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.

Elizabeth Berridge

Another day, another transphobe, a nonentity saying what she is paid to say- but this one could be dangerous. The Mail on Sunday reported in its print edition, though not on line, that she had said in the House of Lords,

“Those seeking to rely on the protections and exemptions contained in the Equality Act 2020 [sic] must be able to do so with confidence and clarity. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s statutory codes of practice on the Equality Act 2010 explain the provisions of the Act and the EHRC is responsible for updating these codes as necessary.

“This Government has been clear that we must take the right steps to protect safe single-sex spaces for women and girls; their access should not be jeopardised. Some women’s organisations have expressed concern that predatory men may abuse the gender recognition system, intended to support transgender adults. We have heard these concerns and are considering carefully our next steps.”

This was in answer to a question by Ralph Palmer, a noted transphobe. He asked, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Equality and Human Rights Commission about amendments to its guidance on the Equality Act 2010 to help providers of services understand how to handle requests for access to services and facilities from transgender people.”

How to handle requests? Grant them. If there is a clear reason not to serve trans women with non-trans women- not just someone finds trans icky, but a clear, statable reason- explain it, and find another way to support the woman. Instead, Berridge quoted myths from WPUK, and “considering carefully our next steps” means “We are going to find the best way to make trans people, and particularly trans women, a culture war target”.

The Mail apparently asked her for further comment, and summarised her response- the law is clear that such places [single sex spaces] should be for biological women only. When they quoted her directly, it was more circumspect: ‘Transgender people can be excluded from singlesex facilities if service providers have a legitimate reason for doing so and if exclusion is the least discriminatory way to proceed.’ That is mostly unobjectionable, though I would put it the other way round- trans women should be admitted unless there is a legitimate reason to exclude.

Berridge is the kind of nonentity to be appointed a Tory “working peer”. She was Executive Director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship: I found this page asking for “prayers” about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, now deleted from their own site: Berridge would like to call gay men “Sodomites” but is too frightened to. So, meanly, she attacks trans people instead.

In February, she was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System at the Department for Education and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Women) at the Department for International Trade. These posts are so junior within government that no-one bothered to update her wikipedia entry for weeks after. But she is a person, with a name, unlike the “unnamed source” which was reported in the Times in February, saying While we believe adults should be able to live their lives, and trans rights should be respected and protected, the government also has a role to play in protecting children (nudge nudge, wink wink)- protecting children, they mean, from medical treatment facilitating transition. The Times began, Ministers are expected to drop plans to make it easier for people to change their gender amid concerns about the impact on children, but the sources they named were neutral or supportive of trans rights.

The hate progresses very slowly, but it is progressing. The haters are more willing to speak out. I would say that the “LGB Alliance” should note who its allies are, but I don’t think they care.

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.