Answering the conversion therapy consultation questions

A civil servant told me the point of a consultation was to quote the answers you liked, ignore the rest, and claim you were doing the will of the people. Another trick is to keep the questions so narrow you prevent answers you don’t like, as here. The two problems are the ridiculous claim that conversion from cis to trans is a problem, which could be used to block treatment and support for trans people especially trans children, and the free pass for religious bigots. How to put those into the answers, with these questions?
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My experiences of conversion therapy

The British Government has today published a consultation, and hopes to introduce legislation early next year. Under a pretence of opposing conversion therapy, it proposes civil powers which will have the effect of shutting down trans support groups, or preventing them doing their work. Content: suicide. Continue reading

The Equality Act code of practice

Trans women are entitled to enter women’s services by self-identification. Under the Equality Act s7, we are treated as trans women- “transsexual persons”- from the moment we decide to transition, and entitled to use services according to the gender we present. That decision is before we see psychiatrists- years before, with the current waiting lists. So we self-identify. We have been entitled to do this since regulations in 2008. Self-ID is no new threat, but the ordinary law.

The EHRC introduced guidance in April 2022 contradicting the Code, but the Code still takes precedence. The code of practice on Services, public functions and associations reads as from a different time. It says, “The Equality Act 2010 sets a new expectation that public services must treat everyone with dignity and respect.” Continue reading

EHRC guidance on trans exclusion in 2021

Getting Equality enacted was not an end in itself. What matters is that businesses and public services should act and plan more thoughtfully and responsibly, that people will be treated fairly as they go about their everyday lives. The EHRC would advise and model this fairness, and enforce the law where necessary. Continue reading

A potential anti-trans campaigner

Dear Bob,

You asked what the hoo-ha was about Dave Chapelle, and later said he’s a comedian, comedians say provocative things, what’s all the fuss about? You said you wanted to be inclusive, so you wanted to include “those who have needs around bodies with penises etc”. You thought I would take a different view of those trans women with penises “after what you’ve had done”, outing me to anyone watching who did not know my operation status. You say you are merely curious, and want to honour and respect everyone’s needs, but I see you at the edge of a rabbit hole and wonder how I might nudge you away from it. If I do this badly I might just push you in.

I don’t have Netflix. Trans people say Chapelle’s show is vile. I trust their judgment.

I know you do not see yourself as a bad person. You see yourself as having curiosity, and a wish to include everyone, including those cis women who speak so winsomely about their fear and hurt around bodies with penises, and their need for private spaces. These are good traits. I fear if I hint they could lead to trans exclusion I will push you down the rabbit hole. Affronted, you would say, “These trans people are totally unreasonable”, and listen more to those winsome voices.

If I said I enjoyed Jim Davidson in the 1990s, ignoring or not seeing how vile his racism was, you might say it is not like that at all. Davidson was last regularly on the BBC in 2002.

“What I’ve had done” doesn’t make a difference to who I was in 1999- in denial but knowing really that I had to transition and terrified of it, going out with a trans friend dressed female from a boat on the Norfolk Broads to country pubs and using the women’s loos. Someone in that situation, not having made a definite commitment to transition, would not be protected by the Equality Act now. But, in the situation I was in in 2003, having transitioned but not yet been cut, they would be protected. Those are the “bodies with penises”- “genuine” trans women who would be equally traumatised and terrified as the most recent rape victim, if their genitals were seen. You can’t tell the difference without taking our knickers down, because any penises will probably be tucked. Most of them want the operation.

It’s tempting to divide people up in this way. “Bodies with penises”- that’s what they are really, right? Take away the veil. No. I am a human being. I want to be seen as a whole human being. There are transphobes- I read what they say, and I see the transphobia. One said she could not use a women’s loo because of the possibility there might be a trans woman in there. That’s a phobic reaction. There are hardly any of us and it is unlikely there will be a trans woman. And it would not really matter if there were. You don’t see someone’s genitals in a public loo, and the trans woman seeks privacy just as any other user does.

“Bodies with penises”- oh, right. So they’re not frightened of me, they’re frightened of someone who looks exactly like me and can only be distinguished by a crotch inspection.

When you asked why people could not just live as feminine men, I heard a challenge. Well, my father managed it, why couldn’t I? Perhaps certain experiences or life circumstances made me do this. That’s what I said. I did not say that I paid a psychiatrist and psychologist for aversion therapy. I asked a clergyman, whose church I went to weekly, to lay hands on me hand pray over me to heal me. I joined the territorial army and went to the gym to make a man of myself. I am a huge fan of Abigail Thorn, who is 28, who says she went to the gym to bulk up and- make a man of herself. It’s what we do. I still feel ashamed of failing. I still wished I was not trans, even after I realised that would mean I did not exist and there would be someone else in my place.

I value knowing you (to the extent that I do). I call you a potential anti-trans campaigner and you might think that ridiculous and offensive, you’re just asking questions. Someone might not be an anti-vaxxer but just curious about what they have to say. What they say can sound persuasive, and does persuade people- apparently including Kishwer Falkner, chair of the EHRC. There are still “ex-gays” about, proclaiming their liberation from the homosexual yoke- see the Restored Hope Network. They persuade people too. So do anti-vaxxers. I know the disbelief of friends when someone becomes a covid-denier. The clue is in the word “winsome”.

Please, see me.

My experiences of being trans

Quakers ask me, again, to share my personal experiences. I feel judged. Are these stories enough? Would they convince anyone that I am trans, and can be no other?

I woke at 4am, which is never a good time to make a decision, thinking of my colleague Vicky. She had rapidly progressing MS, and had gone from being asymptomatic to needing a wheelchair in two years. I envied her. I would have swapped lives with her, because no-one would doubt that she was female. So I thought, I have to transition as soon as possible.

I don’t understand it. I could appear to be a perfectly normal man. I wanted transition, which I thought would mean I would get sacked, more than anything else in the world. And my friend said, “It’s as if you’re acting when you’re Stephen, and when you’re Clare you’re just you”.

I have told these stories so often I use the same words. I feel judged. Is that enough for you? O ye wha are sae good yersel, sae pious and sae holy. “The acceptance of homosexuality distresses some Friends”, Quakers said.

I am Clare. I am a woman. It makes no sense beyond, it just is. There have always been trans people. Deuteronomy would not forbid it if it hadn’t existed then. What experience will be enough?

In 2002, when I transitioned, before the Gender Recognition Act or the Equality Act, I got a driving licence and passport indicating I am female, and a credit card with the title “Miss”. I have used women’s loos and shop changing rooms ever since without a problem. The Equality Act allows trans women to use women’s services unless there is a good reason to exclude us. The fuss, whereby to judge from the number of articles in The Times trans is a greater threat to humanity than the climate crisis, only really got going around 2017.

These are the stories I can tell. I will not convince everyone. Is my fear and desperation unassuageable?

I want to step into my grace.

I cannot convince the whole world. All I can do, when others say I am a man, is calm the echoes their comments arise in myself. Having convinced myself, I do not have to convince anyone else. Here is the difference between speaking in ministry, saying what needs to be heard, and speaking “hot from the world”, where I am het up and feel moved by all the emotions.

This is how it is, and I am not resisting it- not the world, nor my own feelings. Then I can flow like water, act as I need. That’s the theory, anyway. The small step forward today is to replace the word “power” with “grace”.

The theory is also that I am projecting my own judgment onto others. Man tells story: people thought he was gay. Yeah, yeah, projecting, I think. Then he said someone asked him. Not just projecting, then. He’s straight, it’s just he had a very close male friend who is bi. It’s a different situation. There were people with a belief about him that wasn’t true, and about which some have moral judgments- being gay is less than being straight, not really a “real man”, pitiable. About me, I really am trans, and others’ moral judgments on that really matter to me, because they raise echoes in me, and fear of judgment and loss. When they don’t raise echoes in me, I will know how I feel about them then.

What else would I say? There’s that thing about using the most up-to-date Woke language, and I learned two words new to me yesterday. They are trixic and toric. Think “Aviatrix”, a word I thought hadn’t really been used since Amelia Earhart, until I googled it. Trixic means nonbinary loving women, toric means nonbinary loving men. Possibly “transbian”, a trans woman attracted to women, and “gynephile” meaning attracted to women but not specifying the sex or gender of the one attracted, are outdated.

There’s that thing about the EHRC in January 2022 telling theatres and shops how they can exclude trans women from women’s loos and changing rooms. I only heard about that on Thursday 21st, and I find it scary.

Part of the problem here is I don’t want to address the question of “including those who have needs around bodies with penises etc”, I just want to mess about. Or, I want to be playful, winsome and loveable, so that no-one would be unkind to me. This is a small child response.

On “needs around bodies with penises”, one option is to exclude all trans women, and all trans men who have had chest surgery and hormones so they have facial hair, from women’s loos etc. It’s the obvious option if you ignore or minimise the needs of trans people. That’s why the excluders don’t mention us.

Why can’t they just admit they are men, anyway? What’s the difference between “trans women” and feminine men? Possibly nothing but life experiences and their understanding of the options, I replied. I am so tempted to discount my overwhelming desire. (Added: at 6am on 24 October I am dwelling on that, how I remain ashamed of not resisting. Such overwhelming shame stopped me, at that moment, from saying- what? “This is who I am, I can be no other.”)

I have thought so much about an hour’s conversation with probably fewer than ten people, given it so much mental energy, wept and raged. It will be over tomorrow, until the next time.

Excluding trans women without mentioning us

“We want to expel every last trans woman from every single women’s service, and guarantee that none will ever enter again. We want to control language, so that no-one can acknowledge that trans men are men, so oppose any and all language that refers to trans male obstetrics or reproductive health.”

If only the “gender-critical feminists” would say what they wanted clearly, there could be a debate. We could ask, who would this change in the law harm, and would it benefit anyone? Can we balance different people’s needs? Are there conflicting rights? Unfortunately, expressing their desires so clearly would show how paltry they are, how little conceivable benefit they would produce, what harm they would do.

So they often couch their demands for exclusion in terms of “belief”. No-one is sacked for “believing sex is real”. They are, rarely, sacked for demanding trans exclusion or being rude to trans people, but more often the trans employee or customer will be driven away. I don’t care about their beliefs, I care about their oppressive actions. Unfortunately they seem to have persuaded themselves that “trans woman” is a meaningless term, not distinguishing us from men. So they talk of mixed sex and single sex spaces, and women losing rights or access, as if women’s loos were full of men.

On Woman’s Hour, Emma Barnett interviewed Kishwer Falkner, the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The website said they would consider equal pay, a feminist issue, but the whole six minute interview covered “guidance for preserving single-sex spaces”. They did not mention trans women at all. Barnett, interviewing, was concerned that businesses would not be clear when they could discriminate against us, and so discriminate less than they might. Falkner hopes to report in January. It’s clearly about trans women, to a trans woman, simply because it paints a picture of no women’s loos being available in theatres, and businesses with customer toilets not knowing there can be “separate sex-based areas”.

The problem in businesses is that the women’s toilets often have the same floor area as men’s, so that women queue while men’s cubicles go unused, but they do not mention that. Of course there are women’s loos in business premises, it’s just that they accommodate trans women too.

Explaining this to someone who really does not see it is about trans exclusion, or is disingenuously denying that, is difficult. You have to translate. Falkner says the EHRC gets complaints from “experts in the field”- trans excluders- that “organisations’ websites”- Stonewall- misinterpret the exception.

It is a non-issue for most cis people. Trans women use women’s loos. So what. But they paint it as “relating to listeners’ lives”. It is true that there are fewer public toilets, but that is because of Tory public spending cuts, not because of trans issues. There is tugging on heart strings. Falkner says in one theatre “there was no single-sex space for women but for one toilet right in the rafters”. Theatres have bars, so they need toilets. Falkner craves sympathy for “an elderly woman climbing long flights of steps”. What if I were in the Gods, queued for the loo, then found it had a sign on the door saying it was a “single-sex toilet”. But no, this imagined elderly woman climbed from the stalls because the stalls loos admit trans women.

They want to exclude us from toilets. They want to upend our lives. They want not to mention us- we should be excluded, like any other “man”. Falkner says far more businesses could exclude trans women from women’s services than do, now- except she doesn’t, she says they could “use the exemptions that exist,” an abstract phrase in an attempt to sound dispassionate. She won’t anticipate the guidance, because that could cause legal problems, but she mentions the NHS, so we could be put on men’s wards, and retail, so we could be not allowed to try clothes on before buying. All without mentioning trans women once.

“All we need to do is point out what the law says,” says Falkner, and businesses will exclude trans women. I dread the guidance.

Framing it as a “women’s rights issue” and not mentioning trans women makes them terribly self-righteous. The Guardian had an article headed “My hope for a more open discussion of women’s and trans rights is fading”. Tell me about it, I thought. But again the complaint was about the powerful trans lobby oppressing women. Kathleen Stock! The writer complained of Stonewall, Edinburgh Rape Crisis, Keir Starmer, and Carla Denyer supporting trans rights, but did not ask herself “Are we the baddies?” Her views are being silenced, she complains.

She had hoped for a “more open discussion” because of Forstater’s Employment Appeal Tribunal case. All the EAT said was that Forstater’s beliefs were not as bad as fascism, so she should not be sacked merely for holding them. She is delighted that the UK Sports Council tells sporting bodies to exclude trans women. In an article which calls for balance and an end to polarisation, she claims that “the fear of male abusers who could take advantage of self-ID rules is rooted in fact”. Her idea of a “balanced discussion” differs from mine.

“Human bodies have limits,” she says. No trans surgery! Children are under threat! And then, “My own understanding is neither fixed or complete”. She claims an open mind, though her belief in her own righteousness is unassailable. And because she is merely “asserting her beliefs”, she does not notice the people she would hurt.

She does not feel her beliefs are recognised as valid, but that is the wrong question. Should trans women be expelled from our women’s spaces? What good, or harm, would that do? Meanwhile, if anyone advertises a “single sex space” I will take refuge in the Gender Recognition Act s9, which says that as I have a gender recognition certificate my sex is female. If they mean, “No Trans Women Allowed!!” they will have to say that.

Before Falkner, we had an Equality and Human Rights Commission. It was concerned for the rights of those who suffer unjust discrimination, and those whose human rights are breached, and worked to improve their rights. Now, Falkner says her organisation is for everyone in the country. So, she will tell businesses when they might be entitled to discriminate against trans women, and exclude us, because her organisation is for their benefit as well as for the trans women’s. It will not stop there. On the same principle, she would advise those who do not pay women equally how they can challenge the evidence of that.

Offence, hurt, fear and trust

There is a caricature of a trans person or woke ally, objecting to some phrase as not the latest, most correct language, and being “Offended”. When should you use the word “trans,” and when “transgender”? Someone in my mostly-safe space said that they “weren’t sure of the right words”, at the weekend, and I was in part irritated, in part frightened. It maintains a hard-Right myth that the powerful metropolitan elite, the radical Woke, and even trans people are oppressing ordinary people by demanding they talk and think in a particular way.

I am way beyond offence at misgendering. I will try to maintain an illusion that the other means well, just made a mistake, and mistakes are OK.

Or if I hear on the radio a fawning interview of an anti-trans campaigner, I am not offended, I am frightened. The outside world, where there is hostility to me simply because I am trans, has intruded into my house. I am interested in politics, and want to read mainstream centre-left commentary, but in the New Statesman, Guardian and BBC anti-trans views are regularly platformed uncritically. I am not the Elite, using being Offended to oppress others. Instead I hear the powerful broadcast their hostility to me simply because I am trans.

Well, what do you expect? Do you think society should support its members, and do you expect such support? That expectation, the basic trust that society is on my side, is a sign of privilege. Do you think the police support the population generally, or the powerful? A friend told me of going with three bus-loads of demonstrators. The police turned them back, closing a dual carriageway but for the buses with a police escort, which changed at each county boundary. They weren’t allowed to pee. Later, she got £5000 compensation. For her, the police are an oppressive force, and the courts work for her because she has the contacts with the knowledge and funds to use them. Not everyone has.

My bad experiences with policemen are not that bad, in the scheme of things, and I still feel some nervousness seeing a police van with seats for officers and a cage at the back for a prisoner parked in my street. Probably the person they have come for is violent or theftuous. I have some trust that their work has some value, but not a sunny expectation that if I am in a confrontation they will be on my side.

Society as a whole does not seek my good. I can survive and find allies. Much distress comes from the difference between expectation and reality. Surely the New Statesman and Guardian, even the BBC, should support the rights of minorities? That is not how the world is. I need to see reality as it is, however discomfiting the experience.

I remember Saira’s casual contempt when abused in the street. The men shouted “Fucking Paki!” She told me she thought, “Oh, get it right”- her parents were from Bangladesh. She is not cowed by them. Also at the weekend there was lovely, charming and just the tiniest bit creepy Alan. His delight and admiration at my femininity, beautiful hands, indeed personal beauty, was flattering, and I was perturbed for my boundaries. He told me the secret of good posture walking and standing was not to pull the shoulders back but to tighten the muscles of the lower back slightly, which support the rest of the body in a relaxed posture. Hold your head high. Pass through the hostility unashamed.

Of course it is frightening. Bad things may happen. Powerful men are inciting anger and hostility against trans people. I cannot trust society to support me. I can only trust myself. This is about stepping into power. The problem is that society tells us we will be safe, if only we don’t make a fuss, rock the boat, get noticed. I have tried that for too long. It does not work.

I had a wonderful weekend. I cycled to Peterborough, got the train to Diss, stopped off in Ely going, Norwich coming back, to see the cathedrals, and spent three nights with ten friends. The devoted love our hosts have for each other, in spite of difficulties, is inspiring. I also touristed a church, opened up for a prayer group, with a tower from 1500 but the rest rebuilt in the 19th century. The priest chatted a bit, of her six churches, testing out whether I might worship there. I don’t believe in God the Father Almighty, I told her, and she said there is also the Spirit, as if there is a choice.

At one point I spoke on “It’s not easy being trans” and a friend got up and walked away. I love her humour and intelligence and I sympathise with her resenting becoming a foreigner at Brexit. I want that friendship, but nothing is guaranteed.