The word “TERF”

I will no longer use the word “TERF”.

It is a good word to express contempt, with that plosive T. Someone is only a terf, an enemy, a deluded person. They claim it is a slur, and use it to claim victimhood- see the horrible things they call us! “Punch a TERF!” they quote, endlessly.

It stands for “trans-excluding radical feminist”, and one objection I have to it is that anti-trans campaigners are not necessarily radical feminists. Some are conservative Evangelicals, and some have no particular feminist views other than hating opposing trans people. They are sucked up by social media radicalisation. Radical feminism is a world view, centring women’s oppression in the reproductive system, with particular attitudes to paying for sex, surrogacy, and violence against women and girls. One might engage with it. Often, you cannot engage with trans excluders, whose only relevant philosophy is no trans women in women’s spaces, not never not nohow, and no treatment for trans children (usually not trans men either) because they cannot believe trans children exist.

I changed “hating trans people” to “opposing trans people”. The most horrible attitude in them is dismissal: they talk of “single-sex” spaces excluding “men” as if trans people did not exist. They pretend to dispassion. There is a ghastly and complete lack of sympathy. Their one priority is protecting [cis] women.

I don’t like the term “gender critical feminist”. Some only take in feminism through social media posts, never reading more widely. And, believing that gender is an oppressive social construct need not mean that you are hostile to trans women in women’s spaces. Instead, it could mean that you welcome us, as we subvert gender norms.

Their idea of “gender ideology” deludes them. They claim trans people are divorced from reality, but the only thing you need to believe to accept trans women in women’s spaces is that trans people exist, and are mostly harmless.

Some anti-trans campaigners object to being called “gender critical” too, because they want to conceal the fact that their expressed desires affect no-one but trans people. So they claim to be campaigners for “sex-based rights” or “women’s rights”, pretending that their desired ends might give protection from “predatory men” rather than harm trans people.

They dislike the term “trans excluders”, arguing that common sense excludes “trans identified males” from “women’s spaces”, but trans women have been in women’s spaces mostly harmlessly for decades, so in effect they campaign to drive us out. So they are anti-trans campaigners, whatever they claim about respecting trans people or supporting trans rights.

The worst of them spread vile myths, and incite fear of us by constant reference to the worst of us. They may identify with Maria MacLachlan to claim vicarious victimhood, even martyrdom. It is a common tactic in anti-trans campaigning. Consumed by a sense of their own righteousness, many of them have lost all sense of proportion. And yet, each is an individual, with human vulnerability and with some capacity of empathy. Unfortunately, people’s empathy is usually shut down if they feel threatened, and mainstream media keeps them constantly triggered.

The media thrives on drama, and the simplest drama is confrontation. The media obsesses on anti-trans v trans. So the BBC had a profile of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and used the time as if the three most important things about her were “Half of a Yellow Sun”, “Americanah”, and her remark in 2017 that “trans women are trans women”.

Our empathy can be shut down too. This weakens us, making us angrier and less creative. Both sides are victims. They are wrongdoers- victims of violent men, they refuse to draw a distinction when considering harmless trans women. Then their sense of victimhood and standing up for their rights feeds off reasonable or angry demands that they cease their exclusionary campaign, or be silenced. But their initial victimhood is real, serious, and worthy of empathy.

I have removed the word “terf” from front page links, and from my tags, replacing it with anti-trans campaigner. I have left it in the titles of older posts.

Picture today: I see resonances, but I picked this because I have just watched the great film “All about Eve”.

Flinching at the news

The news, always with more on trans people than our numbers justify, was full of Laurel Hubbard, an inspiration, vilified, and Jess de Wahls, an oppressor, lauded. It makes me feel ill. I asked, does this mean I should ignore the news, and a dear friend replied she saw those two the other way round, saying cis women are under attack and their experience is being denied. “Is this where 60 years of feminism got us?”

That women’s experience is being denied is a myth, from the insistence by the transphobes that trans women entail a comprehensive redefinition of womanhood, rather than an anomaly who can be tolerated. Just because I am a woman does not mean that uteruses no longer matter. Yes, some health bodies use the term “chestfeeding”, but only when talking to trans men who chestfeed, or on web pages aimed at such men, not generally. She has nothing to worry about.

I would like to see my friend again, and fear that we would just argue. Sensitised, I would need to talk of trans, or it would be a barrier between us. I would make points I thought clear and irrefutable, she would make some points of her own, and we would be further apart than ever.

I wondered if I could change, in a way that would make me feel better.

Press coverage of Jess de Wahls has portrayed her as a free speech martyr, not getting across that she claims trans people all believe that “biology is transphobic” or “TERF’s are fascists and deserve to be hurt”. I would be listening to Radio 4, or scrolling facebook, or seeing The Guardian’s most popular posts, and there she would be. I could just avoid news.

Or, I could notice what news made me flinch. Recently, the Department for Education recommended “One Britain One Nation” day to schools, with a ghastly song, and Joy Morrissey MP tweeted, “Received my new office portrait of The Queen today. In Australia citizens can write to their MP for a free portrait of The Queen – why can’t we do the same in the UK?? I feel a campaign coming on.”

This isn’t going to happen. You can buy a portrait of the Queen as easily as you would expect- £30 for an A4 print, unframed- and the Government is not going to start giving out free Queen portraits. I am not flinching from that quite as much as I am about trans stories, but some of my lefty friends are. Yes, we have a Nationalist government, using hate and a ghastly soppy flag-waving to maintain its inexplicable popularity-

128,000 DEATHS!!

Perhaps I am just as wound up about Joy Morrissey. Andrew Rosindell has been pulling Nationalist japes like that for years. They only do it for attention.

Jess de Wahls only affects my online life. Yes, she exemplifies a growing threat to me, but generally I am OK. Tory nationalism is damaging the country, but right now I am OK. If news makes me flinch, it is time to take my mind off it, and do something I enjoy.

There is the individual story-such as a picture of a thug who pleaded a “trans panic” defence, shared by trans people on facebook- and the generalised sense of threat. I know trans rights are no threat to cis women, but some cis women have been sensitised, and imagine themselves threatened. I am sensitised to the trans excluders being celebrated by the propaganda machine.

I want to be less sensitive to this stuff. My sensitivity does me no good. It does not prod me into useful action, or help me persuade others. It means I am seeing the world through a distorting lens, where nonexistent threats are made to appear serious. If my friend can be deluded like that- I think she is deluded- why should I be immune?

An explanation of trans ideology

Jess de Wahls’ long blog post is back on line, including her account of what she thinks trans allies believe. What can I say to someone who claims I believe that “biology is transphobic”? Who could possibly believe that?

Trans-excluders often make claims about what “trans ideology” is. To accept trans people, all you need to do is accept we exist. Some people are trans- they want to transition, then they do. Almost all women are cis. They have genes, gonads and genitalia indicating that they are women. They might strongly reject the concept of “gender identity”, claiming that saying they are women is acknowledging physical reality not a psychological state, and that’s absolutely fine. Trans people have a gender identity.

So, no, I don’t argue that “woman is a feeling not biological reality”. “Woman” is more than one thing, including both cis women and trans women. Cis women are women because of biological reality, and the absence of any desire to transition. Trans women are women because of biological reality- unless you believe in a “soul”- and the fact of having transitioned, or the desire to.

Trans people only want to fit in as their transitioned selves. Mostly, this is harmless. There is no such thing as transgender ideology. I am happier if I express myself female. I am miserable if I express myself male. If I am accepted as I truly am, I flourish, like anyone else.

Biology is not transphobic. I want the species to continue. But attempts to use biology to deny reality- to say, for example, that there is no such thing as a trans woman- or put a moral view that trans women should not be accepted in society as women, is transphobic.

Much of de Wahls’ account of “trans ideology” merely draws out the meaning of words, to make them look ridiculous. Straw men are easy to blow away. She makes a tin man, a high tower of ridiculousness that she wants to fall over by itself. It follows from “trans men are men” that “men can get pregnant”, but it is the same use of language. Language should reflect the reality that trans men transition, and everyone benefits if they are accepted and allowed to flourish. Trans men are men.

Yes, “trans men who fancy men are gay”, but that is a belief about language, not about biology. People have the right to classify ourselves. Rather than submitting to a doctor calling you “homosexual” or a lawyer calling you “grossly indecent” people say they are gay.

Transphobia is the belief that it is worthwhile excluding trans people from gendered spaces in general- no trans woman should be in a woman’s loo because of Karen White, say. It is based on unjustified fear, and the denial of the reality of trans lives.

I don’t believe same sex attraction is trans exclusionary, either. People hook up, or form steady partnerships, and I usually think, oh, good for them. Claiming that a cis lesbian with a trans woman partner is not a lesbian is transphobic, though. Repeatedly tweeting that you could never be attracted to a trans woman because you are a lesbian is spreading hatred or mockery of trans women.

In the same way that gay men in fear married women and tried to appear straight, some trans people do not transition. I can no longer deny my truth, so I have to express myself female. But the attempt to make a man of myself, the fear, and the sense that I was profoundly unsafe expressing my true self have left deep scars. So, yes, misgendering and deadnaming are violent. Someone who misgenders me uses the violence of society against me, and threatens my precarious sense of safety.

This particular tin man includes “TERFs are fascists and deserve to be hurt”. That is a horrible idea. You can’t define trans ideology by the most extreme things some trans people happen to believe, but only by what is necessary to believe in order to accept transitioned people in society as our true selves.

Much of the tin man is designed to create fear. “Men never go to great lengths to access vulnerable women”, she says, sarcastically. Of course they do, working hard to locate women who escape them, fighting their way through barriers, angry and self-righteous; but they would not pretend to be women because there are easier ways of accessing women. Violent men pretending to be trans, or violent trans women, can be dealt with as individuals without excluding all trans women. There are violent cis women too.

She got into angry arguments on social media with trans people and trans allies, but she probably got some of this from other trans excluders. Her problem is not “trans ideology” or trans people, but social media, setting her against others and making views ever more extreme. The answer is trying to persuade and understand, rather than merely to win. I have not studied her whole screed in detail, but these extracts show she attempted to instill fear, anger and derision at trans people. It is not a simple matter of “Free Speech Good”.

Freeing the Spirit

If ego is wrapped around spirit like ivy round oak, how do you become spirit
naked spirit
unencumbered spirit
free spirit?

Is it by letting go of something?

I do not let go words. “Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life.” I might let go words which distract from that.

Can you stop seeking to persuade? A multitude of words to persuade that trans women are harmless amid a long scream that women need to exclude us and are entitled to.

Descriptive words- words drawings and symbols describe a Saturn V rocket, and if you followed those words you could send people to the moon again.

Words as truth. Words as poetry. Recognising that words always have a tincture of persuasion or judgment, and of inaccuracy, so I cannot set down a set of rules to follow. I get better with words.

What of Desire? Trauma? Let go of illusion and the Idol, the wish to seem.

Should I let go of fear of the future? There’s a way of thinking I don’t like- imagining a particular threat, and pleading with it, or shouting at it. That’s not fair or this is what really happened or its wrong to do that, when I feel others will not agree with me but I’m still right. Partly it’s rational, thinking through how I could be most persuasive. Partly it’s denying reality, emphasising the truth of what I say and the complete wrongness of how I believe/know/fear/am unsure about how others will see it. Partly it’s picking up a particular fear and dwelling on it without doing anything to improve things.

Possibly I only hate this habit of mind because my experience is often that others don’t agree with my arguments, when I eventually put them. I am like William Brown, desperately or defiantly but pointlessly crying “I was just statin a fact”.

I can escape that habit by making my life so simple that there are few of the threats that would engage my attention in that way. Maybe I have faced so many threats that I can’t bear them any more.

A more horrible experience of rumination is replaying incidents in the past. For those ten years old or more I have mostly distilled these to “I was right, they were wrong. It didn’t matter.” For ones less than ten years old, it’s “It was what it was. I suffered more than I deserved, perhaps. I wasn’t perfect.”

A woman who used to research and write articles for a think tank had a traumatic brain injury. Now she finds her mind is as quiet as she had wished. It is in a state she had sought through yoga before the accident. It could just be that her life of argument is wrenched from her, and all that remains is her recovery and being able to “run errands without getting lost”. The kinds of issues she was writing about no longer matter to her, so much of the content of her conscious thinking has become unnecessary. It’s not that she does not care about the homeless, it’s that she cares about them as fellow suffering humans, rather than as a topic which affects her own position.

Then there’s the experience of the divided mind. You know the quote “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” Well, judge myself harshly, go into denial, freeze. I know I ought to X. But I don’t want to, because it will be uncomfortable, and involve admitting I was wrong, at least in the sense of making the wrong decision when full information was not available.

I am seeking spiritual enlightenment, that “inward stillness”, in order to be better able to engage with the world. Enlightenment does not mean no longer having to face conflict, loss, or error. It just might mean having a trick, or a knack, for dealing with what Kipling called “impostors”.

Calling it a gimmick is showing disrespect. I am serious now.

I want that inward stillness to be large enough to contain my fear and hurt so that it does not simply burst out of me, so that I am conscious of it, and can bear it. The law, the method, the way, seems to me to be Love. I judge myself- my fear, anger or resentment is unbearable- I deny or suppress it- it bursts out of me- I suffer. I love myself- I accept my fear, anger or resentment- I contain it, and see how best to act. I love the world- I see it better- I respond and act better.

Love is the answer. Love is the way. Yes, spirit is like the oak, and ego like the ivy- though they might look like one plant, spirit provides all the strength to hold ego up, as both seek the sunlight, which is the love of God. I am bombarded by experience and my emotional reaction to it, even when I rarely go out. The only way to bear all that is to love it all. It’s not letting go, it is accepting.

There are other spiritual lessons to learn. Accepting the fact of your death is a big one; but the greatest of anything is Love.

Jess de Wahls

Jess de Wahls’ patches are no longer stocked by the Royal Academy shop, because of complaints about her transphobia. In 2019 she wrote in a 5000 word transphobic essay that she had no problem with trans women expressing female, but objected to our assertions that we are women or entitled to women’s rights.

She is an artist, born in East Berlin in 1983. Once, she ran a vagina sewing workshop at Tate Modern. In 2019 after her transphobic essay she lost her job dressing hair at the Soho Theatre. An exhibition in Australia was cancelled. And now she has lost some work for the Royal Academy.

On twitter and even The Times, she is incited to sue the Royal Academy for Beliefs discrimination. Well, the RA was not providing her with a service, or employing her: only buying some stuff she made or designed. That is not subject to the Equality Act. The Times should employ fact checkers. On twitter, random people who have never willingly entered an art gallery are incited to complain to the RA. So then it becomes a poll: are there more transphobe bots to attack the RA than trans allies to support it?

That transphobic essay is no longer on line. Who knows what was in it. It could have been as vile as JK Rowling’s. Why now? An artist, not of Tracey Emin or even Charlotte Prodger levels of fame but whose art has won her a platform, loses an income stream, and Janice Turner of The Times writes a broadside. It’s the usual propaganda. Transphobe’s virtues include “immense thought”, she’s “funny, outspoken… freethinking and bold”. Trans allies are “merciless”, or envious.

I am trying to think my way into it. I spend little time in art gallery shops, hardly any in the gift section. How would I feel, seeing Jess de Wahls’ patches there, if I knew about her essay? Would it be yet another thing making the world a slightly less tolerant place, increasing my fear?

I hope not. Tate, RA, National Gallery are safe spaces for me, where most people are tourists or nice, middle-class types who like Art or feel they ought to, and are not going to be overtly hostile to a trans stranger. There is less chance of someone shouting out “It’s a fucking bloke” in the Bridgewater Hall than on Princess Street. (Why pick there? Because that experience lives with me twenty years later.)

If I recognised the patches and knew who Jess de Wahl was, at worst they would be a symbol of the pervasive anti-trans hate in the world. A stack of The Times in a newsagent is a far more visceral symbol of that, but The Times, or JK Rowling, cannot be cancelled. I am desensitised to such symbols of transphobia in my world. Were I not, I might not go out at all. Just possibly, that Jess de Wahl patch would be a symbol of transphobia which would be the last straw.

The confected anger at this cancellation is terrifying me. I look at the Guardian Opinion section today, and Kenan Malik is on about culture war again. Free Speech!! He is mostly on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay which is the only thing on her site, which before was a normal author website. I don’t think Chimamanda is transphobic, even though she attacked a nonbinary writer. So on balance I count it a loss to cancel the patches. The hate explosion has affected far more trans people than the patches would have. Malik again frames this as “trans activists” rather than ordinary trans people against “feminists” rather than transphobes. As Janice Turner says, it could be envious embroiderers who want their work in the RA gallery shop instead.

I also agree with Janice Turner (though she claims she got this from Adichie) that calling out transphobia on twitter is an outlet for base feelings such as “amorphous rage”. The closest Adichie gets to this thought is “the delusion that malice and opportunism is principled feminism”. Of course, transphobia is also an outlet for rage- punching down at a safe target, rather than responding to your real oppressors. I hate twitter wars so much I almost hate the rage and self-righteousness of trans people and allies as much as that of the transphobes.

Completely abandoning fact for propaganda, The Times reported that a transphobe had “called for” the EHRC to “launch an inquiry” into the RA. It did not bother to check whether Equality legislation applies to a shop stocking goods. The hate raced through Radio 4 and The Telegraph.

23 June. Coming back to this, I can’t see a clear ethical position I can commit to. One part of me says, Rupert Murdoch must not be able to prevent action for trans rights. That The Times will hate every action to support trans people, and create a controversy, which the BBC will take up, is not a reason for not supporting trans people. Then, is it supporting trans people to discontinue that product line? What should de Wahls’ essay be compared to- an essay supporting white supremacy fits. Like a white supremacist, she is saying that other people are less important than her and people her readers should care about, and a danger to vulnerable people.

Excluding her embroidered patches from the shop is equivalent to complete ostracism. Would you have nothing whatever to do with a white supremacist?

Should a white supremacist working in, say, the production of embroidered patches, have them discontinued, judged on the morals of the producer rather than the quality of the product? Should the producer lose income because of their vile opinions? The RA have shown Caravaggio’s work- but Caravaggio will never kill another man again, whatever the RA do.

People campaign, march and demonstrate for white supremacy. Should our disapproval of such campaigns only run to arguing when they state their views? Or, worse, only when they assault a minority ethnic person? What is worse, trying to bar one trans woman from one changing room, or trying to ban us all, for ever? Does the effectiveness of the attempt make a difference?

And yet- I was cooking yesterday, with the radio on, and suddenly there’s Jess de Wahls interviewed by a friendly interviewer. If there had not been objection to her patches, almost no-one would have heard of her. Her transphobic essay had been taken down.

11.30am: The Royal Academy has apologised to de Wahls, and is in talks on stocking her patches. Yesterday the Times reported on the “fear” she suffered after the discontinuance- my fear delights them, and there will be no reports on that. Google “Royal Academy” and the first thing you see is their site. The next is “Top Stories”, all about de Wahls as victim, martyr, persecuted by trans activists.

Here is the RA press release. It refers to free speech and free thinking. Yes, art has to be about free expression. What about antisemitic art and speech? What would it think of that? De Wahl’s long blog post is back online. It attempts to create fear, anger and derision at trans people.

Heather Brunskell-Evans: Transgender body politics

I mourn a dead friendship. I am “Emily”, referred to in the prologue of this book.

I have written about Heather Brunskell-Evans, and the time I spent at her house, so can hardly object to her writing about me. I have written about my gender surgery here, so she is not outing me. She has given me a pseudonym. She told me she was considering writing about me, though did not tell me that she had. I am grateful for her calling me “glamorous”, which I take as a compliment.

Surgery is a private matter, usually, and trans surgery is unique in that transphobes feel entitled to police it on trans people. They demand to know if we have had surgery, and feel if we have not we would not be entitled to the grudging tolerance of a “genuine” trans woman. Heather discussing my surgery so casually reinforces this attitude.

She claims many “men” (trans women) follow a trend of no surgery. This myth is debunked over and over again, and designed to make people transphobic. She claims I had “foregone genital pleasure”, another casual falsehood: I still orgasm. Nor do I feel I am “a medical patient for life in a never-ending battle with [my] body”- taking two pills a day is hardly onerous, and I rarely see doctors.

She saw that I “needed to take on a stable, coherent, ‘feminine’ identity”. That’s a lot better than saying it is a matter of “men’s feelings”, as if we could just get over it. I could distinguish identity from “who I am”- identity is “who I think I am”, which is different- but they are close enough. A feminine identity would not fit if there was nothing feminine about me. And “feminine” would not exist as a concept if it did not relate in some way to women. It is not merely oppressive.

She told me she saw me as a man, and I did not challenge her. She doesn’t think I believe I am female. Well, it’s complicated. The only coherent definition of the word “woman” includes me. However if someone demands that I prove I am a woman to their satisfaction, or wishes to persuade me that I am not, I can’t be bothered arguing. And, I have internalised transphobia: any belief that I am not a woman raises echoes in me. Heather should understand, as she knows about internalised misogyny: that she does not shows difficulty empathising with trans people.

She says that at the time she saw my trans identity as something which should elicit kindness, generosity and tolerance. Similar arguments are used in many situations: she used to think as decent people do, before she fell down the rabbit hole- or attained enlightenment, take your pick. However it is belied by the story later in the prologue, of hearing of a teenager who identified as trans. She sympathises with the “stricken” mother, is horrified, and said her duty was to prevent transition. She told me at the time. I know the identity of the mother, though I will not say: I remember Heather telling me if I did “I will fight you”. I don’t know if the person has transitioned since.

I went to one, rather staid, party at her house, and find her exaggeration odd. Moving her furniture, I took off my wig because I was too hot, and three of us women struggled with a mattress which a man, single-handed, was lifting up to an upstairs window for us to drag inside. I was trying to help! Her claim that I lifted furniture as well as the man present did is no doubt intended to reinforce the idea that trans women could equally well be in men’s sport.

Her article on Caitlyn Jenner, written before I helped her move furniture into her house, shows she was already committed as an anti-trans campaigner, or at any rate someone prejudiced against trans people. Her casual misgendering of me gives the lie to the common trans-exclusionist claim that they would use our pronouns “as a matter of courtesy”.

She dedicates the book to her grandchildren, hoping they will not have transgender alterations to their bodies during childhood. Trans is rare (Heather’s figure is “less than 1%”) so this leaves me wondering if she has some reason to believe one or more are trans. It shows an inability to see that transition could benefit someone, even though she knew me. That disqualifies her from writing about trans people: everything she writes comes from her lack of comprehension. Its only value is in demonstrating the ignorance of trans-excluders.

I remember the tale of the birth of the youngest grandchild, which only increased my admiration of Heather. Having edited or written three books, made many speeches, and contributed to several websites, she appears to be a full-time anti-trans campaigner, believing that trans acceptance is in some way a threat to women. It is a tragedy.

“Single-sex spaces” and transphobia

Transphobes express their transphobia in apocalyptic terms. “Gender ideology poses a threat to all of us” said one male transphobe eejit, and this is quoted as an inducement to get a transphobe book. “Reality matters for feminism” says a transphobe, obsessed with her transphobia, in the title of her book railing against trans people. “A regressive men’s rights movement is posing a massive threat to the human rights of women and children” says the blurb of another book entirely obsessed with trans people, by a Quaker transphobe. “We were constantly triggered,” said Amy Dyess.

They also express it in absolutist terms. The remote possibility that a trans woman might enter a space such as a toilet or changing room, because the owners and organisers of that space have not adopted rigorous policies to ensure that never happens, is enough to make trans-exclusionists call it “mixed sex”.

Consider what’s happening here. A lot of women would be uncomfortable with “mixed sex” toilets. The haters say women need “single-sex spaces” and most women would agree. The difference is portrayed as between going to pee where there are only women, and going to pee in a mixed group.

Now consider what these women gain, if the trans-exclusionists have their way. Rather than having a tiny chance of seeing a trans woman in a women’s loo, say, one in a hundred, she might have a lesser chance: those trans women might try to go where they are forbidden. It does not mean that there would be no crime in toilets, because some cis women are criminals. It does not mean that there will be no “predatory men” there, because a small sign on a door is no deterrent to violent men. It just means that the chance of seeing trans women is even less.

It also could mean considerable difficulty for the owners of the space. The law says that it is discrimination on the basis of gender reassignment to exclude trans women from it, unless that is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. That legitimate aim has to be additional to the aim which made it lawful to exclude men. Trans women are protected as soon as we decide to transition.

Fortunately, the Equality Act gives no-one a legal right to challenge the decision if the owners of women’s space decide to admit trans women, but gives trans women the right to challenge those owners if they do not. It is up to the owners and managers to exclude a trans woman if they wish, knowing that if they do they may be subject to a legal challenge. This balances the relative powerlessness of trans women, who may not have the money or the spare resilience to start such a challenge.

Turning to the Ann Sinnott case (Authentic Equity Alliance, indeed. Such silly, portentous names, proclaiming their righteousness, triggering their dupes. I think they mean, anti-trans hate group.) Sinnott wanted to redefine single-sex women’s spaces as excluding trans women. That would have meant paragraph 28 of schedule 3 of the Equality Act, to get technical for a bit, was meaningless and superfluous. Acts do not have superfluous paragraphs.

The judgment is here. Mr Justice Henshaw says, (para 25) “it is in my view clear beyond argument that Parliament has chosen, in the 2010 Act, to place transsexual persons in a different position from the generality of persons of their birth sex”. And at para 5 the judge says the claimant put the same argument in three different ways, none of which was valid.

Robin Moira White, author of the legal textbook on transgender law, has written a useful commentary.

One commentary claims it is “not phobic” in some circumstances to exclude trans women. But it is based on fear: the fear service users may feel on seeing a trans woman and perceiving her as a man. Unless there is fear, there is no need to exclude. Is it justified to refuse the trans woman service, or to require that she is served in some “separate but equal” way? Could there be another approach?

I object to Legal Feminist’s phraseology. They write of “refusing access to a person of the opposite sex” where they mean trans women. That is, they use the hate-group’s language, and continue the hate-group’s deliberate confusion between excluding men and excluding trans women. We are an anomaly, not a comprehensive redefinition of what it means to be a woman. Including us is an exception for particular vulnerable people, not an assault on the concept of single-sex spaces.

Legal Feminist says “women who have stopped using a service need to make this known”. There is a huge barrage of anti-trans hate against services which might include trans people, and intense lobbying fomented by hate groups. It’s not clear that they cease to use services, though.

I agree when they say this is a sad outcome. Women’s services have better things to do than fight legal cases from well-funded hate groups.

Excluding trans women from women’s spaces does little good to anyone, and great harm to trans people. There will be more litigation, and more triggering. Feminist energy is diverted from women’s needs to a myth.

Here is another commentary.

A brief introduction to trans rights and statutory interpretation

In the law of England, Wales, and Scotland, trans women are usually entitled to be in women’s space. There is no right to “single-sex spaces” in the sense the trans-excluders mean, women’s spaces excluding all trans women. To understand why, some explanation of the Equality Act 2010 and how statutes are interpreted is necessary.

I will refer to particular provisions of the Act. You can click the links if you want to follow my argument more deeply. The deeper you go, the more difficult and unclear it gets, as if the law is fractal: complexities can always be added. A hate site, which says what trans-excluders want to believe however easily refuted that is currently claims (link to web archive) “A male-to-female transitioner does not access the single-sex protections of females. They do not become female for the purposes of the EA2010.”

That there is no broad right to “single sex [No Transwomen!] space”, only women’s services which include trans women, is clear from Schedule 3.

Paragraph 26 allows separate services for women and for men, and paragraph 27 allows services for one sex only. Both give fairly obvious reasons, such as, if a woman might reasonably object to a man’s presence. It does not list loos, changing rooms, women’s shelters, but leaves that to the judge. Judges are expected to be reasonable, even though a lawyer might claim a client’s expectation is “reasonable”, because unreasonable clients are an excellent source of income for lawyers.

Then paragraph 28 allows trans people to be excluded, if that is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. There would be no point in having a separate provision if trans women were excluded as “men” from women’s services. The explanatory notes, while not binding, indicate what the drafters of the Act were thinking: they suggest that a “male to female transsexual person” could be excluded from a group counselling session for female victims of sexual assault- under paragraph 28, not 26 or 27.

Exclusion of a trans woman from single sex or separate sex services is indirect discrimination under s19. If trans women are treated differently to cis women, it creates a particular disadvantage, which needs to be justified. See AEA v EHRC, para 8.

That is clear enough. No further argument is necessary. Unfortunately, the trans-excluders have a certain amount of confusion to sow, and ignorant transphobes on facebook may refer to certain sections as a gotcha.

The first problem is that the headings are “separate services for the sexes” and “single-sex services”, and there is a reference to “persons of one sex”. Trans-excluders then go to the interpretation section, which my legal training tells me is usually towards the end of an Act (but the beginning of a statutory instrument- the kind of weirdness that means you need a law degree to understand this stuff.)

s212(1) says “’man’ means a male of any age” and “’woman’ means a female of any age”. That means that children are protected from sex discrimination too, not that trans women are “males” therefore “men”. Because this is a complex statute, there is also an “index of defined expressions” at schedule 28, which says that “Sex” is defined at s11. It does not define sex for all purposes, just “in relation to the protected characteristic of sex”, that is, for the purposes of sex discrimination claims. In those claims, one is either a man or a woman.

In the myths and desires of trans excluders, you cannot change sex and trans women are “male”, or “men”. So this provision makes them very happy. No Transwomen! Cue lots of excited sharing on facebook by non-lawyers who know no better, and articles by lawyers who should.

However then we look at s7, which protects trans people. It refers to “gender reassignment” but then to “reassigning sex”, and “changing… attributes of sex”. It refers to “transsexual persons”.

I have a gender recognition certificate, and so the Gender Recognition Act s 9 says my gender becomes the acquired gender (female) and my sex becomes “that of a woman”.

The law, and the English language, hopelessly confuse the concepts of sex and gender. When a form asks for “gender”, a transphobe is misinterpreting it if s/he says “I have no gender” (as some of them do). Practically, the form means “sex”. And, they might claim “reassigning sex” is not possible, but the Act envisages that it is.

Parliament can do anything. Unfortunately, the standard quote to illustrate this was in Dicey, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution: “Parliament can do everything but make a woman a man, and a man a woman”. But that is not binding either. Besides, law does not make me a woman. I am a woman by birth. Law simply recognises that.

Acts of Parliament do not include superfluous provisions.

There are also human rights issues. The case of Christine Goodwin says that for “a post-operative transsexual”, her right to privacy means she should be treated as a woman. It is obvious, and easy, to extend this to trans men too. I extend it to people from the moment we decide to transition. This is not quite so clear. I would start with the fact that the Equality Act protects us from discrimination from that moment, and pretty soon seek Counsel’s opinion. This is going far farther than a lay person could argue. The law is complex: complexity also makes money for lawyers.

I have seen a trans-excluder argue that we’re not entitled to privacy if they can tell we’re trans women. That’s why lesbians get misgendered in women’s loos.

There is no right to services excluding all trans women, in law. There may be a right to exclude a particular trans woman from a particular space, if there is good reason for it.

Trans-excluders may then get onto quote-mining. The Forstater case said Corbett v Corbett was still “the common law”. Well, that’s obiter dicta– legal Latin for incidental speech, which is not precedent.

Quote-miners could look at a report and quote, delightedly, that Stonewall are saying what they want the law to be, not what the law is, but in effect Stonewall are right. They explain the law for lay people to understand.

In 2020, there was at least $4bn sloshing about the world, to pay for trans excluder campaigning. The legal cases against trans people will be pressed hard. But trans women are usually entitled to go into women’s spaces. Any other interpretation is merely silly.

I said the law applies to England, Wales and Scotland. I had not been certain that the relevant bits did not apply to Northern Ireland so I looked at the “Extent” section, just before the schedules. That’s what a lawyer would do. More on the Equality Act.

See also: Mumsnet Law, on why the legal arguments of the trans-excluders make no sense, but why they put them anyway.

Trauma and the Idol

There is something of God in every human. Therefore God suffers. We need to cherish God.

God is in my reaction to life and events. Something hurts me, and God feels that hurt. This God is crushed beneath the weight of ego. Ego is concerned about how I appear to others and myself, and has taken into itself false ideas about safety, which are an idol: much of my effort goes to propitiating its ideas of safety. This involves denying my own, God’s, reactions, which threaten my sense of safety.

I am still dwelling on that incident in 2003. I will continue to dwell on it until I have extracted all the wisdom I can from it. I faced an injustice. I tried to fight it, but it was too much for me. This made me miserable.

I could not face that misery, because it felt like a threat to me. The false idol of my delusions of safety was threatened by it. Why?

Because if I can overcome even such injustice as that, then I am powerful, and so can keep myself safe. If I am not, I feel unsafe.

Because if I make such a contribution, then I have value. If I cannot, then I feel worthless, which makes me feel unsafe.

These feelings of unsafety come from trauma, the imminent fear of death. With Winston Smith I scream “Do it to Julia”. The terror is so great I will do anything to avoid it. It completely distorts my perceptions and desires.

I carry the weight of an increasing burden of distress, all the accumulated evidence that God in me does not fit my terror’s need for its omnipotence. Only omnipotence could have saved me. The threat receded, by luck not my actions, and I made myths about how I could avoid it in the future: I created the idol.

The burden got so great that I collapsed under it.

God is loving, creative, powerful, beautiful. That Love is in us. Cherish it, and it grows in us and guides us. My feeling- that distress- is a guide for me, telling me of the World. If I deny it, I block out all the positives too.

Someone wrote that I am “calm, sometimes passionate, always mindfully considerate, equipped with a fine sense of humor”. Zoom chat is a rich seam that I mine for appreciation of me, and will, until I take it into myself. When I can process the misery I will be able to process the delight.

My Friend who does good works, and never thinks they are enough, sent me her article on Dorothy Day, who did great works. I felt crushing judgment, and projected it onto her: I imagined she was judging me, but it was my Idol. I should be doing worthwhile things too.

Then I realise, I don’t want to save the world. Not at the moment anyway. That would be an ego desire, to prove that I am powerful and worthwhile so could keep myself safe, but I can never prove that to the Idol’s satisfaction.

My task now is to cherish God, that God’s love may grow in me, and nurse the idol gently until its screaming demands for tribute are lulled away. The trauma was unbearable, but, look around through God’s eyes.

I am as safe as I can be, for the moment. I am safe enough.

I keep going back to this. Each time, the Idol says, “Oh Goodie! The spiritual work is done, now you can go back to feeding my fantasies of invulnerability invincibility inviolability.” Each time, I go deeper.

This post is suffused with Advices and Queries paragraph 2.

Stating my needs

I was blessed today by a beautiful role-model. She stated her needs as she saw them, fully and completely. I wasn’t taking notes, so I am not completely sure how she expressed them. It was hard to hear. She said she needed “single-sex spaces” because of male violence against women. I don’t know if she used the term “trans women”, but I don’t think so. I am pretty sure she spoke about “male-bodied people” meaning trans women. I know she meant trans exclusion. She claimed that the Equality Act allowed “single-sex spaces” which is misleading: the Equality Act allows women’s spaces, which include trans women (anyone who has decided to transition male to female). Trans women can be excluded too, but that is a separate step requiring separate justification. Continue reading