Transphobia in the EHRC

The Equality and Human Rights Commission echoes transphobic propaganda to undertake transphobic acts. On Wednesday 26th it wrote to the Scottish government to oppose gender recognition reform.

It suggests there is a distinction between “a small defined group” of trans people who should get GRCs because they have demonstrated their commitment and ability to live in our true gender, and others who might identify as the opposite gender at some point.

If gender is cultural, to talk of the “opposite gender” is meaningless. There are more than two. And, that is a tougher test than the current one. I have lived in my “acquired gender” for the past two years, but Kishwer Falkner seeing that I rarely go out might think I was not really capable, and might even suggest reverting. But I would get a GRC if I did not have one already, having the psychiatric diagnoses, and credit card statements in my female name.

Internalised transphobia holds many people back from transition. We worry, are we trans enough. Then we transition. We are clearly trans. The EHRC perpetuates the myth that people who are not trans really need protection from unwise transition.

Then they quote transphobic myths. No, GRCs will not affect sport, as who is entitled to participate in women’s sports does not depend on gender recognition, but on safety and fairness. No, counting trans women as women does not affect data gathering, as there are so few of us. They have swallowed these myths circulated by transphobes.

Their response to the Conversion therapy consultation is equally transphobic. They want to go ahead with a sexual orientation conversion ban but delay a trans conversion ban to get an evidence base. They want scrutiny to show that a ban has no harmful effect. They accept the idea of banning converting someone from cis to trans, as if that were possible, or anyone wanted to. “Forced feminisation” is a sex game, not a serious attempt at conversion. But therapists might fear any encouragement of transition in case someone reverted and accused them of conversion.

“Of course you are transsexual” is the single best thing any counsellor ever said to me, and I fled. I did not see him again for six months. Therapists will fear helping with internalised transphobia, which is a huge problem for pre-transition trans people. Support groups may fear admitting anyone who expresses doubt about transition. The concept of conversion from cis to trans is potentially terribly damaging.

They fear a ban on anti-trans CT would “prevent appropriate support” for people with gender dysphoria, that is even when we are trans we should “explore” whether transition is right, and therapists should make us do so rather than just affirm our gender identity, as if any therapist ever did that. They affirm “attempts to reconcile a person to their biological sex”.

They accept that someone should be able to consent to CT, even someone under 18. They say parents should be allowed to oppose transition because of the right to family life. In Canada, they look after the child’s rights.

They say encouraging people to follow religion banning gay sex or transition should be allowed. Preaching about sexual ethics and gender roles should be allowed, though it caused me great harm.

Paragraph 23 took my breath away. The EHRC suggests that banning CT might be discrimination against LGBT people.

The EHRC is threatening guidance for “single-sex service providers”. It can no longer be trusted to work for the interests of trans people.

The EHRC letter to the Scottish government is available here. As I could only find its response to the CT consultation on a hate site, I have uploaded it as a .docx file here.

Sex, gender, and the EHRC

Has the Equality and Human Rights Commission kept its promise to tell businesses they can exclude trans women from women’s services? It’s doing its best.

The Core Guidance for businesses is not yet changed, and the Statutory code of practice still applies, but the note on Gyms, health clubs, and changing rooms claims a difference between Sex and Gender, and could affect us in changing rooms. It was last changed on 13 July 2020, and was still visible- see web archive- on 6 April 2022, after the new, trans-exclusionary, guidance came out.

For anti-trans campaigners, trans women change gender, but not sex. Sex-based rights are for cis women. Therefore No Transwomen in Women’s Spaces! It’s a simple syllogism. But that’s not the difference between sex and gender.

Sex is physical and gender is cultural. If you want to reproduce without medical help, you need a couple with a functioning womb and functioning testicles. If any trans person has a genital operation, or takes hormones, that’s a matter of sex- their fertility is affected. But whether people wear high heels, skirts or makeup is cultural.

If a trans man needs a cervical smear test, that’s sex, and if he has bristles on his chin that’s sex too. But his choice to shave them is a matter of culture- gender, not sex. And who are the victims of violence, and whose violence is condoned, is cultural. Who needs, and who deserves protection from violence, and whose protection matters less? Culture decides.

The Equality Act says we have the protected characteristic of “gender reassignment” once we decide to transition, and calls us “transsexual persons”. It makes no distinction between sex and gender.

So, what about changing rooms? Last year, the EHRC was confused about the difference between sex and gender, and this year they are confused in a different way. Before, they wrote we should be treated as belonging “to the sex in which the transsexual person presents”. But I “present” or express my sex with my feminine hairstyle, clothes, and perhaps makeup. That’s culture. I don’t have to prove my fertility or infertility.

Now they say we should be treated as belonging to “the gender they identify with”. But, I’m wearing high heels, a skirt, and makeup. If gender is cultural rather than physical, that’s my gender. It’s not a matter of “identifying with”, it’s just who I am. Or, I’m in jeans and a T-shirt, but my breasts (sex) change my visible shape, and I use the name Clare. My sex is ambiguous, if you really want to do a chromosome test, but my gender is female.

There’s another change, and it relates to those “visually indistinguishable” trans women which we should all, apparently, aspire to be. Do you pass, girls? No? Work harder!! Deportment and voice are so important, and if your frame is too masculine you should probably not transition at all.

(Irony alert)

Possibly none of us are visually indistinguishable. Justice Ormrod thought April Ashley looked like a “female impersonator”. Before, the EHRC wrote about these paragons’ “preferred gender” and “acquired gender”. Gender, cultural, even though having breasts- physical, a matter of secondary sexual characteristics- is part of passing.

Now, the EHRC refers to “the gender they identify with” and their “gender identity”. Are you “visually and for all practical purposes indistinguishable from someone of the gender [you] identify with”? That makes no sense. I and a cis woman are both glammed up, make-up, evening gown with a slit up to here, “fuck me” shoes, very different from the second wave feminist in her DMs and crew cut.

If gender is cultural, the feminine woman and the second wave feminist exhibit different gender. And allowing trans people to go out into the world and thrive shows that we can express our true gender, so increases freedom for that second wave feminist, and everyone else.

Claiming gender is cultural does not help the trans-excluders make sense.

I am worried about the EHRC. It has been captured by Tory appointees, several of whom are trans excluders: Akua Reindorf, Lady Falkner. But this page, last updated 22 December 2021, is unobjectionable- it says trans women should use women’s services except “in very restricted circumstances”. The EHRC still has a lot of employees supporting trans rights, despite their board.

Imprisonment and liberation

In 1998, Dr Graeme McGrath, who had helped my trans friends, decided I was not trans. It is hard to know what to feel about that, twenty years after transition. He said I talked about strong feelings then adopted a mask of ironic detachment as a defence of my fragile sense of self. Even if he could provide the depth of psychotherapy I needed it might just threaten my defences. I was too messed up for psychotherapy to work.

I’ve been feeling “a bit” sad. And, I hate that “a bit”: it is minimising. Like I have “a little” poem I would like to read: little, slight, not really worth noticing, I crave your indulgence. Don’t do yourself down, I think, though Steve said, Spanish uses diminutives, eg “Conchita”, as terms of endearment.

-How are you?
-OK I suppose.

OK. Being below par is a bit frightening- no, terrifying. Less than OK is unbearable. So there is a depressing burden of alrightness, where unacknowledged pain builds up.

-Share your heart, if you feel safe to do so. (I do, with you.)

I don’t know. A feeling I am missing something, stuck in old patterns. If I am feeling hurt, I want to explain and articulate that, rather than simply being “hurt”. That distances me from the feeling. This feeling of being only just OK might be ameliorated by a sense of being loved, but I need constant reassurance of being loved and loveable. This makes me terribly vulnerable.

I hurt, feeling unloved. I don’t want to say that to other people, because I am an adult and do not want to appear vulnerable. In some way that causes me to be unable to admit it to myself. The imprisonment is that I cannot admit my misery to myself. The causal link locks me away.

My retreat to my living room is an attempt at emotional regulation. It calms my fears to bearable levels for me, and means that I don’t show unacceptable emotion- misery, fear, despair- to others. Out in the world, my feelings burst out, undammable, and so I feel too vulnerable, but even retreated I am still tortured by stress. My retreat is a waste of my gifts, but not the cause of my isolation. If I must conceal my feelings and never be open with anyone, then I am isolated from people even when I am among them.

Then, another’s love is threatening: it could make me emotionally incontinent, admit that I am not OK. I am not receptive to Love because I cannot show that part of myself.

I could not feel that delight fully without feeling my sadness. Delight alone would have been inauthentic and incomplete- it was delight and sadness commingled. My back tenses as I realise this, then releases as I write it down.

I want to let feelings flow naturally, I say, but I don’t want to pause to feel them. I want to hold them in myself and not show them. I can’t admit this is difficult. I am emotionally constipated, and fear incontinence, but if I feared my feelings less-

Could I learn to feel? I could cower, cry, or rage (or just gurn) as a way of processing the feelings through my body. I wish I had learned that as a toddler, in my family, before going to school.

I know that if I feel the feelings I will show them to others and that is Death. Possibly, you could help. You would tell me it was safe to feel and even express emotion. Or, the ghosts that I keep in my head, and use to talk things through, could tell me that. (I am in control of the ghosts in my head.) I want to be mothered. I come to you with my emotional problem, you help me find a way to deal with it.

First this made emotional sense to me, but having written it out it makes rational sense, and that is far more comfortable. I could never have explained it to my mother. She just would not understand. So it all became unconscious. I could not see the prison bars, or love, the file to cut them.

Imprisonment is feeling unsafe to feel fear, sadness or anger. I am convinced that if I feel them I will express them and then I will be judged, and suffer. Liberation is to let the feelings flow, feel them fully, accept them as part of me that needs my Love.

The dance and the game

As she looked at me, I felt my softness being valued. In her regard, my delicate flower stood tall. She said it was beautiful to look at me. I have to accept my sadness completely, in order to appreciate my delight. We are present to each other.

This is how I want to be, and I enjoy it, then analyse it. What am I doing, now? I take off my masks. I speak from the Real Me. Or, I show my vulnerable, feminine self. Three ways of seeing it each casting light from a different direction, each illuminating parts other images leave in shadow, none complete. The mask seems welded on, and to be seen without it is liberation, my only desire.

Burnt Norton: In the still point of the turning world, there is only the dance. There is who I am and what I do in the moment, and how I imagine it looks or want it to appear falls away. In almost all my actions there is care for appearances, more to myself than to others, and self-consciousness, and here I might flow naturally, unconstrained.

Nirvana is nonbeing. There is no I. There is only the dance. Possibly I should only do this with a lover (not with her) or possibly it could expand to all of life. This is paradise everyone old has dreamed of all their lives: the deep blue air that shows nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless, behind high windows Larkin could only look through, hoping that couple of kids were free to fly, like birds.

As a potential partner I have a great deal of beauty but fear I have little use. My earning potential is minimum wage at best. So I unfankle all the mess, the masks and pretence, the desire for appearance rather than reality, the impossible falsehoods. “I” is the whole animal process dancing with the world, changing it as I am changed, and “I” is the illusion that blocks the flow, the demands not to feel that were branded in me.

Mind-blown, I went to the Quaker group. With adolescent certainty I told them where they were going wrong. There is the dance, and then there is the game, which has rules. The business meeting is on the second Sunday of the month, and members should send agenda items to the clerk by the first Sunday so that the agenda may be circulated in good time.

But—but—

The DANCE!!!

If only I could put it into words. But those words would become dust as soon as they were spoken, not even a finger pointing at the moon. Human kind cannot bear very much reality.

If only we could trust the wisdom we know. If only we could sit in silent worship in the business meeting. You only speak once, so you gather what you must say. You seek the good of all, and not appearances. You listen to Friends, and see their unmasked beauty. It is not a committee meeting where we talk over each other.

Nirvana is possible, and ungraspable. I fall away from it into habit. The words cast light and shadows. And I dismiss the rules, for they only permit a game, which is less than the dance. But there is wisdom which might let us dance freely. And I delight in my adolescence: I have been stunted, welded in, and adolescence is growth and life.

Nikki da Costa

The interview of Nikki da Costa on Radio 4 this week, giving her an unchallenged platform to attack trans people and trans rights, was reprehensible, but I will not be complaining. Before making a case against the interview, I make a case for it in order to see what I have to refute.

Da Costa argued that the law on conversion therapy should be delayed to make sure it was drafted properly. She claimed there was a risk that a therapist or parents who correctly challenged a teenager’s conviction that they were trans, who wanted to “really explore, slow down and check what’s happening”, could be at risk of accusations that they were engaging in conversion therapy, and an innocent person could be dragged through the courts.

What risks are there when a child presents as trans? The risk da Costa identifies is a risk to cis children, who are wrong to claim that they are trans. They could be gay or lesbian. Being autistic might make them unable to see they would be better off living in their birth gender. What if they “go down a medicalised pathway” and then revert? She did not say, but meant, their breasts or testicles, their voice, fertility and body hair distribution, could be irreversibly damaged.

It is hard to get cis people to admit there might be a risk to trans people too. Going through the wrong puberty, when it is theoretically avoidable, is traumatic and causes life-long avoidable problems with passing. Our acceptance should not depend on whether we pass or not, but passing makes a trans person’s life easier and gender dysphoria less. There is great anger and misery among the cis community when someone reverts, because the cis people think that proves they were never trans, but delaying transition seems unproblematic to them, however painful it is to us.

Getting them to accept that the trans child is traumatised is difficult. They care far more about the theoretical cis child in danger of unwise transition. So the question for cis people is, how can therapists appropriately “explore” the child’s needs? “Explore” is a neutral term, which they think entails challenging the child’s conviction they are trans. We know the therapist should want to “Really explore,” find what is right for the child and help them towards it, but this is threatened by the suggested prohibition of non-existent cis-to-trans conversion.

And then, generally I want journalists to bring to light allegations children might be at risk, even if against the consensus. Thalidomide was marketed for morning sickness for four years, affecting at least 10,000 children many of whom it killed, before it was withdrawn as a treatment. The trouble is that the few reverters have too great significance for them. To realise that some people are trans and transitioning benefits us is more empathy than they can manage.

As a trans person I see this interview as someone attacking trans rights and casting “transgender ideology” as a threat to children, at least needing balanced by someone in favour of trans, and ideally dismissed before it is aired. Listening to da Costa, I hear the ludicrousness of it. No-one will be “dragged through the courts” as an innocent party. The difficulty of proving conversion therapy is too great. No-one will be inhibited from exploring the child’s, or adult’s, desire to transition. But I don’t think cis people will have heard it that way.

Before complaining I want to make a case under the BBC’s own guidelines, and I don’t think it will work. I might make a case about the relative balance of opposition to protection of trans people against trans people standing up for our rights, but to do that would have to listen to the programme for an hour a day, and that is too much. The BBC publishes no record of who they interview, or about what, separate to the recordings.

It’s not balance to platform haters attacking trans, but you can’t convince the cis of that. There was terrible difficulty stopping the BBC from platforming climate change deniers, because of “balance”. After all, lots of highly paid lobbyists oppose action on climate change, as do many Times and Spectator columnists.

Da Costa went on to say Boris Johnson is a conviction politician, and the burden of doing the right thing over Brexit and Covid weighed heavily on his shoulders. Ridiculous! I cry. He has hobbled the British economy, and as he demanded “let the bodies pile high in their thousands”, 30,000 in January 2021 alone. But from the “Conservative” point of view of Nikki da Costa, he was seeking the good of the British people in abolishing regulations and going about our business unrestricted and unmasked.

The Conservative wants the sovereign individual to be free from legal restriction. Theirs is an individualist view. We on the Left see that a person is not free if they are not paid a living wage, may be sacked or evicted at whim, or are forced to risk infection by a deadly disease. It makes no practical difference whether an exporter is restricted by British law, or by French law, in exporting to France, so those in favour of private enterprise see British law should facilitate rather than inhibit the exporter and work with France to agree the rules rather than create different rules. However the radical Conservative only wants to repeal rules in British law, and apparently does not see how law may be for the common good.

In the same way da Costa’s opposition to conversion therapy law seeks freedom for the individual, rather than collective security the Left offers. For those on the Left, trans people are part of the Community, the We the People law should protect. Our wellbeing matters as much as cis people’s, or therapists’. For the Right, we do not. We can be simply portrayed as a Threat.

1 April: da Costa was on Today again, saying the same falsehoods. She says if trans conversion was illegal, therapists would be inhibited from exploring underlying issues. Rubbish. All that would be problematic would be a complete closed-minded denial that the patient was trans, or that transition might benefit them. Even then, they might not reach the discipline tribunal, let alone the criminal court, unless they attempted to change the child from being trans.

Loving my fear

Fear dominates, pervades, defines, controls my life.
I fear my fear.
I am as conscious of my fear, usually, as a fish is of water, and even perhaps unconscious of the currents in it.
I want to deny my fear. I want to escape it, and create a life where I do not feel it. So I have my life as it is now.
I do not fear what others fear. I have no fear of speaking in public, very personally.
I felt fear of cycling on wet ice yet went the Oundle run the second time.
I will prosper if I know my fear, am not dominated by it, heed its warnings.

I fear myself. I fear my own responses to how I react rather than others’ observed responses and my realistic expectations of them. It is the internal structure of illusion, inherited from my mother’s fear.

To say “I should listen to my fear” creates a false I, separate from my fear, which is less than whole I. But there are blocks in the flow of fear, and whole I has ways of evading consciousness of it. Yet fear dominates my life: I am practically agoraphobic.

I have just started reading Iain McGilchrist’s phenomenal “The Matter with Things”, on how the right brain and left brain produce different ways of acting in and perceiving the world. There is an unconscious mechanism which decides which hemisphere processes a particular stimulus or response, and still I will stick to trying to conceptualise one Whole I, an individual human being, for now.

I rarely feel instant fear, as my life goes now, and I did this morning, cycling downhill towards a bend on a wet road, when I braked to get round the bend and found the bicycle drifting towards the side of the road. I stopped, after, to compose myself. With just the chance of ice, and wet roads, I can be going too fast for safety. But that is a rare experience. That physical threat feels different from fear of other human beings.

My fear is like my shame, an overexposed photograph. Fearing everything, I do not know where I might fear less, and where bad experiences might reinforce my fear so that I trust even less.

My fear comes from my family’s, keeping ourselves to ourselves, and is the source of first my desire to be normal and conventional and not stand out, and then my retreat to my living room. Fear has created my desires, and I have achieved my desire. The competing desires to be seen, to achieve, to do good or produce value, have not found a way forward that the fear has not prevented.

Often, though not always, I judge myself far more harshly than others judge me. I am judging myself less. Fear is part of the complex, tangled web of feeling and response which I judged. The judgment paralysed me. Therefore- I must love my fear, as I must love all of me, for the good of the world.

What do I fear, and why? Beyond- humans! Everything! The World! I don’t know. So that is a question it would behove me to address.

And accept. This is what I fear. I have judged it, and made it more intractable. I will not attack it as irrational or counter-productive or wicked. Only contemplating it with Love will help.

“Why are you a transwoman?”

Why can’t you just be a feminine man?

Possibly, transition is a hack. Being a feminine or effeminate male was utterly forbidden, through the door marked Death, but I had not picked up that transition was equally forbidden, because it was unimaginable. So when I imagined it, it was my escape. I wanted to follow the rules of my society, and I found there was this path my society barely tolerated.

I think of a boy at school, a year or two older than me, telling me I am “soft as shite”. It stung at the time. It still stings now: I remember the remark with unusual clarity for a conversation at school. He was claiming I was unmasculine, so inadequate, less than others. Now J sees that I am not flexible, able to be a “feminine man”, to contain contradictions which I had found unbearable: so J also judges me as inadequate or less. I am so knocked about by such judgment that I can barely resist, and my “femininity” makes resistance harder. I want reconciliation, not conflict. So my femininity works against me and I judge it too.

But Honor Logan denies femininity exists: it is merely a patriarchal tool of oppression. It is “something given and taken away on man’s whim”. Are we good enough? So I do not share some mythical “femininity” with other women, but I do share the condition of being oppressed.

I felt it excluding that the women’s group talk of bleeding, until I thought, but this is their way of defying taboo and claiming freedom. This is a place for us to claim freedom together however we do it. That is my answer to the suggestion that it is “transphobic” to say 1970s feminism had allowed young women to explore their own vagina and clitoris as intimate companion. Young trans women did not have this experience; but different women have different experiences, and that does not mean any of us are not women. It is anti-feminist, rather than transphobic, to suggest all women have the same experiences. And perhaps I could get to know my vagina as a source of pleasure.

We can split into tiny warring camps, or find a solidarity that celebrates our differences. Women who deny femininity exists must find a way to be with cis women who celebrate it.

I don’t think “femininity” is a coherent concept, either in the culture or as a property of most women and few men. So, what makes me a woman, if not femininity? Two possibilities: my long-standing desire to express myself this way, and the acceptance of others. Everyone relies on the acceptance of others in order to survive, but dependence on it makes us liable to oppression, which we must meet with self-affirmation.

How much do we create ourselves, how much recognise and realise ourselves, how much are we moulded by other people? If I accept what others say I should be like, I allow them to mould me, but it seems to me there is a real me underneath. I am submissive. It feels like recognition. Attempting to suppress it feels like self-abnegation, paradoxically: to self-abnegate by fighting my self-abnegation. It is part of me. If I suppress and deny it, I cannot allow for it and how it affects me, so others see it and use it. It becomes a source of pain for me, so I work harder to suppress it.

I feel that trauma causes me to suppress parts of myself, rather than to alter them. I do not think my submission could have been created by trauma, though the trauma played upon it.

So I will guard my submissive nature as precious. I will protect it. I decide to see it as part of me that can be beautiful for myself and others, a gift, and seek evidence of this. Perhaps my kindness and gentleness are evidence: three qualities fitting together. This is shadow work: I have used words to define a part I can cut off and deny, then projected all my fear and anger onto that shadow part. Liberating my shadow self is liberation from my own judgment.

Days after the question, still stewing on it, I thought of why I could not be a feminine man. Perhaps I’m just a bit second rate. Perhaps I did not see the possibility. Perhaps I was too suicidal and terrified to properly understand what I was doing. Possibly I am a sexual pervert, and therefore a threat to women and children– there are lots of places on the internet you can read that. And, just perhaps, I am trans. James Baldwin: “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself and half believed before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.”

Approaches to the trans rights debate

Trans allies found Wes Streeting “disappointing”, but I see where he’s coming from. And, when the authoritarian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill promises to criminalise protest, David Maclean, “Lord Blencathra”, wasted a self-indulgent hour of debate railing against trans women as a danger to “women”.

The Shadow Health Secretary grew up in the East End of London. His mother’s father was a bank robber. His father, and father’s father, were working class Tories, with strong patriotism and Christian faith he still shares, even though it took years for him to accept his sexuality and reconcile these parts of his identity. Finding he was gay, members of his family would have been surprised, disappointed, and concerned for him. Aged 38, he is grateful to the pioneers of the Lesbian and Gay Rights movement, whose abuse he recounts- outed by The Sun, a brick through the window…

So there was prejudice which was frank hatred, and there was prejudice seeing itself as Christian principle, and on equal marriage he respects the Christian prejudice. That required listening, discussion, empathy and respect. Hearts and minds were changed, and now there are Methodist gay church weddings. He hopes for the same on trans rights.

In his BBC interview, now available as a fifty minute podcast or a two minute video, but initially a 23 minute broadcast, the interviewer took a strong anti-trans line. Women are women, who fought for their right to safe spaces, [meaning No Transwomen!] which should not be overturned. All of this is rubbish. Trans women have a legal right to enter women’s services, and are no threat.

The video Jolyon Maugham found “disappointing” omits that question, and starts with Streeting’s soft-sounding but pro-trans response. He says women’s rights should be respected, LGBT people should listen, you don’t win the argument by shutting down JK Rowling. He wants to win the argument, and hear anti-trans campaigners’ distress as a way to win them over. I am not sure that will work, but am glad someone is trying. He objects to “feminists” using dehumanising language about trans people. It is gratuitously obnoxious.

I had thought the podcast would give the whole interview, but the next bit from the video is edited out. Streeting talks of anti-trans hate crime and trans mental ill health, which he wants to address. So most listeners will not hear about the hate crime. This is a distortion.

Tory peer David Maclean, “Lord Blencathra”, avoided Capital Gains Tax on a £750,000 house by claiming it was his main residence, and got £20,000 parliamentary “expenses” by claiming it was his second home. Rather than addressing the anti-freedom aspects of the Police etc Bill he stuck in an anti-trans amendment and insisted on debating it on the floor. There were many moments my contempt for him bubbled over, but the main one was when he withdrew his amendment because it had no chance of success. He wasted an hour and 23 minutes of Parliamentary time on his pointless hategasm.

His amendment to this oppressive Bill would have required that trans people are ordinarily imprisoned according to their sex registered at birth, and if in exceptional circumstances they were not they should be held in accommodation specifically for trans people with no access to “prisoners of the opposite sex”.

He has had a great many letters, he says, and from the love-bombing of anti-trans campaigners he falsely deduces that his amendment has support. Tory Patrick “Baron” Cormack was also love-bombed, and quoted the words: it is so easy to “stand up for womanhood and motherhood” as a Tory, if all you have to do is express hatred for trans people.

Maclean says that “gender reassignment protection [should not be] a separate protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010”. As it currently is, he wants to change the Equality Act to withdraw protection for trans people.

He kept his foul amendment despite the teach-in organised by the Ministry of Justice. The Tory minister, David Wolfson QC, knew he would not persuade the haters, but tried in the teach-in, and tried again in the debate. He said you could find heat but no light on Twitter. He said all the trans women in women’s prisons have gone through a rigorous risk assessment, and our safety matters too. It is a balance of risks to cis women and trans women. 90% of trans women prisoners are in men’s prisons. If there was one trans women’s unit, it would be too far for most friends and families to visit. It would be “cruel”. The minister is “alive to the risk of suicide”. Before 2019 there were some sexual assaults by trans women on cis women, but “We learned the lessons of that and since 2019 there have been no such assaults”.

Former Reform MEP Claire Fox continued the hate, despite having attended the teach-in. Ignoring the facts, she demands “single-sex spaces” excluding trans women. She quoted hate from Twitter, even the suggestion, which she had just heard refuted, that “anyone who claims to feel like a woman” might be imprisoned with cis women. Fox: “I say hear, hear to that.” She ignores any threat to trans women. Instead she claims “biological reality” vindicates her, as if the fact of trans people’s existence for millennia around the world did not matter at all. She called the amendment practical, pragmatic and humane, as if our safety did not matter.

David Pannick said putting a trans woman with a GRC who had lived as a woman for twenty years (that’s me, my twenty year anniversary is in April) who has had GRS in men’s prison would be a “disaster”. I agree. I find it terrifying. If I chained myself up like a Suffragette, this bill would render me liable to a ten year prison sentence, if they could get a jury to convict. So I suppose I might be safe enough demonstrating for XR, but maybe not if I demonstrated for trans rights.

David Hope, former Scottish supreme court judge, spoke out against the “cruelty” of the amendment. “It is not a choice. They are driven.” It needs to be said, because Maclean, Fox and the rest ignore it: “The [trans] offender requires as much consideration on the grounds of safety and emotional distress as the people around them in the prison in which they are placed.”

Michael Cashman said the amendment perpetuates the stereotype of trans women as sexual predators. Edward Faulks, who had been April Ashley’s barrister, said how April Ashley had been put in a men’s prison.

Hater Michael Farmer, former treasurer of the Tory party, called for women’s rights “based on sex not gender”. That is, to him the most important thing in women’s rights is excluding trans women. With this language they can expatiate on women’s rights, as if trans women did not matter at all. By contrast Michael Berkeley, composer and broadcaster, said “effeminate” people would be “targeted” in a male prison.

Former Tory MP Nick Herbert put it bluntly: “if people’s fears are provoked and if media campaigns suggest that women cannot be safe, there will be such fervent outrage, but that is not a reason for us to depart from the facts.” That’s the answer to Wes Streeting. He can listen all he likes, and just hear the wilful distortions of the transphobes. As they rant on, they just get more self-righteous.

Jennifer Jones, a Green party member, flouted her party’s policy to play the “I’m a woman” card, objecting to men speaking against the amendment. Well, I am a woman too, and I care about women’s safety- but I care about all women’s safety. She claimed there was “sexual predation” in women’s prisons, despite the changes in 2019.

Elizabeth Barker, LibDem, spoke “as a woman who cares deeply about the physical safety of women”. She objected to media suggestions that trans allies did not care. She pointed out the factual errors in the haters’ speeches, and the polls with leading questions designed to elicit anti-trans opinions. As she said, the amendment was not based on evidence, so should be rejected.

Brian Paddick, LibDem and former police officer, quoted some of the abuse he receives as a trans ally: “You nasty little misogynist… MRA bigot”. He affected not to know that means “Men’s rights activist”, putting the hater in their place.

Frederick Ponsonby, hereditary Labour peer and fourth baron, had actually spoken to governors of women’s prisons, who assured him they could handle any problems from trans women prisoners.

The haters in the House of Lords, and their adoring admirers such as the one who sent hate to Brian Paddick, show the chances of Wes Streeting’s approach are slim. They are utterly self-righteous, and they use the language of women’s rights as if trans women did not matter. They call us men, as if trans as a phenomenon was a worthless delusion. But they have a long way to go before our protections in the Equality Act are chipped away, even with this Tory government. My right to protest is not nearly so safe.

Dominant women

I have been doing some research….

Lady Sas, or Saskia, says that the Domme should simply be calm and assertive: the loud, aggressive Mistress is outdated. She should issue commands, expecting obedience. D/s is a game, and at other times Domme and sub meet as equals. The aspirant Domme might feel nervous, so Lady Sas suggests the Silence challenge. The sub kneels, naked, in a room, and the Domme merely need walk around him, slowly, feeling how she relaxes as she realises she is in control. The game should be “safe, sane and consensual”.

Lucy Fairbourne writes for the “caring mistress”. The self-assured male craves the vulnerability of complete surrender. The woman is surprised, but soon finds the pleasurable possibilities. She does not fulfil a sub’s fantasies, who demands she commands him to kneel, or ties him up, but instead she decides what to do, for her pleasure.

The mistress shouting her contempt for the slave was the clichéd image of fem-dom I had internalised, so I googled “submissive worm”. A site tells me the “worm archetype”, wanting to be dominated by everyone, still exists. A worm might be not allowed to use the furniture. I think, yuck. Is he allowed to use cutlery? “Allowed” by whom? I read of a woman who was better educated than her partner. He objected to her using words he did not understand. He enforced control, and by the time she left him she was only using words of one syllable. That is coercive control. It is criminal.

I read of FLR, the Female-Led Relationship, and TPE, Total Power Exchange, where the sub is submissive at all times, not just in well-boundaried games. The equipment could be a way of creating the boundary: when the woman is dominant, they use particular clothes and tools which are put away afterwards.

I do not see the motivation for the games for either, and particularly the thought of dominating. Yet when Miss Dark Waters sends me a picture of her handcuffs, glinting in the sun, dangling from her well-manicured fingers, it fascinates me. She entangled and intoxicated me.

I am submissive. I had a nervous, difficult Quaker meeting, thinking of this, resenting it, and especially my propensity for imprinting on strong women. I thought that ceasing to fight it, coming to know and accept it, I might live better, and I still resented and struggled. By the end, I felt acceptance. This is who I am. It fits with other qualities in me, such as humility, which I find easier to value. At the discussion zoom after a Quaker said she had rarely heard someone’s voice sound so peaceful. I typed an affirmation:

I am Submissive. Nervous. Kind. Appreciative. Vulnerable. Open. All of me is beautiful. I will love and cherish all of me. Sweet. Gentle. Thoughtful. Caring. Analytical. Feeling. These are not in conflict, but so many different beautiful facets.
I love myself.
I love myself.
I love myself.
I am perfect as I am created.
Appreciating the parts I find difficult lets me appreciate my good qualities, for they are part of one whole.

The question was, what is essential to you in spiritual community. I interpreted it as asking my essence. So I read that out, and a man asked me to read it again.

A Friend said, spiritual community requires total acceptance of the person in front of you. People project so much how they think others should be, but we need to meet people where they are. I need to accept myself first: if there are parts in me that I deny, I cannot accept them in others.

Quakers and belief

What does it mean to believe?

I believe the Earth goes round the Sun. I believe in Milanković cycles, regular changes in the Earth’s orbit which affect its climate. Such rational, scientific belief involves trust in my community, in scientists who calculate such things in ways I do not know. It can be wrong, as Newton was wrong about gravity. Trying to distort religious belief to be like scientific belief leads people astray: the Flood did not cause the Grand Canyon.

I do not believe in Astrology, but observe that a magazine astrology column can give a little pleasure or something to think about. An empathetic practitioner, with a vast range of ideas related to planets, signs and sesquiquadrates, could see what spoke to their client and possibly give insight into character.

I believe in Hamlet, though the play is not historical: it portrays lifelike humans.

I have moral beliefs, which I have learned through instruction, example, experience, study and discussion. This year I intend to keep my promises better, having disliked breaking an undertaking. I also intend to promise, or not, more thoughtfully.

What does it mean to learn, and what do I need to know? As a member of a social species I need to know how to interact with other people, and how to be a member of the society that meets my needs. Much of that knowledge may be innate: babies recognise the patterns of a face. I understand others because we have things in common: I feel joy in service, and observe others do so too.

I learn through art. I contemplate images, my feelings resonating with them, so come to understand situations I have not experienced.

I learn the tradition of Christianity by reading and listening, then hone my understanding by talking about it. There is a rigid creed with nothing between Jesus’ birth and his passion, and gospels giving differing accounts of his life and afterlife. Jesus tells fictional parables, some disturbingly amoral, such as the Unjust Steward. I contemplate the mad Gadarene (or Gerasene), clothed and in his right mind after an encounter with Jesus, which may also be fictional. I find value in the Bible, Christian tradition and Christian writings, for learning how to live.

Then I learn spirituality by sitting in Quaker stillness for an hour most weeks over twenty years. I encounter unconscious processes and unravel the inner conflicts created by old trauma. I experience being given spoken ministry, and also speaking when I might have been wiser to stay seated. I know love for these people, sitting with me. I believe that meeting for worship and the business method have value. Quakers report doing different things during meeting: behind the still faces, a person might be praying, or counting breaths, or hearing God within them speak.

It is not true to say that you can believe anything and be a Quaker, even a Quaker in Britain Yearly Meeting. I believe meeting for worship has value, and that there is a wide range of appropriate things to do in the hour. Others have narrower understandings- “Thee should not have been thinking”.

Then Quakers have different metaphysical understandings of what underpins our experiences, In the Letter to the Governor of Barbados George Fox describes fairly conventional Protestant beliefs, including that Christ’s death was the propitiation for the sins of the world. We are rooted in Christianity, and many British Quakers have a radical Christian understanding of “that of God” in us. It is the Holy Spirit, which other Christians believe comes into us in Baptism and Confirmation, and we believe needs no ritual, because it is in everyone.

I might try to put into words my spiritual experience, for example, all my senses come alive, I see “Heaven in a wild flower”, usually there is a feeling of Joy with this experience, I am in the present moment not ruminating of past or future. That comes from my own experience. It feels distinct, now, from how I am at different times. My experience is evidence for my account of it, but not evidence for the metaphysical belief in God or Spirit. To say that Spirit causes such experiences goes beyond the experience itself. The experience feels like a blessing, but I could not say that Something blessed me.

I don’t believe in an Eternal Creator. I believe I am an evolved animal in a material universe, and there is no separate spiritual reality beyond baryonic matter. But the word “God” signifying particular experiences which I see in others or I share has value and meaning to me.

I would hope Quaker metaphysical beliefs would enhance our community and our practice of worship. We have a shared practice and way of life, not a shared belief system. Possibly the only belief required of someone joining us for the first time is that our practice may benefit them. Rather than asking what they believe, I would ask whether they are oriented towards growing in love in the community.

Might we have to expel someone for their belief? Only if we discerned that the belief was harming the community unbearably, perhaps because it was dogmatically held, and the person thought others should agree. We do not expel a Friend lightly.

My commitment to the community and the worship ranks, for me, above my atheist materialist beliefs. Therefore I hope that even if the Christian revelation of the Eternal Creator is true, I will not harm the worshipping community with my beliefs.

If Quakers honestly attempt to conform their beliefs to their experience, and are open to changing them, I hope those attracted to our spiritual practices will not believe anything that the community would discern to be harmful. Spiritual experience is beyond words, so I cannot produce a description in words precisely fitting my own experiences, though it is worthwhile trying to. When I do, I find similarities to others’ experiences.

We have some shared moral beliefs. We are pacifist. But we have a variety of understandings of that, and some Quakers joined the armed forces in the second world war. We have not yet reached agreement on assisted dying, and perhaps do not need to. Our moral beliefs change: when some Quakers owned and traded slaves, others began to say this was wrong.

In Meeting, I was contemplating Thomas Cranmer’s “Prayer of Humble Access”, which I said routinely as a child. It gained new meaning for me. “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table” alludes to Matthew 15:21-28. Then we ask to eat Christ’s flesh so that it will make us clean, “and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us”. That mix of unworthiness and access, humility and gratitude for the blessing I find in Meeting spoke to me. I grow in understanding, whatever I believe, or however I put it in words.