Bloodless moralism

In First Things, Helen Andrews criticises consequentialist morality. It is no longer sufficient to know that something is wrong, one must give a reason based on outcomes, she says, decrying that. It is a long essay, and summaries of what she thinks is bad or good might be a straw man, but she made me think of One instinctively knows when something is right, which Google tells me was an advertising slogan for Croft Original sherry. One grows up in the right schools with the right education, reading the classics, drinking proper sherry as soon as one is old enough, worshipping in the Church of England, and the decency of ones elders rubs off on one.

There was a man who wanted to learn about jade, so the expert gave him a piece of jade every day to examine. After a few months he gave a green stone which was not jade, and the man expostulated, “You tell me nothing, you just give me pieces of jade, and now you give me a stone which is not jade!” Of course, he knew it was not, instinctively. Andrews praises Christopher Hitchens, who she says was not an expert in anything, but people cared what he had to say for two reasons: It was evident that he had read widely, and he expressed himself beautifully. Both of these are forms of authority.

She argues that social science research into good policy for good aims does not work. She cites the Doll tests, which she says were so flawed in their method as to be scientifically worthless. I could not comment- but if they are shown to be worthless, it is by other social scientists honing their methods, and finding better ones, or at least the pitfalls to avoid. That social science is difficult does not mean it is not worth trying.

The doll tests were used as evidence in Brown v Board of Education, mandating the racial integration of US schools. She approves that decision, but not that particular evidence. She does not say how she would have decided it- perhaps with Quemcunque miserum videris hominem scias,  a quote from Seneca, or Jesus’ teaching on who is my neighbour, to include the Samaritan, the hated outsider/foreigner. I am glad she approves the Civil Rights struggle, but judge her commitment to racial equality on her attitude to people of colour’s struggle now- this dismissive aside on “LGBTQ identity politics and black lives matter antics” may indicate that.

So her apparent belief in deontology may be naturally conservative, better at seeing when something has been recognised as right, than finding ways of improving culture. A good education is no guarantee of morality. People quoted the Bible to justify slavery. Perhaps the divide should be between those seeking to improve the whole society through moral action and those merely in it for themselves, rather than by the tools we use to find that moral action.

Or deontology works when we have an idea that something is right, but could not quite put a finger on why. It may be that I had a rule inculcated as a child, or a Great Ape instinct that this is beyond the normal behaviour of my species.

Philosophers could debate whether necessity or coercion ever justified theft without ever looking at consequences, either those imagined as likely or shown by social science evidence. People make slippery slope arguments which are later shown to be unfounded. My own morality is a mix of consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics, half understood, inconsistent, and almost certainly at least partly self-interested, but eliminating consequentialism would not improve it.

On the train, a woman could not sit by her ten year old daughter, so sat beside me. I offered to swap seats with the daughter so they could sit together, and she accepted, gratefully. It cost me nothing, benefited them both, and still gives me pleasure a week later, and I cited that pleasure when Andrew raised evolutionary arguments against altruism. “Not everyone would feel it,” he said. Those of us who do should stick together.

Bloodless Moralism.” I found it through Ross Douthat.

Snowdrops

And now, some snowdrops, seen under a tree by the roadside as I cycled home from the Quaker meeting. Unwisely, I ventured onto Mumsnet where yet another pile-on on trans rights is occurring, with allegations of threats to women and women’s rights and much offensive language, and I just can’t be bothered.

Look! Snowdrops!

First someone cited my blog as evidence of sex offenders pretending to be trans. Well, there is a suggestion of prisoners falsely claiming to be trans, but of the estimate of about eighty trans people in prison, only someone with access to their medical records and criminal records could report reliably whether they are mostly sex offenders, or what diagnoses they have of gender dysphoria, or whether they transitioned before entering prison. If an IPP (Indeterminate sentence for Public Protection) is generally problematic, it should be problematic for a trans woman. Some people in segregated units are sex offenders, but other offenders can be sent there if they are under threat in the general population, as trans women often would be. One, who committed suicide, was a rapist. Women need protected from rapists; but the arguments about whether trans women should self-ID outside prison and about where trans prisoners should be held are different. I try, here, to show the complexity of the situation, so am vulnerable to parts being taken out of context.

Then they linked to Autogynephilia, to argue I am a sex pervert, so not entitled to consideration. Women need protected from such as me. There was a long post from an androphile trans woman, and some sympathy for her being lumped in with us perverts. Well, that’s inconsistent: unless you accept the arguments of brain differences in androphiles, where feminists challenge the arguments of brain differences between the sexes, the androphile is as offensive as the gynephile. The other argument against androphiles transitioning is that the desire comes from homophobia, the thought that they must be women as they are attracted to men. I don’t know if anyone who clicked the link got the point that the autogynephilia hypothesis could not explain transition being a cure for gender dysphoria. As more people clicked than posted, possibly some did.

Then they linked to A Nurse who is Trans. A trans woman, who had not transitioned, went to give a cervical smear to a woman who had requested a female nurse to do the test. The trans woman got a cis woman to do the test, but not before blurting out that she is trans. The reason she has stubble and close cropped hair is that she has not transitioned yet.

I was angry, posting then. One mistake on a smear test appointment, quickly put right, is not news, but the Murdoch press pick on it to inflame passions against trans women. My post was used to argue autogynephiliac perverts have no empathy for the concerns of women. I have, actually. These concerns matter, though I feel Women’s Aid is quite capable of deciding whether they can employ trans women, as they are considering now, so women working full time on women’s rights for the most vulnerable don’t necessarily have the same absolutist position as some posters on Mumsnet.

I need somewhere to go. The “All-Gender toilet” in Tate Britain was formerly the disabled person’s toilet, so my choice is between risking confrontation with a carer angry at my occupying the toilet they need or a woman angry at me in hers. Fortunately the general run of society, apart from some vocal conservatives and Evangelical Christians, tolerate me in both. Even some gender critical feminists tolerate me!

We spend ourselves

She left school aged 15, and went to work in the mill, just like everyone else did. She was unhappy there, nervous, uncomfortable, and her mother took up the habit of walking her there, and being there in the evening to walk her home. Then she did not want to go, and eventually stayed at home. When I met her, she was in her mid fifties, still living with her mother. She had been getting benefits as unfit to work, but the system had stopped them, so I had to prove she was entitled. She was like her mother- both the same height, around 5′, medium build in proportion, but as if the flower, never fertilised, had wilted and dried rather than become a seed pod. She was still an adolescent, looked after by her mother.

We established that she was entitled to benefit, and after the tribunal hearing I caught the eye of the presenting officer for the DSS, one of those who acted as if it were her own money that would be paid to the claimant- but the woman had touched her heart. I said to her, “You’re glad that she got the benefit too, aren’t you?” and she nodded.

(I will add- “Not trusting herself to speak”. She said nothing. It is an assumption, pushing my observation into the realms of imagination, but one the fiction writer feels justified in, telling this story which is part fact. It rings true to me. Did the steely presenting officer’s eye gleam slightly, was it moist, or is that a trick of memory in the service of my fiction? Heightened reality, just slightly heightened-

We spend ourselves, says the stern moralist in me. The claimant had not, but guarded herself in her bower, and therefore stopped growing. It was an existence, just stopping at home. She was unrealised, possibly because the society was such poor soil, with mill work the only work.

Every day I feel the lack of my testicles, and resent it, for what it bars to me, that way of relating to another, and I am alone. The fat person might know he cannot run for a bus, his joints will be damaged by his weight, it would be better in some ways if he were lighter, and he is doing all he can to be in the world. Losing weight is another’s priority, however rational-seeming, and not his. My testicles were the price I paid for self-acceptance at the time, and keeping them would have been harder. I had them removed, and my depression lifted.

I hide myself in my bower, except when I go to London, or the Labour party. Or these daily cries for help to the ether. We spend ourselves out in the world, joints ruined by weight, testicles sacrificed to Womanhood, and even hidden away the days tick by and I have had more than half of mine. I spent as I had to, to achieve what I needed. Society was such poor soil for me. My writing may have value, an easy grace sweated over, generous, expansive and an invitation to question.

The best writers change how we think and see, and Siri Hustvedt’s essays in “A woman looking at men looking at women” challenge me. She dances around the truth, making connections and seeing from different angles, as scientist and artist for she is both. She has an exercise for the patients in the locked ward- write “I remember” then keep writing; what you write may surprise you.

Hustvedt: writing blocks are symptoms. Why have I shut out the truth?
Inactivity is a symptom. Why have I shut out the truth?
Can writing help?

Out in the world I suffered and spent myself, and now at home, in my bower, I suffer and spend myself. The consolations may not be enough. I am glad that I see things, glad that I write and speak the truth. Though I have just remembered the presenting officer’s eye glinted or gleamed, or not, in another case: that of a woman of limited intelligence, who could not calculate how many bank notes to hand over for her shopping, so trusted the checkout woman to tell her, yet who lived independently, married and brought up a daughter, who had not realised she had ceased being entitled to carer’s allowance for that daughter and might have had to repay an overpayment: a woman I admired, for achieving so much despite her difficulties, and possibly the presenting officer did too. I had sympathy for all of the claimants, but the presenting officers’ sympathy was rare.

Blindness

You should not affect to be colour-blind. The BAME person, fat person or trans person cannot be blind to their minority status.

I wondered about the use of the word “fat”. You cannot say that, said R, who is a bit fat. It is pejorative. However it is descriptive, and many words are more than descriptive- twee, like “plump”, or euphemistic, like “well-upholstered”, or judgmental, like “overeater”, which has self-control as the implicit answer to a problem, or medicalising, like “obese”. So “fat” is the word.

From my mother’s clothing catalogue I translated “classic clothes for the fuller figure” to “unfashionable clothes for fat women”. I remember that most of them were beige. It seemed to me that I could avoid the potential offensiveness of the word “fat” by not referring to it at all, unless necessary. The simplest task of ally-ship is challenging offensive language or bullying. It should not be just the fat person, or even the dietician, challenging fatphobia. I could do that. I remember a poem from childhood, where one child does not laugh at the child who fell on the floor, though all the others, adults too, found it uproarious. Why not laugh? Because “That poor little child was me”. We need allies. I should not need to be the one challenging when I am excluded. I may not find the courage to challenge when I am excluded because I fear the exclusion spreading.

A more difficult ally task is inclusion. Why are there so few BAME people here? At the CAB we talked of “difficult to reach” clients, but that has since been reframed from the client’s point of view, and I cannot remember the words. I am not “colour-blind”, I notice the monochrome whiteness of the crowd and see this as a problem- others missing out on our campaigning and us missing out on their talents. One answer is to seek out leadership of BAME people, like the Labour party committee which will include the BAME person with the most votes, wherever they come in the list, and the other person with the mo-

I find that hard to put elegantly. The two people with the most and second-most votes will be elected, unless both are white, in which case the person with the most votes and the BAME person with the most votes will be elected. I understood the concept, but how to say it is complicated.

I read that I should not expect the minority to teach me how to be an ally, as they have agency and might decide what to do with their time. I do not want always to be explaining trans issues to people, or at least while I am glad people want to be helpful, and I want to answer their questions, sometimes I don’t have the energy. Worse is speaking to a person about ones good intentions to be an ally. How should I respond to that? I don’t necessarily feel that grateful. It shows that I am at a disadvantage. But it is not me at the disadvantage, but society, because not everyone’s talents are being used to the full. This is a problem for everyone, and everyone should take part in dealing with it. Why should I be grateful, when someone is not doing the minimum necessary because they do not know what that is? You’re too late! You should have started years ago!

I enjoy advantages because of the colour of my skin. BAME people’s effort produces lesser results. The wind is at my back at least that far, though against me as a trans person. And I don’t know how to act on that.

Lesbian liberation

Some people can just be themselves, some try to be something else, and some can almost be themselves if they find a label. The label “transsexual” liberated me to be almost myself. The Lesbian Rights Alliance, a hurriedly-set up name which has a facebook page but not yet a website, claims that the identities of “tomboy” or “butch” allow girls to express themselves other than in a feminine way, but these identities are being erased. The facebook page has 296 likes according to Google. It is seeking the experience of lesbians: Are you a Lesbian currently living in the UK? Have you experienced harassment, rape threats by Trans Identified Males (“trans-women”) on dating sites/social media? Have you been pressured by LGBT+ groups, student unions etc to accept the penis as a female sex organ? Have you ever felt pressurised to have dates with men self-defining as lesbians? If you have had a date with a self-defining lesbian have you experienced rape or sexual assault?

I find this reassuring. It is a myth going round transphobic circles. I am glad they do not have the evidence for it. No-one should pressure another into sex; and there is no need for anyone to say they would never have sex with me, or a group I belong to.

It claims, Only a few years ago young girls were allowed to be ‘tomboys’ – have short hair, wear trousers, and undertake games and activities which traditionally have been considered the domain of boys, without being told that they had to change their sex. Many of these young girls defined as lesbians when they reached adolescence. This is no longer allowed. Transgender training given to schools is telling teachers that these girls are experiencing ‘gender confusion’ and should be assisted or supported to self‑identify as boys.

This is a serious allegation. Gendered Intelligence would tell schools they should support trans children, but not force that identity on children who had not expressed it. I am glad that Transgender Trend printed this in their “Resource pack for schools” because it reduces their credibility.

I can believe that butch girls are “bullied, stigmatised and isolated” but not that they are pressured to socially transition. Trans is not a “positive and fashionable identity”. We, too, are bullied, stigmatised and isolated- see the Stonewall School’s Out report. And Stonewall was a gay organisation led by a lesbian before it was trans-inclusive. Out, campaigning lesbians do not encourage cis lesbians to transition to male out of lesbophobia. The allegations are paranoid.

There is no acknowledgement or support for these young lesbians in schools and no funded youth groups for them outside of school, although there are many funded trans youth groups. Some schools, not all, have an LGBT group.

They say some tomboys later identify as lesbian, and refer to young lesbians in schools who do not want to conform to feminine stereotypes. But not only lesbians do not want to conform to feminine stereotypes, and not all radical feminists are lesbian. Some might grow up to be heterosexual viragos, and some might just be experimenting. Yes schools need positive information about lesbians, but also support for children experimenting with identity beyond narrow stereotypes. The “Lesbian Rights Alliance” ignores the rights of girls who do not fit that identity. We all have to work out our identity for ourselves, and those of us who have should support a wide range of identities including bespoke identities, so that no-one is excluded.

Body positivity

Trans activists can learn from fat activists. The words we use change the way we see: “obese” is medicalised, “overeater” is a judgment, “fat” is a description, being reclaimed. I got the word “Overeater” from a meeting of Overeaters Anonymous at the Quaker Meeting House; all were women, and I noticed the beauty of their complexions.

I am not as other people are, and I might rail against that, or deny it, but acceptance makes life easier. Some might say the fat person lacks self-control, but my maintaining a fairly steady weight does not feel particularly difficult, and I recognise the efforts many people put in to losing weight. Science might classify people as obese, a rational, not necessarily moralistic judgment, pointing to health problems such people are more likely to have; or that might be the judgment of power, where paying attention to particular matters is a choice, and there are different ways of conceptualising the same underlying reality. My own conception could seem to me like simple reality, clearly seen, until I become aware of another’s, which is totally different. Surely they are wrong, missing something, in denial, or else I am- but no, they merely see differently.

Thinking myself an ally I unthinkingly used the word “obese”, a judgment, so turned to Google to find other ways to see. I can learn from others. Searching for “Fat activists” showed me articles aimed at the left-liberal mainstream, such as this interview with an activist written to explain “Here’s how you can be an ally”. There are enemies, who imagine their way of seeing is the only one.

Jessica Hinkle, interviewed in Vice, says They say I glorify obesity when I actually glorify self-love. Men imagine she is starved of affection and send sexually explicit messages. People hide their fat-phobia as “concern” for our health. Indeed, and people hide transphobia as concern, or as feminism. It is phobia: anger, fear and a desire to control.

In order to be body-positive, you have to acknowledge that people truly deserve respect and autonomy over their bodies without judgement. Fat people aren’t “before” photos. There is so much that I have not questioned, just picked up or assumed, that oppresses others. Cat Polivoda: In our culture, it’s a standard assumption that if you’re curvy, plus-size, or fat, you must be actively trying to lose weight. The otherness of others is challenging, so one makes assumptions. Having sketched out my map of the world, it is time to colour in more detail.

The person of colour mentions intersectionality. Ariel Woodson: body positivity at its best means an intersectional take on bodies. You want to prioritize the bodies that are most oppressed in our society and make sure things are equal for people. It means doing away with the real-world implications of living inside a body that people don’t like. If I can, it behoves me to see others’ oppression as well as my own.

Just as people will sometimes reassure me how well I pass as female, they tell Cat “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful”. She says she is both, and they find that challenging. “We’re supposed to hate ourselves. We’re supposed to hide,” says Alysse Dalessandro. She makes clothes that do not try to make her look thinner, under the label “Ready to stare”.

It’s all about the [cis or trans] women, but Kelvin Davis has been shamed by jackets not in his size, and told to suck it up, be a man, not talk about his feelings.

Searching for body positivity I found a collective of facilitators, creating a world in which people value their unique identities and are liberated from self-hatred so they can optimize their energy and intellect to make positive changes in their own lives, communities, and beyond. It sounds wonderful, but I would prefer a bottom-up, self-organised web of activists sharing their wisdom to experts monetising it. Our model is comprised of five core Competencies, the fundamental skills we can practice on a daily basis to live peacefully and healthfully in our bodies. Buy the book, they say, but share this pdf on the competencies. They seem to me to match the wisdom I have learned as I mature, moving from self-rejection to self-acceptance.

I have read an article, and looked at a site; and I am aware of new ideas I can get to know, and some of the ways I thoughtlessly hurt others which I might correct.

Gender-conforming in schools

When Jeremy Bem, aged 4, went to school wearing hair slides, a boy in his class hounded him, saying only girls wear those. His mother, a psychologist, reports that eventually he was driven to show off his penis to prove his maleness. The other said, “Everyone has a penis. Only girls wear barrettes.”

If schools can widen the space in which young people feel comfortable in their non‑conformity, and all gender expressions are accepted then it may become clear that transition is not the only answer for all. So says the Transgender Trend resource pack for schools, condemned by Stonewall as a deeply damaging document, packed with factually inaccurate content. Not only does it fail to reflect the real experiences of trans young people, it actively encourages schools to take steps that risk them falling foul of their legal duties and duty of care to pupils. I agree with Transgender Trend, so far; enforcement of gender in schools tortures pupils, and medical transition with hormones and surgery should not be the only response.

Jeremy was quite sure he was a boy, and possibly did not wear hair clasps ever after. The bullying would restrict his choices; I hope he felt empowered to choose as he wished, hair in clasps or loose, long or short, barrettes pink and sparkly or a rich, restrained maroon- symbols of masculinity or femininity which should both be his birthright, for we are all a rich mix of both. It would be worrying if a boy child one day wore barrettes and the next was told he was trans, but what happens instead is children having to work hard for it to be accepted that they are trans; and then they may be referred to specialists.

Children should be able to play with the signifiers of gender, of both genders if they wish, and play differently on different days. There is no characteristic or quality of one sex which the other does not exhibit, and which is not equally good in both. Moulding into gender harms everyone. I am completely with TT’s aim To create a culture of respect for ‘difference’ which allows children to reject the gender stereotypes for their sex but am unsure of the second half- without feeling they must also reject their bodies in order to be their ‘authentic selves’. Why would an AMAB child say s/he was a girl? Is it just because of gender stereotypes, or is there something else?

Kate, now in her late twenties who acquired testosterone illegally and injected it for a year while at university, writes, I know now that my belief I was transgender was largely due to internalised misogyny and homophobia. Once I realised the truth, my dysphoria all but disappeared and I feel much happier in myself. To me that illustrates the difficulty of believing what gender-variant people say, either those who transition happily or who revert. We are under the pressure of gender. There are many “reasons” we could adopt for transitioning or detransitioning, which are rather verbal formulations or rationalisations. I wanted to, more than anything else in the world. And, I found it did not solve my problems. We want people to be simply trans or not-trans, but we change our minds. Trans is a choice, not a state: we transition because we decide to, not because we are innately, truly trans.

So I am with TT’s set of suggestions for stamping out gender enforcement, “broadening gender expectations and relaxing rules”. Accept children’s non-stereotypical behaviour, praise a girl for being brave, compliment a boy on his gentleness; make uniform and hair length rules unisex; the real challenge comes in this: Encourage questioning and critical thinking around cultural messages and
societal expectations. That frees children to be themselves, but not particularly to fit society. Schools are often more conservative than that.

Encourage questioning, and people will defy crude pigeonholes. A conservative might seamlessly adopt trans into the conservative culture, saying, we have this way to (partial) acceptance for people like you. You adopt the way forward suggested by your elders and betters. Or, trans is liberal, where individuals find our true selves, against social pressure to conform to gender. Can we not agree that the gender stereotypes are harmful to individuals, and should be challenged?

(c) Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, Renfrewshire Council Collections, Including Collections Associated with the Paisley Art Institute; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Worship is relationship

I was taken to church weekly as a child. Reciting the creed was part of life, and believing it was part of my identity. I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible… So when in 2010 I no longer believed, that was painful as my identity was remade against my will. It felt that I still believed, sometimes. Yet when in February 2011 I was touristing around the south coast having admitted to myself that I did not believe in an Eternal God, creator, outside time but in some way a Person, I went into a church to admire the building and was forced to my knees by the holiness of it. My heart had been opened by the Hoffman Process and I was in a strange place, open to remaking my identity, new and greater understanding, accepting feelings which had not fitted my world view or self-image before.

The world is not as I thought it is. Perhaps you have had such experiences, or will have, or else have a smoother, less painful, way of learning and integrating learning.

The field where Greenbelt is held each year is eldritch at all times, and magical during the festival. I don’t know where the tree was, only that I was unaware of it until a broad leaf almost hit my face, and I jerked my head away, looking at it in shock- and then I was fully aware of it, the beauty of that leaf, and I was in relationship with the tree, I-thou with it, seeing, appreciating, loving. There are spirits, naiads and dryads, within feet of you at all thymes you are outside.

Slowly, the utterly magical spiritual experience, where I am aware of my surroundings or at one with them, merged with my quotidian experience, where I could move into awareness by touching a surface then appreciating it, entering fully into my sensation of it. Then my awareness expanded to my other sensations. — talked of repeatedly waking up: he would be walking along the street, then he would awaken into awareness and realise he had not been awake for a week. There was the dullness of going through the motions and ruminating on fantasy, then the quick sharp awareness of reality like fresh clear air among smog. And yesterday there was the millennium bridge, the fried nuts seller, the pigeon, those tourists, the River. The Cathedral. I was, there, in that space, at that moment.

(My judgment kicks in. Was it like that, really? That was how I saw the church at the time; and the tree was an intense experience, though only for an instant. And I am a story-teller, and these are my stories for you now.)

Freed from the idea of a God in some way separate from all things visible and invisible I have moved towards the idea of worship as relationship, which seems more valuable. I turn outwards. There is Me and everything else, or Not-me, and I contemplate it. Me and Not-me, or me in Not-me, something greater than myself, inexplicable, inexorable, with Love Wrath and Indifference mixed. “Before the Big Bang God lit the blue touch-paper, and advanced.” God is in everything. Rationally I am non-theist, emotionally I am theist: I cannot believe in a creator of this Universe which fits the Christian ideas I learned, yet being in relationship with Not-me fits how I am made.

God is that which is Not-me. God is in me. God is our relationship. This organism, being and growing, perceiving, relating, and also second-guessing, doubting, ruminating, has moments relating to the world and seeing itself. That is worship, a time devoted to truth.

(c) Manchester City Galleries; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Affirmations

I was powerfully affirmed last night, speaking in public about the trans experience. I was my usual charismatic self. I did it well. I formulated a question for the audience which people found excellent. Someone commented that while the other two told of their difficulties in finding their true selves, I powered in with “In April 2002 I transitioned male to female”. I spoke positively, about  finding the courage to transition when I was accepted as a member, about my talents being used, and my hope for reconciliation with gender critical feminists through Friends. We went for a pint after, and they offered me the chance to speak again, which I took. I like these experiences.

I had a series of heart-opening experiences during the day. I went to the Tate Modern, which was hoaching with kiddies, as it is half term. The Turbine Hall is carpeted, and all the swings were occupied. The scaffold holding the swings, stretching two thirds the length of the hall and above the lower bridge, is worth seeing. A huge pendulum swings above. The Modigliani exhibition was hoaching too, and I went through it quickly. Those nudes are too close to the poses in the porn mags I looked at in my twenties, as I tried to cure myself of cross-dressing with heterosexual desires, but one picture of Jeanne Hebuterne has the most stunning, haunting blue eyes. I was walking through the galleries paying little attention, but they grabbed me.

Before I went to meet H at the Courtauld Institute, where we had lunch together and saw their collection from the 14th to the 21st centuries. A Cezanne of a Swiss lake haunts me, the rich red-brown of the mountains. Then I walked over Waterloo Bridge to Tate Modern. I wanted to see you but you could not join me, and I am filled with misery. No, really, you could not, and sent a fairly warm text explaining, and still. After the gallery I crossed the Millennium Bridge in the sunshine, gazing up at St Pauls. I am- here, myself in the World, aware. I was not with my petty concerns but in the moment, where I was. I feel useless, incapable, unable to feed or please myself and surrounded by wonders.

In Friends House, the bookshop has Testosterone Rex, a gender-critical psychology, and Trans Britain, our journey from the shadows, together. I have the achievement and delight, the despair and feelings of worthlessness, together. I wish the affirmation penetrated deeper. I am frightened and alone.

— has in her fridge the means to end it all, when her physical ailments get too much for her, someone told me. She had to go on the Dark Web, and use cryptocurrency. He told me this in awe, as a thing he could not but share, and I share it with you, though not identifying the woman. On the train I was able to do a small kindness: a woman sat apart from her daughter, aged about ten, and I swapped seats so they could sit together. In the Tate members’ room there was a sophisticated woman, introducing a girl about the same age, speaking to her as an equal, treating her to cake and talking of the art works, inculcating similar sophistication. It is a gift.

A Quaker said, oh, you’re Clare, you write all those articles! Yes, that’s me. “You must read so much!” I don’t, actually, I said. I hardly read at all. (Opinion articles on the Guardian and NYT websites don’t count, only books count.) I had this self-image of the person who reads a lot, which led me to read Proust Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and now don’t, perhaps because of depression. I buy books and hardly touch them. It seemed reading a book might be a task to devote myself to, I decide to read because it is right for me rather than imagining I will read because it is a thing I do, then realising I don’t just do it. I buy a book as an act of faith. In St Pancras I play the piano, defiantly. This is who I am, what I can do. I looked around after, and a woman caught my eye, smiling.

The colours on this reproduction are far cooler than I remember.

How many trans people?

It depends on what you mean by trans people: people with gender recognition certificates, people living full time in a new gender, people who would like to transition but for insuperable difficulties, people who cross-dress…

Is the number growing? There are no clear answers. The Office for National Statistics has no established estimates. The census of 2011 had a question asking sex, giving the options male or female. I am non-binary. There was no question on that.

Since 2005, only a few thousand people have received gender recognition certificates, but they are expensive, and require a specialist psychiatrist’s letter. Many might not bother, but would get a GRC after self-certification. About two hundred trans people a year have genital operations on the NHS, about the number of new GRCs.

Many more people might call themselves transgender. The ONS puts it at 0.5-1%, or about half a million people. The Equality and Human Rights Commission put it at 1%.

Ten years ago the government commissioned the Gender Identity Research and Education Society, GIRES, to estimate the number of trans people. They considered passports, which can be changed as soon as you transition. They estimated 300,000-500,000 people experiencing some degree of gender variance. Many would not act on that, or might dress at home. It’s about feelings, not actions. If you are unhappy with your assigned gender, and have to hide that, it affects you adversely.

In the next census, there should be a question on sex assigned at birth then a question on gender identity. If it asked “do you identify as a transgender person” not all the 500,000 people might say yes, and some might mock the question: the 2011 census question on religion identified 176,632 “Jedi knights”, down from 390,000 in 2001. Some are in denial, and some would not like to admit it. Many of that half million will never take any action to change their gender presentation.

Not all trans children come out to their parents, who would answer the census question on their behalf. The 2021 census will have to be designed soon.

The Yougov poll asked people to define their gender on a scale from 0, completely masculine, to 6, completely feminine. 2% of males aged 18-24 said they were “completely feminine”, 8% said they did not know, and 3% said they were neither masculine nor feminine. No females aged 18-24 said they were completely masculine, but 7% did not know and 10% said neither. More men had a negative than positive view of masculinity, but women were more positive. Both sexes were strongly positive about femininity. Only 28% of British men, but 42% of American men, said they were completely masculine.

I wonder how many women “wear the trousers” in their heterosexual relationship, but can’t find anyone even asking the question.

Most data from More or Less on Radio 4.