Rabbit

The cuddly toy rabbit is a tool for my use. A child gains comfort from cuddling such things, and even for an adult it can be reassuring: a friend gave a cuddly toy to all her trans friends going into hospital for GRS. Here, in counselling, it is a way of communicating non-verbally, with Sally and with my conscious mind. If I threw it across the room that would be a definite communication which would do no harm. I look down at it, avoiding her eye. I can sit it forward on my knee, between us, as a Protector. I shrink into a small space and cuddle it.

Before I cycled to Swanston I knelt in my ritual space. I am going to a safe space. I can speak from myself there. With Sally I declared my intention, to speak from myself. That is where all the motivation, energy and desire reside. That Real Self has rarely had a voice in my conscious mind. It was the part of me speaking when in 2001 I laid on the floor in a foetal position weeping “I am not a man”. It was the part of me that in 2015 could barely say anything more than “I Am”; when saying “I Am” felt wonderfully liberating.

With the rabbit to reassure me I speak from myself. I think of going into mindful presence- of being shocked into it, before it became habitual- and my thought was, I want to speak and act from this space. Well, now, I am. There is a high risk I will lose all my income, and what I am doing about that threat is to speak from my Real Self.

This self is surrounded by judgment, which can be extremely cruel- “fxxkwitted uselessness,” for example, about a simple mistake which would not have mattered much even if I had made it- and which, like depression, one might see as weather- it may be rainy or sunny and we still do our thing. Or, like thoughts during meditation might be seen as passing clouds, to notice, let go, not dwell on. Consciously, my rational strategy was to manage it- placate it as little as possible, wheedle, make sensible suggestions, with the intent of getting it doing sensible things, and that has not worked, so my final despairing throw of the dice is to try to speak from it. And, I (believe- have an inkling-

KNOW

that that is where the energy is.

I have taken notes of the session. I want to speak from the Real Self, and say more than “NO”- now I am rocking, and cuddling the rabbit tightly.

Is the Self childish? There is some evidence for this- consider the cuddly toy rabbit- yet I don’t think so. It shows some signs of being able to defer gratification and choose worthwhile things.

It was the logical next step to explore this part of me, all other things having failed.

The Judgment is keen to protect me, but in fact doesn’t.

I told that story, I have told it several times before. I wanted to make a man of myself, so I joined the Territorial Army. On little more than hearing my accent, the man suggested I go for officer training, so I put down Jane Austen and picked up Clausewitz.

-I don’t know who Clausewitz is.

He wrote “On War”. His famous quote is that war is the continuation of politics by other means, and he said military plans do not survive the first contact with the enemy. Anyway, they thought me “Insufficiently military”, which at the time really pissed me off and now I think a wonderful compliment

(I am using the exact same words as always to tell the story)

so told me I should do a year as a private soldier- a “Driver” is the word, in the Royal Corps of Transport. So I put down Clausewitz and picked up The Good Soldier Švejk. I explain to her who Švejk was.

-I don’t know what “insufficiently military” could mean.
-Probably that I wouldn’t shoot someone if told to do so. I could explain it from a conservative standpoint- I have read Jonathan Haidt- and indeed George Orwell who had fought for the Republic despised pacifists.

I am empathetic. I know the arguments against anything I could say. In part this is the Judgment crushing me, and in part it is Empathy, a gift not a curse.

This is my Real Self. I am Empathetic. I am Soft. I am Caring. These are good qualities. I am Sensitive, and this does not merely mean “easily hurt”.

When it is time to go, the Judgment pipes up. It does not trust the Real Self to be in control as I cycle home. I must gather round me my layers of protection

The man’s protection rots her soul

to leave this room. The trouble is, the Judgment, which wants to protect me, cannot, and is no more safe cycling than the Real Self. I go to the supermarket, then cycle home. A heavy rainstorm soaks me, water spraying up from the road, but it is alright.

Here is a definition of Wellbeing: “Social connectedness — who you depend on and who depends on you, and having a feeling of belonging; safety — when we can express core parts of our identity without harm or shame; mastery — the sense that we have influence over our future and have the skills to navigate life; meaningful access to relevant resources — the ability to meet our core needs in ways that aren’t dangerous or shaming; and stability — having things we can count on to be the same day to day, and knowing that a small bump won’t set off a crisis.” My goal with this counselling is Safety.

Pain

If you share your pain, you risk three possible responses:

  • So what?
  • Deal with it.
  • Prove it.

And, there are other possibilities:

  • You gain sympathy, which is different from pity
  • Others agree there is injustice here, and they will work with you against it.

I feel better after sharing my pain if someone says, yes, that should not have happened. You were wronged. That was a mistake. They should have known better.

Eventually I deal with my pain. I suffered sustained bullying at work for six months. I can describe it mostly unemotionally now. It stripped me of self-confidence at the time. It was more than ten years ago. Yet the first three responses leave me vulnerable. If I describe what happened, I want my hearer to accept what I say. Challenges reopen the wounds.

My poet friend said that when she had processed pain, she could use it in her art. She can go on stage and express the feelings which the incidents evoked, and communicate them to an audience- an authentic theatrical experience, a whole room feeling with the performer- because she has processed it. She cannot until she has processed it. The healed pain can be catharsis for the hearers. We feel with the performer, and deal with our own pain, or, we feel with her and gain empathy, gain a broader understanding of what it is to be human.

Yesterday I knelt to meditate, and thought, what am I feeling? Hope. I immediately started second-guessing it. It is after playing Metamorphosis III, which rather than being bright and beautiful is the blaring bombast of the Dictator. Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t; maybe it is an arrangement of chords which can be interpreted as you wish, the harsh sun on the desert or a unique move not in other music. I felt hope, and possibly it was authentic.

Yet sharing pain, at whatever risk, can bring together opposite sides. We see the other as human. There they are, doing their best under difficult circumstances, and our heart goes out to them.

Amos Oz was a child in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate, and he was a child hurling stones at soldiers with rifles. It was, he said, the first Intifada, which translates as “shaking off”. Now children throw stones at soldiers, and their oppression is his oppression.

I want to make the thing that hurt me impossible, so that I will never again feel that hurt. It cannot be done. As long as we are alive we may be crushed. I want to heal your hurt without sublimating myself.

Dammit. Put down the shield of your rage! The shell crushes and isolates even as it protects.

Are you safe?

I looked down into Cerys’s face as she breastfed. My mirror neurons got to work: the profound contentment and relaxation I read there flooded me for a moment. Her happiness was my happiness. Then I looked away, and the trance lifted. I was back in the room, bewildered by the strength of that feeling.

It was lovely to meet C, who reads Sartre plays in French “for fun” and apologised for not reading The Master and Margarita in the original, who enthused about studying different choreographers and gave me time for my own enthusiasm. And F, who works with people long term sick, trying to get them moving. Not back into work, they don’t manage that often, but into training. She mentioned training for fork-lift truck driving, which made me think of a sudden flood of unemployed fork-lift drivers, and for unskilled labouring, training called “basic work skills” telling people they had to get to work on time. It was a pity that she was sitting listening rather than telling more. Two women, making their way and doing worthwhile things.

Privilege is believing everything will turn out all right. The world as it is fits you. If nothing bad can happen, then you can take risks. If you are not worried about imminent threats, you can make long-term plans. That sense of safety is empowering. If you trust your society, you move freely in it.

I am blogging again, thinking as I write, seeking to unite that sense of safety and the feeling it evokes with a rational sense of the actual threats, and with tolerance or campaigning against wrong, with particular reference to trans issues as always. Consider my friend Fiona, who cross-dressed habitually and often, and went out dressed female. I thought she looked ridiculous, but she thought she passed well: once, a teenager called out “Wig!” which led her to reason that had she read her as trans, she would have called that out too. Once she spent a week cross-dressed, and was utterly sick of it by the end.

I don’t think she would do much harm in a women’s loo. She would go in, use it, wash and dry her hands, leave, like most people. She is not protected by the Equality Act, she shouldn’t be in a women’s refuge or a women’s prison, but she does no harm. Or a gender non-conforming or gender non-binary person, AMAB, not trying to pass as a woman, wants to try on a top in the women’s section so goes into the womens’ changing rooms. Well, there are individual cubicles, so they won’t see anyone undressed and nor will others see them. Great Hoo-ha in press. “I tend to use whichever changing room is nearer,” said my AFAB friend.

Three pairs. Do you object to Fiona in the Ladies’?

There’s that privileged sense that all’s right with the world, and a woke “You will not trample on our rights” resentment of it motivating action.

There’s a sense that society generally supports me, and so it’s going to be alright, and experience that it doesn’t, so that I have to support myself and my rights. The comfortable cis woman can include Fiona as part of her in-group. The woke feminist oppressed by patriarchy won’t.

There’s an optimistic way of looking at opportunities, and a pessimistic concern with threats.

There’s also making your own decision about a threat, and following blindly when the hard Right tells you to punch down on some group.

What is going on with the trans debate? How do I bring those strands together and make them work for inclusion? How do I understand where my opponent is coming from, and bring us together? There is such a thing as society– how can there be a “we” here?

Cerys, sitting on her mother’s knee and just starting to sit up by herself, not yet crawling, has a super-power. She can make adults around her blissful by showing contentment, or distracted by her cries. I don’t know her or her mother, and was affected instantly. There is a clear evolutionary advantage to this, I see. We are bound to each other in sympathy and interest, and split apart. Cerys is safe, with her mother and father and community caring for her. One of the problems we face in the terrible Twos is that our joy and grief no longer have that power, automatically- so how to preserve it? By privilege, by community and by Righteous Truth.

How can there be room in the World, for two people who disagree? How might both of them be safe?

Genuine trans women III

Some terfs want all trans women out of women’s spaces. Trans women are men, they say. And others think there are men, and trans women who should be grudgingly tolerated. It’s a question of where to draw the line.

There could be different lines for different matters. We don’t do much harm in a loo, but might do in a women’s refuge. If you get sent to prison you are probably less trustworthy than if you get sent to hospital. If a trans woman play sports her greater size will be an advantage, but given that reaching female-normal levels of hormones weakens muscles, and is a huge sacrifice for a man, probably the trans woman who fits the rules will be “genuine” and should be allowed to compete.

Even I drew a line. By law, we are protected if we have decided to transition even if we have not reached any particular milestone- gone out expressing female, gone to work expressing female, thrown out all the male clothes, seen a doctor, started hormones, had surgery. I don’t want the line to be passing privilege, but I have some vague idea of what would be taking the piss, for example wearing a beard. And I feel to be going out expressing female regularly is necessary. I don’t think someone should go to the Labour Party women’s conference dressed male. Theoretically it’s possible, and so my line is more strict than the law is.

Or, you could just accept someone’s word that they are a trans woman, unless there is reason to disbelieve them.

A useless line is surgery. Surgery proves commitment. But, some of us are desperate for surgery and, because we are reliant on the NHS, will have years to wait. Unless the trans woman is a rapist, her penis really does not matter. We hope that in hospital the penis would not be on show, but then we hope vulvas and nipples would not be on show either, that people could have dignity.

Surgery is a line which has a great deal of attraction for the transphobes. If they want to appear reasonable, not hostile to actual trans women, just “men” “pretending to be women”, surgery could be the line they draw. Like the Mail’s “help help the sky is falling” article about trans women in women’s hospital wards, because they identify as women. Link to web archive. Nasty little extreme right transphobe David TC Davies MP popped up to say male-bodied people should not be on women’s wards, but only ten trusts reported any complaints or incidents- that is the Mail, right at the end of its article, confirms it’s a non-story.

The thing is, how would you know? Trans women with penises would not want anyone catching sight of them. I don’t want people seeing my vulva, but would have been more embarrassed before the operation.

What we need is a sign of commitment, and being sort of reasonable. Don’t be a pain. For commitment, surgery is an impossible standard, it could happen ten years or more after transition. Chucking out all ones male clothes is a good enough sign. It’s more than the law requires. And, try not to leave your penis on show.

I read that ‘trans women’ (as opposed to transsexuals) have penises. I keep harking back to this because it is so ridiculous. I asked people. Some identify as “a woman with a trans history” or even just “a woman”. Few identify as transsexual. Some who want an operation but have not yet had it identify as transsexual, and many said they had had the operation but called themselves trans women out of solidarity with those earlier on the transition journey.

The real issue with surgery being the line is that it is repugnant to ask someone whether she has had surgery. If I were asked if I were transsexual, and realised that the subtext was that a “transsexual” was presumed to have had the operation, I would refuse to say. Wouldn’t you?

The inner dialogue

The mental health support sees me for six weeks, and at the start and end give a questionnaire, asking how often I feel in particular ways- depressed and hopeless, lacking motivation, that sort of thing; not at all, hardly ever, up to every day. At the end, you could whizz me into a temporary state of optimism and I would give better numbers. The numbers make it look objective and patient led, but it is not, really. So there has been no improvement, but the records show that there has, and that’s a win.

Why would you think of the meanness and negativity yesterday, and perhaps in the above paragraph (it seems rational when I’m there) as a distinct inner voice? Why not as a mood?

Possibly it would be a different neuronal circuit, but I could not know. It feels like the different “moods” can be in dialogue, or at least argument, or manifesting together. And thinking of them as different voices, I imagine balance may be possible. If it is simply a bad mood, simply negative, I have to snap out of it. If it is an inner voice, it has its part in the dialogue, I can listen to it and gain from it and even be led by it where appropriate.

Why would suppressing it be a bad thing, denying a voice to part of me, using my energy to self-suppress not self-express, rather than managing my mood to stop me spiralling into darkness?

I need to at least investigate that possibility. It is a way of seeing aspects of the truth which I might not see from another perspective/inner voice/mood. Possibly it just demotivates and gets in the way of seeing opportunities. At worst, investigating it, I would be feeding it so that it had more control in me. This article says the positive and negative are separate circuits in the brain- distinct, they could indeed be in dialogue- citing this, whose abstract does not confirm it but the article might.

But I do not run from threats. I seek understanding. That is important to me, and when something is important to me and I see a way forward I seek it, wholeheartedly. This is an affirmation of my gifts which I believe, and find easier to say now than before. Rather than plunging into darkness, I feel I am rebalancing. Parts of me I suppress I am bringing out, to get a better equilibrium, a more integrated self.

Being in a low mood, because of that email- “our friendship has run its course”- I noticed the inner critic being hysterical. I did something unimportant, then wondered if I had made a mistake with it- “another idiotic failure”. Well, I hadn’t made that mistake, and if I had it would not have mattered much, and so the inner critic was clearly wrong.

I could have maintained that friendship, perhaps, if I had gone full-on campaigner against trans rights. I really cannot afford to lose friends, but that would have been too much.

I do not feel I am achieving enough, but that may be too great self-criticism. Not working can be a good thing.

I will be away for the Quaker Diversity weekend. Queers, Blacks and the working classes, getting together for a moan, with perhaps a few cis white heterosexual educated prosperous males agonising about their privilege. The way to deal with my own privilege may be (irony ALERT!) to think that, even though this person is in a wheelchair, they may have something worthwhile to say.

-It sounds like there’s motivation to go to that, she said. Which parts of you-? And I answered a different question, about why I wanted to go somewhere else. It’s interesting to see the question I dodged. Well, I anticipate the joy of meeting other people with similar concerns and talking about them, with infectious enthusiasm building insight together. I anticipate learning and thinking, increasing my understanding and possibly changing my mind. I anticipate joking and saying wise loving things and having them appreciated. I anticipate connection.

More counselling

Bloodi’yell, this counselling lark is weird. I go into this tiny room with a woman with purple hair, she asks how anxious and depressed I have been in various ways on a scale of one to three, and then I tell her stuff and start crying. I hate the crying. I would much rather pass as a normal person. Meet a woman, no introduction, no idea who she is, tell my woes and start crying.

I want to get my inner rationalist talking to my Real Self. The Real Self is the part with the energy, but all it can say is “No”, at the moment. Actually I want to get it heard. I am intelligent and articulate, and much of the time that part of me has no conscious voice. I want my inner parts talking to each other, and on facebook someone suggested Internal Family Systems– but Sally confirms that we don’t have time for that; but when I say these two need marriage guidance counselling she seems to think that is a worthwhile use of the time.

I thought, I have to be aware of myself if I am going to counselling tomorrow and so knelt on my meditation stool, about 10.30pm last night. Nothing. Just bleak and dead. Vague sense of anger and misery beneath. So I played Metamorphosis. Slept not that badly, cycled in a bit of wind, the day cold and clear.

She apologised for the smallness of the interview room. It’s got room for two chairs and a tiny table, and if I stretch out my legs I’d block the door. Conversationally, I say I’d alter that door to open outwards, if I were you. Someone violent or threatening could easily block it. I realise this could be taken as a threat. I am thinking of violence.

Do I want her to find a bigger room? No. Not worth the trouble. I push myself back into the corner, huddling as small as possible.

I am upset. That email saying our friendship had run its course. She’s right, of course, and the finality is still upsetting, and the tragic circumstances leading to it.

I am not dealing with the threat to all of my income. I used to do benefits tribunals, I say, and I noticed people would pour out their woes to me and feel better afterwards, and I’d be able to get an idea of what they could say to indicate they were entitled and how I could get evidence to back that up. And I would not take their distress into myself, I felt I earthed it. I would listen and sympathise and care, and then when they went I would let go of it, be glad I was helping them, and move on to something else. But some seemed to tell me their woes and just get more and more angry and distressed, as if they were a bottomless pit. They would feel no better having dumped their misery on me, and it was harder to let go. I worry I am like that, here, now. I don’t know how I could deal with that.

I am highly intelligent, creative and articulate. I say my verse.

On the Marble Cliffs
my walls are six feet thick
and twenty yards high.
Day and night
the pitch steams over the fire
and the guards make sharp steel darts
One for everyone in the World.

I do not say the rest of it. “It’s a powerful image,” she says. I start bawling again. I am so lonely! I say. Ordinary rules of shame and humiliation do not apply here.

-How long have you been counselling?
-Since 2002, so seventeen years, she says.
-Do you get paid for this?
-Yes, she says.
-Are you doing any training at the moment?
-No, I’ve done several courses over the years but am resting from that for now.

-Same time next week?
-Yes, another swim in the icy lake of my misery.

I go to the supermarket which has no skimmed milk out, then cycle to Marsby where I get milk in Tesco. I am standing in front of the refrigerated cabinets, and as I have grown hot with the exercise take off my jacket, fold it up and stuff it in the panniers. I become aware of a woman with a pushchair who wants to get into the refrigerated cabinet, and I am blocking her way. I think, I would move if she asked me. Eventually she kneels down, opens the next door and reaches along for what she wanted.

Then I am ahead of her in the queue to pay. I can’t get the milk in the panniers without taking out the jacket, putting the milk in and stuffing the jacket in after. I do this before paying. I held her up again. I notice that this is mean and nasty. Horrible. I could have accommodated her so easily, it would have cost me nothing. I did not look her in the eye, just took my time with the jacket.

That was the moment it clicked into place. This part of myself is what I think of as my negative side. I don’t go here much. I don’t think I like it. I don’t know how it would be in a confrontation. I fear it a bit. I have felt a strong need to choose the positive.

And yet, there is so much energy there! I feel the energy, I need this energy. This is another part of myself that I need, conscious, and pulling in the same direction.

I stopped talking, once, saying I have run out of things I want to explain to you, ask me a question. I can’t remember if she did. I talked of coercive control and she indicated understanding. Having a human being listen to my stream of consciousness might be therapeutic enough, even if she contributes nothing more but her presence.

Disagreement in Meeting

What words are possible in Meeting? This is a holy place. Sitting in a different spot from usual, I notice the amateurish cable-covers, the cracks between where they turn a corner: it is holy because of what we do here. What I love is the whole; I cannot deny any part of it, because that would be my fantasy of what it is, rather than the reality of it itself. I can imagine it better, and imagine ways of improving it.

It is holy because of the people. The grain in the wooden door appears beautiful because of the quality of the attention I give it here. Everything is beautiful like that.

I cannot speak lovingly in meeting if I do not speak lovingly outside meeting. I would enlarge the relevance of the phrase Be aware of the claim to integrity that you are making– if I speak in meeting, thinking it truthful, that is a claim to integrity which I need to observe outside as well.  I loved Michael Coward’s story: Summit [a youth seminar] also boasted an opportunity for the attendees to picket a family planning clinic that offered abortions. It was optional, but I was eager to go. With our signs, we walked in a narrow loop on the sidewalk. I began to notice two things. The people that agreed with us would honk their horn and wave and cheer. The people that disagreed with us honked their horn and yelled at us and made rude gestures.

We weren’t changing anyone’s mind.

Or, immediately, changing his own. I think he’s pro-choice now, I am not certain. That kind of conflict, where two groups assert their rightness, has to give way to thoughtful conversation where we identify any common ground, aims, understanding. Will my words only encourage my own side, alienating the Other and increasing the divide? The right of bodily autonomy is a particularly fraught issue, with my opponents feeling they have a monopoly on truth, rightness and empathy. My own side too, for the most part. We make proposals about birth control reducing the number of terminations- I think my side is the more constructive- yet it is hard to see a way through that issue. Perhaps Jonathan Haidt’s understanding could help us talk.

Outside meeting, I should ask, Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? These words are associated with mindfulness. There is one being acting in integrity, responding rather than reacting. When it seems my emotion is unconscious I might react immediately from that emotion rather than responding, and the feelings which I resist as unacceptable struggle the harder to reach consciousness.

And, I am tempted. I want likes, and I want fellow-feeling, someone to feel as I do. So I use rhetorical tricks. I want to encourage my side, as well as seek common ground. Sometimes my anger against others is, I feel, Pope’s The strong antipathy of good to bad. Then I wonder, will I be able to communicate? A former fundamentalist who retains a high view of the Bible and is not queer might be heard on LGBT acceptance when I might not. My words would merely confirm my immorality, in the eyes of the other. He has the chance to persuade. There is little point in words which do not communicate.

In meeting I noticed tension in my friend, which then relaxed. Very subtly, more subtly than the tensions manifest in me.

In meeting- unprogrammed or business meeting- all these criteria are necessary. The words should come from the integrated being, not reacting to provocation but responding from integrity. Communication is important: we are exhorted to sense where the words come from, and the truth they may contain, but the speaker should make that as easy as possible.

There is a paradox. Speech in meeting should be inspired, which feels immediate not considered. Is it considered, unconsciously? Is it truth in the first fire, emerging from the furnace seen anew? I have valued things I said in meeting which I had not consciously imagined before.

When it seems to me that someone pretended we are closer to each other than we actually are, in a Meeting, saying ‘Peace, peace’ where there is no peace, I was immediately revolted. I just reacted. I need space for myself, my feeling, my truth. I need your love and forebearance. I will give love and forebearance when I may.

What is holy, here, are the human beings. Letting down our guard, taking off our masks, is threatening and liberating. Closeness and understanding is possible and difficult. I can see the love, truth and creativity in your position- but it leaves no space for my existence, and denies the agency and ability to make their own decisions of my trans-masculine friends.

DSM V Gender dysphoria

What do you need, to get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria? This is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association definition of gender dysphoria:

A marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender, of at least 6 months duration, as manifested by at least two of the following:

1. a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or, in young adolescents, the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).

2. a strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one’s experienced/expressed gender (or, in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics).

3. a strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender.

4. a strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

5. a strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

6. a strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender).

Under “Diagnostic features” it notes that “There must also be evidence of distress about this incongruence. Experienced gender may include alternative gender identities beyond binary stereotypes… Adults feel uncomfortable being regarded by others, or functioning in society, as members of their assigned gender.”

Medicine is practical. Doctors don’t make people conform to a particular ideal Wellness, but help us continue to function. This definition is focused on the patients, and what we believe, desire and experience.

You don’t need to desire to change sex characteristics. Secondary sex characteristics include facial hair, or the lack of it, so a desire to change that, rather than gonads or genitals, is enough. So the attempt of some gender critical feminists to distinguish between transsexuals (acceptable) and transgender (not) is not backed up by the APA.

Alternative gender identities: the diagnosis recognises non-binary people. It does not state that the appropriate treatment will be hormones or body alteration, but at least recognises they exist. Private doctors may be more keen to give the patient what they want, so recommend surgery or hormones.

The evidence of “distress” is a fudge. Many of us are not distressed by our gender, but by society’s (perceived) response to it. I know I am a woman, but other people rejecting that distresses me. And, I decided that to be distressed by others’ responses gave them too much power over me. I accept that some people think I am a man. I am not going to waste any energy trying to persuade them otherwise, and I am not going to get upset about it. And, being seen as a woman is not necessary for friendship or politeness: they could see me as a transwoman but think that’s OK.

Yet, if you are not distressed, you are not ill. Being trans is not an illness, it is just a way people are. That means the diagnosis would change to something like gender incongruence in the proposed ICD, as it is only necessary for psychiatrists to intervene if someone wants genital surgery. You might like the backing of a psychiatrist- yes, I really am like this, I am a trans woman- but that is more the province of social scientists than of doctors.

The conviction that one has the feelings and reactions of the other gender does not fit me either. I am a gender critical feminist. I don’t think either gender is so limited, and the feelings of both are the same. I believe the reactions are culturally conditioned rather than innate. I believe my feelings and reactions fit the feminine stereotype far better than the masculine.

The convictions need to have lasted six months for diagnosis. There is no need for The Script, a claim that the feelings have lasted since childhood. But the longer the feelings have lasted, the more likely it is that they will persist, so treatment is less risky.

DSM V estimates prevalence at 0.005% to 0.014% in natal males and 0.002-0.003% in natal females. Other estimates go from 0.1-1%.

It’s all a botched job. It is trying to create a working definition for a varied human phenomenon, and people may try to fit that definition to get what we want.

Maria Miller

Maria Miller MP spoke out for trans people last week. She is the kind of Tory who might not do too much damage to the country, if she were in opposition: she was a Remainer, but last month spoke out for the Prime Minister’s Brexit arrangements. She overclaimed expenses, and the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner recommended she repay £45,000, and she wanted to reduce the abortion time limit to twenty weeks, but she also wanted to extend abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland. As far as possible, she is a moderate Tory.

She said the government was doing nothing for us, almost as clearly as she could. The government had focused its work for trans people on GRA reform, while “many trans people don’t have access to basic healthcare”. And on GRA reform little has been actually done.

Well, yes. GRA reform affects whether we can get a different gender marker on birth and marriage certificates, and that is it. The hatefest which has followed, with confected arguments about what it means and the obsession with trans people in certain media- only to make us an Out-group, whom it is acceptable to hate- has been exacerbated by the government’s delay.

The transphobe Helen Lewis attacked Maria Miller. She misrepresented the case from the start.

The heart of the fake feminist case against trans recognition is that there is some imagined threat to single sex services. Helen Lewis continues to claim that: in her latest article she linked to an earlier one, claiming that GRA reform means men in women’s spaces. That’s governed by the Equality Act, but Lewis continues to express concerns about self-ID and its impact on single-sex spaces.

Lewis claims she has been abused as a TERF, and as transphobic, though she believes trans women are women and trans men are men. Well. Is she a transphobe? She claimed a law reform which gives a right to an extract birth certificate threatened women’s spaces. That’s spreading falsehoods and fear against us.

I’ve just checked marriage certificates. There is no gender indicator on the current marriage certificate. My GRC stops me forming a civil partnership with a man, but allows me to form a civil partnership with a woman (if I could find one). GRC reform affects no-one, hardly even trans people. I haven’t shown my new birth certificate to anyone. Though it was expensive to get it, and once it was possible to get a birth certificate marked F I wanted it.

Lewis’ transphobia lies in her insistence on surgery. What used to be called “sex change surgery”, she writes, as if other names are beyond her. She distinguishes between “transsexuals” (good) and “transgender people” (bad). If you don’t hate your genitals and desire surgery, you are not proper trans. However the DSM and ICD do not require a desire for surgery for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

If trans women are women, and trans men are men, trans women should be in women’s spaces. Stop fearmongering about us.

Debbie Hayton wrote in the Morning Star that The government’s handling of transgender rights has been mismanaged from the start- delays in access to healthcare are harming trans people’s quality of life. I find this unobjectionable; but trans women who hate her because she supports the terfs and transphobes objected to her even saying this. It’s tragic. That anyone calls for more funding for trans health is a good thing, whatever their views on anything else.

To cleanse your palette after all this: a summary of human needs from Radio 4. Apparently we need autonomy, competence and relatedness: we need freedom of choice, we need to feel we are quite good at doing something and we need to have social bonds with people. Yup.

Out and proud in the Bronze Age

Non-binary people were honoured in the city of Hasanlu before it was destroyed in 800 BCE. The evidence is in burials and in art: not just a hole-in-corner existence, but recognition as a normal part of society, honoured by family and the wider culture.

We have no writing from there, but there are burials. Some skeletons can be identified as female or male from the pelvis, or possibly from the skull, but if these are incomplete it might not be possible. These people were buried with valuable items, whether as a sign of respect or for use in the afterlife, and the items fitted three genders.

Weapons, armour and metal vessels were associated with male skeletons. Jewellery, needles and pins for fastening garments were for women in this culture, but out of 51 burials analysed ten burials had masculine and feminine artifacts. A male skeleton had an arrowhead, which is for a man, and a garment pin, which in that culture is as feminine as you can get. I wore a kilt pin when I presented male, but that’s a different culture.

Another skeleton which cannot be sexed had a garment pin and a metal drinking cup. They performed masculine rituals in feminine clothes. All the burials show evidence of formal ritual to show the person’s identity and social status, masculine, feminine, or between. Of the ten skeletons, five were male, two female and three not identifiable, which might show that AMAB people had greater ability to express themselves as non-binary than AFAB people.

It also shows that men being feminine was not shameful, was not denied by the relatives, was part of the culture. That in turn shows that women were more equal in the culture, or things fitting for women would be shameful for men. Am I going too far? I understand the ancient culture with my own categories. I know that non-binary exists. It seems to fit these ancient skeletons and the ritual of their burial. My readers will also know that non-binary exists, and that it is not weird, or strange, or shameful; and so be happy to imagine that it was perfectly normal for these ancient people. Anyone who might deny that might be projecting their own social categories and sense of shame back three thousand years.

Pictures from the Hasanlu culture showed only women seated on the floor, generally, but the Hasanlu gold bowl has a person with a beard in women’s clothes, seated on the floor.

Details from Haaretz. Picture credit.