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.

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.

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.

Loneliness, shyness, attention

In the world I have created for myself, I rarely have to suffer unwelcome attention. Like the child in sister’s underwear, certain s/he does not wish to be seen by others, in much of my life I do not want to be seen. I need to be able to bear being seen, to go out into the world, and want to understand why I crave attention and seek it out, yet hide away.

I seek attention. I stand before forty people at the HAI weekend and tell a story. I get a few laughs and applause at the end. I know some people are afraid of public speaking, but don’t get why. There can be a difficult audience, but generally people are wanting you to succeed, paying you all their attention, the room is focussed on you. I love it. And blogging, I like attention. On Friday 193 people from 27 countries on six continents looked at my blog, and that pleases me. One from Uganda has made twelve page-views on Saturday, showing sustained interest. It’s probably the same person as the four page views from there the day before. Likes, even follows, are cheap and attention seeking- I’ve looked at you, look at me.

Attention in real life is reciprocal. We need attention. We are a social species. Oddballs may set out to walk across Australia or the Arctic alone, but at University one summer I had three days in a row without a meaningful conversation and at the end I was climbing the walls. Now I have three days like that quite often. Next week I will see a friend for lunch whose company I enjoy, and I will make many spoken and body-language signals of my regard for her. She will do the same for me. It will be delightful. We will make each other think, and provoke feeling, and in a sophisticated, adult way, play together.

Getting over 250 upvotes on a comment in the Guardian- it has to be made early so that it is visible to anyone scrolling the article, and it has to be trenchantly stating a popular view- feels good. Not as good as attention in person but it is my best substitute. Or I shared on a facebook trans group, and people piled on me. I argued back, and would not give the last word, but it was exhausting. I do not like negative attention, but there I was arguing a point I thought was useful and truthful, against a negative and defeatist denial. The negative attention was wearing, but I was right to persist. Facebook is not just a parasite on the human need for attention, but our need to feel worthwhile too.

Work is the way people get to feel valuable, such that some cannot bear to retire. Meaning and purpose in lives needs to be affirmed by other people. At any time in the last five years I might have taken up voluntary work, and been clear that I was doing something worthwhile, generally affirmed by others, but I have not. I am gregarious. I like company. Voluntary work would give me company, and I have considered it but never applied to start.

Here’s Hayley Webster, or Scott, on shyness in the Guardian. She tried to be her perfect self, and hide her real self away. Yes, I get that. And watching herself on video she saw herself, apologetic, well-meaning, softly spoken… shrinking into myself to not inhabit space. I didn’t want to be too loud, too much or too anything. Yeah. Me too. My perfect self had to win all the tribunals, and if not then I was no good. And when I could not win, I could not face trying. Feeling I was not doing something worthwhile, and getting some unpleasant attention, in actual hostility, finally stopped me. I wrote this just before I stopped, and that condensating man in Cumbernauld has been a symbol of why I stopped for me ever since.

It has not made sense to me, so I wrote this. That’s the other reason why I blog. Why can I stand on a stage and yet not bear to go to work? Because of an audience rooting for me, and a man expressing contempt. But I have to! I have to!

People seek negative attention, says Leo Benedictus in the Guardian. It does not work for me. I would say those people are doing something they are particularly committed to, because they think it necessary for themselves, or vindication/revenge, or even the right thing, bolstered by much positive attention from their cell.

Gender equality

Long before the Equality Act, trans people used the Sex Discrimination Act to argue rights for ourselves. I met an accountant who, fed up with going to work male, went in a skirt suit, and was dismissed and walking home an hour later; but others kept their employment rights. Arguably the statutory instruments drafted to regulate trans rights reduced them.

The Equality Act protects “transsexual persons” who “propose to undergo a process for the purpose of reassigning sex”. The heading is “gender reassignment” so at best the law makes disentangling sex and gender difficult. They are different, but not in law. Medical jargon is the same, referring to the “homosexual transsexual” suffering from “gender dysphoria”.

The Act also protects men and women from discrimination on the grounds of sex, with some exceptions for employers such as women’s refuges. However it only prohibits “less favourable” treatment, not different treatment, which is why arguments that women should not have to wear skirts to the office fail. Making women wear skirts is not less favourable than making men wear jackets and ties. So different treatment is enshrined in law.

That means the law supports the Patriarchy in saying there are two genders, and that generally they are mapped onto the two sexes, though a tiny number of people may swap from one to the other. How may we be liberated? One way is to change the idea of gender so that it is not thought to restrict capacity, such as by the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which removed restrictions on women practising as lawyers or civil servants, or on juries. There I go, conflating sex and gender again. There is no reason why women should not be lawyers.

The other is to divorce the concept of gender from that of sex. Men can be feminine, women can be masculine. There is no characteristic, aptitude, quality, virtue or vice peculiar to one sex, or which is not equally good or bad in both. We signal our gender with our clothes and body language.

No-one should be treated badly because another disapproves of their gender presentation or their gendered behaviour. No-one should have the right to enforce gendered behaviour on another.

Arguably, the very concept of gender is oppressive because it is imagined to fit the sexes- man/masculine, woman/feminine. Ideally, society should abandon it; but while it exists people should be protected from discrimination because of perceived gender.

So my Equality scheme would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sex. Men and women should not be treated more or less favourably, and any necessary exceptions should be specifically defined, such as the genuine occupational requirement for some jobs, or the All-woman shortlist while women are underrepresented.

It would also prohibit discrimination on the ground of actual or perceived gender: the signals we give, the behaviour and the underlying attributes and desires. An employee should be judged on their skills and abilities, not on how they look. This would permit a wider range of gendered behaviour in both sexes, and gradually strip away the link between sex and gender, men and masculinity, women and femininity. Where we generalise and stereotype people because of their sex, and disapprove of those not conforming to our stereotypes, the law could intervene and guide us away from that. The law would be applied in the worst of cases, and would guide society and people’s ideas of what is acceptable so that the stereotypes fell away.

Virtue and Indulgence

At the breakfast bar, there were sausages, bacon, fried and scrambled egg, mushrooms, and black pudding. I had a bowl of muesli. “You’re so virtuous!” said several people, in resisting the fry-up. Rather, I took what I wanted at the time. Sometimes I want fatty meat, sometimes not. I can feel I want a particular thing to eat, or do not want a different thing, and it seems that is because of something in it; possibly my cravings could be fine-tuned, so that I work out what it is that I am craving and where best to get it.

I like a pudding, perhaps a chocolate cheesecake, after eating out. “It’s self-indulgent,” I said, possibly echoing what I had heard from others. “What do you mean, ‘indulgent’?” asked Lucy. Gosh, dunno. Er-

It’s really nice. If they get taste, texture and appearance right it is a treat. I don’t eat things like that at home, so it is rare for me.

Sometimes I pay attention to what I eat, and enjoy the physical sensations: taste, texture, aroma, the movement down my throat, the aftertaste. This is, bizarrely, called a “spiritual” experience: I pay attention to experience in the moment rather than ruminating about other things. I find this most with fruit. I will always remember a formal dinner in my twenties, when I was in my kilt and bow tie with interesting people making combative, intellectual conversation and the first mouthful of the main course grabbed my attention. It was wonderful. Even now much of the time I just shovel food down my throat, while reading or watching TV, or even talking in a restaurant. Or I am trying something, and it is interesting- what do I think of this?

After the main course, I want my chocolate torte with crème fraiche and raspberries. Is that just habit, picked up from others because it is the thing people do, and done thoughtlessly? We learn from others what is “fun”, or “indulgent”. If I like a pineapple carpaccio with passion fruit when I am out, why never buy one in the supermarket and scoff it at home? Am I signalling something, perhaps that while money’s too tight to mention I can still pay a fiver for a prosecco and chilli poached pear with raspberry sorbet? Is it just that generally one gets food to enjoy in a restaurant, fuel to survive in a supermarket? Boiling arborio rice to the right consistency- the water is fully absorbed one second before it becomes too dry- and stirring a tin of tuna into it, with a little pepper, is satisfactory. It is filling, the taste is pleasant enough though I do not dwell on it, I can have it once a week without great thought.

That moment when you need a drink, or eat all the chocolate box or the packet of biscuits- I don’t fill that function with food. I have other trauma-related behaviour. How could I condemn someone for that, living as I do? I eat healthily, taking moderate pleasure in it, usually I eat to live but sometimes to socialise too; it is no more virtuous than my ability at speling. It is how I am, how my life is. If I enjoy a pavlova served with fruit salad and berry coulis, I call that “indulgent” because I have learned to. “You’re treating yourself” says the world, or the culture, or my parents or companions. “I’m treating myself” I repeat. I enjoy it, I am sure of that. There we are with our “wicked grins” being not particularly wicked. I suppose puddings could even be sophisticated, though generally they are just a treat.

And possibly the word “indulgent” condemns those who respond to trauma with food. We do what we need to do. Condemnation and disrespect will not win over the overeater, and it is no-one’s business but theirs what they should give their attention, to improve their lives or not decline further, or even how much they should eat. I could make excuses for them around gut flora or metabolism, but excuses are otiose. Though we tend to our own healing, social support makes that easier, but too often instead we police each other, staring at the obese person, scoffing or condemning- and the trans person: I respond by taking less notice of the people around me.

That man in the bank went one stage further, singing to himself as he considered the autoteller. The man ahead of me in the queue remarked on it, and I said it probably reassures him, and is quite harmless, like an autistic person stimming. So the man in the queue started making personal remarks about my accent: “Oh, you don’t live in Swanston, do you?”

“Who I am” v “Men in women’s toilets”

I am hopeful about greater rights for trans people, because our arguments are more winsome. We gain sympathy, and the TERFs and conservatives don’t. We lose on logic. “Piss off, you’re a man” they say, and keep reiterating. One TERF identifies as a MERF (Go on, guess-) they are talking of TIMs, trans-identified males, and M-T, male to trans rather than male to female. If a trans woman spends too much time with their websites and twitter accounts, and not with affirmation in the mainstream press from the likes of, say, Margaret Atwood, they can get wearing. I take encouragement from their desperation: But they’re men! Men! Men in women’s washrooms! They just get ignored. “Trans women are women” say female Labour MPs, and here’s Angela Rayner MP, who has an inspiring life story and is just pure dead brilliant:

We are also calling on the Government to reform the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act 2010 to change the protected characteristic of “gender reassignment” to “gender identity” to provide proper protection for trans people.

Margaret Atwood, feminist: It is always – ‘What do you mean by the word?’ For instance, some feminists have historically been against lipstick and letting transgender women into women’s washrooms. Those are not positions I have agreed with.

We generate empathy. This is who I am. This is what I wanted, more than anything else in the world. This wins hearts, and where the heart is with us the mind will find a way. Cold rationality has nothing on sympathetic emotion.

This morning I fell off my bicycle again. I hate that road, narrow and busy, with a narrow path by the side that cyclists are permitted to use, which is potholed and muddy. I skidded in a muddy puddle, bent the supports of my mudguard, possibly knocked my derailleur out of alignment and the chain came off. And after, every motorist that passed me without courtesy, just a foot away, without care for my safety, shocked and angered me.

So, I don’t get propositioned, cat-called and touched up in the street. And I can sympathise absolutely with a woman who, having suffered a particularly egregious example, dodged into a toilet and was angry and shocked to see a trans woman. Normally it would be bearable but in that particular situation it was not. There, I have given you two examples where the slings and arrows of quotidian irritation might become too much, and perhaps you can supply your own. I feel if TERFs said, I saw this trans woman in the loo and it creeped me out, it was too much for me after what I had endured that day, they might win more people over. But instead they say, men in women’s clothes, whether trans women or not, might be a threat; and everyone knows they are exaggerating; and trans women cannot be blamed for people pretending to be trans women.

And if one said, I have given birth, I love my body, it is a woman’s body doing what a woman’s body does, and I loathe the simulacrum of a woman that is a trans woman- that might work too, though love of your own physicality need not mean despising someone else’s, nor excluding that person.

So they are reduced to calling us perverts, even paedophiles. It won’t work. Hate never does.