The fraud on the anti-trans campaigners

I never met an anti-trans campaigner whose ally I did not want to be. In the group, a woman said, “I’ve been called a ‘terf’,” and my heart sank.

I have heard the story so many times, with the same injustices. She is treated as a sex object, and may say how terrifying this can be if adult strangers come on to you when you are thirteen. Her intellect is devalued and ignored. She states her powerful resentment and her sense of injustice, and I am wholly in agreement. I delight when women stand up for their rights, and men stand up for justice. Society suffers if the talents of so many are sidelined.

And then their voice of grievance does not change as they tell of trans. She was a sex object, and what of all the girls who want to become men? She wonders if she were a little younger, if she would have been “sucked into the cult,” and had her breasts removed or had hormones to break her voice and grow body hair. She is a sexy woman with a beautiful body. What if it had been mutilated?

Well, I totally get the discomfort at the idea of breast removal. I like my beautiful breasts. But no-one has an operation before the age of 18, and few below 25. Waiting lists are too long. 2000 girls might be referred to the Gender Identity Development Service, but that is 0.03% of the girls in the country. Of those, GIDS refers none for operations, and only a few for puberty blockers.

Or, she says, “Women must have the right to say, ‘No’. Women’s boundaries should be respected.” And I think, well, yes, I agree, except she means she should have the right to say I can’t use a women’s loo or shop changing room.

And then the rant starts. What about women’s rights in prisons/sports/refuges? What about all women shortlists? What if a man wakes up one morning and decides he’s a woman? There are answers to all this, and they are not heard.

She is sure of her own righteousness, but her beautiful campaigning energy has been perverted from real injustices, such as the devaluation of her intellect, to blaming, scapegoating and persecuting trans people. She moves from stating real grievances to myths showing a disturbing lack of empathy and respect for trans people. She does not see the change of tone which is so obvious to me. Often, she shows a wilful refusal to understand us as human beings. Trans men to her are merely victims, trans women merely threat.

The campaigning shows no sense of proportion. On a “Keir Starmer Supporters” group on facebook, someone shared a Daily Mail article about the death and rape threats to JK Rowling. What can I do? Well, I share information, and respond as winsomely and persuasively as I can. JK Rowling said some pretty offensive things. Keir Starmer, by contrast, has been low-key but generally supportive, of trans rights. He said, “It’s not true that only women have a cervix”. A Keir Starmer Supporters group should listen to him. And death and rape threats are abhorrent, but many people receive threats. Which people are deemed entitled to our sympathy when threatened, and which are not? Why? For this, I was expelled from the group. It is not only that the group owner thinks I am wrong, she thinks I should not be heard. Just before expelling me, she introduced a new group rule against misogyny.

There are many places where anti-trans campaigners can radicalise each other and indulge in delicious shared righteous anger. Women have a right to Single Sex Spaces! JK Rowling has never said anything transphobic! We are not transphobic! We want our Rights!

And all that beautiful campaigning energy, rather than being directed at the patriarchy and rape culture is directed by the patriarchy, for the patriarchy’s purposes, against trans people.

So I want to be an ally to these women- against all the injustice, against rape culture, sexism, and patriarchy. And everyone would be better off if they left trans people alone. We are not their main problem.

The joyful, playful child

“Forgive me,” said Anna, “but you seem confused”. Well, yes. I have had a striking week. I wrote my love poem, which enabled me to say the words “I love you” to someone. Wednesday 5th I would read it in public.

Unfortunately, before that I was discussing my psychotic friend. He comes to Quaker zooms to rave. One of his delusions is how the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra is the perfect society. I wish he’d go to one of their concerts, proclaim his gospel, and get sectioned again. I wish he would realise he was ill and consent to the depot injections, but he believes he has unique spiritual truth to change the World, just like Licia did. He accepts he is hypomanic, and when he is less so he can have an initial appearance of profundity from all the Buddhist texts he quotes.

Then there was the BBC, explaining laboriously yet disingenuously that my complaints were without merit and Justin Webb did nothing wrong.

I read my poem in the Lovely Gathering. Jamie needled me a bit, and my barriers collapsed. I do not mind appearing ridiculous. That ship has sailed, I said- I have appeared ridiculous to some people since transition. But not like this. He asked if I wanted him as celebrant, and I asked if he could do the registration too. I would not want to have to go to the registry office as well. But, the barriers- I had not wanted to make claims about another, or potentially embarrass her. Jamie did not need a jemmy. He put an exploratory fingernail under my covers, and they exploded off. I felt exposed.

She wrote to me of my ethereal beauty, my blooming heart. I am grateful for the expressions of love from her deep integrity. And Thursday afternoon I spent some time wailing wordlessly and some time being listened to by my wise friend, who recommended howling.

I had given up hope that my sexuality might attract me to, leave alone unite me with, another human being and I am grateful that I now believe in the possibility. Friday afternoon I zoomed with a woman who has overcome huge challenges. She does herself down, and still I saw her humility is beautiful. She wrote to me of my generosity, receptivity, sensitivity, spirituality, thoughtfulness, beauty and desire to spread encouragement and love, and called me

a human daring to stand.

Tuesday at Morning Communion, which I experience at 1pm because of time differences, was striking. I was just feeling the feels. People would say something changing my view of what was being discussed, and my feelings changed with them. In order to hold these mercurial feelings, be present and conscious with them, I found my body flexing and stretching, tensing in different places. It was almost as much as I could bear. I thought I might look a bit weird but no-one said. I was pleased with this. I want to feel the feels and accept them, then I feel I will stop fighting myself and stand in my power.

I have been thinking of my honour, and one thing I want to do is keep any obligations into which I enter freely. So Friends asked me to do something, and I said yes, and I did not do it. I just did not respond when my fellow Friend involved contacted me. I did nothing for six months, and facing the prospect that the work was not done someone else was appointed. Then they asked me to do something else and I did not respond to the first email, or the phone message. I need to be able to say “No”, and I need my word to mean something. When directly asked I said “No”.

Another thing I want, passionately, is not to have my feelings just explode on show as they did on Wednesday evening. It makes me feel unbearably vulnerable and stupid. After, I hate myself for it. I need control.

I had an hour and 45 minutes with Anna the Samaritan on Friday morning. They did not seem particularly busy, and I had a long healing cry. Then I talked from my misery when I can only articulate words in a high wail. Then I talked from my Real Self, or whatever it is, when my voice goes higher than usual, I am fulfilling my needs telling my best understanding of truth and I feel frightened and vulnerable. I told of chasing Ulrika like a lost puppy, and how she used me to keep Luke on his toes, then chucked him away like a used tissue. I told of Jude’s girlfriend wanting him to make a man of himself, and how when they split up he was so much more relaxed. By the end I was more explaining to her than working things out for myself, so I stopped, and I have not felt the need to cry since.

F, to whom I said “I love you”, has been in touch and caring in a way making me feel cared for. I spoke at the Zoom Quaker meeting, when someone heard humility in my ministry and that felt true and fitting to me. Then there was the afternoon Quaker zoom where we addressed the question, “Who in your life enhances/encourages your connection with God, and how?”

I said I felt that God in me is when all of me is integrated and working together, and anything can either lead me towards that or drive me from it, and my attitude to it matters. So I welcome unravelling on Wednesday, making a fool of myself. I will learn from it.

I told the story of the grey corridor with doors to overwhelming light and colour. Jeannine had a new angle on it: the corridor more constrains me as I outgrow it. Ruth suggested I could open the door for a look, keeping in the corridor for safety.

So I began the lovely gathering with Emotion Detector.
Illusions are painfully shattered
Right where discovery starts
In the secret wells of emotion
Buried deep in our hearts.

What I wanted, more than anything, was to become that sane, well-boundaried person, who does not lose control like I did on Wednesday. And now, five hours later, I don’t.

The next Quaker question was, How do you hold people in the light? How do you believe that works? Well, it changes me. I think of another with love, and it enhances my capacity to love them.

Then I said words new to me, which felt true. I find loving important, and am good at it: the price is not knowing I am good at it, so striving to be better. Seeing Friends assent helps me believe this.

So now I know. The lesson I wish I had learned as a toddler, which my parents could not teach me, was that losing control was not the end of the world.

I would rather be in touch with my feelings and in control. And loss of control is not ideal, but OK. Outside the corridor becomes less terrifying.

Trans people in court

Since December, it is harder to be trans in an English court.

The Equal Treatment Bench Book is a 566 page guide for judges on how people appearing before them may be disadvantaged, and how the judge might mitigate their disadvantage. For example, it cites a study where mock jurors gave harsher punishments to fat people accused of crimes than thin people. Trans people are equal under the law, and the law should deal with what has been proved, not punish us for who we are.

There are two pages on naming systems. Mispronunciation is disrespectful, and a judge should take care to avoid it. The book explains different naming conventions. Judges should ask what is the personal name and family name. I am perturbed that there is a perceived need to tell judges not to use the term “Christian name”, but that may just indicate how comprehensive the guide is.

Judges should not reduce court users’ confidence in the court’s authority or impartiality, but act to counter how others’ prejudice may slant the administration of justice. There was a major revision of the Book in February, and an interim update in December, most of which was devoted to considering the rights of “gender critical” people against trans people.

Much of the advice on trans is designed to prevent someone in stealth being outed. This is problematic. Most people read me quickly. I am open about being trans. Yet I still do not want anyone else mentioning it unless it is entirely relevant. The judge can restrict reporting of the case if necessary. The Book quotes a senior High Court judge: “disclosure [of trans history] should not be permitted… where it is unnecessary and irrelevant to the issues”.

The book says terminology is shifting and uncertain, and some trans people may not want to be called trans, believing it irrelevant.

It is dispiriting to read in the February revision a long account of the discrimination we suffer, but I am glad judges might. The update added the Transactual trans lives survey 2021. 99% said they had experienced transphobia on social media, and I can’t see how anyone might use social media without experiencing transphobia. A TUC survey found half the trans respondents had experienced bullying or harassment at work, and 30% had been outed against their will. In a poll of 1000 employers, 43% said they were unsure if they would employ a trans person- that is, they openly stated they would consider breaking the law. The book also gives statistics on anti-trans hate crime, and suicide.

The book says nonbinary people are not protected, though it cites the case Taylor v Land Rover in the appendix on the Equality Act. As an Employment Tribunal case, that is not even a binding precedent for Employment Tribunals.

I would take issue with the President of the Supreme Court’s explanation of the traumas faced by trans people. It’s not “the overwhelming sense that one has been born into the wrong body”, it is a conviction that I am of the other sex, or a desire to be treated as or express myself as the other sex. Lady Hale refers to “the long and complex process of adapting that body”. That is surgical essentialism, and I deny it.

The Forstater case has done a great deal of damage. The Employment Tribunal decided her beliefs did not fulfil the fifth test: beliefs “must be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others”. The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed. Much of the problem was that there was little evidence heard in the tribunal of the repellent nature of her beliefs. Other anti-trans campaigners express themselves freely on Twitter and there would be abundant evidence available of how ridiculous and abhorrent their beliefs were.

Because of the case, the update has made additions. It still says trans history is usually irrelevant. It explains that “revealing someone’s trans identity publicly can have serious adverse consequences on their life”. That’s not the issue for me. Calling me trans is like irrelevantly calling a Black person Black. It draws attention to the thing for which I face prejudice. So it is prejudicial. The book explains deadnaming “may be considered” highly disrespectful and may be inhibiting and humiliating to a witness. Formerly, it said deadnaming “is” disrespectful.

For the first time, the update claims a witness may have a “right” to misgender or deadname. The judge should establish this at the start of the hearing. The book gives reasons why a witness should not do this. The trans person may be stealth, may have a GRC, may not want to go to hearing if they would be outed. If trans status is public knowledge, there is less protection. Again, for me, being called a “man” in court would be humiliating, however many believe I am one. It calls the characteristic which has most affected my life, a worthless fantasy.

The example of a witness being allowed to deadname and misgender is problematic. A victim of domestic abuse or sexual violence may give evidence “in accordance with the victim’s experience and perception of the events”. But, when the witness gives evidence, the guilt has not been decided. To call a trans woman a man is prejudging the issue.

Deadnaming is like calling Muhammad Ali “Cassius Clay” to his face, indicating disrespect for his Islam and his right to self-determination. Deadnaming is insulting. A victim should be able to use the Accused’s real name, unless she has a prejudice which affects her reliability as a witness. For example, the pre-existing hatred and revulsion Maria MacLachlan showed for Tara Wolf made her misgender her.

The update explains “Gender-critical” as a belief that sex is immutable and binary, and that including trans women in the definition of women undermines protections for cis women. It often includes a belief that trans people are irrational and violent, but that is not stated. It says the belief is protected even if it offends trans people and allies, unless “they propose to destroy the rights of trans people”.

The Appendix on the Equality Act explains the Forstater case, though recommends reading it. The phrase given for an unacceptable gender-critical belief, is that it “sought to destroy the rights of a trans person”. That is helpful. Many who would call themselves “gender critical” want to roll back trans rights, which are robust in law. The addition explains that beliefs are different from behaviour. Misgendering may still be harassment, whatever the perpetrator believes.

Some additions are otiose. “The effect of the GRA does not impose recognition of the acquired gender in private non-legal contexts and it cannot rewrite history”. Well, no. Lots of people think I am a man, and I don’t want the courts to intervene unless they do something particularly objectionable about it. But the effect of the sentence is to deny reality. I am a trans woman. I deserve respect as a woman.

The update adds an explanation that “Some people feel strongly that they do not wish to be described as ‘cisgender’ or ‘cis’.” Such a belief will usually be part of a set of beliefs including repellent prejudice, which is not worthy of respect in a civilised society, but it has got into the Bench Book. I suggest people use “Non-trans” instead.

Explaining the Equality Act, the February revision said the term “transsexual” was considered unacceptable. The update adds “by many people”. Well, if there is some comprehensive legal definition of sex and gender made, then I am transsexual, and my sex is female. The psychiatrists said so, after all.

The update is a response to the Forstater case. It is just part of the slow chipping away at trans rights and respect for trans people which the right wing culture war is achieving.

I love you

I cycle on quiet roads.
Buildings cast shadows on buildings opposite.
The Light
on trees, stone, skin, purple clouds
makes me cry in de-Light,
sigh in delight.

Love is one thing.
Limerence, wanting them to look at you
Storge, family love,
all one thing.
It is radiance, and the need for it.
Darling- let your bewitching attention
Shine on me!

The hunger is terrifying. My sensitivity is terrifying.
So I have my deepest desire,
to hide away alone and not be seen.
Might I be subsumed, like a male Angler fish?
Ah. There’s the self-contempt.

Your light is an earthquake in me.
Your voice is warm as the Sun.
Broken open,
the cracks are where the light shines Out.
My breasts are full.

Love is one thing.
It flows like water
so that who gives and who receives cannot be known.
Or a dream of water in a desert
making thirst more painful.
Take every chance to express love
however mad you seem.
I love you.

Storge is an ancient Greek word, στοργή, for love within families. Part of the inspiration for this was this voice message, which you might not be able to hear as it is substack, and which led me to write a fangirl reply. Written on an exceptionally warm, sunny 2 January.

Words for atheist spirituality

I use spiritual practices as part of my good life. Through sitting in silence I bring the unconscious to consciousness, and improve my mental health. I am materialist. I believe humans evolved by natural selection in a Godless universe, and that “spirituality” is a misleading word. It implies that there is something beyond the human animal, a holy spirit, spiritual beings such as angels, demons and a God, when I believe there is none. Our afterlife is in the memories of those who knew us and in the effect we have on people’s lives, not in some other dimension of spirit.

I am not merely a humanist, as humanism does not require those spiritual practices. Possibly humanists would be more drawn to them if they did not associate them with religious beliefs.

Biblical Greek and Hebrew words for spirit- pneuma, ruach- relate to breath. A humanist might accept that “breath work” has value. We sit in silence, paying attention to our breath. We might count breaths. Being aware of breath, I begin to be aware of the unconscious processes of my body. I am more in my senses, aware of what is going on around me now. I draw my attention away from what Buddhists call the “Monkey-mind”, ruminating on old hurts and fantasies. We talk of “awareness”.

Quakers talk of “silent waiting”. Not waiting on the Spirit of the Creator, I wait on my unconscious. Growing up, I learned that aspects of my personality were not OK, and I suppressed them below consciousness. This happens in the most sane, loving families. Now, as I take time to collect myself in silence, the fear and judgment which made me suppress them fall away, and they become conscious again. Nonreligious wisdom teachers talk of “shadow work”, and other practices are available.

I hesitate to use the word “collective unconscious” as I do not know what Jung intended to convey with it, and we have a vast amount of knowledge, some of it innate, about what it means to be human in community. We do not keep it in the front of our minds but recall it when necessary. If I minister, I am bringing unconscious skills of observation and this knowledge to consciousness, to verbalise something which is for the whole meeting. Our practice is that ministry is spoken in love to build us up and bring us together.

Much Quaker language works for a materialist. Meetings can be gathered. This comes from “When two or three are gathered together I am with them,” but that does not mean that some spirit related to a man who lived two thousand years ago floats, half seen. Rather, the Christ-consciousness which was in Jesus is in us.

Wider spiritual language works too. I seek mindfulness. I am in the moment, practising so that I grow more aware of what my senses perceive is around me. I seek nonduality. The duality which is less than the best possible for me is not between mind and spirit but between consciousness and unconsciousness. I have not attained the perfect free flow of thought between conscious and unconscious. I retain blocks and introjects inhibiting it. Slowly, gently, I salve those blocks away.

While others have those blocks, one might do this work on consciousness in order to gain power to manipulate or control them. So at the centre of all true religion we enthrone Love, to build up. We will not quench a smouldering wick or break a bruised reed.

I still do not have one all-encompassing word for these things to replace “spirituality”. “Mysticism” might do. I chase the mystery at the heart of humanity and of each human, which can be known to us, so that we know and are fully known. But mysticism is replete with negative connotations, for many meaning folderol unrelated to real life.

I do not want to talk of spirituality. I am a materialist. I do not believe in spirit. All of this is consciousness work. I seek the liberation of human consciousness, in Love.