What is transphobia?

We understand transphobia better by imagining if it did not exist. In that ideal world not Magnus Hirschfeld but Aristotle would have described trans people, those who are not of their birth gender, the rest of the world would have said, OK then, and by now we would be generally understood and accepted.

Some people don’t conform to their birth gender. Trans women are women, trans men are men, and nonbinary identities are valid. Transition is only a choice in that one can choose to express ones true self or hide in a fearful pretense. But people deny this: we face incomprehension, distaste, and suspicion, which together are transphobia.

Incomprehension by itself is not enough. I have no idea why I would claim to be a woman, or be happier expressing myself as a woman. I passionately desire to understand, to know the causes and purposes of things, how and why they come to be, and draw a blank here. It just is. But there is a great deal of mutual incomprehension around. Different people love particular kinds of music, loathe others, and cannot understand why anyone would want to listen to them. You might object to lyrics, or music with particular associations, but otherwise you will never persuade someone they are wrong to like particular music, however loathsome you find it. You just accept it.

As well as incomprehension there has to be a lack of sympathy. Trans people are familiar enough now. Most people will know the concept, even if it makes no sense to them. Discomfort with trans women in women’s sports or prisons means a generalised suspicion.

We face generalisations. Karen White is a rapist, and women should be protected from her. That does not mean they need protected from all of us. Treat us as individuals, as you would treat Jews or left-handed people as individuals. The thoughts They’re all like that or you can’t trust them are an infallible indication of prejudice.

Is there also competition for scarce resources? It is debatable. Trans women are 0.1% of women, but if we were 1% we wouldn’t significantly reduce cis women’s access to women’s spaces. Even where there is far greater need than provision, such as in domestic violence shelters where a trans woman getting a place may mean a cis woman being denied the place she needs, the problem is the lack of provision and not that trans women share it, and excluding trans women would make little difference to cis women.

Among some feminists there is great sympathy for this notional excluded cis woman, greater than for the trans women who might need the service: we should go elsewhere, even if there is no elsewhere for us to go. They go to huge lengths to justify this or enforce it: yes, sex is real, but I am a woman.

I answer them saying we are a tiny number that does not justify this attention and that we subvert gender stereotypes, so advance feminist concerns. They say they are in favour of transsexual rights, interpreting that to mean something other than what our rights are now.

In a world without transphobia we would be accepted. We would not have to prove ourselves, or face questioning on whether we had had operations. There would be no need to face discernment about gender at the Yearly Meeting of Quakers in Britain, or hostile motions in constituency Labour parties.

That distaste and suspicion is prejudice. The wilful refusal to accept reality, manifested as incomprehension of our humanity and desires, is prejudice. In a world without transphobia we would not be sex workers. We would not be killing ourselves. We would have incomes showing our worth.

The attack on Stonewall

Stonewall, the LGBT charity, supports trans rights, and helps companies by advising on discrimination law. This gets it an income of millions, which it spends on charitable campaigning. Because it supports trans rights, it is under sustained attack from well-funded anti-trans campaigners, and any mistake it makes is exploited.

In response, it should rigorously divide its campaigning from its advice arms. When advising, it should take a more judicial position, rather than advocating for LGBT rights. It should invest in technical expertise to make clear the legal underpinning of its advice. Rather than saying “You should do this”, the advice section might say, “If you do this, these are the risks”. There are risks in all courses of action.

In Winter 2019/20, Essex University cancelled the invitations of two transphobe academics to speak. One was to speak on trans women in prison. The other was to speak on a panel on “The state of antisemitism today”. It is worrying that the report of barrister Akua Reindorf bleeps out the ordinary descriptive word terf, quoting “’Shut the **** up, ****’.” Terf is simply a word for trans excluder or anti-trans campaigner. Treating it as a slur or rude word reduces the language trans people can use to oppose the removal of our rights, and attempts to drive us out of ordinary society.

[Update 2 July 2021: The Vice-chancellor of Essex University, Anthony Forster, has apologised to trans students and staff and committed to working with Stonewall.]

Reindorf makes Stonewall’s imprecision on the law look far worse than it is. She writes, “In my view the [Supporting trans and non binary staff] policy states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is. To that extent the policy is misleading.” (Para 243.11)

However, when we consider the actual imprecisions she names, it does not look nearly so bad. For example, Reindorf explains that the policy protects “gender identity” rather than “gender reassignment”.

The Equality Act is well enough drafted, but capable of attack by non-lawyers. Reindorf explains “gender reassignment” clearly enough, but merely quoting the name might make people think we were protected only from my gender reassignment surgery, rather than our decisions to transition. In effect, gender identity is protected, because no-one knows it until we decide to transition, the moment our protection starts. Non binary is protected, as the employment tribunal has decided.

The policy, on Stonewall’s advice, says that denying a trans woman access to women’s loos is discrimination”. Reindorf states this is inaccurate, because “the protected characteristic is gender reassignment”, but that is a distinction without a difference.

Reindorf mentions the provision allowing a trans woman to be excluded from women’s spaces where it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”, but does not suggest that anywhere in the University of Essex there would be such a legitimate aim. If anyone wanted to argue such an aim, possibly the university might have a moral obligation to hear them out, but no legal obligation under the Equality Act or anywhere else to argue such an aim or exclude trans women. It has a positive legal obligation not to unlawfully discriminate against trans women.

Reindorf also mentions health and safety legislation, which in 1992 required employers to provide toilets on a single-sex basis. But insofar as that might prevent trans women from using women’s toilets and changing rooms, it is superseded by the Equality Act.

Any organisation which wishes to exclude trans women from women’s spaces must identify and prove both a legitimate aim, a reason for doing so, and that excluding a trans woman is a proportionate means to that aim. If they cannot, they are discriminating unlawfully and could be liable for damages. Stonewall is entitled to advise that. There are no cases where a legitimate aim has been found, so it is hard to argue what such an aim might be, but the distress of a traumatised woman on seeing a trans woman whom she sees as a man in a women’s changing room may not be, because the trans woman’s feelings and needs are of equal value to the alleged traumatised woman.

There is huge glee in transphobe circles about Stonewall’s advice to exclude the transphobic speakers being called in question. A former Tory MP and regular columnist for The Times wrote there that Stonewall should stop working for trans rights. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? The Times publishes a barrage of anti-trans propaganda.

In any case, as Neil Gorsuch so clearly explained, discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is discrimination on the grounds of sex.

The terfs (no need for ***) will continue assaulting trans rights and claiming trans women are dangerous. Generally, all Stonewall need do is make clear the technical basis of its advice.

Is the Quaker meeting a safe space?

The Meeting might seem a safe space, where we come together in Friendship to worship. We come to recharge, away from the World, to be better fitted to live in it. Often it is. I come away feeling loved. And “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

God gave me a gentle working over at Zoom worship, reducing me to tears. I hope I come away with strengthened Love, better fitted for my world, with greater understanding, and it was painful. It did not feel safe at the time.

There was a harsh sound like a fog-horn, in repeated blasts, and I was irritated. Someone should mute themselves. They are not showing proper respect to the meeting. Such a horrible sound would distract anyone. I was certain of the rules, and my entitlement.

Then my wise Black Friend ministered on the love and mercy of God, quoting psalm 139 on God’s inescapability. Black Friends have told me the Quaker meeting is not always a safe space. “Can I touch your hair?”

The meeting is safe as far as we work to make it so. We have love, one for another. The practice of sitting still, like poker players where a sigh or the slight tightening of muscles indicates inner turmoil, is an attempt not to distract our Friends. (I find sitting still difficult.) Only love will bind us together, create safety amongst ourselves as we run our meeting, with our different desires and understanding.

Some find that having something to do with their hands, such as knitting, seems to help them centre down. Others find this distracting- perhaps, it is the sense that the crafters are breaking the rules. They should not be doing that. Here is a Quaker discussion. Love can bring us together- the person who is easily distracted, the person who needs something to do with their hands, and others supporting both.

Looking back at it, Quakers are delighted with our 2009 YM, agreeing that we would treat gay marriages precisely equally with straight marriages. This outcome was not widely predicted. Gay Friends went to YM feeling valued members of their meetings, their relationships accepted, even celebrated, knowing that “the acceptance of homosexuality distresses some Friends”. Those Friends too might be apprehensive about the meeting. We came together in Love, led by Spirit, and other yearly meetings have split over accepting gay people, each side believing they were rooted in Christian principle and even in Love.

Again Friends approach YM in fear. Again, our sense of ourselves- the trans person, and the gender critical- feel threatened. With the clerk in a discussion group, I knew I should not lobby her about the Correct Result of YM, but the temptation was so great I could not speak about the topic.

We must be prepared to be changed. I have been changed beyond recognition, and as God Loves me into wholeness it has been intensely painful. In Meeting I am weeping, for myself and for the World. And at the end of the meeting I hear the foghorn again, accepting it. It does not bother me, and I weep again in joy.

Only Love can save us. All will hear things that might hurt them, but the meeting is not mine to control, and others will say what seems to them right at the time, which may be an act of courage. I pray for a good result, and try to let go of conceptions of what that result should look like.

A diagnosis of Trans

Why should a trans person go to the doctor?

Last century, there was the concept of “Gender Identity Disorder”. The idea was that a man who thought he was a woman, or a girl who thought she was a boy, had a mental illness, a delusion, that should be cured if possible. So children who “desisted” were counted as cured, and some children were referred to psychiatrists merely for non-stereotypical gendered behaviour. That’s why there is old research claiming huge desistance rates, which transphobes still trot out to oppose treatment of actual trans children.

Or, there was “transsexualism”, a syndrome where people believed they were of the other sex, and the treatment was transition, hormones and surgery, to help them express themselves as well as possible in the other sex. In DSM V, the diagnosis is “gender dysphoria”. The idea is that being trans is not a disease, and needs no cure, but the distress arising from it is.

From the 1930s, some doctors were prescribing hormones and performing surgery, but in Ancient Rome trans women, the priestesses of Cybele, might drink the urine of pregnant mares to get the oestrogen they needed. They did not know what a hormone was, but they knew what it did.

This is the ICD 11 definition of “Gender incongruence”, classified as a “condition related to sexual health”: Gender incongruence is characterised by a marked and persistent incongruence between an individual’s experienced gender and the assigned sex. Gender variant behaviour and preferences alone are not a basis for assigning the diagnoses in this group.

That is, you need a diagnosis if you want hormones or surgery. A doctor, probably a gender specialist, decides that the incongruence between your gender and assigned sex is such as to justify treatment.

It does not say that anyone who does not want treatment is thereby not trans. Trans is just part of ordinary human diversity. You can transition to live in your true gender, without ever taking hormones or having surgery.

There is no reason for trans people to be medicalised. Sometimes the cis ask us if we’ve had surgery, as if they would grudgingly tolerate a trans person who has, because they were in some way “really trans”. But that’s their stuff, not ours.

And some trans people want hormones and surgery. Dora Richter attempted to remove her penis with a tourniquet when she was six. That is a deep, psychological need. They have gender incongruence, and that will remain a medical condition, though not a psychological one.

The British Government wants doctors, in fact gender specialist psychiatrists, still involved in gender recognition in England and Wales, even though “gender dysphoria” is outdated. But what diagnosis? If the specified diagnosis is “gender incongruence”, that means that you can’t get gender recognition unless you desire surgery. That would be worse than now.

They suggested the doctor assess psychological readiness or “fitness to proceed”. Dr Michael Brady, the LGBT medical adviser, rejected that. How can doctors assess it? Transitioning is stressful and difficult. The prejudice you face is terrible. They don’t know what will happen.

So, because the government want doctors still to be involved, we end up with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. In the DSM V, that diagnosis makes some sense. Psychiatrists want to argue that they should be able to claim money from medical insurance for helping people with distress. In gender recognition, it makes no sense at all. Someone might be so delighted with their imminent transition that they feel no distress. On a two year waiting list, someone might have transitioned already, and the doctor is reduced to writing, “they tell me they used to be distressed, presenting in the assigned gender”. Again, it’s medicalising trans people, who only need doctors if they need hormones or surgery.

What of the JR111 judgment? It says that it is not against our human rights to require a medical diagnosis, but it is against them to use the word “disorder”, which is in the Gender Recognition Act. The judge can make an order that the Act is to be interpreted in a particular way, or declare it incompatible with human rights- which puts a moral but not legal obligation on the government to amend it.

The government wanted doctors involved to avoid applications variously described as vexatious, unmeritorious, frivolous or unadvised. The first three seem to be from cis people mocking the system. Perhaps Graham Linehan would try it. The British public has enough common sense to deal with Graham Linehan. He would gain nothing, and if there’s a requirement for a statutory declaration he might face a charge of perjury.

The fourth, unadvised, is particularly obnoxious. A doctor would have to decide that, though we were trans, we just could not cope with the stress of transition. People transition on a wing and a prayer, because we have to. No-one knows it will be successful.

Nice people

Avril and Alison moderate a facebook group. Alison has gone down the rabbit-hole, quoting hate group foul play by transphobes to argue Trans is the world’s greatest threat to women. Avril, however, only wants to be nice. I had an exchange on messenger with Avril for two weeks, testing the breadth of her transphobia.

Early in the conversation Avril told me she had two trans friends, and wanted to buy the book of poems one had written. She told me she is “trying to come with terms” with trans. “This may take decades.”

Society has changed out of all recognition in the last 50 years. It will continue to change. 50 years ago, homosexuality was illegal and gays had to live quietly, without drawing attention to themselves. Nowadays, no-one turns a hair. I was at a gay wedding, 5 years ago. It was a wonderful occasion.

Wow. So if I “live quietly”, everything will be alright after I’m dead. I don’t believe it. The arc of history has to be bent towards justice, and if not me, then who?

She has strange ideas about trans, claiming there are people who claim to be women, who are frauds. “All women know this.” She said the swivel-eyed transphobe Alison “has looked into the subject of trans in considerable depth”. I said that reading up the hate sites was like an anti-vaxxer memorising lists of ingredients of vaccines, and their alleged harms. She said I was “like Michael Gove decrying experts”.

Avril thinks the group, including those who rave about inclusive language, autogynephilia, “trans-identified males”, just because someone on the radio happened to use the word “cis”, has a lot of “nice people”. Avril is nice. She continued messaging me because she wanted to help me. She is “confident that Alison is well-intentioned”, “does not consider herself to be anti-trans,” and her views “are not stemming from hate”. She doesn’t know much about trans, she says, “but I wish trans people well”.

She agreed with me that there should be a moratorium on trans. Then she discussed it with Alison, and refused. They would keep an eye on trans discussions that arise. She wants “free speech,” but “hate speech, abuse, intolerance, etc, are not allowed”. Hurt feelings are unavoidable.

So I started a trans thread myself, and Avril closed it. She said there were complaints about me, and I was putting people’s backs up. She stopped me making further posts. “You must stop rocking the boat”, she wrote, and I am sure she thought herself loving and helpful at that moment. Then she changed the subject, pleased that the Queen’s Speech said something about “conversion therapy”.

All the time she was keen to point out how reasonable she was being. “We allow people to express their views, provided they are not extreme.” And how unreasonable I was being, to challenge anti-trans bigotry. “If something upsets you, don’t read it.” “Please don’t foment trouble.”

She wanted to seem friendly, and the high point of this was writing, “I’d like a moratorium on trans too. I don’t see ‘cis’ as a slur.” But it did not lead to anything.

And then she started trying to be “helpful” to me. She wanted to improve my mental health. “Please focus on the positives. Please think of how far you’ve come in a short time.” “You’re the one who sees this scenario of ‘win or lose’.” “Please stop obsessing”. She thinks I am unrealistic, as if I expect everyone to agree with me.

“As a trans woman, you have entered a very difficult and a very challenging world. However, some pioneers have made a success of it, and I hope you will too. Think of Jan Morris, Angela Morley, and others.” “There’s nothing wrong with seeing a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst or a counsellor. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. In fact, psycholanalysts have to go through analysis themselves as part of their training. It’s part of personal growth. No-one should be embarrassed about seeking counselling.”

I asked, “Should I be ejected from women’s spaces or not?” She proposed gender neutral space. That’s no use when there is no gender-neutral space, as in most places.

Her positive self-image is immovable. “I’ve done my absolute best for you.” “I have bent over backwards for you.” “The person spreading hate is yourself.” I was “spurn[ing her] decency and kindness”. “You’re determined to exhaust the patience of a saint.” The saint is her.

I referred her to that Ha’aretz article I cited before. The mad obsessives like Alison are in a tiny minority, but people who think they are nice, and tolerant, and reasonable are the real problem.

23 May, afternoon: the group is “not available at the moment,” fb says.

Compromise

I burned out because I could not compromise. I kept on fighting the things I could not change. This is neither to be admired or condemned, but noticed.

I came out of the tribunal, burst into tears, and shortly after stopped doing tribunal cases. Tuesday 19th evening, I was weeping over the same incident with the same level of distress. I wrote in 2013 that my actions showed integrity, creativity and bravery, and I still assert that, but the problem was taking failure so badly.

Given the difficulty I had with earlier cases, it was something that had very little chance of success, possibly none. I could not persuade the people I needed to persuade. They were too invested in the integrity of the system to accept the evidence I could produce from someone in my position.

I am lying in bed the next day, typing, and considering the level of that distress. I still feel it. (Another failure comes to mind, which still distresses me.) I am not crying, now, but gazing with wonder at the depth of my misery. It is the pain of not being all-powerful. I should have been able to overcome all these difficulties. It is linked to the fear of death.

Divorced from reality? Contemptible? My inner critic is quite capable of berating me, scourging me, both for failing to get Dr Pyle sacked and for stupidly imagining that I could.

The other failure I am thinking of now is from about 2008/9, a killer argument in an employment tribunal case which I did not spot until I had settled it for the contemptuous sum of £200 from the employer. I should have spotted it earlier. It was obvious, I berate myself. I imagine spotting it the day before the assigned hearing and begging the tribunal to accept the documentary evidence late. Obvious in retrospect. Now I am berating myself for not seeing it before, still being upset now, and the intricacy of my fantasy of what I should have done.

This is to be noticed. The distress is there. “Have mercy on yourself,” said Menis. Ideally, perhaps, I would have dealt with it by now but I did not because-

that deserves further thought, perhaps, but now I think-

I was-

I was unable to admit to myself that I could not accomplish these things, see the obvious argument in time, put the evidence over convincingly. It was all linked to the fear of death. That I still feel the distress now, more than ten years later, shows it still is in some way. And yet I am still alive.

All that I could ever fear
has come to pass, and I’m still here.

Now I am thinking of that job interview in Bedford. I got all the questions on DLA and IB right, in the written test. Towards the end, the interviewer exclaimed, that’s the first time you’ve smiled. People tell me I have a beautiful smile, and I hate it. After, everything I said I smiled. I did not get the job, burst into tears, and could not bear to apply for benefits jobs again.

Now, sometimes, I am frightened to go to Aldi. Have mercy on yourself. I imagine trying something, fearfully, as if I reached tentatively out with broken fingers to see if I could grasp something, dreading the pain. “You’re covered in scars,” she said, more than twenty years ago.

Love, mercy and understanding heal me- my own love, healing me from my own introjected judgment.

My friend wondered if I judged her for smoking, then decided she was projecting on me. My eyes followed her cigarette, and she noticed across Zoom. There is endless judgment. The packets are full of judgment- “Smoking Kills!” “Smoking makes your kidneys fail!” “Smoking prevents you enjoying sex!” There is judgment, everywhere, of everything, perhaps the pitiless selfish gene demanding its continued existence and using our suffering to drive us on. When we disagreed about covid, I saw how my trust in my ability to select and absorb information about it, and to change my view as the information changed, is bound up in my sense of self, which again is a matter of terror of death, exacerbated in the case of Covid which really does kill people.

I have hazy ideas of what I might do. I could notice and praise every thing I did: any small act towards cleaning the house, perhaps. That is the idea of Behavioural Activation. Notice and delight in your doing stuff, and so build up your ability to do stuff. I am Loving Awareness. There is Love, and acceptance for the terrified, scarred, hurting being that I am.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I was berating myself for having so little to show for all my gifts and talents, and that does no good, for all the gifts are in the hurt self. Only love can work now.

24 May: I noticed  I had difficulty motivating myself to do something, because my way of doing it had to be precisely right. There were clearly wrong ways, but a variety of OK ways- one with one problem, one with the opposite problem, but satisfactory. The difficulty of choosing between ways, which on analysis I found satisfactory, stopped me starting the action.

The British Government v Trans People

A Northern Irish court case has revealed Liz Truss and Boris Johnson’s labours to inflame a culture war against trans people, after the previous Conservative government had decided to treat us reasonably. The anonymous JR111, let’s call her Jennifer, applied for judicial review because the government blocked her from getting a gender recognition certificate. For example, the government has a list of specialist psychiatrists qualified to diagnose “gender identity disorder and transsexualism” for a GRC, but none of them practise medicine in Northern Ireland. Continue reading

Transphobic and trans-friendly news reporting

It can be good to read an obsessively transphobic publication, because they print good news about trans. The Times reported that the French Rugby Federation would allow trans women to play in women’s teams, based on T levels alone, a day before The Independent reported it, because they are obsessed with trans and on the lookout for anything that can be twisted to make trans look bad. Hooray!

A paper is entitled to provide context, but all the context here is slanted against trans women. So we read that World Rugby recommended trans women couldn’t, and that it would be unfair on cis women, who they called “women”. The RFU said trans women taller than 5’7” would be assessed individually so they were not a “risk”. Safety, fairness, risk, stated and repeated. No comments praising the FFR.

The Guardian reported that the UK government was going to host a global conference on LGBTQ+ rights. Its reporting was clear, newsworthy and trans friendly. The government had made pledges to the Equal Rights Coalition. Nick Herbert, formerly a gay Tory MP, now a lord and outspoken trans ally, will chair it.

Again good news. But the context, here, is relevant to LGBT rights, the subject of the conference, rather than transphobe assertions. ILGA says there is an increase in HoBiT and political repression, and a standstill on policy progress. The Tories’ policies on voter suppression, demanding photo ID, would disproportionately affect trans people. Stonewall criticised the government for failing to act on gender recognition.

Author Amelia Abraham’s comments are quoted, saying the consultation on conversion therapy was ridiculous- ban it, already. The failure to reform gender recognition was a slap in the face.

Here we have a clear, useful summary of why the British Government is a transphobic load of haters, and I am delighted. And even the Times report has to tell us the good news, in order to repeat its transphobic drivel yet again.

The Guardian also had a useful article on how much campaigning against “the woke left” is against trans rights. Zoe Williams says Labour should oppose social conservatism, and say why. The “Campaign for Common Sense” picked on eight items on the “Woke agenda”, and three were trans related: inclusive language for trans men, trans women existing, and medical treatment for trans children. To see the rest of the list, and the transphobic way they expressed it, see the article.

My trans friend thought a transphobic Guardian editorial two years ago, saying the trans excluders had a point and should be heard, was a declaration of their policy. I hope they are moving away from their earlier transphobia.

The Times transphobia in May

The Times expresses the transphobic ideas it wants to normalise, in order to persecute trans people. Their flaws can be expressed easily, but this is what transphobic motivated reasoning looks like.

3 May: Guidance for Edinburgh University lecturers on transgender issues. Microaggressions negate the thoughts, feelings and lived reality of trans people. The Times quotes a trans person, but will not quote the ordinary English word “cis” without explaining it: the quote contains “cis [non-trans] person”. The Times calls the trivial observation that microaggressions undermine people into question by putting it in quotes, from the guidance.

3 May: The Wairarapa book festival has cancelled its Harry Potter quiz, after consulting LGBT+ groups. The “news” article by Mike Wade takes an entirely transphobic line, saying Rowling was pilloried for arguing sex is real, and that “men who identify as women” are not the same as “biological females”. The criticism of Rowling is called “a torrent of abuse”.

4 May: Charles Wide QC, a retired Old Bailey judge, has written a pamphlet for Policy Exchange claiming Stonewall has too much influence over the Law Commission’s consultation on hate crime laws, which includes anti-trans hate.

4 May: For the Scottish elections, the Times did reports on the manifestos of the Conservatives, the Greens, Alba, LibDems and All for Unity, where their picture was of Alex Salmond though both Greens and LibDems far out-performed him, the SNP and Labour. The headings were Economy, Taxes, Welfare, Education, Health, Justice, Constitution, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure, Rural Affairs, and Transgender. These are important matters, but the emphasis on Trans is disturbing: trans rights are a small part of Equality and Human Rights generally.

6 May: “Nicola Sturgeon fails to understand equality laws, research finds”. Mike Wade, current extremist transphobe, writes that Murray Blackburn Mackenzie is a “policy analyst that writes about gender controversies” rather than an anti-trans campaigning group of three women, whose site only attacks trans rights. Wade quotes the campaigners’ interpretation of the law as if it were true. Whatever else it is, the anti-trans screed is not “research”.

7 May: New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is likely to be the first trans athlete at the Olympics. She transitioned in 2012, and has met IOC testosterone levels rules since 2015. “Some scientists have criticised these guidelines” says The Times. Well, some scientists have denied climate change and even denied evolution. The article, including the photo, is taken from Reuters.

7 May: review of the film Cowboys.

On 8 May, the comment articles were predictably giving Labour a kicking, but had sideswipes against trans people. Janice Turner wrote, “A common Twitter phrase is ‘get in the bin’. That’s where you belong if your views on immigration, gender or a myriad issues deviate from the line. Pretty soon, every voter will be in the bin.” Giles Coren pictured Boris Johnson as doing everything men wanted to but were too afraid, including despising “all the gender stuff” and declaring war on France.

9 May Schools trans guidance “breaches law”, says the headline. Actually, it’s not so clear. The Times finds the most extreme position as a quote. If a trans child does not want their parents told, should the school inform the parents? Large amounts of money, through “Christians” and transphobe parents, is being brought to challenge the right of a child to present in their true gender at school without their parents being informed. An advocate has produced counsel’s opinion when instructed by one of the phobes, saying their case is arguable. The Scottish Government is considering the matter.

15 May. “Women must be heard on transgender identity”, ascribed to the new chair of the EHRC. This shows the confusion over discrimination on “belief”. An employer could not sack someone for being a Young Earth Creationist, though arguably it shows a willingness to call academics liars and deny good evidence out of prejudice, so disqualifies one from any position of trust. But they could sack someone for attempting to convert colleagues, or forbid them from wearing a cross. If transphobic hate is called a “philosophical belief” an employer won’t be able to dismiss someone for being a hater, but might be able to dismiss for hateful action, and even perhaps expression of the hate. But the Times puts the rights of the hater at the maximum- “to be heard”, then goes on to discuss JK Rowling and transphobe Forstater.

A better paper might have wanted the new chair’s views on other things, and indeed the end of the article mentions anonymous online abuse, and ethnic pay gaps. I doubt she “attacked those who criticised” the Sewell report, either. From the quotes, she criticised those who attacked it, which is very different.

9 May: A letter from transphobes gives some of the rights at work they want, including to be able to demand a trans woman is excluded from women’s loos. Of course, this is expressed as a demand for “single sex toilets”. The Sunday Times did a report on this letter. They want an inquiry into Stonewall’s diversity champions scheme. There’s more chance of that than an inquiry into the Covid failures.

If trans-exclusionary belief becomes protected, transphobic employers and human resources workers will be empowered, to find grounds of philosophical belief to oppress trans people. Few cases get to the employment tribunal.

Positive stories

10 May: Sapir Berman, a trans woman, has refereed an Israeli Premier League match. There’s the usual patronising stuff: she always saw herself as a woman, from a young age. It’s as if that justifies her decision to transition. In reality, we transition because we are trans, whatever experiences we have had, however we articulate our reasons for transitioning.

What conversion practices should be unlawful?

It should be unlawful for a priest to preach that gay is sinful, if a gay person is present.

I consider the effect on the gay person. They may have been traumatised by prejudice, which makes it more difficult for them to resist that lie. The priest- imam, minister, whatever- has power in the community, and ostracism from community hurts. I would not make it criminal, but I would enact that any gay person present during an anti-gay sermon after the law came into force could claim damages for it, and allow such claims for twenty years after, rather than the accustomed three, because of the time it can take victims to recover and realise how harmful such preaching is.

Praying away the gay should be criminal. A figure with any religious authority who tries to “heal” a gay person or counsel that gay person to be celibate should be charged with a criminal offence. The gay person is never wholly voluntarily in such a situation, as they are affected by general societal homophobia or the specific homophobia of the religious body.

Note that the religious body attempts to change who the person is, not just how they act. The faculty of being sexually attracted to other humans is part of the person’s very essence. More people are bi than the culture admits, and prejudices and fears might prevent someone acknowledging an attraction, but the attraction comes from our very nature. Some people are mostly attracted to male or masculine, some mostly to female or feminine.

It’s not what you call that attraction that is the nature of the person. If you think they are a man, and they are attracted to men, you call them gay, but the attraction does not change if in fact they are trans, really a woman, and they transition. They may still be attracted to men. They may admit more attractions, as they are not suppressing their essence after transition, but even if the words we use for them, heterosexual rather than gay, change, their truth, their nature, of being attracted to men, does not.

So it is completely ridiculous to call transition “conversion therapy”. It is a complete fabrication. Unfortunately, some people hate trans so much that they are putting forward that argument- either in a hategasm where they cannot control themselves, or in the cold, deliberately deceiving way that they and their ilk might use denying climate change or evolution by natural selection.

On 15 May, Janice Turner told this lie in The Times, claiming that parents might try to transition a gay child to avoid the stigma of being called gay. She appears to believe that there is no stigma in being called trans. This is divorced from reality.

Worryingly, she claims that the government plan to include compelling someone to transition in the definition of unlawful conversion therapy. The idea that a parent could, or that even the medical professional most committed to children being able to transition would go along with it, is ridiculous. That is the lie she tells, though, in an attempt to smear Stonewall and Mermaids.

So what should be unlawful conversion therapy for trans people? The religious figure preaching against it should be subject to paying damages. The religious figure praying over a trans person should be criminal. What about psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists?

The definition here is simple: attempting to change who someone is should be unlawful. Exploring who someone is should be permissible. Robert Withers, who pretends to transphobes that he can cure trans, should never be allowed near trans people, but a therapist should be able to help a person presenting as trans to get to know themself better.

Sometimes it will be subtle, but the therapist should be aware when they are putting pressure on a person. If they are unaware, they are not qualified to be therapists, because the therapist in a position of authority can damage people by suppressing their nature, in all sorts of ways apart from LGBT. Professional bodies are capable of investigating and disciplining such therapists.

Criminal sanctions will only be available when the pressure to change is clear beyond reasonable doubt. That is enough to protect any therapist helping a client explore their relation with their gender and gender identity. So the definition of criminal conversion therapy could be quite simple: it is an offence for someone in the position of therapist to attempt to change someone’s gender identity. However much some might attempt to obscure it, there is a clear line between attempting to change someone’s nature and helping them explore it.