Dora Richter

Dora Richter, the first trans woman to complete gender reassignment surgery, worked as a maid in Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science. Her testicles were removed in 1922, and in 1931 her penis was removed, and later a vagina was surgically created.

After the orchiectomy, Dr Felix Abraham, a psychiatrist at the institute, published a case study: “Her castration had the effect – albeit not very extensive – of making her body become fuller, restricting her beard growth, making visible the first signs of breast development, and giving the pelvic fat pad… a more feminine shape.” Dora was 31 at the time of that operation. There were eunuchs in the Ottoman Empire until 1923, and while Italy made castration for musical purposes illegal in 1861, the last Sistine Castrato, Alessandro Moreschi, lived to 1922. Dora is part of the Institute, but the psychiatrist feels able to report on her as a subject of scientific study. It seems dehumanising to me. Moreschi had higher status. The recording of his singing made me feel horror and admiration, at a glimpse of a lost world. The Sultan might not want European scientists examining his servants.

I wondered why I had heard of Lili Elbe but not Dora Richter. Lili was an artist. Dora was born to a poor peasant family in 1891 in Germany. Aged six, she attempted to remove her penis with a tourniquet, and after that her parents allowed her to dress as a girl. As an adult, she was arrested several times for cross-dressing and sentenced to a man’s prison before a judge sent her to Hirschfeld’s Institute. In 1925, Dr Levi-Lenz wrote,

It was, moreover, very difficult for transvestites to find a job… As we knew this and as only a few places of work were willing to employ transvestites, we did everything we could to give such people a job at our Institute. For instance, we had five maids- all of them male transvestites, and I shall never forget the sight one day when I happened to go into the Institute’s kitchen after work: there they sat close together, the five “girls”, peacefully knitting and sewing and singing old folk-songs. These were, in any case, the best, most hardworking and conscientious domestic workers we ever had. Never ever did a stranger visiting us notice anything.

Where to start? I am not surprised she was a good worker if she would have been jobless, and arrested, anywhere else. The Institute has too much power, but the doctor makes it sound beneficent. He is so patronising about the five “girls”. I am glad we have control of our own language now: I am a trans woman, not a transvestite. It is not about clothes. I don’t know if she was happy, knitting, or if she had talents rarely realised in peasant children.

Adolf Hitler became chancellor in January 1933, and dictator in March 1933, and on 6 May Nazis attacked the Institute, burning books. “Dora is not known to have survived this attack”. Hirschfeld had gone on a speaking tour in 1931, and been advised not to return to Germany: he died in Nice in 1935. The Nazi party was hoaching with gay men, but that did not stop them hating the gay Hirschfeld, who had been known as “Aunt Magnesia” in the gay community and established the Institute to provide a research base for his ideas that “hermaphrodites, homosexuals, transvestites, are the necessary natural link between the two poles of man and woman”.

Dora showed huge persistence, asserting that she was female, and expressing herself as female. It is because of that kind of courage that I am able to express myself as female today. I will honour her even if those who knew her appeared not to.

Man who has it all

“All men! Is your face bright and luminous? Has rose-gold hair taken over your summer? Is your neckline too low, or not low enough? Do your toenails need some TLC? Is it okay to have arms?” This on a pastel blue, pink, white background.

“I must admit I’m a fan of arms,” says Rachel. “But only if they’re toned. The guys need to keep them in shape – but not too much! They need to do the work to get that natural look. I don’t like them looking false or unnatural but I want them to be firm and perky.”

Grace says, “Look young and bright. But don’t try too hard. You should look this way naturally. No one likes a high maintenance guy.”

“Man who has it all” is a business selling t-shirts, with a facebook page subverting gender stereotypes by inverting them. My friend recommended it as a way of making unseen prejudice visible.

Women’s t-shirts say “Men! Just a little reminder to smile today, because women like positive men”, “The future is female”, “A mother’s place is in the boardroom”, “Girls will be girls: Epic, cool, awesome” (or, “Rational, objective, scientific”, “brave, strong, bold”) “No”, “Actually”, “My dream, that one day boys will become anything they want to be: men writers, male spacewomen, and gentleman doctors”, and “Lead character”.

Men’s t-shirts say “Not just a pretty beard”, “Male cyclist”, “I can do anything if I concentrate extra hard with my gentleman brain”, “Cat dad”, “My mum is a total legend”, “Male scientist”, “I’m too handsome to do maths”, “Boys will be boys: kind, caring, thoughtful”, “I’m just here to look handsome”, “Womankind, noun: A gender-neutral term referring to both women and men”, “Girly swot”, and “Supporting character”. Several of these work as hers n’ his pairs.

A comment: “Women and men are equal but different. Eg men are naturally better at smiling and knowing when to clean the bathroom and we should absolutely celebrate that.”

I particularly like the women’s comments when they are dominant. “Are those traits boys really value, though? Shouldn’t it say Pretty, Obedient, Sweet? I’m not sure there is a market for this meninist clothing.” Some are joking, some are playing the game. “It should be a much tighter fit to show off his figure so all the little girls can admire him. The sleeves should ideally be those little capped sleeves that all boys love to wear. And I don’t think it’s pink and glittery enough to appeal to most boys.” She ends, “Once these mistakes are corrected I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this,” which I find delightfully assertive.

A comment: “A natural make-up look takes no more than an hour or two and gives the illusion that they are naturally pretty. Then other women can point them out as the ideal man to their less attractive partners and prove that they are not shallow because they like a natural look. Also, ladies, don’t forget to feign horror when the men suggest it’s not actually natural – instead make them feel petty and jealous for not being able to obtain this level of natural beauty.” I love this. I want to be objectified, it turns me on. It is a problem at work or in the street, but with the right person, it would delight me. “Also: are you trim, not being demanding or taking up too much space and pleasing all the women in your life ?!” Oooh! “While i don’t think staring or too much eye contact is appropriate in a man (too assertive!), a man ought to communicate that he is aware of my presence, attentive and ready to spring into action in case i need something – a drink, attention, what-have-you. I find staring off into space like that off-putting and disrespectful – it’s like he has his own inner life. Not ok!”

“Overt homosexuality provokes concern”

“The Fawn has a back room to which an admission was charged and where as many as 70 to 80 deviates had parties on Friday and Saturday nights. Most of the patrons were males, but on occasion police found women dancing with women.” There were 19 police visits in 1963, and a warning system to stop dancing when an undercover policeman entered. In December the State Liquor Authority revoked The Fawn’s liquor license, and the New York Times reported that on its front page, with a long feature article on p33. Police Commissioner Michael J Murphy said,

Homosexuality is another one of the many problems confronting law enforcement in this city. However, the underlying factors in homosexuality are not criminal but rather medical and sociological in nature. The police jurisdiction in this area is limited. But when persons of this type become a source of public scandal, or violate the laws, or place themselves in a position where they become the victims of crime they do come within our jurisdiction.

Even when they are victims, he blames them. He promised them “special attention”. Without “direct proof”, he suspected crime syndicates ran the gay bars. The bars charged outrageous prices, and hoodlums pretended to be rent boys, to beat and rob them, the journalist Robert C Doty reported. That couples dancing were sometimes women is his only mention of lesbians.

Doty proceeded to analyse the medical and sociological factors, like an anthropologist in a murky underworld, talking to “city officials, physicians, social workers and [gasp!] homosexuals themselves”. He calls them “sexual inverts”, and quotes psychiatrists saying 27% of those treated achieve heterosexuality. The psychiatrists blame “ill-adjusted parents”- “a close-binding, intimate mother and/or a hostile, detached or unrespected father, or other parental aberrations”. That is, when the offspring is gay, the researchers seek out something in the parents to blame.

The psychiatrists want public education to “improve family environments and reduce the incidence of sexual perversion”. “A single homosexual encounter would be unlikely to turn a young man toward homosexuality unless a predisposition already existed”, but strict enforcement of the law was necessary to protect “borderline cases”. Because a cure was possible, psychiatrists should not try to “adjust even the more recalcitrant patient to a homosexual destiny”.

Doty interviewed “a homosexual who had achieved good progress toward cure under psychoanalysis”, and quoted a psychiatrist claiming that gays “receive sexual stimulation from women”, but are so “crippled psychically” that they fear them.

Doty wanted to entertain readers with tales of “the dregs of the invert world- the painted, grossly effeminate ‘queens’ and those who prey on them”, or magazines with “photos of scantily-clad, heavily-muscled men”. He said there was a “homosexual jargon” but only explained the word “gay”. His attempt at a full account includes quotes from priests, that religions condemn gay sex but offer support to penitents.

The “organized homophile movement” campaigned for an end to discrimination on the basis they were born that way, and that they should be tolerated as a minority. No-one knew how many gays there were. The Mattachine Society, a gay rights organization publishing an intellectual magazine and educating the public on “the problems of the sexual deviant”- their words- estimated 600,000 in NYC. They thronged Greenwich Village, a restricted area around 42nd St., and holidayed to Fire Island and Jacob Riis Park beach. A gay man could live openly, almost exclusively among gays. Many pretended to be straight, and got married.

In New York City, around a thousand men a year were arrested for “overt homosexual activity”, most for soliciting (or trying to find a partner) but around 250 for “sodomy” and around 60 for sex with young men in their late teens, a felony. Gay men sought the repeal of law against private sexual acts and an end to entrapment. The Wolfenden report had recommended repeal of legal penalties, and Illinois had done so.

Doty finds gaydar fascinating. “Most normal persons” believe they can spot gays, but only the “obviously effeminate type”. They were in all levels of society, even “the corporation executive”. Many were actors, dancers, artists and in women’s beauty and fashion, where influential gays could employ gays rather than straights.

“Many homosexuals dream of forming a permanent attachment that would give them the sense of social and emotional stability others derive from heterosexual marriage, but few achieve it.” They are condemned to promiscuity and police harassment.

One psychiatrist thought public acceptance “based on the concept of homosexuality as an illness” could reduce the incidence of homosexuality, but another said social acceptance would prevent them from seeking treatment.

“Confronting these generally accepted scientific conclusions is the strange, ambivalent attitude of the homosexuals themselves.” 83% of gays said they would not want their son to be gay, but 97% would not seek a cure. Why? Doty quotes a gay man. With “no history of normal dating, I would be lost in the world of heterosexuals”.

Many people are still like Doty- bemused, tolerant, pitying or disgusted by turns, thinking being gay is less than being straight, being trans is less than being cis, not wanting to be cruel but revolted by us and what we do. “Surely they are not really trans,” they say to themselves of children undertaking the hard road to transition. So we have to prove ourselves with hormones or surgery, or we rebel against their control and seek surgery when social transition might be enough.

I want social transition, hormones and surgery to be a choice based on the trans person’s needs, not the hostility of others, either the need to prove ourselves or the belief that after surgery we will be accepted. Doty, the police commissioner, and the psychiatrists, all thought themselves decent, liberal men. In the article you can see their staunch efforts to preserve that self-image, and Doty’s attempt to foster it in his readers. They oppressed gay people. They should have known better. There are still persecutors, especially of trans people, who imagine themselves liberal and should know better.

Psychotherapy

I want a heroic failure rather than a paltry success.

I want to heal my hurt. Analogies which seem useful include digestion: old emotion needs experienced, valued, worked through, digested, so that it can pass through me and heal. Dumbledore drinking a cavern-ful of poison, and processing it, comes to mind. I do not cling to my analogies: when they cease to be useful and make reality appear other than it is I want to let them go and find a better one.

My life is quiet, and as you see I am fighting for my life. I could say that, sometimes, to some people, and the judgment that this was ridiculous, which is projected but may be echoed within them-

I want to stop treading water. As you see I am fighting for my life, and I want not just to be fighting, which is wearisome, but to fight better so that I can do something, anything, else as well.

I want to speak from the heart. It is the Real Me. It is my Inner Light. It is truthful. It is strong and beautiful. And something in me judges it as useless, worthless, stupid, unrealistic, totally unsafe.

I expect of you the skills to be like a physiotherapist would be with walking- to see what is precisely the right exercise to take, so that I develop as efficiently as I can. Under your guidance I would push myself in the right way, so that I get stronger, without retraumatising my damaged psyche.

With you, I want to speak from the heart and explore the possibilities of that- to state desire, I said, and look what I am doing now in the hour following. I want to explore the restrictions on that, the judgment, and find ways of lessening them.

The judgment and the hurt exploded in me this morning, and you helped me with that. So, what happened? You asked me to talk about my life beginning with my childhood, and I did not get far.

I want something I can build on.

I said, “My parents loved each other very much. They fitted together beautifully. My mother wore the trousers, and was terrified of anyone finding out. I want [positive language for that, rather than mocking language, language so that I can accept my [pansiness] in myself].” The bit in brackets is the bit I could not say.

If I had a complex fracture of the ankle, such that I moved along on my right foot and my left knee, with a walking stick, and had developed particular muscles to execute this “walk” as quickly as anyone could, we might admire the muscles and see how they might be used better, and note the weakness in unused muscles. The aim would be to walk normally, possibly even to run, but not to put weight on the ankle immediately before finding what it needs. Here the analogy breaks down. We can take the ankle to bits and put it together. We might heal it one bone at a time (not really possible with a real ankle).

So there I was in my state of inner conflict, wanting to use the time profitably and communicate what was needed, needing to hold the pain down in order to do so, barely able to hold it, paralysed. And you told me to open my eyes which would bring me back into the room, because with my eyes closed the emotion would build up (or something. That’s why I want to record this, to analyse, to understand completely.) I thought making eye contact would be good too. And later I turned away and closed my eyes and cudgelled my upper back to open my eyes and turn towards you. And after that I turned away and coaxed myself to turn back.

I thought, OK, that’s a useful tip. I want more like that. Your particular presence may help me with it and I want to trust the world and myself-

Oh fuck. Trust the world and myself??-

and do it generally. So I want exercises and I want homework and I want more tips.

You saw “enormous pain” in me and said “You are living with that all the time.” I don’t know what should be hard or easy, and want together to see that, so that I do it myself better. Most of the time I am not conscious of any pain, really, but always tired, and do little.

There is a beautiful real self, fey, playful, mercurial, hurting and untrusting, and held down by- self-protective impulses in me which want more than anything that nobody sees that self. It’s far too dangerous. I don’t see it myself, properly. I don’t know what it can do. I want to find it, to know it, to value it, to liberate it, to be that mad dancer (and at the same time to negotiate a world of other folk, many lulled to sleep by convention, oppressed by kyriarchy in the interests of kyriarchy, where I may trip up or hurt someone). There are strong impulses in me that fear it and want it to shut up, and it feels those impulses and the Self are diametrically opposed, futilely using all my energy against each other.

In “A Beautiful Mind”, John Nash played by Russell Crowe does mad things prompted by imagined personalities within himself, then takes drugs to suppress them which suppress everything else in his life, and then goes without the drugs learning to ignore those personalities. Possibly I can do that with the impulses. There is just enough evidence at any one time to keep those impulses working, to make their desires seem worthwhile. Possibly with your help I could find better evidence that they are not.

I want to learn to be myself in society, and go out my own front door.

Trans women, simply explained

Non-trans friends:

Predatory men pretending to be trans in order to attack women is a myth. It could happen now, if they really wanted, as the Equality Act 2010 in the UK allows those who appear to be trans women to enter women’s spaces, but it does not happen because there are so many easier ways of attacking women.

That myth is transphobic. It creates fear of trans women. Someone might think: “Is that a genuine trans woman? Or is it a predatory man?” They might even feel an enhanced sense of suspicion- “Will there be a predatory man in a dress there?” Yet people who spread the myth often imagine that they are not transphobic because they don’t think they are hostile to “genuine” trans women.

Please, if you see or hear this myth anywhere, challenge it. State the facts. Call it what it is- transphobia. Explain why. Transphobia is spread by people who imagine they are not transphobic at all.

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Any attempt to exclude trans women from toilets and changing rooms requires policing women’s femininity. Do you want any woman to reconsider her hair or her clothes to avoid misgendering? What about the tall woman, or the broad shouldered woman? What about the woman who has ceased her public feminine expression and always wears DMs and a crew cut, because she is traumatised by predatory men who won’t take no for an answer? Whatever anyone thinks of trans women in women’s refuges, prisons, hospital wards or sports, excluding trans women from loos and changing rooms would hurt all women, and subject them more to patriarchal control.

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So what about refuges, prisons, hospital wards and sports? Women’s Aid helps fugitives from violence, and includes trans women fugitives from violence. No prisoner should be subject to violence: let us work for the reduction of the prison population and the humane treatment of prisoners, not for housing trans women in vulnerable prisoner units with male paedophiles. In hospital all deserve dignity, even trans women. In sport, the IOC requires drastic reduction in the male testosterone level in all trans women competitors. No man would endure that. These women should be able to compete.

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I am terrified. After The Sunday Times reported a “government source” promised to “safeguard female-only spaces, including refuges and public lavatories, to stop them being used by those with male anatomy”, and overturn the consultation, where 70% of respondents were in favour of trans self-declaration, I fear legal restriction and public hostility inflamed by public discourse where trans women are conflated with predatory men. Trans women are not the main threat to other women.

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What do you say when a cis straight educated white man says “Why do we need labels”?

Because the first time people are labelled is always pejorative. It may be scientific, classifying, othering us. It may be legalistic, regulating our behaviour or expression. It may be abusive, short and cruel to shout in the street. Then choosing our own labels is an act of resistance.

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There is no such thing as “trans ideology”. I am a trans woman. I do not seek to define womanhood for any other woman, or deny that sex is real. I don’t define women’s sexuality, or how women should dress or behave. I want freedom for women to be who they are, because I need that freedom myself. When we say “my gender identity is female” or “I am a woman” we are psyching ourselves up to do what we do not understand but want more than anything else in the world- to express ourselves as women. When we want inclusive language for trans men and nonbinary folk it’s just like women wanting inclusive language- “chairman” becomes “chairperson”. When that seems ugly, we work together to improve it: “chairperson” becomes “chair”.

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Keep it simple. Conspiracy theories flourish when people are drawn in by all the information available. QAnon addicts relish Q-drops, telling New Information about how wonderful Q+ (Donald Trump) is, and how threatened he is by the Deep State, and “Do the Research” in between drops, analysing. Anti-vaxxers memorise lists of ingredients of vaccines, and their alleged harm. Flat-Earthers study the Bedford Levels experiments. Transphobes and anti-trans campaigners learn about the few trans people who can be made to look bad, and all sorts of detail about sports and shelters and prisons and hospitals and changing rooms, and share it on forums and twitter. Cut through their crap.

Trans women are women, socially, legally and morally. Trans rights are human rights.

Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin, organiser of the March on Washington in 1963, was a Quaker who schooled his monthly meeting in pacifism and prison warders in non violent resistance and direct action. He might accept tactically delaying racial integration in order to reduce resistance to it; he would not accept delay caused by white people’s hurt feelings. In prison, he addressed the Warden as an equal.

In 1942, he was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, for refusing to sit in the back of a bus.

He was the assistant to Martin Luther King who may have brought King to non-violent resistance and direct action; he had to resign as assistant when he was accused of an affair with King. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. concocted the story fearing civil rights marches would embarrass the Democratic party. Rustin supported gay rights all his life: “no group is ultimately safe from prejudice, bigotry, and harassment so long as any group is subject to special negative treatment.”

He recognised how injustice is interconnected, and supported poor whites. King eventually followed Rustin’s argument, for example in the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968. Rustin led the A. Philip Randolph Institute, forming alliances with the white labor movement. He was a singer who released albums and entertained fellow prisoners by the prison pipe system.

He was brought up by his grandmother Julia, a Quaker, and joined Brooklyn MM when he moved there. The Meeting was considering providing US soldiers with hospitality services. Rustin argued that soldiers’ morale was important to make them effective in war, and as “war is wrong”, “It is then our duty to make war impossible, first in us and then in society”. Yet it would not be fair to men committed to taking part in the war to admit them to meeting for worship, where pacifist messages might cause them anxiety. Co-operating with the military might make it more difficult for Quaker conscientious objectors to avoid conscription.

Rustin was a youth worker for the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which worked on nonviolent direct action for peace and human rights. He observed, “The suffering which the Negro has already endured fits him well for the disciplines necessary for nonviolent direct action. . . . The use of violence by a minority group is suicidal.” In a few months he travelled in twenty states and spoke before more than 5000 people, including in seventeen colleges, and counselled many men and boys considering conscientious objection.

He was a Communist who left the party when war broke out and the party told him to focus on defeating fascism rather than the liberation struggle of African Americans.

Jesus was his exemplar in nonviolent direct action. Jesus practiced civil disobedience (He deliberately violated the Sabbath laws), noncooperation (He refused to answer ‘quisling’ Herod when questioned by him), mass marches (Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem with a large procession of his followers shouting revolutionary statements), and even personal nonviolent direct action (He drove by drastic action the exploiters from the temple).

Rustin refused to go to a camp for COs, as COs there had restricted contact with the outside world, and so went to prison. “But when the will of God and the will of the state conflict, I am compelled to follow the will of God.” He said he would attempt escape from a minimum security prison, so had to be sent to a higher security prison. The warden begged his superiors to send Rustin somewhere else. He immediately sought to work with the warden for the racial integration of the prison.

I have had difficulty, sometimes, remaining in the Light in a Quaker committee. How much more in the violence of prison? Rustin wrote, “Though joyfully following the will of God, I regret that I must break the law of the state. I am prepared for whatever may follow.”

I have been taught a great lesson since coming here—namely, that there is such suffering in this world that not one penny should be misplaced or one moment wasted by men of social concern. I shall see many fewer shows and drink many fewer beers when I am free. And this not merely for discipline of self, but because these pleasures pale into the distance as one is brought face to face with the suffering . . . in lives here. I say this to indicate that we, all of us, must be very careful to search ourselves and our enterprises to make certain that we are using our resources wisely.

When the warden allowed him to mix with white prisoners, a man attacked him with a mop handle, with force sufficient to break the handle and Rustin’s wrist. Rustin did not resist, and insisted that the attacker be not punished, perhaps heaping burning coals on his head.

I certainly am convinced that there is need of a spiritual revolution if we are to avoid complete moral degeneration. I am equally certain that some totally dedicated and spiritually radical group, giving itself constantly and wholly to a life of the spirit, will (by its virtues) usher in the forces that will make genuine change possible. Whether I am to be of that group I doubt.

My own wish to be part of that revolution blanches before this modesty.

When one works to relieve racial tension (an area in which progress is slow, in which a life’s work can be destroyed by one hasty or unfortunate incident, in which the principle of ends and means must be observed faithfully) one must develop along with patience and a real consideration for the conditioning and point of view of others an easy sense of humor. Be able to laugh! Be able to laugh at yourself first. Only then will you have perspective, that middle ground “between tears and laughter” in which you will be forced to work for many years yet.

He would not force a white man to integrate. “It is, indeed, the most basic tenet of my belief: to force is to destroy.” But, giving white objectors the option of moving to another wing meant that they were not forced. The Warden should also consider the Black men: “There are 19 men in lower E who may appear to be content but who constantly are warped and embittered and made to look upon themselves as inferiors (as you yourself have noted) by the system of separation. The line of segregation, as every enlightened social worker, doctor, or teacher knows, touches every aspect of these 19 black lives.” Rustin thought the warden might be delaying, and wrote, “May I hear from you today.”

Instead the warders found prisoners who told of Rustin propositioning them sexually, or said they had seen him engage in oral sex, and had him placed in administrative segregation. Rustin resisted being sent there; but later wrote, “As a personal discipline I intend to … concentrate wholly on my own share of guilt; to refuse to discuss the administration’s share.”

From “I must resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters,” ed. Michael G. Long.

Aimee Stephens

Aimee Stephens, who died in May, is a trans heroine. Her case in the Supreme Court of the US shows that discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation or gender identity is discrimination on the ground of sex, which is unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Why that is, might be a surprising argument for a British lawyer, beautiful in its simplicity. The Court’s judgment, of a majority of six (Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh dissenting) was written by Neil Gorsuch.

Aimee Stephens was fired by RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes after she announced she intended to transition, and come to work in a conservative skirt suit or dress. Her employer claimed it would violate “God’s commands” to allow her to state she is female or behave in feminine ways. The case was heard together with those of two gay men. Donald Zarda was fired after he came out. Gerald Bostock was fired after his employer found out he was gay.

Title VII makes it “unlawful . . . for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual . . . because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Looking at the ordinary meaning of these words resolves the cases. “Sex” means “biological distinctions between male and female”. “Because of” means “By reason of” or “on account of”. This is “but-for” causality: but for their sex, these plaintiffs would not have been sacked. (It’s causa sine qua non, if you really want the Latin.)Those employers finding a female employee was attracted to men would not have sacked her for that. Harris would not have sacked a cis woman for wearing a skirt. “Discriminate” means treat differently, intentionally.

That means it is unlawful to sack or penalize someone, when part of the reason is their sex. Discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation or gender identity is necessarily discrimination because of the individual’s sex. A male worker was entitled to claim discrimination for sexual harassment by other men: it was different in form from the sexual harassment of women. An employer that would not hire women with young children, even though it favoured hiring women over men, was discriminating on the ground of sex, against those mothers as individuals.

It does not matter how people would label the discrimination. Aimee Stephens might say she was sacked because she is trans. It is still because she is seen as male. Sex need not be the sole or main cause of the employer’s action. And even if the employer treats men and women as groups the same, discrimination against an individual is unlawful.

The employers contended that they sacked their employees for sexual orientation or gender identity, and attempted to argue that was different from sex. But the rules are based on the sex of the employees, even though sexual orientation and gender identity are distinct concepts from sex. It does not matter that the Senate and House of Representatives have passed bills at different times to add sexual orientation or gender identity to Title VII, but these have never become law. If Congress had intended for there to be an exception- Discrimination on the ground of sex is unlawful, except when it is on the ground of sexual orientation- it should have said so.

The employers argued that no-one, in 1964, would have expected the law to apply to gay or trans people, but that does not matter because the words of the statute are unambiguous. The Court has to enforce the law’s plain terms.

That is, a conservative Supreme Court has extended protection to gay and trans people though others reading the law, including the sponsors of those failed bills in congress, did not think we were protected. The judgment is available as a pdf.

It is much more elegant than British law. Here, sex, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership, and gender reassignment are all separate headings for protection.

Trans women need LGB people and cis women as allies

If a trans-excluder says that vulnerable women would be scared, seeing me in a women’s loo or changing room, I am silenced. My friends say, “Nonsense!” robustly, and I need that protection, because I am put into such a state of misery and fear that I cannot speak for myself. I just want to hide.

Saying I am dangerous, or that people reasonably fear me, is a threat, because it means that someone might feel justified in attacking me, to defend those vulnerable others. And, more, it raises echoes in me, of being the outsider, not accepted, which may be pre-verbal. It knocks the stuffing out of me. I am terrified. I lose all my energy.

So I am glad to have robust allies against the government’s plan to take away all protection for trans people. The pledge of the minister, Liz Truss, to “protect single-sex spaces” means working to exclude me, and a Tory peer’s extension of that principle to clothes-shops changing rooms show what they want. It is an emergency. Having caused thousands of unnecessary deaths, and repeatedly lied about the number of covid tests performed, they need out-groups for the populace to hate as our anger grows.

First up, the LGBT Foundation. This Manchester charity has been supporting and representing lesbians and gay men for over forty years. They have drafted an open letter to the minister for cis women to sign, to say they do not fear us. Please share it and get as many cis women- lesbian or straight- as possible to sign.

They point out, the language you have used is very similar to the anti-trans rhetoric used by transphobic hate groups and organisations such as Woman’s Place UK, Transgender Trend and the LGB Alliance. They say the evidence shows trans women are mostly harmless, and that medical treatment for trans youth is in the young people’s interest- as you would expect of medical treatment by NHS doctors. An actual, urgent feminist issue is that in covid lockdown intimate partner violence has increased, and they suggest the minister directs her attention to that instead.

We do not need protecting from trans people. Please focus on protecting us from the dangers that are killing women right now. If the Tory attack on trans people succeeds, they will come after lesbians and gays next.

This week, Liberty, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a joint statement. They say we are treated as outsiders without rights, and as always At times of crisis and political change, marginalised groups are often singled out for abuse and hate. We are not heard, but dehumanised, made to defend who we are. In Hungary, Russia and the US trans people suffer vicious attacks on our rights: We cannot allow this to happen here.

Trans men need allies too; but the attacks are different. Trans men are attacked as pitiable and mutilated, trans women as perverted and dangerous. Both are attacked as deluded. Allies point out the attacks are baseless.

Being trans, and being a woman, or being a man

I know that I’m trans, said a trans man, and I have been transitioning for a few years, but I really don’t know whether I am a man or not.

As a matter of being, rather than language, what makes a trans man a man and a trans woman a woman?

To me, many of the differences between men and women are socially constructed rather than innate. They have been going for some time: Aristotle thought that reason was in control in men, and while women could be reasonable their emotions rather than their reason was in control, and therefore men should run politics outside the home, and not women, and men should rule within the home even if they listened to their wives and cared for them. In answer to this Walter Scott has a wife who, more intelligent than her husband, persuades him to do what she decides, and always lets him have his way in small things, and backs off if he is stubborn, and never says “I told you so” when he is wrong and she was right- and so manages to make most of the decisions.

And in reality no-one makes decisions by reason alone, motivation and desire arise from emotion, and often from social expectation or convention, rather than from reason. Men are emotional. Women are reasonable. The emotions which are celebrated in one or the other are different. Anger is found repulsive in women where it may be admired in men. Gentleness is seen as more feminine. Yet men can be gentle, and women angry.

There is no characteristic, or virtue, which one sex has but not the other, and each is of equal value in each.

Generally, men have male reproductive systems and women have female reproductive systems, and on average men are bigger than women- but there is a wide overlap. And while people think about sex a lot, that is usually sex to relieve a need or bind a couple together. As Paul said, “The two shall become one flesh”.

For most social purposes, being a man is about fitting masculine stereotypes. People talk about “growing a pair” of testicles, about testosterone and its putative effects, and about swinging dicks or dick energy, but really it is about a role rather than a physical type.

So possibly a trans man is more of a man than a cis man is. The trans man has chosen to be a man, and the cis man just been one by accident.

It’s Lesbian Visibility Week, which has shout-outs to trans women, and I was thinking about identifying as a woman but not as a lesbian, even though I am attracted to women. If I really thought I was a woman, surely I would call myself a lesbian? Many trans women do. So I get the sense of not being real. Possibly it’s that “lesbian” is more physical- there are butch and femme lesbians, supporting or subverting, fitting or being different from feminine stereotypes, so it’s less a matter of social expectation, and more about genitals. I am not sure of that- lesbians form long term supportive relationships which is about human complementarity and compatibility, not simply about sex. There’s that pervasive sense of not being good enough. And possibly I am writing about that trans man and trying to reassure him because thinking of being a woman is a bit iffy for me too.

And socially I am a woman, because I fit feminine stereotypes, in being emotional (though I am glowing at being called “calm and analytical”). The range of women, mentally, physically, anatomically, and in every characteristic, is wide. I am a trans woman, because I have transitioned, and someone else is a trans woman because they want to transition. We want the role, the social expectations, sometimes to approximate the anatomy. That is a huge part of what “being a woman” means. One is not born a woman, one becomes one.