Lesbian and Gay News

If you are lesbian or gay, is “Lesbian and Gay News” for you? Well, what news does it cover? I looked at its 24 November front page- archive link.

On the original site, the header image scrolls between articles. The first article is on the chief executive of Stonewall, Nancy Kelley’s interview on Woman’s Hour, and Stonewall’s support of trans rights. You might think that lesbian and gay people at the BBC would be concerned that their employer was leaving Stonewall’s diversity champions scheme, and their union, BECTU, confirms they are. But “Lesbian and Gay News” is exultant. For the writer, Stonewall supports trans, so the BBC was right to leave Diversity Champions.

Conversion therapy is in the news, and any lesbian and gay publication would take notice. LGN does. Under the header, twelve articles are featured, and the first two are on conversion therapy. Both argue that gender transition is “conversion” of cis lesbian and gay people.

“The mother of a lesbian teenager” claims her “daughter” is being converted by his school. As they give a false, female name, I will give a male one: Luke came out to his parents as lesbian aged 12, and they were supportive, but when he came out as a trans boy shortly afterwards, his mother became vehemently opposed.

Such articles often give good news. The MP has not supported the mother, and nor has the local authority or the school. I dare to hope this is a case I heard about in 2017, and if so the boy shows phenomenal courage standing up against the onslaught of his mother’s campaigning. The GP’s comments are skewed as supportive of the mother, but the GP made the appropriate referral.

There is nothing about religious groups preaching that gay sex is wrong, only about trans. A 12 minute read and a 9 minute read- I read this rubbish so you won’t have to- are only about trans recognition. Gary Powell writes that Luke, by having his gender identity accepted, has suffered “homophobic conversion therapy”. He argues that because no-one is “the soul of one sex in the body of another”, trans people cannot suffer conversion therapy. I beg to differ.

Kat Howard writes about being assaulted by a trans woman from her university LGBT society when a student, saying the trans woman walked her home, pushed her into sex, and messaged continually for three weeks. When Howard blocked her, she told the LGBT society that Howard was a transphobe and a terf. Howard claims she raped two other lesbians.

Howard is a teacher. Arguably she should not be, as she is an anti-trans campaigner. She seeks to undermine the school’s relationships and sex education (RSE).

An allegation of three rapes is serious. It is no less credible than other #metoo allegations. However trans women generally, just like any other social group, are not defined by the actions of our worst. So the allegation is problematic if it is used to slur trans women in general.

What else? An article about turning liberal people into anti-trans campaigners, by using the lie of autogynephilia and the lie of rapid onset gender dysphoria.

Then there’s a review of a historical novel in which a woman passes as a man, for freedom, but is called lesbian. The review has a pretty large spoiler. There’s a video of a speech by anti-trans campaigner Allison Bailey, saying anti-trans campaigners should be able to attend the global conference on LGBT rights. There’s a claim that newspapers call anti-trans campaigning racist- well, the Guardian doesn’t, leave alone the Times. There’s an interview with the straight anti-trans campaigner Graham Linehan, and an article by a poor deluded trans woman exhorting “post-operative transsexuals” like herself to use men’s toilets, claiming otherwise male abusers will pretend to be trans.

Apart from the book review, might any of this site be interesting to a lesbian who was not passionately opposed to trans rights? Well, on 28 September there was an article about the lesbian relationship in the TV drama Vigil. It repeats a number of common opinions about lesbian drama- I too am ambivalent about TV and film representations- but then gets to the nonbinary character in Sex Education season 3, which it finds boring. Pink News does entertainment reviews so much better.

On 23 August, the site promoted a demonstration against Stonewall Diversity Champions. They do not want Stonewall to advise employers about discrimination against lesbian and gay people, because Stonewall also supports trans people. But this directly harms lesbian and gay people, as BECTU confirmed.

If you are lesbian and gay, would you be interested in Lesbian and Gay News? Yes, if you want attacks on Stonewall, the premier lesbian and gay charity in the UK, hatred condemnation mockery and denial of trans people’s existence, or adulation of straight anti-trans campaigners. Otherwise, probably not.

Olympic committee supports trans women in sport

The Olympic committee has made clear rules favouring trans women’s participation in women’s sport.

The 2015 Olympic rules required a reduction in T levels for a year before competition. This proved that someone was genuinely trans. I don’t believe a male athlete would pretend to be a trans woman in order to beat women rather than come middle of the pack racing men, but he certainly would not take T suppressants in order to do so. Then, trans women could compete with other women.

Now, the IOC says each sport’s governing bodies must make its own rules. It has ten principles, to be read as a whole, including fairness and human rights.

How could sport make one rule for fairness in elite sport and grassroots sport? If I, at 55, considered doing my first 5km park run, how is that like an exceptionally talented twelve-year-old sprinter, starting a male puberty, who knows she is a girl?

There are women who are taller, stronger, more muscular, with better aerobic fitness than I have, even at my age. If I could win that park run, or win an over-50s category, I might not want to, because I feared transphobic reactions. But running does not reduce the safety of other competitors. Contact sports might. If a trans woman bowled faster than a cis woman, might that endanger a cis woman at the wicket or home plate, enough to ban the trans bowler?

Anti-trans groups argue that a male puberty gives advantages even after testosterone is suppressed or removed, in height and strength. They say they want to see the best a female body can achieve. But all elite sports competitors have exceptional bodies, talent and aptitude as well as training. XY androgen insensitive competitors are over-represented in women’s sports.

The principles, which should be read together, are Inclusion, prevention of harm, non-discrimination, fairness, no presumption of advantage, evidence-based approach, primacy of health and bodily autonomy, stakeholder-centred approach, and the right to privacy. There should be periodic reviews.

Under fairness, criteria should “prevent athletes from claiming a gender identity different from the one consistently and persistently used”. I don’t think that should mean T suppression. Requiring medical treatment conflicts with my human rights. T suppression might make someone infertile, and that might be too high a price to pay to compete at elite level, and certainly at grassroots level. Change of name and title, styles of clothes and hair, should be sufficient. Nor should there be a year before someone can compete. Someone AMAB nonbinary might not enter women’s competition, but women’s competition is clearly binary.

This is an improvement. Trans women need not go a year without competing. We can preserve our fertility. The basic principle is that trans women are women, unless there is evidence we “consistently and persistently” present male, and so should be entitled to be in women’s sports unless this is unsafe for other competitors.

World Rugby says trans women cannot play women’s rugby. Rugby is a contact sport, where strength, speed and weight matter, but they might find their blanket ban falls foul of the IOC’s new code.

The rugby men’s B team will not all take women’s names so they can beat women. If someone changes her name and expression “consistently and persistently”, she is a trans woman. Fairness includes a risk to physical safety, but rugby women are big and strong.

There has to be an evidence-based approach, with no presumption of advantage for trans women. The evidence has to be about “consistent athletic engagement” with the sport to be regulated, and must demonstrate disproportionate advantage or unpreventable risk exists for the specific sport.

If someone is excluded she must be able to challenge the decision (Fairness; 6.2b).

There are powerful arguments in the rules for trans inclusion. The first principle is Inclusion. Sports should be welcoming to all gender identities. Sports bodies should prevent discrimination, harassment and abuse, taking into account the particular vulnerabilities and needs of trans people.

2: Prevention of Harm- this specifically includes the mental wellbeing, impliedly including mental wellbeing of trans people who need to be recognised in our true gender.

3: Non-discrimination. There should be no systematic exclusion of trans women. Disproportionate competitive advantage might exclude some individual trans women.

7. Primacy of health and bodily autonomy. There should be no pressure to medically unnecessary treatment. If a trans woman wants to preserve her fertility, she can.

Even 8, the Stakeholder-centred approach, which says athletes must be consulted about the rules and allowed to raise concerns, may be to the advantage of trans women. Some women athletes speak out loudly against trans inclusion, and are amplified by anti-trans publications and organisations. A consultation would reach past these, to some who might be trans-inclusive.

I can’t comment about how general sporting rules affect the right to privacy, principle 9, and trans or DSD status is often notorious, energetically circulated by phobes and rubberneckers, but I am glad privacy is one of the principles.

10. There should be periodic reviews reflecting ethical and scientific developments.

Transition is not a choice. Trans is part of who we are, just as being gay is part of a gay person. We should not be excluded, and sporting bodies should recognise that.

From the Guardian’s report I am pleased to see Joanna Harper, visiting fellow for trans athletic performance at Loughborough university, is trans. I am less pleased to see her saying there should be restrictions without clear evidence. She says trans women are on average taller, bigger and stronger. But elite athletes are on average taller, bigger and stronger and at the last Olympics there was just one trans woman in competition, out of 11,656 athletes. I wish they would not refer to “women’s campaign groups” when they clearly mean from context anti-trans campaign groups. If a group’s main activity is to campaign against trans rights, it is not a women’s or LGB group, it is an anti-trans group.

The IOC announced the guidelines, which you can download.

Silke Steidinger’s “Exploration of gender dysphoria”

Silke Steidinger, psychotherapist, musician, and researcher on minority religious movements, “explores being human” and produced her film, “Trans-Actions: An Exploration of Gender Dysphoria” for her MA degree. She is gender nonconforming, AFAB, but apparently not trans as the person who introduced me to it claimed. That person is an anti-trans campaigner, yet she called it “a very good film” and I find it interesting.

In 2018, Steidinger produced a ninety minute film, and now only a thirty minute cut is available. She interviewed trans people, anti-trans campaigners, and medical professionals. They were,

  • Christopher Inglefield, a plastic surgeon who performs trans surgeries and cis man;
  • E-j Scott, curator of the museum of transology and trans man;
  • Susie Orbach, psychoanalyst and cis woman;
  • Emily-jo Miller, performer and trans woman;
  • psychotherapist Robert Withers, later disgraced, cis man;
  • Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, cis gay man;
  • Susan Matthews, contributor to a discredited anti-trans book and cis woman, who unfortunately spreads the myth of desistance;
  • Peter Fonagy, psychologist and cis man, and
  • James Caspian, cis man anti-trans campaigner who seeks to do worthless, unethical “research” and conspiracy-theorises about why the ethics committee prevented it.

Caspian introduces himself, then only appears once in the film, saying he is taking his former university to court. Judicial review was refused, so he went to the European Court of Human Rights in February 2021. Their target is to deal with cases within three years. (When I refer to “the film” hereafter, I mean the shorter version, as I have not seen the longer version).

Then Steidinger assembled their comments to show different ways of seeing trans. Her questions are rarely included. Sometimes she writes an afterthought on the film. She has a twitter but does not tweet. Her eponymous website is no longer available. As a psychotherapist, she offers help with gender and gender dysphoria, among many other issues, by offering a secure attachment with professional boundaries.

Why would an anti-trans campaigner and a trans woman both think a film about trans interesting or worthwhile? Perhaps she saw the ninety minute version, and perhaps it gives a very different impression. Or, on a superficial viewing both could pick out the bits they agreed with, and dismiss the rest, not knowing how someone coming new to the film might see it.

The film starts with Scott, the trans man, who says the NHS has a gender crisis, then goes on to Withers, who says trans people have psychological issues they can’t recognise. Scott is shown saying he knows no detransitioners and the panic is unfounded, then Withers tells the story of his trans patient. After nine years expressing female, the patient reverted. Being post-operative, he needed a testosterone prescription and cannot live fully as a man. He was vilified by the trans community, says Withers, and unfortunately that is likely. He would be angry about being treated, we would be frightened his case would be used to prevent our treatment. Therapist and client both thought he had been sold a surgical solution to a psychological problem, and Withers’ refusal to consider alternative explanations later led him to being sanctioned by the discipline tribunal- but few people coming new to the “debate” will know that.

Very well. There are detransitioners. For the anti-trans campaigner, that is all that needs to be said. Transition has damaged them. For me, given that retransitioners talk of the transphobia that led them to detransition, it is all more complicated than that.

The surgeon, Inglefield, repeatedly says that surgery- the removal of breasts and penises, changing the facial appearance- is the only cure, but then is shown saying “Even five years ago, individuals would have been pushed into surgery because they were told the only way to manage GD is surgery.” So he is shown apparently contradicting himself. So is Peter Tatchell: he is shown saying with gender dysphoria there is too much focus on anatomy and not enough on psychology, and then shown saying he has always opposed the designation of trans people as having a mental health issue.

Matthews is an academic in English Literature who nevertheless expresses forceful opinions that trans children aren’t really trans. In the film, she appears once, saying she was concerned about the psychology of gender clinic clinicians, “blasé to the harm” they did their patient. At this point, the hater would be cheering.

Orbach gets a lot of screen time. She says the idea that medical treatment should be for a medical disorder throws up challenges to gender treatment. She does not think you should need a psychiatric diagnosis in order to get treatment. But as a psychotherapist, she would investigate people’s search for meaning, the complexities of their situation, their ability to be certain and at the same time tolerate internal differences.

Then she says (I think) that gender dysphoric children are forced into treatment because of pressure in the culture stopping them accepting their bodies, rather than a problem with the body itself. Well, I would like to change society too, and get rid of gender stereotypes, but until we do we need physical therapy.

Fonagy is chief executive of the Anna Freud national centre for children and families, where he taught Steidinger. He says that the distinction between physical and mental is unhelpful. I am not a Cartesian dualist either. He says trans people should have an opportunity to explore, psychologically, their problem with their experience of their body, without being stigmatised as mentally ill. The stigma reduces their willingness to explore their feelings. He feels if this were done, it might produce a resolution of gender identity issues “above other approaches that are more radical”. He can only mean surgery. So, if we understand, we will cease to want to transition, or at least to transition physically.

In the middle of this, Miller is shown saying easing gender dysphoria by psychological treatment is not a viable alternative. It would only end up seeking to deter people from transition. So cisnormative people, uncomfortable with trans people, are seeking a solution which they find comfortable.

Near the end, a caption asks, “What is gender dysphoria?” Miller says, “I dunno it’s hard to describe”. She is 23, transitioned since 17, and still “hyper aware of facets that seem overly masculine”. It’s how she is perceived, but also it is in her body.

Fonagy then says we need to be more sensitive to how gender can manifest in an individual.

Steidinger hardly appears until the last segment. She strings together her interviewees’ answers. But with Scott, we hear her voice. She asks him if he has thoughts about the causes of transgender, and he finds this stigmatising, like old questions about causes of homosexuality. We seek causes for things we find unpleasant or unacceptable.

Steidinger still thinks it is an important question. Things run smoothly for cis people, for trans people there is disruption, she says. Well, that is because society others us. Scott says it is possible that there are problems with current understandings of gender, even understandings which include trans people, but that is a different question.

Steidinger says, “I identify as lesbian”. An afterthought appears written on the screen- “Well, gay really”. “And also as gender nonconforming. I wanted to be a boy until I was twelve or something” and in writing it says, “Maybe to this day at times….”

“I ask what being gay was about,” she says. Ah, there it is. It is a film made by someone forced to question herself because she has minority sexual desires, and possibly a minority gender identity. So she produces a film where authority figures speculate on causes and psychological cures for gender dysphoria separate from being trans.

I know nothing of the ninety minute cut. I too speculate about causes, and underlying psychological issues, and get more and more certain that I am deeply feminine. Transition was the only way I could permit myself to be who I am. For me to feel safe presenting male but expressing my femininity would need a different life for me, a different upbringing, and almost certainly a different world.

I hope Steidinger has not suffered abuse for her film, but probably she has. Anti-trans campaigners could probably watch the short version and go away satisfied that surgery is wrong, and possibly that post-operative trans people are damaged, pitiable, and probably dangerous. And I see a filmmaker whose gender does not fit our society, who is questioning, and who just wants a psychological solution, as I still do. Oh, I want not to be in conflict.

And the film shows various cis people claiming that gender dysphoria is a psychological problem needing psychological solutions, and two trans people insisting it isn’t. So it is the perfect introduction to the “debate”. Which do you believe?

Answering the conversion therapy consultation questions

A civil servant told me the point of a consultation was to quote the answers you liked, ignore the rest, and claim you were doing the will of the people. Another trick is to keep the questions so narrow you prevent answers you don’t like, as here. The two problems are the ridiculous claim that conversion from cis to trans is a problem, which could be used to block treatment and support for trans people especially trans children, and the free pass for religious bigots. How to put those into the answers, with these questions?
Continue reading

Men and Women: healing the wound of the planet

What is wrong with the relationship between Men and Women? Sixteen questions on how it could be put right, from Jamie Catto:

15) Where do non-binary, trans and LGBTQIA people intersect with these questions?

Mentioned as an afterthought, on the outside looking in, at the sharp point showing the conflict clearly. As the wise others, who can’t play the game, so have a clear view of its rules, or as people broken by normality and desperate to fit in, even if it means negating ourselves. Hoping to save the World, or hoping to survive. Let’s start with some of the easier questions.

14) Are there different laws in your country depending on your gender?

I have a detailed knowledge of the Equality Act rules on women’s services, where trans women can go, and the rules on when we might be excluded. Rape is defined as the penetration of a vagina by a penis without consent, and in Scotland these specifically include trans people’s surgically constructed organs. Only heterosexual sex counts as “adultery” or “consummation” in marriage law. I could get more technical if you like.

3) What checks and precautions do you take to feel/be safe when you go out in the evening?

If I have more than one drink I want to sleep in the same building. I just don’t go out, especially since March 2020. When I go out I don’t take precautions particularly and sometimes I have only just avoided trouble.

4) What would it take for you to feel safe without taking those precautions?

A bit more money, so that they did not seem like precautions- taxis everywhere, go out when I feel like it. Walking through a park alone at night? I just don’t.

13) Do you think men and women have different brains?

I know they do. Women have more white matter than men. The Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, central section (BSTc) is twice the size in men that it is in women, slightly larger in gay men, and the same size in trans women as in cis women, but no use as a diagnostic tool because it can only be measured by dissection. I looked into this stuff, trying to work out whether I was truly transsexual, before I realised the only question is, would I be happier transitioned.

Men and women have similar psychology. There is no trait, vice, virtue, emotion, or aptitude, which is in one sex and not the other, or is not equally valuable in both, but gendered expectations exaggerate or squish traits, which harms everyone. People vary within sex far more than across it. So,

1) What are the most uncomfortable stereotypes you feel are associated with your gender?

Stereotypes affect us because of the demands or expectations of other people. I face the “tolerant”, who judge whether I am trans enough- “Have you had the operation?” I also face the hostile, for whom I can never be right- performing femininity I am a reactionary, enforcing a stereotype, but if I play with the stereotypes I am a man, not even a “transwoman”. Some accept me as I am. So stereotypes are uncomfortable which are furthest from who I am, like with everybody, and so will be different for everybody. But stereotypes which I fit are also uncomfortable, because they can be used against me.

The one which has harmed me most is conventional heterosexuality. I don’t identify as lesbian because I have my father’s sexuality: a pansy, or soft male, attracted to viragos, or strong women. I was so terrified of not being seen as a Real Man that I did not know that, and before transition I could not form relationships as I wanted a partner to complete my Normality disguise rather than to relate to. My mother died and my father found a new partner who was right for him, but I see men with the wrong woman who wants them to “be more manly”, and they try, making themselves miserable.

Stereotypes are harmful because they don’t take into account human variation and persist because seeing a human as they really are is hard, and the stereotypes often kind-of fit.

7) Do you want more touch that doesn’t necessarily have to lead to sex?

I want cuddles. To have sex would mean breaking down so many trauma-induced barriers that it may not be possible.

6) Do you have anything you need to be forgiven for?

Yes.

8 ) What would it take to be seen as you are without other genders’ preconceptions and definitions of what your gender is and should be?

When someone has expectations of me, it sets up a fear reaction in me: I must fit in or I will not be safe. So I have to accept myself as I am, know myself, and heal away all the inhibitions which prevent me from seeing who I am, which are reinforced by disgust and horror at who I am, and an inability to perceive who I am, or see that as in any way good. This has been a lot of work. One phrase I have for it is “step into my power”, which gets in the way for me, as my concept of power does not fit who I am. It has been a lot of work, and I am getting there. I am not weak, sick, perverted, disgusting, ridiculous and deluded, as I thought, but loving, creative, beautiful, soft, gentle, peaceful. For me a better word than “power” is “grace”.

What questions did I leave out?

2) What would it take for Men and Women, and the nuanced genders in between, to step into their full potential together?
5) How can Men heal the abusive and violent sins of their ancestors?
9) What do the different forms of violence and abuse, on both sides of the gender divide, look like?
10) What positive progress do you notice in these areas? What gives you hope?
11) How do you perpetuate the sense of battle and divide between the sexes?

The “nuanced genders in between” are mentioned in the second question, and still an afterthought, because all these questions assume a conventional heterosexuality, with a man “wearing the trousers” in a relationship with a woman, and I can’t begin to answer them. I am not a man in that sense, and while I have suffered harassment as a woman- a man coming on to me on a bus, abused as a “whore” or “slut” when I did not conform to a man’s expectations that I would do what he demanded- it has been less, and as an adult. And I yearn to surrender myself, but to a woman, not a man. My scars are different.

16) What questions are missing from this list?

The questions address various aspects of

How are you hurt?
How have you hurt others?
How can we make things better?

So, ask those general questions directly.

And finally,
12) What would you like to do that you can’t do now if you changed gender?

I did! It liberated me to be myself!

Come, join me.

Shame, identity and the “causes of transgenderism”

If you’ve ever felt shame about trans fantasies or practices, or being trans, read this now.

In right-wing hate site Unherd, a trans woman who is an anti-trans campaigner shares her misery. She asks, “why am I also transsexual? What could have caused psychological distress so severe that I felt I had no choice but to transition?” She calls herself a “man”, “real” in that she used to produce sperm, though not the cultural concept of “real man”, who is “probably not wearing a dress”. Her answer is “autogynephilia”, the idea that sexual fantasies about being female make trans women transition.

Poor thing. She is not the only one consumed with shame. The hate sites using her to promote this shame, disgust at trans women, and lie of autogynephilia are truly diabolical. She likes the attention she gets from writing such articles, and the pain of seeing the truth, and realising what a fool she has made of herself and the harm she has done, might drive her to suicide. So she probably will remain in self-torturing denial.

According to the autogynephilia myth, trans women who transition after adolescence, or are lesbian, bisexual or asexual, started having fantasies about themselves as women, and the fantasies caused them to desire to transition. Ray Blanchard asked trans women “Have you ever become sexually aroused” by such fantasies- not, do you regularly have them, so that even one fantasy was enough for a positive score. He said that lesbian trans women who denied such fantasies were lying. He claimed that there were two kinds of trans women- those attracted to men, whom he called “homosexual”, and those not exclusively attracted to men, whom he called autogynephilic.

Many trans women have had such fantasies, particularly if they felt unable to transition. Could this be a cause of their desire to transition, as the poor sad hater imagines?

In Western culture, women are taught to see themselves as the object of sexual desire, so often fantasise about being desired, or being naked and seen as sexually attractive. Possibly trans women have similar fantasies because we are women. But humans fantasise about impossible things, and a third of cis men have fantasised about being or becoming women. These fantasies do not cause them to become trans.

Some trans women exclusively attracted to men have female embodiment fantasies. That contradicted Blanchard’s division of trans women into two types, and he accused them of lying about their sexuality. But if you accept they are women, they are just having ordinary heterosexual fantasies, like any woman might.

You can’t prove that the poor sad hater’s transition was not caused by her female embodiment fantasies, against her insistence. But the onus of proof is on the person asserting the cause. She had fantasies, and she transitioned. But both these facts might be coincidental; or caused by a third factor; or the fact of being trans might cause someone to fantasise about having the body of their true gender. It is for Blanchard’s dupes to prove the causal link, not for others to prove its impossibility.

Imagine Philip, who had a normal boyhood until puberty, when he started to have fantasies about kissing other boys. These fantasies became more frequent and intense. Philip called them “compulsive” and “addictive”. He could not resist them, however hard he tried. Eventually he came out as gay, and is convinced the fantasies caused his being gay.

It’s far more credible to believe his being gay caused him to have gay fantasies. As for “compulsive”- I think about food a lot, and eat three meals and some snacks every day. You would not call that “compulsive” or “addictive” because it is seen as normal and healthy, just as heterosexual fantasies are, and increasingly gay fantasies are. Most people would say Philip was gay all the time, but in denial or not fully aware of it, and that caused the fantasies.

No-one would ever suggest that heterosexual fantasies “made them straight”. It’s the default, seen as normal and acceptable, in Patriarchal culture, which sees gay and trans as less.

“Compulsive” does not just mean, “I do it all the time”. It means there is a strong negative value judgment. People who define themselves as “addicted” to pornography do not necessarily spend more time with it, just see it as a bad thing.

In the 1980s, some psychiatrists and gay people imagined being gay was a bad thing, and imagined lots of possible causes for it- sexual abuse as a child, particular problems with parenting.

The self-hater’s anguish is real. “Why am I transsexual?” she asks, stricken. She imagines a shameful cause. But, trans is just how some people are, just as some people are gay, some straight, and some are cis.

The self-hater shows negativity bias. She judges herself for being trans, and so obsesses over this bad thing, and ascribes it to some cause. Nobody worries what made them straight. Seeing being trans as bad, she feels huge relief at coming upon this [false] explanation, a cause she can blame. So she has huge emotional attachment to it. That does not make it true.

I get this from Julia Serano, whose 45 minute read is worth every minute. She explains how scientists have disproved the hypothesis of autogynephilia conclusively, and the dishonest arguments its proponents indulge in. They have the gall to claim that those critiquing their hot mess of a theory are “trans activists”, but this is a mere ad hominem attack. They make ad hoc amendments to the myth, to fit any contradictory evidence, and so make their myth unfalsifiable.

It is incredibly hard to overcome the idea that trans is bad, when so much of the culture insists on that, and when we are relentlessly shamed when we have little power to resist. We internalise transphobia, and even find it reassuring to believe the same that our culture does.

But being trans is just part of ordinary human diversity. The sooner I accept that the sooner I will be able to deal with my real problems.

Opie, John; The Angry Father (The Discovery… Correspondence); Birmingham Museums Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-angry-father-the-discovery-correspondence-33360

Britain Yearly Meeting on Zoom

All I have ever wanted for the longest time is to feel equal, and again, here in this room, I don’t. I hear people talk all week about George Floyd but we are here now, in the UK, in your meetings, feeling like outsiders every day. This is not the experience I was promised.

At our Sessions (the American term avoids the confusion between YM as a group of Quakers and YM as a Quaker business meeting) we addressed the issue of racism among us, and this powerful ministry from my Friend, quoted in the Epistle, showed us where we are.

My ministry in the open worship before business was quoted at length in The Friend: ‘I know that black Friends’ experience of Yearly Meeting and Friends’ Meetings is different [from] mine, as a white Friend. I know that though I am committed to equality as a testimony that I see black Friends differently and treat them differently. This shames me. It is my intention to bring into consciousness all the ways that I do this, and to amend my life.’ The assistant clerk quoted it introducing another session.

The first part was summarised. I quoted QF&P 22.45 which appeared liberal in 1987, but has not aged well. “We recognise that many homosexual people play a full part in the life of the Society of Friends… We have found the word ‘marriage’ difficult… The acceptance of homosexuality distresses some Friends.” That is, we are committed to Equality, but we need to do the work to achieve it, including work on ourselves. It took twenty years after that to get to our affirmation of equal marriage.

I was heard twice. On Sunday 8th, I ministered the commandment of God: “Love one another. We come to worship to meet with God and be changed.” This was quoted in the Minute. My heart is gladdened. I know I say valuable things because my words are valued. Perhaps I have value.

Should I claim the gift of prophecy? I have been thanked for my ministry, though some Americans would object to that, saying it is the ministry of Spirit through me. “The water sometimes tastes of the pipes,” said an American Friend. No; as a bassoon plays different music to a trumpet, so ministry is richer coming from Friends. Actually, I am moved to say what I have heard repeatedly from Black Friends, whose dignity among us whites is my example.

A Friend referred to a racist cab driver. I wondered if there was a difference between a racist wanting people to “go home”, and someone asking “Where are you from?” Often people add “No, where are you really from?” making it completely clear they think a Black person is a foreigner, an incomer, to be treated differently; but even without the addition it is treating someone differently because of skin colour, or perhaps accent. After 26 years in England I am no longer to be treated as an outsider from Scotland, and how much less for people born in England?

We should be aware of these things. Once they are pointed out there is no excuse. We treat people differently because of their skin colour, less well because their skin is darker, better because their skin is lighter, and this is not acceptable. It may seem worse if intentional, but negligence can constitute a crime. Experiencing others’ prejudice, I know that of those who imagine they are accepting can be as painful as that of those who are frankly intolerant.

We also addressed welcoming gender diverse Friends. I did not attend that session. I do not have the dignity of my Black Friends, or perhaps a clear view of the wrongfulness of some treatment gender diverse Friends receive. I am still developing self-acceptance- see above. The Epistle said, “Providing support can lead to greater self-acceptance, enabling Friends to flourish and contribute. Belonging is being accepted as one’s true self. Who are we to resist what God has created and continues to create in all their glory?”

The Quaker Gender and Sexuality Diversity Community led a session in which three trans Friends talked of their lives. They talked of coming out, self-acceptance and getting on with their normal lives. It was a beautiful, optimistic session. My inner critic, always on the hunt for new ways to beat myself up, said to me, “Well, they manage it.” My inner critic, which cannot accept that I might have any difficulty with anything, is part of my problem.

Sessions lasted ninety minutes rather than three hours. I found them tiring, unlike the longer sessions in person, but this is not long enough to discern complex topics. What we had instead was a moral challenge- do we welcome diverse Friends? Do we commit to living sustainably? Increasingly I feel the concept of a “personal carbon footprint” is pernicious. Friends beat themselves up over not doing more, yet there is always more one can do. Meeting God we are changed, and we live our lives better. I see the changes in my own life. Beating ourselves up does no good. Find joy in what you are given to do.

When Zoom brings all the raised hands to the top of screen one, it is harder to ignore people than if they stand in the large meeting house. Meeting in person I have stood and not been called and on balance been glad of it.

I hope we can meet in person next year. I feel with testing it should be possible, yet I would be sorry if Friends caught covid from our worship.

Worshipping with Americans, who sing, quote scripture, and exhort in ministry, I feel British ministry can be too rational/analytical. Often it seems like an argument. There may be a story to point a moral as if we could not just hear and accept a moral truth, speaking directly from heart to heart. One Friend, speaking in a way Quakers might have found rebarbative- not using the right words, or the right tone of voice- spoke of “snobbery”. That’s not quite the same as class privilege and internalised feelings of class inferiority, but close enough. Perhaps he was prophetic. More people than Quakers have spiritual experiences, and we would benefit from a wider demographic. And, when we enter the Stillness, we are so vulnerable!

There were lots of small groups to discuss matters of concern to Friends. There were also spaces for unstructured conversation, bumping into people, meeting new people. I have seen my Friends. I have seen the beauty of the Society I am part of. I am glad of it.

I was glad the Book of Discipline Revision Committee led a session for art work. I give you my connections wheel. You might draw the lines differently, or choose different words.

The attack on Stonewall

Stonewall, the LGBT charity, supports trans rights, and helps companies by advising on discrimination law. This gets it an income of millions, which it spends on charitable campaigning. Because it supports trans rights, it is under sustained attack from well-funded anti-trans campaigners, and any mistake it makes is exploited.

In response, it should rigorously divide its campaigning from its advice arms. When advising, it should take a more judicial position, rather than advocating for LGBT rights. It should invest in technical expertise to make clear the legal underpinning of its advice. Rather than saying “You should do this”, the advice section might say, “If you do this, these are the risks”. There are risks in all courses of action.

In Winter 2019/20, Essex University cancelled the invitations of two transphobe academics to speak. One was to speak on trans women in prison. The other was to speak on a panel on “The state of antisemitism today”. It is worrying that the report of barrister Akua Reindorf bleeps out the ordinary descriptive word terf, quoting “’Shut the **** up, ****’.” Terf is simply a word for trans excluder or anti-trans campaigner. Treating it as a slur or rude word reduces the language trans people can use to oppose the removal of our rights, and attempts to drive us out of ordinary society.

[Update 2 July 2021: The Vice-chancellor of Essex University, Anthony Forster, has apologised to trans students and staff and committed to working with Stonewall.]

Reindorf makes Stonewall’s imprecision on the law look far worse than it is. She writes, “In my view the [Supporting trans and non binary staff] policy states the law as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is. To that extent the policy is misleading.” (Para 243.11)

However, when we consider the actual imprecisions she names, it does not look nearly so bad. For example, Reindorf explains that the policy protects “gender identity” rather than “gender reassignment”.

The Equality Act is well enough drafted, but capable of attack by non-lawyers. Reindorf explains “gender reassignment” clearly enough, but merely quoting the name might make people think we were protected only from my gender reassignment surgery, rather than our decisions to transition. In effect, gender identity is protected, because no-one knows it until we decide to transition, the moment our protection starts. Non binary is protected, as the employment tribunal has decided.

The policy, on Stonewall’s advice, says that denying a trans woman access to women’s loos is discrimination”. Reindorf states this is inaccurate, because “the protected characteristic is gender reassignment”, but that is a distinction without a difference.

Reindorf mentions the provision allowing a trans woman to be excluded from women’s spaces where it is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”, but does not suggest that anywhere in the University of Essex there would be such a legitimate aim. If anyone wanted to argue such an aim, possibly the university might have a moral obligation to hear them out, but no legal obligation under the Equality Act or anywhere else to argue such an aim or exclude trans women. It has a positive legal obligation not to unlawfully discriminate against trans women.

Reindorf also mentions health and safety legislation, which in 1992 required employers to provide toilets on a single-sex basis. But insofar as that might prevent trans women from using women’s toilets and changing rooms, it is superseded by the Equality Act.

Any organisation which wishes to exclude trans women from women’s spaces must identify and prove both a legitimate aim, a reason for doing so, and that excluding a trans woman is a proportionate means to that aim. If they cannot, they are discriminating unlawfully and could be liable for damages. Stonewall is entitled to advise that. There are no cases where a legitimate aim has been found, so it is hard to argue what such an aim might be, but the distress of a traumatised woman on seeing a trans woman whom she sees as a man in a women’s changing room may not be, because the trans woman’s feelings and needs are of equal value to the alleged traumatised woman.

There is huge glee in transphobe circles about Stonewall’s advice to exclude the transphobic speakers being called in question. A former Tory MP and regular columnist for The Times wrote there that Stonewall should stop working for trans rights. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? The Times publishes a barrage of anti-trans propaganda.

In any case, as Neil Gorsuch so clearly explained, discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is discrimination on the grounds of sex.

The terfs (no need for ***) will continue assaulting trans rights and claiming trans women are dangerous. Generally, all Stonewall need do is make clear the technical basis of its advice.

What conversion practices should be unlawful?

It should be unlawful for a priest to preach that gay is sinful, if a gay person is present.

I consider the effect on the gay person. They may have been traumatised by prejudice, which makes it more difficult for them to resist that lie. The priest- imam, minister, whatever- has power in the community, and ostracism from community hurts. I would not make it criminal, but I would enact that any gay person present during an anti-gay sermon after the law came into force could claim damages for it, and allow such claims for twenty years after, rather than the accustomed three, because of the time it can take victims to recover and realise how harmful such preaching is.

Praying away the gay should be criminal. A figure with any religious authority who tries to “heal” a gay person or counsel that gay person to be celibate should be charged with a criminal offence. The gay person is never wholly voluntarily in such a situation, as they are affected by general societal homophobia or the specific homophobia of the religious body.

Note that the religious body attempts to change who the person is, not just how they act. The faculty of being sexually attracted to other humans is part of the person’s very essence. More people are bi than the culture admits, and prejudices and fears might prevent someone acknowledging an attraction, but the attraction comes from our very nature. Some people are mostly attracted to male or masculine, some mostly to female or feminine.

It’s not what you call that attraction that is the nature of the person. If you think they are a man, and they are attracted to men, you call them gay, but the attraction does not change if in fact they are trans, really a woman, and they transition. They may still be attracted to men. They may admit more attractions, as they are not suppressing their essence after transition, but even if the words we use for them, heterosexual rather than gay, change, their truth, their nature, of being attracted to men, does not.

So it is completely ridiculous to call transition “conversion therapy”. It is a complete fabrication. Unfortunately, some people hate trans so much that they are putting forward that argument- either in a hategasm where they cannot control themselves, or in the cold, deliberately deceiving way that they and their ilk might use denying climate change or evolution by natural selection.

On 15 May, Janice Turner told this lie in The Times, claiming that parents might try to transition a gay child to avoid the stigma of being called gay. She appears to believe that there is no stigma in being called trans. This is divorced from reality.

Worryingly, she claims that the government plan to include compelling someone to transition in the definition of unlawful conversion therapy. The idea that a parent could, or that even the medical professional most committed to children being able to transition would go along with it, is ridiculous. That is the lie she tells, though, in an attempt to smear Stonewall and Mermaids.

So what should be unlawful conversion therapy for trans people? The religious figure preaching against it should be subject to paying damages. The religious figure praying over a trans person should be criminal. What about psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists?

The definition here is simple: attempting to change who someone is should be unlawful. Exploring who someone is should be permissible. Robert Withers, who pretends to transphobes that he can cure trans, should never be allowed near trans people, but a therapist should be able to help a person presenting as trans to get to know themself better.

Sometimes it will be subtle, but the therapist should be aware when they are putting pressure on a person. If they are unaware, they are not qualified to be therapists, because the therapist in a position of authority can damage people by suppressing their nature, in all sorts of ways apart from LGBT. Professional bodies are capable of investigating and disciplining such therapists.

Criminal sanctions will only be available when the pressure to change is clear beyond reasonable doubt. That is enough to protect any therapist helping a client explore their relation with their gender and gender identity. So the definition of criminal conversion therapy could be quite simple: it is an offence for someone in the position of therapist to attempt to change someone’s gender identity. However much some might attempt to obscure it, there is a clear line between attempting to change someone’s nature and helping them explore it.

Experimenting with trans

What is happening when teenagers say they are trans, and then a few years later say they aren’t?

Possibly, they are really trans but societal transphobia is so bad that they have gone into denial again. The relentless opposition of parents may be insurmountable. The desistance myth, that they are in some way “cured”, that they have regained a healthy sense of self, is part of that transphobia.

What does “really trans” mean? Compare “really gay”. Some men are attracted to other men. Society calls them “gay”. From vilification and prosecution in 1966, there has been increasing tolerance from mainstream society and gay pride pushing boundaries, asserting gay men’s right to be who they are. Some people are born gay. Some people are bisexual. Most people are straight. And prisons alter that narrative, for some people choose to have sex with other prisoners, who were straight on the outside. Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian ideas of what same sex love or sex was don’t fit, either.

There’s a mostly accepted concept of “really gay”, so that people identify as gay, are seen as gay, are accepted as gay, share stories of knowing they were gay as young children. Teachers say they can spot them young, too. Conversion therapy is going to be made illegal.

There is some conception of “really trans” which fits some of that: knowing when young, having particular attitudes to your body. I fit that. I despised my body. I felt detached from it, as if I were a separate intellect. Then I transitioned, and I love my body, I feel it is me. Transition cured the detachment. Yet, there is fierce opposition to making anti-trans conversion therapy illegal. What if the trans identity is a delusion, and the person can be made comfortable in their birth sex, which some would call their real sex? There is even the allegation that transition is anti-gay conversion therapy: gay men transition to female and are thereby “converted” to being straight. ICD 11 says trans is not a medical condition, but many people have not got the memo.

The “detransition voices” website would have you believe trans is a poisonous myth. Rachel was born in 1990, came out as lesbian aged 22, having been molested by her father when she was four. She was homeschooled into repressive Christianity, with strict gender roles. She was raped four times, the first when she was 14.

She identified as trans aged 22, and detransitioned five years later, having taken testosterone. Now, she calls transition running away from Patriarchy and its oppression of her female self, a quick fix. It was a fantasy, it failed, she had to cope with reality, to “deal with my shit on my own”.

The detrans voices site recommends Lisa Marchiano in Quillette, who writes an easy morality tale of Carl Jung. Aged 12 he was shoved to the ground by another child, and hit his head on the pavement. Later he wrote, “The thought flashed through my mind: ‘Now you won’t have to go to school anymore’.” He started having fainting spells, which felt real to him but doctors could find nothing wrong. He had a six month “picnic”. Then he overheard his father say, “What will become of the boy if he cannot earn his own living?” Jung called this “the collision with reality”.

I met a woman who may have been like that. After a car accident aged about 12, she was still an invalid in her early twenties. Her immigrant husband by arranged marriage was her full time carer. The doctors could find nothing wrong with her. Seeing his complete subjugation, we called him “Mr Bibi”.

Marchiano says trans is “victim culture”, a way of avoiding our fate by imagining ourselves sick. Her answer is the Stoic Marcus Aurelius’: “I am rising for the work of man”. There is a happy ending- people taking control of their lives and finding health and energy- but there is also a living Hell, for those who persist as seeing themselves as victims. It’s a neat moral for Quillette: the poor have themselves to blame, the rich are meritocrats.

In your teens you find who you are. This shocks parents and the old: sometimes, what the young come up with is entirely new. Death and birth is how human culture advances. Why not try on a number of identities, to find which one fits? If gender stereotypes do not fit, that does not mean that you are trans, but exploring that identity to see if it fits might help you know yourself better. Rachel found absolute clarity about what she did not want. Someone else might tease apart the various strands in this concept of trans, and find some work for them, some don’t. Nonbinary is more capacious, variable to fit the individual. Surgery becomes an option rather than the obvious course of action for someone who fits the trans box. Experimenting is how we find things out.

If someone identifies as a “desister”, they might look with horror on the trans community, and be glad that they have escaped medicalisation into loving their bodies, genders and whole selves. If they see themselves as having experimented, they will be grateful to others who experimented alongside them, all working to find out who we are. If this is impossible, that is because of society’s extreme transphobia.