of her dysphoria. She has particular ideas about how it can be addressed, in a healthy way, and she says use of surgery or hormones is false ideology. She says she is “also an artist, pet owner, eldest daughter, trivia geek, and frappe lover”- that is, her transition and detransition processes are mostly over, and she is able to give energy to other things. Many post-transition people could say the same.

For me, greater recognition of nonbinary identity and nonbinary pathways among the trans community would help us to integrate with each other, better, rather than with campaigners who want to use us for their own ideology. Someone who wants top surgery, someone who thought s/he did but finds the idea revolting, someone who had it and regrets it, and someone who had it and feels fulfilled should be able to come together and see what unites them and their interests is so much greater than what drives them apart.

We should reject those cis who want to use us for their own ends.

We have gender dysphoria. We cope with it as best we may. We try to live as our true selves despite societal hostility. We must find a way to solidarity.

Eddie Izzard and nonbinary

When Izzard was nonbinary, no-one cared. But now, she’s transitioning!?

In 2017 in The Hollywood Reporter she said she identified as transgender but had both “boy and girl mode”. But in 2020, her pronouns were given as she/her, and it was international news. Now, she is recording a drama in a male role, and wanted to go back to he/him, but was told she can’t be both.

She came out as “transvestite” in 1985, and people would stand a foot away and ask “What the fuck is that?” They turn you into an it, she says. “People don’t expect a trans woman to be able to run 130 marathons for charity and it changes their sense of what a trans woman is,” she says. That’s because they expect trans women to be physically inadequate and without any staying-power.

Will she physically transition, asks the journalist. There it is. Are you going to have your balls cut off. What will your genitals look like. Any privacy interviewees might have about medical conditions is denied the trans woman. She has always had breasts envy, and he asks if she is taking hormones. She refuses to say but “smiles”.

She wants to be a Labour candidate. I would love to have her stand here.

Some people are nonbinary, and that matters. They could change pronouns but not presentation, they could present differently on different days like Izzard still does, they could mix it up like his man’s suit and high heeled shoes. But there’s still this idea of proper transition, hormones and surgery. Either medicalised transition is thought of as acceptable, but anything else is still seen as perverted or wrong, or medicalised transition is something the cis have somehow got their heads round but nonbinary is beyond their comprehension. No one should have to undergo surgery to be accepted. No one should have their gender expression restricted.

Izzard thinks radical feminists should be our allies. “I’d like to get to the place where we don’t have to have this fight because I’m trying to deal with rightwing fascists.” Of course. My way to make allies would be to talk about common interests rather than women’s spaces.

The House of Lords transphobia increased, using the excuse of international women’s day. Content: transphobia.

Ralph Palmer, a Conservative hereditary peer, said:

Stonewall, please climb out of the hole of misogyny and bullying that you have dug for yourself. The needs of trans people, which are pressing, are not best served by adding to the disadvantages of women.

Tories, of course, want it to be a zero-sum game, a conflict of rights. We have so much in common, especially our interests, with all feminists, and they want to obscure that. It is a shame some self-identified “feminists” go along with them.

Anthony Young, a Labour peer, said “I want to make it clear that I believe in fair rights for transgender people. I am not transphobic, although no doubt I will be accused of it after this contribution”. Not a good line. Why is he transphobic? Well, “Fair rights” to him means exclusion from women’s spaces. I don’t want “fair rights” according to Young’s definition, I want human rights.

He is transphobic because he spoke out against inclusive language for trans men as “nonsense”. Then he said,

I want to conclude on the problem of the increased violence towards women and children taking place during Covid. We need to ensure that we protect safe spaces for women in hostels, refuges, hospitals and prisons. Physical threats to women, including rape, by transgender men are a terrible indictment on our society.

By “transgender men” he means trans women. I had to think about that one, but perhaps we will have to get used to it. The problem of increased violence towards women during covid has nothing to do with trans women. It is cis men. The juxtaposition shows extreme fear or hatred of trans women, and attempts to instil it in others. It is transphobic.

Fortunately Sal Brinton, Liberal Democrat, spoke up for us.

On top of the concerns about the attacks on trans people, there is now a real concern that the equalities rights granted over many years are being rowed back on. Over the last two days, three government advisers have resigned over this issue, the Conservative LGBT+ organisation is demanding an investigation and many Back-Bench MPs are worried.

I was somewhat surprised by the assertion of the noble Lord, Lord Young, that women’s refuges were dangerous places because of the threat of trans women being there. I am not aware of any such cases, and for the Domestic Abuse Bill, a number of women’s refuges and other organisations made it plain that they are trans -inclusive. In fact, a 2017 survey showed that the reality is that one in six trans women experience domestic abuse themselves.

In the House of Commons, the usual transphobes were about: Jackie Doyle-Price claimed to “fight for women’s safe spaces” rather than for trans-exclusion, and praised Keira Bell.

Yet Caroline Nokes MP said,

On this International Women’s Day, let us champion all women—gay women, who do not need conversion therapy; trans women, who want to be treated with respect and fairness. Remember, they are the ones most likely to suffer domestic abuse.

Kirsty Blackman, MP, SNP said,

We must consider this—we must look at stereotypes—and we must always consider intersectionality: we must check our own privilege. Younger women, ethnic minority women, bisexual women, trans women and disabled women are more likely to be domestically abused.

Wendy Chamberlain, MP, LD, referred to single-sex spaces but said they were needed because of “the fear of sexual violence perpetrated by men”. Exactly. Not trans women.