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.
I found it harder to hear the trans woman speaking. I remember she said she had “male privilege”. Trans women are set against each other, and rub each other up the wrong way- with internalised transphobia, no-one pushes my buttons more comprehensively than another trans woman.
That mention of privilege hurt all the more, because I too have said I have male privilege, before a large Quaker audience. It is not true. Any privilege I have is negated by the weight of my trauma, and the desperate measures I have undertaken to maintain a fragile equanimity in the face of it.
Rather than stating my needs, I am strongly tempted to speak out of my comfort zone. There, I appear wise and loving, and say sensible things about valuing everyone. I am intelligent and articulate, and sound like a Quaker. This might seem like male privilege. It is as if I cannot conceive of people like the gender-critical speaker not taking my needs into account. I just assume my needs will be considered, and discuss what crumbs to throw to the gender-critical.
But it is not male privilege. I need to get that clear in my own mind.
I said I had male privilege. I tried to be the Wise Quaker, and did great damage, but allowed Quakers to pretend to be the wise, judicious Quakers who know best, and can reconcile and find truth, while stating [cis] women need trans women excluded. I am desolate about the damage I did.
Debbie Hayton is a self-hating trans woman. She regularly writes for The Spectator, about how women need single-sex spaces and extreme trans activists are demanding too much. She may think she is advocating a sane, balanced accommodation of trans women, and that she is valued for her skill at writing. (I am jealous of such a prominent platform, but not jealous of the deformities she needs to embrace to get it.) In reality she is a dupe of the hard Right, making the lives of a vulnerable minority, including herself, harder.
She seems to want to propitiate the sins of trans women. She has said she traumatised her wife by her transition.
She is not listening to me, but I would say to her, if you have wronged your wife you know all you have to do is to revert. Go back to presenting male. Then attempt to heal your relationship. That she does not do that shows that she cannot, so she should not blame herself for following her own needs by transitioning. If her wife is traumatised it is not her fault.
So there is one need. I need to express myself as a woman.
It’s not male privilege or sense of entitlement, it’s terror. Finding stating my needs so difficult, I am disassociated. I fear death, because of my repeated trauma. (More on this tomorrow.)
Now I remind myself of my happy place. It’s a twice-weekly Zoom meeting, and I have a 63 page document of extracts from the chat: I save the bits which say things like “You are absolutely marvellous, Abigail”. “Haha, Genius”. “You are wonderful.” “You look so beautiful.”
Oops, that one might irritate the gender-critters. Objectifying Women!! Bad!! So, there’s a desire: escaping the seriousness of the situation with a little humour, and- irritating the gender-critters. I know it may not do good in the long run, but-
it’s something like I need to hit back. And I need to do it covertly, because I can’t do it directly. It is better to know and acknowledge need, or I might get a bit chaotic.
“Thank you wonderful Abigail ❤ xxx.”
Oh! Here’s a good one! “beautiful Sister Abigail who shared her journey into the heart of God with such passion and determination.” How could I resist sharing that?
Calling me “male-bodied” (I can’t hear it as abstract, it is personal because if won it would affect my rights and my safety) is profoundly threatening for me. And I am so used to it that I dissociate. Maybe I should just have walked out- but then I would be unable to influence the situation, and I want to be able to influence it.
All the acceptance is never enough. I have internalised transphobia, and cannot accept myself. Now, that is often used very cruelly: people say directly or hint subtly, well, you know you’re a man, stop pretending. I need to accept myself.
Until then I need some support to be acceptable. Humans are a social species, none of us is completely self-reliant.
Did I make a fool of myself by losing it and shouting “NO! NO!” before getting muted? Definitely. It is not what Quakers do. And, privilege is the ability to sound wise and articulate like a Quaker rather than being only able to scream.
I screamed, “NO! NO!” and you should sense where the words come from and what has nourished my life. Very little, actually, I am clinging on by my fingernails. I admit I have obligations to consider the needs of others. We lose something, if we shut out the screams of pain.
God, I want to be the wise Quaker. A trans friend got into a lot of trouble by “pissing about,” as she put it, making jokes and bamboozling other Quakers.
I am rambling a bit. Needs, yes, that was what I wanted to type. This is threatening. I will state what I need, and I will be told I can’t have it, and I will have to put myself together as best I can. Again.
I need to express myself as Abigail, and not as a man, because Abigail is who I am.
I need to be accepted as Abigail, a woman, even when someone thinks I look and behave like a man.
I need supported when I face anti-trans hatred or that ghastly lack of sympathy or interest we find in the gender-criticals.
I need community. These are bare survival needs: Yeah, yeah, self-actualisation, maybe in another life.
Articulating needs is difficult! It brings up all sorts of fears in me. It brings out dissociative reactions.
I don’t think the anti-trans campaigners need women’s space from which trans women are rigorously excluded quite as much as they claim to. I think they need an acknowledgment of the repeated trauma of sexual violence and the weight of patriarchy even among Quakers, and concrete action to deal with these things. Excluding trans women who are just as vulnerable only makes you feel better if you cannot get anything better than that. In the cases where there is a real need for space without trans women, let us negotiate it, don’t just make an absolute demand no trans women not never not nohow. Or a demand for “single-sex spaces” where everyone knows you mean no trans women but no-one ever says it.
Well, Friends. Here are two groups of traumatised women- trans women, and trans-excluders. We are set against each other, to the detriment of all. You can play at being the Wise Quakers, by making a minute to make yourselves feel good- either “We recognise trans women are women, and Liz Truss is a horrid Tory” (that would make me feel good too) or “we recognise that adolescent children may be being allowed to make permanent life-changing decisions and that there has been a closing down of discussion” to please the gender-crits, and drive me away. Or, you can do the serious work we have before us.
Over to you.
And- any Quakers reading, remember, this is my blog where I can say what I like and write at length to find what I think. 2 Corinthians 11:1: “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!” I will try to say something like Ministry if I am ever tolerated in Quaker space again.