Yearly Meeting and Trans people

At our Yearly Meeting Quakers in Britain will consider “acknowledging and welcoming gender-diverse people”. This will be

early steps in a longer journey. As a starting point, we hope to name the places where there is unity, acknowledge that there are trans people in Quaker communities and state that they are welcome.

We are enjoined to respect our diversity and “take care over how you communicate”, and told bullying will not be tolerated, either from unconscious patterns of behaviour or deliberately: people breaching the guidelines may be excluded. Immediately I feared being excluded, which I hope is just a paranoid reaction on my part. I don’t know it has ever been seen necessary to warn against bullying before. I agree bad behaviour is more likely online than in person, and Quakers are not immune.

And, the distress felt by people affected may result in hasty words. I hope this could be handled with sympathy rather than condemnation. Stating that trans people are welcome seems innocuous, and minimal, but do we trans people feel it? I know trans people who have been in dispute with meetings. A cis woman Friend, with whom I reconciled after years, suggested trans women were like teenage girls. Well, possibly. We are in adulthood coping with unfamiliar hormones which change us, and coping with the loss of male privilege passing as straight. Even if that trans person who left was being totally unreasonable, could love have found a better way?

There is huge hurt around gender diversity. I know of trans people, allies, and sex-based rights campaigners who have felt unable to continue worshipping with their meeting or with Friends.

The hurt is not always expressed as hurt. Arguments for reducing trans rights may be couched in impersonal, superficially rational terms, without expressing underlying hurt, which I believe is the trauma of male privilege and violence. I am aware of male violence against women even among Quakers. Asking people to express their hurt makes them vulnerable, so requires a space where they feel safe. Rooms full of Quakers do not automatically feel safe for everyone.

We do not share language. The concept of “sex-based” rights is an attempt to exclude trans women from women’s spaces by stating we change gender but not sex. Sex-based rights campaigners can demand the end of trans rights without mentioning trans people, because of their definition of “woman”. There is a campaign against “medicalising children”- that is, to prevent trans children having treatment they, their parents and specialist doctors consider necessary.

I am glad documents for YM use the term “gender diverse”- in my experience sex-based rights campaigners are often particularly different from feminine gender stereotypes, and have a great deal in common with nonbinary people and trans men. However, they might say all women are oppressed by those stereotypes.

We do not share facts. Trans women have been in women’s spaces for decades, and with legal entitlement since the Equality Act 2010. Some campaigners argue the law is far more restrictive.

A Friends Quarterly article included the claim that most trans women do not have genital operations, based on a false interpretation of the source it cited. The scary idea of penises in women’s spaces is used to incite fear of trans women.

I have seen a minute claiming that adolescent children are making life-changing decisions, that is, getting hormone treatment they will later regret. In fact, since November 2020 trans children have been refused hormone treatment their doctors recommended, because of a high court decision.

If you include Quakers who support trans rights, like me, and those Quakers who are anti-trans campaigners, there is no unity. Individual Quakers do not have a right to “stand in the way” of a Yearly Meeting decision if most Friends are convinced it is a spiritual leading; but a decision can hardly exclude those most involved or concerned in the issue.

Unity might have to go back to the most basic principles. Quakers value Equality. But we do not all agree about Privilege. White straight men with professional careers can get nervous when the word is mentioned, as if it were an attack on them. Privilege is usually unconscious. Stevie Krayer’s article in The Friend gives an example: she had an immediate reaction she then analysed, and found it was unconsciously racist. Quakers may have such reactions without performing the necessary analysis, and, believing their adherence to the testimony to equality is sufficient protection, not see their unconscious prejudice. Society is awash with racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. People, even Quakers, take it into themselves unconsciously.

The sex-based rights campaigners would argue I have male privilege. In a negotiation, I would not want to concede that. But a Meeting for Worship is not a negotiation, but coming together in Love under Spirit.

I love meeting on Zoom. I have experienced gathered meetings on Zoom. Some Friends have not found Zoom meeting nourishing and sustaining, and miss meeting in person; when meeting for worship in person has been discontinued some have not worshipped on Zoom.

God moves in mysterious ways. I trust the process of meeting. I know that for there to be progress, people must come prepared to be changed. Common-sense, rational answers will get nowhere.

Beliefs and Behaviour

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is arguing that transphobic beliefs should be protected, and no-one should be sacked for transphobia. I hope the Centre for Global Development (CGD) win in the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Why should they? What “beliefs” should be protected from discrimination, and when do they become behaviour for which it is reasonable to dismiss someone?

The sacked transphobe claims she was sacked for believing “Sex is real”, but that is ridiculous. There must be something more. If she simply believed that sex is real, like almost all the population including most trans people, she would not have been sacked.

It’s not just a belief that sex is real, it is a belief that this affects trans women and the way she sees us and interacts with us in a particular way. I believe sex is real, and I believe that trans women are women. But it’s not just that she believes trans women are men, it is that she believes this matters. She would hardly have got to the stage of losing her job if she did not. She believes that access to women’s spaces should be for women as she defines the word, so that trans women should not be admitted. She believes that she is entitled to misgender people. She used male pronouns to refer to a nonbinary person.

There has to be some behaviour for others to realise she holds a belief. For example, she wrote, “Trans women are men, and should be respected and protected as men”. She means, we should be excluded from all women’s spaces, and that some other way of accommodating us should be found. On 2 September 2018 she tweeted, “women and girls lose out on privacy, safety and fairness if males are allowed into changing rooms”. So when buying a skirt I would have to go to the men’s department to try it on.

In October 2018 some staff at the CGD complained that her tweets were transphobic. The employer investigated the complaints. She claimed she would respect “anyone’s definition of their gender identity”. Would she object if she saw a trans woman enter a women’s loo?

After she parted ways with the CGD, the transphobe entered a “very bitter” dispute with Gregor Murray, after misgendering them. This indicates how her beliefs affect her actions. She campaigns for a radical change in trans rights, so that trans women are excluded from the women’s spaces we have been in informally for decades and under the Equality Act since 2010.

Protection from discrimination on the grounds of belief does not mean that an employer has to tolerate any action by the employee. You can’t be sacked for being Christian, but if a Christian baker refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple their employer would be entitled to sack them.

The transphobe wanted the CGD to publish her screeds claiming trans women are men, or should be excluded from women’s spaces. The 2 September 2018 tweet argues for stripping away my rights. The transphobe’s contract involved writing essays for the CGD, some of which still appear on its website, above her own name.

Even if her belief is protected, that tweet is behaviour which could have brought the CGD into disrepute with some of its clients, which entitled it to sever links with her. For example, Kristie Higgs was sacked, reasonably and without unlawful discrimination, for facebook posts.

However, that does not address the question of whether the belief should be protected, if it is not expressed in a public, objectionable way.

To be protected, a belief “must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others”. If the transphobe’s “belief” is protected, that is a limit on my rights.

I have a right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of sex. The European Court of Justice in 1996, and the US Supreme Court in 2020, held that discrimination on the grounds of transgender is discrimination on the grounds of sex.

I have a right to transition and thereafter to be treated as being of the sex to which I have transitioned. That was the result of Christine Goodwin’s case.

The Employment Judge wrote that the belief “involves” violating trans people’s dignity. The transphobe claims that it did not, that she was quite capable of treating a trans woman with courtesy, which would involve not misgendering them. However she believes that I cannot honestly describe myself as a woman. That belief is not worthy of respect. It violates my dignity.

If the transphobe wins her case, it may be a distinction without a difference. Transphobes can still be dismissed if the employer considers their campaigning brings the employer into disrepute or offends the employer’s customers. The transphobe would not have had her contract terminated merely for a belief: it was terminated because of her obnoxious tweeting. Some employers would find that tweeting offensive, and end her contract. Some employers would not.

Fear and love

What would it mean if I looked upon myself with the eyes of Love? I say what I feel: horror, worthlessness, misery, fear, unknowing (which is painful)- and I hear that, and still hold myself in sympathy and respect?

-I’ve done some good things
-I know.
-I’ve faced some hard things
-I know. That’s all past. You are here, now.

I feel bewilderment. My intelligence should be capable of sorting this out, and I can’t.

The fear is usually unspoken, unacknowledged, unconscious. It’s always there, but I don’t feel it in the sense of fear that spikes my blood with adrenaline and makes me need to run, or able to run, or know what to run from.

-Yes. It’s fear of the whole situation, not one thing like a bear.
-I feel tired.
-That’s the response to chronic fear.

I am seeking. I feel questioning, determined. Love and respect for myself, accepting the fear and sense of worthlessness, helps me see that. I am not all bad.

I have inestimable value. Saying that does not seem arrogant, just a statement of the truth.

Reason is the slave of the passions. If I think my life is mere existence now, it can be otherwise if I want it to be otherwise, but I have to want that. I am unclear what I want, beyond hiding away and not being seen, in order to be safe.

I know that I experience delight. Being in the Now, so that I am perceiving what is around me rather than thinking about past or future gives me delight. Then seeing flowers and birds gives me delight. Seeing beauty, including in an art gallery, delights me. Sometimes reading delights me: new understanding, seeing things in a new way, an idea beautifully expressed.

Creation delights me. I wrote a poem. I love it, and sending it to an editor made me feel high. I enjoy writing for The Friend. I am less sure about blogging because that is linked to receiving attention online, which seems more addictive and less nourishing. You cannot be addicted to human contact, it is a human need. However when you don’t get enough human contact you can be addicted to the ersatz contact of facebook likes and WordPress views. But, heck, I still like writing.

I like talking to an audience. I like making something new. I like joking around, and laughter. I like listening to someone and helping them think things through, even advising. If I make them feel better, I love that.

Denial of reality is a huge part of my life. I suppose it is like bracketing feelings. I won’t face that now, I will consider other things. Possibly denial takes energy. In CS Lewis’s depiction of Hell, people built huge houses, as large and complex as they liked, just by imagining them, but they did not keep out the rain. Am I beating myself up again? No, I think just acknowledging. This is something I do.

Whom do I love beyond myself? Family? I have no sexual attraction at the moment. Covid has reduced my human contact.

People tell me I appear “serene”. I don’t feel serene. I feel numb, which means there are feelings under the surface too terrifying to acknowledge. I feel dissatisfied, but that is a common feeling among humans. It is why we change. Dissatisfaction without change is another image of Hell. Or, thinking of what I could do, ought todo, but don’t want to do, there is no fire or life in it.

My life is governed by fear, sometimes felt, sometimes just a dead weight. I live with emotional pain. This produces depression. Rejecting and denying them makes them stronger.

Fear, pain, depression:
treat them with love, acceptance, respect

Not as a problem, but as part of the human process.

“Trans ideology,” words, and reality

Is there any such thing as “transgender ideology”?

Trans people exist. Brave souls have always found ways to transition, authorities have often condemned it, trans people terrified to transition have led stunted lives. Now, perhaps 50,000 people in Britain are transitioning, about 0.1% of the population. I have no idea why I wanted to transition, just that it was the most important thing in the world for me.

I have no choice about being trans. I have wished I was not trans, but that would mean I did not exist and a different human- perhaps a cis man, perhaps a cis woman- existed in my place. It would be harder to cut my trans out of me than for Shylock to take Antonio’s flesh without blood.

Society faces the issue of how to respond to this reality, and one such response is denial. Being trans, say the transphobes, is “only” a feeling, as opposed to the physical reality of being a [cis] woman. But, I am not a Cartesian dualist, imagining I am a mind or soul in a body, so my being trans is in my physical self just as a cis woman’s being female is in hers. Unless you believe something like a “mind”, or “consciousness”, is in some way separate from neurons and dendrites, being trans is a physical condition.

This is not an ideology. It is a fact.

Many attacks on “transgender ideology” attack words we have used to try to explain ourselves. Few people now say “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body”- this is my body. Yet transphobes used the phrase “My body is me” to try to attack trans people.

Other attacks relate to words we use. I am a woman.

Words are imprecise attempts to divide one reality into discrete units, in order to communicate. What matters is that we communicate, that the listener understands what the speaker means, not that words have rigid definitions. In practice, rigid definitions make words even less able to relate to strange, fluid reality, which is always changing, which we can never completely understand.

I read that “Stonewall defines homosexuality as orientation towards someone of the same gender”. This is misleading. Stonewall does not use “Homosexual” and related words except when quoting others. Stonewall defines “gay” as man attracted to men, and as a generic term for gay sexuality, so some women attracted to women say they are gay. That is, its definitions are descriptive, attempting to capture what people actually use the words for, rather than prescriptive, attempting to restrict use to one “correct” use.

Quite possibly, a gay cis man might be attracted to a trans man. Should he lose his “gay card”? Most people would be happy enough for him to continue to describe himself as gay. Some weird pedants who insist that “words mean what they choose them to mean”, and that they must be master of this, might insist that he was now straight, or heterosexual, or at least bi. Pedants have their obsessions. It’s better to ignore them.

Or, a cis lesbian might say “I could never be attracted to a trans woman because I am attracted to my sex, and to women’s genitals”. They really do say things like that! It’s an attempt to deny the word “lesbian” to trans women, or even the word “woman”. I have no objection to a cis lesbian saying she is not attracted to me. It’s transphobic to say she could never be attracted to a trans woman. Even if it is true, why say it except to be mean to trans women?

Stonewall works for the interests of queer people in a heteronormative society, which assumes people are straight. That means it needs flexibility of language. LGB All Liars works to forbid trans women from using the words “lesbian” or even “woman” to define ourselves, as a means of reducing trans acceptance, and to exclude trans women from women’s spaces. That requires an ideology: the false idea that trans people as a group are in some way a risk to women’s spaces. They want to upend our lives and roll back the shaky progress to trans acceptance so far.

Trans excluders might want a rigid definition of transition before they might tolerate trans women. They might say we are not proper trans before we have had a genital operation. These definitions are created in order to exclude, so tend to get stricter over time.

I read it is “dangerous” to say men and women are defined by our feelings rather than our biology. That is, the word “woman” cannot include a “trans woman”, or there is some danger to someone. This is a conservative idea, that people should be distrusted unless they conform to strict rules. Trans women should stay out of women’s spaces, say the conservatives, just in case one of them has some immoral purpose in being there. The progressive, by contrast, say people should be free to express ourselves as we like, and any conflicts should be resolved in good-will rather than by rigid rules. Rigid rules do not fit reality, which is constantly changing, or human beings, who are infinitely varied. So, trans-exclusion is an inherently conservative ideology.

The ALBA party manifesto and transgender

I was surprised to see a picture of someone with a trans flag round her shoulders, in the new ALBA Party manifesto. It’s on a page headed “Scotland’s many people”.

It claims its “commitment to women’s rights” does not mean it rejects trans rights. ALBA wishes the two groups were not set against each other. It wants a Citizens’ Assembly to develop proposals on Gender Recognition Act reform. So it would chuck out the two consultations and the Bill already drafted. It says it supports human rights for all LGBTQ people. Hurrah! It recognises we are human! That’s a start, anyway.

On the same page it says religious people have human rights too, and it supports their human rights as in the European Convention on Human Rights. This is absolutely minimal, and means almost nothing. It was written in a hurry by someone with better things to do.

Its “Women and Equalities” page, however, has a picture of a woman in overalls with ear and eye protection, so a rare woman in Scotland. It echoes the trans-excluders’ rubbish: Sex-based rights! “Female only” spaces: they think I am a man, so should not be in a “female only space”. Possibly, they would tolerate people with GRCs, but not other trans women, and make getting a GRC more difficult. “Single sex sports”, contradicting the International Olympic Committee. And then it mentions “reform”, though it does not say of what. At the end, it mentions gender recognition.

So, it’s a complete excluders’ charter: it claims trans women are men, no trans women in women’s spaces. The Women and Equalities page has nothing to say about equal pay for work of equal value, say, an actual feminist concern, only trans exclusion. That’s the only issue they deem of interest under “Women and Equalities”. Apparently it is the only issue the “ALBA Women’s Conference” addressed.

It is totally bizarre that women, especially women considering themselves feminist, would want to join a party led by Alex Salmond. He admitted sexual contact with two of the complainants in his trial, both junior to him and much younger. He said he wished he had been more careful with others’ personal space. One charge of sexual assault with intent to rape had the strange Scots verdict “Not Proven”. So the allegations were not proved beyond reasonable doubt, but the government’s inquiry found five allegations by two women “credible”.

So why has ALBA eighteen women candidates for the Scottish Parliament? Because they do not care about sexual assault if they can campaign against trans rights.

Otherwise, it’s a party for those dissatisfied with the SNP, who do not feel their talents were properly recognised. There have been other independence parties in Scotland as rivals to the SNP, but if a second vote for a different party gives any additional tactical support to independence, the Scottish Greens fulfil that function.

ALBA was founded on 8 February 2021, and has featured in dozens of articles. Polls show them with 1% support, which is too much. Nigel Farage spoke out for them.

Margaret Lynch, a candidate, expressed the homophobic lie that Stonewall wants to reduce the age of consent to ten. This is based on ILGA, the International LGBTI Association, which includes Stonewall, backing the Women’s Rights Caucus Feminist Declaration at the UN. To “end the criminalization and stigmatization of adolescents’ sexuality” means not treating adolescents as criminals. No-one wants to legalise paedophilia. The age of 10 comes from the UN’s definition of adolescent as aged from 10. Salmond defended Lynch.

8 May 2021: I am delighted to see that Mr Sleepy Cuddles and the transphobes of his party won not a single seat in the Scottish Parliament. Transphobes Joan McAlpine (SNP) and Jenny Marra (Labour) are no longer MSPs.

6 May 2022: Every single one of the ALBA candidates in the local elections in Scotland lost. Before the elections, fifteen councillors had been silly enough to take the party’s name, after being elected for other parties. After, there were none.

Meeting for Stillness

Does the term “Meeting for Worship” put off people who are “Spiritual, but not religious”? Jan Arriens in The Friend suggested “Meeting for Stillness”, and Peter Jarman dismissed worship as “what happens in other churches”.

As an Anglican I believed in God the Eternal Father, Whom I worshipped. Just before I came to Quakers I found Matthew Fox’s explanation of Panentheism, God suffusing all that is, and later William Blake’s statement “Everything that is, is holy”. Rather than worshipping, I was communing- with the Mystery, with that which is greater than myself.

I took a combative line as a Christian against the non-theists: it’s a Meeting for Worship, we must be worshipping something, and was referred to Old English: weorþscipe, meaning worth or dignity: noun, not verb. But I still think Quakers have always used the term as a transitive verb. We worship God. What of those who reject God, as refugees from the Churches, or consider God a superstition? Meeting as a spiritual practice has value, and does not depend on belief.

Some might come to us having meditated, as a Buddhist or even non-religious practice. We tell them our meeting for worship is not meditation, as it is something we do together. Well, Buddhists meditate together, but in Meeting someone may feel moved to speak in love for the others gathered there, and for the World.

Jan referred to David L. Saunders’ article saying stillness is so much more than silence, which is merely the absence of speech or noise: it is about Presence. Be still and cool in thy own mind. In stillness, Saunders says, we seek the place of being, encounter, power.

There is no silence outside an anechoic chamber. Friends can worship at a noisy demonstration. There will always be distraction: I try not to be distracted, and sometimes the distraction inspires me.

Stillness is also a deceptively simple concept, the absence of motion. I sit in stillness for what happens in stillness to my perceptions, of my surroundings, the others with me now, and my accumulated experience of life in the world.

In a “Meeting for Worship” I still think you must be worshipping something. I turn outward to the mystery of all that is outwith myself, and inward to what is within me but beyond my ordinary conscious experience. What do I worship? If forced to put it in a simple phrase, I would say the “Mystery of being”, but the phrase does not satisfy me. I want a phrase which is immediately understandable- like, “Meeting for Stillness”- but which leads the enquirer attender or member into new depths. If I said I worshipped God, I would mislead some, and deter others. I am not a theist.

I do not like the word “Meeting for Worship”. I thought of “Meeting for Contemplation”. Meeting needs our concentrated attention, and diligent practice.

Another alternative is simply “Meeting”. At the moment it is shorthand- we go to Meeting, we say. It could be the whole term. Meeting what? Each other, or- something else, perhaps.

I thought of “Holy Meeting” or “Sacred Meeting”- a time set apart from worldly concerns- but these words remind me of the Christianity which at least since Constantine has been used to oppress people and maintain worldly control, and I support the seeker’s rebellion against that.

Meeting. Or, Meeting for Stillness. A practice of Love which helps human beings reach our full potential as individuals in community.

Quakers in Britain have a similar issue having rejected the word “Overseer”, meaning, roughly, pastoral carer, but not agreed on a single preferable term yet. We should check the terms we use periodically: might they mislead, or put off, someone who might otherwise join us? Are they accurate descriptions of the things they refer to?

“Lesbian Labour”

The code is easy to crack. You don’t have to read far in this new website to see “Lesbian Labour” is only interested in campaigning against trans people. Their aims include “supporting gender nonconforming and same sex attracted girls”- that is, denying that trans boys can know themselves or what they want, and crushing those who detransition by reinforcing their internalised transphobia. Later they claim that homophobia encourages gay people to identify as trans. It is divorced from reality to claim that people who are homophobic are not transphobic.

The site claims it is from December 2020. Odd. I had not heard of them before now. Suddenly there is publicity for them. Who are they? Ah, Paula Bolton, who wrote the Labour Transphobes’ Declaration. She has done some worthwhile work for women’s rights. Such a shame she has given that up to work at trans exclusion.

Paula spreads the myth that lesbian girls are told they are boys, and pressed to take testosterone. No-one treats trans children without the children, and often their parents, fighting very hard for it.

Another woman claims “Labour has forgotten what a woman actually is” because it includes trans women on all women shortlists. She claims we are dangerous. It’s the clearest transphobia. Another will not even use the word “transwoman”, calling us “men”, and later “predatory men”. Her repulsion at medical treatment for trans children is extreme, like the fear of an arachnophobe for a spider. That’s three stories, all going over their glory days in the 70s and 80s. Younger lesbians tend to recognise that our oppression is all bound up together.

Their other aims might seem sensible but are directed at trans people really. “Make Labour a safe and welcoming party for lesbians”- well, that is my aim too, and the aim of LGBT Labour. It’s not that it’s a bad aim, it’s the way they interpret safety- no trans women in women’s spaces.

I click “Find out more” and read an attack on LGBT Labour and Stonewall. They claim women’s oppression is based on sex, not “identity”. That is a false claim that trans women do not suffer misogyny as well as transphobia. They will gain no rights by denying that others are oppressed too.

They demand lesbian spaces free from “intrusion”, that is, from the inclusion of trans lesbians.

In the some personal stories, there’s an Ourselves Alone vibe- “Who can protect Lesbians but Lesbians themselves?” Well, Stonewall is led by lesbians, and LGBT Labour has lesbians at all levels. That’s who support lesbians- we are stronger together. Divide us up, and our rights will fall.

On farcebook, a lesbian claimed LGBT Labour don’t represent lesbians. I pointed out their National Chair is a lesbian. She explains why she is a trans ally. “Window dressing” commented a transphobe, as if Alex Beverley and Nancy Kelley of Stonewall are silly women who don’t know their own minds.

They suggest useful links: LGB All Liars and the Labour Transphobes’ Declaration. Tiny groups of transphobes give themselves all sorts of different names. I wonder what the overlap between these groups is. The threat is the hundreds of millions of dollars provided by hard Right American organisations to these groups to support their transphobia. More on this soon.

Gender Martyr

Rob Hoogland has been jailed, and the extreme Right are up in arms against it. He was jailed for refusing his child medical treatment which doctors said was necessary, and denying the child’s medical condition, then holding the court in contempt for two years. On being jailed, he expressed remorse and said he had been used as a pawn, and “played”, by transphobes opposing all treatment of trans children.

The child, whose real name I don’t know, socially transitioned at school for a period of years. He did not feel able to tell his parents, and his parents justified his suspicions by completely opposing his treatment. He was assessed by doctors including an endocrinologist who set out a course of treatment. Hoogland refused to co-operate, so the hospital decided they knew best the medical treatment the child needed, and would treat the father’s consent as unnecessary under the law.

Hoogland continued to act up. He was adopted by the hard right, as he says as a pawn for them to use to oppose gender affirming care, and in 2019 the court ordered him to use male pronouns when referring to his son.

In March he was arrested, and, overwhelmed by a sense of his own righteousness backed up by the wealthy, powerful transphobes, he stayed in jail rather than consenting to admit his son’s medical needs. At the hearing on Friday, he finally expressed remorse, so his sentence was reduced to six months.

If the British Columbia Supreme Court publish the judgment, I will have a look at it. However, otherwise, I can only find reports of the case on the nutcase transphobe/ hard right press: New York Post, “Christian Concern”, and a host of tiny websites. “Trans ‘Justice’ has gone haywire” blares some worthless transphobe on some site. No, transphobes feel entitled to ignore medical advice, the needs of their children, and the orders of the court.

What about the detransitioners? ask the phobes. Well, what about the retransitioners. The phobe conditional positive regard- lovebombing any trans man who will detransition, withdrawing the love if they break increasingly stringent rules- works with incessant societal transphobia to make some detransition.

There’s a lot of transphobe money around. Rob Hoogland’s crowdfunder raised $56,000. So the judge ordered him to donate $30,000 to a charity.

The phobes don’t care how many lives they ruin. Trans children can just go hang. Poor Hoogland regrets how the phobes manipulated him, now. Hysterical phobes are milking the story still. There’s a picture of a pair of fists grasping jail bars, the fists brightly lit against blackness in the cell, which hardly reflects Canadian prison conditions now.

I really should not go on Twitter. This morning over breakfast I read a New York Times opinion article about Planned Parenthood, how Margaret Sanger, its founder, was a racist eugenicist, and how the charity should reckon with this blighted heritage. There’s an aside near the end about how language might exclude trans and nonbinary people, and phobes Jesse Singal and Hadley Freeman choose to emphasise this as if PP no longer cared about women. “Misogynistic!” I found that when I ill-advisedly clicked on a link on a facebook trans group.

The obsessive haters in Britain have chosen yet another new name. This time the same tiny group of phobes have decided to call themselves “thoughtful therapists”. Perhaps Robert Withers, the Andrew Wakefield of trans health, is one of them. They oppose law on trans conversion therapy based on the Memorandum of Understanding, even though it is signed by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and nineteen other health, counselling and psychotherapy organisations. It’s like the American Academy of Pediatrics being condemned by some nutcase far right Christian group with “Pediatrics” in their name.

I hope the robust commitment to rehabilitation of the Canadian justice system does Rob Hoogland some good.

So much sadness

The encounter was beautiful, but painful, and I don’t know what to do with the pain.

After the zoom session there is optional time for sharing in small groups. Chris thought she had logged out, and was surprised to hear my voice coming from her computer. She switched the camera on again and settled to talk.

In the nineties she went to an FLGC (as it then was) gathering. I thought she meant FGC, for everyone, rather than Friends for Lesbian and Gay Concerns, even after she said its theme: “Called to be queer”. If that had been for the straights, it would have been radical. We shared that we were both happy with the word queer, but she is lesbian and she mourned the comparative loss of the word “lesbian”.

She lives in Michigan, she says. She used to go to the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, and just like with FLGC she felt immediately at home there. She was with her kind. She could relax completely. “Have you ever felt like that?” she asks.

Um. Yes I did, with the Sibyls “Christian Spirituality Group for the Transgendered”, and with Quakers on weekends, though I have to relax into the weekends, consciously step out of the guardedness of ordinary life.

I enjoyed our conversation. We were sharing personally. We have things in common. And seeing a trans woman she starts talking of Michfest, which finished in 2015. For whatever reason Michfest finished, it was not because of trans people.

Why would a festival end? Because it was not financially viable, or because those in control of it decided to shut it down. It might end because the original organisers no longer had energy or motivation to continue it, and could not find anyone to take it over, but here the statement closing it came from its founder, so it seems that was a decision.

It excluded trans women. The organisers were disingenuous, saying there was no rule that it was limited to “womyn born womyn” but an “intention” that festivalgoers could honour as they saw fit. Well, I have not changed sex, I am a woman, and I was born a baby with the potential to grow into a woman, not a man, but I would not want to go where trans-excluders might make it very clear I was unwelcome.

Before looking into it I had thought the festival was feminist, not specifically lesbian feminist. The facebook statement closing it is unavailable, and such parts as I can find does not say why it was closing, just that it had come to a natural end.

Trans women cannot close down anything, particularly with the uncertain state of US discrimination law at the time. LGBT groups and allies called on Michfest to include trans women, and some bands would not participate because it didn’t. The Advocate says that the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National LGBTQ Task Force had petitioned Michfest to include trans women, but formally withdrawn that petition saying discussions were ongoing and they hoped for a resolution. Yet Michfest simply shut down. It looks like trans excluders closed it rather than admit trans women.

Chris had a festival where she felt completely safe and at home. Then it stopped. She sees a trans woman she does not know, and that’s the topic she brings up, almost as if she blames all trans women for her loss.

As a lesbian in her 60s, the loss of Michfest is unlikely to be the main hurt in her life.

Well, I did not tell her that trans women and our allies were powerless to shut down the festival. Only trans-excluders could do that. This post is not just too-late repartee. I sympathise with her. I am sorry she was hurt.

She passes the hurt on to me, and what can I do with it? She would probably agree that the festival validated female bodies and female experience and allowed them to escape misogyny for a week. I think she agrees that my presence would have lessened that.

I have hurt and sadness of my own. A woman on zoom today gave me time to share and asked useful questions.

How can we reduce this great reservoir of suffering?

Law and society

Some trans women want it to be difficult to get a gender recognition certificate, not knowing it is irrelevant in real life.

The fee to the Gender Recognition Panel has been reduced to around £10, and the response was mostly a yawn. We still need a letter from a specialist psychiatrist on an approved list, which might cost hundreds. I commented that ICD 11 confirms I am not ill. Why should I need a doctor, to confirm I am not ill in a particular way?

S. said there should be medical involvement. What about someone still on the waiting list, who has been expressing themself in their true gender for two years? She said they would be able to get a GRC. When T. corrected her- you need a psychiatrist from the “T493 list”- she said “Whilst the current system in place is perhaps not ideal for everyone, it does work successfully for the majority”. She has “come out the other side all smiles”.

J. has just had a referral for GRS, and is “glad there are checks and balances in place”. B. has just had GRS and getting her GRC was “the simplest”. T. commented the current policy is wrong, especially with waiting lists as long as they are now, and a longer wait for the second interview after which you might get hormones. Private waiting lists are lengthening too.

This was an argument between trans women on the medical route. Three of us, whether we had completed it or not, cared about those waiting. Three had completed it, or almost, and did not. The lack of empathy, with people who were in a position these women had been in quite recently, saddens me. Two had left trans groups, “attacked by the trans police”- or, challenged for their too-rigid views.

One characterised “self-identification” as a “camp male with a beard who insists they are lesbian, but don’t intend physical transition”. So, how does the law affect how society treats such people?

Imagine Dave, a cross-dresser turned on by appearing female, who thinks transsexuals are a class apart and has no intention to socially transition. His pronouns are he/him, most of the time. Dave goes to the pub dressed female, and into a women’s loo.

People can’t tell if Dave is protected under the law or not. He could be someone who has decided to transition but is not that good at expressing female yet. Or Dave, after years of practice, might look more feminine than some trans women. So most people will not object. He’s not protected under the law, and if he wanted to sue a pub that would not let him in he would have to lie, but he usually won’t have any problem out in public. People might not know details of the law beyond a vague idea that trans people are protected, and won’t have any reason to believe he is not.

If he does something objectionable, people might object, but not because he is “only” a cross-dresser. Trans people can be excluded from spaces, generally in circumstances when cis people would be excluded too.

Now consider Stephanie, who has had GRS and has a GRC. If she is read as a trans woman, an anti-trans campaigner might object to her in the women’s loo. She is protected by the law, but that does not guarantee she will not face bigotry.

Even in South Carolina under the “bathroom bill”, a cross-dresser might get away with going into a women’s loo. If anyone noticed they might not want the effort of objecting. Sometimes women with a masculine appearance face objection. It’s a matter of luck.

Sandra is still on the waiting list for the gender clinic, so can’t get a GRC, but has changed her name and is now expressing herself female. She can get a bank card and driving licence in her new name. She can get a passport marked F- she may need to change GP. A GRC might make slight technical differences to her rights to marry, but otherwise would be useless. The law already treats her as a woman. Mostly, society will too. For the law to say she is a woman is very little more. That’s what a gender recognition certificate means. Already, she would have a good discrimination claim against a business excluding her from its women’s changing rooms.

Harnaam Kaur, a cis woman with a genetic anomaly and a full beard, might be stared at, or face objections in the women’s loo, but a beard does not make her a man.

What would GRC reform achieve? It would be the law, which helps to mould society, acknowledging trans people. It would be symbolic but would have a real effect on society as a whole. What does the denial of GRC reform, and the loud campaign of Tories and Republicans, achieve? A moral panic, and increased hostility to trans people whether we have had surgery or not. Their refusal to modernise the law, and insistence on “checks and balances”, produces unjust suspicion against post-operative trans women as well as cross-dressers.

Here’s Abigail Thorn. I am a fan. I looked at her oldest currently available video when she did not have a decent microphone, but was developing her comedy and clarity of explanation of complex concepts, already at a high standard. Now she has professional recording equipment, a studio, props. Her Amy Coney Barrett video, with her male voice but looking feminine, feels so strange.

She says there is a difference between passing as a cis woman and being seen as feminine so read as a woman. She says when she first went out dressed female she was seen as a bloke in women’s clothes, then later she was seen as a woman, even if as a trans woman. I find her charismatic- she seemed an attractive man, with that beard, but now is gorgeous. Her voice is warm and lovely, and the few hints of sounding like a counter-tenor will fade away. I am feeling self-conscious about my appearance. And, usually, I am treated with reasonable courtesy. My GRC does not affect that at all.