Kathleen Stock and LGBT conversion therapy

Is there a problem with free speech in universities? No. Kathleen Stock, OBE, professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, is the great hero of the trans-excluders, yet she has published little academically on trans rights. She prefers sites like thearticle. She argued there that Stonewall’s definition of conversion therapy was illogical. Here it is:

Conversion therapy (or ‘cure’ therapy or reparative therapy) refers to any form of treatment or psychotherapy which aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or to suppress a person’s gender identity. It is based on an assumption that being lesbian, gay, bi or trans is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’. These therapies are both unethical and harmful.

Prof. Stock imagines an AFAB person aged 14, who is aware they are attracted to “women (or at least, to females like her).” It seems Prof Stock thinks lesbians are incapable of unrequited love for straight women. If they were some heartache would be avoided. M, whom Prof Stock gives a female name, has dysphoria, which Prof Stock claims is “an unconscious response to the social imposition of sexist and heteronormative stereotypes upon females”.

Prof Stock’s argument that the therapist cannot avoid some kind of conversion therapy is this:

If [M’s] self-diagnosis (‘I’m a boy’) is questioned by the therapist, the therapist can be construed as failing to affirm, and so putatively ‘converting’, a trans child to a ‘cis’ one. If, on the other hand, [M’s] self-diagnosis is affirmed unquestioningly, the therapist is effectively failing to affirm [M] in a sexual orientation of lesbianism; something which also looks like conversion by omission.

Orientation conversion therapy would entail attempting to make M attracted to men. It is objectionable because it disapproves how M is attracted, and attempts to change that. It can’t be changed, but the attempt can hurt the victim.

Rather, Prof. Stock imagines it is about words and descriptions. M’s transition would not stop them being attracted to women, but, Prof. Stock says, it would stop her being a lesbian. They are the same person, with the same attractions, but because the words used to describe them change, Prof. Stock thinks this is conversion therapy. However, if M is trans, rather than confused, M has never been lesbian.

M’s nature is not changed. A therapist might legitimately explore M’s gender dysphoria, to assess whether transition is appropriate, but need not change M’s nature at all. It would become conversion therapy if M could never convince the therapist they were trans, and the therapist insisted on making M happy to present female. It would not be conversion therapy if M was not trans, and the therapist helped her discover that.

Prof. Stock can’t quite believe in trans men, even though she is obsessed by them. Her description of M assumes M is really lesbian. But no conversion therapy need be attempted here. The therapist wants M to be happy and well adjusted- so does not attempt to change their orientation or their gender identity. Therapists never affirm trans self-diagnosis “unquestioningly”. They challenge us.

If Prof. Stock really is the main anti-trans campaigning philosopher, one would expect something better than this. Prof Stock has not been unable to publish transphobic rubbish in academic journals not because it is transphobic, and there is some problem with her freedom of speech to utter transphobic ideas: the journals have not published her because her ideas are too silly.

The work of the Scottish artist Gertrude des Clayes has recently come out of copyright.

Kathleen Stock

Professor Kathleen Stock, OBE, gave a talk calling for the drastic reduction of academic feminism. Though she barely referred to trans rights, her talk only makes sense if you realise she considers its acceptance of trans people renders academic feminism worthless.

She says academic feminism is not feminism because it is “no longer directly concerned with women and girls”. That feminism says nearly all differences between men and women are social and cultural constructs. She calls respecting trans and nonbinary identities “anti-feminist and anti-intellectual”. She claims people who believe in cis privilege deny any claim cis women have to political attention: as if they did not think male privilege important at all, never objected to it, and did nothing about it.

She says academic feminists cannot “easily” discuss menstruation, or properly talk about the objectification of girls, because they use language which includes trans men and nonbinary folk. She seems to disapprove of academics “working in the name of justice rather than simply documenting or explaining things”. But academics cannot simply document, because justice or injustice is advanced by where they pay their attention. Prof. Corinne Fowler reporting on slavery links to British wealth acts for justice merely by describing, and is passionate about attacks on her right to so act. Ethics is the philosophical attempt to define justice: without philosophy, we cannot improve our understanding of what is right, and so our work for it is impeded.

Stock’s definition of “liberal” is wide. It includes a “dream of objective universal values”. I would call that “Enlightenment” rather than “liberal”, which refers to freedom, even though “freedom” can be defined in so many different ways, some the opposite of others. Stock talks of “neoliberal” universities. Neoliberalism is about the absence of restriction by government, freedom to make monopolies and despoil the planet. It is far, politically, from trans inclusion, which requires government action to promote equality.

I don’t understand this criticism. “Academic feminists are still likely to think of themselves as uniquely well-placed to see what ordinary women cannot, via their superior rational capacities and quasi-technical methodologies.” Surely that is the point of academic study? If you devote yourself to knowledge about a particular subject, you will understand it better than someone who does not.

She wants a “post-liberal feminism”, free of all this.

It should recognise that women have different interests from men because of sexual dimorphism and heterosexuality. Men are stronger and more aggressive than women, and desire them sexually, and this causes “huge suffering” in women. Of course. She claims academic feminism “takes away the words of women to say this”. She does not say how. It is left to the audience to infer that she means, by promoting trans inclusion. But feminism also needs to address male privilege, which she does not mention, the cultural tendency of both sexes to show women less respect and attention than men.

She wants a recognition of “femininity”. Feminism should work to eliminate gendered ideas and practices which negatively affect the well-being of women, but always recognise the value those ideas have to those women who are attached to them: she recognises mere condemnation alienates those women, and achieves nothing.

I like that bit, and it’s the part most widely mocked. Someone quoted her phrase “The goal of feminism should not be equality”, out of context. Roz Kaveney tweeted that Prof. Stock was “replacing freedom and equality with ‘well-being’ which she can’t define”. That is no criticism: Prof. Stock says feminism’s purpose is defining it.

Well-being seems a pretty clear word to me. As Prof. Stock says, it has physical, mental and spiritual aspects. Different people have different ideas of well-being, which may be more or less “feminine”.

The most important thing when considering femininity is that there is no characteristic, emotion, virtue or aptitude which is not equally valuable in both sexes, or which only applies to one sex (apart from role in reproduction). True freedom is the ability to develop ones capacities to the full, however “masculine” or “feminine” they are, even when they contradict social stereotypes. Some women want a large family, and accept Complementarian gender roles in order to nurture it: feminism must wrestle with that reality.

My feminist friend, going to university around 1970, told me she could not understand how compliant the other female students were, and because women like my friend are particularly oppressed by gender stereotypes they may be particularly drawn to feminism. That makes feminism’s response to homemaker women more fraught. Outside universities, there are women’s groups which fit homemakers better, others which foster radical feminism. These groups will simply be at cross-purposes unless academic feminists can make some sense of the issues.

Prof. Stock finds feminism outside the Universities best able to define women’s well-being. “Collectively groups of women and girls can work out what is conducive to their well-being, or at least what clearly isn’t.” Perhaps she is thinking of Ovarit, or the trans-obsessives of Mumsnet. When “many spheres of value are still dominated by men, others by liberal elites, and nearly all by capitalism” she admits working out well-being is difficult. Fortunately, among ordinary women as well as academic feminists there are many trans allies. There is no feminist aim supported by all women.

Ordinary women might not need academics to tell them that “choking during sex” is harmful, but academics might find how prevalent women being aroused by it is, or women consenting when it arouses men, or how, legally, consent to strangulation as a defence to a charge of murder could be treated. Considering what questions are most useful to ask, or how best data might answer them, is a peculiarly academic skill.

Prof. Stock says academic feminists should help grassroots feminists achieve their aims, through data collection, not claim to know better about “ontological or moral reality”.

Prof. Stock’s rejection of academic feminism, and feminist ontology or ethics, makes no sense but for her rejection of trans inclusion. If there is any other grassroots feminist issue which academic feminists oppose overwhelmingly, please do say.

Prof. Stock’s transcript is here. It is clear she got her OBE for hating trans people, and advancing Tory nationalist aims. There are too many equally eminent academics who have not been so honoured. It is because she would get rid of academic feminism. She believes any value academic feminism has, is vitiated by trans-inclusion. This assigns far too great a weight to trans inclusion, and finds it uniquely damaging. It is clearly transphobic, that is, an irrational fear reaction.

Her talk, and others from Res Publica, are on video here. A long detailed refutation of Stock’s poor argument, mendacity and transphobia is on Praile.

Ky Schevers

Ky Schevers compares trans men detransitioning into “gender critical” circles to the “ex-gay” movement. Having spent time with them, and transitioned to male again, he says they are harmful both to trans people and detransitioners. He has written some perceptive Medium posts about his experiences. Any human being might recognise the tension between seeking acceptance from others, and being proudly who you are, which for trans people is particularly fraught.

At times I have needed to say different things about myself, and wanted different affirmation from others. Before I committed to transition, I wanted to, yet was too frightened, and I read up on “autogynephilia”, and told myself my desires were unreal. Then I decided I would transition, and joined Transsexual UK, a Yahoo group. There my desire to transition was affirmed, though it was nastily transmedicalist- not just the clear desire for hormones and surgery, but the implication that those who did not want surgery were perverts or transvestites and we should distance ourselves from them. And all the time I have wanted affirmed just for me, for who I am.

Since the March lockdown I have been powerfully affirmed here, Saturdays at 11am GMT. It is a space for everyone, not just trans, where we can show ourselves.

Ky transitioned female to male, then detransitioned, and joined gender critical groups. They would affirm him if he asserted that he was a woman, that being butch was fine but saying that it was in any way “masculine” was wrong, because that was a way some women were and all women were allowed to be if they wanted to. He used his strong gifts for thinking, analysis and writing on a wordpress blog which is now deleted. His crashchaoscats tumblr is now “Hemp Life Mag- CBD reviews, news and guides”, with no obvious indication it has ever been a detransition blog.

As a F-M-F detransitioner, part of his belief system was that he had undertaken a terrible act of self-harm caused by “transgender ideology”, and it was important to him to shield others for similar harm. His “Open letter to Julia Serano” remains, shared by another on facebook, and I copied it to a word document which I retain. He wrote to Julia, a powerful transadvocate,

I see these young women, lesbian and otherwise, finally find other women they can relate to, who also feel out of place in this society, who don’t fit the patriarchal myths and I watch them grow proud of being female, being a woman. It has been beautiful to watch and amazing to be a part of so many women’s healing.

You can choose to listen to us and change how you talk about us or you can keep repeating the same misinformation. In case you do choose to listen, I’ve included some links to other detransitioned women’s blogs and videos. In any case, we will keep speaking our truths because even if you’re not listening, a lot of women are and they need to hear what we have to say.

There it is. Beautifully articulate, powerfully expressed, definite, and he would say now completely wrong. Or at least if right for anyone not right for him. I wrote about him at the time.

There has to be a better way. As he says, people who transition and detransition have a lot in common with people who are transitioning or want to, or who have transitioned. It would be so much better if they could be in community together for mutual support. And yet they are pitched against each other, forced to argue that the other groups are deluded and perhaps that they personally have been in the past.

I want a Gender Variant community, of people who recognise that gender stereotypes do not fit them, and support any way of coping with that- living against the stereotypes, living with a particular presentation such as “butch”, having surgery- because we recognise what we have in common. I don’t know it is possible. Too many people are invested in their own way and want to save others from different, wrong, paths. There is a strong taboo in the wider community against body alteration- some people even condemn tattoos, piercings, or rhinoplasties, leave alone what we have done. He says,

People also need spaces where they can freely explore how their sense of gender may have been shaped by trauma and/or living in a homophobic transphobic patriarchy without being pressured to adopt a particular identity or interpretation of their experiences.

Ky now feels he was exploited by people with their own axes to grind- conservative Evangelicals who claim gender variance is a sin encouraged by feminism, parents of trans people who are disgusted by their children’s desires and encourage each other to oppose them, or conversion therapists who want to make money from them. “Ideologically motivated detransition is conversion therapy,” he says. We want to be accepted in community, because we are social beings, and so we seek out their conditional acceptance. But,

People invested in transphobic ideologies have no interest in helping detransitioned people heal because they want to frame transitioning as being as damaging as possible.

I needed to sort out who I was as opposed to what I had become in order to belong to the community.

Now, he says, it is “surreal” to accept himself as a trans man and lose that community. “I still care about a lot of detransitioned women but I no longer feel like I can be close to them.” How could he, when he sees them as perpetrating the same harms? Could he just be with them, without trying to fix each other? Could we each accept that my path is right for me now, and just because it is different to your path does not mean either is wrong? Could we support each other in such different choices? We need an identity, and feel such confusion when that identity changes- I thought I was a “man”, and now see I am a trans woman. An answer might be to cling less tightly to a rigid conception of that identity, but that troubles straight people and raises our internalised self-phobia.

He feels terribly guilty.

I betrayed the trans community by adopting and promoting transphobic views and creating material that was then picked up and used by other anti-trans groups. I betrayed the detrans community by coming out as trans, leaving the community and talking openly about how detransitioning hurt me. I further betray them by naming the harm done by the detrans community [including Keira Bell.]… The thing I’m really trying to figure out is how do I take responsibility for my past actions and do what I can to fix the damage? … I don’t want to harm others, even unintentionally… Those transphobic ideas harmed me but they also motivated me to speak and act in ways that harmed other trans people as well.

He has been writing. It is his skill. It is powerful stuff, and anyone interested should read him and engage with him, trans people, allies, and those he says are exploiters.

He is vulnerable. Not for the first time,

I am dismantling who I once was and still figuring out who I want to be now.
I’m working to heal from the damage of trying to erase an important part of myself.
I was in pain and I wanted it to stop.

The exploiters should have pity on us, but they too have their needs and identities to protect. I will have pity on him. Ky, you were seeking community and seeking to understand yourself in a blizzard of conflicting interpretations, anger, contempt and fear. You did your best to help others and find community. I will not blame you for anything you did, however mistaken you now feel it was.

These are Ky’s three Medium posts:
Detransition as conversion therapy: a survivor speaks out.
What is ideologically motivated detransition?
Moving between worlds deciding what to do next.

Normal

How can we find delight, in not being “normal”?

“Normal” means something like usual, or common, but it’s related to “norm”, which means rule or value. If you are normal, you fit in. On facebook I saw a “quiz”, purportedly to test gender, personality, lifestyle and politics, and did it, even as I thought, why am I telling the data thieves? I was pleased to come out more female than male, though in the middle, but thought it might be because I said I was interested in makeup but not gadgets.

Why should that be female? It’s descriptive, rather than prescriptive- they asked women and men, and women were more interested in clothes and makeup. It follows the culture. People are moulded like this. How natural it is depends on how malleable people are, and I think people are malleable. And some people do not fit at all.

“Normal” or “Abnormal” in this test refer to personality. Do you have disordered personality traits? According to the page, some “abnormal” means you share traits with people who are “crazy” or have a personality disorder, but are not necessarily one of them. To me, the concept of a personality disorder makes sense. It is a disability, making it harder to function, but again that depends on how rigid society is, and in what ways. Or a personality disorder is a response to trauma, or a sane response to an insane situation. A man told me “I grew up in a plague zone, and caught the plague”. Societies can be disordered, as in Nazis “just obeying orders”, that is, fitting in or being normal.

One said “disorders” should be called “conditions”- as if “disorder” is a moral judgment. That moral judgment could mean that such people are bad, to be condemned, or afflicted, to be pitied.

I did not like the way Male, Normal, Traditional and Right-wing were all on the left side, as if they were the positive qualities. They’re also in the address bar for your result, so that being Left-wing or Progressive is a low score. To me, what they call “Traditional” lifestyle, shown by for example denying the possibility of gender fluidity, is a personality disorder, causing friction with worthwhile and valuable people. I want to stretch the concept of “normal” to include gender fluidity.

One said some trans or autistic people wanted classed as disordered or disabled in order to benefit from medical insurance or disability discrimination law.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph had a scare story. “Lesbians facing ‘extinction’ as transgenderism becomes pervasive”. It had no information, just quoting the rantings of LGB All Liars. They said there were 24 trans kids but no gays or lesbians in one school. If they were all taking hormones, that might be a worry, but in a year 161 children under 16, out of 12 million children in Britain, were referred for puberty blockers. The rest of these trans kids are using different words and ideas to explore their identity. It is extremely hard to get medical treatment.

I don’t know if anywhere there are a couple, both AFAB nonbinary, who refuse the terms lesbian or bi, but if there were it would be a change of language not of reality, or even of acceptance. Same sex attracted women may feel social pressure to act “normal”, and even marry men, or deny their attractions. You build up a self-image of a normal, acceptable person and are terribly conflicted when your unconscious desires lead you to explore. Then your self-image breaks down. I hope it gets easier to find our tribes and accept ourselves, and to accept other people’s difference.

There is delight in finding ourselves and being ourselves. First we are rejected by some, and that hurts and frightens and leads us to anticipate more rejection, but we find acceptance from others. Delight comes in recognising the value of the acceptance, and stopping caring so much about the rejection.

The Telegraph article is behind a paywall, so I got the text from Ovarit, a “feminist” forum set up to hate on trans people.

Lush Cosmetics

An anti-trans hate group, WPUK, has revealed that it received a £3000 grant from the Lush Charity Pot to organise events. Lush, which avoids testing cosmetics on non-human animals, and uses only vegetarian ingredients, has a long record of supporting LGBT rights. Lush publishes a list of organisations receiving grants, and WPUK is not on it. However Lush has confirmed it gave a grant to the hate group, saying the grant “predated our awareness of how toxic discussion of this issue had become and before we put rules in place around this subject”.

In 2019 Lush gave a grant to TransgenderNI, a community hub for trans people in Belfast and across Ireland. They also support actually feminist organisations, such as Samosa Sisters, training migrant women on women’s legal rights. Unfortunately Lush also funded FiLiA, a group which does some feminist work but devotes increasing energy to anti-trans hate.

Lush should act to ensure its funds do not go to hate groups, however positively they state their aims. While the “Woman’s Place Manifesto” does not mention trans people once, everything it campaigns on is about excluding trans women from women’s spaces. The phrase they use to avoid mentioning trans people is “single-sex”.

When it holds the meetings Lush in part funded, the hate group preaches hate against trans people. I have not watched all their videos, as the  propagandist flood of lies, half-truths and hate gets unbearable, but I watched their leader Kiri Tunks on 25 February 2019. Tunks pretended that trans rights recommended by a Parliamentary inquiry were proposed by the government, and then pretended that those rights were contrary to women’s rights. In 2018 Pilgrim Tucker incited her audience against trans women.

Lush has a long record of supporting LGBT rights. In 2016 they ran a #GayisOK campaign with AllOut. They asked customers buying their sparkly Love Soap to post a selfie with it on social media, and reached 30m people with direct campaign messages. Profits from the soap went to a Love Fund of £275,955. This is also good publicity for Lush.

Lush supports trans rights. In 2018 they gave away pronouns badges, and explained,

At Lush, we recognise that there are more than two genders, and all are welcomed and respected. It’s all too easy to make assumptions about the gender of another person based on that person’s appearance, but assumptions aren’t always correct. In fact, making assumptions based on a person’s appearance can perpetuate the idea that people have to look a certain way to demonstrate their gender identity. This can be harmful in that it has the potential to limit freedom of expression and also imposes a culture of conditional acceptance.

That is, the company in general supports trans rights alongside wider LGBT+ rights, and the grant is a mistake, or an act by an individual against the policy of the company. Here are the Charity Pot guidelines:

Charity Pot is a Lush hand and body cream where 100% of all sales (minus local taxes) are distributed as grants, to groups working in the areas of:

    • Animal Protection
    • Environment
    • Human Rights (incl. social justice, peace & equality)

WPUK works against human rights, social justice, and equality. Lush say, “groups or projects that support, incite or promote violence, aggression or oppression towards others would not be funded.” Any WPUK grant must therefore be a mistake. “Applications are NOT accepted from organisations that… deny the human rights of others… harbour…prejudice… judge others on anything other than their actions”. WPUK would merely define our human rights out of existence.

Complaints can be sent to wecare@lush.co.uk. Please be courteous. It may be worthwhile acknowledging Lush’s record supporting LGBT rights. Lush UK did not apologise, but Lush USA did not mince words.

2 December: here is Lush’s statement. They say FiLiA did not apply specifically for anti-trans hate, and indeed FiLiA is not as obsessed with trans as WPUK or LGB All Liars. They do occasionally consider other stuff, even if they include obsessive haters. A friend then pointed me to a ridiculous, hate-filled rant by a ridiculous, hate-filled transphobe published by FiLiA.

What Lush says about WPUK is just weird. However, this is the important bit:

for those of you that have joined this conversation from different places and have been left wondering whether Lush has deliberately funded campaigning against trans rights, we want to assure you that this would never be our intention and we are sincerely sorry that any of our funding has gone towards doing this.

They recognise that trans lives matter.

Transphobia and hate crime

The report on transphobic hate crime in Britain 2020 makes horrifying reading. Of 227 respondents, 42% had experienced more than ten transphobic incidents in a year. There is usually no accessible support for trans people facing hate crime. Hate crime has severe impacts, stunting people’s lives.

Recorded hate crime has doubled in the last three years, but only one in seven trans people report our experiences. While much of the hate comes from the transphobia pervasive in the Patriarchy, nearly half of respondents were abused by people radicalised in trans-excluding spaces, who may imagine that they are feminist or left-wing. Online hate has real world consequences. The report refers to such transphobes as “transphobic ‘activists’”- I call them trans excluders, who may be physically violent, or troublesome by making vexatious complaints, rather than merely whining in their own spaces. It shows that whining trans excluders may become violent or vexatious. Their enablers and proselytisers cause great harm.

transphobia & transphobic gaslighting from family, even if it is less directly violent, can be devastating for young trans people’s sense of self and wellbeing… transphobia in what’s supposed to be your safe space, from those who are supposed to care most, is devastating.

Not just young trans people. I was 36. Family reactions had a lasting effect on me.

We also experience transphobia from strangers, LGBT+ people, colleagues, medical professionals, and “friends”. Twelve experienced it from police officers. I tend to feel my bad experience of the police comes from poverty rather than transphobia, but the police can be disrespectful.

Transphobia is not just hate crime. Abuse and harassment can be horrible to experience. When someone asks what I have between my legs I am demeaned. Someone treats me as if I am unworthy of respect, and I doubt that others will respect me as I deserve. I don’t get deadnamed, but that is a claim that how I see myself and present myself is somehow unreal, that others should be entitled to define me.

25 respondents had experienced death threats, 28 threats of sexual assault, 47 threats of physical assault, 16 physical assault and 14 sexual assault. But if we have any trans acquaintances, we hear about these things happening to others, and that can have similar effects.

More than half the respondents had contemplated self-harm or suicide. Nearly two thirds were unable to use public toilets, and half were unable to leave their house. Transphobia makes us insecure about our appearance and exacerbates gender dysphoria. It makes us less likely to trust strangers or open up to people, so that we become ever more isolated. 67 had panic attacks, 87 had trouble sleeping, more than half felt humiliated, more than half stressed, more than half afraid, nearly half hyper-vigilant. Transphobia drains our motivation. It causes symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD. Two thirds said the effect on their mental health and emotional wellbeing was big or significant.

Transphobia impacts our physical health, causing drinking, comfort eating and self-neglect. We might avoid exercise or avoid seeking medical help. One said they had developed twitches, and reading that makes me feel sad, but also reassured- it’s not just me.

Transphobia makes many of us us self-censor. We don’t feel able to speak up for ourselves. Transphobia intersects with ableism and other discrimination. Part of my reason for moving house was transphobia.

97 said transphobia had made them more active in trans activism, and 61 said it made them more open about being trans. These are healthy responses. Echoes within us, from our internalised transphobia, can make the experiences worse. We need Pride. However, being involved in the struggle had exhausted some of us.

Transphobia can distort the way we see ourselves and our gender. It prevents some from expressing their identity- I know people who put off transition for years. We are badly affected by ideas of what it means to be truly trans:

Every time I am not feeling crippling dysphoria, I am terrified that I am not transgender, and I have been told that I have to hate my body all the time otherwise I am not transgender.

Transphobia affects our relationships. We are less able to meet new people, and we get driven out of groups. 43 had experienced an abusive relationship, and our relative lack of power can make this more likely; and fear of transphobia may make us less likely to seek support. We lose touch with others.

I now assume everyone is transphobic until I’m proved wrong to avoid disappointment and ridicule.

So many of us fail to reach our potential.

The sheer amount of issues is staggering. I feel in a persistent state of battle.

Only twenty had gone to the police, and most had found the police unhelpful. Possibly the Samaritans would be more helpful, at least validating our feelings.

One officer said I left myself open to being abused because I “chose to be different”. Misgendering throughout the interview then told that the physical assault, death threats and threats of further violence against me weren’t strong enough to do anything about and maybe I should “go home, make a cup of tea, and dress ‘normally'”.

There are few positives to take from this report, published by Galop. One is simply that it exists, that work is being done to expose the levels of transphobia and the effects these have. I am glad Galop, which published the report, exists:

Galop is the UK’s LGBT+ anti-violence charity. For the past 37 years we have been providing advice, support and advocacy to LGBT+ victims and campaigning to end anti-LGBT+ violence and abuse. Galop works within three key areas; hate crime, domestic abuse, and sexual violence. Our purpose is to make life safe, just, and fair for LGBT+ people. We work to help LGBT+ people achieve positive changes to their current situation, through practical and emotional support, to develop resilience, and to build lives free from violence and abuse.

The report is timely and necessary, but flawed in that it does not make a clear distinction between transphobia generally, and transphobic hate crime. It is called a “hate crime report”, but includes things which are not crimes. Deadnaming may be part of a criminal series of actions, but I can’t see a circumstance where simple deadnaming is criminal, however hurtful it is. That does not detract from the report’s evidence of the effect transphobia has on trans people: it cripples many of us.

NEC nominations and trans rights

Updated 13 November: the results of the NEC elections have been announced. Candidates in bold were elected. Most have spoken up for trans rights or against transphobia.

Labour Party members voted for National Executive Committee CLP representatives. Every eligible member could vote for nine CLP reps and one treasurer. What are the candidates’ positions on trans rights? The Labour Party LGBT Network asked a long list of questions, mainly about trans rights. Most candidates have spoken or written in favour of trans rights, or against transphobia. The ballot closed at noon on 12th November, and the results were announced the following day.

Continue reading

The haters admit, lesbians support trans

Where could I find evidence of the support of lesbians and feminists for trans people? Oddly enough, the whining of haters. “There are very few public stories of lesbians on the ‘cotton ceiling’” said a transphobe, Angela C Wild, who worked with a named transphobe organisation to try to get more, but failed. While QAnon and other conspiracist groups can get 200,000 in a facebook group, Wild’s energetic attempts to find transphobic lesbians found respondents from three continents, but only resulted in eighty responses to her questionnaire.

“The sample does not claim to be a representative sample of the lesbian community,” Wild writes. Rather, her eighty respondents show an extreme view. “Would you consider a transwoman (sic) as a potential sexual partner,” she asked, and though lesbians will, all but one of her respondents said no. Wild uses the word “transwoman” though she does not consider it appropriate, preferring to think of us as males. This is valueless as research, but some of the stories are interesting.

The haters were members of lesbian or LGBT groups online or IRL. Though 58 of them were part of groups excluding trans women, they still felt “silenced” or unable to speak freely. Allies of trans women had excluded forty of the haters from LGBT groups. One hater had been sacked- perhaps it was Maya Forstater. The pressure came from “other women” (that is, not trans women) within their groups.

Online, it is easy to find your own kind. Facebook will suggest groups for you. So, some of the respondents had left their LGBT groups and joined hater groups, where they could be sure their views were not challenged. They prefer hater groups even though they say “how much more difficult it has become for them to meet lesbians”- the hate they share was their main focus. One said in a city of a million people all the lesbian groups included trans women, at least potentially.

On dating sites, in getting messages from trans women, one is quoted as saying “she has never felt coerced or intimidated”. While others claim to be pressured, they admit that the pressure comes from cis lesbians. Despite her repulsion against trans women, one had had a relationship with one, but they judge us on our looks, claiming we were not “making an effort to pass”.

This document cannot be dignified by the term “research”. For example, Wild misrepresents Dhejne’s research, though Dhejne has refuted Wild’s interpretation, and in her “references” cites tweets, youtube, and a Medium article. Though facebook radicalises people, by suggesting extremist groups to anyone who might do a search, Wild has found few people, and they tell of the pressure from cis women including cis lesbians to accept trans women.

Wild’s account makes a number of serious allegations, of threats and even assaults, but these come from a prejudiced source, from anonymised obsessives who would rather leave a lesbian group than accept the possibility that a trans woman might join. Most lesbians understand that if hatred against trans women spreads, lesbians will be next in the firing line. Now, with this Tory government, we need LGBT solidarity.

For example, there is this statement on the Pride in London website, when such haters disrupted the Pride parade in 2018:

The lesbian board members at Pride in London made their anger towards the unsanctioned group clear and our organisation as a whole condemns their actions. The protest group showed a level of bigotry, ignorance and hate that is unacceptable.

We reject what this group stands for. They do not share our values, which are about inclusion and respect and support for the most marginalised parts of our community.

We are proud of our trans volunteers, proud of the trans groups that are in our parade, proud of our trans speakers at events and proud of the trans people who take part in our campaigns and proud of those who cheered even louder for them yesterday.

While The Times and other powerful right wing forces seek to spread hatred of trans people, and internet contacts ensured her questionnaire reached Canada, Germany and New Zealand, Wild’s “research” shows this has little purchase among lesbians.

Kristie Higgs

Kristie Higgs was sacked not for her religious lack of belief that anyone can change their biological sex/gender, but for the way she expressed them, on facebook. The language of the posts was standard facebook: as the tribunal put it, “inflammatory and quite extreme… florid and provocative”. Posts which express outrage, moral condemnation, or strong emotion are more likely to be shared on social media.

Higgs wrote, “Please read this! They are brainwashing our children!” Then she repeated a post, saying (transphobic- select text to view) “The LGBT crowd with the assistance of the progressive School systems are destroying the minds of normal children by promoting mental illness” and “the far-left have hijacked the learning environment and they insist on cramming their perverted vision of gender fluidity down the throats of unsuspecting school children who are a government mandated captive audience”.

The school considered anyone who read that might conclude the writer and sharer “not only felt strongly that gender fluidity should not be taught in schools but was also was hostile towards the LBGT [sic] community, and trans people in particular.”

Mr Conlan, the school governor who chaired the disciplinary hearing, said that had her belief been stated in a less inflammatory way, as she stated them in her claim, the school would not have taken action against her. In her claim she wrote her beliefs included “lack of belief in ‘gender fluidity'” and “lack of belief that someone could change their biological sex/gender”. The tribunal decided that these beliefs were protected by law, in that she should not suffer discriminatory treatment at work because of them, because “there was no reason to believe she would behave towards any person in a way such as to deliberately and gratuitously upset or offend them,” unlike in an earlier case.

As the tribunal says, if rights “only extended to expressions of belief that could upset no-one they would be worthless”. To decide whether the belief was protected, the tribunal had to “carry out a balancing act between those who hold the beliefs in question and those who oppose them”.

So she cannot be dismissed for believing that gender fluidity does not exist, or for saying that, but she could be dismissed because the way it was expressed reasonably led someone to conclude she was homophobic and was hostile towards LGBT folk, and trans people in particular. No-one could read this case and conclude they would be safe to express disbelief in gender fluidity in a particular way, but any emotive language might be risky.

Kristie Higgs supervised students excluded from class for being disruptive, and managed work experience. Had she been a teacher, I would have been more concerned about her “belief in the literal truth of the Bible”- the idea that the Earth was created thousands of years ago rather than accreted billions of years ago involves contradicting plain facts, and means seeing much of academia as suffering demonic delusion. As an adult supervising children, she might be approached by a child uncertain of their sexuality, and even if she had no facebook account she might be a risk to that child. She also might be more tolerant of bullying of that child than more rational people were.

In Forstater’s case, she was offensive to a nonbinary person, and said she might be to others. In Higgs’ case, someone who saw her post reasonably believed she might be offensive. Anyone who works with children or the public should be very careful about expressing such views, and that’s a relief. However that is not because of the law, but because other people object, and employers often take their side. Our protection depends on public opinion.

The Tribunal said she was not sacked for being Christian, so this was not religious discrimination. Christians have a wide variety of beliefs. I consider God is fine with gender nonconformity, the Bible contains poetry, fiction and argument and very little literal truth, same sex marriage is absolutely fine, and children should have age-appropriate education about it.

I take my religion very seriously. My identity as a Quaker is more important to me than, say, my identity as British.

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.