Performing gender

Lying on the floor weeping “I am not a man” even as I pretended to be one at work, I believed in a real me, separate from that pretense, which manifested herself when I expressed myself female. Like others, I found that at first presenting male was just normal, and expressing female mind-blowingly wonderful; then presenting male was a bit unpleasant and expressing female was really nice; and finally expressing female was just normal and presenting male unbearable. I had wanted to prepare for transition, with electrolysis of my face and other things, but I went full time before my electrolysis was complete. Then, needing to avoid shaving so I could have electrolysis I was abused in the street, and became depressed and miserable.

Judith Butler says we could perform gender, that is act a gender role, much as my friend said I appeared to be acting when presenting male and just being me when expressing female- have you noticed, I write “Presenting” male, saying that’s something about how I appeared, and “Expressing” female, when my appearance was the expression of my real self? I have expressed (wrote spoke and thought about) it that way all this century. But that’s not what she means when she says gender is performative. There’s no actor underneath, putting on a performance. Instead we act and speak in ways which consolidate the impression that we are men or women, not expressing an internal reality but responding to others as we are conditioned to, following habits which seem to us to be part of some essence. The phenomenon of gender is self-sustaining, people enforcing it on each other.

I need to do more reading on this, but Butler does not fit that description. She was walking down the street and a teenager called out, “Are you a lesbian?” There’s the policing, enforcement, bullying right there- she is not walking in a normal manner, so a stranger calls her out on it- but she does not change. Gaydar is a thing. Gay people can spot each other. Straight people can spot us too. The bullying isn’t working, or not completely. There is something in her which rebels. It might not be something as complex as a gender: the underlying reality could be as simple as a sexual attraction, stopping her from following others’ gender rules and making her own, but the effect is a range of behaviours and interactions which mark her out as “unfeminine”.

Lesbians might be butch or femme. H was particularly disgusted by femme lesbians, “attracted to that type of masculinity”- quite unable to understand them. There are fashions for butches, a butch uniform which is quite as constraining as straight women’s fashions, even if they change less frequently. Is the standard butch expression constrained by lesbians, or by the wider community?

H, particularly highly sexed, at twenty wore jeans and DMs and a crew cut, to avoid unwanted sexual attention, then in her forties her daughter persuaded her to dress sexily and around seventy she still does, with long hair and tight dresses. She talks of “performing gender”, but appears to mean making a choice, having twice exercised a choice and made a huge change. Now her sexiness is power, holding male attention despite her age, controlling the men by skills learned through experience.

Tim, a gay man, told me that in some relationships he was bottom, in others top, and he found his feelings around his body changed as he moved between. The areas which were erogenous zones would be different. He could pass as straight.

There’s something inside so strong. We transition. My father, attracted to women, was a primary head teacher. He had one male teacher and five women in his school, and while he thought the women more talented he noticed them encouraging the male to apply for promoted posts- to Dad’s disgust. Other men might have found their feminine encouragement of the man, and holding themselves back, unremarkable, or even appropriate. If men take the promoted posts are they really more talented and efficacious or do we imagine them to be more talented because we are programmed to see them so? Yet Dad saw them differently, perhaps because he was attracted to strong women, as am I.

Wikipedia is not the best of sources, but there I find a one paragraph criticism of Judith Butler by Martha Nussbaum, saying that rather than political campaigning Butler encourages feminists to subvert gender by speech and gesture, in “unfeminine” ways, subverting gender norms. I imagine both would be possible- walk like a man, refuse to smile and be accommodating, and campaign against VAWG.

When I was presenting male I did not see myself as acting. I was aspiring to masculinity, but it would be one real human being that was a man, going running to make myself fit, and when I was behaving in a masculine way it seemed to me that this was me, being how I ought to be, rather than hiding a “real me” underneath. Later, I either became aware of that Real Me which had been suppressed in fear (as I have always thought since) or that “feminine self” somehow came into being.

Happy birthday to Judith Butler, 64 today (I planned this post before finding it was her birthday). She provided this photo for Wikipedia when she was 57.

This is Martha Nussbaum, photographed aged 61 by Robin Holland.

How do you see these photographs? What does Professor Nussbaum’s makeup, and Professor Butler’s lack of it, signify? Are they feminine? Strong? Open or guarded? Can you read intelligence in either picture separately from the titles they have earned?

Added: here’s long distance runner Emily Halnon on My Boyfriend’s Wedding Dress. She loves his flair, imagines she’s contributing to a progressive shift in how we define masculinity, finally allowing men to be emotional and vulnerable, or to ask for help, or to hug their male friends, and yet was uncomfortable with him cross-dressing. She loves his muscles and athleticism, and his hairy chest, as well as his emotional depth, vulnerability and openness, but she and her girlfriends want men who are bigger and taller than they are, or who are better than them at sports, or who don’t cry in front of them. So- she wants to subvert gender norms, but still finds herself enforcing them because of the gravitational pull of wider society. Or, she’s a heterosexual woman who has particular desires, even if a minority of women might enjoy the support of a more vulnerable man.

Trans pronouns and the US Constitution

Can a professor use male pronouns and the title “sir” for a student who is a trans woman, because he claims his religion requires it and he has a right to Freedom of Speech under the United States Constitution, and that “forcing” him to use people’s pronouns violates his right to exercise his Presbyterian religion? Jordan Peterson first achieved notoriety by refusing to use the pronouns courtesy requires, and Nicholas K Meriwether, an otherwise unremarkable academic, sought to follow in his footsteps supported by an anti-LGBT+ hate group called “Alliance Defending Freedom”. He has failed at the US District court, and I hope that’s an end of it.

Meriwether questioned students during lectures, addressing them as “Sir”, “Ma’am”, or by the titles Mr or Miss and their surname. Treat a student as an adult, and they might behave like one. He addressed Jane Doe, a trans woman in his class,  as “Sir”, and refused to address her as “Miss Doe”. So he differentiated her, by addressing her as “Doe”. According to Meriwether Jane Doe “became belligerent, circling around [plaintiff] and getting in his face in a threatening fashion” while telling plaintiff, “Then I guess this means I can call you a cunt”- but the evidence has not been heard in court, and Meriwether’s exaggerated whining about the complete impossibility of treating students the same or the claimed effects on him of the university’s response makes me doubt his credibility. The judge says at least one of Meriwether’s claims is “not entirely accurate”.

The university suggested Meriwether could address all students by their first name, or surname, but Meriwether refused. In August 2016 the university emailed all academics to require them to use students’ pronouns. On 9 January 2018 Meriwether called Jane Doe “Sir”. After repeated meetings and discussions, on 22 June 2018 the university gave Meriwether a written warning, which Meriwether claims unmanned him completely: he could not discuss gender identity, fearing dismissal, so he sought an injunction preventing the university from enforcing the discrimination policy on him.

The policy for reporting discrimination prohibits Negative or adverse treatment based on… gender identity, [where] the treatment denies or limits the individual’s ability to obtain the benefits of Shawnee State’s programs or activities. It defines gender identity as A person’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different than the sex assigned at birth. Calling Jane Doe “Doe” and all the other students Sir, Ma’am, Mr or Miss is plainly disrespectful and would make the class needlessly unpleasant for her.

Meriwether said he would respect Jane Doe’s gender identity if he could include a disclaimer in his syllabus that he was doing so under compulsion and setting forth his personal and religious beliefs about gender identity. He was teaching a political philosophy class, not otherwise relating to gender identity, and as his student I might find that disclaimer more offensive than his refusal to use a title for me.

The judge said any reasonable person would discern the difference between refusing to acknowledge the gender by which an individual student identifies and a discussion of substantive issues surrounding the topic of gender identity.

The judge found use of pronouns was speech, but not protected speech. He was addressing his student as part of his duties as an employee. He might have been entitled to state his beliefs about gender identity in class, but his refusal to call Miss Doe “Miss” did not by itself convey any belief, state facts or make arguments about gender identity. Even if people hearing knew that he did that to express his belief on gender identity rather than to insult Miss Doe for some other reason, the judge said he was not sharing ideas or inviting discussion but was directing his personal beliefs toward Doe, who objected to his speech, and other members of a captive audience who were not free to leave his class or decline to participate in class. The speech did not take place in the context or a broader discussion, and there was no admitted academic purpose or justification. In the speech of an employee the court distinguishes self-expression from the expression of ideas or opinions [which is] participation in the intellectual marketplace. So whenever law or rules protect us from discrimination, we can insist others use our pronouns.

Meriwether’s religious beliefs are repulsive. He believes in Hell for those who fail to declare faith in Jesus Christ- that’s eternal conscious torment for most people, imposed by a “loving” God. The chair of his department, of English and Humanities, expressed her revulsion. He claims his religious beliefs are extremely limiting: they constrain him from calling a trans woman “Miss”. I think his religious beliefs do not limit him at all. Rather they permit him to do what he likes, including insulting and bullying a student, and imagine he is acting morally. However, public authorities may enforce neutral and generally applicable rules and may do so even if they burden faith-based conduct in the process- including a rule to use preferred titles, or, say, a rule against bigamy though it affect some Mormons. Religious beliefs, even if sincerely held, don’t allow you to break any rule you choose.

God save us from what Neil Gorsuch might make of this case, but for the moment in the US our pronouns are safe. Meriwether v. Trustees of Shawnee State University may be found here.

A microaggression

You’re not Jewish, are you?

She might get buried in the Jewish part of the cemetery, she said, surprising him, and this was his response. Yes, she said. I found his question impertinent, telling us something about him: I found it a microaggression, and write this to get clear why it is objectionable, and shows an objectionable way of thinking. I don’t know if it affected her in any particular way- she sounds a lovely person, knowing herself and comfortable with the self she knows, but it might.

What does it tell us about him? That he has a concept of “normal”, and Jewish is not included. Jewish is other. Learning she is Jewish, he adds this to his knowledge of her, and now ideas about “Jews” may add to ideas about “writers”, or anything else he knows about her, to form a judgment.

And what he said was, “You’re not Jewish, aya?” I noticed the abbreviation, and thought, “Manchester”. My colleague used to say, “Aya, awaya?”- “Hiya, how are you?”- on greeting. “Manchester,” I thought, having not heard the programme from the beginning, or Manchester in other voices.

Manchester, I think. A particular kind of one of us. Totally acceptable. “Jewish,” he thinks, and possibly files it away, a fact to remember about her, and- I assumed that makes him think not quite one of us. Different. And I am not certain he did- a particular kind of one of us, or someone different? There are Jewish populations in Greater Manchester.

Do I use “Manchester”- or even “Working class” (from his job, gravedigger)- to judge him? We know things about other people. Some might make us put them in stereotyped categories. I don’t know what he thinks “Jewish” adds to his knowledge of her.

I don’t know how she feels about it. She included it in her half hour radio programme. It could be she feels it as a microaggression, feels that he might have some slight hostility (Oh, not to you! You’re one of the good ones!) feels distance created, feels apprehension that distance means threat, that not being quite one of us means not being safe.

-Oh, don’t be so sensitive!
-People get killed for being Jewish!

-Does she look Jewish?
Judge for yourself!

I don’t know. “You don’t look lesbian”, a Quaker said to my friend. While Quaker women might be more likely to have short hair and no makeup, and to dress “plainly”- not all of us, but many- I found myself wondering what he thought “lesbian” looked like. She wrote after, “It was only after I got home that I began to think about this comment”. And the first response was sympathy. Yes, it’s awful.

I wondered if any Jew might object to me- I am not Jewish- picking on this example. They might object to the idea of “looking Jewish”- except by particular clothes- but it’s a question people ask, as if they really want to be able to see who the outsiders are.

It seems to me that very subtly this commenting on the difference is policing the boundaries of Normal-Acceptable. Jewish, or lesbian, is remarkable, odd, other. Possibly if you want to fit in you should not mention it, allude to it or give away signs of it. I tend to feel I “look trans”, that few people would think I was a cis woman after half an hour’s conversation, possibly not even after a minute’s. If I imagine that will not set them against me, or not appreciably, perhaps I am a fool. I started a comment, “When I was presenting male,” and someone responded, “Serious question, why is what you were presenting as relevant?” Because I was writing about interacting as male. But also because it is entirely acceptable, a quirk or not even that. I felt the question implied I should not mention it. I don’t really mind what they do, as long as they don’t rub our noses in it.

A painting by Simeon Solomon, whom I first noticed in the Tate exhibition in 2017. Is there some derivativeness and dullness about his painting, so that he is not now in the first rank of well known Pre-Raphaelites? Or is it because he was Queer and Jewish? Are his sentiments slightly off, not quite people like us? Wikipedia said He achieved notoriety after he was caught engaging in sexual activity with a man. I objected to “caught”, “achieved notoriety”, so have changed it. On the talk page, people ask why it is relevant that he was gay, . Well, what do you think?

Here’s another. A woman wondered why people referred to her as “The woman with the French passport” rather than “The French woman”. I checked my concept of French woman (or Frenchwoman). Effortless style, perfume “where a woman expects to be kissed”- white, of course, because European. Yeah. It is a racist stereotype, and she’s called that because she is Black.

A progressive response to anti-trans campaigning

When younger I found gender nonconformity disturbing but now enjoy exploring it in myself. I saw your cashmere scarf. It had several colours including black, in large oblong blocks, but one of the largest was pink. You let me feel how soft it was. It was definitely a woman’s scarf. Your colleague bought it for you, and I thought, she knows, values, cares for you. I had a strong reaction to it. I was so discomfited by it. Men should not have such things, leave alone let anyone else notice them! You smiled, inviting me to join in your delight in it, and I felt hope. I don’t know what the average man’s reaction to you having such a scarf would be. I hope anyone who knew you would respect you and see your beauty.

If you have surrendered the safety we find in convention and embraced the strength that comes with open vulnerability (which I can write of but am not sure I believe in) I admire you. You told me something of your hurt. I see something of your strength. I don’t know what others’ reaction to your discreetly feminine scarf would be, beyond that some might feel contempt or disdain, or not notice, or like it- or even not care. Caring so much I find it hard to believe anyone would not care.

So the first response of comfortable, cis people to anti-trans campaigners would be to notice the gender non-conformity of so many, and find a way to support it. It’s difficult. It is something trans people share with many of those campaigners.

Their hurt and mine is the same.

The fear, the microaggressions, the sense of self-betrayal when we hide it (Now I’m closeted as well, thought Charlotte Prodger when she said her partner was her “friend”). This was written about people experiencing racism, but it’s not just racism: They are often made to feel excluded, untrustworthy, second-class citizens, and abnormal… and that they feel trapped in a stereotype. The burden of constant vigilance drains and saps psychological and spiritual energies of targets and contributes to chronic fatigue and a feeling of frustration and anger.

This hurt matters. Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of enforced gender conformity.

And it is difficult. My hurt can be used against me in a number of ways: concern-trolling, denigration, or for the entertainment of others, feeling vicariously, feeling good about themselves for being sympathetic, and even if you use it to educate yourself about how the world is I feel used, unless it results in you taking action. I may feel used even if you are an ally.

Trans exclusion is not a solution to gender non-conforming anti-trans campaigners’ hurt, but it is a symbol that their hurt matters. They may find transition completely repulsive and incomprehensible. Surely these people will come to their senses! Mastectomy is mutilation! What about the detransitioners who have been mutilated? They find community with each other, as they face similar problems. That community has value. If they could get over their repulsion, they might find community with happily-transitioned trans men. What we have in common should be far more important than what divides us.

The other hurt revealed to me by anti-trans campaigners is of a barrage of sexual harassment and assault. No, women will not be safer in toilets if they are absolutely certain there are no trans women there, but excluding us is a symbol of their value and that something might be done for them. Can we speak out against this, against street harassment, harassment in work, sexual assault?

I hope Quakers can find a way to love each other with the difference and pain. Yes, me too. I hope we can come together. That has to mean addressing anti-trans campaigners’ real concerns, of sexual harassment and of stifling gender stereotypes, and convincing them we mean it rather than simply asserting trans women are women. I hope for Emily Thornberry’s feminist movement [which] is big enough and big-hearted enough, and if someone believes that they have been born as a man but they are a woman, we have space. We can’t expect that big-heartedness unless we address the trauma.

Elif Shafak puts it beautifully: anger, when left alone for too long, is highly corrosive. And, most important, it is addictive. It must be diluted and counterbalanced with more powerful, positive feelings: empathy, compassion, kindness, sisterhood and love. I’m not suggesting that we should suppress female rage or be embarrassed by it, not at all, but if we make that our main guiding force, we will be lost in the maze of our own cultural ghettoes, echo chambers, identity politics. And the only thing that will benefit from this will be patriarchy itself.

People matter

The message of the Left to unite the working class and the middle classes, the liberal metropolitan types and the “left behind” of the towns blighted by Tory (or Republican) governments, could be condensed into two words: You matter. Or, People matter.

The Tories lie to set us against each other. It’s all a lie. Few immigrants come here “wanting a hand-out”. They come here wanting to get a fair chance to get on in the world, as most people here do. Benefit claimants would rather be earning a decent wage for a fair day’s work. Tories and the Tory press demonise all kinds of people. There are dog-whistles. People complain about immigrants, and when my white friend says she is an immigrant and the other person says “Oh we don’t mean you”- because she is from North America, and there are no dog-whistles about people from there- she knows what they mean.

As a member of what the Tories would call the “Metropolitan Elite”- remainer, socially liberal, though I live sixty miles from a city, six from a large town, and my income is low- I don’t necessarily talk easily to the working classes. I don’t know someone knows I see them as equals. When nervous I might have a superior air. The film Pride, about Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, may be part of a model.

There are Tory lies. Immigrants/ benefit claimants are on the take. It is natural to dislike people with a different skin colour to yours. Islam is an authoritarian religion. The Metropolitan Elite (Hello!) tell you these things are lies, and that’s because they patronise you, despise you, are not in touch with the beliefs of Real People. We understand you. We respect you, they don’t. When you voted to take back control that was the Will of the People, and the Elites have blocked the people’s will ever since. But now we can Get Brexit Done. 

All lies, all reinforced by the Sun and by particular facebook memes enthusiastically shared- on Election night,
MPs off to the Jobcentre!
Wait for the riots and teeth gnashing from the poor remainers
Good Riddance Traitor (with a picture of Mr Corbyn in an electric chair)
Sore Losers Sore Losers Everywhere

That evening:
Never mind Dad, at least you tried (with a picture of Steptoe and Son)

Yesterday:
Even if we disagree about everything we can still be kind to each other
This weekend, please be excellent to each other.

Everyone should have a facebook friend like that. Or, I read this crap so you don’t (usually) have to.

I don’t know how to approach. You matter, even if we disagree, is not the same as I am better than you. Unfortunately the accent and the North London- bien pensant was the slur before Metropolitan Elite- attitudes set off feelings of inferiority in some, leading to an angry response.

However there are people who value you as worthwhile human beings, and want to provide decent public services for all including you, and people who pretend to value you by telling you you want Brexit therefore you should get Brexit and if they deny it they are disrespecting you and being democratic. And because we, the hard right, want it too it can’t possibly be us who blocked it in March. Or telling you yes, equal pay might be a good thing, but the real symbol of women’s oppression is trans women in the loos.

Onywye. That’s part of it. This is a blog post. The Left is about respect for everyone. The Right is about setting everyone against each other. And that includes the working classes, those who think immigrants “treat this country like their own” as if that could be a bad thing, Queers, Guardian readers, people who would pay more tax for decent public services…. none of these can be free unless all are.

I went to the National Gallery again today, and saw three paintings of the Coronation of the Virgin, when Mary rises into Heaven and is crowned by Jesus. In one, she is bowing her head, and he is clearly a Person of the Trinity, God, the one in control. In another, they seem to love and respect and celebrate together as equals. I prefer the latter.

Jesus as God:

Or Jesus and Mary as equals.

Vote Labour for a better life

My best guess for what a social conservative gains from voting for Right-wing parties is that they feel they are part of a more cohesive society. So Boris Johnson or Donald Trump say that immigrants are bad, we’ll stop them coming and make a hostile environment for those who are here, and they feel part of something greater than themselves, a society which thinks like they do.

Few people who voted for Brexit will gain from it. Mr Mogg will increase his hedge fund, but others only gain a symbol. We voted for it so it’s undemocratic to oppose it, they say. Or they say you should work and support yourself and stand on your own two feet, having lost hope that they could get benefits and clinging to the illusion that they can have a decent life.

The Right gives symbols instead of reality. It never happens that you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. But the Right is spreading the same myth in Britain because Labour wants to decriminalise abortion. And people who imagine they are good Christians vote to protect innocent babies from a non-existent threat, and incidentally for tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor.

The campaign against trans women is a perfect symbol in this way. The Right can get feminists worked up and get feminist campaigning energy diverted from goals that will improve women’s lives, such as equal pay, or even more women on public company boards of directors, and against innocent trans women. Men may pretend to be women to get into women’s private space! say the fearmongers.

Before radicalisation a woman might see me in a loo, think, oh, a trans woman, and forget me in a couple of hours. After radicalisation she sees me as a man, wants me expelled, and is affronted that her rights are “erased” by “redefining what it means to be a woman”. So queers are more uncomfortable, people who hate queers are encouraged, and feminists are suddenly working for the Right rather than the Left, however hard they deny it. Being gender variant is difficult, and it should be supported I any way people have of expressing it, as the Left traditionally has. The Right wants to decrease gender variant behaviour, harming feminism, and increasing that social conservative feeling of being part of a regulated, homogeneous society.

The Tories or Republicans will give nothing to anyone but the ultra wealthy. They promise illusions, and even the feelings of self righteous anger they arouse harm their supporters.

Look at Labour’s record in government, of children’s centres and social care, of economic good management.

Labour will attack the growth of inequality which makes everyone more stressed with fair taxation and decent public services. Labour’s record on economic growth and reducing debt is better than the Tories’. Everyone should vote Labour for a better life.

Labour manifesto and trans

The Labour manifesto is launched. Labour government is the best hope of enhancing trans rights.

Labour has a proud history of standing shoulder to shoulder with LGBT+ people. We abolished Section 28, equalised the age of consent, created civil partnerships, and only with Labour votes could equal marriage become law. Labour is committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to introduce self-declaration for transgender people, but we are not complacent about the culture shift required to make LGBT+ inclusivity a reality. The Conservatives have been slow to understand the scale of abuse and discrimination LGBT+ people continue to face in our society.

Self-declaration is different from the TERF term “self-ID”, used to foment fear. We declare who we really are, rather than “identify” in a way they dispute and claim men would use to harm women.

Section 28, the appalling provision outlawing “promotion of homosexuality” in schools, normalised hatred of gay people just as the hard right seeks to normalise hatred of trans people now.

I take this as a pledge to shift the culture. It is brave and bold.

We will ban the dismissal of pregnant women without prior approval of the inspectorate.

I love this. Discrimination law must be enforced by victims of discrimination, often without legal help. I represented a pregnant woman who experienced health problems during her claim, and could not continue. She was scathing about the brilliant reference she settled her claim for, like the excellent appraisal she had just before her pregnancy, so unlike the dreadful appraisal she had when she announced her pregnancy.

Discrimination law must be enforced by the State, or victims will go unheard and uncompensated. I hope pregnancy is just the start.

Ensure that the single-sex-based exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2010 are understood and fully enforced in service provision.

I am not sure about that one. The single sex exemptions allow trans women to be excluded if it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. As that’s a defence which has to be proved by the excluder, TERFs allege that services do not exclude as they are frightened of court action.

I don’t know what it means. TERFs could take comfort from it.

Excluding trans women is not a proportionate step to make women safer. This is:

Ensure women’s refuges receive the long-term sustainable funding they need. Misogyny and violence against women and girls will become hate crimes.

After the Windrush scandal and the Tory islamophobia scandals, this is essential:

Achieving racial equality is a bedrock Labour value. It has never been more important than in the current climate. We are proud of the way our country has been shaped by the contributions, cultures and values of people from around the world.

All minorities should support this. Right wing hate seeks to oppress us all. All of us should stand together.

Vote Labour for Trans Rights

The Labour party support trans rights. Here’s Dawn Butler, the shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, visiting Equity Partnership in Bradford. They were a community support organisation but have had to protect people from the media and organised hate groups, because the hate has become so intense. The Labour council has supported them with funding.

Dawn asks is GRA reform just pigeonholing people? I would like discrimination on the ground of gender expression made unlawful. That would protect everyone, and make gender expression more free and lively, increasing freedom for all.

The haters are not in control yet.

I want this video in the main Labour you tube channel. I hope they know opposing prejudice is important for everyone, and needs proudly emphasised.

Meanwhile the Green Party want to reform the GRA and end the spousal veto. They want to increase funding for gender clinics and stop bigoted parents withdrawing their children from LGBT+ education. We need a proportional voting system.

Tories? 44% think Islam is a threat to the British way of life. That’s all you need to know. They rejoice in their hate.

The Labour manifesto launches tomorrow.

Homophobic transition

Does anyone transition male to female because of homophobia? Yes. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini made a fatwa that transition was ok and God accepted trans women, but in his understanding of Shi’ism gay men were executed. So some there have vaginoplasties so they will not be murdered by the State. Does it happen anywhere else? Do lesbians transition from lesbophobia?

Possibly in some isolated cases. The child J may have been transitioned by their mother. But a judge passed them to their father, and they appeared happy presenting male. The mother failed. Did she do it because he seemed gay to her? Who could say. You may know your orientation long before puberty.

But Christians would not prefer transition to same sex attraction. The pope, apparently cautiously liberalising to gay men in some limited circumstances is utterly opposed to transition, which he calls as bad as mass murder: “Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings. Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

I searched for “Christian view transgender” and the first result was the Christian Institute, whose critique of “transgender ideology” was creepily close to terf screeds. There is the same feigned concern for us: instead of providing transgender people with the support they need to help them embrace the bodies they were born with, society is compounding their confusion, with damaging consequences.

The Evangelical Alliance is less overtly nasty than they were in 2000 when I was transitioning. Their introduction talks of “nuance” and how all people “need to be loved”. But the hate does not take long to appear. Gender reassignment is self harm, contrasted with “finding your identity in Christ”, illustrated by the story of Tim, the son of a trans woman. Tim discovered that his Mum had known for 34 years that his Dad had been cross-dressing. They had been supported
by social and medical services for 19 years for mental health issues and trying, in their words, to find a cure. As Tim processed everything he felt angry – that the family had
been let down, not only by their Dad, but also by the support services who had never engaged with those who would be massively impacted by the decision.

Third in that search was “Focus on the Family”.

There are accepting individual congregations, but there is hostility throughout the church. No Christian accepts trans without also accepting gay.

What about secular views, or modern political liberalism? The allegation would have to be that people are more homophobic than transphobic. Homophobia is rife. So parents or teachers see a boy who does not fit cliche masculinity, and are so repulsed by the idea that he could grow up to be gay that they transition him instead.

Does that seem likely? No one would admit to it. So anyone supporting transition could be called homophobic, if the mere fact of supporting transition is enough to prove that to you.

Or look at the testimony of reverters. Sam Kane, when they first reverted, made a complaint against their psychiatrist. They were not transsexual they said. It had been a nervous breakdown. People revert for social pressure. Charles had lost male privilege, and found that unbearable. They are currently presenting male, having gone M-F-M-F-M.

Julia Grant, subject of a BBC documentary in the 1970s, told an MCC pastor “I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body”. She regretted surgery and hormones.

Transition is difficult. We still have dysphoria from the bare toleration and sometimes open hostility of others. After reverting, people can be angry.

Allegations about detransition are one of the principle weapons of those seeking to delegitimise trans people. There is a great deal of hostility. Stonewall, the campaigning gay rights organisation, is a trans ally. All figures will be disputed, but they cite research showing less than 1% of patients who accessed NHS support went on to detransition. Patients who never transitioned but just questioned their gender identity don’t “detransition”. Some people for whom transition would be wrong consider it.

When I transitioned I knew there was a possibility I would revert later, but knew the only way I could find that was to transition now. I desired it so intensely that if I didn’t I would be stuck. The hostility of society held me back longer than was good for me.

Other sites say some people detransition therefore trans is wrong. All sites are biased, pushing one view or another. Some people may transition then find it is not right for them, but that does not mean it is wrong for everyone.

We don’t know. All that is certain is that the argument that people transition for homophobia is transphobic as it seeks to delegitimise AFAB transitioners attracted to women, and AMAB transitioners attracted to men. Just possibly some may, but it means arguing that homophobia is generally stronger and more widespread than transphobia, which is simply not true.

Misogynist transition, the allegation that teenage “girls” transition because of harmful gender stereotypes, is an entirely different argument.

I read of a Tory threat to rename the Government Equalities Office the Ministry for Freedom. The only freedom it would defend would be the freedom to hate.

Richard Rohr

Catholic priest tolerates gay men, and even trans people shock!

Rohr’s daily meditations reach millions, and recently he tackled LGBT folk, or SOGI, Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity issues. He started by assuming his audience was hostile.

With all the changing ways of understanding gender and sexuality, most of us truly need contemplative eyes and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to “rupture simplistic binaries” and be compassionate and respectful of difference and diversity. It clearly seems that God is quite comfortable with immense diversity.  We have a much harder time with it, preferring uniformity and conformity instead.

I found it almost impossible to read. He is challenging his queerphobic Christian followers, saying that while he has to make a continual effort to be “non-dual”, his instinct and theirs is to judge gay as unacceptable. Jesus, he says, ruptures and transgresses simplistic binaries between self and other, but most people dismiss and judge every thing that does not fit neatly in their simplistic categories.

He wants to teach the Mind of Christ by getting readers to think about SOGI, which he has no doubt they will instinctively reject. This week is a good test case for one’s ability to think in a nondual way.

So he decides to preach that the church should include and accept LGBT people not in hopes that they can force us into a normal, celibate, straight-acting box but accept us as part of God’s beautiful diverse creation, and he starts by othering all his LGBT readers.

He says some good stuff. God’s will is that people and things become their true selves, and then live in “supportive coexistence”. Conservative Christians, however, want to control God’s good creation which they fear, seeing it as chaos.

Institutional religion tends to think of people as very simple, and therefore the law must be very complex to protect them in every situation. Jesus does the opposite: He treats people as very complex—different in religion, lifestyle, virtue, temperament, and success—and keeps the law very simple in order to bring them to God… Love God, and your neighbour.

Jesus, and Rohr, allow people to be ourselves. Do not let the labels trip you up—woman, man, transgender, cisgender, straight, bisexual, gay, queer. I note he does not mention lesbian. There is a reason we bring L to the front. Formerly people wrote GLBT.

He goes on to use queer folks to teach about the Bible. Yes, Leviticus commands stoning gay men to death, but the Bible records a developing understanding of God from Abraham’s attempted human sacrifice to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ harsh words are reserved entirely for those whose certainty about their religious rectitude causes them to condemn others. Jesus is all about inclusion, forgiveness, and empowerment. In the light of his compassionate presence, people are set free to live their lives in strength and hope, regardless of whether they be considered outcasts by those in the “religious know.” Rather than complex rules teaching us what is OK so we feel safe with no need to think, or even to see clearly, the only law is Love.

Just as the Bible supports slavery and we don’t, so also we find deeper themes in the Bible support LGBT acceptance, and even oppose Patriarchy. Rohr writes, God sides with the powerless. God liberates the oppressed. God suffers with the suffering. I resent that. Many LGBT people flourish despite oppression. We are not his exemplar group of powerless and suffering people, and his attitude encourages others to look down on us and pity us- perhaps he does himself. We do not need his support, but justice.

He claims the secular culture “celebrates” us. Perhaps he has not read The Times’ articles on trans people. It is almost as if he shares the homophobic Christian’s shock when we are shown in a good light.

God, he says, creates each of us unique, with different gifts and challenges, and desires us to live into the fullness of our humanity and our identity.

Rohr’s example is Episcopal priest and lesbian Liz Edman, who aged five wanted boy’s shoes and was supprted by her mother. Everyone wants things forbidden by the complex rules humans create. From object of pity, we change in an instant to patterns and examples for others, who should all Know who you are. Be who you are. Be the person God created you to be. It is deeply uncomfortable for me. I am as enchained by convention as anyone. I have no wish to be forced to teach others any more than be pitied by them.

At the end, he quotes Liz Edman on Jesus turning water into wine. The water was used for ritual washing, the wine intoxicates and liberates us from rules. This is a queer interpretation, which might get her fired. To liberal straight Christians, she says, Let us be ourselves, and assure us that you will have our backs when our proclamation unsettles and afflicts those who are comfortable in a dualistic worldview.

Yes, Queers can be free as Christ intended, and our freedom help liberate others. But our experience belongs to no-one straight. We are not your teaching tool. And the idea of sheep and goats, the binary division between in group and out group, is everywhere reinforced in the church. For example:

Later, Rohr quotes an Asian man:

Now that new voices are being enunciated about him by those . . . outside the traditional framework of Christianity, Jesus must be experiencing an emancipation from the confinement of orthodoxy that has immobilized him. . .